CANBERRA, Nov 12 – The Global Malaysian Studies Network at the Australian National University (GMSN@ANU) was launched here Wednesday, with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin expressing hope it would lead to a better understanding of Malaysia. The Malaysian deputy prime minister said GMSN@ANU should become an important platform for scholars in the field of Malaysian studies to conduct thorough research on Malaysia and present a balanced view about the country’s politics, economy and society.
“I believe independent, objective and in-depth academic research on the many facets of the country’s political and social life will help the international community to have better understanding of Malaysia and avoid any distorted view about our country,” he said. Muhyiddin said this at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Australian National University and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), signalling the launch of GMSN@ANU at the Australian university, in Canberra.
The event was part of his three-day working visit to Canberra and Perth until Thursday. Muhyiddin announced that the Malaysian government through UKM would contribute AUD150,000 (RM435,000) annually to GMSN@ANU for five years to provide funding for research and other academic collaborations in the field of Malaysian studies.
The Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) UKM, as the Malaysian counterpart to GMSN@ANU, will also receive RM500,000 annually from the Malaysian government. Witnessed by Muhyiddin, the MoU was inked by Australian National University vice-chancellor and president Prof Ian Young, Dean of ANU College of Asia and Pacific Prof Veronica Taylor, UKM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali and KITA director Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.
Muhyiddin said he was glad to see the setting up of a special programme in Malaysian studies, which he discussed with Young and Dr John Funston, a prominent academician, during his visit to ANU in 2011, had now become a reality. The deputy prime minister who is also the Education Minister explained that instead of creating a Chair or a Malaysian Studies Programme, the establishment of GMSN@ANU was perhaps the better option.
Muhyiddin noted that as it stands, there were already many Malay or Malaysian Studies Chairs and Programmes both inside and outside Malaysia, as stand-alone, usually disconnected entities. He said they needed to be connected and the best way to do so was through a ‘network’, such as an academic research and public advocacy executive entity. “I do hope that GMSN@ANU, in cooperation with the Institute of Ethnic Studies UKM, becomes not only the focal point of Malaysian Studies in Australia but also globally, which a Chair and Programme could not or would not be able to achieve for a very long time,” he said.
Muhyiddin said the network concept in the form of the proposed GMSN@ANU had immense potential to become the ‘game changer’ in Malaysian Studies within a global context.”Many may want to adopt this model of ANU’s once it succeeds,” he said, adding that the network was much more affordable, more effective and easy to maintain organisationally with the great advantage of being able to expand quickly when necessary.
GMSN@ANU, he said, could be useful as a communicator or bridge in Malaysian studies between, firstly, academic research and public advocacy, and, secondly, applied research, policy and practice. Muhyiddin said this was not only for the public and private sectors but also for the often-neglected community sector, represented by non-governmental organisations and civil societies. He also acknowledged the contribution of Shamsul Amri and his team for their work in realising this project.