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WE in Gerak wish to comment on a series of photographs and a video that posted on social media in October.
In the October 7 video, Sik Kedah Umno division chief Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah was seen awarding admission letters to potential undergraduates for the October intake at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), a public higher education institution funded by taxpayers and not one belonging to any political party.
The immediate question that we pose is: why does UUM – or any public university – need a party chief to award the admission letter on its behalf?
More worrying is where does the relationship start and where will it end?
A public higher education institution of repute is supposed to be above politics, to be the conscious voice of the rakyat, solely meant for teaching and research, and authorised to grant accredited academic degrees.
An excellent university contributes to society through the provision of education, learning and research at the highest level, nationally and internationally.
In doing so, universities, especially public universities like UUM, must be independent and free of external pressures.
Alternative discourses and critics are of course welcomed, and differences of ideas and opinions must be appreciated and entertained.
A political party, on the other hand, is made up of a group of similar-minded individuals organised to exercise and acquire political power, hoping to lead to the eventual running of a nation, after winning a general election.
Parties may promote specific ideological or policy goals. The pyramidal structure, as exhibited in political parties in Malaysia, means that dissent is almost always deemed a blasphemous activity. There is this notion of party loyalty and collective responsibly.
So, based on what transpired in the video, Gerak asks: how could UUM and Umno work hand in hand in this manner?
How deep is the relationship between these two institutions, surely meant to be separate from each other and certainly not joined together at the hip, like Siamese twins?
Despite public perception that the awarding of university places, ethnic quotas notwithstanding, is determined by the universities concerned, such videos do cast doubts about the non-political nature of the process of selection.
Indeed, does Umno have a hand in selecting students for admission to UUM? The video conjures images and thoughts of such an amicable relationship between these two and easily ‘misleads’ the public into thinking that Umno has some say in student selection and enrolment.
Gerak’s position is that such practices must stop. Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad must recognise what happened in this case and make sure that it is not commonplace.
She could, indeed, put this down as her KPI for the fast approaching 100-day report that we are all anticipating, more so than the prime minister.