PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has joined the chorus of voices against offering a second chance to the Malaysian scholar in London convicted of possessing child pornographic material.
Mr Khairy said Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin, who was arrested in November for the offence, could take a second chance on his own without sponsorship from Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara).
"After he has served his prison sentence and undergone extensive rehabilitation for paedophilia, then he can get a second chance on his own. No need for Mara sponsorship, etc," Mr Khairy posted in a tweet on Wednesday.
Using the hashtag #NoSecondChance, which was the top trending topic on Twitter, Mr Khairy warned Mara against wasting public funds.
"Harap Mara tidak membazir duit rakyat #NoSecondChance (I hope Mara will not waste the people's money)," he wrote.
Mara, which sponsored Nur Fitri's education in Britain, reportedly said it would offer the accused a chance to compete his studies locally, triggering outrage from the public and children's rights activists.
"A second chance to complete his studies here? Why? He should undergo intense rehabilitation and counselling first, and be monitored closely before he is allowed to attend any public university or college," said child expert Hartini Zainudin.
A petition was also started on www.petitionsite.com by a user known as Hanie Razaif-Bohlender demanding that the government-owned body stop giving the paedophile a second chance.
At noon, the petition had garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Dr Hartini said groups trying to secure a second chance at education for Nur Fitri immediately after his deportation from Britain had no understanding of how serious a crime he had committed.
"I cannot believe anyone would ask him to come back, appeal for a shorter sentence and say it is okay for him to attend school here. No, no, no!" she said.
All Women Action Society president Ho Yock Lin also insisted that Nur Fitri undergo intense counselling, preferably alongside his jail term in Britain.
Ms Suri Kempe, a former programme manager at Sisters In Islam (SIS), took to Facebook to express her outrage at Mara's decision.
"Mara, you have got to be kidding me! So national bowler who commits statutory rape gets 2nd chance, convicted paedophilic 'genius' gets 2nd chance, but God forbid there are students who are politically active or voice opinions or go to protests... I guess those students should just rot in hell," said Mr Suri, who resigned from SIS about a month ago.
Nur Fitri, a 23-year-old math scholar at Imperial College in London, was convicted of downloading and distributing more than 30,000 extreme images and videos of child pornography. He was sentenced to five years' jail by the Southwark Crown Court.
He was busted last November by the London police after they were alerted of his Internet account. They found him in his bedroom in Queensborough Terrace where the police found him on his laptop, sitting next to a life-sized mannequin of a boy.
He had 601 videos and images belonging to category A (abuse involving penetrative sexual activity with children), and thousands of category B and C material.
Mara council member Nazir Hussin Akhtar Hussin said Nur Fitri was a smart student and could be an asset to the country.
"We will support him in any way possible to help him rebuild his character and one way is to give him a chance to study in any Mara institution," Mr Nazir Hussin said on Tuesday.
His remarks further incensed Malaysians, who were not in any mood to show sympathy and took to social media to voice their anger at the government agency's decision.
A significant number of images found on Nur Fitri's electronic devices were classified as Category A, meaning they depicted the most extreme form of abuse involving penetrative sexual activity with children.
According to Mara, Nur Fitri is eligible under British law to be deported back to Malaysia after serving two thirds of his sentence.