Home Civil Society Voices A collapsing Perikatan regime and university appointments

A collapsing Perikatan regime and university appointments

Public universities like UUM must remain neutral

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The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) refers to the resignation of Umno member Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah from Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) board of directors and the board of UPM Holdings Sdn Bhd. 

His resignation letter, addressed to the then-higher education minister, Noraini Ahmad, was dated 6 August. Ironically, Noraini also tendered her resignation on the same day.

Both resignations clearly are related to the split within Umno and the party bigwigs’ decision to withdraw support for Mahiaddin Yasin’s fast-crumbling Perikatan Nasional regime.

Politically, Shah Headan’s decision to resign from the UPM board may be seen as a principled one. Either that or he was left with little option.

Nonetheless, for Gerak, it sends a disconcerting message about how our public universities are tied to politics and politicians.

Shah Headan says – proudly, no doubt – his decision was made out of a sense of a duty to his party. How noble. But what about his duty to the university?

Surely he must have understood his appointment to the UPM board was to advance the interests and purposes of the university and that these do not run parallel to his party’s purpose or objectives?

In this regard, it is appalling and a disgrace that people in power in politics currently seem to show no commitment to any public purpose and are locked simply into their petty political ends.

This follows hard on the heels of opposition politician Nik Nazmi’s expose in June that the PN regime had made no less than 13 political appointments – like Shah Headan’s – [to public universities] within the past year. That is about one appointment a month.

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Of course, this doesn’t take into account other types of high-level appointments.

This disgusting practice must stop, whoever may take over the reins of political power.

Gerak observes we may have our own version of Nero fiddling right now, as the pandemic takes more lives and our public health system finds its back to the wall.

Nonetheless, we in Gerak believe that this provides us – and whoever takes over from here – the opportunity, indeed the duty and obligation, to rid ourselves of this revolting practice of political appointments in public universities.

They serve no academic and intellectual purpose. Like the many political appointments to government-linked companies, they are made to reward the party faithful and line their pockets. – Gerak

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