The termination of scholarship of a student of the University of South Pacific and subsequent reinstatement has irked some politicians who demanded an inquiry preceded by a detailed explanation of the surrounding circumstances.
The controversy arose on May 21 when the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board (TSLB) withdrew the scholarship granted to Tamanirarama Jone, a second-year Bachelor of Commerce student alleging that he was involved in ‘political activity.’
According to information that we could gather, the Board had cancelled the scholarship because “Tamanirarama was associating himself in political agendas without taking into consideration his obligations to the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs.”
In a letter addressed to the student, Board Chairman Dixon Seeto had reportedly demanded that the student reimburse the monies paid to him thus far as scholarship.
Many believed that the letter was ambiguous and did not specify what the obligations were and that termination of scholarship was an extreme step.
National Federation Party (NDF) Leader Dr Biman Prasad described the decision of the Board as ‘reprehensible’ saying that it was a gross violation of the student’s rights under the 2013 Constitution.
“TSLB’s decision is also blatantly discriminatory. The student is clearly performing above average in his studies and therefore there is no justification whatsoever for this action. This is disgusting and abhorrent. Tamanirarama, like any other citizen of Fiji, has the constitutional right to participate in political activities. Section 23 gives the right to every citizen to form or join a political party, participate in the activities of, or recruit members for a party, and campaign for a political party, candidate or cause,” he said.
Dr Prasad had also requested the Government to intervene in the matter.
The Board rescinded its order on June 9, reinstating the scholarship of Tamanirarama.
Fiji newspapers quoted Mr Seeto as saying that the Board had acted on ‘incorrect information,’ and that he had earlier said, “The student could go to the media and people can do whatever they wanted because it is a free country.”
However, the NDP was not satisfied.
General Secretary Kamal Iyer, in a press release sent to Indian Newslink said, “It is quite obvious that the relentless public outcry following this punitive and vindictive act led to the reinstatement of Tamanirarama’s scholarship; and not a review of the information provided by the University as claimed by Mr Seeto. He needs to explain why the TSLB did not investigate thoroughly the information provided by the University in the first place but proceeded to terminate the scholarship.”