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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 20th May 2010: 


Call on Najib to suspend UUCA for five years to demonstrate he has the political will to implement NEM priority to “retain and attract talent” as the country’s most valuable assets for Malaysia to become high-income nation

Congratulations to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Malaysia has broken into the top 10 list of the world’s most competitive countries, taking the 10th spot on the Switzerland-based IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2010 – up from 18th placing last year.

Malaysia, however, has still a long way to go if we are to break away from the decade-long economic stagnation, escape from the middle-income trap and take our rightful place in the international community of nations, catching up with nations which have overtaken us economically although we were ahead of them when we achieved Merdeka 53 years ago – like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

For a start, has the Najib premiership the political will to break the logjam of resistance by vested groups represented by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and various interest groups which have been outsourced by Umno to champion rightwing, extremist and racist views like Perkasa and Gertak?

As a test whether Najib has the political leadership and will to implement New Economic Model (NEM) reforms, I call on him to suspend for five years the Universities and University Colleges Act which acts like a suffocating blanket stifling creativity, innovation and excellence among university lecturers and students, reducing the public universities into second class universities not only in the world but also in the country.

During my schooldays in the fifties, students do not think about foreign universities unless their results were not good or their parents have a lot of money. This was because University of Malaya, which had just separated from its Singapore campus to spawn two separate universities with University of Singapore, was recognized internationally as one of the world-class universities.

Today, the first option of Malaysian students is to get places in foreign universities and local placing in Malaysian public universities is their last choice, because of the drop and decline of standards and prestige of Malaysian universities.

It will not be long when public universities will be regarded as inferior to private universities in the country.

This is not progress but going backwards.

Today the Deputy Minister for Higher Education Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah lamented at the poor response to Speakers’ Corners created at higher education institutions.

He called on undergraduates to make full use of the space available within their campuses to speak their minds.

He complained that in some of the universities, “there is no activity at all at the Speakers’ Corner since the launch four months ago”.

Lets have the name of the public universities where the Speakers’ Corner are active and alive and those where they are no different from Graveyard Corners, because of the silence prevailing in both places.

Should the Deputy Higher Education Minister be surprised that the Speakers’ Corners in the public universities are as dead as a dodo?

Why are they a far cry from the vibrant and sometimes electrifying Speaker’s Corner in the University of Malaya in the sixties before the advent of the stifling UUCA?

What does Saifuddin expect when the UUCA is used to victimize the handful of more idealistic, activist and conscientised university students, like the political science students from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia who have been given notice that they would be charged next month under the UUCA for allegedly campaigning in the Hulu Selangor by-election?

Why the double standards with UMNO forming UMNO Clubs for overseas university students all over the world and yet prohibit students in local public universities from showing any interest in politics?

The Barisan Nasional government is doing the very opposite of what the NEM has advocated – and the question is whether the Najib government has woken up to the stark fact that globalization has created a fierce competition for talent and the ability of Malaysia to compete on a regional and global scale will depend on the government’s capability to retain and attract talent.

I therefore urge Najib to ask the Cabinet next Wednesday to take two policy decisions, viz:

  • To suspend the UUCA for five years; and

  • To withdraw all charges against UKM students and other students in the same category in public universities so that the UUCA ceases as a Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of university students stifling their creativity, innovation and excellence.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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