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Changing times in Malaysia’s academia?

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Mustafa K Anuar was taken aback to see a group of academics calling for political stability and support for the Muhyiddin Yassin administration.

Despite the overarching shadow of the pandemic, many changes – largely political – have occurred in the country in recent times that ordinary Malaysians cannot afford to overlook.

For one thing, the so-called Sheraton Move has upended Pakatan Harapan’s rule that promised to bring about fundamental social reform that many Malaysians have craved.

As if taking a cue, a number of lawmakers made a great leap from one political party to another or became independent, much to the chagrin of watching Malaysian voters.

As a result, the PH-led governments in Johor, Malacca, Perak and Kedah were destabilised and eventually collapsed in the hands of Perikatan Nasional.

And most recently, concerned Malaysians have been helplessly “entertained” by the protracted tug-of-war between Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s allies and Anwar Ibrahim’s group within the tenuous grouping called PH-plus over who should be the prime minister-designate should PH-plus succeed in regaining federal power.

To be sure, these frenzied political changes also have not escaped the attention of a group of local academics to the extent they dared to stand and be counted.

The times they are indeed a-changin’, given that many of these academics – who now have found their voice – have been inclined to be reticent in the past, especially when it comes to things deemed “political”.

So, it is ‘refreshing’ to note that 115 “local PhD scholars” from 21 public universities and four private university colleges recently issued a press statement, which was drafted “in just three days”, to urge Malaysians to give “full respect and support for the current government under Muhyiddin Yassin as the prime minister to steer the country”.

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It is, of course, within the democratic right of these academics to express their positive opinion about the standing of the PN government, just as other academics have the equal right to offer contrarian views. True blue scholars would surely defend the right of their peers to dissent in the interest of vigorous scholarship.

Besides, any academia worth its salt should provide a conducive environment for academics to indulge in vibrant seminars and forums to discuss the ramifications of such abrupt change of the federal government and the state governments concerned to enlighten fellow academics and students, and local communities around campuses. This is apart from them writing well-researched articles on such issues in academic journals and popular writings.

The so-called ivory tower has a vital role to play in this regard, to ensure that it is not detached from the society it is supposed to enlighten. For that matter, any concerned citizen, irrespective of whether they have a PhD, also has the democratic right to express views that are supportive of the powers-that-be or critical of it.

The academics’ public statement also called on all political parties “to stop any propaganda or efforts that could undermine political stability”.

While we understand and appreciate the dire consequences of political instability as articulated by these academics, it begs the question why, for instance, they did not find it a necessity to publicly express concern over the country’s stability when political manoeuvrings of certain politicians had brought about the collapse of duly elected PH governments in the states mentioned above.

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The general public would have to be convinced by sophisticated and robust arguments; merely claiming that hundreds of PhD scholars, who incidentally did not put their names on the dotted line, are also supportive of their concern would not suffice.

As intimated above, it would do Malaysian scholarship justice if the academics were to hold, say, online seminars and forums where various viewpoints are put to rigorous academic scrutiny, especially at a time when people and things are a-changin’.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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12 Jul 2020 10.53pm

Although it’s their right to voice out their support for the PN government being academics they should have clarified as to why they support the ‘backdoor’ government. This is critical in view of the fact that the people chose PH to form the government. So the academics owe the people an explanation then just making a sweeping statement.

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