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Khaled defends PTPN freeze

 | June 12, 2012

The higher education minister claims that even Unisel is against the abolishment of PTPTN, which is a key issue in Pakatan Rakyat's electoral campaign.

FULL REPORT

KUALA LUMPUR: Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin defended today the move to freeze loans to Universiti Selangor (Unisel) students despite severe criticism that the “political” decision was done at the expense of the students.

The Umno supreme council member reiterated that the plea by the university’s management for the restoration of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans showed Pakatan Rakyat’s inability to deliver its promise for free education.

“The temporary freeze on PTPTN was only for evaluation; we were going to lift it anyway. We only held back on the loan forms.

“It was to see what the state government would do to help the new students without the means of a PTPTN loan, that’s why we froze it temporarily,” he told a press conference here.

The Johor-born minister had said on Saturday that the lift on the PTPTN freeze for Unisel, which is under the purview of the Pakatan-controlled state government, was done after the university
management said the students badly needed financial help.

The management also said it was against student demonstrations, referring to the recently held protest by youths calling for the higher education loan scheme to be abolished, a key issue in the
federal opposition bloc’s electoral campaign.

Electoral backlash

However, Khaled claimed that Unisel was against the move to abolish PTPTN, saying this was expressed by the university itself.

“We received a letter from Unisel admitting that the university does not condone the abolishment of PTPTN and that the loan is very important for the students to have the opportunity to study,” he said.

Putrajaya reversed its move to freeze the loans after it drew criticism from lawmakers from both Pakatan and the ruling coalition.

But Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin defended the move and called it a “fair test”, saying the freeze would prove if the opposition could deliver on its free education pledge.

However, leaders like Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the instruction was “morally wrong” and called on Khaled to rescind the decision.

Barisan Nasional leaders also said there could be a potential voter backlash from the debacle but Khaled disagreed.

The minister said Unisel’s plea for the PTPTN loans to be restored showed the importance of the programme to students.

“We only froze the loan. They [Pakatan] want PTPTN to be abolished completely. This would only bring more problems to students who need loans,” he said.

Observers noted that should the Selangor government succeed in its plan to raise RM30 million to help students by selling land belonging to Unisel, it could deal a major political blow to the government.


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