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 She-Ian@www.themalaysianinsider.com

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 Zachariah@www.themalaysianinsider.com

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 Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu: Part III


A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

Last of Three Parts:  Leveraging Residential Schools

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

bakri-musaIn Parts One and Two I suggested that we should focus on enhancing Malay competitiveness and productivity instead of forever begrudging the success of non-Malays or bemoaning the presumed deficiencies of our race and culture. We should begin with our young, the best of them, those at our residential schools. Have high expectations of them, put them through a demanding program, and expose them to rigorous competition.]

The key to any high performing school is the teachers. Both Korean schools (Daewon and Minjuk mentioned earlier) actively sought graduates of top universities to be on their staff. Such highly qualified teachers inspire their students. And when it comes to writing letters of recommendations, those teachers carry much weight, especially when students apply to their teacher’s alma mater.

You do not need and it is impossible for all your teachers to have sterling credentials, only that there should be a critical number of them to set the tone and change the culture. Besides, there are many excellent teachers who are graduates of lesser universities.

mckkThe Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Perak

Look back at MCKK of yore, with Oxbridge and London University graduates on its staff. At KYUEM, a local college prep school with exemplary record of student achievements, most of its teachers are local but there are sufficient graduates of top universities, including the headmaster, to set the pace and establish a high academic ambience.

On another level, it would be difficult for a local graduate to understand the intricacies and nuances of applying to top foreign universities, or the challenges of attending one.

With the present pay scheme there is little hope to recruit such top graduates. This is where the private sector could help by sponsoring highly educated foreign teachers. Petronas sponsors Formula One and the KL Philharmonic. Why not economics teachers for MCKK? Such “endowed” appointments are very common at American schools and colleges. If MCKK were to charge wealthy parents it could also hire its own foreign teachers.

You do not have to pay as high a salary as in Singapore or South Korea as Malaysia has much cheaper living expenses. Thailand has no difficulty getting excellent expatriate teachers at US$30-40K per annum.

For every three students we send abroad, we could recruit two American teachers and benefit many more students at home. In terms of actual loss of foreign exchange, it is far cheaper to recruit one American teacher than to send a student abroad as that teacher’s salary would be spent locally with the attendant multiplier effect, while the entire student’s scholarship money is expended abroad.

Such highly-paid foreigners would not generate resentment from their local colleagues. Local teachers at KYUEM are paid less than their expatriate colleagues yet they do not resent the preferential treatment. Of course if you do get a Malaysian who is a graduate of a top university and is an excellent teacher, then he or she too should be paid as well as the foreigner. There should be differential pay based on the quality of the teacher, not citizenship.

Apart from recruiting from abroad, there are Malaysians who are graduates of top universities whom, given the augmented pay, SBPs could employ as teachers, or at least tap as mentors.

Policy Makers and Executors

Stable, competent, committed, and inspiring leadership; those are the essential ingredients to a successful organization, more so a school. The headship of SBP should be a terminal appointment. There should be nothing else after that except retirement and glowing in the reflected glory of your students’ success. The appointment should never be a stepping stone for someone on his way to be Undersecretary for Procurement at the Ministry.

The headmaster should also serve for a sufficient term. As Howell noted, “No headmaster can leave his mark on a school and have a lasting influence on its development in under five or six years.” He or she must also be a graduate of a respectable university, again to set the tone. He need not have an advanced degree. Given the choice, all things being equal, I prefer someone with a good bachelor’s degree over a candidate with a higher degree but from a less stellar institution.<

Like great individuals, little is known about nurturing great institutions. One thing is certain however. Like individuals, if institutions are held under tight control and not given the freedom to grow, they will quickly become sclerotic and unresponsive. The job of policymakers is to select capable individuals to helm these schools. Once that is done, they should be given the leeway to carry out their mission without micromanagement from the ministry.

This means SBPs must have full autonomy–academic, administrative, and financial. They hire and fire the teachers. The ministry’s lever should be at the macro level, as with selecting the board of governors and through funding.

SBP’s measure of success should only be this:  number of their students ending up at top universities. All other measures, except where they contribute to this singular goal, are irrelevant. At Speech Day the headmaster should be announcing which top universities his or her graduating students would be attending, just like the graduation exercises at top American prep schools.

The policy does not end with these students being accepted to top colleges. They must also be assured of a scholarship and then be given the freedom to choose whatever field of study. If they are smart enough to be admitted to those top institutions, then they are smart enough to plan their future wisely, certainly better than those folks at JPA, MARA, or Khazanah.

It pains me to see bright young Malays pursue a course of study for which they have minimal passion because that is the scholarship they were being awarded, based on supposed “national interest.”

Providing scholarships for matriculation (sixth form) is misplaced. I would wait after the students have been accepted to a top university. That would free them to choose whatever route (matrikulasi, twinning programs, Sixth Form, IB, or A level) that best suits them. Meanwhile use those funds to support IB and “A” level programs at SBPs to benefit many more students.

After they have graduated, do not tie their hands with rigid rules like having to return immediately or work for a specific entity. Grant them some freedom. If they are offered graduate work or a job abroad, let them. Do not stand in the way of their pursuing their aspirations.

The only stipulation is that they should serve the nation in whatever capacity they see fit for a specified period during the first decade after their graduation. Only when they fail to do so would they have to reimburse their sponsor.<

GLC and Private Sector Participation

Khazanah through its subsidiary already has a successful model–KYUEM. It prepares students for “A” level. That is more productive in developing quality human capital than the route Petronas and Tenaga chose in setting up their own universities, which are nothing more that puffed-up technical colleges. Khazanah is also involved in joint ventures with the government through the “smart school” programs.

There are other ways for private sector involvement. One is the current system of letting anyone set up a private college and charge whatever the market will bear. That would benefit only the few wealthy Malays.

An alternate route would be for Khazanah to pursue its own path a la Singapore’s Raffles Education Group. Freed from governmental strictures, Khazanah could lead the way with its string of prep schools modeled after KYUEM. Without the residential component, the cost would be considerably less. Then it could proceed to a university, modeled not after local ones but the likes of the American University in Beirut or the Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

Education is as valid a sector for private investment as tourism or health. It is doubly profitable, enhancing both human and financial capitals. It would certainly be more productive than pouring money into a floundering airline.

It is time for Malays to discard the old destructive narrative of the “lazy native” imposed upon us by the colonialists and slavishly perpetuated by our intellectually-indolent “nationalists.” When the colonialists concocted that narrative, they benefited from it. It was their rationale for bringing in hordes of foreign indentured labor. When our latter-day Hang Tuahs aped that, they only made a monkey out of themselves. What benefit do they derive by denigrating our culture and nature?

4th PM of MalaysiaWe need a modern relevant narrative, grounded in solid social science. Our problems stem from our being not competitive and productive. Fix that and we solve our problem. Bend our rebong now and a generation hence our bamboo groves would be more to our liking. By then we could not care less whether the likes of Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali and Tun Mahathir would eat their words. They and their myths would have long been forgotten.

Stanford University, Palo AltoStanford University, Palo Alto, California

As for me, Insha’ Allah (God willing) I look forward to one day meeting many young Malays at San Francisco Airport on their way to Stanford and Berkeley. That woulbe the sublime and truest expression of Ketuanan Melayu.

David Cameron’s Speech at Conservative Party Convention


October 6, 2014

David Cameron’s Speech at Conservative Party Convention: Securing a Better Future

Listen to this superb speech from Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain to his party. Listen also to George Osborne and William Hague. I wonder what our Prime Minister will say to his party members at the next UMNO General Assembly.–Din Merican

David Cameron

George Osborne

William Hague