By Mohamed Eljarh.
London, 2 December 2012:
Protests by Libyan students in Malaysia started . . .[restrict]more than 50 days ago, when government-sponsored students under Law 34, issued by the previous regime one week prior to the start of the revolution, had their scholarships withdrawn.
Law 34 stated that all self-sponsored students studying abroad and who met certain criteria would be transferred onto the government scholarships programme to finish their studies. As a result, the government sponsored thousands of students in different countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Egypt, Malaysia and other European and Asian countries.
The withdrawal of the scholarships was based on orders from the Overseas Training and Scholarship Administration, which falls under the authority of the Higher Education Ministry. The affected students from the withdrawal of scholarships are mainly PhD students who are more than half way through their programme of studies.
Some officials within the Ministry of Higher Education argue that law 34 was a political manoeuvre by Qaddafi in a bid to have thousands of self-sponsored students on his side in case of an uprising in Libya following the events in both Egypt and Tunisia. However, affected students argue that administrative procedures for Law 34 started in March 2010, months before the uprising started in Tunisia and Egypt.
Another argument by officials within the Ministry of Higher Education is that only privileged Libyans or Qaddafi loyalists had the wealth to self-sponsor their children to study abroad. However, Qaddafi loyalists would not need to self-sponsor their children when they could secure government scholarships for them through their links with the Qaddafi’s regime.
These two arguments show the lack of any legal framework or mechanism by which the Ministry of Higher Education is operating and the manner by which they reach such decisions that could have devastating effects on the lives of thousands of students.
Many of the students affected by the withdrawal of their scholarships returned to Libya during the revolution and participated in the fighting to topple the former regime. One of the arrested students in Malaysia was Ibrahim Alsayeh who took part in the fighting on the eastern front during the revolution. Alsayeh left behind a wife and three children uncared for after his arrest.
The peaceful protests in the Libyan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur lasted 36 days as some of the students went on hunger strike and a couple of them were admitted to hospital due to deteriorating health.
As a consequence of the protest, however, the children of some sponsored students were suspended from their schools back home due to outstanding fees that were going unpaid.
At that point, the protesters decided to block the gates of the embassy and shut down some of its offices to demonstrate at the lack of response from the Libyan authorities in Tripoli and the embassy staff.
After more than 50 days of protests, Libya’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Abu Bakr Al-Mansouri, wrote a letter to the Malaysian police requesting the arrest of students and confiscation of their passports, as well as a request to commence deportation proceedings.
Shortly following this decision, Second Deputy Prime Minister Awad Al-Barrasi weighed-in and requested the immediate release of the students. Barrasi insisted that the prime minister never ordered the arrest or deportation of the students, necessitating his personal intervention to secure their release.
In a report by Aljazeera on 30 November, Almansouri said he wished the students all the best in finishing their studies and being reunited with their families.
In the meantime, the released students have vowed to continue their peaceful protests until their demands are met and their grievances are addressed. The students have also called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to their arrest and detention by the Malaysian police. The report by Aljazeera put the number of affected students at 200.
Furthermore, Congress member Alajyali Abu Sadyel, who is also member of the Higher Education Committee within the Congress, commented that the bureaucratic obstacles and complications by the Higher Education Ministry that affect students both inside and outside Libya are clear evidence of incompetent management and corruption within the ministry.
Sadyel also highlighted that the Ministry of Higher Education is reluctant to take actions in order to resolve the issues faced by the Libyan students studying overseas.
The events in Malaysia have highlighted concerns that extend far beyond students in that country alone. They have exposed the arguably flawed manner in which the Ministry of Higher Education operates, as well as broader problems regarding the chain of communication and command between government officials.
The situation has also put to test the GNC’s capacity to hold government officials accountable for their actions. [/restrict]