On the homeless, lack of academic transparency and human trafficking

Perhaps the Tengku Adnan does not realise that the homeless did not choose the situation they find themselves in, writes Chris Chong.

homeless-people-queue-at-a-soup-kitchen

The Federal Territory Minister, Tengku Adnan, has given notice to the soup kitchens that they have until Monday to relocate out of the city centre if they do not want be fined by City Hall for, wonders of wonders, feeding the homeless.

According to him, Putrajaya is determined to clear the homeless from the city because they give a bad image to beautiful Kuala Lumpur.

And to add insult to injury, his ministry will also be imposing fines and other penalties to beggars and alms-givers. What is disturbing is the minister’s public proclamation that the homeless are lazy and that soup kitchens are encouraging this bad habit. Perhaps the minister does not realise that the homeless did not choose the situation they find themselves in. Many are sleeping on the streets because of tragic circumstances beyond their control.

What the volunteers behind these soup kitchens do is provide what little help they can to the homeless. Perhaps it will do the minister some good if he can spend some time on the streets with these volunteers and see for himself the human tragedy that is unfolding in the city and reflect on what his ministry can do to alleviate the human misery. That would be more constructive than making a self-righteous judgement that the homeless are just trash that need be cleansed from the city.

Turning from the lack of compassion for the homeless to the lack of transparency in academia. The removal of Professor Dr Mohamad Redzuan Othman from Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) and the non-renewal of his tenure as dean of the university’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is shocking.

His removal isreportedly believed to be due to the polls conducted by his centre that often cast a negative light on the ruling party. It is sad that the good professor was removed for telling the truth. But if he had fudged or sugar coated his findings for the sake of political expediency, not only would he have ruined his reputation as an academic but also that of the university’s.

His removal smacks of political interference in academia. Perhaps the powers that be need to be reminded that academics consider freedom of expression to be a cardinal principle that should be jealously guarded. In addition, academics are required to follow certain rigorous conventions to ensure that their findings are true and not expedient to the powers that be. For without freedom of expression and rigorous academic convention aimed at providing the truth, what use is academia to the nation?

Finally, it was reported that the United States government has downgraded Malaysia to “Tier 3” status because of the Malaysian government’s dismal efforts at combatting human trafficking in the country. We are now at risk of having to face US diplomatic and economic penalties because of our poor record in combatting human trafficking.

The government must step up its efforts to combat human trafficking because not only has it tarnished our standing in the international community (bringing about attendant economic and political costs) but it is also a tragedy that should not happen in this day and age.

Chris Chong

Co-editor, E-newsletter

3 July 2014

Christopher Chong

Christopher Chong, an academic, is co-editor of Aliran’s weekly e-Newsletter.

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