Leading economist Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters degree at WOU’s 8th convocation ceremony today.
Jomo, 65, was recognised for his contributions to the academic community and to social development within and outside Malaysia. Chancellor Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah, remarked, “Jomo is driven by a passion for the downtrodden and the socio-economically disadvantaged groups in society. He must be applauded for giving voice to the plight of the poor and bringing many pressing issues into the spotlight.”
Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye stated that Jomo has made a significant impact on the world stage. “With the weight of his influence, he has been able to bring many important socio-economic issues to the mainstream for the attention, discussion and action of society, groups, citizens and nations. His lifelong work has been to strengthen the socio-economic health of individual nations and citizens.”
Pro-Chancellor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon mentioned knowing Jomo, an alumnus of two Ivy League universities, Yale and Harvard, since over 46 years ago. “We were involved in the Malaysian student movement in North America before we both returned to teach in local universities.”
The three-day convocation ceremony also witnessed the graduation of 688 students, comprising 202 from the postgraduate and 486 from the undergraduate programmes, including 40 full-time graduates.
Tun Dzaiddin, in his message to the graduates, highlighted, “Universities should become the bedrock of legitimate debate, freedom of speech and freedom of expression in matters of public concern so as to preserve the well-being of the nation and its citizens. Educated arguments and rich discussions must be encouraged.”
He said, “Citizens must be free to point out abuses, corruption, injustices, and any unhealthy happenings and to hold leaders accountable. However, we must not tolerate those who spew hateful speech and violent protests in the name of race and religion. Freedom of expression comes with responsibility for the peace and harmony of the nation.”
Tun Dzaiddin stressed “Speaking out for the good of the people and nation is always the right thing to do. This action carries more weight if those in authority, especially leaders and rulers, speak out and help transform society for the better.
“To progress as a nation, there must be space for dialogue and legitimate opposing views, both online and offline, without the use of dubious laws to clamp down on them. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility, without hurting the convictions of another.