Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, to a National DAPSY meeting at Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 18th March 1990 at 9 pm
When can non-Malays be appointed as Vice Chancellors in the local universities?
Recently, it was reported that a Chinese-American scholar, Tien Chang-lin, 54, has been appointed as the Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. An authority on the thermal radiation (he has to his credit one specialised study, co-edited five books, 16 specialist monographs and 230 research reports), he has served as Berkeley’s vice chancellor of research and a executive vice-chancellor at the Irving campus.
This was the unanimous decision of the University’s Board of Regents after a four-month search that drew 250 candidates.
The appointment made American history as he is believed to be the first person of Asian descent to be appointed to head a major U.S. university. The University of California at Berkeley has on its staff ten Nobel Prize winners and a campus population of about 32,000 under and post-graduate students, with an annual budget of about $2 billion a year.
What is even more remarkable is that Tien Chang-lin is China-born and emigrated to the United States only 34 years ago in 1954.
Readers of this report cannot help compare the university condition in Malaysia, especially with the controversy over the appointment of four non-Malays as faculty deans in the University of Malaya.
Anwar supports Professor Dr.Syed Hussein Alatas or the UMNO Baru MP for Marang?
Last Monday, DAP MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng asked the Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, in Parliament to state clearly whether on this issue he supported the UMNO Baru MP for Marang, who alleged that university appointments and promotions in the local universities are governed by the New Economic Policy and the quota system, or the Vice Chancellor of the University of Malaya, Professor Dr.Syed Hussein Alatas, that university appointment and promotions should be strictly on the basis of merit.
Unfortunately, the Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, avoided giving his stand.
What is even more unfortunate is that when u asked the MCA, Gerakan and MIC Ministers to
get the Cabinet to come out with a clear-cut policy position that university appointments and promotions should be strictly on the basis of merit, a former university academician, Dr.Kang Eng Seng, now Political Secretary to the Gerakan Minister for Primary Industries, Dr.Lim Keng Yaik attacked me for over-politicising the issue.
I am most surprised as I would have expected Dr.Kang as a former USM academician to support my call for a high-level government policy position that university appointment and promotions should be on the basis of merit and not governed by the quota system. But I forgot that Dr.Kang is now working very hard to get a Barisan Nasional seat in the coming general elections, and his political acrobatics is therefore understandable although not excusable.
Of course, if Dr.Kang had stayed on in USM and is still on the university staff, he would not be interested in the question of the appointment of four non-Malay faculty deans, which would not benefit him, but in the larger policy principle that such appointments in all local universities should be on the basis of merit.
But the Dr.Kang Eng Seng in the USM yesterday is different from the Dr.Kang in the Gerakan today! Today, he is not interested in the larger policy principle which can jeopardise his chances of entry and upward mobility in the Barisan Nasional government, and this is why he is narrowing his concern strictly to the question of the appointment of four non-Malay faculty deans in the University of Malaya.
Where would be Tien Chang-lin if he had emigrated to Malaysia instead United States of America?
I wonder where Tien Chang-lin would be if 34 years ago, instead of emigrating to the United States, he had emigrated to Malaysia (and assuming he had been allowed to do so).
For sure, he would not become the Vice Chancellor of any of the local universities today. It is even dubious that he could become a faculty dean.
Why is this so? Undoubtedly, this is because of the policy of the Barisan Nasional Government, for which all component parties, whether UMNO Baru, MCA, Gerakan or MIC must bear full responsibility.
This reminds me of a statement made by the UMNO Baru MP for Marang, Haji Abdul Rahman Bakar, when he replied to Professor Dr.Syed Hussein Alatas in the controversy over the appointment of four non-Malay, he would not be occupying his present position.
The MP for Marang said that if qualification is the criteria for appointment, then the person who would be qualified to be Vice Chancellor of the University of Malaya would be Professor Wang Gungwu.
It is most revealing that in the past two weeks since Haji Abdul Rahman had made this statement, nobody in MCA or Gerakan , not even Dr.Kang Eng Seng, had challenged him in this statement.
Malaysians must think why Professor Wang Gungwu, who was attached to the University of Malaya, could become the Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong but not the Vice Chancellor to a local university.
Finally, who loses more from the country’s failure and refusal to make the best use of the talents, abilities and potential of our best sons and daughters? Surely, it must be the people and the nation. Why do we continue with such short-sighted and self-defeating policies which pull back Malaysia from progressing forward to join the ranks of the most progressive and developed nations in the world?
Malaysians have a right to ask: When can non-Malays be appointed to become Vice Chancellors in the local universities? In another 100 years, or 50 years, or in ten tears time in the year 2,000? Why not now, in the year 1990?