KUALA LUMPUR: The federal government yesterday defended the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN)'s actions to freeze loans to new students at the Selangor--owned Universiti Selangor (Unisel) as an attempt to prompt the Opposition--led state government to provide free education as promised in their election manifesto.
Selangor Barisan Nasional deputy chairman Datuk Seri Noh Omar,who is agriculture and agro--based industries minister,said the loans would be reinstated if the state government admitted it was incapable of providing free education.
"Ask them to openly declare they are unable to provide free education to students in their state--owned university.
Then there shouldn't be a problem (in reinstating loans),"he said after attending the launch of a new vocational training project called Puncak at SMK Taman Melawati near Gombak with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
"In fact,this is an opportunity for the state government to prove they are capable of providing free education. If they want to do it at a federal level,they should be able to do it at a state level,since they manage the state,"he said.
Noh Omar said it was the state government which should be answerable on the issue.
At the same press conference,Muhyiddin said it was "fair"for PTPTN and the Higher Education Ministry to test Pakatan Rakyat's ability to provide free education.
"It's not our problem,it's their (opposition) problem.
They have made a statement (to abolish PTPTN and provide free education). They should be more responsible before making statements. Study first,"he said.
He said loans had not been halted permanently and said the Higher Education Ministry was 'studying the matter.'
He,however,said the federal bodies were 'not angry' with students,when asked if the move to freeze loans to Unisel applicants was being vindictive to students.
However,he refused to elaborate further on the matter,stressing it was being studied.
Noh Omar and Muhyiddin's stance was consistent with Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin's statement earlier that the move was indeed a prompt for the state government to prove it could provide free education.
In a statement on Wednesday,PTPTN said that giving loans to Unisel students would be a "financial risk"after Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was quoted as urging students not to repay PTPTN loans during a recent ceramah.
It also said it 'believed' that the Selangor state government was set to implement free education for its stateowned universities.