It is unconstitutional & unlawful to restrict UITM only for Bumiputeras

I am here stating the law on the matter as the Constitution has been repeatedly and wrongly cited to defend the racial exclusivity of UiTM.

Zaid Malek, Lawyers for Liberty

We refer to the statement issued yesterday by the ‘Public University Vice-Chancellors and Rectors Committee’ that supported UiTM’s stand against the enrolment of non-bumiputera students, citing provisions under the UiTM Act 1976 and Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

It is disturbing that a group of academics involved in the administration of higher institutions have issued a public statement to perpetuate a regressive and false narrative, in ignorance of the constitution and the dire need of our healthcare system.

It is also appalling to see senior academics publicly supporting the continuation of single-race universities or colleges in modern Malaysia.

This debate which was sparked by the proposal to temporarily allow non-bumiputera to enrol in the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme, has opened up the larger question of whether it is lawful for UiTM to be maintained as exclusively for bumiputeras. Can single-race universities ever be tolerated in our multi-racial nation?

I am here stating the law on the matter as the Constitution has been repeatedly and wrongly cited to defend the racial exclusivity of UiTM.

From the outset, any argument that states that enrolling non-bumiputera students into UiTM is unconstitutional is demonstrably false.

There is absolutely nothing in Article 153 of the Constitution that prevents or prohibits the admission of non-bumiputera to any public institution, which would include UiTM. Article 153 prescribes that a reasonable proportion of quota for educational purposes can be assigned by the King, who is bound by the advice of the cabinet on the matter. The determination must also be made with the legitimate interests of other communities in mind.

In fact, not only is there nothing in Article 153 that bars any non-bumiputeras from entering UiTM, there is also nothing in it that allows the creation of any public learning institution to be exclusively only for bumiputeras. The racial exclusivity of UiTM is a clear violation of the determination of ‘reasonable proportion’ provided under Article 153 and is entirely unlawful. UiTM therefore falls outside the permissible ambit of Article 153.

In short, Article 153 does not permit setting up single-race universities such as UITM. Those who rely on Article 153 to support UiTM’s racial exclusivity are seriously misguided and are misreading the constitution.

As such, not allowing non-bumiputeras to enroll into UiTM is a clear breach of the fundamental right of education guaranteed under Article 12 of the Constitution that states that the right of education must be ‘free from discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth’.

It is the duty and legal obligation of the federal government to uphold the Constitution, and not act in direct contravention of it.  UiTM, as a public institution funded by taxpayers, cannot remain exclusively only for bumiputeras. The federal constitution does not permit it.

Therefore, the government must immediately take the necessary steps to ensure that UiTM’s students admission policy complies with Article 12 and 153 of the Constitution. Any form of racial exclusivity in admissions is in breach of both these Articles of the constitution.

Issued by:

Zaid Malek
Lawyers for Liberty