The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

November 13, 2014

Your Choice: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

by William Leong Jee Keen

Morpheus: It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

Morpheus:This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (The Matrix)

Malaysians have taken the road of racism for 57 years because our minds have been imprisoned. A leader may show us a path to a better tomorrow but we will miss the turning if we cannot liberate ourselves from the prison of our minds. Only by choosing good over evil can we see the true path. The time for choosing has come.

anwar_ibrahim2He will not be silenced

After seven days hearing submissions from the defense and the prosecution, the five Federal Court Judges will decide whether to acquit or convict Anwar Ibrahim. If Anwar is convicted, he will be imprisoned for a term that will end his political career. The Opposition Leader said this is his final sacrifice, his last final service for Malaysians. He will not be silenced. But will Malaysians grasp the opportunity he paid for with his freedom?

Whether there are flying carpets, briyani suits and what happened to the missing KY jelly is for the court to decide. The target audience for the remake of the stage production of Sodomy I, updated by DNA forensic investigation replacing the old fashion mattress prop, is not the court. It is always the Malaysian public especially the Malay Muslims. The impresario, whoever he or she may be, thought Malaysians are either gullible or easily intimidated or both. Now Malaysians will show whether they are indeed a timid and feeble-minded audience or they are bold and resolute judges firmly punishing evil and rewarding the good. Malaysians will have to decide whether to take the red pill or the blue pill.

The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill are popular culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (the red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (the blue pill).

The term is popularized in the 1999 film, “The Matrix”, where the main character Neo (Keanu Reeves) is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain living in the “ignorance of illusion”, while the red pill would lead to living in the “truth of reality” even though it is a harsher, more difficult life.

Martin Luther King JrAmericans chose the red pill when Martin Luther King Jr was shot. The civil rights movement marched on because they knew oppressors would never give up their privileges on their own. President Johnson in his speech before Congress to pass the Voting Rights Bill allowing men and women to vote whatever the colour of their skin said:

“The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.”

In 2008, America elected a President based not on the colour of his skin but on the content of his character. They had overcome.

South Africans chose the red pill when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For the 27 years he was in jail, South Africans continued his struggle for freedom and equal opportunity. They fought for the idea, which Nelson Mandela in his statement from the dock said: “Was one he cherished, he hoped to live for but if needs be which he was prepared to die for.”

Mandela and TheronMandela and Actor Theron

Internal resistance to apartheid came from organizations dedicated to peaceful protests, passive resistance and armed insurrections. It came from Steve Biko, Bishop Desmond Tutu, white activists like Harry Schwarz, Joe Slovo and Trevor Huddleston. It came from the Black Sash, an organization of white women against apartheid. It came from students and churches. In 1994 the long walk for freedom was finally over, apartheid ended.

Anwar chose the red pill 16 years ago when he rejected the offer to go away quietly and instead took the path of “reformasi”. It took him from the heights of being the acting Prime Minister to the depth of being the lowest convict. On his release from prison, he crafted the New Economic Agenda for affirmative action based on needs and not on race and to restore the country’s international competitiveness. On his qualification to stand for election, he announced on April 15, 2008 at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman Kampong  Baru, the venue where Malay nationalists gathered to fight for independence, that while the constitutional rights of Malays would be protected, it was time to change from “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Ketuanan Rakyat”

The Eight of March  2008 General Election proved to be the birth of a new era where the millstone of race and religion which had been the burden for Malaysians to bear was finally shattered and it transformed the political landscape of the nation. In 2013, Pakatan Rakyat secured 89 parliament seats and won 52% of the popular vote but was thwarted by gerrymandering, and unfair electoral practices from forming the government.

When Anwar chose to awaken Malaysians and give them hope that there can be another Malaysia, he was fully aware he would be challenging the twin pillars of UMNO politics, the first is being thst Malay unity must be maintained at all cost and the second is that UMNO’s dominant political position must be maintained.

Anwar was aware that those who left UMNO would be ostracized and made an outcast of his community. UMNO had accused Dato’ Onn Jaafar, the father of Malay nationalism and founder of UMNO as having sold out Malay rights and his heritage when he formed the multiracial Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). Dato’ Haji Zainal Abidin bin Haji Abas, who with Dato’ Onn was one of UMNO’s founders and its first General Secretary became another example of UMNO’s punitive deterrence. He left UMNO to join IMP and later became the chairman of the United Democratic Party. He was completely alienated from the community.

Aziz Ishak, once out of UMNO was hounded, all kinds of charges were laid against him and he was later arrested under the Internal Security Act. However, nothing prepared Anwar for what they did to him.He was arrested, beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed and denigrated by scurrilous attacks against him and his family, ostracized, made an outcast and labeled a traitor to his own race. The raucousness of the venom, the ferocity of the hatred and the viciousness of the attacks were at levels never seen before. He is now more prepared mentally but physically he is not as strong and as young as he was 15 years ago.

If you choose the blue pill you will carry on in your blissful ignorance of illusion. You can choose to ignore and jettison the teachings of your religion, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or other faith and ignore your conscience not to harm your fellow men or to help him because the “common good” of your race demands that you disregard the needs of those of a different colour or religion.

The illusion however, demands that your life as an individual belongs not to you but to the group or society and in this case, to your race of which you are merely a part, that you have no rights and  must sacrifice your rights, your values and goals for the greater good of your race.

The illusion further demands you are not to question why but to do and die. You are not to question what is the greater good for the Malays for one person to control Malakoff Corporation, Gas Malaysia, Aliran Ihsan Resources (water utility), Port of Tanjong Pelepas, Johor Port, Senai Airpor Terminal Services, SMART Tunnel, MMC-Gamuda, Proton Bhd, Edaran Otomobil Nasional, MODENAS, Honda Malaysia, Bank Muamalat, PUSPAKOM, Alam Flora, POS Malaysia, Defence Technologies, Tradewinds (M) Bhd which subsidiary BERNAS has a monopoly of rice importation and distribution, Central Sugar Refinery and smaller stakes in Malaysia Sugar Manufacturing which together holds a monopoly for sugar, hotels and property development companies.

The illusion demands that the individual sacrifice you are called upon to make is for the common good for the greatest number of your race. Your income from 2009 has risen by only 8.1% while your household expenditure increased by 12.1% and 88.6% from 1994. Your household expenditure for housing, water, electricity has gone up by 102% since 1994, transport 94.6%, food and drinks by 60.9% while your household debt has increased by 13%. It is difficult to make ends meet with the increased price of petrol, the higher tolls for privatized highways and bridges, the tariffs for the privatized water and electricity, even your rubbish and sewage collection have been privatized. You have no idea how to pay the increased school bus fares but you will be proud that you have contributed to the many monopolies owned by Syed Mokthar Al-Bukhary, one of you.

The illusion says your sacrifice in being unable to afford your own home is for the greater good. While you are seeking to rent a house, the rent-seeking elite buys luxury bungalows and condominiums. After payment of the car installments, credit cards, food and other bills you have no money for emergencies much less a holiday while the elites are flying first class and staying in five star hotels.

The illusion says your government has provided your children with a university education but they are not employable. The June 2014 World Bank Malaysian Economic Monitor reports 60% of the unemployed are aged 20-24 and 25% are graduates. Your children hold a university degree but employers find they lack soft skills; 47% inability to work independently, 49% lack problem solving skills, 51% lack analytical skills, 56% lack creative/critical thinking and 81% lack communication skills. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 Malaysian students rank 52 out of 65 countries and the bottom one-third among more than 70 countries in international assessments like Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMMS). The results show the education standard of our 15 year olds are three years behind Singapore, Korea, China, Japan and even Vietnam.

No matter how you seek to justify you cannot ignore that while a responsible government builds a floor for the weakest students to stand, it encourages the best and the brightest to fly as high as they can. It is wicked to clip their wings because 150 years ago their great grand parents came to work in the estates, railroads, tin mines or to seek a better life.

While all accept that the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are disadvantaged and neglected under colonial rule for more than 200 years and ought to be assisted what justification is there to allow Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Filipinos who came yesterday to enjoy these same privileges so the elite can maintain power?

The blue pill unfortunately, will not be able to provide the answers and will not save you from the rude awakening one day when Malaysia ends up like Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe.

If you choose the red pill, you will realize the painful truth that you yourself are part of the oppressed and you must fight for your own freedom and not that of the elites who can hardly claim to be identifiable with you.

Malcom X

Your life as an individual belongs to you and you have an inviolable right to live it as you see fit, to act on your own judgment, to pursue the values of your own choosing. The basic tenet is that each individual has an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men and women deal with one another as equals. The only happy society is one of happy individuals. We cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.

You will recognize that no race holds a monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of strength and there is more than enough room for all in this country. You will understand what Malcolm X said:

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the colour of the skin”

Anwar has given Malaysians the keys to the door of change, if Malaysians grab hold of them once opened the door cannot be shut but if Malaysians do not use them once shut the door cannot be opened.

What will you choose reality or illusion?

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
12 November 2014

Universiti Malaya’s Action against its elected Student Leader is ridiculous

November 1, 2014

Universiti Malaya’s Action against its elected Student Leader is ridiculous

by Terence

Anwar at UM“I want Malaysia to be ruled by people who care about its countrymen and will move the country forward, and bring together all the races as one people.” -Fahmi Zainol

Just as humanism is baffled by the deliberate will to evil, so is a well-honed sensibility puzzled by the ridiculous and the weird. MP for Wangsa Maju, Dr Tan Kee Kwong, who studied medicine at the Universiti Malaya in the 1960s, was constrained to remind his alma mater of its more urbane days when he learned yesterday of the nine charges being preferred against UM student leader Fahmi Zainol.

Dr Tan Kee Kwong“Given the nature of the nine charges they have preferred against Fahmi, the university leadership has become the object of ridicule,” said Tan (left), who is now chairperson of the membership panel of PKR.Fahmi is President of the Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya (PMUM) who has been slapped by the authorities with nine charges for defying them over an invitation to PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim to address students on the campus last Monday.

UM authorities warned PMUM not to go ahead with the event and barred students from attending but the gathering took place despite the bans. Yesterday, Fahmi and eight other student leaders were notified of the charges against them but the former is the only one being slapped with nine counts of defiance, including one that faults him for using a megaphone.”This is ridiculous and the height of petty-mindedness,” offered Tan, when commenting on the charges against Fahmi.

“I’m reminded of the 60s when I was in the university. All sorts of politicians were invited to speak on the issues of the day,”  recalled.”UM was known for its openness to conflicting views and presentations. Debate and exchanges were regarded as healthy and no one was made to suffer for organising and attending the functions or events,” said the medical graduate.

Syed Husin also barred

Tan said he was startled to discover “the other day that my PKR colleague, Senatordr-syed-husin-ali1 Dr Syed Husin Ali (right), has been barred from speaking at UM where he had been Dean of a faculty.”

“If this is not ridiculous I don’t know what is!” exclaimed Tan, son of the legendary ‘Mr Opposition’, Dr Tan Chee Koon, who in the 1960s and in following was Malaysia’s leading oppositionist.

“The past few days I have been sitting at the Federal Court listening to the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy appeal and the sense of ridiculousness just kept creeping up on me,” offered Tan.

“Now to hear that the UM student leader is being hauled up on charges that would have been laughed to scorn in the 60s is just too much. There are so many issues such as the difficult economic situation in the country, the threat of extremism and the poor condition of inter-ethnic relations that demand our urgent attention and here we have a situation where a student leader is charged for possessing a megaphone – this farce must end and end quickly,” asserted the appalled parliamentarian.



Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya (October 27, 2014)

October 28, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya

Anwar at UM

Anwar Ibrahim spoke with passion to students at the University of Malaya last night (October 27, 2014). He asked his audience, why is the government in power is so scared of a simple human being like him that they won’t allow him to speak in the campus of his alma mater. Where is academic freedom, where is academic excellence and where is our dignity as a people? He spoke of racism and disunity, corruption and abuse of power. Listen to him.–Din Merican

Anwar Ibrahim denied his right to speak to his Alma Mater on October 27, 2014

October 26, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim denied his right to speak to his Alma Mater on October 27, 2014

by Lee

Anwar Ibrahim Ops LeaderUniversiti Malaya will be a police lockdown tomorrow (October 27, 2014) over a student event where Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been invited to speak.

The Police have informed university authorities that as of 7am tomorrow, they will take over security at its campus in Kuala Lumpur. UM’s Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Professor Datuk Dr Rohana Yusof said this in a letter issued today, adding that the Police have warned against allowing the event from taking place.

UM authorities earlier declared the event, “40 years, from UM to Prison”, organised by the Universiti Malaya Undergraduates Association (PMUM), as illegal. In an open letter to students, Rohana (right) said the event which was scheduled to be heldDatuk Dr Rohana Yusof at the Dataran Dewan Tunku Canselor, was banned by the UM management.

“There was no approval for the event from the UM management. The Police have also warned against the event being held.The programme is a flagrant violation of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971. Any student who breaks the law will be suspended or expelled,” Rohana  added.

She said the Police will begin patrolling campus grounds from 7am tomorrow and from 4pm, all of its gates will be closed with the exception of the main gate along Jalan Universiti.

For the whole of tomorrow,  the Police will take over security matters at UM to block outsiders, said Rohana. Students will also not be allowed to hang around Dataran Dewan Tunku Canselor, where the event is scheduled to be held, or its vicinity, from 4pm onwards.

PMUM President Fahmi Zainol (pic, right), speaking to The Malaysian InsiderFahmi Zainol of UM earlier, had challenged the university to expel him.

The 23-year-old who is a Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship, said he was undeterred by the threats from his university and even the prospect of a future behind bars.”If they want to expel me, then go ahead. Let this be a lesson for the public on what is going on in universities and Malaysia,” Fahmi said.

“Let the students see the truth, that while they may be soaking up knowledge from the top institutions in Malaysia, in the end they are still controlled by an unjust authority.”

Tomorrow’s talk is held on the eve of Anwar’s final sodomy appeal at the Federal Court. PMUM said it would go ahead with the event, saying it would be the launch of a second wave of “reformasi”, the movement sparked by Anwar’s dramatic sacking from the Cabinet and subsequent arrest in 1998.

PMUM has urged students nationwide to attend the programme, and to gather in Putrajaya the following day in solidarity with Anwar at the Federal Court. – October 26, 2014.

Thinking Malaysian Muslims Needed, says Dr. A.Farouk Musa

October 26, 2014

Thinking Malaysian Muslims Needed, says IRF’s Dr. A. Farouk Musa

by Elizabeth

Seen as one of the brighter prospects in the Muslim world, Malaysia is now at the crossroads of either being a progressive Islamic country or regressing into a world where clerics rule without any question.

An unprecedented “touch-a-dog” day over the weekend seemed to have touched off more than a bark in a country of 30 million where three out of five are Muslims. Liberal and progressive Muslims voices are being drowned out even as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak talks about moderation.

dr-ahmad-farouk-and-din-mericanOne such voice is the founder of the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) group, Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who was never perturbed with the criticism thrown at him nor the numerous police reports lodged against him.

But when he began receiving threatening emails from unknown people, the vocal activist considered throwing in the towel once and for all – mostly out of concern for his family – whom he guards closely, never discussing them with journalists.

His “sin” was his struggle to see a progressive Islam in Malaysia, but this did not go down well with certain quarters.

“They were trying to intimidate me, to stop me from expressing my views.This wasAzmi Sharom after I spoke at two forums on the hudud issue earlier this year. I began thinking it was not worth it as I was afraid for my family,” he told The Malaysian Insider. However, after confiding his fears in a friend – Law Professor Dr Azmi Sharom, who was recently charged with sedition– Dr Farouk changed his mind.

“He (Azmi) told me not to give up, to fight on. He said I was their voice and that I could not give up.”

Banning other voices

Months later, the academic cardiothoracic surgeon found himself at the receiving end of more brickbats and flak after inviting Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla for a roundtable discussion in Kuala Lumpur.

Ulil-Abshar-AbdhalaUlil, well known for his liberal views, was barred from entering Malaysia after the Immigration Department put him on its blacklist, with the Home Minister claiming that the former would “mislead Muslims in the country if he is allowed to spread his brand of liberalism here”.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) also said forum should be stopped as it would contravene the teachings of the Shafie school of Islam and “threaten the faith of Muslims in Malaysia”.

Critics, including Dr Farouk, slammed Putrajaya over Ulil’s ban, saying the government was showing its “fundamentalist” stripes and insulting the intelligence of Malaysian Muslims.

However, last week, Ulil appeared to defy the ban on his teachings after he addressed an audience of about 100 people in Kuala Lumpur at the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia, via Skype.

“That was a slap in the government’s face. In this age of technology, it is impossible for you to prevent ideas from being disseminated,” Dr Farouk said, adding that the idea of using Skype came from his friend, Azmi.

“Although I expected some resistance from the government over the forum, I did not expect that it would be to the extent of banning Ulil from entering Malaysia.”

This, the 51-year-old said, was Putrajaya’s way of stamping out the spread of progressive ideas on Islam to control the people, especially Muslims.

“They ban certain books written in Malay that were translated from English. Only the Malay books are banned. Why? Banning them from reading such literature which promotes progressive ideas is because they want to control how people should think.

“Nowadays when you listen or read the Friday sermons by JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), it seems as if they are trying to vilify certain terminologies, such as liberalism, democracy and secularism. According to them, these are dirty words and if a Muslim speaks about it, they are bad.

“If liberal means you are fighting against injustice, inequality, then I am a liberal,” he said, quoting a Tunisian activist.

“It is not to detach yourself from religion or religious values but to ensure that you will fight for the oppressed, the minorities and justice.”

Islamic Renaissance

It is with this determination that Dr Farouk, who is currently attached with Monash University, decided to set up the IRF in 2007 while working in Australia but only officially launched it two years later when he returned to the country after his stint Down Under.

Ten months after launching the IRF, Dr Farouk was struck with meningitis and was hospitalised for six months, spending two months in a coma. “And that is why I am now in a wheelchair. After that, it took me a while to get back to my work in IRF,” he added.

Dr Farouk had earlier moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2002 from Kota Baru and began working at the National Heart Institute (IJN) which was when he and some friends co-founded the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF).

“I used to be a lecturer in Universiti Sains Malaysia in Kota Baru, Kelantan. My friends were telling me that my place was in KL, where I can actually share my ideas and thoughts, which, they said, were far ahead.

“And in Kelantan, if you are an ustaz, anything you say will be considered the Biblical truth. But if you are not, people are more sceptical of the ideas you promote.”

He left the MPF three years later after the issue of Lina Joy, the woman who had converted to Christianity from Islam, had cropped up and left him and his friends in odds over the matter.

“It seemed that they (his friends) predominantly decided to go against Lina for leaving the faith and I was against the idea, as I believed that there must be freedom of conscience. As the Quran says, ‘there shall be no coercion on religion’, meaning that you cannot force other people to embrace your faith as much as you cannot prevent a believer from leaving his faith.”

Critical thinking required

Asad The Message of the QuranThe idea of IRF, he said, was to rejuvenate the spirit and understanding of Islam, which was based on “The Message of the Quran” by Muhammad Asad, an Austrian Jew who converted to Islam in 1926.

“To me, this commentary is the most important work in the modern Islamic world. Asad MHe (Asad) was influenced by Muhammad Abduh (an Egyptian reformer and key founding figure of Islamic Modernism). Their thinking was so modern and that is what we need now in Malaysia.” He said that the country was in dire need of critical thinking, noting that the dogmatic way of thinking here has led to Malaysia lagging behind other societies in the world.

“If you look at our tagline, it reads ‘for people who think’. So thinking is the most important part that we are trying to promote. And this is what is lacking in Malaysian society. What we need now also is to ensure that there is justice, good governance, economic equality, transparency and accountability. These are the values we should strive for, not the ideal of Islamism where we set up an Islamic state for the state to impose upon its citizens.” – October 21, 2014.

Lame excuses for opting out of varsity rankings

October , 2014

Lame excuses for opting out of varsity rankings

by Dr. Kua Kia

TimesHigherEducation300The reasons cited by Malaysian universities for not participating in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s Top 400 World University Rankings (THES) are suspect and unbecoming of a country that has launched its visionary Education Blueprint. In the words of the Prime Minister:

“Education is a major contributor to the development of our social and economic capital. It inspires creativity and fosters innovation; provides our youth with the necessary skills to be able to compete in the modern labour market; and is a key driver of growth in the economy. And as this Government puts in place measures under the New Economic Model, Economic Transformation Plan and Government Transformation Plan to place Malaysia firmly on the path to development, we must ensure that our education system continues to progress in tandem. By doing so, our country will continue to keep pace in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

In the THES World University Rankings 2012-2013, not a single Malaysian university was included in its Top 400 list for the second consecutive year.

For local universities to cite a lack of funds as the cause for this demise is rather lame when education expenditure in recent decades has been prodigious. The Malaysian Government has sustained high levels of investment in education over the 55 years since Independence, and according to the Education Blueprint:

“As early as 1980, the Malaysian federal government’s spending on primary and secondary education, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the highest in East Asia. In 2011, the amount spent, at 3.8% of GDP or 16% of total government spending, was not only higher than the OECD average of 3.4% of GDP and 8.7% of total public spending respectively, but also at par with or more than top-performing systems like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea (Exhibit 1). In 2012, with an education budget of RM37 billion, the Government has continued to devote the largest proportion of its budget, 16% to the Ministry. This demonstrates the very real commitment the Government has to education as a national priority.”

National Education BlueprintIn last year’s budget speech, the Prime Minister said the government would ensure that the implementation of the National Education Blueprint achieves the objective of placing Malaysia in the top one-third category of the world’s best education within a span of 15 years.

As a result, the education sector received the biggest allocation out of all the other sectors with RM54.6 billion or 21 per cent provided in Budget 2014 in an effort to enhance educational excellence.

The Prime Minister said the government would focus on strengthening public and private higher learning institutions towards producing quality graduates who met the demands of the job market.

He said RM600 million would be provided in research grants to public institutions of higher learning in the quest to improve the status of research universities by increasing research and the number of articles for publications in international journals.

Malaysia’s McKinsey-commissioned Education Blueprint liberally cites international student assessments, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), as a means of directly comparing the quality of educational outcomes across different systems.

Likewise, at the tertiary level of education, the THES is a gauge of academic excellence that compares the performance of universities across the globe in research, teaching and quality of education in their campuses.

For UM to claim that it is “not yet in a strong enough financial position to compete with richer, older and better-ranked universities” is disingenuous when we bear in mind that UM and NUS both come from the same pedigree. (NUS is among the world’s top 20.) They started as one university in 1949.

Politicians and academicians alike would do well to read Hena Mukherjee & Poh Kam Wong’s excellent paper on “NUS/UM: Common Roots, Different Paths” (2014 Centre for Human Resources Development, Vietnam) to draw lessons from the experiences of the two universities: their missions post-independence; the thrust of the secondary school system in preparing students for tertiary education; their strategies for institutional management, nurturing of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academic staffing; policies regarding internationalisation of students and faculty; and their inter-connections with global advances.

The history of UM demonstrates that politics and national-level policies can severely constrain the institutional development of a public university. This can have significant long-term consequences in terms of limiting its capacity and culture to pursue academic excellence and ability to compete internationally.

The victimising of academics and students for merely commenting on national issues such as the controversial Sedition Act shows that the authorities also need to win the hearts and minds of the major stakeholders, viz. lecturers and students in order to inculcate a new vibrant culture on campus.

Student leaders would be unwise to support the move to opt out of the THES ranking since there is no valid reason for any university in the world to pursue excellence at the expense of quality of education and a culture of academic and student autonomy. Participation in varsity rankings is intended to drive academic institutions towards improved quality rather than, as has been suggested, as a mechanism that degrades the quality of education and campus culture for students.

Malaysian universities would do well to sustain efforts that use world rankings as a benchmark and source of motivation for progress. The government should stop using “transformation” merely as a buzz word but inspire our local universities to match a new vision and new targets. Doesn’t transformation suggest an ante- and post-facto comparison?

As with the other national targets, it is ultimately one that requires the political will to stay the course over the long term. And to stay the course, our universities need an objective gauge to compare academic excellence and the quality of educational outcomes across different systems. Thus, dropping out of the THES varsity ranking is simply not an option.

Kua Kia Soong is an adviser to SUARAM