Justice For All Malaysia

The Intelligentsia must speak/reveal all NOW, not later or when retired

Posted on: November 19, 2008

Axed UM VC says its because she’s a woman
Beh Lih Yi | Nov 17, 08 7:23pm

Former Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Rafiah Salim has alleged gender bias by the government towards local academicians amidst the controversy of her not being re-appointed to the post.

The first woman to head a public university in the country, Rafiah’s contract was not renewed recently and she was informed on the decision merely 48 hours before the expiry of her term.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 05She was appointed in May 2006.

“Just because we are women and we don’t have that thing between the legs so we are not good,” she told Malaysiakini in an one-hour interview today held at her new office at UM.

Former vice-chancellors of UM, the country’s oldest public university, are often granted an office premise to conduct research and development.

“It’s so sad because there is this a ministry in charge of higher education and you expect them to be more liberal and advanced in their thinking,” the 61-year-old former law lecturer and former Bank Negara assistant governor argued.

Explaining her allegation of gender bias, Rafiah said she recently learnt that the women VCs were only given a two-year contract while male VCs were given a three-year contract. This included her successor Prof Dr Ghauth Jasmon.

“Doesn’t this [show they are] more confident in men than in women?” she questioned.

Clashes with deputy minister

Rafiah’s contract was extended for another six months in May this year until the government’s decision to discontinue her services recently.

Following this decision, she has locked horns with Deputy Higher Education Minister Idris Haron after the latter gave an explanation in Parliament on why her contract was not renewed.

idris haronIdris (left) had said that UM needed someone with a high level of performance who could elevate the university’s status and the new appointee, Ghauth, had vast experience in public universities.

The decision to discontinue Rafiah’s contract also sparked off a debate in Parliament with some women parliamentarians raising their concern that the issue involved gender inequality.

Former national unity and social development minister Napsiah Omar also expressed her displeasure over the decision.

On this, an irked Rafiah argued: “I don’t care why they have replaced me but what I am upset about is the defamatory remarks that the deputy minister made in Parliament.

“He was really casting aspersions on my capability, track record and insinuating that I didn’t perform.

“He could have given whatever excuse he wants [although] I know it’s difficult for him to justify it because it’s a gender thing […] but because he can’t provide an explanation, he cast aspersions on me.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 06″If he had said it outside Parliament, I can sue him. I have 34 years of an excellent career,” said Rafiah.

Defending her two-and-a-half year term at UM, she said the transformation plan she laid out for the university was on track and one example was that she has successfully increased the number of UM publications from 3,300 three years ago to 5,882 as of June this year.

The former VC, who came all prepared for the interview complete with her ‘report card’ also pointed out that the university has managed to climb the Times Higher Education World University’s rankings from 246 last year to 230 this year.

“When were just about to come up, they stop me,” she lamented, adding that she was not told how she did not perform well.

‘I couldn’t be bothered anymore’

Despite her anger, Rafiah denied she was bitter over the episode other that what Idris has said in Parliament. She said she was of the view that it was the ministry’s prerogative to appoint their candidate.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 09″They have a right to appoint a monkey if they want,” she told Malaysiakini.

Rafiah also stressed that she was not interested in seeking reinstatement to the post.

“I am not interested in reinstatement. I am not interested in the job anymore, I have moved on. I have booked my holiday to see my grandchildren and I have started my book […] but suddenly he (Idris) comes and defames me,” she said.

Rafiah was obviously upset over the 48-hour notice given to her over the non-renewal of her contract, saying this showed the ministry’s lack of respect for ‘basic human decency’.

According to her, the decision not to extend her contract had already been made beforehand – even before the search committee tasked with appointing the VC had interviewed her.

“The system is flawed, he (Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin) talks of transparency… what transparency? Was it advertised? What are the criteria? Do any of us know the criteria they are looking for?” she asked.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 03Rafiah, however, declined to comment when asked on how the selection process could be improved.

“Don’t correct it, I am already out […] I couldn’t be bothered anymore,” she replied.

Khaled, who was Rafiah’s student when the latter was a UM law lecturer, has called for the debate over the controversy to stop.

The minister also stressed that new UM VC’s appointment was made according to procedures and the decision was final.

Axed UM VC: I had to live with nonsense
Beh Lih Yi | Nov 18, 08 2:34pm

Former Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor Rafiah Salim has claimed she had to live with all kinds of “nonsense” pertaining to political interference during her tenure in the university.


“Things like who can we bring in to speak to the students, who we can’t – even among the Barisan Nasional people,” she revealed during an hour-long interview with Malaysiakini yesterday.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 08“It has become a very sensitive job to carry out but as I was focused on what I wanted to do for UM, I had to swallow these nonsense, otherwise I will not be able to do what I want to do for UM,” she added.

To a question, she admitted that one recent case of such political interference was UM’s decision to cancel a speech by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who was to speak there early this month.

The university had withdrawn its invitation to Ebadi, an outspoken critic of the human rights situation in Iran, two weeks before she was to deliver a speech on Islam and cultural diversity.

At the time, Rafiah denied that there was pressure from the government to scrap the event.

Grilled over academic freedom in UM

The first woman to head a public university in the country, Rafiah’s contract was not renewed recently and she was informed on the decision 48 hours before her term expired.

In the first-part of the interview published yesterday, she attributed gender discrimination as a reason for her contract not to be renewed.

The 61-year-old former law lecturer and Bank Negara assistant governor was appointed to head UM in May 2006.

Elaborating on the political interference in the university, the former vice-chancellor said she was in “total agreement” that the government should amend the restrictive Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to give more autonomy to campuses.

According to her, the university management had enjoyed more autonomy and the situation was much better when she was the head of the UM’s law faculty in the late 1980s.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 03“Those days when there was autonomy, I remember we brought in Pak Lah (Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi), a young and handsome man at that time, and then we also brought the oppositions in to have a big discussion, it was quite fun actually,” she said.

Rafiah, who pride herself for pushing academic excellence in UM during her stint, however appeared defensive when grilled on why she had not been vocal in pushing for more academic freedom in the country’s oldest university.

Questioned on why she had not made a similar call to amend the UUCA when she was the VC as her statement would have carried more weight then, she retorted:

“Can I undo the UUCA? No way-lah, (carried) a lot of weight? Come on, don’t joke. If the opposition and their bigwigs in Parliament can’t change the UUCA, I orang makan gaji (a wage earner), you think they want to listen to me?”

Rafiah also stressed that she did not try to stop UM law associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom from writing in an English newspaper but conceded she had told the latter not to write about the university in his column.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 09“I didn’t allow him to write on UM because when he writes, he doesn’t write the good things and it’s always about the negative things.

“I always said that as a UM staff, you don’t badmouth your own (university). If you can’t be fair, then don’t write,” she argued, adding that she was “bugged” by the ministry over Azmi’s column.

Azmi, a vocal academic, had criticised in one of his articles the university’s preference for the pro-establishment candidates over the anti-establishment faction in the campus elections.

Although he did not name any particular university, his alluding in his writing to UM landed him in hot soup when he was reportedly hauled up by Rafiah for an explanation.

Next project – a book on UM

On students’ freedom, Rafiah said she did not mind her students being active in politics provided that it did not come at the expense of their studies.

“Join-lah (politics), what the heck man, except that I am very firm with students that if they are so involved in politics and not focused on their studies, that would get me very angry,” she said.

um rafiah salim interview 171108 05“You have to remember 80 percent of (local university students’) funding come from taxpayers’ money. I am one of the taxpayers and I don’t want to see student stay here for five years and can’t get a degree because they are fooling around with politics or non-politics (activities).”

On her immediate plan, Rafiah said she was writing a book on her two-and-a-half year tenure in the university and targeted it to be completed in three months’ time.

According to her, the book will include the “good and the bad things” that had happened to her in UM. It will contain more exposes of political interference, she claimed.

Asked if there will be any official farewell ceremony for her in UM, Rafiah said it was initially planned to be held this Friday but had been put on hold as she was leaving for overseas on Thursday.


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