The bouquet was for Dr Lim Teck Ghee

  Yes, the bouquet was for Dr Lim Tech Ghee who resigned from Asli under protest. We were a little disappointed that Dr Lim was not available when the DAP delegation led by SG Lim Guan Eng arrived at the Asli’s office on Friday morning.

We were also there to present a protest note to Mirzan Mahathir, the President of Asli, over his withdrawal of the “45% bumi equity” report without any justification. Mirzan’s action has destroyed the crebibility of the independent think-tank beyond repair.

We are happy to note that another reknown Malaysian scholar Prof Abdul Rahman Embong has also challenged the Government to disclose its data dand methodology to substantiate  its highly questionable claim – bumi equity at only 18.9%.

This government will lose all its credibility if it fails to do that. They cannot rely on secrecy and threats to rule this country forever. The Malaysian people are not stupid.

Below is a question-and-answer session with Abdul Rahman done by Malaysiakini:Malaysiakini: Would you like to comment on Dr Lim’s published studies?Abdul Rahman: I can’t comment on the Asli study specifically as I haven’t had a chance to read it properly except for what is in the media. My comment is on research in general.As a researcher, one’s responsibility is to report the findings objectively, provide a sound analysis, draw appropriate conclusions based on the findings and to defend it. At the same time, it is also important for the researcher to invite comments and criticisms to improve it as every study has its limitations.

Do you think academicians like yourself and others have the freedom to come out with reports that dissent with those of the government?
My experience in conducting research has been based on the principles I stated above. I think my colleagues also do the same. From my experience, there is space to do research and to come out with papers based on the findings.Some of the findings and analysis may concur with official views, and some may not. That is the nature of scholarship. I think the government acknowledges the need for that because if there is room for disagreement or difference, we can attain progress if we allow that space to flourish. In this regard, a healthy dialogue is important.
Do you think academics now are going to ‘self-censor’ their reports and studies that have political ramifications?Malaysia wants to move forward, and Malaysian universities want to be on the international radar screen. For that purpose, four Malaysian universities have been identified to be research universities. To achieve this, among others, we need to strengthen our research culture, promote good quality research, and uphold a conducive environment for freedom of enquiry.I think researchers have to be ethical and truthful to their vocation by presenting the findings as they have been discovered. We will be doing a disservice to the profession and to the nation if we don’t do that.

But, of course, the way we conduct our research, the framework, methodology and the instruments used, etc, must be based on acceptable academic standards.At the same time, the way we present the findings also matter, particularly how we position the study. The limitations of the study also need to be pointed out. All these constitute intellectual humility, honesty and integrity.Whether a researcher will self-censor or not as a result of the present Asli episode is a matter of personal choice. But a conducive environment for serious enquiry needs to be promoted and protected if we want good quality research that is useful for the universities,the government and the country.

Do you think the academic world fears political backlashes from their reports in general?I think we should continue to encourage level-headedness and to see the big picture. As researchers, it is our professional responsibility to continue doing our work to the best of our ability.What is the level of transparency when it comes to accessing government data? What can be done to increase access?Like many others, I wish there is greater accessibility to official data beyond what is published in official documents. There are lessons to be learnt from the present episode. One positive thing arising from the present controversy is that the public now knows roughly the methodology used by the EPU to compute the data.I hope more explanations will be forthcoming. It not only will improve transparency but will also enhance confidence in the data and our country’s standing internationally.

Will this have a bearing on the quality of higher education in the country then?The quality of education is a complex issue. However, research culture, research quality and research environment are part of the lifeblood of a university. They are necessary to help enhance the quality of higher education.Dr Abdul Rahman Embong is the Chairman of Malaysia Social Science Society (PSSM).


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