It is an academic disgrace that Universiti Putra Malaysia is more famous as a Mat Rempit University than as a Research University, a status it was elevated only last month together with three other universities — Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Just like last year, UPM has brought national and international shame to Malaysia academia with the Mat Rempit-antics of the campus security, acting in utter disregard of the fundamental rights of students in arrogantly and high-handedly seizing the laptop, mobile phone, MP3 player and 10 other items valued at RM6,000 from first-year UPM timber technology student Yee Yang Yang during a spot check of his hostel room on Friday night and questioning him about his involvement in student politics.
In 48 hours, there have been over 14,000 viewings of the Malaysiakini videoclip of the standoff between UPM students and the UPM campus security. The video clip has also been uploaded on YouTube in more than half-a-dozen sites in the past one day, with over 3,000 hits.
The UPM students must be commended for courageously standing up for their fundamental human rights and refusing to cow to a Mat Rempit-style of bullying by the campus security.
This is the second year that a disgraceful UPM episode has gone up on YouTube, which attracted over 200,000 hits from multiple sites on the video clip last year of unruly conduct of UPM student council leaders, condoned by UPM security, against “anti-establishment” student activists.
The latest Mat Rempit antics of the UPM authorities raises very hard questions as to how academic and research excellence can flourish in UPM when such Mat Rempit culture in the university administration is allowed to run wild without check.
Even more important, it raises the more important question whether the “Strategic Plan for Higher Education: Laying the Foundation Beyond 2020” launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the end of last month to create world-class universities has any hope of success when mediocre minds appear to have an upper hand in running Malaysian universities.
I call on the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed to condemn in no uncertain terms such Mat Rempitism in UPM and contempt for student rights and to send a clear message to the UPM authorities that they are doing a great disservice to the nation in bringing ridicule and dishonour to the Malaysian higher education system, undermining the national objective to turn Malaysia into one of the world’s education hubs.
Mustapha cannot run away from his responsibility to ensure that the upcoming student elections in the public universities are held in a free and fair manner — or the first casualty will be his National Higher Education Action Plan 2007-2010 to generate “human capital with first-class mentality” and develop “intellectual capital of the highest quality”.