On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Let’s keep our best brains at home

As the prime minister, Abdullah should be allowed to devote his attention and energy to the larger issues affecting the country. He should not have to worry about a simple transfer request of a university lecturer or a scholarship application.

But that was what happened over the past fortnight. Abdullah, together with Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein  and Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh, had to step in to put things right.

On June 13, Dr Shafie approved two years' unpaid leave for Assoc Prof Dr Terence Gomez to take up a post with the United Nations in Geneva.

This followed reports that Dr Gomez had been "forced" to resign from Universiti Malaya because his application for a two-year secondment to take up the UN post had been rejected.

The UM corporate communications office head Che Ramlan A. Rahman had said that the management could not release Dr Gomez, who is known for his academic work on business, politics and corruption, because he was needed at the university.

The case attracted the attention of not just ordinary Malaysians but academicians overseas. It was the kind of publicity that UM, which is celebrating its centenary anniversary, does not need.

The case was badly handled as it was allowed to drag on, leading to numerous letters being posted on the Internet while opposition politicians seized on the issue to point out what it regarded as another case of government inefficiency.

The fact is that it has nothing to do with policies, but just a simple case of poor decision-making.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin too had to step in to make sure that the Public Services Department offered scholarships to the five SPM top scorers who initially failed in their bid.

Believing in fairness, the Umno Youth chief told reporters that he would not forget their names and vowed to resolve their problems.

The good news finally came from MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting who announced that Ng Ee Liang, Desmond Chee and Khaw Chok Tong would study medicine in Australia, Chew Ying Dee would take up pharmacy in Britain, while Teoh Wan Ying was offered to do actuarial science in the United States.

They were not the only ones. Utusan Malaysia reported that Abdul Azim Abdul Rahim, who scored 12A1s, also had his application for a PSD scholarship rejected. He was one of the 25 top performers who received certificates from Hishammuddin last March.

Again, Cabinet members had to intervene to make sure justice prevailed but the question is why Malaysians have to go through this annual charade.

We have drawn up a system where every young Malaysian needs to work hard to prove himself and when he has proven himself, we come up with vague explanations on how he missed by a quarter or half a point.

We can tell these bright sparks that they do not have the X-factor that could have earned them their scholarships or some of us can say that they could always look elsewhere for financial help.

But does Malaysia want to lose these intelligent youngsters to other countries who would readily offer them the scholarships?

The  PSD should be taking every step to keep the best and brightest in Malaysia and not discourage them, let alone reject them.

To their credit, the PSD has been accommodating to many appeals by those rejected the first time.

The action of our leaders has proven that the people can still depend on our moderate leaders to step in when such situations arise, but there is a need to ensure that officials do not carry out actions that harm the ruling party.

On the other hand, students seeking to further their education through such financial support must understand that there are limited resources.

They must learn to be more adaptable to possibilities of rejection and learn to check out alternatives. Parents too can do their part.

Remember, when one door closes, a window of opportunity can open elsewhere.