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KUALA LUMPUR: Students who want the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) to be abolished should return their loans or refrain from taking them, rather than demonstrate against the fund, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said those who had suggested to the government to do away with PTPTN should look into ways of supporting these students financially.
Dr Mahathir said abolishing PTPTN would have an impact not only on the cost of education but also in distributing benefits.
“If you abolish it, you have to replace it with something else, which could be more costly, for example, giving free education to everyone. In this case, even the rich will enjoy it,” he said near here yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said PTPTN’s goal was to help the poor get better university education, adding that it was the responsibility of the government to help the poor.
“The idea of having PTPTN is to help people who are unable to pay for a good education, but if the fees are free, the rich will also receive the same benefit, and this is not fair to the poor.
“Why should we help the rich? We should help the poor. PTPTN is for the poor.”
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the ministry would not stand in the way of police taking “appropriate action” against students demonstrating against PTPTN at Dataran Merdeka here last Saturday.
He said following amendment to the Universities and University Colleges Act, it meant that his ministry would not be held responsible for students caught by authorities during off-campus activities.
Khaled took to task the management of Universiti Selangor (Unisel), owned by the Selangor government, asking it to declare whether it wanted PTPTN abolished.
“Does Unisel want its students to receive PTPTN or is it supporting the Selangor government in calling for its abolishment?
“If it does not want PTPTN, then why advertise in newspapers that Unisel applicants can receive PTPTN loans?”
Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcement officers yesterday tore down tents set up by about 25 students demonstrating against PTPTN at Dataran Merdeka.
In the 9.45am incident, officers asked the students to leave, but they refused, and insisted on leaving the last tent as a symbol of their protest.