Tuesday 20 March 2012

Bersih: Terengganu student loans withdrawal an abuse of power

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Bersih said today blasted Yayasan Terengganu’s decision to withdraw loans to six students who participated in last year’s Bersih 2.0 rally as abuse of power.

On Sunday, Sinar Harian reported Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said as citing the students’ participation in the July 9, 2011 rally and a protest against the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) as the reasons for the decision.

Bersih steering committee member Wong Chin Huat today called “the withdrawal based on their political participation ... a blatant abuse of public institutions by the ruling party.”

He also said the student loans were given on academic grounds and should only be revoked on the same basis.

He added that “public institutions should serve the interest of the public and not any political party.”
Wong also pointed out that one of Bersih 2.0’s eight demands is to strengthen public institutions.

The Terengganu mentri besar has said the six students now studying in Egypt may still appeal against the withdrawal.

The Terengganu government’s decision was made despite promises from the Najib administration to relax its grip on civil liberties after its clampdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally last year drew international condemnation.

Among others, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak mooted the Peaceful Assembly Act, which was passed in Parliament last year, as well as plans to amend Section 15 of the controversial UUCA to allow students to become active members of political parties.
The Bersih rally also saw Najib forming the parliamentary select committee for electoral reforms, tasking it to look into ways of improving the country’s highly-criticised election process. The committee concludes on April 2.
Thousands thronged the capital’s streets last July 9 to join Bersih 2.0 in its march for free and fair elections despite it earlier being outlawed by Putrajaya.
The protest, which Bersih leaders and opposition parties had promised would be peaceful, turned chaotic when riot police moved in to disperse the crowd using tear gas canisters and chemical-laced water, resulting in hundreds of arrests and the death of an ex-soldier.

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