Is Shafie Salleh Minister for Higher Education for all Malaysians or only for UMNO?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): “Is Datuk Dr. Shafie Salleh Minister for Higher Education for all Malaysians or only for UMNO?”

This is the question many Malaysians ask when they read the report of Shafie’s announcement in Tanah Merah,  Kelantan on Friday on the proposal to set up an UMNO university.

Shafie said the UMNO education bureau would be meeting soon to discuss  whether the setting up of the university was necessary because Malaysia already had 17 universities.

He himself supported the idea of an UMNO university as it  would  be a symbol of the party's strength and struggle. As an added reason, he said several other Barisan Nasional component parties had their own universities - MCA had Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman while MIC had the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST) and Gerakan had established a distance-learning programme.

Shafie does not seem to realize that Malaysian higher education is in the throes of a deep crisis on academic  quality and excellence, with the Malaysian universities losing the best and brightest of their academicians,  as well as producing tens and thousands of unemployed and unemployable graduates.

These should be his single-minded priority and  concerns as the Minister for Higher Education instead of trying to restore his popularity in UMNO by advocating an UMNO university.

Shafie has to date not said a single word about the mishandling by the University of Malay Vice Chancellor in refusing to approve the secondment of Dr. Terence Gomez to take up a two-year prestigious United Nations research appointment in Geneva and forcing Dr. Gomez’  resignation – which has made the University of Malaya and the nation an international laughing-stock for the shabby treatment of renowned Malaysian academicians and researchers, who are highly honoured internationally but not in their own country!

Shafie’s proposal for an UMNO University is proof that Malaysia is not yet ready to fulfil the call of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, for a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality”, as there is not a single first-world country where political parties compete to establish universities!

Shafie should decide whether he wants to be “father of UMNO University” or to pioneer  higher education reform as the first Minister for Higher Education  to catapult all universities in the country to world-class status. If the former, he should relinquish his post as Minister for Higher Education to someone who could devote 100% of his time and energies to promote the welfare of all universities in the country and who would not be  bogged down by the proposal to establish  an UMNO university.



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