Scholarships for Palestinians show govt has money after all, says PBS leader

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) deputy president Yee Moh Chai.

KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah opposition party said today the federal government claims that it is short of funds but the provision of scholarships to Palestinian students suggests otherwise.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) deputy president Yee Moh Chai said the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Putrajaya would be giving scholarships to Palestinians showed that the government was financially able and “obviously not short of education funds”.

“We are not arguing over the merits of using our taxpayer money for the education of foreigners but what about the education of our own Malaysians?

“If we are so concerned with the education of non-Malaysians, why, at the same time, are we so hard on our own National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) holders?” he asked.

Mahathir yesterday announced that Putrajaya would give select scholarships, through the Palestinian Cultural Organisation Malaysia (PCOM), to Palestinian students to pursue their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and also PhD courses in 12 Malaysian universities.

Yee said many of the country’s PTPTN holders were being punished for their inability to repay their loans, adding this was against Pakatan Harapan’s election promise over the repayment scheme.

“It is not acceptable that the government has cited shortage of funds as an excuse for not honouring its manifesto with regards to PTPTN holders, and yet, at the same time, it has money to give away scholarships to foreigners.

“We urge the government to be fair — charity should start at home.”

As such, he called on the government to review its decision on the loan repayment of PTPTN holders and the withdrawal of the matching grant for the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) previously.

“Likewise, it is absurd to punish TAR UC, by giving them less than half the amount of funds, compared with what has been committed to the scholarships for foreigners.

“This is very deplorable when, in fact, TAR UC has educated so many Malaysians, some of whom are now even members of the current government.”

PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan had last week indicated that one of the proposals received from the public was to reintroduce the travel ban for defaulters to make them repay their education loans.

However, he said any final decision on this will only be made by Putrajaya. In the meantime, more feedback on how to settle PTPTN loan problems was expected from the public, he added.