NB: This press statement was released on 16.5.2012.

I refer to Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz’s remarks in The Star today regarding the Penang Institute’s offer of a senior fellowship to him.

The Penang Institute is the public policy think tank of the state government of Penang which undertakes research on socio-economic and political issues and publishes, among others, the Penang Monthly and various public policy and research papers. When it became clear that Tunku did not wish to be re-nominated for another term as a senator for Penang, we at Penang Institute saw it as an opportunity to recruit a public intellectual with a valuable global network.

It was based on such intentions that the management of the Penang Institute, led by Executive Director Professor Datuk Woo Wing Thye and myself, decided to propose the offer to Tunku Aziz of a senior fellowship in the Penang Institute, a post which would entail writing commitments, programme supervision and a platform to continue engaging in public discussion of national policies. As a think tank that supports the state’s aspiration to be an intelligent and international city, the post would also require him to periodically attend conferences in and out of the country. Penang Institute has a standard package for senior fellowship that includes a yearly stipend of RM50,000. So far, three persons have been appointed as senior fellows on this package.

Out of respect for Tunku Aziz’s position as a senior figure, we requested the Penang Chief Minister, who is also the chairman of Penang Institute, to convey our offer of a senior fellowship. At no time did the Chief Minister speak about the terms of the appointment or any financial details during their telephone conversation last Friday. The terms of the senior fellowship were only conveyed by me on Monday morning to Tunku when I followed-up on the Chief Minister’s call.

We regret that our enthusiasm to have Tunku Aziz on board the Penang Institute by requesting the Chief Minister to convey our offer has not only been misconstrued to justify his leaving the party, but also used to malign the Chief Minister. It was not meant to be compensation for his senatorship, but in fact a genuine offer based on a desire to make the best use of Tunku’s talent in the service of the state after his retirement as a senator for Penang.

Zairil Khir Johari, Penang Institute CEO