Don't belittle undergraduates

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PETALING JAYA: The Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) law student being berated by a moderator for posing bold questions in a video which went viral since Monday, said the scene came to be because views of undergraduates in the country are often belittled.

The student involved, K.S. Bawani, 27, a law student doing her second degree, labelled the moderater's attitude as "underestimating students" in general.

Bawani said that she spoke her mind as the moderator was trying to brainwash undergraduates with her personal views.

In the video, Bawani was laying out facts and figures on the feasibility of abolishing the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) and providing a free education system at a forum titled "Students and politics" at the university last December, when the microphone was rudely snatched away by the moderator Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin, who heads NGO Suara Wanita 1Malaysia.

Bawani was speaking out against the forum's criticism against of Datuk S. Ambiga when she was cut off.

"I was very angry -- she had cut me off before I finished my question. I have done my research. I have not finished my question, and she intervened, I felt unhappy," Bawani said.

"She was underestimating me as I was not allowed to finish my question," said Bawani, mainly referring to the rude way Sharifah said "Listen" loudly seven times before taking away the microphone.

The programme adviser for the forum, Muhammad Syami Zakaria, defended Sharifah's attitude.

He said that Bawani had stood up to ask her question at 1.15pm despite the programme was to have ended at noon.

"Sharifah interrupted Bawani because she wanted the programme to end," said Muhammad Syami, a final-year accounting student.

Meanwhile, Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said that he "regrets" such an incident had taken place in a Malaysian university.

"Bawani should have been allowed to complete her comments. Even if the speaker didn't agree with Bawani, she should have replied with wisdom and good teachings. The speaker should not have replied in a condescending and patronising way," said Saifuddin, who also contacted Bawani regarding the matter on Monday night.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan said he would have never chosen Sharifah to moderate a forum at a university.

"The real hero is Bawani, because she stood up and asked a question everybody else hesitated to ask," he said.

He said that people like Sharifah should not be allowed in "the public space".

Yayasan Orator CEO Muhammad Yunus Zakariah said that when cutting off someone during a forum is "necessary", there is the proper manner.

Sharifah, said she will only issue a statement on the matter today.

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