Ramasamy: UiTM’s rejection of non-Bumiputera to post-graduate training is tragic zero-sum ethnic game

IT IS sad and tragic that the opportunity to open Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) to non-Bumiputera for post-graduation training in cardiac thoracic surgery has been denied.

Such denial did not take into acute shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons in the country. A doctor now serving in Sabah could not save the life of pregnant patient because there was no cardiac thoracic surgeon available in the state.

UiTM’s vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Sharin Sahib said the university will adhere to its policy of empowering the Bumiputera and not admit students of other races or colour.

This was in line with the objective of the establishment of the university to address the empowerment of the Bumiputera – the Malays, natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli.

Sharin reiterated that such policy was in line with the thinking of the Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir or the Higher Education Ministry.

Recently, there was suggestion by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) for UiTM to accept non-Bumiputera post-graduate students to address the shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons in the country.

Staunch opposition

However, before the suggestion could be further explored, the 214-member student council of the university objected to the change in the admission policy.  They threatened to protest by wearing black attire.

Anyway, Zambry explained the this was a mere suggestion from MMC to address the shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons and that the matter was not pursued at other levels including the university’s senate of the relevant faculty.

It is sad and regretful that admission policy in UiTM is still mired in the outmoded principle of affirmative action to empower the Bumiputras.

After more than 50 years of the New Economic Policy (NEP) the distinction between affirmative action and ethnic preferences has become considerable blurred.

Zambry and the UiTM authorities are playing safe not to stir up a hornets’ nest. Such a behaviour fits the image of the present government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that is seemingly pandering to the right and hardly reformist in nature.

Despite the propaganda about reforms, there is hardly any attempt under Anwar to reform the educational institutions in the country.

The rejection of the opening up of the cardiac thoracic post graduate training to non-Bumiputera is slap in the face of the Madani government that came to power on the basis of reforms.

UiTM is funded by taxpayers

Sadly, the purpose of the opening of the programme was completely lost in the zero-sum game of ethnic politics in the country.

Never mind there is shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons, never mind the possibility of lives being lost, never mind improving the medical services of the hospitals, what seem to matter is to ensure the “empowerment” of the Bumiputera is not disturbed at all costs.

The vehement objection to allow the admission of non-Bumiputera to the cardiac thoracic post graduate training to address the critical shortage is an indication that all is not well with the government in power.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (left) attended a meet-the-student session with UiTM Shah Alam’s undergraduates on April 7, 2023 (Image credit: Anwar Ibrahim Facebook)

Anwar seems more interested in staying in power than to do something worthwhile for the progress of the nation as whole.

There was a widow of opportunity to slowly unwind the “Bumiputera only policy” to accept students of other races.

It was not an open admission policy but to merely to address the shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons in the country. If such need cannot be added by UiTM that is funded by taxpayers’ money, I really wonder whether there is any future for progressive reforms in the country.

It is indeed an irony that UiTM can welcome foreign students who are not taxpayers but cannot accept Malaysian students who are funded by Malaysian taxpayers!

Wonder where the funds are coming from to run and manage UiTM? Anyway, I haven’t seen any responses to date on this matter from DAP which is touted as the “champions” of non-Bumiputera. Is the multi-racial party living up to its infamy as the “Denial Action Party”? – May 17, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main image credit: Malay Mail

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