Anti-PTPTN students are accused of behaving like drama queens.
“Being anti-government is okay, but being a dumb anti-government movement is another thing,” BN Youth’s Zaidel Baharuddin said.
A handful of students have been camping at the iconic site since Saturday, when about 300 from various local universities marched into Kuala Lumpur demanding free education and the scrapping of the PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) student loan scheme.
“ The Occupy Wall Street movement claims to represent 99%, but these students are merely the 1% pretending to represent the 99%,” said Zaidel, vice-president of BN Youth’s public speaking unit.
Zaidel had previously invited the students, who belong to a group calling itself Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), to debate with him on the issue.
However, SMM turned him down, demanding instead a debate with BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin. They also demanded that the debate be held at Dataran Merdeka.
“We are interested in hearing their views and grouses,” Zaidel said. “But they got cold feet
and demand for only Khairy. But he is already supposed to debate (PKR strategic director) Rafizi Ramli. It’s going to be redundant,” Zaidel said.
“Don’t be afraid. Just come and debate. You don’t have to be publicity whoring and continue to be extreme drama queens. Don’t continue to be hipsters on a semester break. Go back to school and study.”
Zaidel also criticised the students for demanding to see the Prime Minister, saying even taxpayers funding the PTPTN could not get such a privilege.
Zaidel’s criticisms were echoed by Mohammad Agus Yusoff, a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
“They’ve already made their point and both Pakatan Rakyat and BN have heard their grievances,” Mohammad Agus said. “So leave it to the politicians to debate. If they wanted to attract the attention of the government, they have already achieved that. It’s enough for now.
“Exams are around the corner. Might as well they go back to the lecture halls and do their assignments.”
He said the students were wasting their time because government policies could not be changed in a day.
‘Bad for the economy’
Mohammad Agus said he was of the view that abolishing the PTPTN was unwise and would not be good for the economy.
However, he added, he would agree to lowering the interest rate for the PTPTN loan or to a complete scrapping of the interest.
The students did get the backing of at least one prominent scholar. Constitutional law expert Prof Abdul Aziz Bari said they had a right to express their views.
“This PTPTN issue has reached a level where we need to sit down and talk, given that it is not easy to get a job today, and the economy is generally quite gloomy,” said the former International Islamic University lecturer.
Abdul Aziz said that it was incumbent on the government to “come down and talk to them rather than being defensive and evasive. It is time to prove to us that they can deliver”.
“The concern is legitimate and the demand is within the bounds of reason.”
The students have said they would remain camping until Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak or his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin met them at Dataran. The pro-student groups have also sought the intervention of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
There have been several scuffles between the students and City Hall officers, who have ordered them to leave.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told FMT this week that he backed the student’s right to rally for an issue “close to their hearts”. However, Sinar Harian has quoted him as saying that they should stand down now that the government had heard their views.
SMM president Muhammad Safwan Anang told FMT that Saifuddin’s statement asking them to pack up was “irresponsible”.
“We want a committed answer, not just saying that you’ve heard us,” he said.