No joke, UM ranked among world-top 300 Universities in Times Higher Education ranking, but this UM is not University of Malaya but a university most Malaysians do not know

I could not believe my eyes when I received an email yesterday proclaiming “UM ranked among world-top 300 universities in Times Higher Education World University Rankings” as every informed Malaysian should know by now after a week-long controversy that University of Malaya had suffered the ignominy of being excluded from annual Times Higher Education (THE) Top 400 University Rankings for the fifth consecutive year since the launch of the series in 2010.

When I opened the email, I found that it was indeed true that “UM ranked among world-top 300 universities in THE rankings” but this UM is not the University of Malaya but an university most Malaysians had never heard of before.
This UM is the University of Macau.

The email contained a press release issued by the University of Macau (UM) on 2nd October 2014 that it had been ranked among the world’s top 300 universities, between 276 and 300, by THE World University Rankings 2014-15, and that “this is the first time UM made the list, and, it should be considered an outstanding and momentum building result because merely a few years ago the university were not in the top 400”.
The “UM” announcement, which was forwarded to me yesterday, went on to say:

“In recent years, UM has made a great effort to improve teaching and research, following international standards and making significant social and global outreach.

“In particular, it carried out a comprehensive reform of its undergraduate curriculum, established the Honours College, incorporated international perspective into its curricula, implemdenting an unique ‘4-in-1’ model of education (which consists of discipline-specific education, general education, research and internship education, as well as peer and community education) and established Asia’s largest and in-depth system of residential colleges.”

The UM statement went on to say that while UM welcomes the good results of THE ranking, “it would nevertheless like to stress that the university is not working for a place in the ranking” but “takes to heart the principal reason of education, namely it works to provide the best education for Macao kids to be outstanding global citizens of the 21st century”.

The University of Macau was founded in 1981 as a private university and only became a public university with Macau’s handover to China in 1999. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can state Islamic authorities decide what you can’t read?

By Zurairi AR
Malay Mail Online
October 9, 2014

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 9 — In a landmark case that will determine the extent of the freedom of expression in Malaysia, the country’s top court will weigh today the constitutionality of a state Shariah law to ban “religious” publications deemed against Islam.

Local publishing house ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and its director Ezra Zaid are challenging a Selangor state law that essentially criminalises any person who “prints, publishes, produces, records, or disseminates in any manner any book or document or any other form of record containing anything which is contrary to Islamic Law”, or “has in his possession any such book, document or other form of record for sale or for the purpose of otherwise disseminating it”.

If found guilty under Section 16(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, the offender faces a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or two years’ prison, or both.

In addition, Section 16(2) of the same law empowers the state Shariah Court to order any book, document or other form of record to be “forfeited and destroyed”, even when nobody is convicted under Section 16(1). Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Najib mention in his 2015 Budget speech on Friday the exclusion of Malaysian universities from the THE Top 400 University Ranking for fifth successive year?

Will the Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak mention in his 2015 Budget speech on Friday the exclusion of Malaysian universities from the Times Higher Education (THE) Top 400 University Ranking 2014 for the fifth successive year?

Or has he forgotten and regretted his challenge to the University of Malaya nine years ago to be among the world’s Top 50 universities by year 2020, which is only five years away?

Three weeks ago, Najib twittered congratulations to the five Malaysian universities which were ranked higher in the Top 400 of the QS World University Ranking 2014, namely University of Malaya (UM) ranked 167 last year to 151; University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) from 269 to 259; University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) from 355 to 294; Universiti Sains Malaysia from 355 to 309; Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) from 411-420 to 376.

But there has been a deafening silence from Najib as well as from the DPM-cum- Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the past week over the exclusion of Malaysian universities in Top 400 in another global university ranking – THE University Ranking 2014-2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Najib Razak the Prime Minister of a two-headed government – whose PM wants Malaysia to be the world “best democracy” but whose AG’s sedition spree aims to make Malaysia the world’s “worst democracy”?

Is Datuk Seri Najib Razak the Prime Minister of a two-headed government – whose Prime Minister wants Malaysia to be the world’s “best democracy” but whose Attorney-General’s recent sedition spree of selective and malicious prosecutions aims to make Malaysia the world’s “worst democracy”.

This question automatically arises from the parliamentary answer today on the recent sedition blitz by the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who asked the Prime Minister whether the government’s use of the law against Pakatan Rakyat leaders, activists and intellectuals was in line with the prime minister’s commitment to make Malaysia more democratic.

Answering during Parliament’s Question Time, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri defended the spate of sedition prosecutions, claiming that the Malaysian government practises and upholds the doctrine of the separation of powers and as such the government does not interfere in the Attorney-General’s Chambers affairs.

Nancy is very mixed-up as she has made a fatal error about the doctrine of separation of powers, as the Attorney-General is part of the executive and not the judiciary in the doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
The doctrine of separation of powers is totally irrelevant and does not apply in the blitzkrieg of sedition prosecutions – which is an executive action and not an action of the judiciary. Read the rest of this entry »

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Street fighting rages in Syrian town as Islamic State moves in

By Daren Butler
Reuters
Oct 6, 2014

MURSITPINAR Turkey (Reuters) – Street fighting raged between Kurdish defenders and Islamic State militants who advanced into Kobani on Monday after subjecting the Syrian border town to an assault lasting almost three weeks, residents and fighters said.

Islamic State had earlier raised its black flag over a building in the outskirts and forced thousands more of Kobani’s mainly Kurdish inhabitants to flee for their lives across the nearby border into Turkey.

The head of the Kurdish forces defending the town said late on Monday that Islamic State forces were 300 meters inside Kobani’s eastern district and were shelling the remaining neighborhoods.

“We either die or win. No fighter is leaving,” Esmat al-Sheikh, leader of the Kobani Defense Authority, told Reuters. “The world is watching, just watching and leaving these monsters to kill everyone, even children…but we will fight to the end with what weapons we have.”

Islamic State wants to take Kobani to consolidate a dramatic sweep across northern Iraq and Syria, in the name of an absolutist version of Sunni Islam, that has sent shockwaves through the Middle East.

Strikes by American and Gulf state warplanes have failed to halt Islamic State’s advance on the town, which it has besieged from three sides and pounded with heavy artillery. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s Deplorable Sedition Act

Editorial
New York Times
October 6, 2014

The Malaysian government has increasingly employed the Sedition Act, a British colonial era law, to intimidate and silence political opponents. The law criminalizes speech uttered “to excite disaffection” against the government and defines sedition so broadly that it is an invitation to authoritarian abuse.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised to repeal the act, but, since the general elections in May last year, his government has made full use of the law to hound his critics. While Mr. Najib’s ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, won 60 percent of the parliamentary seats in the election, for the first time since independence in 1957, the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, won a 51 percent majority of the popular vote.

The elections seem to have shaken the government enough for it to arrest and prosecute an array of politicians, journalists, academics, students, religious leaders and civil society activists who did not advocate the overthrow of the government. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hit the Islamic State’s pocketbook

Opinion
By PATRICK B. JOHNSTON. AND BENJAMIN BAHNEY
Newsday
October 5, 2014

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is taking aim at the terrorist organization’s pocketbook. The coalition has launched airstrikes on mobile oil refineries in eastern Syria that the Pentagon believes generate up to 500 barrels of petroleum each day for the group.

The Islamic State has emerged as the world’s richest terrorist group, with estimated assets of $1 billion to $2 billion. Its sophisticated and strategically driven financial scheme is a key reason that U.S. officials say this fight could last years.

An examination of newly declassified financial documents the group created dating to 2005 reveals an organized criminal operation that is funded through rackets like protection, extortion and the co-opting of the region’s oil industry. This makes the group a self-sustaining operation, largely free of reliance on the largesse of wealthy foreign patrons. While airstrikes may disrupt the flow of oil and profits, they will not lead to the group’s financial ruin anytime soon. Based on our research, we estimate the Islamic State will bring in $100 million to $200 million this year. And that’s being conservative. Read the rest of this entry »

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PR leadership council should meet during Parliament budget session to answer whether PR is still relevant and to restore public confidence

It is now two weeks since the PKR Deputy President Mohamad Azmin has been sworn in as the Selangor Mentri Besar but the question whether Pakatan Rakyat is still relevant to the hopes and expectations of Malaysians who had looked up to PR for political leadership and change have yet to be answered.

There can be no denial that Pakatan Rakyat suffered its worst crisis and haemorrhage and the most serious blow of public confidence in its six-year existence as a result of the protracted Selangor Mentri Besar crisis, and the jury is still out whether PR can recover from such a major crisis in the 14th General Elections.

The saving grace of the protracted and avoidable Selangor Mentri Besar crisis is that the Selangor Barisan Nasiona/UMNO was so weak that they could not exploit it to their advantage.

I can understand Tun Mahathir’s disappointment, frustration and anger that Selangor UMNO was not able to capitalize on the PR “disarray” and “imbroglio” in the Selangor Mentri Besar crisis – but the next time, the PR is not going to be so lucky. Read the rest of this entry »

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Leveraging Residential Schools

by Bakri Musa
6th Oct 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu (Part III)

[In Parts One and Two I suggested that we should focus on enhancing Malay competitiveness and productivity instead of forever begrudging the success of non-Malays or bemoaning the presumed deficiencies of our race and culture. We should begin with our young, the best of them, those at our residential schools. Have high expectations of them, put them through a demanding program, and expose them to rigorous competition.]

The key to any high performing school is the teachers. Both Korean schools (Daewon and Minjuk mentioned earlier) actively sought graduates of top universities to be on their staff. Such highly qualified teachers inspire their students. And when it comes to writing letters of recommendations, those teachers carry much weight, especially when students apply to their teacher’s alma mater.

You do not need and it is impossible for all your teachers to have sterling credentials, only that there should be a critical number of them to set the tone and change the culture. Besides, there are many excellent teachers who are graduates of lesser universities.

Look back at MCKK of yore, with Oxbridge and London University graduates on its staff. At KYUEM, a local college prep school with exemplary record of student achievements, most of its teachers are local but there are sufficient graduates of top universities, including the headmaster, to set the pace and establish a high academic ambience.

On another level, it would be difficult for a local graduate to understand the intricacies and nuances of applying to top foreign universities, or the challenges of attending one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State withstands bombing campaign, plots Baghdad invasion

By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
October 5, 2014

The Islamic State holds just about the same number of towns in Iraq today as it did two months ago, when the U.S. began a bombing campaign to whittle down the terrorist army and support Iraqi ground troops trying to retake territory.

More troubling, analysts say, is that the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, is ramping up what appear to be operations designed to one day invade Baghdad.

Its objective is to take the international airport and begin conquering the capital, section by section. The Islamic State is continuing its urban attacks with car bombs, some of which have been detonated by foreign suicide bombers.

The Pentagon is not openly confident that the Iraqi Security Forces will hold Baghdad. A spokesman has declined to predict that the sprawling city will stay in government control. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hold a referendum to let the 50,000 undergraduates and post-graduate students of UM and UKM decide whether to join or boycott the THE university rankings

The Universiti Malaya Students Association (PMUM) has come out in support of Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia opting out of the annual Times Higher Education Top 400 World University Rankings.

PMUM president Fahmi Zainol said the two universities deserve praise for their move, pointing out that the institutions have been plagued with problems for being too focussed on rankings.

I can understand the view that quality education is not dependent only on university rankings and that universities should not be too obsessed with them. In fact, it has been asked: “University rankings: reliable or rubbish?”

The Norwegian government has even commissioned a study of the placement of Norwegian universities in global rankings and concluded that university rankings are “useless” as a basis for information if the goal is to improve higher education as they are so based on subjective weightings of factors and on dubious data. This Norwegian report was described as “A Kiss of Death for university rankings” by a Norwegian academician.

There are undoubtedly pros and cons on university rankings.

Have Fahmi thought through the whole subject of university rankings and are his views his personal ones, or the official view of the PMUM Executive Committee, as well as representing that of the UKM Students Council?

Are they the views of the 50,000 undergraduates and post-graduate students in the two universities?

If Fahmi is opposed to UM and UKM taking part in the annual THE World University Rankings, why does he support the two universities taking part in the annual QS World University Rankings and UM’s decision to take part in the THE World University Ranking in 2018 when UM is more ready to compete with other established universities around the world?

It would be a good for hold a referendum to let the 50,000 under-graduates and post-graduate students of UM and UKM decide whether the two university should join or continue to boycott the THE university rankings, and let the proponents of both the pros and cons of the argument to state their case, not only to the university student-and-lecturer population but to the nation at large.

This referendum proposition is a subject which PMUM and the UKM Students Council should seriously consider to take up with the university authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hong Kong protests face test of stamina as city returns to work

By John Ruwitch and Donny Kwok
Reuters
35 minutes ago

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong started to return to work on Monday after more than a week of pro-democracy protests disrupted the Chinese-controlled city, with the protest movement facing a test of its stamina after more clashes with police and pro-Beijing opponents.

Civil servants began arriving for work at the main government offices of Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, which have been the focal point of protests that initially drew tens of thousands onto the streets. The bureaucrats were allowed to pass through protesters’ barricades unimpeded.

Numbers of protesters fell sharply overnight into the hundreds. The protesters remained at a stalemate with Leung’s pro-Beijing government and there was no sign of movement on talks that were proposed to end the stand-off.

The protests have ebbed and flowed over the past week, with people leaving the streets overnight to return later. The test on Monday will be whether that pattern continues in the face of the government’s determination to get Hong Kong back to work. Read the rest of this entry »

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In hunt for Malaysians joining Islamic State, a faceless menace

by Yiswaree Palansamy

Malay Mail Online
October 6, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — It could be anyone. The next Malaysian leaving to join the Islamic State (IS) jihad in Syria could be the besuited man reading from his tablet computer sitting to your right on the train to work.

Or it might be the typical college-goer, clad in jeans and a T-shirt, seated your left and scrolling through his smartphone.

This is how obscure the profiles of young Muslims aspiring to join jihadist militant movement that police investigators are discovering in their bid to stem the tide.

According to Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division senior official Datuk Ayub Khan, gone are days when those involved were the stereotypical bearded men wearing serbans and carrying prayer beads.

“They come from various backgrounds now. Not a specific group like in the case of now defunct terrorist group, Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), or Malaysian Mujahideen Movement, where religious schools were used to recruit for jihadists cause.

“It is all encompassing- from those in the private sector, your local grocery shop owners and even businessmen,” Ayub told Malay Mail Online. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAS badly needs to rejuvenate to stay relevant

By Mohamed Hanipa Maidin
Malaysiakini
Oct 5, 2014

MP SPEAKS It is a great relief the crisis of Selangor MB has finally been laid to rest. But rest assured Pakatan’s nightmares are far from over. A lot of soul searching needs to be done. The top leaders of Pakatan badly need to go to the drawing board again to devise and revise its strategies and priorities in order to reclaim the support from all Malaysians.

As far as I am concerned PAS is the most vulnerable at this juncture. Its flip flop stands in Selangor fiasco puzzled not only its friends in Pakatan but also some of its own leaders. Maybe Umno also shared the same puzzlement so much so it did not feel there was a need to capitalise the issue to its political advantage.

Umno’s inefficiency in capitalising on the Selangor issue appears to have upset former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad. To be fair to Umno, when its political enemies had assumed Umno’ role in self-destructing their own political survival, what more it could do to aggravate the damage?

No doubt PAS is the most important partner in Pakatan. Whatever one may perceive about PAS, the destruction of PAS is not good for Pakatan. In the same vein the strength of PAS is a bonus to Pakatan.

Be that as it may, the partners in Pakatan must galvanise all the options they have to ensure PAS remains in Pakatan. No doubt the only winner if PAS is out from Pakatan would be BN. Read the rest of this entry »

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Secularism and a more honest Islam

Zairil Khir Johari
The Malaysian Insider
4 October 2014

Secularism and liberalism are not unfamiliar terms in this country, although how Malaysians understand them is a different matter altogether.

In the halcyon post-Merdeka days, our founding fathers would proudly proclaim such ideals to be their philosophical bedrock, so much so that the word liberal actually appears in the preamble to the Rukunegara (national principles). To be secular and liberal was to be constitutional and inclusive.

Things have changed much since then. Today, the very same terms are used deleteriously as a mark of shame, such that it has become the proverbial scarlet letter of the Malay-Muslim society. To be secular and liberal is to be ungodly and aberrant. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAS reactionaries strike back

By Bridget Welsh
Malaysiakini
Sep 22, 2014

COMMENT With emotional outbursts, walkouts and contradictory statements, PAS’ 60th muktamar last week was more of a confrontation rather than a celebration.

With the PAS president referring to the Islamic party’s Pakatan Rakyat partners as “minor enemies” and its members who stood with ally PKR as “lackeys”, it has become evident that PAS under the leadership of Abdul Hadi Awang appears to be no longer a party that can be trusted to listen to the people and work with other parties to bring change to Malaysia.

There is a sense of betrayal among the public, whose hopes have been dashed by a reactionary faction of conservative ulama within PAS who think they are the ‘chosen ones’ – many of whom who have acted in a manner that is neither in keeping with their religious values nor reflects wisdom.

In the wake of this muktamar, where the reactionary forces have dominated the bitter discourse, the Pakatan coalition has suffered a serious blow from within. It appears that the opposition coalition is over.

This conclusion is understandable but – for now – premature.

Pakatan is clearly deeply wounded, but the intensity of the battle inside PAS reveals an ongoing struggle that suggests that there are many more battles ahead and the fight to develop an alternative political narrative is not over. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib’s wasatiyyah campaign would have no credibility unless he could rescue the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) from the suspicion of a semi-underground organization inciting sedition, and take one step further, empower GMM to play a global role to mobilise world moderate opinion against Islamic State (IS)

In his Aidiladha message, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reiterated that he would keep faith with the “moderation” pledge he made at the 69th United Nations General Assembly last month.

Najib should realize that his wasatiyyah (moderation) campaign of justice, balance and excellence would have no credibility whatsoever unless he is seen as upholding all these principles not only in the international arena but also in his government policies inside the country.

A news report today that an Umno delegate has called on the Umno General Assembly to discuss abolishing the Chinese vernacular school system on the baseless and spurious ground that it promoted racism and anti-establishment sentiments is the latest testimony of the failure of Najib’s wasatiyyah (moderation) campaign promoting the values of justice, balance and excellence.

The Umno delegate’s proposal to raise the intake of Malay and Indian students and teachers in Chinese schools to 60 per cent is the best proof that Najib’s five-year premiership has not only failed to foster justice, balance and excellence, but has provided a field day for immoderate, ignorant and intolerant viewpoints to spread and flourish.

This is no surprise when his two most important initiatives on wasatiyyah have proved to be such dismal failures. Read the rest of this entry »

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Find out who wrote Beng Hock’s alleged suicide note, family tells cops

The Malaysian Insider
5 October 2014

Fed-up with Bukit Aman quizzing them about a so-called suicide note written by political aide Teoh Beng Hock, his family has decided not to give any further statements to the police until someone is arrested over the incidents which led to his untimely death.

The family’s lawyer, Teo Nie Ching, said this after Beng Hock’s wife, Sor Cher Wei, and his sister, Lee Lan, were questioned by federal police yesterday at the Batu Pahat district police headquarters.

According to Teo, senior investigating lawyer ASP Tony Lunggan had called up Soh and told her he wanted to record statements from her and Lee Lan over the “suicide note”.

Tony is part of a Bukit Aman six-member special unit tasked with re-investigating Beng Hock’s death. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jamila Rahim better off in DAP than Isma, Umno, says Khalid

by Puteri Sabira
Rakyat Times
5 October 2014

PAS Central Committee member and Shah Alam Member of Parliament Khalid Samad says that Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) has no place in Malaysia with its extremist views.

Khalid has hit out at ISMA that had described DAP’s new recruit, Jamila Rahim, as a “confused Muslim” and challenged her to prove that the DAP would bring her any closer to achieving her goal of justice.

“PAS is definitely is a better choice for Muslims, but people are entitled to join any political party, I think it’s better for Jamila (left) to join DAP rather than ISMA or Umno,” he told The Rakyat Times when contacted.

Khalid stressed that DAP is a party that champions justice and holds firmly to its principles.

” Transparency, justice and integrity are part of Islamic teaching, therefore it’s crucial for people to uphold these values as long as it was in line with Islam,” Khalid added. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sentiment divided at haj pilgrimage over role of Islamist militants

By Amena Bakr
Reuters
October 3, 2014

ARAFAT Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Former Egyptian army officer Suliman Ouda minced no words as he climbed Mount Arafat, denouncing Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq as terrorists.

But Syrian engineer Ahmed Orabi, standing nearby on the hill where Muslims on their haj pilgrimage beg God’s forgiveness, disagreed.

“Islam is about peace and kindness, not murder and violence, and I don’t consider these fighters in Iraq and Syria to be Muslims,” Ouda told Reuters as he joined the mass of pilgrims early on Friday. “They bring shame to the word Islam.”

Orabi, in his 40s, served time in Syrian prisons for criticising the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before fleeing to Turkey. One of his sons was still in jail.

“If the Islamic state, or Nusra, or any other group can fight the government, I’m in full support of them,” he said in a hushed voice.

“Bashar is the terrorist here, Iran is the enemy. And although I can’t raise my voice today and say that, I’m crying out to God in my heart to give victory to those brave Islamic fighters.”

The haj, a hectic journey that brings millions from around the world to Mecca and Mount Arafat, is tinged this year with concerns over the threat posed by Islamist militants who threaten to target allies of the United States, including Saudi Arabia. Read the rest of this entry »

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