Dr. Lim Teck Ghee: Public Intellectual and Researcher


July 21, 2013

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

MY COMMENT: Titas is politically motivated and that is clear.The Asian Civilisation component is just a disguise to make the curriculum palatable to all segments of Malaysian society. What Malay sentiment is Rafizi talking about? There are Malays like me who are against indoctrination in the education of our young. But Rafizi is now a politician and has to be sensitive to what he perceives to be “Malay sentiment”. What about the sentiment of non-Malay Malaysians in Pandan? He ought to be consulting his constituents to determine their sentiments with regard to Titas.

Education is to develop a complete man of character and learning, not adm means to pass our prejudices and hang ups to the young generation. It is too serious an undertaking to be left entirely in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. Other stakeholders need to be consulted.

Taking on Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, a well respected public intellectual and researcher, is counterproductive. I know Dr. Lim well to say that he identifies himself with issues of education and social policy, justice, democracy, freedom and good governance. I cannot find anything in his writings and speeches that are deemed to be anti-Malay.–Din Merican

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee: Public Intellectual and well regarded Researcher

by S. Thayaparan@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

- Robert Frost

COMMENT: Before I begin, I would like to state that I consider Dr Lim Teck Ghee a friend and public intellectual whose credibility when it comes to his research, political and social commentary and commitment to reform, is impeccable.

Readers of my writings but more importantly of his work will no doubt understand the kind of Malaysian he is – thoughtful, approaching every discussion in a reasoned manner and interested in the plight of every community here in Malaysia.

y4c ethnic forum 280307 lim teck ghee 1Lim (right) in an opinion piece recently wrote of his disappointment at Rafizi who by his own words chose crude political opportunism over principle over the Titas (Islamic and Asian civilisation) imbroglio. This earned a rebuke from the rising political star advising Lim not to be “anti-Malay”. This is extremely troubling for a variety of reasons.

By Rafizi’s own admission, his stance on the Titas issue is predicated on countering the propaganda of the right-wing Malay faction of his UMNO adversaries of the non-Malay antagonism to anything connected with Islam. In other words, the basis of his support for Titas is purely politically motivated and not based on any intellectual or nation building principle on the efficacy of Titas as a means of fostering communal goodwill here in Malaysia.

Rafizi has the temerity to caution Lim: “It is not wise for Lim to (only) support issues brought by Pakatan Rakyat which are seen to be against Malay sentiment. When we mention NEP and go against UMNO, he supports. But on matters pertaining to the Malay culture or Islamic studies, Lim would object.”

I wonder, is this young politician even aware of the work Lim has done with the Malay community over the decades as an academic and social activist. His work for instance on Malay peasant economy and society is well documented. The following is the citation for the 1979 Harry J Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies awarded to Lim:

“The Benda Prize for 1979 is awarded to Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Policy Research of Universiti Sains Malaysia. Dr Lim is a Malaysian who received the MA degree from the University of Malaya in 1968 and the PhD from the Australian National University in 1971.

“His work as a historian has centred especially on the changing peasant economy of Malaysia in the 19th and 20th centuries. His most important publications include two books, ‘Origins of a Colonial Economy: Land and Agriculture in Perak 1874-1897′ (Penang, 1976), and ‘Peasants and Their Agricultural Economy in Colonial Malaya 1894-1941′ (Kuala Lumpur, 1977).

“His scholarship is informed by a deep sensitivity to the problems of rural society in a rapidly changing world, and tempered by the rigours of social science. His work demonstrates an admirable ability to balance fact and interpretation, and an objectivity that resists transforming human beings into statistics and data. He has broken important new ground, and has contributed substantially to the study of Southeast Asia.”

And let us not forget that it was Lim’s and his team’s research and findings on Malay equity which earned him the wrath of the establishment. All of this is public record.

Akin to indoctrination

What I found extremely mendacious is the insinuation that Lim’s objection to Titas could be construed as anti-Malay sentiment. Rafizi as an educated forward thinking Malay politician and much admired by a certain multiracial opposition supporting demographic, should be cognisant of the fact that Lim’s objection to Titas was clearly spelt out in his comment piece.

It was his (Lim’s) contention that such educational imperatives were akin to the indoctrination courses of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) and merely another form of state-sanctioned propaganda. Those same BTN courses that were manipulating Malay sentiment and using Islam as a tool to divide the nation was disavowed by Pakatan on a state level.

Therefore, does this mean that Pakatan has anti-Malay sentiment or does it merely mean that a non-Malay intellectual who voices the same concern is accused of having anti-Malay sentiment? Furthermore, the implication of Rafizi’s comment makes it seem that Lim has a history of objecting to anything to do with Malay culture and Islamic studies. Rafizi offers no evidence to back this insinuation.

NONERafizi (left) then goes on to warn “Pakatan leaders to tread carefully on the Titas issue in order not to be seen as anti-Islam. He said Pakatan should have an open stand on this matter and not speak as if portraying the interest of a particular race.”

The irony is that Lim’s article appeared on DAP leader Lim Kit Siang’s blog. Is Rafizi really cautioning the DAP that any contrarian stand on Titas will be seen as anti-Malay sentiment and championing the concerns of a “particular race”? It would seem that just in the recent conversion row; those best left to handle this issue are non-Malay members of the BN. Is this really the strategy that Rafizi wants the alternative alliance to adopt?

“We cannot reject the subject politically as it would create the perception that non-Muslims totally reject Islam,” says Rafizi but never once stops to consider why such a course is foisted upon on private educational establishments. He never once publically acknowledges that the intended recipients of such a course would most probably be a majority from a” particular race”.

What is extremely amusing in all of this is of course that the course, as carried out so far, does not require a compulsory pass. In other words, it is there for show only and has no real educational or intellectual merit. The same of which could be said of the numerous initiatives carried out by the establishment to foster communal ties.

Opening Malay Pandora’s Box

Anyone connected with reform movements or oppositional politics over the decades would be aware of the risks Lim incurred in standing up for the Malay poor during the decade that he was honorary secretary of Consumer Association of Penang (CAP). Indeed my association with Lim begun because of his work with the Indian poor and Hindraf.

Anyone reading his forward to Dr Azly Rahman’s book ‘The Allah Controversy’ would understand the sympathy and compassion filtered through a lens of vigorous intellectual curiosity he has for every community in this country. Perhaps it would be wise if Rafizi asked Azly if there is an anti-Malay bone in Lim’s body.

The fact that Lim’s objection would be misconstrued or interpreted to mean anti-Malay sentiment by a politician who claims to want to ‘ubah’ the discourse and indeed the very nature of how this country is run, is disheartening.

Rafizi’s response is symptomatic of the intellectual poverty of many in the Malay intelligentsia and their failure and fear to engage in critical self-examination of what is taking place in Malaysia, especially on the religious and educational front.

Not only are their minds closed but also they resent and are opposed to any attempt by non-Malays to open up the Pandora’s Box of Malay and Islamic superiority and dominance.

The fact that rhetorical weapons as favoured by the establishment is turned on someone who has spent the greater part of his life defending egalitarian principles that he believes would further the course of reform in this country, especially when it comes from an agent offering change is unacceptable. However, perhaps it offers a glimpse of the shape of things to come.

4 thoughts on “Dr. Lim Teck Ghee: Public Intellectual and Researcher

  1. Dato”

    Nobody is off the mark here when you consider Rafizi is a politician..and Lim is an academician.. and you somewhere in between…

    Titas is not a new issue as mentioned by WCW the STAR chief editor. It’s weird when I agree with him on this.

  2. Since the vast majority of our understanding (passed down) comes from various institutions of information, be it in education, in the media or in politics. It can be abused into a form of Institutional brainwashing…. And illustrate what the power of education and leadership can do. Can be constructive as well as desructive when implemented prejudicially.

  3. Not being politicians themselves, people the like of Thayaparan find it freely easy to criticise YB Rafizi. The young MP, like other politicians, will be thinking mostly of his own future political interest through maintaining and increasing support from his constituents. Does he really care what Titas will bring? The seemingly developing convergence of political interests by all political parties towards Titas is clearly isolating the DAP out like a very lonely sore thumb.

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