Malaysian universities are improving with each passing year, slowly climbing up the world rankings, but is it something to shout about considering our noisy neighbours have two which are way, way ahead of us?

Elsewhere, we may finally see the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission Bill tabled in Parliament next week; a terrible fuss is being kicked up over the ashes of a dead enemy of the state and a former auditor-general joins the ranks of national superheroes.

Let's hear it for our universities

Our unis are getting better

Here’s some positive news for you: Malaysian universities are climbing up the world rankings and have been doing so every year.

Topping the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2020 for the country is Universiti Malaya (UM), which is placed 13th overall in Asia, up six spots from last year. This is the ninth consecutive year that UM has climbed up the world rankings. Huzza!

Malaysia’s four other research universities — Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) — were next, coming in 33rd (up one spot), 37th (up six spots), 39th (up two spots) and 46th (up one spot) in Asia, respectively. Two private universities also made huge gains; check out the top 10 list here.

What’s best is that UM has not only significantly improved its standing in Asia, but also globally. It now ranks as the top 70 university globally. It was 118 in 2018.

The QS Rankings measures universities on a wide range of issues before coming up with an overall score and is considered one of the most, if not the most, important rankings list used as gauges by both universities as well as prospective students. So, the fact that our universities are climbing up the list is a good indicator that standards are really improving.

So kudos where credit is due. Job well done, keep up the good work, and all that.

But, let’s not get too carried away. Being 13th in a huge continent such as Asia is a wonderful achievement, and who knows, maybe we can soon break into the Top 10.

We’re still far from being anywhere near the best in Asia. How do we know? Well, joint top spot in Asia goes to Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore and they share 11th spot globally.

Yes folks, that’s right. Our neighbours down south have the two top universities in Asia and are just off the World Top 10. NTU and NUS even beat out such famed institutions as Princeton, Cornell, Yale and Columbia. Other top performers in Asia include China’s Tsinghua (16th) and Peking (22nd) universities, and the University of Tokyo (also 22nd) in Japan.

Still, let’s celebrate our universities’ improvements. It’s certainly a bit of good news that Education Ministers Maszlee Malik and University Malaya in particular could do with.

Finally, IPCMC

It’s “only” been 14 years since the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police was formed. And finally, the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week.

De facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said all MPs have been briefed on the bill, which will now be taken to the Cabinet for approval before being tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.

It’s been a long wait after the Royal Commission made the recommendations for an independent body – the IPCMC – to investigate allegations of misconduct against members of the police force. While the public embraced the recommendation, there was a tremendous amount of resistance from the force itself.

But Abdul Hamid Bador’s promotion to IGP and discussions between the government and the police force led to him saying the force saw the need for an IPCMC. That was a far cry from Hamid’s predecessor, Fuzi Harun who said on the eve of his retirement that the force was united against having an IPCMC. Police chiefs before Fuzi were just as resistant, so Hamid’s stance was quite a departure from the party line.

Liew said yesterday the parliamentary select committee (PSC) set up to review the bill had made 24 recommendations after engaging all stakeholders, including the public. However, he kept details of the bill to himself as it was still under embargo.

But the IPCMC Bill is still not out of the woods yet. At least two groups are still urging the government not to table the bill just yet, albeit for different reasons.

The Senior Police Officers Association wants the bill to be studied in a more in-depth manner so as to ensure it would be beneficial to all. President Sulaiman Yahaya also said several recommendations the association had made were not taken into account by the PSC.

But here’s the kicker, and it’s a doozy. Sulaiman admitted members of the force were afraid of the IPCMC and “now all our men are demoralised”. If you’re gonna be afraid of a misconduct commission to the point of being demoralised, it really makes us wonder what’s the scale of the misconduct you’re so keen to keep under wraps. 

One other group calling for the government not to rush things, surprisingly, is Amnesty International Malaysia. But it’s not that Amnesty is against it, of course.

Not being privy to the details, and going by previous announcements, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said the embargo does not allow public scrutiny of the bill. The bill had, up to now, fallen short of what civil society and the Royal Commission had wanted.

Perhaps Amnesty is correct. Why not let the public scrutinise the bill to ensure that what we are getting is what we had asked for? Hopefully we can also see what recommendations Sulaiman’s group made and decide for ourselves if they were reasonable. 

We’ve waited so long for an IPCMC to come to fruition. It’s perfectly fine to wait another few months rather than get a half-baked, half-hearted end product.

Chin Peng still causing problems

Who would have thought a dead man’s ashes could set off such a shitstorm in Malaysia?

Following news that the ashes of notorious former Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) secretary-general Chin Peng (his real name is Ong Boon Hua) were brought back to Malaysia and scattered in the jungles and seas near Lumut, his hometown, a large debate has been ignited over whether this was an outrage or something which shouldn’t even be given a second glance.

In fact, a heated debate went on at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday after PKR’s Padang Serai MP M. Karupaiya, an armed forces veteran, had said there was nothing wrong with having Chin Peng’s ashes brought back and scattered here. Karupaiya said even though Chin Peng was the enemy, he should be respected as he was born here.

Karupaiya’s views were objected to, of course, by many MPs, and obviously chief among them were opposition lawmakers, who said the PKR man was disrespecting members of security forces who had died fighting the communists.

Other opposition MPs, such as former deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, also objected. Wan Junaidi recalled his time fighting the CPM in the jungles, while Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Noor appeared close to tears and indeed repeatedly said “I want to cry”.

The previous BN government’s stand had been not to allow Chin Peng’s ashes to be brought back to Malaysia as he was considered an enemy of the state and a terrorist, whose citizenship had been revoked. This stand seems to be maintained by the current administration, with Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin saying the government was unaware Chin Peng’s ashes were brought back.

The matter has now become the focus of police investigation for intent to insult, promote breach of the peace as well as causing fear and alarm among the public.

Honestly, we’re not quite sure how we feel about this. We see people like suspected hardcore militant-now free man Yazid Sufaat, who was linked to arguably the worst terror attack in history, as well as Malaysians who fought under the IS banner being brought home. 

And yes, Chin Peng was a brutal, horrible person who committed many, many evil crimes in his own country which led the deaths of many innocent civilians and brave servicemen. But bringing his ashes isn’t the same as attempting to revive the CPM. And for his sins, Chin Peng was punished, exiled and died a lonely man in a foreign country. But does his punishment not end even in death?

Not all heroes wear capes

So, it appears National Audit Department senior officer Nor Salwani Muhammad isn’t the only hero in the 1MDB saga.

We all rejoiced (OK, maybe those aligned to former PM Najib Razak didn’t) when we heard Salwani defied orders and kept a copy of the original audit report on 1MDB while the rest were destroyed. Now, apparently, former Auditor-General Ambrin Buang is a bit of a hero himself.

Ambrin testified in court yesterday that he had ordered all but one copy to be destroyed, as instructed. That one copy, he said, was given to Salwani as a matter of record, as she had coordinated the preparation of the report.

He said it was his decision to keep the sole copy and denied he had breached the Official Secrets Act in doing so as under OSA regulations, he was certified to handle, keep “and whatnot” an official document for internal use.

Ambrin also testified that changes were made to the original audit under instructions from Jibby and former 1MDB head honcho Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

The former top national auditor also testified that the Jibster had wanted changes to the final audit report made in order to omit the fact there were two separate and differing 1MDB financial statements.

Ambrin testified he agreed to this because Najib promised a police report would be lodged. However, surprise! No report was ever lodged.

Ambrin’s testimony is expected to be crucial in the case against Najib, who is charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee.

But more is to come with Arul Kanda, who is charged with abetting Najib, also expected to be a prosecution witness (funnily enough), along with former Chief Secretary to the Government, Ali Hamsa, who was involved in meetings alongside Najib, Arul Kanda and Ambrin.

Keep watching this space, peeps.

Bits and bobs

Here’s a quick roundup of other important stories that happened yesterday:

  • Law Minister Liew Vui Keong says the Official Secrets Act will go, but some of its provisions will be retained in the Freedom of Information Act. It’s only expected – every country needs to be able to classify state secrets. The important thing is to ensure the FOIA isn’t as easily abused as the OSA was.
  • What the hell is up with Malaysian basketball officials? Hot on the heels of the MABA issue, we hear about the Perak Basketball Association having a team jersey with the state flag inverted
  • The price of RON95 petrol will be floated in stages next year, increasing by 1 to 2 sen every week until it reaches market price. 
  • The national crime rate has dropped for the second year running. Drug abuse is down in five states – many of them urban ones – but have risen in three more rural states. Check out the story here.
  • In a classic ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse, PKR chief whip Johari Abdul blamed MPs’ poor parliamentary attendance on fatigue and tight schedules. Err… maybe try cutting back on the extracurricular activities and focus on your core jobs, YB?

“No man should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows.”

- J. Robert Oppenheimer -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • France has warned Iran it is “seriously considering” triggering a mechanism within the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to UN sanctions, as Tehran has repeatedly breached parts of the 2015 accord with world powers.
  • A New York judge has denied an application by Harvey Weinstein to dismiss two predatory sexual assault charges against the former Hollywood producer ahead of his trial next year.
  • A German man sentenced to life in prison for the murder of two people on a yacht in 1982 has won the “right to be forgotten” by having his name left out of online searches.
  • A 49-carat, US$12 million diamond called the Dresden white and a sword with a jewel-encrusted hilt are among more than a dozen priceless items stolen from a German state museum in Dresden’s royal palace.
  • A rare portrait of Mozart has sold for €4 million, well past its estimated value of €800,000 to €1.2 million.
  • Wrap your minds around this. Scientists have discovered a black hole in our galaxy that’s so large it shouldn’t even exist.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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