PETALING JAYA, Jan 17 – : Leaders on both sides of the political divide today criticised Suara Wanita 1Malaysia (SW1M) chief Sharifah Zohra Jabeen (pic) for humiliating law student KS Bawani during a forum held at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) recently.
Both BN and Pakatan Rakyat leaders agreed that Sharifah was a disrespectful moderator and should have engaged in constructive discourse instead of belittling Bawani before other students during the forum on students and politics.
Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong said Sharifah’s actions “serve as a lesson to all moderators” to understand and give due respect to their audience.
“If you want to moderate a session, make sure you understand the crowd and give due respect to your audience,” he told FMT.
He said that Sharifah should have viewed “every idea or criticism as something constructive” instead of “her own interpretation” and looking down on her audience.
“If you think you are one class above them (the audience), then it’s a problem,” he added.
MCA’s Labis MP Chua Tee Yong said every leader – “from BN and the opposition” – should engage in constructive dialogues and not belittle each other.
“There should be engagement which will yield results, with Malaysia being a growing population and all this while practicing reforms and democracy,” added the agriculture and agro-based industries deputy minister.
He said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should emulate Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s reforms and “what the people are expecting of their leaders now”.
“The discussion should have been in an intellectual manner. A forum is an exchange of ideas, even if you do not agree, they best way is to say your opinion… It doesn’t have to be personal,” he added.
A question of arrogance
PAS’ Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad slammed Sharifah’s actions as detrimental to producing “creative, enterprising graduates who are morally and spiritually superior”.
“At the end of the day, you will have compliant, submissive students who dare not stand up for their rights and justice,” he said.
Dzukefly said he was speaking for both BN and Pakatan when calling for free enterprise of ideas and intellectual discourse.
“It does not warrant that the intellectual freedom of students should be stifled,” he added.
His party colleague and Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said it was shameful for leaders to force their opinions upon others “especially in an institution of higher learning” and should “respect students and give them the option to speak”.
“This is a question of arrogance. They (SW1M) are not willing to listen to another opinion and resort to making baseless allegations,” he said.
“The whole programme (the forum) is to restrict the intellectual capability of university students and to tell them how they should behave in a certain manner,” he claimed.
Hulu Selangor MP P Kamalanathan commended the actions of netizens who had been vocal in support of Bawani, and praised such actions as constructive criticism and exercising their right to freedom of speech as embedded in the Federal Constitution.
“Above all, it is solemnly clear via the thread of views in the internet that the government’s initiatives to enhance the laws with regards to the involvement of students in politics is bearing fruit,” he said on his blog.
The MIC leader said he respected both Sharifah’s and Bawani’s views, but felt the moderator “could have used much restrain in managing the situation even if she had strong objections to the views being presented”.
“This incident has clearly indicated the importance of evaluating and selecting appropriate personnel with proven track records and experience to manage hostile and unexpected situations, should it arise in the course of a forum or debate,” he added.
Stop brainwashing students
DAP’s state assemblyman for Kampung Tunku, Lau Weng San, meanwhile said it was time for the Higher Education Ministry to stop all of the “brainwashing” programmes in public universities.
He said such programmes, as the one moderated by Sharifah at UUM, had no relevance in improving students’ academic performance or even their characteristic development.
“On contrary, these programmes are conducted clearly with political motive.
“The BN government must cease to treat university students as though they are in their secondary standards. The federal government has to respect the freedom and rights of university students to convey their point of view,” he said in a statement.
He added that Sharifah’s handling of the forum showed evidence of autocracy.
“Her act of plundering the microphone from Bawani as she was in the midst of her speech is very disrespectful and tantamount a disgrace by all walks of life.
“It reaches its pinnacle that Sharifah had to walk off the stage, confronted Bawani and raised her voice to end her speech,” he said.