Punishment for professor who revealed uncomfortable truths
Aliran deplores the reported removal of Prof Dr Mohamad Redzuan Othman from his directorship at 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.
His displacement was reportedly believed to be due to the polls conducted by his centre that often put the Barisan Nasional in negative light. But if the esteemed profesor had fudged or sugar-coated the results of such surveys merely for political expediency, he would certainly have ruined his reputation – and the university’s.
To his credit, the good professor had not resorted to any political trickery to curry favour with the powers that be. He stuck to the truth as reflected by UMcedel’s surveys.
His forced removal from a position in which he had served the nation well smacks of unwarranted political interference in the professional work of an honest academic.
Worse, the removal constitutes a grave violation of academic and intellectual freedom especially in an institution where freedom of expression is, and should be, highly valued and jealously guarded.
The powers that be, if they need reminding, should be aware that there are conventions and ethics to be followed and respected in the realm of academia. Academic integrity should always hinge on academic rigour and the relentless pursuit of truth, not apple-polishing.
Besides, Malaysia’s public universities do not need this kind of bad publicity especially at a time when their global rankings have sunk to an all-time low. Is it any wonder that their prestige and standing has taken such a tumble to the disgrace of the nation?
In this regard, we highly commend former deputy higher education minister Saifuddin Abdullah for his integrity and courage in resigning from his position as senior research fellow at the university in protest against Mohamad Redzuan’s removal. We also salute UM student association president Fahmi Zainol for courageously speaking up against the dismissal. They are both great role models for others to emulate when outrageous wrongs are blatantly committed against people who represent the truth.
We call upon the government to intervene to ensure that the professor is not wrongly punished for doing the right thing.
Aliran Executive Committee
30 June 2014