By P Ramasamy
It is about time Malaysian Indians take a deeper look at AIMST (Asian Institute of Medical, Science and Technology) University: who owns it, who administers it, what is the role of the MIC or Maju Institute of Educational Development and to what extent it has deviated from its original objectives.
According to the statistics presented by AIMST vice-chancellor M. Ravichandran, the current enrollment stands at 46.54 percent Indians and 53.46 percent non-Indians. Of the total of 3,266 students, 1,520 are Indian and 1,746 are non-Indian.
With any other private university, such an intake can be lauded for the “large” enrollment of Indian students. But AIMST is different: It was started with millions of ringgit collected from the Indian public. MIC branch leaders were pressured to collect funds and those who failed to reach their quota saw their branches being de-registered. Funds also flowed from other Indian organizations.
As former MIC president S. Samy Vellu has repeatedly said in the past, the establishment of AIMST was to ensure that Indian students from poor backgrounds were given the opportunity to pursue their tertiary education especially in fields such as medicine, dentistry, engineering and computer science.
AIMST was an initiative of the MIC to address the serious tertiary gaps in public and private universities. Since the party leadership did not have the muscle to improve Indian intake in public universities, it sought to establish its own universities or colleges to address this lacuna.
AIMST was set up with a piece of land obtained from the Kedah state government with an avowed aim of addressing the pressing tertiary needs of the Indian community. In this respect, it was different from other universities. While AIMST had to be self-sufficient, it could not prioritise profit to the extent it might neglect the intake of Indian students.
Despite the initial sluggishness, AIMST was finally set up like any other private university. Indians in the country who had contributed millions were given the impression the entire set up was by MIC and it would not deviate from its objectives of addressing the educational and professional needs of the Indian community.
But what happened? Somewhere in October 2015, Samy Vellu dropped a bombshell saying that AIMST had nothing to do with MIC or its educational arm, MIED (Maju Institute of Educational Development) and that it had been formed by NGOs merely interested in private university education.
This was a shock beyond belief that rocked the Indian community from its slumber. Finally it dawned upon them that the MIC leadership had taken them for a long, long ride. The present MIC leadership has been tight lipped on the matter of AIMST. Not a word has been spoken as to why the university passed hands from MIED or the MIC to some private NGOs.
Given the change in ownership, the interest and concerns of the Indian community have been pushed to the background. It is no wonder that the intake of Indian students have gradually decreased to the point in a recent intake into dentistry, only three Indian students were given places compared to 75 non-Indian students.
All the boasts of AIMST being the pride of Malaysian Indians have been relegated to the background.
The vice-chancellor of the AIMST is an Indian from India. Surely, there are Malaysian Indians who could easily qualify for this top post. I have been informed there are other administrators and lecturers who might not be Malaysians. This is something that needs to be investigated.
UTAR (Tunku Abdul Rahman University) set up by the MCA with the funds raised from the Chinese community is a fine example of how the MCA takes care of the interests of the Chinese community. Every year, more than 70 percent of the intake of students is Chinese.
MARA (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) universities and colleges established with public taxpayers money are completely dominated by bumiputera students, but the money is not from Malays alone, but also from Chinese and Indian taxpayers.
It is not that AIMST should be completely dominated by Indian students; there must be a sufficient number of non-Indian students. But the reverse is true now. Indian students are denied entry simply on the ground that they are unable to pay the fees. But then who paid for the construction of the university? Can MIC that initiated AIMST give back the money that was collected from the Indian community?
The following are some of the questions or concerns that need to be addressed to those involved in setting up the supposedly Indian AIMST.
First, who are the owners of AIMST or the company that owns the university, and who are the shareholders of this company?
Second, what is the role of the MIC or MIED? Do these have any say in how AIMST is administered?
Third, apart from the academic and affordability criteria, is there a policy to ensure the majority of students will be Indians?
Fourth, why are local Malaysian Indians not appointed to administrative and teaching positions in the university?
Fifth, is a foreigner holding the highest position of vice-chancellor? Aren’t there locals to fill the positions?
Sixth, can the MIC explain to the Malaysian Indian public how much funds were collected from the Indian public for the setting up of AIMST?
Seventh, now if the needs and concerns of the Indian community cannot be addressed by the MIC, MIED or the present owners of AIMST, I suggest that the ownership and management of the university be sold to parties who are ready to take over the educational outfit.
Eight, the present MIC leadership cannot hide behind the statements of the Vice-Chancellor, What is the stand of the MIC president, S. Subramaniam, who “inherited his throne” from Samy Vellu.
I hope that MIC or MIED or those who own and administer AIMIST address the questions that I have posed above. Sorry to state, the Indian community can be fooled sometimes, but not all the time.
P Ramasamy is deputy national chairman of the DAP
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