Pacific Media Watch

2 June 2014

FIJI: Campaign grows for reinstatement of 'politically persecuted' USP student

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There is a growing social media campaign in solidarity with Seruiraduvatu. Image: Roshika Deo FB page

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch / Radio Pasifik / Fiji Times / Wansolwara): University of the South Pacific student Tamanirarama Jone Seruiraduvatu has been told to pay back every cent of a scholarship he has received in what is claimed to be a punishment for campaigning for a political candidate.

Pacific Media Watch reported last week that Roshika Deo, a candidate for the opposition Be The Change party accused the government's Tertiary Scholarship Loan Board of political persecution after Seruiraduvatu, 21, had his university scholarship terminated this week, allegedly for “associating" himself "in political agendas”.

"This action further diminishes the credibility of having a free and fair election, if young people continue to be targeted, which is threatening our political autonomy and creating a climate of fear and intimidation," said Deo.

The Fiji Times quotes Seruiraduvatu as saying he was only exercising his right to free political association when he joined Deo's party as a volunteer.

"I don't see any violation or any wrong doing of my involvement in Roshika Deo's 'Be the Change Campaign' as I was clearly just exercising my political right. All I ask at this moment is for the re-instating of my scholarship," he said.

"I have no idea whether I will be able to sit for my finals in June since my termination letter mentioned that I had been terminated as from semester one.

"This termination has affected my studies and my concentration at the moment. However with all the support I am getting, I am trying to lift my head up high and I am just trying to take each day as it comes," Seruiraduvatu added.

According to Radio Pasifik, based at the University of the South Pacific, Seruiraduvatu has to pay back all scholarship money received in this, his second year and his first year. 

"He has not been contacted nor asked by either the scholarship board or the USP to explain his point of view," said the student radio station.

PMW is in possession of a copy of the letter from the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board. It states that students can only learn if there is an "an appropriate sense of order that allows a student to develop in an environment that is both safe and free of disruption".

'Political agendas'
The letter goes on to say: "it has come to our attention that you have been associating yourself in political agendas without taking into consideration your obligation with the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs (MTA) which is to pursue the BCommerce (Hotel Management) ... MTA has zero tolerance level of behavior that contravenes the above, both on and off campus. Therefore MTA reserves the right to terminate your scholarship if a report is received from your institutes, or from a law enforcement agency concerning a breach of regulation".

Seruiraduvatu is then told that his BComm degree has been terminated immediately.

"Your [sic] are also reminded that as per clause 5 of your bond agreement if your scholarship is terminated due to your own negligence and/or misconduct prior to the completion of your studies will result in the implementation of the Bond recovery process in which you or your guarantors have to reimburse the Government through the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board the monetary value of the amount spent on your studies."

Deo has called on her Facebook page for a social media campaign to reinstate Seruiraduvatu's scholarship.

The Tertiary Scholarship Loan Board letter

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons