Calls to reinstate Fiji student's scholarship
Calls for a University of the South Pacific student's scholarship, which was taken away because of his association with politics, to be immediately reinstated.
There are calls for a University of the South Pacific student's scholarship, which was taken away because of his association with politics, to be immediately reinstated.
The Fiji Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board says the student was associating himself in political agendas without taking into consideration his obligation to the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs.
The termination letter, sent to the student, does not outline what these obligations are, but says his actions amount to misconduct and orders him to pay back all scholarship money received so far.
Mary Baines reports.
The second-year Bachelor of Commerce student, Tamani Seruiraduvatu, says he collected signatures for aspiring independent candidate Roshika Deo for just one day, outside of university hours.
He says he has not been given an opportunity by the board, the USP or the ministry to explain his point of view.
TAMANI SERUIRADUVATU: There was nothing on my agreement that said I could not relate myself to any political party or anything else. If I had known from the first place, I would never have been part of the Be The Change campaign.
Mr Seruiraduvatu says because he is from a single-parent family and relies heavily on the scholarship, he will have to leave university. He says other students have now been deterred from participating in political movements.
TAMANI SERUIRADUVATU: For those who are on scholarships from the government, they are now being intimidated, fear has caused them not to affiliate themselves in political parties or they might lose their scholarship. I have friends that are now so worried about their scholarship because of what happened to me.
Mr Seruiraduvatu says he intends to keep working for Roshika Deo. Ms Deo says the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Board has taken away Mr Seruiraduvatu's right to education and his right to exercise political freedom. She says youths have a right to make political choices as guaranteed under Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama's constitution.
ROSHIKA DEO: It's a persecution to prevent us from actively participating in the democratisation process that's happening in our country. Decisions like this further diminish the credibility of the election process, of us having a free and fair election.
Ms Deo says she has filed a complaint to the Electoral Commission but has not received a formal response.
ROSHIKA DEO: It's utterly ridiculous what has happened, and the fact the TSLB has not reinstated his scholarship. They're not exercising objectivity and independence, and they're being used by the current administration.
The leader of the People's Democratic Party in Fiji is challenging the board to reconsider its position. Felix Anthony says the decision instills fear in young people and is a threat to democracy.
FELIX ANTHONY: What we are concerned about is that this Government has attempted to try and disqualify groups of people to not take part in the political activity of the country and in this case the targets are students who are beneficiaries of government scholarships.
The chairman of the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Board, Dixon Seeto, refused to comment to Radio New Zealand International. The University of the South Pacific, nor the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs, could be reached for comment.
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