STUDENTS have launched a petition to remove students’ union president Zahid Raja from office.
Citing financial mismanagement and bringing the union into disrepute, the group of students need 3% of the student body to begin the process to remove him from power.
The organiser of the petition, Dale Cousins, explained why he has started the petition: “Whilst in office in the students’ union, Mr Raja’s actions have brought our union into disrepute. We have no confidence in his ability to continue leading our union. Enough is enough.”
The group claim Raja is abusing his expenses and brought the union into disrepute through mismanagement of the 7 to 5 officer campaign and the Pole Fitness Society ban.
Last week, Raja was implicated in an expenses scandal alongside presidential candidate Harry Noden.
The students’ union denied authorising travel, hotel and food expenditure for presidential candidate Harry Noden to accompany Raja in attending a 90-minute meeting in London.
Students questioned whether attending a meeting that ended at 7pm justified an overnight stay in a London hotel.
The students’ union has now launched an investigation.
Raja defended his actions: “Much like in any other students’ union of our size, the President doesn’t seek permission to go to conferences / take students where if their interest is furthered, it benefits the student body. If this were the case, more than half of my time at work would be spent in red tape. I would question what political motivations lie beneath ‘the Union’ now quizzing this single trip ahead of a FTO election where the candidate in question is not an incumbent. It smacks of double standards.”
Noden has since stood down from his candidature after the students’ union received several official complaints about offensive tweets he had made.
Of the trip to London, he said: “Basically, I‘m quite new to all of this and Zahid offered to let me shadow him at an event in London where he was trying to get some university leaders to take a stand on the Immigration Bill.”
Other presidential candidates however denied they were offered an invitation to the event or any shadowing.
Welsh affairs officer Lewys Aron has resigned from his union post: “Over the lack of action taken to investigate the matters.”
Two assistant deputy returning officers in this week’s elections have also resigned. Union general manager Stuart Rice will now preside over the elections with university pro-vice chancellor Iwan Davies.
News of Raja’s trip to London with Noden sparked criticism.
Former AU President Dan ‘Flash’ Ryan-Lowes said: “[This] highlights the problem of an old boys club being created and political grooming trying to make positions safe and getting people in the role before there even is an election.”
Student Jonathan Baker commented: “What I will say is that they shouldn’t be sending unelected candidates on conferences. Essentially union money is being used to favour certain candidates over others which looks to me as a breach of process.”
The Waterfront was originally restricted from reporting on the expenses by the union, but the story was picked up by Aber Student Media.
Expense figures for the officer team as a whole were released last week by the union, with the team spending over £10k in conference expenses.
A spokesman for the students’ union said: “We are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this and other issues that have been raised. It would not be appropriate for us to comment until the investigations have concluded.”
Zahid Raja has published his reply to the claims of the campaigners here
Campaigners will be collecting signatures for the paper petition this week.
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