Archive for November 19th, 2007

Mustapha – international marketing officer or Higher Education Minister?

Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad seems to have lost his proper focus and responsibility, regarding his job more as international marketing officer for Malaysian universities instead of ensuring that Malaysian universities win international recognition as world-class institutions.

Mustapha, on a week-long visit to China to market Malaysian universities, said in Shanghai yesterday that he wants to see at least 15,000 Chinese students coming to Malaysia in three years’ time — more than double the present number.

He said the trend now was for more Chinese students to enrol in the Malaysian public and private universities for post-graduate programmes.

He also announced that his Ministry “will be going around China to market Malaysia as an education hub”.

The Higher Education Ministry has set up an education office in Beijing to promote Malaysia as a market for foreign students. A fifth overseas office besides Jakarta, Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City and Beijing would be set up in Africa “due to the promising market in the continent”.

There is something very wrong with the spectacle of the Higher Education Minister leading a delegation to China to market Malaysian universities to Chinese students at a time when the latest world’s Top 200 Universities Rankings released ten days ago showed a continuing “free fall” of Malaysian universities. Read the rest of this entry »


RCI on Lingam Tape – grave concerns as no consultation whatsoever and indications of restricted terms of reference

Although the Cabinet last week decided on the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape scandal, and it is to decide on its terms of reference on Wednesday, I am very concerned that there had been no consultation process whatsoever on its terms of reference and composition in the past five days.

This is a matter of grave concern as all indications point to a very restricted terms of reference which is going to spark a new outcry, as Ministers are still in thick denial of the need for far-reaching judicial reforms to check the rot in the past two decades to restore national and international confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

This could be fathomed from the statements of two of the three Ministers who had been appointed to study the Haider Report on the authenticity of the Lingam Tape.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad gave very clear indication that the terms of reference will be a very restricted one when he said that the royal commission would have the power to call anyone to assist in its inquiry. Read the rest of this entry »


Citizens’ Low Expectations of Their Government

by M. Bakri Musa

It is a sad reflection of the citizens’ low expectations of their government and public institutions that the recent collapse of the Perak State Park Corporation’s building in Tasik Banding, Gerik, no longer provokes an outrage. The general reaction seems to be, “What’s new?” At this rate, soon only the buildings that stand would make the headlines!

Yes, Works Minister Samy Vellu feigned shock and anger, while Mentri Besar Tajol Roslin promised a “full investigation” of this latest disaster. We have heard those promises and reassurances too often before. Yet these new buildings keep collapsing or leaking, and half-baked projects like the crooked bridge to replace the causeway have to be scrapped.

From yet another perspective, or to “spin” it differently, it was indeed a blessing that such government facilities as the new Kuching Prison were not completed. With such shoddy constructions, it would have been a massive and tragic human trap, not a prison.

Only a few years ago there was a serious breach of security at the nearby Grik Army Base. The heist was perpetrated not by a gang of superbly trained infiltrators rather a rag tag bunch of sarong-clad village bums. Then too there was the promise by Defense Minister Najib Razak of a White Paper to get to “the bottom of the issue.” There was only one problem: It was only a promise. Read the rest of this entry »


Kee Thuan Chye on Kerismuddin and “spaceman”

(Thanks Kee Thuan Chye for drawing my attention to his excellent conversation with Malaysiakini columnist Helen Ang, which I had missed. It is so good that I am putting it up on this blog as I believe many had missed it too – including his brain-storming theory that Malaysian sports have started going downhill from the 70s because of the NEP and Helen’s provocative nudges.)

Kee to deciphering Umno semiotics

Helen Ang
Nov 15, 07 12:51pm

Kee Thuan Chye is an author, actor-director and dramatist. He has written four major political plays: ‘1984 Here and Now’, ‘The Big Purge’ [read at the Soho Theatre in London, 2005], ‘We Could ****You Mr Birch’ and ‘The Swordfish, Then the Concubine’ [adjudged one of the top 5 entries to the International Playwriting Festival 2006 organised by the Warehouse Theatre in the UK.

He’s also a journalist of 30 years’ standing, beginning his career at The National Echo in 1977.

Q & A follows: (The views expressed here are strictly the interviewee’s own and do not reflect the stand of any organisation that he is with)

Helen: You’re someone who works intimately with language and having broad experience of the mass media — which in Malaysia is the channel for communicating the dominant narrative. As such, I’d like to get your reading on the ideas behind some of the things said and done at the recently concluded Umno general assembly.

Let’s start with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi saying: “The act of unsheathing and kissing a keris is part of our cultural heritage but its meaning has been twisted to spread fear among non-Malays, and the image of Umno and Malaysia has been smeared overseas.”

The PM was referring to Youth chief Hishamuddin Hussein who at the wing’s assembly in 2005 started his so-called ‘tradition’ of brandishing the keris. He has since said he expects non-Malays to eventually become “de-sensitised” to his waving this ‘symbol’, and in fact pronounced that naysayers should get used to it.

Deputy PM Najib Abdul Razak believes the act should be celebrated by all races. What do you make of the semiotics of the Umno keris? Is it a “symbol of protection for everyone” as Hisham and the local media would have us think?

Kee: I certainly don’t think it is a symbol of protection for everyone. This kind of talk is typical of Umno politicians who often twist semantics for the purpose of fooling the people. Well, it can fool those who are easily swayed by superficialities but not the intelligent public. Many Umno politicians appear to be pretty superficial themselves and therefore tend to misperceive that the thinking of the rakyat is mainly of the lowest common denominator.

The keris is a striking visual image. When it was first brandished in 2005, it naturally sent fear waves among the non-Malays. The body language of the person wielding it and the words uttered in accompaniment and, more significantly, the tone in which they were uttered combined to even more dramatic effect.

In 2006, the second time it made its appearance, the event looked choreographed — with Hishammuddin raising the unsheathed keris heavenwards and his Umno Youth brethren raising their fists in unison alongside him, in rows of solidarity. It was fearsome, like a military phalanx. All the signs pointed to aggression. Read the rest of this entry »