Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin academics claim vice-chancellor’s suspension unlawful, hopes for new government’s intervention

Academics from Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) will be looking to the new government to help resolve the suspension of its vice-chancellor, Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Basri Awang Mat Dahan.

Efforts to get the attention of then higher education minister Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad, and even former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin proved futile after they both quit their posts recently.

Noraini, an Umno MP, resigned on Aug 6 after her party withdrew its support for Muhyiddin and his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Muhyiddin stepped down on Aug 16, effectively ending PN’s short-lived reign of Putrajaya.

The issue of Hassan’s suspension first surfaced last month, after academics at the Terengganu-based university received a letter stating that Hassan had been slapped with a suspension order. The letter, dated July 15, was signed by UniSZA board chairman, Tan Sri Dr Abdullah Md Zin.

“A meeting by the UniSZA board of directors on July 7 agreed that Hassan should be suspended from performing his duties as vice-chancellor, effective July 12, until the (university’s) disciplinary committee meets,” Abdullah said.

The letter, however, did not specify the reasons for Hassan’s suspension.

Sources familiar with the matter told Twentytwo13 that the suspension was believed to be due to a series of recent posters on “alleged wrongdoings”. The posters were shared among academics on instant messaging applications and on social media.

It is understood Hassan had “defied” his suspension order and continued working for a week.

“However, he stopped entering the office after he was issued with a second suspension letter,” said a source familiar with the matter.

UniSZA Academic Staff Association (PSA) president Berhanuddin Abdullah, in a July 18 open letter to Abdullah, said that any action taken against Hassan should be made in line with the relevant regulations. They included the Universities and University Colleges Act, and UniSZA’s constitution.

“This will ensure justice, and maintain harmony in the university,” said Berhanuddin.

Berhanuddin cited Section 12 of UniSZA’s constitution, adding matters concerning suspensions and terminations fell under the purview of the Higher Education Ministry.

Several other academic staff at the university, who did not wish to be named, believed the suspension would disrupt the administration and management of the university.

UniSZA’s registrar, Ismail Musa, declined to comment on the matter, adding that it should be referred to the ministry.

Repeated efforts to contact Noraini while she was still in office proved futile.

Following Noraini’s resignation, PSA and two other organisations – UniSZA Management and Professional Officers Association, and Kesatuan Kumpulan Pelaksana Universiti – had also attempted to reach out to Muhyiddin.

The group had prepared and sent a letter dated Aug 12, hoping the then prime minister would step in and find a solution to ensure the deputy vice-chancellor could carry out the vice-chancellor’s duties so as not to further disrupt the university’s daily operations.

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