Prominent political scientist Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Redzuan Othman has paid a heavy price for conducting independent surveys and polls on Malaysian politics – he has been directed to quit as director of Universiti Malaya's Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) by the Education Ministry.
Sources told The Malaysian Insider that not only was he ordered to leave as director of UMcedel, Redzuan’s tenure as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in the university was also not renewed.
In UM, though deans are elected by the academic staff, it is still subject to endorsement by the university's management.
Sources said although Redzuan is said to have been given the thumbs up by his colleagues for the dean's post, political pressure compelled the university not to endorse his election.
"The university has given the excuse that Redzuan will retire next year and that is why his tenure as the dean would not be renewed," a source told The Malaysian Insider.
Profesor Dr Md Sidin Ishak will take over from Redzuan as the new dean.
However, it is Redzuan’s work at UMcedel which appears to have sealed his fate at the university. It was learnt that over the last few years, UMcedel had irked Putrajaya with its various survey findings on Malaysian politics which had shown the ruling Barisan Nasional in a bad light.
One survey which was said to have rattled the Barisan Nasional was conducted during the run-up to the 2013 general election where the findings had showed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak trailed his political foe Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The UMcedel poll showed that more than 60% of voters surveyed favoured Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) manifesto, compared to just 50% for BN’s election pledges.
The UMcedel survey also showed that 43% of respondents believed that Anwar was qualified to be prime minister, pipping Najib by four percentage points.
Najib had rubbished the findings and many BN supporters questioned the methodology used.
UMcedel in its reply noted that Najib had been pleased with its earlier surveys after he had assumed office which painted a positive picure of him and the BN.
However, despite the projections, BN won the 13th general election but with a reduced majority. It captured 133 parliamentary seats. Pakatan only clinched 89 out of the 222 parliamentary seats.
Within the academic circles, it is common knowledge that Redzuan, a history professor, had often faced pressure from the Education Ministry over the centre’s findings.
The Malaysian Insider learnt that Putrajaya was also unhappy with Redzuan for purportedly being opposition-friendly, although he had on many occasions explained it by saying, "where would I be without politicians".
Apart from surveys on the BN and Najib's popularity, UMcedel had also conducted a study on Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Umno elections.
Pressure against Redzuan included interference in his university programmes that involved PR leaders – which the academic had repeatedly resisted.
One such programme which was said to have displeased the Education Ministry was held on February 19, 2013, where Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar was given a hero's welcome at a forum at the university after Putrajaya had pressured UMcedel to drop her from the list of speakers for the event.
According to UM's website, Redzuan was to serve as director from February 26, 2012, to December 31, 2014.
According to another source in UM, his deputy, Dr Amir Saifude Ghazali, will take over as director.
"He appears to be facing pressure from his old friend from Abim (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia), who is now with the Education Ministry," said a source close to UM, referring to the Chief Secretary II of the Education Ministry, Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang, who was with Redzuan in Abim. – June 30, 2014.