Pacific Media Watch

10 June 2014

FIJI: 'Politically persecuted' USP student wins back scholarship

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Tamanirarama Jone Seruiraduvatu with Roshika Deo, a candidate for the opposition Be The Change party, after Seruiraduvatu's scholarship was reinstated. Image: Jovesa Naisua, Fiji Times

SUVA (Fiji Times / Pacific Media Watch): A University of the South Pacific student whose government scholarship was abruptly terminated two weeks ago after he helped an opposition candidate campaign has had his scholarship reinstated.

The Fiji Times reported that Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board (TSLB) chairman Dixon Seeto confirmed this yesterday, saying the TSLB had been given "incorrect information" by USP which had led to it erroneously terminating the scholarship of second year student Tamanirarama Jone Seruiraduvatu, 21.

Following the termination, Seruiraduvatu became the centre of a social media campaign and international publicity after the TSLB terminated his scholarship for “ political agendas”.

The TSLB had sent Seruiraduvatu a letter telling him that the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs which had provided the scholarship had "zero tolerance" for any "behavior" that undermined the development of "an appropriate sense of order that allows a student to develop in an environment that is both safe and free of disruption" - and that they had therefore decided to terminate the scholarship.

The TSLB had also told Seruiraduvatu that he would have to pay back all the funds awarded to him for his first year.

But yesterday the TSLB backtracked, saying "after its investigation, TSLB found that the information provided by the education institution was incorrect. As such, TSLB has decided to reinstate the scholarship of the student".

He said the TSLB "in no way restricted the activities of scholarship holders outside of their study programme".

Roshika Deo, who leads the 'Be The Change' party that Seruiraduvatu had been campaigning for, thanked the media and said she was happy that justice had prevailed.

In a statement published by 'Be The Change', Seruiraduvatu said:

"I thank everyone who has come forward to support me, both emotionally and financially, when I found out that my scholarship was terminated unfairly. My family and Be The Change is the reason I have been able to continue studying and live my life as before. After I spoke in the media more people pledged financial support. As distraught as I was then, I could not help feeling so privileged to be part of a movement that supports its members in both good and bad times. We have to be the change. I am so happy I have my scholarship back now and I can also continue contributing to my country and its democracy. I have all my constitutional rights back, education and political participation. I wish to thank Mr Dixon Seeto for protecting my rights and giving me justice."

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