By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – The government of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has averted a controversy over its bid to aid the Palestinian cause.

Reiterating Malaysia’s commitment to the Palestinian struggle, Mahathir on Wednesday night offered scholarships to Palestinian students living in the country, local daily The Star reported.

"The government has decided to offer scholarships through the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia (PCOM) for Palestinian students to pursue bachelor, masters, and PhD courses in 12 established Malaysian universities," Mahathir said in a speech at the 9th Grand Iftar with the Palestinian community in Kuala Lumpur.

His announcement drew criticism on social media, however, with users accusing the government of spending taxpayers' money on foreigners instead of on local students.

In an effort to quell the criticism, Kelvin Yii, a ruling party lawmaker, clarified that the 11.47 million ringgit ($2.7 million) worth of scholarships would come from funds generated by the universities themselves.

“They will not involve any government funding or affect scholarships that are being offered to local Malaysians.

“This was confirmed by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching upon verification after the announcement on Wednesday (May 22),” Yii said in a statement to the newspaper.

“Only one of the 12 universities involved was a public university, but funds for the scholarship must be raised by the university itself, and no government grant would be used for this purpose,” he added, seeking to clarify the matter.

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