Call on MCA, Gerakan,  MIC and SUPP  Ministers to dissociate and repudiate  in Cabinet tomorrow Shafie Salleh’s reiteration that so long as he is Higher Education Minister, he would ensure that Malay students would surpass the previous quota system under the “meritocracy” university intake  system


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Tuesday): MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP  Ministers should  dissociate and repudiate  in Cabinet tomorrow Datuk Shafie Salleh’s reiteration that so long as he is Higher Education Minister, he would ensure that Malay students would  surpass the previous quota system under the “meritocracy” university intake  system.

Shafie told the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS)’s Malam Semarak Perjuangan at Universiti Malaya on Saturday night that even though I had moved a motion in Parliament to deduct RM10 from his salary, he would continue to ensure (i) that despite the introduction of the system of meritocracy for university student intake, he will ensure that bumiputra students will always exceed the  55% university places set under the previous quota system; and (ii) no non-bumiputra student will be allowed to enrol and  enter UiTM as an undergraduate.

Such an  agenda of the Higher Education Ministry would be the most powerful proof and invincible case that the “meritocracy” system for university student intake into the public universities is flawed and devoid of  merit,  on two grounds:

  • An unfair and discriminatory selection system based on two completely different examinations – the STPM and matriculation – when there should be a common university entrance examination system.
  • The higher policy agenda that in any event, bumiputra students under the “meritocracy” system must exceed the 55% benchmark under the previous quota system.

In the past few months, Malaysians have been told that the Barisan Nasional, with over-92 per cent majority in Parliament, has produced a new breed of Members of Parliament who dare to speak up and voice out the deepest fears and hopes, dreams and nightmares of ordinary Malaysians. However, not a single MCA, Gerakan, MIC or SUPP MP dared to stand up to say a single word during the debate on my motion on Dec. 1 to cut Shafie’s salary by  RM10 to register a strong protest against his two statements made at the UMNO General Assembly in early September. 

In fact, when my RM10 “salary cut” motion against Shafie was put to a vote, MCA, Gerakan, MIC  and SUPP MPs voted solidly against it! 

I am shocked that Shafie has chosen to repeat these two statements, although they are most offensive and objectionable for three reasons: 

  • They run  counter to the emphasis by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi calling on all Malaysians to think of themselves as Malaysians and not be tied to their race or religion, or as he said in his first National Day message:

“Marilah kita, semua rakyat Malaysia, tanpa perlu rasa rendah diri, tanpa perlu rasa terpinggir, tanpa mengira bangsa dan ugama, bangun menjadi negarawan di bumi sendiri. Kita semua adalah sama, kita semua rakyat Malaysia. Tidak ada individu di negara ini yang diiktiraf ‘lebih Malaysia’ dari individu yang lain.” 

  • Undermine national and international confidence about Malaysia’s commitment to make the country a centre for international academic excellence, where the system of meritocracy for university student intake is compromised not only by two different examination systems, the STPM and Matriculation, but also  by being subject to the 55% quota intake for bumiputra students.
  • Subvert the government’s own programme to end the “subsidy syndrome” and “tongkat mentality”, which has created disastrous results, such as the revelation in Parliament last week that over 90 per cent of graduate unemployed are bumiputras.  One way to prepare bumiputra students for the challenges of the market and enhance the country’s international competitiveness is to expose bumiputra students to genuine competition, going all the way back to the schools and universities. I think it will do the UiTM students a world of good to enhance their competitiveness if non-Malay students are admitted – apart from taking Malaysian nation-building one big step forward.

The question now is whether Shafie has the full endorsement of MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP Ministers in the reiteration of these two most offensive and objectionable statemernts, and this is why they should raise the issue in the Cabinet meeting tomorrow to dissociate and repudiate Shafie’s statement – or come out openly to declare and justify their endorsement of Shafie’s two statements.

MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP Ministers should take a common stand in the Cabinet tomorrow to tell  the Ministry of Higher Education that its  topmost priority should be to  develop world-class universities in Malaysia,  establishing at least three to five  Malaysian universities which are  recognized as among the world’s 50 best universities by 2008. 

The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) released its new global ranking of the world’s best 200 universities last month.

Although Shafie has stated his satisfaction that two Malaysian universities were listed, with  University of Malaya ranked No. 89 and the Universiti Sains Malaysia ranked No. 111, we should have higher  ambitions to want to have three to five Malaysian universities among  the world’s Top 50 or 60. At present, we do not have a single university regarded as in the world’s top ranks whether the first 50 or 60.

If Singapore has two such universities in the Top 50 (with the National University of Singapore ranked No. 18) while Australia, regarded as  “the powerhouse of higher education in the Asia-Pacific region”, with   six of its universities in the Top 50 or  eight in the Top 60, it is not asking too much  for Malaysia to want to have three to five Malaysian universities recognized as among the world’s  Top 50 or Top 60 universities in the world.

The Times Higher Education Supplement latest global ranking of top universities could be faulted or criticized as biased towards the English-speaking world and to institutions that actively recruit students and staff abroad, since two of its five criteria measure these recruitment levels. 

However, these criticisms cannot be used to justify Malaysia’s low international ranking, as in the world league of the best 500 universities prepared by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, Malaysia had been completely excluded from the list of world’s top 500 universities for two consecutive years, including the 2004 list released in September. 

These are the issues which the Higher Education Minister should be giving priority instead of reactionary statements like the two he had made and reiterated, which will make it even more difficult for Malaysian universities to be ranked among the World’s Top 50 or 60. 

Do we have a new breed of Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs?


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman