DAP Senator: Keep UiTM Bumi-Only, Non-Bumi Can Take Parallel Pathway

DAP’s Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran disagrees with UiTM’s offer to open up the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgrad program to non-Bumis to resolve parallel pathway non-recognition, saying UiTM must remain Bumi-only but non-Bumi can take parallel pathway.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Senator Dr RA Lingeshwaran from the DAP has disagreed with Universiti Teknologi MARA’s (UiTM) own offer to admit non-Bumiputera students into its cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme.

Dr Lingeshwaran, aged 37, maintained that the Bumiputera-only public university should continue to serve Bumiputera students exclusively, while non-Bumiputera or non-Malay students can take the parallel pathway for medical specialty training.

Opening up admissions to the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme by a collaboration between UiTM and the National Heart Institute (IJN) – the country’s first and only such local programme – to non-Bumiputera cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway trainees and graduates was proposed by UiTM’s leadership as a solution to the parallel pathway imbroglio. 

Last December, the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) rejected applications by four pioneer graduates of the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme to register as specialists on the National Specialist Register (NSR), due to the regulator’s non-recognition of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (FRCS Ed) in Cardiothoracic Surgery qualification.

“I think UiTM is treading a dangerous slope as it’s going against the Constitution of UiTM and removing the safeguard of Bumiputera brothers and sisters,” Dr Lingeshwaran, a lawmaker from the multiracial DAP, told CodeBlue in an interview here last Friday.

“So I don’t think it’s needed for us to open UiTM for the non-Bumiputeras when the existing parallel pathway is there for them. 

“I think we need to work hand to hand so that the parallel pathway and local Master’s can both work together and we do the best for the people of Malaysia as a whole.”

Dr Lingeshwaran also praised the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme, describing it as “our national pride”. 

At the same time, the Pakatan Harapan senator congratulated the Malaysian Association for Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery (MATCVS) for bringing the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme to Malaysia, “so that both can work together to do the best for the rakyat”.

UiTM is not governed by a university constitution, but by an Act of law. Section 1A of the Universiti Teknologi MARA Act 1976 stipulates that UiTM is established pursuant to and in accordance with Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution states that it is the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the legitimate interests of other communities.

Aside from the reference to Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, the UiTM Act does not explicitly state that university admissions shall be exclusively Bumiputera. In fact, UiTM has existing postgraduate programmes for international student intakes.

Prof Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar from UiTM’s Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery told CodeBlue in a recent interview there are alternative pathways for non-Bumiputera students to join the UiTM-IJN cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme – such as through the routes followed by international students or the university’s private wing – that would not require amending Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. 

The solution of opening up UiTM admissions to 30 plus cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway trainees and graduates would be “temporary” in nature, pending the opening of a similar cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme at Universiti Malaya (UM) where non-Bumiputera students can later be diverted to, the senior consultant cardiothoracic surgeon had said.

Dr Raja Amin had also told UiTM to “keep our door open”, pending Universiti Malaya’s programme that UiTM is working on with. The aim of both universities is to form a Conjoined Board and to run the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme as a single one offered by both institutions and IJN.

Dr Lingeshwaran told CodeBlue that he believes UM will start its cardiothoracic surgery Master’s programme in just a couple of months in June or July, although the university has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.

CodeBlue reported yesterday that contrary to claims that the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway programme with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) is recognised by the United Kingdom General Medical Council (GMC), the regulator’s website states that Portfolio Pathway applications to register as a specialist or general practitioner in the UK are for doctors who “haven’t completed a GMC approved programme of training”.

According to the UK GMC’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Specialty Specific Guidance (SSG) for applications under the Portfolio Pathway – which has been touted by the RCSEd to Malaysia’s health minister for parallel pathway graduates wanting to register as cardiothoracic surgeons in the UK – it is only the Joint Committee on Intercollegiate Examinations (JCIE) specialty examination, FRCS (CTh), that demonstrates knowledge appropriate for specialist practice in the UK.

In fact, the SSG document does not mention the RCSEd Joint Specialty Fellowship (JSF) Examination in Cardiothoracic Surgery at all. Instead, the UK GMC lists “other examinations including overseas qualifications, and versions of the FRCS issued by individual colleges that are not the JCIE exam” as examples of part of a portfolio to demonstrate knowledge, “although it is unlikely that any one item would do this”.

On this point, the UK GMC’s SSG states: “A certificate of success alone will not show that you currently have the appropriate level of knowledge. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis”.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad recently announced plans to table amendments to the Medical Act 1971 in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting that begins late June to enable recognition of the parallel pathway, but he has yet to explain what exactly the proposed amendments are.

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