Archive for November 22nd, 2007

UPM’s one-semester suspension of Lee Song Yong – motion to cut salary of Higher Education Minister

The one-semester suspension of second-year computer science student Lee Song Yong by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) for obstructing campus officers from confiscating his personal belongings in the run-up to the campus polls in October is not only a grave violation of human rights but also a chilling reminder of the stultifying control of Malaysian academia by Little Napoleons which can only perpetuate a culture of mediocrity.

It is most regrettable that the UPM had completely ignored the call by Suhakam to stop the university disciplinary proceedings against Lee to pave the way for Suhakam investigations into complaint of human rights abuse by the university authorities.

This is another case where the higher education authorities have failed to distinguish between the core functions of universities to be centres of academic excellence from the petty details of regulatory control of lecturers and students which are the refuge of “Little Napoleons”.

In the latest world’s Top 200 Universities Rankings released by Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) a fortnight ago, Universiti Putra Malaysia, which had never been listed in the Top 200 Universities Ranking, still slipped 72 slots from No. 292 in 2006 to 364 in 2007.

It is most disappointing that the university administrators are unable set an example in the nation to respond to calls for a “First-World mentality” so that Malaysia can march towards fully developed nation status but continue to be mired by mindsets and approaches which could only produce universities and generations of mediocrity.

I propose to focus parliamentary and national attention on the disease of mediocrity in the Malaysian universities as highlighted by the free-fall of Malaysian universities in international rankings and the Little Napoleon regimes resulting in victimization of free spirits like Lee Song Yong which are antithetical to the development of a creative academic environment and towering Malaysians in keeping with the Abdullah administration’s slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemiling, Terbilang”. Read the rest of this entry »


Exercise best preventive medicine and as important as eating and sleeping

by Dr Chen Man Hin

It is commonly known that exercise has beneficial effects on the human body, especially the heart, lungs, kidneys, bones and muscles.

It also help patients to control their hypertension, diabetes, and mood disorders like stress and depression.

There is increasing evidence that exercise is also beneficial for mental health. Many discoveries have been made

Professor Arthur Krammer from the Beckman Institute in Illinois, USA found clear evidence that aerobic exercise boost performance in key areas of the brain and that exercise could improve ‘decision making’. The research team scanned thousands of rains of voluneers using the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Next, a neuroscientist, Professor Comon at University of California Irvine has found that during exercise, the nerve cells release chemicals (neurotrophic factors) which protect nerve cells from injury and prompt nerve cells to multiply and grow. The frontal lobes have shown to increase in size by MRI scanning.

Other neuroscientists also claim that exercises delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer disease, prevent Parkinsonism and help spinal cord injuries. Read the rest of this entry »


Ong Tee Keat has disgraced and insulted his own Minister, Mustapha

Deputy Higher Education Minister, Datuk Ong Tee Keat has disgraced his own Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad in admitting that promoting Malaysian university places to foreign students in overseas trips like a salesman is demeaning and insulting.

During my supplementary question in Parliament yesterday, I had criticized the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad for a misplaced sense of priorities in going on a China tour to promote Malaysian university places to Chinese students at a time when his greatest challenge is to ensure that Malaysian universities win international recognition for academic excellence and quality as world-class institutions.

This is particularly pertinent at a time of Malaysian higher education crisis when the latest world’s Top 200 Universities Rankings released by Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) a fortnight ago showed a continuing “free fall” of Malaysian universities, with not a single Malaysian university in the Top 200 Universities.

University of Malaya, the nation’s premier university only two years ago, had been falling in the THES ranking from 89th in 2004 to 169th in 2005, 192 in 2006 and 246 in 2007 — or a fall of 157 placings in three years! When will this plunge in the rankings for the University of Malaya stop?

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia has plunged from No. 185 in 2006 to 309. The plunge of Universiti Sains Malaysia in the past three years is even worse than University of Malaya — a plunge of 196 places from 111 in 2004, 326 in 2005, 277 in 2006 and 307 in 2007.

More worrying, Malaysia is also losing out not only to universities of developed countries but to more and more developing countries such as Thailand, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa.

I never said that it was wrong for Mustapha as Higher Education Minister to be salesman in foreign countries to attract more foreign students to study in Malaysian universities and colleges, but that his priority particularly at present is to restore Malaysia’s international reputation for university quality and excellence.

Furthermore, the best advertisement and magnet for foreign students to Malaysia is the international reputation of Malaysian universities for academic excellence and quality, and not through any salesmanship even if the salesman is the Higher Education Minister. Read the rest of this entry »


Lingam Tape RCI – what actually did the Cabinet decide yesterday?

Malaysians are utterly confused as to what the Cabinet decided on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape and the Judiciary yesterday.

Did yesterday’s Cabinet, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawai was in Singapore for the ASEAN Summit, make the decisions on the terms of reference, scope of power and composition which are to be announced by the Prime Minister — as was the impression given by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in his comments to the press at the Parliament lobby?

Or did the Cabinet yesterday just decided that decisions on these aspects of the Royal Commission of Inquiry are put off to the next Cabinet meeting, as appears to be gist of what Abdullah said in Singapore last evening?

Whatever the case, it paints a picture of a bumbling and shambolic Cabinet which is neither serious nor professional in handling vital national issues, especially one so critical in determining Malaysia’s international competitiveness such as national and international confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

It has taken the Prime Minister and the Cabinet two months to decide that there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape, when this would have been the right, proper and immediate thing for a government which is serious about accountability, integrity and good governance to do.

Why is the Abdullah government continuing to drag its feet on the Royal Commission of Inquiry, as if this is the least of its concerns?

Furthermore, why has the Haider Panel Report not yet been made public, another implicit undertaking of the Prime Minister? What has the government got to hide in refusing to immediately making public the Haider Report? Read the rest of this entry »


Sothi vs Pokuan – MIC National VP should stop being a lout and unconditionally apologise for his boorish conduct

It is shame that MIC National Vice President and Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Datuk S. Sothinathan is not prepared to admit his wrong in challenging woman DAP MP Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah) to a fist-fight and is instead trying to deny the undeniable.

Yesterday, Sothinathan said: “No man in the right frame of mind would physically fight with a lady. Not in our culture.”

Sothinathan is right this time, and this is why his “right frame of mind” came under question when he challenged Po Kuan to a physical fight, and not to an electoral contest in the next general election as he now claims.

Eye-witness accounts of what happened in Parliament on Monday are more reliable and better testimony than Sothinathan of the despicable behaviour of the MIC National Vice President on Monday.

The body language of Sothinathan was so unmistakable that the Chinese newspapers, Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, Guang Ming, Oriental Daily the next day reported the next day that Sothinathan had challenged me to a physical fight outside the Chamber.

The Chinese newspapers were wrong as Sothinathan did not challenge me to a fight. The challenge was directed at Po Kuan in the expanded exchange between DAP MPs with BN MPs.

The mistake of the Chinese newspapers is understandable as there was a lot of confusion in the Chamber at the time, with voices coming from all directions in Parliament. A video of the parliamentary episode is available on YouTube.

This is what Hansard of 19th November 2007 recorded of this challenge by Sothinathan directed at Po Kuan:

Dato’ S. G. Sothinathan: Siapa takut? Berani, mari lawanlah!!

Tuan Pengerusi: [Datuk Dr. Yusuf bin Yacob]: Ya, ya, Timbalan Menteri, teruskan, teruskan.

Dato’ S.G. Sothinathan: Oh, cakap macam lelaki bukan? Mari lawan, mari lawan!! Jangan cakap no gender bias.

Read the rest of this entry »


Behind the colour of change

by Azly Rahman

In Malaysia, are the leaves turning yellow, too?

Are we witnessing the total deconstruction of the race-based political ideology and a breakdown of the economic and social relations of production?

Is the nation being haunted by a ‘yellow wave’ of change demanded by those alienated by the developmentalist agenda that seems to have favoured a privileged segment of society?

At the speed of how things are turning yellow, it seems that we have to content with such signs and symbols of systemic change as a reality.

Around three decades ago, the ‘yellow culture’ carried a negative connotation especially in relation to the invasion of the ‘decadent aspects of the western culture’. Today, we see a deconstruction of this perception; a mental revolution that is taking the colours of the constitutional monarchy as a symbol of war against the colours of the present race-based regime.

It is a war over the definition of ‘democracy’. It includes the question: who has the monopoly over Malaysian democracy? Can we continue to think like dinosaurs in an age of dolphin-think?

One of the nagging questions for our nation as we enter this challenging period for civil rights is this: what is Malaysian democracy and what is its future?

Key spokespersons of the government think that we are doing fine with the system and that we need to only improve the process.

Key spokespersons representing the wave of change and who challenge the ‘system’ think that the system is no longer working, as we face the realities of changing race-relations.

These are contending views of what ‘Malaysian democracy’ is – an interpretation of what the process of development of the people, by the people, for the people means. These are the views of the words ‘demos’ and ‘kratos’ of what a ‘government of the people’ should mean.

Democracy is rooted in economics. Our existence – including that of the king and the pauper, rebels and reformists, the Sultans and the hamba sahaya – as Marx would contend, is defined by the economic condition we are in or have created.

In Malaysia, the condition is defined by the pie baked by those who created the New Economic Policy that is now becoming a system of the New Economic Plutocracy. Read the rest of this entry »