SHAH ALAM, May 16 — Most Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) students were clad in black at the campus here, today.

Whether eating at the cafeteria, waiting at the bus stop or walking to lectures, it was immediately apparent that the decision to attend classes dressed in the same colour was no coincidence.

In fact, they had done so as a sign of solidarity for the university’s policy of only admitting Bumiputera students since the day of its inception in 1956, when it was established to help the rural Malays.

Some have, however, mistaken the campaign as a government protest, or a means to urge the university to accept non-Bumiputera students.

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According to the university’s student representative council spokesman Amir Nur Rashid, the situation had not reached the stage of necessitating a protest.

“The issue was never about whether to open the university to non-Bumiputera students. Because this was an ongoing issue, I just decided it was time that we responded.

“That is why I thought this was the best time to raise awareness about Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, to both students and society at large about Malay special rights and privileges,” Amir said when met by Malay Mail in the vicinity of the university here, today.

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Amir said the campaign, which began on May 14, reached its crescendo today after he saw many students on university grounds dressed in black.

He said this was a sign that they wish to maintain the university’s policy of only admitting Bumiputera students.

“I would say that the campaign is successful, and we have reached our target and that is to raise awareness among students, society and also the relevant ministries.

“The campaign has gained much traction on X, TikTok and Instagram, and even the hashtag that we created was used by many of our students nationwide.

UiTM student representative council spokesman Amir Nur Rashid speaks during a press conference in Shah Alam, May 16, 2024. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
UiTM student representative council spokesman Amir Nur Rashid speaks during a press conference in Shah Alam, May 16, 2024. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“This was our goal, and we have achieved it, so now the campaign will stop,” he said.

Amir added that he hopes the statement by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir, saying that the proposal to open UiTM admission to non-Bumiputera students had never been discussed in any ministry or Cabinet meetings, will put an end to further speculation on the matter.

“With the statement from the minister of higher education, I hope that will be the end of the matter, and I would like to thank the minister for his statement.

“So, for now, the campaign will stop. As for the ongoing conversations triggered by it, we can’t avoid that. It will keep surfacing on social media, but at least, we managed to end the speculation and our vice-chancellor has issued a clarification as well, stating that there is no such agreement,” Amir said.

According to Amir, the issue about opening the university to non-Bumiputera students was blown out of proportion when it was misconstrued by outsiders.

“When outsiders got hold of the information, it became slightly distorted, and hence, it became a topic of discussion.

“It was the misinterpretation on the ground that led to this campaign where we wanted to address the issue,” he said.

Amir said he also saw how the campaign became a platform for students to voice their opinions on the matter, when previously most had been silent.

“I am quite glad that more have spoken up through this campaign. Students who took part in the campaign showed how important it is to maintain the university’s admission policy,” he said.

Previously, UiTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Shahrin Sahib had said that the university firmly abides by Clause 1A of Act 173 under which UiTM was established in accordance with the provisions of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

This came after the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) urged UiTM to prioritise public healthcare by temporarily opening a postgraduate cardiothoracic surgery programme to non-Bumiputera students.

MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz had said that a critical shortage of specialists in the country, especially cardiothoracic surgeons, had led to extended waiting times for critical surgeries and unnecessary deaths.