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UPM’s one-semester suspension of Lee Song Yong a grave violation of human rights and chilling reminder of the stultifying control of Malaysian academia by Little Napoleons – to move salary cut for Higher Education Minister in Parliament

Media Statement         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Thursday): The one-semester suspension of second-year computer science student Lee Song Yong by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) for obstructing campus officers from confiscating his personal belongings in the run-up to the campus polls in October is not only a grave violation of human rights but also a chilling reminder of the stultifying control of Malaysian academia by Little Napoleons which can only perpetuate a culture of mediocrity.

It is most regrettable that the UPM had completely ignored the call by SUHAKAM to stop the university disciplinary proceedings against Lee to pave the way for SUHAKAM investigations into complaint of human rights abuse by the university authorities.

This is another case where the higher education authorities have failed to distinguish between the core functions of universities to be centre of academic excellence from the petty details of regulatory control of lecturers and students which are the refuge of “Little Napoleons”.

In the latest world’s Top 200 Universities Rankings released by Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) a fortnight ago, Universiti Putra Malaysia, which had never been listed in the Top 200 Universities Ranking, still slipped 72 slots from No. 292 in 2006 to 364 in 2007.

It is most disappointing that the university administrators are unable set an example in the nation to respond to calls for a “First-World mentality” so that Malaysia can march towards fully developed nation status but continue to be mired by mindsets and approaches which could only produce universities and generations of mediocrity.

I propose to focus parliamentary and national attention on the disease of mediocrity in the Malaysian universities as highlighted by the free-fall of Malaysian universities in international rankings and the Little Napoleon regimes resulting in victimization of free spirits like Lee Song Yong which are antithetical to the development of a creative academic environment and towering Malaysians in keeping with the Abdullah administration’s slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemiling, Terbilang”.

I will give notice to move a motion to cut the salary of the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad during the 2008 Budget committee state debate on the Higher Education Ministry in Parliament on Dec.5 to focus on the issues of government failures to restore a culture of excellence and academic freedom to create world-class universities.


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

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