USM’s change of dates a further insult to Hindus

P RamasamyBy P Ramasamy

I stand by my earlier statement that USM cares little about the religious sensitivities of Hindus. The slight change to the convocation dates to “accommodate” Deepavali is a further insult to Hindus on the campus.

The so-called intervention of the Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan has made the situation worse. Rather than bring about a major alteration, he has merely allowed for the convocation dates to be pushed back by one day.

In the earlier USM’s webpage announcement, the convocation dates were from October 25 to 28 without any break for Deepavali that fell on October 29. When Hindu students in campus raised a hue and cry about these dates, as this would interfere with their religious obligations, the USM Registrar, Abdul Aziz Tajuddin, said the dates were tentative and could be altered.

Following this, Kamalanathan, being true to his “compromising nature”, declared that having spoken with the Minister of Higher Education Idris Jusoh and USM’s Vice-Chancellor Omar Osman the convocation dates had been changed to accommodate Deepavali. The convocation has now been pushed back one day, to start on October 24 and end on Oct 27.

For this miniscule change, a one-day push back, Kamalanathan profusely thanked Idris Jusoh, Omar Osman and the university’s Chancellor Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail.

Going by what Kamalanathan has said in his Facebook, there is only a slight change: The dates for the convocation are now set from October 24 to 27, with a day’s break before Deepavali falls on October 29.

Following this slight change, which I think is effectively no change at all, Kamalanathan said the “issue is considered solved amicably”.

This one-day change is hardly what the Hindu students were looking for. It represents a classic case of those in power taking Hindus in the country for granted. When you have leaders such as Kamalanathan, who are ever willing to compromise and please those in power, the community’s expectations are doomed.

What a betrayal from a leader who is a member of the MIC and deputy minister of education. What a betrayal from a person who could have used his position to significantly alter the dates so that Hindu students could have had a longer time with their families during an important religious festival.

USM Registrar Abdul Aziz had said that the dates mentioned in USM’s website were for internal use and that they were subject to alteration. What a joke? Once a piece of information is posted on the university’s webpage, it is not a matter for internal consideration only but becomes public.

It is pretty clear now that the dates were fixed officially by the administration for USM’s convocation. By doing so the administration betrayed the trust and well-being of the Hindus in the university. The administration did not care about the fact that Hindus would be celebrating their national religious festival on October 29.

Is the Ministry of Higher Education willing to take disciplinary action against Abdul Aziz for not telling the truth? Is USM prepared to act against those involved in preparing the university’s calendar of events for “missing” out on the Deepavali date? Is the Vice-Chancellor prepared to quit for humiliating the Hindu students?

P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.

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