The signal from the top seems to be that dissent is not to be tolerated and honest pursuit of knowledge discouraged, observes Toh Kin Woon, in a comment on the resignation of Dr Lim Teck Ghee as Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) of the Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute (Asli).
I would like to congratulate Dr Lim Teck Ghee, former Professor from the University of Malaya and former UN Regional Advisor and senior social specialist with the World Bank’s Environment and Social Development Sector, on his brave and principled stand in resigning as the Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) of the Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute (Asli).
His resignation is because of the rather unprincipled position taken by the Asli president Dato’ Mirzan Mahathir that the CPPS study on bumiputera equity ownership has been based on so-called “faulty assumptions” and hence its conclusions are “faulty” as well.
Dr Lim disagrees with this and stands by his methodology and findings on bumiputera equity ownership. Being the honest social scientist that he is, he then took the honourable way of resigning his post instead of meekly complying with the views of his president. Dr Lim’s stand is a very refreshing departure from the culture of compliance and subservience that the ruling elites in our country attempt to cultivate.
The controversy surrounding Dr Lim’s findings on bumiputera corporate equity ownership would not have arisen had the government been more open and receptive to views challenging its own findings. The government could and should have instructed the relevant agencies to be more transparent on the data and methodology used to compute the bumiputera equity ownership share. Discussions with the CPPS and others on these issues could have been held and a consensus arrived at.
Instead, the government lambasted Dr Lim. The signal seems to be that dissent is not to be tolerated and honest pursuit of knowledge discouraged. This is indeed a sad development and seems at odd with the government’s professed aim of wanting to make our country a more open, transparent and liberal society.
Dr Lim’s action in resigning rather than meekly toeing the line of his superiors is indeed exemplary and ought to be emulated by all. His hope that “the public space opened up by the work of CPPS on this particular issue, as well as other important issues, will be expanded upon” must be taken up by all. This is because expansion of the democratic space and the strengthening of the right to dissent and challenge are so important in moving our nation forward.
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