Less than four months ago, Terence Gomez's forced resignation raised a series of issues about problems in higher education - inadequate salaries, biased appointments and promotions, over-politicitized university management, limits on academic freedom, and, in some cases, gross administrative incompetence.
After robust debate, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wisely intervened to correct the petty victimization of Associate Professor Gomez and his wife and showed a commitment to addressing the inherent problems in higher education that the Ministry of Higher Education led by Dr Shafie Salleh had allowed to persist. From abroad and at home, Malaysia's leadership rightly deserved praise for correcting the problems caused by the action/inactions of his political appointees.
The abrupt and unjustified dismissal of P Ramasamy, however, has managed to reignite concerns about the management of universities and academic freedom under the Abdullah administration.
The dismissal of staff unjustly is no longer a remnant of the Mahathir era, but a practice evolving under the Abdullah administration. Abdullah's political appointees do not seem to be taking his cue to support meritocracy and create a university system based on excellence and performance.
Even though P Ramasamy has reached the age of 55, his publications and service record at UKM stands well above most of his colleagues. The number of graduate students he has supervised in his twenty-five years of service alone, now standing at well over five hundred students, shows how much he has committed to the university and Malaysia.