Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ethnic Relations Module - Last nail in coffin or just 'sex up'?

Highly respected Dr Syed Husin Ali (also deputy president of PKR) bemoaned the continuing intrusion of the government into areas of Academia that traditionally had been autonomous and free from political interference .

The cabinet control of, even to its right to approve the January 2007 version of the Ethnic Relations Module, supposedly an improved version of the earlier UPM’s racially slanted text, represented the last straw for Dr Syed Husin after years of incremental erosion of university autonomy.

I blogged on an aspect of the revised module in Another national secret? What's there to hide?, where Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the chief coordinator of the ‘revision’ team, refused to even provide the names of his research team, as revealed by his once academic mentor, Dr Lim Teck Ghee in a letter to malaysiakini

It beggars belief that in a matter of academic credibility, an academician would fall into the rut of non-transparency, that's best left to dodgy politicians. We continue to wonder what’s been hidden?

Hmmm, perhaps issues of humpty-dumpty-ish national security?

Then, Dr Syed Husin provided a glimpse on this aspect by commenting
“the government … appoint a panel, made up of five serving and retired professors from different universities, headed by one from UKM. It is most unfortunate that the government picked them from only a particular ethnic group.”

my underlining above

“These panel members and most paper writers who provided early drafts of main chapters in the module are also known to be keen government supporters. It would have been wiser had the government expanded the panel to include other ethnic groups and also those representing different viewpoints, who are competent”

… reinforcing Dr Lim Teck Ghee’s beef over the secrecy of the identities and academic qualifications of the panel members, and the consequential lack of academic credibility for the revision exercise.

Expressing similar concerns as Dr Lim, Dr Syed revealed what we already are aware of, though he did it in his articulated inimitable style, stating:
“Basic freedoms of university staff and students have been so effectively curbed that most of the former have imbibed servile government servant mentality, while almost all of the latter are reduced to be no more than high school students.”

“… imbibed servile government servant mentality …” and “… are reduced to be no more than high school students.”
What gems of expression. Didn’t I just mention Dr Syed’s inimitable style?

On “… imbibed servile government servant mentality …” you may also wish to read AB Sulaiman Pissing into the Wind?

In his article in malaysiakini’s Opinion Column, Dy Syed Husin analysed how the text for the module sanitised Malaysian history, culture, and politics, etc into nothing more than pro-UMNO/government propaganda and UMNO/government worldviews, including justifying the sinister ideology of ketuanan Melayu* and its ethnocentric policies, while omitting historical truths that were ‘inconvenient’ or ‘challenging’ to the ruling party.

* Malay supremacy or dominance

PKR, the traumatic offspring of UMNO disappeared off the text's radar screen, while the cause of May 13 was naturally blamed on the 'irresponsible' opposition. On the latter, I had previously blogged on The Real Cause of the May 13 Riots and New Fact on May 13 Revealed!.

Dr Syed Husin concluded on the loss of academic autonomy: “It is not surprising, therefore, the quality and standards of local universities have been deteriorating.”

He criticised, correctly and rightfully if I may add, that the gross interference by the cabinet, a political body, in determining the content of and approving a university academic module or syllabus “cannot and should not be tolerated by any university worth its name.”

He warned: “This time it is Ethnic Relations. Next it could be Development Studies or maybe even History. Where will this end, then?”

"I consider cabinet interference in and approval of a fully academic matter, such as this, to be the final nail driven into the coffin of University Autonomy.”

For more of Dr Syed Husin’s piece, read here - unfortunately, subscription to malaysiakini is required, but this posting has covered most of the main points.

But don’t forget to read the (free of subscription) piece on Tony Blair’s dossier about Saddam Hussein’s WMD with the claim that Iraqi missiles could fly in 45 minutes
as an accompanying article.

That fabricated B-liar claim gained notoriety after the BBC reported in May 2003 that it had been inserted into the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services, as Blair and his advisors sought to ‘sex up’ the case for war.

You may well ask, what’s the connection between the Malaysian tertiary (or perhaps, just high school?) education Ethnic Relations Module and the Blair's Dossier of Deadly Dodgy-ness ?

Maybe there's none. Maybe it's just because I like the ‘sex up’ bit, but you know, maybe it's just once again another of KTemoc's crazy non sequitur.


  1. Hi KT,
    The correct process to create the Ethnic relations module should have been to appoint a panel of respected contributors who represent a broad spectrum of Malaysian society, and then the government takes its hands off. In some countries they call this a "Blue-Ribbon Panel" for some reason.
    What he had here, which was a narrowly appointed group of faceless authors, who then wrote a narrow-minded view of events. Having the Cabinet to impose a political re-writing process on the book is a joke.

  2. Did you say that Lim Teck Ghee was Baharuddin's mentor or were you just joking?

    If you recall, when ASLI published report on market value equity ownership headed by Dr. Lim, Baharuddin, without even reading the report, charged that there was ulterior motive behind the report. I qoute '...they always have ulterior motive...'.

    It so sad UMNO rely on such anachronistic people to maintain power and control. But then again, he not worst than Samy Vellu, Rafidah, Najib and the likes of KJ even...

  3. Yes, Dr Lim, in his letter to malaysiakini, confessed to being one of Prof Shamsul's mentors, with Shamsul acknowledging Lim as his guru.

    Must be an old timer in universities.

    Prof Shamsul is no doubt one of the government's men. In Oz he spoke up in favour of KJ when asked about the latter's insult of Chinese Malaysians. He spun a sweet story of misunderstanding etc, and downplayed MCA’s criticisms of KJ.

    It's not a crime being a pro-govt man but as an academician, we would expect him to be at least academically independent, and transparent about who the panel members were in the revision of the UPM’s racially slanted text.

  4. Hmmm, actually has the content of the "Ethnic Relations Module" out in the university already or not ah?
    As far as I understand from this blog, the content of the module is not yet debated but a lot of Argumentum ad Hominem ("Argument against the man") has already begun. Hmmm, when can we debate the topic or issue itself without referring to the author?
    just 2 cents of thought.

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  6. Dr Syed Husin Ali has provided an analysis of the module as I blogged it - his full article is in malaysiakini's Opinion Column; the associated but even more important issue is, as his mentor Dr Lim lambasted, Prof Shamsul's bizarre refusal to reveal the names and academic quals of the panel members. Why?

    That's hardly an ad hominem attack, and as remarked, it's even more important because it calls into question academic credibility and transparency. What is it that prevents the identity of the panel members responsible for teh revised module being revealed?