Academic staff of the University of Malaya today hit out at the Education Ministry over its role in the removal of Professor Datuk Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman, saying it was clear Putrajaya did not rate academic freedom highly.
Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom (pic), who heads University of Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM), said if the ministry had leaned on Redzuan, then it is clear that decisions are made based on political importance and not academic reasons or interests.
"This is one of the reasons why Malaysian universities find it difficult to develop because there is political interference," he said.
"Leave the academicians alone, our studies and methodology are done according to academic standards. If the government is facing problems or has issues, it is not our problem."
Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom
The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Education Ministry had told Redzuan to quit as director of Universiti Malaya's Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel), while his tenure as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in the university was also not renewed.
Azmi said Putrajaya should stop mouthing platitudes about academic excellence.
"Close your mouth and keep quiet. Do not dream of delusions of academic grandeur and Malaysian universities making the Top 100 institutions of higher learning in the world rankings," he said, adding that academic freedom was the basis of a top university.
"The top universities are free of political interference, especially in matters concerning research. However, the Education Ministry appears to have failed to understand this particular point," Azmi said.
On the issue of Redzuan's tenure not being renewed, Azmi said the UM's vice-chancellor had the full power to determine the most qualified individual to hold the position.
"Even if the votes are in Redzuan's favour, the V-C has the final say. The academic staff can only propose who they like. We do not know how many of the faculty staff supported Redzuan.
"Even if Redzuan wins the popular vote, the final decision lies with the V-C.
"However, if it is true that Redzuan won the popular vote but failed to retain his position, then it will be another example of Putrajaya's interference at play," he said.
The Malaysian Insider also reported that Putrajaya was uncomfortable with UMcedel's research which was seen as favouring Pakatan Rakyat during last year's 13th general election.
One such research was a survey which indicated greater support for PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, compared to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The research conducted by UMcedel was later proven accurate when PR won the popular vote during the 13th general election.
Attempts by The Malaysian Insider to meet Redzuan was in vain as he was said to be busy in meetings and refused to speak to the media.
Following Redzuan's removal, former higher education deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said he was quitting his post as a senior research fellow in the university. – JAMILAH KAMARUDIN Malaysian Insider June 30, 2014.