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Call on all Malaysians to support Religious Freedom for Minorities all around the world

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 3rd of July, 2014

Call on all Malaysians to support Religious Freedom for Minorities all around the world

It was reported yesterday that the central government in Beijing, China, has banned civil servants, students and teachers in the majority Muslim Xinjiang region from taking part in Ramadan fasting.[1] By preventing civil servants, students and teachers who are Muslim from fasting during Ramadan is to force them not to follow one of the five pillars of Islam. This goes against the freedom of religion which includes the freedom of an individual to carry out the religious practices of his or her faith.

I strongly condemn the persecution of the Muslim minority in China through the directive forcing civil servants, students and teachers, including Muslims, not to fast during the holy month of Malaysia.

I call upon all Malaysians to support the right of the Muslim population in Xinjiang to have the right to fast during the month of Ramadan. In particular, I call upon all non-Muslims in Malaysia to stand in solidarity to support freedom of religion for all minorities around the world by fasting for one day during this holy month of Ramadan together with our Muslim friends.

Today is the fifth day in which I am fasting during Ramadan and the 2nd year in a row which I am doing so. I value the opportunity and the right to be able to fast during Ramadan, as a non-Muslim, in order to share the experience together with my Muslims friends.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1]http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1544914/china-bans-xinjiang-officials-and-schools-participating-ramadan

Uphold academic freedom to improve academic research and excellence

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming on the 30th of June, 2014

Uphold academic freedom to improve academic research and excellence

I read with concern today’s news that Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Redzuan’s term as the Director for the Universiti Malaya’s Center for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) has not been renewed. This news report also speculates that this non-renewal was due to political pressure over Professor Redzuan’s survey research which showed the BN in a bad light and also programs which involved politicians, including Members of Parliament, from Pakatan Rakyat.[1]

I was invited to be part of a forum just after the 13th General Election in 2013 by UMCedel to share my analytical findings. This forum was chaired by Professor Redzuan and other invited panellists included Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the former MP for Temerloh and Shamsul Iskandar, the newly elected MP for Bukit Katil. Nurul Izzah was also invited to this forum but did not participate as a panellist.[2] This kind of engagement with BN as well as Pakatan Rakyat politicians should be part and parcel of the research agenda of any institute or center that examines and does research on elections in Malaysia.

In addition, the survey research work done by UMcedel, under the leadership of Professor Redzuan, should be applauded for pushing the agenda on elections survey research which is still in its infancy in Malaysia. It should be noted that UMCedel was accurate in predicting a win in the popular vote for Pakatan Rakyat in GE13 but that the BN would win the majority of seats.[3] While there is legitimate room to criticize the methodology used by UMcedel in arriving at its survey results, there is no legitimate reason to target Professor Redzuan just because the results are not seen as favourable to the BN.

It is unfortunate that this decision not to renew Professor Redzuan’s tenure as the Director of UMCedel comes on the back of the good news that 3 Malaysian Professors – Prof Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad from USM, Prof Dr Ishak Hashim from UKM and Prof Dr Saidur Rahman from UM – were listed in the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014.[4] Academic freedom, especially in the social sciences which is interpreted by some as touching on more politically sensitive subjects, is an integral part of pushing the research agenda in any university setting.

If it is true that the Chief Secretary II of the Education Ministry, Datuk Dr. Zaini Ujang, is responsible for the decision not to renew Professor Redzuan’s tenure at the Director of UMCedel, then it is indeed a sad day for academic freedom in the country since Dr. Zaini as a former academic at UTM, of all people, should know the value of academic freedom.

I call upon the Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Dato Seri Idris Jusoh, to give their full commitment towards upholding academic freedom in all our public and private institutions of higher learning and to make it clear to all civil servants and vice-chancellors that this academic freedom is a crucial part of improving our academic standards and rankings. Academics should not be punished for pursuing legitimate academic research including in the field of politics and political science even if the results do not seem favourable to the ruling party.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1]http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/um-professor-resigns-following-orders-from-education-ministry

[2]http://umcedel.um.edu.my/images/umcedel/berita/UMcedel%20FOCUS.pdf

[3]http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228206

[4]http://sciencewatch.com/sites/sw/files/sw-article/media/worlds-most-influential-scientific-minds-2014.pdf

How seriously can we take the ‘achievements’ outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 Annual Report when the Ministry cannot even explain how PT3 will replace PMR starting this year?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of June 2014

How seriously can we take the ‘achievements’ outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 Annual Report when the Ministry cannot even explain how PT3 will replace PMR starting this year?

I would like to congratulate the Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to keeping to the promise outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025 that an annual report documenting the progress of the MEB will be published. The 2013 MEB Annual Report, prepared by the Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU) in the Ministry of Education highlights many of the achievements accomplished in the first year of the MEB.[1]

Unfortunately, it is hard for me to take these achievements seriously when the Ministry cannot seem to get its act together on the much more fundamental issue – which is to explain to teachers, parents and students how PT3 (Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3) will replace PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) for Form 3 students.

In an oral answer to parliament on the 18th of June, the Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Haji Idris Jusoh, explained that two circulars issued by the Ministry had been issued to explain PT3 and had been uploaded to the website of the Examinations Board (Lembaga Peperiksaan) – www.moe.gov.my/lp. (Appendix 1). Unfortunately, this is what I obtained when I visited the LP website this morning at 1015am. I have been trying to access this website since last Thursday, 18th of June, without success.

I found an alternate website for the Examinations Board – http://www.lp.edu.my/ – but when I clicked on the PMR link, this was what I found.

A circular dated 31st March 2014, issued by the Ministry, outlines in greater detail how PT3 will replace PMR.[2] There will no longer be a centralized exam and PMR will be replaced by school based exams that will be based on instruments and scores which will be standardized by the Examinations Board. The implementation guidelines of PT3 is supposed to be spelled out in detail on the website of the Examinations Board. But almost three months after the issuance of this circular and after the Minister referred to the Examinations Board’s website in his parliamentary reply, neither the guidelines nor the website is accessible.

Uncertainty over the implementation of PT3 prompted the Secretary General of the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) Lok Yim Pheng, on the 15th of June, to ask the Examinations Board to brief teachers to ensure the smooth implementation of PT3.[3]

If the teachers themselves have concerns over the implementation of PT3, I can only imagine how much more in the dark are parents who have children currently studying in Form 3. In a survey of low-income families conducted by the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), one of the main findings was the information gap between government plans and the information received by the poor. This information gap would definitely include plans to replace PMR with PT3 despite assurances by the Minister that representatives from all Parent Teacher’s Associations (or PIBGs) nationwide would be briefed on these changes.

If the Ministry cannot even get its act together to explain and implement something as basic as PT3, how much confidence can be put in the many ‘achievements’ listed in the MEB 2013 Annual Report?

Appendix 1: Parliamentary Reply by Dato Seri Haji Idris Jusoh on PT3 on the 18th of June 2014.

[1]http://www.padu.edu.my/index.php/en/

[2]http://www.moe.gov.my/cms/upload_files/circularfile/2014/circularfile_file_001134.pdf and http://www.moe.gov.my/cms/upload_files/circularfile/2014/circularfile_file_001135.pdf

[3]http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2014/06/15/union-wants-exam-board-brief-teachers-pt3-exam/ and http://www.sinarharian.com.my/nasional/nutp-gesa-lpm-perjelas-pelaksanaan-pt3-1.290306