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Allowing Political Motivations To Interfere In Academic Integrity, Independent Scholarship & Research Excellence Risks Compromising Malaysia’s International Reputation As A Sound Investment Centre.
Press Conference Statement
by Lim Guan Eng
We are gravely concerned at your apology and retraction on 10 October 2006 of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies’ report headed by Dr Lim Teck Ghee allegedly due to flaws and shortcomings in assumption and calculation on 'Bumiputera Corporate Equity' that cannot be vigorously justified in its conclusions. Unfortunately, your retraction and apology was not supported by any empirical evidence or academic scholarship to show how Dr Lim’s report was flawed.
You had said that this report was part of the centre’s set of recommendations to the Malaysian government for consideration for the Ninth Malaysia Plan submitted in March this year. The contentious portion of the report relate to the centre’s claim that the estimated bumiputera equity ownership in public listed companies may be as high as 45 percent of total equity traded on the Malaysian bourse.
As you are well aware, this report was prepared and submitted on February 2006 before the tabling of the Ninth Malaysian Plan. If it was true that the conclusions using the methodology of market value is a wrong in measuring the real worth of shares, why was this discovered 8 months later and after fierce condemnation and pressure from government leaders, especially from your own party?
Dr Lim had used market value as par value is discredited internationally as a measure of real worth. In this respect his methodology concluded that the bumi corporate equity as at 30 September 2005 stood at 45% and not 18.9% as claimed by government data. Accordingly, Dr Lim suggested that more emphasis should be given to distribution needs to the poor, including poor Malays left out of owning this 45%, rather than continue with the inefficient, unproductive and corrupt-ridden New Economic Policy(NEP).
In response to Lim’s resignation in protest at your retraction and apology, you said it is better for Lim to resign based on principle rather than on any other agenda. Such response belies your claims that ASLI was not directed by any party to retract the report nor was there any political pressure to do so. Clearly this retraction was not driven by any flaws or shortcomings either in its methodology or research data.
We verily fear that by allowing political motivations to interfere in academic integrity, independent scholarship & research excellence risks compromising Malaysia’s international reputation as a sound investment center. Such actions have impugned ASLI credibility and integrity but also tarnished the government’s image in sincerely seeking truth from facts.
DAP regrets that the government has adopted a blanket and universal policy that only its data is correct and any alternatives offered is definitely wrong Such stubborn insistence that the government is always right, faultless and flawless is wrong and is no different from intellectual oppression imposed by the Nazis in Germany that only the official line is the true line even in the face of contrary facts.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has no right to say that no one has the right to dispute government's official data on the equity ownership of bumiputera and non-bumiputera and even threaten that further discussion can incite feelings. For such data to be acceptable by all, it must first be accurate.
Is there any room for government statistics that are truthful, transparent and reliable if the government can behave in such a high-handed manner as to negate verifiable research not by facts but by emotion and abuse of power? Dr Lim’s resignation has only deepened the crisis of confidence not only at the reliability of government data but the entire administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
We should remember the principles behind Dr Lim’s resignation letter “…to defend the position and integrity of independent and non-partisan scholarship. It is the fundamental right of the Malaysian public to question all government statistics and policies, more so when these are not transparent or defensible.”
Justice can only be done by inviting ASLI International Advisory Council the opportunity to decide whether Mirzan Mahathir’s possess the academic credentials to apologise and retract Dr Lim’s study when Mirzan has shown no proof of flaws and shortcomings in the study’s conclusions that the bumi corporate equity ownership based on market value is 45%. The International Advisory Council comprising of foreign corporate captains and academics from Malaysia, America, Australia, China and India should at least provide some insights into the reliability of statistics.
I reiterate that by resigning and standing by the findings of the study, Dr Lim has shown his courage in taking full responsibility for his research findings. Dr Lim has shown himself to be unique as an outstanding academic with upstanding integrity. Never before as an academic resigned from his job and “broken his rice bowl” to uphold the truth of his research findings and such rare sacrifice has raised doubts about the reliability of government statistics. That is why we are sending a bouquet of flowers to Dr Lim in appreciation in contrast to brickbats for the government.
To resolve this controversy, we hope that the government can set up an independent data research body comprising of neutral reputable experts to verify the controversial methodology and data use and applied. Only then can Malaysians not only know the truth but also make sound decisions based on facts and not emotion. Further this will allow poor Malays and Malaysians to participate and share in the fruits of the nation’s development instead of being concentrated in the hands of distributional coalitions of cronies and special interests.
LIM GUAN ENG
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP