Do not punish academics, debate and engage them — Lim Wei Jiet

MAY 2 — I refer to the recent statement by retired civil servant Tan Sri Alwi Jantan, who suggested that the positions of the four public university lecturers (who have submitted a presentation to the Conference of Rulers on the Rome Statute) in their respective universities are “no longer tenable”.

With the greatest of respect, I disagree with Tan Sri Alwi Jantan’s views. Academics in the New Malaysia should not be penalised for supposedly failing to gain prior permission of superiors before giving their opinions. Nor should they be shackled by archaic civil service codes of conduct. All these bureaucracies and threats of punishment will only serve to stifle academic freedom.

Academics should also not be prohibited from having a differing view against government policy. If that is the norm, we will only produce government bootlickers instead of independent critical scholars. It is trite that only through robust debates and disagreements, that good policies are formulated for the rakyat.

That is not to say we cannot hold academics accountable for their erroneous & unsubstantiated opinions, if any. We should attack the substance of such opinions, rather than whether they were permitted to air such opinion in the first place.

* Lim Wei Jiet is a constitutional lawyer

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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