DAP lawmaker Teresa Kok has slammed Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Wee Ka Siong for "playing with words" over the apparent suspension of Public Service Department (JPA) degree scholarships and Education Ministry (KPM) bursary for pre-university programmes.
This was after Wee denied confirming the suspension despite telling Sin Chew Daily he had raised the issue in the cabinet and urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to reinstate the scholarships.
"I wish to advise Wee not to play with words but to focus his efforts to help resolve the plight faced by the students.
"It is so clear from the media report that what he said was confirming the suspension without uttering the words 'I hereby confirm the suspension'.
"Otherwise the media would not have reported that the scholarships have been suspended," said Kok in a statement today.
Wee had in a Facebook posting yesterday accused Malaysiakini of misquoting what he told Sin Chew Daily.
Malaysiakini on Wednesday reported that Wee "confirmed" to Sin Chew Daily about the suspension.
Wee denied "confirming" the issue, stating that he was merely raising the issue with the prime minister based on complaints from students and parents.
Pro-government portals such as mole.my have since picked up on Wee's Facebook statement to claim that there was never any freeze on scholarships with a story titled: "Many glad JPA scholarships continue, slam portal for misreporting".
However, Kok said if there was no freeze on scholarships, Wee would have denied the claim outright instead of bringing the issue to the cabinet and asking for the scholarships to be reinstated.
"If there was no suspension, there is no doubt at all that Wee would have officially announced so.
"Perhaps Wee is under some pressure for having said too much to the media about the suspension, but he should not run into panic and start to play with words," she added.
Kok said the fact remains that several hundreds of students have been affected by the suspension.
A check with JPA's website found the "bursary e-filing system" link which is used by students to apply for the scholarships, has been removed.
In Wee's Facebook denial last night, he slammed Malaysiakini for failing to perform "simple fact check" with him.
"I had not announced the suspension nor did I confirm it.
"I cannot be held responsible if my comments are distorted," he said.
However, on the same morning prior to the denial, Wee was asked by KiniTV to elaborate on the scholarships suspension which he spoke about to Sin Chew Daily.
He merely replied: "Malaysiakini has written about it, what else is there to comment. You ask JPA lah, okay. Don't ask me about JPA".
Wee, when contacted by Malaysiakini this evening, fumed at the news portal and refused to go on record over the fiasco.
Wee's response became more confusing when Berita Harian yesterday quoted him as saying that the KPM bursary was suspended but refused to comment on the status of the JPA scholarships.
"The prime minister ordered the chief secretary to the government and Public Service Department to put forth a new mechanism on the scholarships," he was quoted as saying.
However, the daily today quoted JPA director Mohamad Zabidi Zainal as stating the government has not made a decision to temporarily suspend the KPM bursary.
"The suspension is only a proposal, the government has not decided. We will table it to the cabinet," he added.
Berita Harian also mentioned in its previous report on the temporary suspension, citing that Wee said the decision was made at Wednesday's cabinet meeting.
Reiterating his criticism of Malaysiakini, Wee, in a Bernama report, said the portal's report was baseless and irresponsible and had caused a panic. He is also consulting his lawyers on the matter.
"I only mentioned those (who) received the bursary scholarships are affected. I never mentioned all JPA scholarships are suspended," he said.
The Sin Chew article, which was translated by Malaysiakini, quoted Wee as raising the issue of JPA scholarships at the cabinet meeting.
Source from MalaysiaKini