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Dec 2006
June 2005
  
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Kemaskini terakhir / last update: 13 February, 2007
Statement by Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia regarding the Ethnic Relations Module 13-feb-07
Pernyataan Belasungkawa Atas Pemergian ke Rahmatullah Profesor Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007) 8-feb-07
Message of Condolence On The Passing of Professor Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas
(1928-2007)
8-feb-07
Better if EPU gives more rationales: academic
Report 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
Hope for a new paradigm?
Malaysian studies in Sarawak


Statement by Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia regarding the Ethnic Relations Module

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.

We 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.

As 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

 


Pernyataan Belasungkawa Atas Pemergian ke Rahmatullah Profesor Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007)

Bagi 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.

Profesor 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.

Tentang 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.

Sumbangan 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."

Hubungan 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 kita semua.

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat-Nya ke atas roh beliau! Al Fatihah!

Profesor Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
Presiden, Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia
24 Januari 2007


Message of Condolence On The Passing of Professor Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas
(1928-2007)

On 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.

Professor 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.

His 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 1988).

Professor 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).

Professor 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.

Professor 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.

In 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.

Professor 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 region."

As 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 us all.

May Allah shower His blessings upon his spirit! Al Fatihah!

Professor Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahman Embong
President, Malaysian Social Science Association
24 January 2007


Malaysiakini's interview with President of PSSM on the ASLI Report controversy
Better if EPU gives more rationales: academic

Alvin Yap

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.

He 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 of 18.9%.

The 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.

Abdul 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 (PSSM).

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.

“We can attain progress if we allow that space to flourish. In this regard, a healthy dialogue is important,” he said.

‘Our responsibility’


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?

My 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.

Some 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.

But, of course, the way we conduct our research, the framework, methodology and the instruments used, etc, must be based on acceptable academic standards.

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 and integrity.

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.

What 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.


Report 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 and Vietnam.

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.

The Malaysian 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... More

 


Hope 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... More


Malaysian 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 or abroad.

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 us here."

In many ways, he said, Borneo is the last frontier in social research.
"Compared to the Peninsula, we are under-studied,'' he added.


 

Member News

Congratulations to PSSM members Jomo K.S. and Terence Gomez on their UN appointments... More

 

Conferences

UKM-Mahidol 2
Second International Malaysia-Thailand Conference on Southeast Asian Studies
29 November to 1 December 2005 at UKM Bangi
... More

 

Workshops

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)... More

 

MSC

Fourth International Malaysian Studies Conference (MSC4) Conference Report by Dr Michelle Lee... More
Papers presented in MSC4 are available for download... More

 

MASGRAF

Website of Malaysia Studies Graduate Forum (MASGRAF)
The Forum is set up and run by post-graduate students... More

 

Special Announcement

1. Arrangements between PSSM and The Star newspaper
2. Routledge "Malaysian Studies" book series
... More

  
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Report on Syarahan Perdana (Inaugural Lecture) delivered by Prof Abdul Rahman Embong | Assoc Prof Diana Wong
 
Abstrak Syarahan Perdana
(Abstract of the Inaugural Lecture) | Prof Abdul Rahman Embong
 
STATEMENT FROM THE PSSM PRESIDENT ON THE IRAQ WAR
 
 
STATEMENT FROM THE PSSM PRESIDENT ON THE IRAQ WAR (in Bahasa Malaysia)
 
 
Berita PSSM 2003 Special Edition on the Iraq War
 
 
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