KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Last week’s “wear black” campaign in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) was an expression of the Bumiputera students’ identity, according to vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Shahrin Sahid.

He added that the campaign did not qualify as a “protest” because there was no decision made to open up UiTM to non-Bumiputera in the first place, news portal Malaysiakini reported today.

“For me, this is not a protest, because if we want to protest, it has to be against a decision. Actually, no decision has been made.

“The Student Representative Council itself says this is not a protest and I think this is an expression of students showing their identity as UiTM students.

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“They feel, in terms of Act 173, 1976, or the UiTM Act, it is indeed item 1(A) which states UiTM was established based on Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which is hotly debated,” he was quoted as saying after signing a memorandum of understanding between UiTM and Ohio University here yesterday.

The UiTM student council called on the student body to wear black on May 16 to show their disagreement towards the idea of opening UiTM to the non-Bumiputera after there were calls to open the university’s cardiology parallel pathway programme to non-Bumiputera.

UiTM is the only institution in Malaysia that offers a parallel pathway program in cardiothoracic surgery in collaboration with the National Heart Institute.

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“The objective of the establishment of UiTM is to ensure that students who are less able among Bumiputera gain access to higher education.

“We unanimously support that UiTM remains with the original objective of its establishment, which is to protect and advance Bumiputera students as a defence bulwark of the nation’s privileges and progress,” the student council was reported saying.

The student council also urged students to post photos with the placard saying “#MahasiswaUiTMBantah” on social media in support of the campaign.

The vice-chancellor also said that if the Bumiputera’s problems can be handled, only then the country’s problems will be solved.

He said the establishment of UiTM was to increase the share of Bumiputera equity in the national economic sector.

However, UiTM accepts applications for postgraduate studies from international students to generate income for the university, Shahrin reportedly said.

“Our approach ensures that these students contribute because we charge full fees. For me, it is easy, if the government gives full funds to UiTM, there is no need for us to take them in,” Shahrin said and added that UiTM has 1,600 international students.

This was to ensure that public universities are not reliant on public funds in line with the national higher education strategic development plan.

Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek in a press statement on May 18 said that there is nothing within Article 153 of the Federal Constitution that would make it unconstitutional to allow non-Bumiputera to enrol in any of UiTM courses and various quarters have been twisting this provision since the early 70s.

Last Saturday, Umno Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh said in a video shared on social media that no party can insist that UiTM be opened to non-Bumiputera and asserted that UiTM will always belong to the Bumiputera.