Race Doesn’t Determine A Heart Surgeon’s Skill: Pusat KOMAS

Anti-racism group Pusat KOMAS calls for a “targeted expansion” of racial equality, where specific programmes like UiTM’s cardiothoracic surgery postgrad can be opened to non-Bumi due to critical specialist shortages, while maintaining Bumi focus in others.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — An anti-racism group has joined a chorus of calls for Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) to open admissions to its cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputera as a “targeted” expansion of racial equality.

Pusat KOMAS, an advocacy group against racism and racial discrimination, suggested it was time to review the National Economic Policy (NEP) in line with human rights principles.

“Maintaining Bumiputera exclusivity in fields where there is a dire need for skilled professionals hinders national development and perpetuates inequality,” Pusat KOMAS said in a statement today.

“Perhaps a targeted expansion could be a viable solution, where specific programmes – such as the cardiothoracic training – with critical shortages while maintaining the Bumiputera focus in others. This would uphold the spirit of the NEP while addressing the pressing needs of our nation.”

Pusat KOMAS pointed out that the late Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, a key architect of the NEP, had said the “special position” for Bumiputera was meant to be a temporary “handicap” to help Malays catch up.

The civil society group also cited the proposal by Prof Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar – who is on the board of studies of the cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme by a collaboration between UiTM and the National Heart Institute (IJN) – to open admissions to the programme only “temporarily”, until a similar programme at Universiti Malaya is set up.

“Malaysia is facing a critical shortage of specialists, particularly in fields like cardiothoracic surgery. This shortage affects all Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity,” Pusat KOMAS said.

The anti-racism group cited Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (MATCVS) president Dr Basheer Ahamed Abd Kareem’s previous statement that long waitlists for heart surgery across seven Ministry of Health (MOH) cardiothoracic centres nationwide would cause the death of one patient from each centre every week.

“Let us strive to build a Malaysia that is genuinely inclusive, where all citizens have equal opportunities to contribute to our shared prosperity, regardless of their ethnicity,” said Pusat KOMAS.

“After all, a heart surgeon’s skill is not determined by their race, but by their ability to mend hearts, and patients’ needs for urgent medical intervention surely would not count on the ethnicity of the doctor coming to the rescue.”

Pusat KOMAS also told the UiTM student representative council (MPP) – which recently claimed success for its protest against opening up the public university to non-Bumiputera – that “the country’s ongoing shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons does not allow for this dialogue to end here.”

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) director Zaid Malek said in a statement last Saturday that Article 153 of the Federal Constitution does not bar opening UiTM to non-Bumiputera students.

“Article 153(2) allows the King to determine a reasonable proportion of educational privileges for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. But Article 153(1) states clearly that the legitimate interests of other communities must be safeguarded when utilising said provision,” said LFL.

“As such, there is certainly nothing within Article 153 that would make it unconstitutional to allow non-bumiputera to enrol in any of UiTM courses. The usage of the term ‘reasonable proportion’ would mean that if the YDPA (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) were to determine that it is necessary to apportion a certain quota of non-Malays to enrol into any of UiTM’s programme, then it would be entirely in compliance with Article 153 of the Constitution.”

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