Maszlee should reject his appointment as IIUM president

Photograph: Berita Harian

Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak) is puzzled and appalled by the recent appointment of Maszlee Malik as president of the International Islamic University Malaysia.

For Gerak, this clearly goes against the new government’s purported commitment to free university management from political appointees.

Just a couple of few weeks ago, Maszlee himself terminated the services of five public universities chairmen as they were deemed to be BN’s political appointees. There should not be any exception to this policy. No matter how noble you may think the end is, you can’t justify the means. Putting a stop to political appointments in public universities is crucial in bringing back academic freedom to Malaysia.

In defence of Maszlee’s appointment as IIUM president, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who is the education minister’s special advisor, reportedly said that Maszlee is the right person to bring IIUM back to its international glory. We believe Maszlee has the potential to bring all 20 public universities and more than 400 private universities and colleges to international glory, so does that mean he has to first become chairman of all these universities?

Gerak strongly believes that the education minister must reject his appointment as IIUM president and cease the appointment of any more active politicians to university boards.

In line with our earlier proposal, we call upon the minister to appoint an interim president for IIUM. This individual would then work together with a variety of internal and external stakeholders to come up with a new search system to appoint the IIUM president and board members – and even the university’s senior leadership – who are non-partisan, professional, reform-driven and competent.

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Apart from that, Gerak is also urging the education minister to set up the high-level university reform committee we put forward in our 10-point proposal – a proposal the minister said he supports – with a clear mandate to operate independently for all public universities.

This committee should be tasked to look into all types of reforms that are needed for public universities in order to achieve academic freedom and autonomy, the key foundations to academic excellence.

Gerak executive committee

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I totally agree for an additional and more serious reason: conflict of interest. That he accepted the appointment as president of IIUM lends support to my opinion (unlike Gerak’s) that he was and is not the best person for the post of Education Minister.