It is not so often that the National Council of Professors, which was almost disbanded during Pakatan Harapan (PH) rule, makes public expressions concerning matters of public and national importance.
However, when it does – as in the recent case regarding former attorney general Tommy Thomas – people, especially those who are outside the so-called ivory tower, take notice.
The council took exception to Thomas’s comments regarding the alleged failure of the Malay-dominated governments since the removal of the PH administration.
As a result, the council accused Thomas of being “racist” because the body insisted that those governments were not a failure, citing the present government’s success of achieving 8.9% gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Incidentally, we should also be mindful that certain reforms were achieved and made possible during the current parliamentary term, owing to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was clinched between the sitting government and PH.
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To be clear, any administration that has failed to a large degree in governing is a failed government, irrespective of its ethnic composition or ideological stripe.
Council president Raduan Che Rose reportedly warned Thomas against racial profiling the government, which, he added, was on the right track in terms of governance.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and former prime minister Mahiaddin Yasin traded barbs over who should be blamed for any shortcomings of the present government, given the falling value of the ringgit against the US dollar, unemployment and underemployment, the widening economic cleavage between the rich and the poor, and the rising costs of living.
Inaccurate assessment of things should be avoided, as it has serious implications.
In this regard, we wonder whether it would be inaccurate to depict the post-PH governments as Malay-dominated. For all intents and purposes, the Malaysian federal government has always been dominated by Malays in any coalition.
Racism is indeed a social disease that deserves condemnation, no matter the perpetrator.
That is why many were appalled that the council, which was quick to reprimand Thomas for his supposedly racist remarks, was silent when Pas president Hadi Awang racialised corruption, which has ravaged this country.
For the uninitiated, Hadi blamed the ethnic minority population for being the root of the country’s corruption, which is an accusation that is as serious as it is divisive. To be sure, no one race has a monopoly over corruption, just as imbecility defies racial boundaries.
Speaking of corruption, you would think that the council, who should have its finger on the nation’s pulse, would swiftly respond to disturbing developments in our society – in particular, a number of recent court cases involving political leaders who are found guilty or charged for corruption. These are people who often did many questionable things in the name of their respective race and religion.
Indulging in the study of, and publicly stating one’s stand on, this heinous scourge is obviously not a novel thing. The renowned late Professor Syed Hussein Alatas had studied and written extensively on corruption in his publications such as The Sociology of Corruption (1968), The Problem of Corruption (1986), Corruption: Its Nature, Causes and Functions (1990), and Corruption and the Destiny of Asia (1999).
This is apart from him popularising the notion of bebalism, which refers to a general attitude of ignorance, indifference and lethargy.
It is heartening to know that this intellectual giant inspired others in highlighting the dangers of corruption in society that affects people of various backgrounds.
Not too long ago, Professor Emeritus Mohamad Kamal Hassan, former rector of the International Islamic University of Malaysia, did a study, the result of which is a book titled Corruption and Hypocrisy in Malay-Muslim Politics: The Urgency of Moral-Ethical Transformation. The research could throw light on the challenges of our times.
Similarly, the common people would be indebted to the enlightened people in the council if the latter were to share their deep insights into the corruption, among other pressing problems, that has besieged our contemporary society – that is, to tell truth to power and the general public.
After all, people in academia are expected to help make a difference in society. – The Malaysian Insight