Call on Shafie Salleh to retain the continued services of Dr. Terence Gomez in University of Malaya and Prof Dr. Mohamad Zohadie as Vice Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia to demonstrate his commitment to the national goal of becoming an international educational centre of excellence with world-class universities
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): This week witnessed a crisis of confidence in the government commitment to the declared national goal to become an international centre of excellence for higher education with world-class universities when the storm in the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) erupted because of the most improper and high-handed attempt of the university board of directors to force the resignation of its vice chancellor Prof. Dr. Mohamad Zohadie Bardaie to secure the favours of the Minister for Higher Education, Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh.
What has not gone public is another higher education crisis of confidence in the University of Malaya because of the forced resignation of one of the nation’s diminishing breed of internationally-renowned scholars, Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez who has been denied a two-year leave of secondment to take up the prestigious research appointment at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva.
I call on Dr. Shafie Salleh to take categorical steps to retain the continued services of Dr. Terence Gomez in the University of Malaya and Prof Dr. Mohamad Zohadie as Vice Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia to demonstrate his and the government’s “walk the talk” with regard to commitment to the national goal to become an international educational centre of excellence with world-class universities.
As Higher Education Minister, Dr. Shafie Salleh should exercise his Ministerial powers and influence, both of commission and omission, in an open, judicious and exemplary manner, every instance of which should be able to stand up to public and parliamentary scrutiny as being solely motivated by the purpose and passion to propel the public universities into world-class status.
He should make clear that he would not allow any personal grudge or feeling, such as a critical poem, to stand in the way of his mission to find or keep the best talents to steer the local universities to greater academic and intellectual heights.
Both the student and academic community in the Universiti Putra Malaysia are strongly behind Dr. Mohd Zohadie, who is regarded as a good and conscientious Vice Chancellor acting in the best interests of the university – an important testimonial which should be fully respected by Dr. Shafie.
In the recent parliamentary meeting, I lamented the loss of the country’s most famous scholar of international repute, Professor K.S. Jomo, who left the University of Malaya for the United Nations to take up the appointment of Assistant Secretary-General under Kofi Annan after decades of frustration, discrimination and non-recognition of his academic and intellectual talents and qualities.
Are we going to allow the University of Malaya and the country to lose another internationally-renowned scholar, Dr. Terence Gomez, although government leaders talk so much about academic excellence and “towering” personalities?
Let us not again “cakap tak serupa bikin” and continue to treat most shabbily Malaysian talents and towering personalities cherished internationally but slighted in their own country, like Jomo.
An internationally-renowned economist and scholar, Jomo was never given any senior appointment, whether as Dean of Faculty or even Head of Department, although many of his students have occupied these positions. In the early nineties, he was even subject to the embarrassment of a demotion when after serving for a number of years as Professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies, he was reverted to be an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Administration before he was finally appointed a full Professor.
His last straw was three years ago when his application to be Senior Professor (from Grade C to B) was rejected, although he had a star-studded reference of three Nobel Laureates, including Amarty Sen and Joseph Stiglitz. I do not think there has been any other case of application for academic promotion in the local universities where there is even one Nobel Laureate as a reference, let alone three Nobel Laureates – yet Jomo failed in his application!
Dr. Terence Gomez, Associate Professor of Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, has authored and edited numerous acclaimed books. Following an international selection process, Dr. Terence Gomez was chosen by the Geneva-based United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) to fill the newly-created post of Project Manager for the research area on Identity, Conflict and Social Cohesion. In the two-year appointment, Dr. Terence Gomez will develop and lead a comparative worldwide study of causes of racial conflict.
Dr. Terence Gomez’s appointment by UNRISD should be regarded as a national honour, but this does not appear to be the attitude of the University of Malaya authorities which rejected the application by both Dr. Terence Gomez and UNRISD for a two-year leave of absence from University of Malay on secondment to Geneva. This has forced Dr. Terence Gomez to resign from the University of Malaya – which is not only a loss to the university but also to the nation.
Such shabby and disgraceful treatment of another distinguished Malaysian scholar, undermining the credibility and legitimacy of the national goal for Malaysia to become an international centre of educational excellence and a nation of “towering” personalities and achievements, cannot be allowed to happen.
I am seeking an urgent and immediate meeting with Dr. Shafie to urge him to retain the continued services of Dr. Terence Gomez in University of Malaya and Prof Dr. Mohamad Zohadie as Vice Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia to demonstrate his commitment to the national goal of becoming an international educational centre of excellence with world-class universities.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman