The Myth of The Lazy Native Revisited


October 8, 2014

The Myth of The Lazy Native Revisited

by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

http://www.theantdaily.com/Outspoken/Revisiting-the-Theory-of-the-Lazy-Malays

The Myth of the Lazy Native

This piece is an offshoot of the old colonial theory of the lazy natives. But this theory was debunked by the late Professor Syed Hussein Al-Attas in his book “The Myth of the Lazy Native”. It took him seven years to produce this very authoritative book after having done a very exhaustive research on the matter.

The colonial writers during the period of the expansion of imperialism had painted a Syed Hussein Alatasvery poor and degrading picture of the natives in the places that the imperial powers had colonised. This was particularly so concerning the Javanese, the Filipinos and the Malays.

One colonial writer from Germany insinuated that the Filipinos chose to construct their rafts from bamboos so that they could lie down and relax. By this, he implied that these natives just wanted to relax and not do any work. What a silly conclusion!

The natives in these countries were already toiling the land to produce food and amenities for their own communities. The sea had also been their source of food and so were the many rivers in their area. They were already independent economic activists. They needed nothing from the colonialists.

It was the colonialists who needed their services to produce the goods that their home countries needed. They wanted tin and other minerals. And they needed a labour force to produce these raw materials.

The indigenous people were simply not interested in helping the colonialists in their ventures. They would not pawn their freedom and they would not compromise their sovereignty in being independent workers in their own right. They were tied to the land as farmers and they were grateful that the seas and rivers provided them with plentiful fish and other products.

Their attitude was simply a setback to the aims and goals of the colonialists. The only way out for the colonialists was to bring in people from their other colonial territories which had an abundance of unemployed labour force.

In the Southeast Asian countries that they had colonised, there was no unemployment and the people were fully engaged in productive activities. There was no starvation that would compel them to leave the land for some other economic activities.

ungku aziz2Royal Professor Ungku Aziz had expounded this elaborately in his writings on rural economics. His students were made to understand the economic activities in the rural areas. The work carried out by the rural folks was back breaking and they were subjected to all types of unkind weather situations. No lazy individual could face up to such a situation.

The environment that they were in and faced did not warrant them to venture into other economic spheres. But the end of colonial power had changed the whole economic scenario in these areas.

Suddenly the new governments especially in Malaya wanted to change this situation and had wanted the Malays to advance like all other ethnic communities in the country.

Thus, the lazy Malays theory had taken a twist.The main cause was the affirmative action agenda. This agenda was the short cut to get Malays to be wealthy.

Thus in the Federation of Malaya, the UMNO government wanted to leapfrog the Malays into a modern setting, creating a new class to be involved in business and commerce. Agencies were set up to provide the necessary help towards creating this new economic class. But the effort failed.

A new approach was made by granting some UMNO warlords contracts to undertake government projects. Not having the expertise and the relevant attitude to undertake these contracts, they sub-contracted these projects to those non-Malays who had the experience and know-how.

A new Malay business class came into being through procuring commissions on the Mahathir and his wardsprojects that had been given. That was not the desired goal of the scheme.Thus the government itself set up enterprises and employed civil service bureaucrats to run and manage these government established business entities. Public money had to be used to establish them.

Not many of these enterprises met with great success. Many lost money. Thus the Malays had two types of bureaucrats, either they belonged to the civil service or were engaged in manning these government linked companies.

Another phenomenon was to award projects to those one or two so-called Malay capitalists so as to ensure that these projects will not fail. Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar represents this kind of strategy.

All in all, it can be said that the modern lazy Malays had been created by UMNO and the UMNO Baru government.

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.

Krugman’s Review of ‘Seven Bad Ideas,’ by Jeff Madrick


October 2, 2014

Sunday Book Review

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/books/review/seven-bad-ideas-by-jeff-madrick.html?ref=books

The Dismal Science

‘Seven Bad Ideas,’ by Jeff Madrick

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu, Part 2


September 29, 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

Part 2: Molding our Students

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

 bakri-musa[In Part One I suggested that our current obsession with the presumed deficiencies of our race and our undisguised resentment over the successes of others are but expressions of frus (frustration) and fury for our own lack of competitiveness and productivity. We should focus instead on remedying both, and begin with our young, especially those promising ones at our SBPs.]

It may seem obvious but needs to be stated explicitly: We must prepare these students for top universities the moment they step foot at a SBP. That’s how they do it elsewhere. American students aspiring to top universities begin their preparation upon entering high school, or even earlier. The courses they take, their extra-curricular programs as well as their summer activities are all geared towards this central mission.

My grandchildren who are in an American school in Singapore have assigned reading lists for the summer, and they are still in primary school! Likewise, SBP students must have mandatory reading lists and writing assignments during their long holidays. The purpose is two-fold. One is to prevent attrition of knowledge and study skills during the long hiatus, and the other, to inculcate the habit of reading and writing. It impresses upon them that those skills are not just for examinations.

Once when I took my family on an overseas trip, my son’s teacher asked him to keep a journal to be shared with his class while my daughter was assigned to study a Malay folk tale. In high school my son was invited to spend his summer break at Ames Research Center.

I speak with some experience. When my daughter entered Harvard Law School over 15 years ago, she was the first Malaysian to enroll there. There has not been another since. One of my sons works for an agency that prepares students for selective universities.

We should prepare all SBP students for recognized matriculation examinations like IB, American AP, or British “A” level, and start them from day one. Consequently it would serve no purpose for them to sit for SRP and SPM. Those tests have little predictive value anyway; their philosophy and assumptions are also very different.

Since these students have limited English proficiency coming as they are from the national stream, why not have their first year at SBP be full English-immersion akin to the Special Malay or “Remove” Classes of yore? Better yet, make all SBPs English-medium. That however, is no panacea. MARA already has a few English-medium SBPs but their students’ achievements remain disappointing. We need to do more.

I envisage admitting the students in the middle of their Form II instead of Form I, as at present, based on their SRP scores as well as their Form I and first term of Form II performances. By the time they sit for their IB or “A” level five years later, their cohorts in the regular school would be in the middle of their Upper Six.

Their college counseling should start right away, as with preparing for their PSAT and SAT. There must be adequate resources and personnel to guide these students in their college choices, but more on that later.

 Daewon’s and Minjuk’s excellent results were skewed because their students were children of diplomats, expatriates, and others who had been educated in the West. The South Korean government has since changed the rule to make those schools liberalize their admissions. For SBPs I suggest that they reserve half their slots for those who would be the first in their family to enter university and those from the kampongs.

No matter how stringent the selection process, inevitably there will a few who would not thrive in the residential school environment. While every attempt should be made to help them, but if they do not measure up, then they should be returned to regular schools. They are not failures rather they are better suited for day school.

Korean Schools

Three features of the Korean schools are worth emulating. First is the mentoring system where first-year students are paired with a senior. Second, those students are constantly exposed to successful role models, fellow Koreans as well as non-Koreans who are graduates of top universities. Those students get first-hand perspectives beyond what could be gleaned from the college brochures. Likewise, our SBPs should invite Malaysians who are graduates of top universities to give talks to and inspire these students.

The third striking feature is that the students’ time is structured during their entire waking hours. They are always involved in something, if not with their classes and class assignments then debates, sports, music, and a myriad of extra-curricular activities. When students are occupied, they are less likely to get into trouble.

MCKK (The Malay College Kuala Kangsar) obtained excellent results during the time of Principal Howell when he instituted daily afternoon “preps” in addition to the evening ones. When you have high expectations and demand more from your students, they respond. The converse is even more consequential. If you have low expectations or reward those who do not strive, as with sending them to third-rate universities abroad, then you are imparting the wrong message. That would be akin to membajakan (adding fertilizer) lallang. Even without the extra help, those weeds would snuff out the lengkuas. In a rentier economy, we are busy fertilizing our lallang.

MARA is membajakan lallang by sending hundreds of its students to third-rate universities abroad. The money could be better spent to strengthen its matriculation programs and SBPs at home. MARA should adopt tougher standards and send only those who have been accepted to top universities. Currently it sends students abroad even for sixth form. It is cheaper and far more effective to prepare those students in Malaysia. MARA’s current policy only perpetuates this culture of mediocrity.

 
Next Week: Last of Three Parts: Leveraging Residential Schools

Have High Expectations Of Our Young, says Bakri Musa


September 22, 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

First of Three Parts: Have High Expectations Of Our Young

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

Hardly a day goes by without those self-proclaimed champions of Malay race and defenders of Malay rights frothing at the mouth demanding that they (non-Malays) do this or that so we Malays could be the unquestioned Tuans (masters) of Tanah Melayu.

Dr.MahathirWhen these Hang Tuah wannabes are not consumed with their theatrics of brandishing their ketchup-soaked kerises, they are obsessed with denigrating our culture and national character. To them we are lazy, dishonest, and know no shame.

Strip the rhetoric and those expressions of frus (“Manglish” for frustration) and fury are understandable if not predictable. We are frustrated because with the billions spent on us and the ever-generous special privileges heaped upon us, we still lag behind the others. We are furious because despite not being mollycoddled by the government, they thrive.

We are so angry that we cannot even pause to ponder perhaps they prosper precisely because the government leaves them alone and does not direct their lives, or that the massive “help” we get is anything but that. There is an art in helping. Done right and you open the door to the world for those you help; done wrong and you have a dependent invalid.

Our futile and unenlightened reactions do not solve our dilemma; they hinder by hiding the glaring reality and fundamental issue: Malays are not competitive or productive.

Malaysia cannot be stable much less thrive if a sizable and readily identifiable segment of its population (more so if they consider themselves “special” or “princes and princesses of the soil”) is marginalized through lack of competitiveness or productivity. Then all Malaysians would suffer. If Malays are competitive, then Malaysia would be too.

At the individual level, if Malays are competitive then we would be Tuans even if we are not in Tanah Melayu. I can attest to that.

Because we are not productive, our hard work does not generate commensurate returns.That disheartens us. To aggravate matters, those whom we deem “successful” get there not through their own effort but connections, corruption, and other classic manifestations of a rentier economy. That discourages us even more; worse, it encourages us to emulate them, meaning, do anything but an honest day’s job.

Our laziness and dishonesty are the result and not the cause of our lack of competitiveness and productivity. Our newly-acquired value system where honest hard work is denigrated only aggravates matters. Once we acknowledge that we are not competitive or productive, and appreciate the various contributing factors, then we can begin crafting effective remedies. That demands hard work and much thought, with little time left to shout or be angry.

Enhancing our competitiveness and productivity would enable us to contribute to rather than depend on the state. Apart from benefiting the economy, that would also dignify our values and culture, quite apart from reducing our envy for the achievements of others. We would also be less likely to be swayed by the demagogues amongst us.

It is too late and would do little good to focus on the old, rigid, or senile. Besides, they are the not the future of our race or country. Likewise the Mat Rempits; their die is already cast. As per our ancient wisdom, melentur buloh biarlah dari rebung nya (if you wish to bend bamboos, begin with the shoots). Not just any sapling but those promising ones, the ones at our Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (SBP, fully residential schools).

How good a job are we doing at shaping those vigorous saplings? SBPs get the top students, best teachers, and more than their fair share of resources. However, visit the top universities and the Malaysians there are from other than our supposedly elite SBPs. This sorry state should alarm those champions of Ketuanan Melayu.

Consider the oldest SBP, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK). It only recently started its InternationalHisham_Keris Baccalaureate (IB) program. Prior to that the school, like most SBPs, was but a glorified middle school; its students had to go elsewhere to matriculate. Despite the luminaries on its board (with Raja Muda of Perak, now Sultan, chairing it), MCKK took over a decade to implement its IB program. Imagine the pace at lesser institutions! MCKK’s female counterpart, Tunku Kurshiah College, remains an expensive middle school.

IB is a rigorous academic program, and recognized as such worldwide. Despite or perhaps because of that, few of MCKK students enroll in the program. That speaks volumes of them, and their perception of the school after spending five years there.

It may surprise many but the two schools that regularly send the most students to elite universities are not in Britain or America but South Korea (Daewon, established in 1984; and Minjok, 1997). Both may be new and in a non-English speaking country, with their students non-native English speakers to boot, but they bested the Etons and Exeters.

It is a sad commentary that in over a century MCKK managed to send only a very few to the Ivy League, fewer than peas in a pod. If Malaysia aspires to have a Nobel laureate by 2020, as expressed often by many, then may I suggest that it first try a less lofty goal, as with sending a student or two to Harvard or Yale? This should be SBP’s yardstick. There is no point in having these expensive SBPs if their students were to end up at UiTM, Creekville State U, or the University of Ulu Britain.

Our SBPs do not lack for potential Ivy League candidates. Fulfilling their aspirations would require strong effort not just from them but also the entire community, from teachers and governing boards to parents and policy makers. Failure to do that would provide potential recruits for future Mat Rempits and latter-day Hang Tuahs.

SBP students must and should end up at top universities. There must be acceptance of and striving towards this singular goal. The scarce and expensive resources of SBPs should not be expended on those with lesser expectations. If the students do not share such high aspirations, then they should not be at a SBP. The students at Minjok and Daewon are very much aware of this high expectation when they apply for admission.

There should not be any equivocation, or the adding of extraneous fuzzy themes like loyalty to “bangsa, bahasa, agama, negara.” Those are nebulous and not readily measurable anyway. The cause of our bangsa, bahasa, negara, agama is best served with these students attending elite institutions.

By “elite” I mean the top dozen in Britain, the half a dozen in Australasia and Canada, and a hundred or so in the US (University of California level and above). You do not need expensive SBPs to prepare for the rest.

Mahathir and his wardsSBPs are expensive, so we must explore innovations to reduce the cost so many more could benefit. These include dispensing with the boarding component, inviting private sector participation, and making those who could afford pay their way.

Take the last item. To non-Malays, the billions spent on SBPs are for Malays; there is no denying that. However, visit any SBP on weekends; the parking lots and beyond are filled with expensive late-model cars of wealthy parents.

If I had been spared my children’s educational expenses I could have a new Lamborghini and more every year. If those rich Malay parents had been made to pay the full freight, they would not send their children to SBPs, thus opening more slots for deserving poor kampong kids. That would truly be helping Malays.

When I went to Malay College in the early 1960s, there was a quantum leap in my living standards. I studied under the cool comfort of the fluorescent lamp instead of the searing heat of a kerosene one, and enjoyed piped water instead of having to haul it from a well. I was also spared endless hours waiting for the erratic village school bus. For my sons and grandsons however, sending them to Malay College would be a significant downgrade. Besides, that would deprive other young Bakris now in the kampongs of their opportunity.

Contrary to popular perception, making SBP free does not “help” Malays. Far from it! As well-to-do parents do not factor in the costs of their children’s education, they do not save. In the aggregate that contributes to the declining savings rate; and with that, capital formation that is so essential to economic growth. Worse, we corrupt the values and mindset of those wealthy Malays, turning them into welfare recipients. They in turn transmit those values to their children; the subsidy mentality and culture of dependency ingrained for generations. That is the most destructive part.

Next Week – Second of Three Parts: Molding Our Students

Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Denied


September 7, 2014

Tokyo, Japan

Azmi Sharom Case: Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Denied

by Terence Gomez

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Azmi UM

When Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor of Law at the Universiti Malaya, was charged under Malaysia’s Sedition Act for providing a legal opinion on a constitutional matter, it shocked the academic community.

It was particularly alarming to academics as it is now well acknowledged that the Sedition Act is an obsolete relic of British colonial rule, introduced to curb dissent. Even Prime Minister Najib Razak had expressed the view, about two years ago, that this Act had to be repealed.

Najib’s government is now preparing a National Harmony Bill to replace this Act. Azmi was, however, one of a number of people, many of them politicians in opposition parties, to be charged under this Act in the recent past.

The issue that Azmi had commented on was in response to the question as to how the next Selangor menteri besar should be selected. Azmi’s views were published in the online portal of The Malay Mail. He is quoted as saying two things in this article: “You don’t want a repeat of that, where a secret meeting took place” and “I think what happened in Perak was legally wrong. The best thing to do (in Selangor) is do it as legally and transparently as possible.”

It was baffling that these opinions were viewed as being seditious. In fact, the Bar Council, in its statement on Azmi’s case, is quoted as saying that his comments “cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute sedition”.  Azmi, in response to this charge, has argued that his “statements were based on established case laws and democratic principles” and that he views this charge against him as “a blow to academic freedom and the freedom of expression”.

Like the Bar Council, many have viewed this sedition charge as perplexing. It is not when we consider that this charge has been proffered against Azmi. His statement on the Selangor political crisis and his response to the charge against him are a reflection of Azmi’s now long-recognised willingness to talk the talk of justice.

Through his regular – and popular – column in The Star, to which he has been contributing over the past few years, Azmi has been providing, fearlessly, critical feedback on major flaws in society, the economy, academia and the legal system. The overriding impression one gets is that this charge is a blatant attempt to curb dissent and in Azmi’s case, a punitive act to silence critics.

Browbeat academics into obedience

Najib2The irony of this charge against Azmi is that the government has been persistently calling on academics to ensure their research is deployed so as to have an impact on society. In fact, government funding for research comes with the strict stipulation that the findings must contribute to the betterment of society.

Meanwhile, in the public domain, academics have now long been subjected to much criticism of their inadequate contribution to society as public intellectuals.

A growing lament, and one apparently indicative of declining academic standards in Malaysian universities, is this: where have all the public intellectuals gone? With this sedition charge against Azmi, the government is clear on one thing: academic feedback is warranted, but not on matters politic, specifically those that suggest the need for reforms.

This act against Azmi will compel academics to rethink any aspiring notions they may have entertained to be in the forefront of intellectual discourse about ways and means to solve the problems that ail the Malaysian economy and society.

The challenge to academics – and the general public if they value the need to have intellectually vibrant tertiary institutions – is to call on the government to stop what amounts to an attempt to intimidate academics into obedience, an act that will only serve to further undermine the credibility of Malaysian universities.

A large number of academics, about 300 of them from across Malaysia, have publicly stood by Azmi, a clear collective commitment of their resistance to any attempt to stifle academic freedom and to browbeat university faculty into silence.

There are other crucial reasons why the government should revoke this charge against Azmi. An obvious repercussion of this act is that it will diminish, even subvert, critical discourses in the universities which can seriously hamper high quality scholarship. This will, in turn, undermine meaningful tutelage which can have a significant bearing on the quality of graduates Malaysian universities now produce, an issue already viewed with much concern.

The government cannot call on academics to produce graduates with the capacity to think creatively, a clear project of educational empowerment, while stifling academic freedom.

READ This by Zainah Anwar :

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Sharing-The-Nation/?c={CF94E7B6-DC3C-4406-9D3B-05844C0EC1FC}