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It took the intervention of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi before Universiti Malaya (UM) approved leave for a prominent academic to take up a prestigious United Nations assignment.

UM offered no explanation for the refusal to allow Terence Gomez ( left ) a two-year leave to lead a UN research project but the economist, who specialises in state-market relationships, was a critic of government policies.

Once a premier university, UM did not quite cover itself with glory through the incident, especially because it occasioned a public outcry, a couple of months ago, at the shoddy treatment meted out to a prominent academic.

Many said such an event could not have happened in any other country - the prime minister having to intervene to get leave for a don - a mundane and routine matter in any university and one that should have been automatically granted.

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