by Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia regarding the Ethnic Relations
Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia or the Malaysian Social Science
Association (PSSM) as a professional social science body takes note
of the growing concern expressed in public debates regarding the
draft Ethnic Relations Module recently approved by the Cabinet for
use in the teaching of all first-year university students from 2007.
However, we are not in a position to offer substantive comments
on the module as it has not been made available to the public. We
welcome the statement issued by the Minister of Higher Education
a few weeks ago that his Ministry would take the initiative to place
the module on the website for scholarly input and public comments.
We regard this as an important step towards a transparent culture
and openness in engaging scholarly and public dialogue and contribution
on this important topic for the good of our universities and the
nation. We hope the module’s final draft will soon be available.
very much welcome the good intentions and effort of the Government
in giving priority to harmonious ethnic relations and national unity
and in finding ways of enhancing it. We also appreciate the contributions
and hard work of our colleagues, the module’s authors, particularly
the chief coordinator, who have correctly stated that their objective
in formulating the module is to inculcate critical thinking among
undergraduates. We feel that such critical thinking is necessary
so that our students would have a better understanding and appreciation
of ethnic diversity and would regard it as an asset, thereby, strengthening
ethnic relations and nurturing a culture of inclusion so necessary
for a modern civilised multiethnic nation such as ours. It is in
the nature of critical thinking that we have to objective and analytical
in our approach, and be aware of and acknowledge various versions
or facts of history and social existence besides the dominant and
obvious ones. It is in this spirit of mutual understanding, respect
for and acceptance of each other, as well as acknowledgment of various
versions and facts of existence that we should together celebrate
Malaysia’s golden jubilee this year.
a professional body of social science scholars and practitioners
recognised nationally and internationally, PSSM has a wide range
of expertise within and outside universities on the subject of social
science in general and ethnic relations in particular. We are prepared
to make our humble contribution by giving our cooperation in providing
scholarly feedback and input on the final draft if invited to do
so, and when the module is officially available. We are happy to
note that the draft module will be a ‘living document’ which is
open to revisions, improvements and changes, and that criticisms
and comments would be taken positively in the spirit of critical
thinking which is the guiding philosophy of this project. We feel
such scholarly engagement is important in order to promote a transparent
academic culture and constructive discourse as well as to maintain
the integrity of the academic profession and of social science.
This is vital in our effort to benchmark our universities with the
best in the world and to earn their respect. PSSM is also prepared
to use its goodwill and expertise to contribute towards building
a healthy and substantive scholarly and public dialogue on various
national and social issues including ethnic relations in the interest
of nurturing and developing critical thinking and in advancing social
science and national unity.
Professor Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
President Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia
11 February 2007
Belasungkawa Atas Pemergian ke Rahmatullah Profesor Datuk Dr.
Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007)
pihak Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia (PSSM), saya ingin merakamkan
ucapan belasungkawa sedalam-dalamnya atas pemergian Allahyarham
Profesor Datuk Dr Syed Hussein Alatas pada 23 Januari 2007 malam
di Kuala Lumpur. Pemergian beliau adalah satu kerugian yang besar
kepada keluarganya, kepada negara dan komuniti ilmuan Malaysia
khususnya dan kepada dunia kesarjanaan sains sosial antarabangsa
umumnya. Kami para komuniti ilmuan sains sosial dalam dan luar
universiti di Malaysia amat terkejut dan berdukacita kerananya.
Alatas ialah seorang tokoh intelektual awam, sarjana, dan pemikir
ulung yang sukar ditandingi. Beliau antara tokoh angkatan lama yang
telah mempelopori dan mengasaskan perkembangan ilmu sosial khususnya
sosiologi di Malaysia sejak pertengahan 1950-an sebelum Merdeka
dan meneruskan usaha gigih mengembangkan ilmu tersebut sehingga
akhir hayat beliau. Kewibawaan beliau sebagai seorang ilmuan, intelektual
awam dan pemikir tersohor memang terserlah dan diiktiraf sejak awal
lagi. Beliau memperoleh ijazah Doktorandus pada 1956 dan PhD pada
1963, kedua-duanya daripada Universiti Amsterdam, Belanda. Setelah
berkhidmat dengan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka antara 1958 hingga 1960,
beliau menceburi bidang akademik pada 1960-an sebagai pensyarah
dan ketua jurusan budaya di Jabatan Pengajian Melayu Universiti
Malaya antara 1964 hingga 1967. Kerjaya akademik beliau meningkat
dengan pesat apabila diangkat sebagai Profesor dan Ketua Jabatan
Pengajian Melayu di Universiti Nasional Singapura mulai 1967 hingga
1988. Apabila Profesor Diraja Ungku Aziz bersara sebagai Naib Canselor
Universiti Malaya, Profesor Alatas telah mengisi jawatan itu dari
1988 sehingga 1991. Selepas satu masa, beliau berkhidmat pula di
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia selama kira-kira 10 tahun sejak 1995,
mula-mula di Pusat Pengajian Umum, kemudian di Jabatan Antropologi
dan Sosiologi, dan terakhir di Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu
(ATMA) sebagai Profesor dan Felo Utama.
Profesor Alatas ialah seorang sarjana dan pengarang yang prolifik
dan berbobot yang pemikiran dan karyanya mempunyai kepentingan universal.
Beliau telah menghasilkan banyak buku dan artikel dalam jurnal antarabangsa
serta makalah dalam akhbar tempatan. Penulisan beliau meliputi banyak
bidang, antaranya pembangunan dan pemodenan, politik dan rasuah,
intelektual negara membangun, pemikiran masyarakat bekas tanah jajahan,
serta persoalan umat Islam menangani pemodenan. Antara buku beliau
yang penting dan sudah menjadi klasik ialah, Modernization and Social
Change in Southeast Asia. Buku ini yang terbit pada 1972 membahas
secara kritis pemikiran ahli teori Barat tentang pemodenan dan pembangunan
di mana beliau menyanggah konsep pemodenan sebagai pembaratan. Buku
The Myth of the Lazy Native, yang pertama kali terbit pada tahun
1977, ialah sebuah karya besar yang mendedahkan bagaimana kolonialisme
Eropah telah mencipta mitos peribumi malas. Karya ini dianggap oleh
Edward Said sebagai ‘teramat asli’ yang telah menginspirasikan beliau
sendiri untuk menghasilkan karyanya mengkritik Orientalisme. Karya
Profesor Alatas tentang intelektual di negara membangun membezakan
dengan jelas antara intelijensia yang mempunyai kelulusan formal
dengan intelektual yang mempunyai daya pemikiran tinggi dan kritis
membahas persoalan masyarakat. Serangkaian karya beliau mengenai
persoalan rasuah di negara membangun sentiasa dirujuk sebagai bahan
yang amat penting dalam bidang kajian rasuah dan bagaimana membanterasnya.
Dengan bahasa kiasan yang tajam, beliau pernah mengatakan bahawa
dalam usaha membanteras kanser masyarakat ini, kita perlu membangkitkan
kebencian dan amarah rakyat kepadanya agar kita dapat menyeretkannya
keluar daripada lorong-lorong gelap supaya tidak ada lagi tempat
bagi perasuah menyorokkan diri.
persoalan pemikiran masyarakat, Profesor Alatas telah mencipta konsep
‘the captive mind’ atau ‘watak tertawan’ yang bermaksud bagaimana
pemikiran atau minda anak tanah jajahan sudah ditawan oleh cara
pemikiran bekas penjajah sehingga pemikiran itu tidak lagi mempunyai
keaslian. Dalam bidang pemikiran masyarakat inilah beliau selalu
bertarung secara terbuka dalam media dan medan-medan lain melawan
kejumudan atau apa yang beliau istilahkan sebagai ‘bebalisme’. Sementara
di satu pihak beliau dengan tegas mengkritik pandangan Orientalisme
terhadap masyarakat tanah jajahan khususnya masyarakat Melayu, beliau
juga dengan gigih berjuang untuk mengikis kejumudan pemikiran sebahagian
masyarakat Melayu yang tahyul dan juga yang menafsirkan Islam secara
sempit dan harfiah. Usaha beliau ini amat penting dalam membuka
minda tentang bagaimana masyarakat Melayu-Islam harus maju untuk
berdepan dengan arus pemodenan pada abad ke-21 ini.
Profesor Alatas yang cukup besar di bidang ilmu dan pemikiran sosial
serta di medan perdebatan awam menunjukkan beliau mempunyai keistimewaan
sebagai seorang intelektual dan sarjana yang asli dan mandiri yang
diiktiraf di dalam negeri dan di peringkat antarabangsa. Hal ini
jelas diakui oleh tokoh-tokoh antarabangsa sezaman dengannya. Meminjam
kata-kata Profesor Hans-Dieter Evers, seorang tokoh sosiologi terkemuka
dari Jerman, “Melalui pelbagai karya dan kuliahnya [selama setengah
abad lebih ini], boleh dikatakan Profesor Alatas telah mewujudkan
satu aliran pemikiran sosiologi yang tersendiri di rantau ini."
kami dalam Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia dengan Profesor Alatas
memang amat rapat. Kami menganggap beliau sebagai mercusuar intelektual
yang sinarnya terus bergemerlapan sekalipun beliau sudah pergi.
Dunia intelektual dan kesarjanaan Malaysia telah kehilangan sebutir
bintang di ufuk kesarjanaan yang luas tidak bertepi. Namun pemikiran
beliau yang bernas dan kritis serta teladan intelektual yang mandiri
dan amat berharga itu akan berada bersama-sama kita untuk menginspirasikan
Allah mencucuri rahmat-Nya ke atas roh beliau! Al Fatihah!
Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
Presiden, Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia
24 Januari 2007
of Condolence On The Passing of Professor Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein
behalf of the Malaysian Social Science Association (PSSM), I wish
to express my deepest condolences on the passing of Professor
Datuk Dr Syed Hussein Alatas on the night of 23 January 2007 in
Kuala Lumpur. His passing is a great loss to his family, the nation
and the community of Malaysian intellectuals, and to the world
of social science scholarship internationally. We, members of
the community of social science scholars within and beyond the
university in Malaysia, are shocked and saddened by the news.
Alatas was an unparalleled public intellectual, scholar, and thinker.
He was among those of the older generation who pioneered and founded
the development of the social sciences in Malaysia, especially sociology,
from before Independence in the middle of the 1950s. He continued
his tireless efforts at developing the social sciences right up
to the end of his life.
authority as a respected scholar, public intellectual and thinker
was evident and acknowledged from early on. He obtained his Doctorandus
degree in 1956 and PhD in 1963, both from the University of Amsterdam
in the Netherlands. After working for the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka
[the national body dedicated to language and literature] between
1958 to 1960, he took up academic work as Lecturer and Head of the
Culture Stream at the Department of Malay Studies of Universiti
Malaya from 1964 to 1967. He advanced greatly in his academic career
for, soon, he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department
of Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore (1967 to
Alatas was appointed the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Malaya from
1988 to 1991 with the retirement of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz.
After a lapse of a few years, in 1995 he joined Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia where he spent some ten years, initially at the Centre
of General Studies, followed by the Department of Anthropology and
Sociology, and finally as Professor and Principal Fellow at the
Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation (ATMA).
Alatas was a prolific scholar and author of great substance whose
thinking and works are of universal significance. He produced many
books and articles in international journals as well as the local
newspapers. His writings cover many fields, including development
and modernisation, politics and corruption, intellectuals in developing
societies, the mentality of colonised societies, as well as the
question of the Islamic ummah’s engagement with modernity. Among
his significant books that are regarded as classics is Modernization
and Social Change in Southeast Asia. Published in 1972, this book
critically discusses Western theories of modernisation and development
and challenges the idea of modernisation as Westernisation. His
book The Myth of the Lazy Native (first published in 1977) is another
substantial work that shows how European colonialism created the
myth of Malays as the lazy natives. Edward Said considered this
book to be a “startlingly original" work that inspired him
to produce his well known critique of Orientalism.
Alatas’s work on intellectuals in developing societies distinquished
between an intelligentsia with formal qualifications and intellectuals
who are highly capable thinkers and engage social issues critically.
A series of his works on the question of corruption in developing
societies is a very important reference in the study of corruption
and its elimination. In order to get rid of this social cancer,
he used to say in a sharply metaphorical language, we need to elicit
the hatred and anger of the people that they may smoke it out of
the dark alleys into the open where there is no place to hide.
studying the mindset of members of society, Professor Alatas advanced
the concept of ‘the captive mind’ to describe the mentality of colonial
subjects who had been enslaved by the mode of thinking of their
one-time colonizer, to the point that it was bereft of originality.
It was on this issue of the society’s mindset that he always engaged
in a relentless open battle in the mass media and other arenas in
order to fight outmoded thinking or what he termed ‘bebalism’ (thickism).
On the one hand, he firmly criticised Orientalist perspectives towards
colonialised societies, especially Malay society. On the other,
he was determined in his struggle to overcome the outmoded mindset
of a segment of Malay society who put stock in irrational beliefs
as well as those who interpret Islam in a narrow and literal manner.
This is a very important contribution on his part towards opening
up the minds of people to the ways by which Malay-Muslim society
should engage with modernity in the 21st century.
Alatas’s great contribution to the field of knowledge and social
thought as well as the arena of public debate was the hallmark of
an original and independent-minded intellectual, scholar and thinker,
highly regarded nationally and internationally. This fact is clearly
evident in the accolades of international figures who were his peers.
Professor Hans-Dieter Evers, the well-known sociologist from Germany,
observed as follows: “Through his various writings and lectures
[for more than half a century], it may be said that Professor Alatas
has created a school of sociological thinking of his own in this
members of the Malaysian Social Science Association, our relationship
with Professor Alatas was very close. We regard him as an intellectual
beacon whose light continues to shine even though he is gone. The
intellectual and academic world in Malaysia has lost a star in the
infinite horizon of scholarship. His cogent and critical ideas as
well as his exemplary independent-mindedness as an intellectual
are immensely valuable and will persist in our hearts and inspire
Allah shower His blessings upon his spirit! Al Fatihah!
Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
President, Malaysian Social Science Association
24 January 2007
interview with President of PSSM on the ASLI Report controversy
if EPU gives more rationales: academic
13 Oct 2006
More explanations from the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s
Department revealing how it computes the bumiputera equity
share will not only improve transparency but will also enhance public
confidence in their data, said an academic today.
“One positive thing arising from the present Asli report controversy
is that the public now knows roughly the methodology used by the
EPU to compute the data,” said University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
professor Dr Abdul Rahman Embong.
“I hope more explanations will be forthcoming. It not only will
improve transparency but will also enhance confidence in their data
computation and our country’s standing internationally,” he said.
was commenting on the fallout over the Asian Strategic and Leadership
Institute’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) report on bumiputera
equity share which it placed at 45% in contrast to the EPU’s figure
Asli figure drew severe criticism from Umno’s top brass over the
past two weeks, and the study was eventually withdrawn by Asli president
Mirzan Mahathir who said the study ‘was flawed’. Following this,
CPPS director Dr Lim Teck Ghee resigned in protest.
“There are lessons to be learnt from the present episode,” said
Abdul Rahman in an interview with malaysiakini.
Rahman, a sociologist and researcher, is principle fellow at
the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas) at
UKM. He is also the president of the Malaysian Social Science Association
Abdul Rahman also noted the need to allow room for disagreement
or difference with regards to reports by researchers which may not
concur with official perspectives.
can attain progress if we allow that space to flourish. In this
regard, a healthy dialogue is important,” he said.
Below is a question-and-answer session with Abdul Rahman:
Malaysiakini: Would you like to comment
on Dr Lim's published studies?
Abdul Rahman: I can’t
comment on the Asli study specifically as I haven’t had a chance
to read it properly except for what is in the media. My comment
is on research in general.
As a researcher, one’s responsibility is to report the findings
objectively, provide a sound analysis, draw appropriate conclusions
based on the findings and to defend it. At the same time, it is
also important for the researcher to invite comments and criticisms
to improve it as every study has its limitations.
Do you think academicians like yourself
and others have the freedom to come out with reports that dissent
with those of the government?
experience in conducting research has been based on the principles
I stated above. I think my colleagues also do the same. From my
experience, there is space to do research and to come out with papers
based on the findings.
of the findings and analysis may concur with official views, and
some may not. That is the nature of scholarship. I think the government
acknowledges the need for that because if there is room for disagreement
or difference, we can attain progress if we allow that space to
flourish. In this regard, a healthy dialogue is important.
Do you think academics now are going
to ‘self-censor’ their reports and studies that have political ramifications?
Malaysia wants to move forward, and Malaysian universities want
to be on the international radar screen. For that purpose, four
Malaysian universities have been identified to be research universities.
To achieve this, among others, we need to strengthen our research
culture, promote good quality research, and uphold a conducive environment
for freedom of enquiry.
I think researchers have to be ethical and truthful to their vocation
by presenting the findings as they have been discovered. We will
be doing a disservice to the profession and to the nation if we
don’t do that.
of course, the way we conduct our research, the framework, methodology
and the instruments used, etc, must be based on acceptable academic
At the same time, the way we present the findings also matter, particularly
how we position the study. The limitations of the study also need
to be pointed out. All these constitute intellectual humility, honesty
Whether a researcher will self-censor or not as a result of the
present Asli episode is a matter of personal choice. But a conducive
environment for serious enquiry needs to be promoted and protected
if we want good quality research that is useful for the universities,the
government and the country.
Do you think the academic world fears
political backlashes from their reports in general?
I think we should continue to encourage level-headedness and to
see the big picture. As researchers, it is our professional responsibility
to continue doing our work to the best of our ability.
is the level of transparency when it comes to accessing government
data? What can be done to increase access?
Like many others, I wish there is greater accessibility to official
data beyond what is published in official documents. There are lessons
to be learnt from the present episode. One positive thing arising
from the present controversy is that the public now knows roughly
the methodology used by the EPU to compute the data.
I hope more explanations will be forthcoming. It not only will improve
transparency but will also enhance confidence in the data and our
country’s standing internationally.
Will this have a bearing on the quality
of higher education in the country then?
The quality of education is a complex issue. However, research culture,
research quality and research environment are part of the lifeblood
of a university. They are necessary to help enhance the quality
of higher education.
on the 16th Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils
(ASSREC) Biennial Conference held in New Delhi, India, from 30th
November to 2nd December 2005
The Conference was
held at the Conference Hall, 2nd Floor, in the main building of
the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR). The ICSSR,
together with AASSREC, acted as hosts for the Conference. The Conference
was held for three days and attended by about 30 participants from
India, Pakistan, Australia, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran,
Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand
The theme for the
16th Biennial Conference is The Challenges of Unemployment, in which
12 country papers, on the subject of unemployment in the respective
countries, were presented.
Social Science Association sent two delegates to the Conference,
namely: (i) Dr Mohd Hazim Shah, the Deputy President of PSSM, who
attended on behalf of the PSSM’s President, and (ii) Dr Madeline
Berma, a member of the Malaysian Social Science Association from
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, who presented the country paper
for Malaysia, entitled Challenges of Unemployment in Malaysia...
for a new paradigm?
By Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
The Star, Nation,
Tuesday March 28, 2006
THE much-awaited Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP)
will be unveiled at the current parliamentary session amid high
expectations following the fuel price rise and other pressing problems.
The Plan's implementation period, 2006-10, is particularly
strategic because we are now entering the second phase towards realising
Vision 2020, to become a developed nation.
Also, this is the first plan formulated under the stewardship
of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi since he took over as Prime
Minister in late 2003.
High on the people's mind is to what extent
the 9MP will address the fundamental issue of building a united
Bangsa Malaysia or Malaysian Nation (NB: not the "Malaysian
race" as often stated).
Simply put, Bangsa Malaysia is about nation building
and moulding our ethnically and culturally diverse people into one
nation with a collective national will, consciousness, shared identity
and shared destiny...
studies in Sarawak
The Star, Sunday March 12, 2006
THE Malaysian Social Sciences Association and Universiti Malaysia
Sarawak (Unimas) organised a two-day workshop on "New Research
in Malaysian Studies" on Feb 27 and 28.
It was aimed at enhancing the research and analytical skills of
the younger generation of lecturers as well as graduate students
pursuing their Master's and PhDs in Malaysian Studies either here
More than 18 papers were presented at the workshop with participants
coming from several local universities.
The workshop was also attended by Japanese postgraduates who are
working on topics related to Malaysia.
The Association team was led by its president Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman
Embong and vice-present Dr Diana Wong.
Unimas' Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) and Social Sciences
Faculty acted as co-organisers.
"This is the first collaboration between Unimas and the Association
and we hope that it will lead to more cooperation between both parties.
"Social scientists in Sarawak feel a little isolated from their
colleagues in the Peninsula and this is a good way for us to forge
links," said IEAS director Assoc Prof James Chin.
He added that Unimas' strength lies in its location in Sarawak.
"We are the gateway to the whole of Borneo and we invite social
scientists from other universities in Malaysia to come work with
In many ways, he said, Borneo is the last frontier in social research.
"Compared to the Peninsula, we are under-studied,''
Congratulations to PSSM
members Jomo K.S. and Terence Gomez on their UN appointments...
Second International Malaysia-Thailand Conference on Southeast
29 November to 1 December 2005 at UKM Bangi... More
Workshops for "Managing
the Integration of Culture into Development Programmes"
Sponsors: SEAMEO-SPAFA & ASEAN Foundation
Dates of Workshops: May-October 2005 (in various ASEAN countries)...
Fourth International Malaysian
Studies Conference (MSC4) Conference Report by Dr Michelle
Papers presented in MSC4 are available for download...
Website of Malaysia Studies
Graduate Forum (MASGRAF)
The Forum is set up and run by post-graduate students...
1. Arrangements between
PSSM and The Star newspaper
2. Routledge "Malaysian Studies" book series