Forcing Dr. Terence Gomez’s
resignation is a very unusual way of showing University of Malaya’s
appreciation of his services - mediation offer to resolve controversy to
help restore UM to world-class university status
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Monday): For a second time in three days, I feel both wonderment and relief at what is happening in our public universities – previously over the controversy surrounding the Universiti Putra Malaysia Vice Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr. Muhamad Zohadie Bardale and today concerning the forced resignation of University of Malaya (UM) Associate Professor Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez.
“Extraordinary” because of the the University of Malaya clarification through its corporate communications office head Che Ramlan A Rahman that it did not approve Dr. Terence Gomez’s application for secondment to a prestigious United Nations (UN) research post because his services were needed at the university.
UM’s management had discussed the application on March 15 and decided not to release Dr Gomez for secondment to the post at the UN’s Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) due to the “exigency of his services to the university.”
Che Ramlan said while UM congratulated Dr Gomez on his achievement, it has to consider the interest of its Faculty of Economics and Administration.
Forcing Dr. Gomez’s resignation is a very unusual way of showing University of Malaya’s appreciation of his services, just like a parent claiming to love his son by disowning him.
Che Ramlan should know that the claim that UM’s appreciation of Dr. Gomez’s services had led to its rejection of his application for a two-year secondment to take up the UN post cannot stand up to any public scrutiny. Is Che Ramlan for instance referring to the deplorable episode surrounding the establishment of the Institute of China Studies in the University of Malaya?
Che Ramlan is doing any service or credit to the aspiration of UM to restore its status as a world-class university when he could jump on a newspaper mistake to justify the university’s shabby and disgraceful treatment of one of its star academicians.
The Star has admitted that it had misreported on Friday when it said that Dr. Gomez was “forced” to resign from the university because of the rejection of his application for a two-year sabbatical to take up the UN post, when the application was for two-year secondment. But Che Ramlan has chosen to cloud the picture by talking about sabbatical when he knows that the issue was about secondment.
As an university officer, Che Ramlan should understand the difference between “sabbatical” and “secondment”.
A lecturer is allowed to apply for a nine-month sabbatical after having served five years with UM. This sabbatical, which can be taken locally or abroad, is for the lecturer to undertake research and publish, free of teaching and administrative chores. An application for sabbatical can be denied in cases of exigency of services. It is a privilege, not a right, but in most cases, a lecturer’s application for sabbatical is not denied by the management. Recently, UM has been encouraging lecturers to take their sabbatical in an attempt to get them to research and publish.
A secondment is leave of absence for an indefinite period. While on secondment, a lecturer does not lose any seniority in UM and, in spite of absence, this is counted as years of service to the university. The fact that secondment is counted as years of service to UM is important for the lecturer’s application for promotion as well as for retirement, when gratuity is calculated. A secondment, like a sabbatical, is also a privilege, not a right, which the university can deny an applicant. UM however seldom denies lecturers secondment, especially if it helps bring honour to the institution.
I find relief however from the UM’s public admission of Dr. Gomez’ services and contribution to the university, which has thrown some “light at the end of the tunnel” for an equitable resolution of the controversy in the best interests of the UM students and academic community.
What is needed is for UM to show its appreciation for Dr. Gomez’s services by approving his application for two-year secondment to the prestigious UN research post, which should do UM and Malaysians proud.
I call on the UM Vice Chancellor Dr. Hashim Yaacob to review and resolve the Terence Gomez issue so as not to blot and mar the forthcoming centennial celebrations of University of Malaya. I am prepared to meet up with Dr. Hashim to offer my mediation services to help resolve this controversy in an amicable and equitable manner as my contribution to help restore UN to world-class university status, which is a very long journey.
* 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