KUALA LUMPUR: The move to freeze the National Higher Education Corporation Fund (PTPTN) loans to students of the Selangor government's Universiti Selangor (Unisel) is to test if Pakatan Rakyat is capable of providing free education as strongly advocated by its leaders.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the temporary move was fair and justified.
"The freeze is only temporary, it is not a cancellation. There is no hidden agenda behind it.
"It is purely to evaluate whether the Selangor government, which owns the university, can do away with PTPTN and provide free education to its students," Muhyiddin said after launching a programme in Taman Melawati, Gombak, here yesterday.
The programme, jointly organised by the Malaysian Leadership and Strategy Foundation (YKSM) and Permuafakatan Badan Ilmiah Nasional (Pembina) offers skills training for youths who did not do well in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations.
Muhyiddin was reacting to a statement by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin that the PTPTN loans for Unisel students would be temporarily frozen.
On why the students or the university's management were not informed of the move, he said: "It is up to PTPTN to explain."
Muhyiddin said it was up to Khaled to reinstate the loans if he saw that the students needed them.
"The opposition must realise that nothing is free. They can ask for free education for political mileage but do they really have the resources to support their suggestion?
"We give out free books to students because we can afford it -- it is not mere promises," said Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister. Earlier, speaking at the function, Muhyiddin said Malaysia has achieved satisfactory economic development.
"Last year, our economy went up 5.1 per cent and in the first quarter of this year, there was an increase of 4.7 per cent. For us to have achieved this amid global economic slowdown is something we should be proud of."
Meanwhile, in Serendah, Muhyiddin refuted claims that the Education Ministry planned to close down vernacular schools, saying that the government did not discriminate in matters of education.
"We have no plans to close down any school, nor do we have the power to do so under the law."