By Opalyn Mok
GEORGE TOWN, Jan 16 ― The university student shown being berated for her views on a viral YouTube clip has said it revealed to the public how state-funded universities use student forums to “brainwash” undergraduates.
Second-year law student Bawani KS also expressed surprise that she was now an overnight sensation for questioning panellist Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) student forum held last December 8.
“Now the public will know what’s happening in public universities and how they could organise a ‘students in politics’ forum and yet use it to ‘brainwash’ the students by telling them that street rallies are wrong while showing pictures of Opposition leaders like Nurul Izzah (Anwar) and telling us not to emulate them,” Bawani told The Malaysian Insider.
The 27-year-old social activist was glad that the incident went viral as it may get more people to join in her cause to fight for free education for all Malaysians.
When told she has been dubbed “Little Ambiga”, ostensibly after Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Bawani (left) laughed it off and went on to say how important it is for people to know that they should continue to fight for their rights.
She said Sharifah Zohra did not owe her an apology but that one was due to all of the students in the forum.
“She had belittled all of the students and underestimated all of us,” said the undergraduate, who is a member of Parti Socialis Malaysia and its organisation, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas.
While not upset at being told off openly, Bawani is still very worked up over how the whole forum was organised to turn university students against Bersih and street rallies held to highlight the people’s rights.
“In most parts of the forum, they showed video clips of rallies and pictures of women involved in rallies and then tell the students that this is not how women should act or behave and that those actions are wrong,” she recounted when contacted in her hometown in Kampar where she is having a short break from the university.
She also expressed surprise that Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah contacted her over the incident.
“He told me he is supportive of me and I replied that NGO leaders like Sharifah (Zohra) should not be allowed to organise such one-sided forums in public universities,” she said.
Bawani said it would be fairer to have a forum where both sides of the political divide are present to openly debate their different views on issues.
She thanked all netizens and students for supporting her and called on them to use this example to continue standing up for their own rights and causes.
“Let’s all fight together for free education for all Malaysians,” said the law student who already has a first degree in psychology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
On her fight for free education, Bawani researched the issue in 2010 and felt that Malaysia, as an oil producing country, could afford to provide free education to all students from kindergarten up to tertiary level.
The YouTube video that showed Sharifah Zohra, who leads little-known organisation Suara Wanita 1 Malaysia (SW1M), berating Bawani went viral yesterday in social media sites.