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How can Malaysian universities become world-class centres of academic excellence and produce “towering Malaysians” with intellectual, spiritual, moral and political maturity and courage when the Higher Education Minister and lecturers lack these qualities as highlighted by the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook debacle?
Abdullah has again “saved the day”, as the guidebook by the two UPM lecturers, Jayum Anak Jawan and Zaid Ahmad, was a total failure in their purported purpose to foster ethnic relations, further aggravating racial polarization not only in the university campuses but in the larger Malaysian society with the biased and divisive slant of the country’s history seeking to pass off “historic lies” as “historic facts” – whether on the May 13 Incident in 1969, the Taman Medan riots in 2001 or the Suqiu electoral appeals controversy 1999-2000.
The question many Malaysians are asking is why the Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapha Mohamad did not have the intellectual, moral and political courage and integrity to differentiate between right and wrong and announce during the parliamentary debate on the issue initiated by the DAP MP for Bandar Kuching Chong Chieng Jen the withdrawal of the defective and sub-standard Ethnic Relations guidebook.
What was even more unthinkable was that Mustapha could stand up in Parliament on Tuesday to defend the indefensible, claiming that the ‘historic lies” in the guidebook were “historic facts”, and that the guidebook would not be withdrawn?
Abdullah had talked so much about wanting to create a Malaysia with “First-World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality”, but after nearly three years as Prime Minister, Malaysia seems to have become even more “Third-Worldly” as illustrated by the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook debacle.
What hope is there that Abdullah can make some progress towards a “First-World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality” Malaysia when even his Ministers have failed to develop a First-World mindset and outlook – refusing or unable to discharge their Ministerial responsibilities and having to run to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister on every controversy?
In a “First-World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality” Malaysia, an incident like the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook debacle would have been properly resolved by the Higher Education Minister without having the issue being taken to the Cabinet - and for the Minister’s refusal to withdraw the guidebook to be countermanded by the Prime Minister!
In fact, there is the larger question. How can Malaysian universities become world-class centres of academic excellence and produce “towering Malaysians” with intellectual, spiritual, moral and political maturity and courage when the Higher Education Minister and lecturers lack these qualities as highlighted by the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook debacle?
The UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook had been used for six months in the first semester of the UPM. Why had there been no lecturers who had spoken up against its tendentious and divisive content?
Are the two UPM lecturers Jayum Anak Jawan and Zaid Ahmad prepared to publicly apologise for the disservice they had done to ethnic relations, national unity as well as to Malaysian academia?
The special committee which has been set up by the Higher Education Committee to evaluate and review the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook should not just focus on the three subjects of May 13 Incident, Taman Medan riots and Suqiu controversy which had caused offernce, but also other objectionable chapters which failed to give proper recognition to Malaysia multi-religious character – particularly in the chapter on “Islam Hadhari dan Hubungan Ethnik” in its emphasis on Malaysia as an Islamic state, which are against the founding nation-building principles in the 1957 “social contract” of a multi-racial, democratic and secular nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state.
The special committee should also evaluate and review all university curriculum, courses, module and textbooks which misrepresents Malaysian nation-building and history, whether courses on Malaysian Studies, Islamic Civilisation, Malaysian Citizenship, etc.
This special committee should also evaluate and review secondary school textbooks and curriculum, such as secondary school history books where the history of Islamic World has virtually pushed out world history – which is not only ignoring Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious characteristics but quite out of sync with the era of globalization.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman