Terengganu: merger of UMT and UniSZA, drawbridge and bully case made headlines in 2019

Last update: 24/12/2019

By Zalina Maizan Ngah

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 24 -- Starting with whispers on the grapevine, the merger  between Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) erupted to be a hot topic  in Terengganu throughout 2019.

Since the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that the government,  at a Cabinet meeting on Sept 4, had agreed in principle with the proposed merger, various positive and negative comments were raised.

From politicians in the Parliament to the local community coffee shop chat, the proposed merger became a favourite topic, prompting some students to send a memorandum to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, appealing him to reconsider the decision.

To date, the merger process is underway with various sessions held with stakeholders and students to explain that it aims to boost national education as envisaged by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

Following the sessions, many are now looking forward to the results of the merger, especially as it is the first merger between universities in the country.

This year, Terengganu made history when its very own 638-meter drawbridge began operation last June, becoming the first drawbridge in Southeast Asia.

The RM248 million drawbridge, which uses the advanced bascule hydraulic technology system, is the fourth bridge connecting Kuala Terengganu and Kuala Nerus along with three other bridges, Jambatan Sultan Mahmud, Jambatan Pulau Rusa dan Jambatan Pulau Sekati..

It is the latest landmark to attract local and foreign tourists, thanks to the grandeur of its design with its 16-storey twin towers.

Meanwhile, on the flipside, the spread of a disease said to have originated from the Batek tribe in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, Kelantan, which saw the death of 15 people, affected the Orang Asli community in the state adversely.

In June, those from the Semaq Beri tribe chose to leave their settlement in Sungai Berua, Kuala Berang for fear of getting infected after their relatives from Kuala Koh came to visit them.

Even more alarming, some of the indigenous people of the Semaq Beri tribe developed similar symptoms of chronic fever which saw some of them being warded in hospitals.

Over 160 of them decided to move out of the settlement, leaving the area virtually vacant. Children skipped school for more than a month, with only about 10 students appearing in their classes on good days.

The situation eventually returned to normal with the determination of various parties who convinced the community that the situation had improved.

Also making headlines was justice for a bullying victim, when the Kuala Terengganu High Court ordered nine parties, including five former students of Sultan Mahmud Secondary School (SESMA), to pay RM616,634.20 to the victim.

As a result of being beaten, kicked and slapped by senior students, the victim who was 14 when the incident occurred on April 26,2015, lost his hearing because his right eardrum ruptured - rendering him unable to carry out water-based activities for life. This is in addition to several other injuries he sustained.