I will withdraw the RM10 salary cut motion against Shafie Salleh if the Higher Education Minister concedes that his policy statements at the UMNO General Assembly in September about not ever admitting any non-bumiputra student into UiTM and ensuring that meritocracy university intake system will exceed former 55% quota for bumiputra student not in the best interest of nation-building or attaining international competitiveness to face challenges of globalization, liberalization & ICT
- when moving RM10 cut motion for salary of Higher Education Minister, Dr. Shafie Salleh during the 2005 Budget debate (committee stage)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday): In my more than 30 years in Parliament, I must have moved more than a dozen times RM10 cut motions in the Dewan Rakyat during the committee stage of annual budget debates to place on official record strong protests or condemnation of Ministerial scandal, negligence or failure for which the Minister concerned must bear responsibility, whether individually or in the capacity as the head of the Ministry.
I must admit that I have never been so reluctant to move this RM10 cut motion against the Higher Education Minister, Dr. Shafie Salleh, for he is the very symbol of courtesy, industry, responsibility and integrity - a clean and good Minister. In fact, I feel very sad having to move this motion of censure in the form of a RM10 salary cut, but my sense of responsibility to the oath as a MP which I had taken to defend the best interests of the nation and the Malaysian people, regardless of race, religion, class or political beliefs, compelled me to stand up in this House to move this very unpopular RM10 cut motion against a very popular Minister.
The crux of the motion are two policy statements which Shafie made at the UMNO General Assembly in September, that so long as he is Higher Education Minister, (i) he will never allow a non-bumiputra student to enter UiTM and he will not compromise on this matter; and (ii) that despite the introduction of the system of meritocracy for university student intake, he will ensure that bumiputra students will always exceed the 55% university places set under the previous quota system.
Malaysians were shocked by these two policy statements, that it should come from Shafie and also because of its far-reaching implications to nation-building, the Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia concept, our international competitiveness and ability to face the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technologies.
I can understand Shafie’s frustration and sense of despair at being defeated in the UMNO Supreme Council party election, showing that the very qualities he represented - a high sense of responsibility, ethics and integrity; a good, clean and hardworking Minister - are not held in high regard in UMNO and the UMNO Supreme Council party elections which were drowned in an orgy of money politics. This is a shame to UMNO. This is however no reason, excuse or justification for Shafie to try to court popularity and mortgage the national interests and future by making uncompromising and extremist statements which have become the subjects of today’s salary cut motion – as he should have continued to stand out as an exemplar of moderation, reason or sound common sense, whatever the price, such as being voted out of the UMNO Supreme Council.
The two statements by Shafie as most shocking and indefensible for the following reasons:
“Marilah kita, semua rakyat Malaysia, tanpa perlu rasa rendah diri, tanpa perlu rasa terpinggir, tanpa mengira bangsa dan ugama, bangun menjadi negarawan di bumi sendiri. Kita semua adalah sama, kita semua rakyat Malaysia. Tidak ada individu di negara ini yang diiktiraf ‘lebih Malaysia’ dari individu yang lain.”
Malaysia has a long way to go to become an international centre of academic excellence with at least three to five Malaysian universities which are recognized as among the world’s 50 best universities by 2008.
Early this month, The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) released its new global ranking of the world’s best 200 universities.
Although Shafie has stated his satisfaction that two Malaysian universities were listed, with University of Malaya ranked No. 89 and the Universiti Sains Malaysia ranked No. 111, we should have higher ambitions to want to have three to five Malaysian universities among the world’s Top 50 or 60. At present, we do not have a single university regarded as in the world’s top ranks whether the first 50 or 60..
If Singapore has two such universities in the Top 50 (with the National University of Singapore ranked No. 18) while Australia, regarded as “the powerhouse of higher education in the Asia-Pacific region”, with six of its universities in the Top 50 or eight in the Top 60, it is not asking too much for Malaysia to want to have three to five Malaysian universities recognized as among the world’s Top 50 or Top 60.
The Times Higher Education Supplement latest global ranking of top universities could be faulted or criticized as biased towards the English-speaking world and to institutions that actively recruit students and staff abroad, since two of its five criteria measure these recruitment levels.
However, these criticisms cannot be used to justify Malaysia’s low international ranking, as in the world league of the best 500 universities prepared by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, Malaysia had been completely excluded from the list of world’s top 500 universities for two consecutive years, including the 2004 list released in September.
These are the issues which the Higher Education Minister should be giving priority instead of reactionary statements like the two he had made, which will make it even more difficult for Malaysian universities to be ranked among the World’s Top 50 or 60.. Has he got a masterplan to develop Malaysia into an international centre of academic excellence by ensuring that at least three to five Malaysian universities are recognized as among the world’s top 50 or 60 best universities by 2008?
What is the real role and purpose of the Special Envoy for Higher Education, which appears to be a redundancy as well as an adverse reflection on the caliber and responsibility of the Higher Education Minister. Can we get a report as to what had been achieved so far by the Special Envoy for Higher Education?
I have absolutely nothing personal against Shafie as I have explained. I will withdraw the RM10 salary cut motion against Shafie Salleh if the Higher Education Minister concedes that his policy statements at the UMNO General Assembly in September about not ever admitting any non-bumiputra student into UiTM and ensuring that meritocracy university intake system will exceed former 55% quota for bumiputra student not in the best interest of nation-building or attaining international competitiveness to face challenges of globalization, liberalization & ICT.
Finally, a supporting reason for my motion is the Universities and Universities Colleges Act (UUCA) which has so stifled creativity and independence of thought among the young generation of university students that we are condemning Malaysia to a future of mediocrity, making the Prime Minister’s objective of a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” an impossible dream.
In the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), final-year journalism student and the President of the USM Chinese Language Society, Soh Sook Hwa is awaiting decision of the USM disciplinary proceedings for allegedly breaching the UUCA in helping the opposition campaign in the March 2004 general election while in the Uiversiti T being subject to disciplinary actions.
Is Shafie prepared to take the bold action to stop all these disciplinary proceedings in USM and UTM and to suspend the UUCA for five years to allow a culture of freedom and creativity to return to our academic institutions?
A fortnight ago, a retired head of one of the IPTAs, who is a Tan Sri, lamented to me the drop in academic standards in our institutions of higher learning and its undeniable connection with the stifling effect of the UUCA. The UUCA should be repealed, but if this is too bold a step, is Shafie prepared to take up with the Cabinet a five-year suspension of the UUCA, which will be an opportunity for the nation to ascertain whether our universities and the country’s future in terms of academic excellence in universities and enhanced international competitiveness are better served with such a measure.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman