By Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
Malaysians should understand that change comes very slowly, especially in regard to political and cultural references.
Although May 10 delivered a seemingly impossible result, it does not give us the licence to start changing everything that we deem as wrong and unjustified in the country.
I believe vernacular schools and religious schools should remain until such time that national schools are so good that parents make their preferred choice.
With respect to UiTM, such slow and sure approaches of organic change should also be the order of the day. Just because we changed the country by throwing out race- and religious-based parties, doesn’t mean it is going to be all hunky dory for us for the next few decades.
Ultimately, in the case of UiTM, I believe we should uphold the views of the hardcore proponents that the institution shall stay with the Malays … but … the institution must take on a few important responsibilities and accept a few liabilities first.
UiTM can stay with the Malays, provided, first and foremost, the academicians prove that they will produce a new brand of Malays who are Malaysian first and Malays second.
As I understand from history, UiTM was set up to correct an economic imbalance of trained professionals. UiTM was not set up to produce racist and bigoted citizens.
The institution must show in its curriculum structure, in its training modules and in the attitudes of its administrators and academicians that they cannot be sociologically classified as “racist”.
What do I mean by racist? Simple. Being racist means one thinks that one’s race is “better” than any other race in all important respects.
Being racist means one feels that one “deserves” preferential treatment simply because one is accidentally born into a particular race.
Being racist means one feels that one can cheat or cause harm to those of other races without any remorse or concern.
Being racist also means that one belongs automatically to a particular religion, and that particular religion is meant more for one’s race.
If UiTM academicians and administrators can promise to deliver a Malay professional and intellectual, then we Malaysians can sleep easy knowing the country will not be filled with racists and bigots of one race.
UiTM can stay with the Malays if the funding of the institution is fair to all Malaysians. If 60% of the country are made up of Malays, then, the institution deserves only that much in the administration budget. I understand that most of the taxes in the country are paid by non-Malays but I implore Malaysians to accept this simplistic suggestion of proportions in funding.
I also understand that five decades ago, UiTM was established to create an economic balance by training Malays but I am sure after millions of graduates have come out that Malays should no longer expect the taxpayers of the entire country to carry its financial expenditure in the manner that was granted five decades ago.
UiTM can make up its remaining 40% of funding through the various endowment requests of billionaire Malays, Arab Muslims or seek the help of the Sultan of Brunei.
Through special policies, UiTM can be allowed to dabble in business ventures. Hopefully UiTM would have more honest Malay administrators and academicians than their Umno counterpart, who allegedly robbed the country and deprived his own kind of the share of the nation’s prosperity.
UiTM should remain with the Malays if the institution is required by the PH government to have 30% of its academicians and administrative staff made up of those from different races.
I ask Malaysians to accept a Malay rector but others in top leadership must be racially mixed. I ask Malaysians to accept that the Board of Directors and Senate be 70% Malay.
Finally, I wish to make a clear statement that I have and will never accept a race-based university. To me, a university is a sacred institution to produce critical thinking and socially balanced citizenry. A race-based university is entirely anti-thesis to this globally accepted principle.
However, I understand that there are historical, political and cultural contexts in all situations and the issue must be dealt with using great patience and vision.
As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, and so rebuilding our country must take time. Needless to say, changes in attitudes about cultural and political relationships are the most difficult to manage.
We waited 60 years for change. We should soldier on for a few more and wait for our Malay brethren to accept the reality of life against their historical-cultural veils of truth.
Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is from UCSI University.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.