Maszlee, deputy grilled over termination of university heads

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching. (Youtube screengrab)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government was today questioned on a meeting between Education Minister Maszlee Malik and several heads of public universities, purportedly to get their pledge of loyalty to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

In the Dewan Rakyat, former higher education minister Idris Jusoh (BN-Besut) asked whether Maszlee had given them an ultimatum to hand in their resignations if they failed to pledge support for the government.

Maszlee’s deputy Teo Nie Ching said she was not part of any such meeting, and instead raised the issue of political appointees in public universities under the previous government.

Idris later asked why Maszlee was not present to answer his question, to which Teo said: “The education minister has some prior arrangements and that is why he had to leave early.”

The heads of five public universities had their services terminated by the education ministry as part of the PH government’s bid to remove political appointees of the previous administration.

They were Zaki Azmi from Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Sufri Mohd Zin from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn, Kamaruddin Hussin from Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Noorul Ainur Mohd Noor from Universiti Sains Malaysia and Anuwar Ali from Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Maszlee had said the move was to ensure that the reforms process of these institutions was not disrupted.

Idris also asked if their termination was against the pledge to give autonomy and protect intellectual freedom in universities.

Teo said their removal was due to them being political appointees.

“We need to remove these political appointees if we want to return autonomy to these public universities, where the previous administration did not do it.

“We will not be replacing these political appointees with new ones,” she said.