On 25 July, the Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) issued a statement on the crisis of leadership in Malaysian higher education, outlining our despair at – and condemnation of – external political interference in our public universities and the dismissal of guidelines already in place.
We were primarily referring to the widespread practise under this Perikatan Nasional/Barisan Nasional regime over the past year or so, of appointing an uncharacteristically large number of politicians from their ‘cluster’ who are clueless about higher education to positions in the board of directors of various public universities.
Others too have commented critically on this. But perhaps nothing was done to address this because the minister then had not been given a 100-day deadline to show performance beyond promoting TikTok videos and competitions.
Now, however, her new prime minister has issued such a deadline which, incidentally, is fast approaching.
Instead of stepping up to the plate to address the numerous immediate challenges facing higher education – many of which Gerak has highlighted previously, especially in our press statement of 31 August 2021 – the minister once again appears to be quite clueless.
Far from performing for the public universities and the rakyat, she appears to be showboating her ‘abilities’ to please her political master and cluster.
This is quite evident with the appointment of a 26-year-old former political officer of a senior Umno politician to the board of directors of Malaysia’s premier public university, the University of Malaya.
Age should not be a criterion, of course. But knowledge, experience and the ability to contribute to the university should be essential criteria. Looking through his publicly available profile, we find nothing there aside from him being a youth leader in the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) with a Facebook page and an Instagram account.
Yet another political appointee, it would seem. A second politician to add to Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin from Umno, who was appointed to the University of Malaya board in May 2020.
This mockery of the role of boards of director of universities must stop. These boards and their members are at the forefront of helping university authorities to grow, to enhance their reputation and to establish links with the wider society – not links with political parties.
We argued in July that blatantly political appointments of this nature have been a tragic tradition in many of our public universities that have contributed to the decline of higher education – and that this nonsense must stop.
We reiterate this stand with this latest political manoeuvring and farcical appointment. – Gerak