“Solidarity with Dr. Terence Gomez Dinner”  - Karpal’s first public appearance in more than four months to join the  nation-wide concern and alarm over the Gomez debacle and the decline of academic excellence and quality in University of Malaya and local  public universities generally

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Thursday): DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Glugor Karpal Singh is very keen to make  his first public appearance in more than four months at the “Solidarity with Dr. Terence Gomez Dinner” in Kelana Jaya, Selangor on Monday to join in the nation-wide concern and alarm over the Gomez debacle and the decline of academic excellence and quality in the University of Malaya  (UM) and the local public universities generally. 

Karpal, who had returned from a successful operation in Singapore on May 21, had been hospitalized since a motor accident in Penang at the end of January. He told me last night that he felt very strongly about the injustice meted out to  Dr. Terence Gomez and his wife Dr Sharmani Patricia Gabriel by the University of Malaya, and that although he has not fully recovered,  he would want to attend the dinner to show his support, even if it is for a short while.


The UM  Vice Chancellor Dr. Hashim Yaacob has become an international liability to the nation, not only marring the centennial celebrations of UM, undermining the campaign of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness by giving priority to excellence in all fields of human endeavour but also in making Malaysia an international laughing stock in the shabby treatment given to  the “best and brightest” in the “premier university” of the country.


Hashim will be censured in the forthcoming meeting of Parliament not only for his mishandling of the Dr. Terence Gomez debacle but for his poor leadership of the University of Malaya, which has nullified the innovative and bold  efforts of the Prime Minister in creating a new Higher Education Ministry.


It is most regrettable that the UM  Board of Directors had been without a Chairman and leaderless since February, when Tan Sri Mohamed Khatib bin Abdul Hamid, former Malaysian Ambassador to Japan, completed his term of appointment, or the Vice Chancellor’s excesses might have been checked. This four-month leadership vacuum in UM  must be filled without any further delay.

The Gomez debacle has done great damage to the main planks of Abdullah’s  reform programme  to end the “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality” Malaysian malaise so that the country can be truly  competitive in the global marketplace by creating the environment to produce “towering Malaysian personalities”.

If Malaysian universities have no room for the “best and brightest” of Malaysian intellectuals, like Dr. Terence Gomez who is forced to resign to take up the prestigious United Nations research appointment, then what “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” – the Prime Minister’s motto - can  the Minister for Higher Education and the University of Malaya Vice Chancellor be  talking about?

A day after the parliamentary roundtable on “Higher Education in Crisis?” on May 27, I emailed the Prime Minister asking for his intervention in the Gomez debacle to ensure   an  "all-win" solution to the country's reputation and international competitiveness, University of Malaya and Dr. Gomez by allowing Dr. Gomez to take up the prestigious research appointment at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva on a two-year secondment as well as two-year unpaid leave for  his wife, Dr Sharmani Patricia Gabriel
also of University of Malaya  so that the family of five including three children could  be together in Geneva.

I drew  the Prime Minister’s attention to the parliamentary roundtable’s concern  that the Gomez debacle had given Malaysia “an international black eye" and undermined his  repeated call for excellence, international competitiveness, world-class universities and towering Malaysians.

It was reported yesterday that Cambridge University is looking into the possibility of setting up a branch campus in Malaysia, which “will be a coup for the country and a major boost to Malaysia’s goal of becoming an education hub”.

It will be most tragic if Malaysia must now depend on foreign universities, whether Monash, Nottingham or Cambridge to salvage its academic reputation whether locally or abroad with the unchecked haemorrhage of national and international confidence in Malaysia’s public universities.

The Prime Minister should immediately intervene to check the haemorrhage of confidence in the public universities by resolving the Gomez debacle and put in place the academic and intellectual  environment for the local public universities to create “towering Malaysians” or the University of Malaya grand centennial celebrations next week should be postponed until it could be held in more meaningful circumstances.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman