DAP calls for the repeal  of UUCA and the restoration of  academic freedom for lecturers and students in the universities and colleges to produce “thought leaders”  and high-quality talent to make a success of Malaysia’s ICT  ambitions

Speech (2)
opening of the 2003 Penang DAP State Convention
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Cyberjaya on Friday that the rules and regulations governing universities and the use of government funds for research and development will be relaxed to facilitate greater university-industry co-operation in information communications technology and give researchers more freedom to work independently. 

Speaking at a press conference on the second day of the  seventh Malaysia Super Corridor (MSC) International Advisory  Panel (IAP) meeting at Cyberview Lodge, Mahathir said Phase Two of the MSC’s development would focus on the creation of high-quality Malaysian talent and leaders in ICT and in this regard, there must be closer collaboration between the industry and local universities. 

DAP calls for the repeal of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) and the restoration of academic freedom for lecturers and students in the universities and colleges to promote closer collaboration between society and the universities and  produce “thought leaders” and high-quality talent to make a success of Malaysia’s ICT ambitions. 

Malaysia will not be able to produce the “thought leaders” who can provide leadership in thinking and innovation to apply computer technology in various fields if their critical faculties are stifled and stunted by restrictive and repressive laws and regulations in schools and universities, like the UUCA.   The products of such a repressive educational regime will not be “thought leaders” but “thought slaves” who will not be able to blaze the path to take Malaysia to the highest achievements of ICT. 

In this connection, the dirtiest and most unfair campus elections in the various public universities on Thursday to enable  pro-government students to wrest control of the student councils in the University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)  must be a matter of grave  concern, as the abuses in the campus elections in certain universities,  the electoral fraud;  the tactics of  fear, intimidation and falsehood; and  money politics are not calculated to create an academic culture conducive to produce “thought leaders” in the new generation of Malaysians. 

At the same conference, Mahathir  reiterated that Malaysian workers had the capacity to undertake highly-skilled jobs. He said: “They can do all kinds of things like swim across the English Channel and do sophisticated jobs. Malaysia Boleh. Malaysia Can.”

This “Malaysia Boleh” spirit should be manifested in fields which will uplift Malaysia’s international prestige, honour and standing like having world-class universities, ranking among the world’s ten  least corrupt nations or the among the world’s  most dedicated and efficient civil service. 

In actual fact, in all these three fields, Malaysia had slipped, retreated and regressed as compared to the past. 

In the sixties, Malaysia's sole university, the University of Malaya, was rated as one of the best universities in  the Asia-Pacific but more than  three decades later, it had suffered such a serious erosion of  academic standards and quality  that it was ranked a lowly 47th position out of 77 universities in the Asiaweek's 2000 ranking of Best Universities  in the region, with two other named universities, Universiti Putra Malaysia in 52nd and Universiti Sains Malaysia in 57th position.


Malaysia has currently  17 public universities, 11 private universities, 4 foreign university branch campuses, 3 local private university branch campuses, 2 private university colleges and 516 private colleges/institutes of non-university status - but we do not have a single world-class university when we should have several by

our global development status.  I do not think Malaysia even  ranks among the world's  300-400  top universities.


At the recent Gerakan National Delegates Conference, the Gerakan leadership expressed satisfaction with Malaysia’s 33rd ranking out of 102 countries in the Transparency International(TI)’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2002, after slipping from the already poor 23rd placing seven years ago  in 1995.


The dedication and efficiency of the Malaysian civil service have suffered serious erosion in the past 46 years.  The announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) in Malta in April 1996 that Malaysia aimed to be the first country in the world whose 800,000-strong civil service qualify for the ISO 9000  quality  standard was quietly buried and forgotten in less than two years, and has never been heard again! 


In al these three cases, the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit had faltered and failed.


One of the challenges of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he takes over as Prime Minister next month is to ensure that  future National Day Celebrations should break from the  obsession with externals like flying the biggest national flag or most number of flags for the most number of days and instead  focus on the real essence of patriotism in ranking Malaysia as world-class in meaningful measures such as  having the best universities, among the least corrupt nations,  having  most dedicated and efficient civil service or the most IT-literate populace  and knowledge-based economy. 


I have sent an invitation to Abdullah to the   public forum on “How to be among the world’s top ten least corrupt nations in a decade” at Crystal Crown Hotel,  Petaling Jaya next Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2003, which is the first of a series of DAP efforts to steer the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit to more important fields of national life, such as:

  • An education system of excellence with world-class universities and quality primary, secondary, mother-tongue and ICT education.

  • Zero tolerance for corruption and culture of integrity in public service with Malaysia ranked among the world’s ten least corrupt nations within a decade;

  • World’s top dedicated and most efficient civil service; and

  • Most IT-literate populace and a leading IT power.


In my invitation to Abdullah, I had asked him to delegate  a Cabinet Minister  to represent him at  the forum if he could not himself make it.  I have not yet received a reply from Abdullah, but I hope that he would give a positive response, as it would be a signal that when he becomes Prime Minister, he would be serious in creating a national consensus in the war against corruption to create a new culture  of integrity and  zero-tolerance for corruption in public life, and  that he would focus on manifesting the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit in areas which would accrue to the nation’s international prestige and standing.


The  speakers at the public forum  “How to be among the world’s top ten least corrupt nations within a decade” will include the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, the President of Transparency International Malaysia, Tunku Aziz, Malaysia’s authority on corruption, Professor Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas and environmentalist Gurmit Singh.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman