Problems in varsities symptom of larger sickness

The treatment Dr Edmund Terrence Gomez and his family have suffered at the hands of University Malaya's administration is neither the first of its kind nor will it be the last. Not too long ago, another brilliant scholar, Dr KS Jomo was also given the boot.

While other countries are pouring millions into luring away the cream of our crop, we import lowly-skilled labourers from our neighbours. While others move one step forward, we take one step back. While others post significant advancements in worthwhile endeavours, we celebrate meaningless feats and mediocrity.

While some may point to our first-class infrastructures as a sign of progress, this provides little comfort. Take the crown jewel of Malaysian modernity: the Petronas Twin Towers. It was designed by an Argentinean American architect, built by a consortium of Japanese and South Korean contractors, with Indonesian labour.

Impressive as they may seem, infrastructures are nothing but expensive toys that we pay for with the abundance of natural resources our country is blessed with. We cannot rely on natural resources and cheap labour as our main engine of growth forever. Resources will run out and there is cheaper labour elsewhere.

If we don't develop, value and retain our own talent pool, whatever edifice we build today shall crumble because of ineptitude and mismanagement.

Pak Lah is right to fret that we have first-rate infrastructure but third-world mentality. The question is, what is he going to do about it? Preaching alone won't get you very far.

In a university setting, people don't generally think of themselves as mindless sheep that need the guiding hands of a benevolent leader. However, the leaders/bureaucrats still think of themselves as shepherds and that's where clashes occur and the malaise besetting the country at large is shown in stark contrast.

The problems our country's public universities are facing are but the symptoms of a larger sickness afflicting the entire country.

I'd say, we should demand solution or else we'll look for someone who can do a better job. As the saying goes, 'If one can't stand the heat, one should get out of the kitchen'. Furthermore, many of the problems shouldn't have occurred in the first place. Someone is falling asleep at the wheel and allowing a minor irritation to fester and exacerbate into a full-blown crisis.

We are not demanding our leaders to be all-knowing. Nobody is. But what sets apart a great leader from a mediocre one is that he or she is not afraid to be criticised, is always humble and ready learn from others and is not averse to implementing painful but necessary adjustments.

As long as the country is overrun by incompetent and insecure bureaucrats and the people allow this situation to perpetuate without demanding accountability, Malaysia will never be a truly developed nation.