Malaysia

On Facebook, ‘listen, listen, listen’ woman’s NGO attacks vocal ‘Little Ambiga’

Debra Chong
Assistant News Editor

January 15, 2013

Internet memes of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen have sprouted after the SW1M president publicly berated a university student for voicing her views against the BN government in an open forum last month. — Courtesy of pics.lockerz.comInternet memes of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen have sprouted after the SW1M president publicly berated a university student for voicing her views against the BN government in an open forum last month. — Courtesy of pics.lockerz.comKUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — In fending off cyber brickbats hurled against its president, a little-known organisation called Suara Wanita 1 Malaysia (SW1M) launched an offensive by posting on its Facebook a video link showing Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin’s verbal attack against a vocal university student that has already sparked an Internet storm.

The group, which claims to be non-profit and non-government-linked, appeared proud with the uproar stirred by the lopsided exchange between its president and the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) undergraduate identified as Bawani K.S. whom it labelled “Little Ambiga” in its latest Facebook posting today, in a mocking reference to Bersih co-chair and prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“full vid Sharifah hentam little ambiga...............tgk mcmana bavani lari......kikikiki [sic],” said an administrator for the organisation who went by the nickname “Ratu Naga”.

Sharifah Zohra, who was spotted donning a 1 Malaysia button badge commonly associated with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), shot to infamy after a 25-minute clip of her laying into Bawani at a public forum last month was uploaded on YouTube and other social media sites last week.

While Sharifah Zohra appears to have gone underground since the video storm started, SW1M has adopted a truculent — some say aggressive — attitude towards the entire episode. 

In a separate post on its fanpage, a SW1M administrator identified as “Langsi” said there was no need for the group or Sharifah Zohra to apologise to Bawani for disrupting the latter’s speech in the forum.

“THERE IS NO NEED FOR HER TO APOLOGIZE TO BAVANI -- AS BAVANI NEED TO LEARN HOW TO RESPECT OTHER’S-- NGEH3,” Langsi posted.

Another administrator who went by the pseudonym “Mis Natrah” also backed the SW1M president and continued to paint a belligerent picture of Bawani, alleging the student told “fairy tales” and having “run away” and disrespecting Sharifah Zohra who “have gut’s [sic]” to teach her a lesson.

The group’s defence of its president, however, appeared to have backfired as Facebook followers seemed more amused by the administrator’s extreme poor command of the English language, and responded in kind.

“Oh my!!! poor thing...you seriously need some intensive english lessons!!!” posted Facebook user Ashwin Johl.

“Whoahh..SW1M’s powderful England,” said another, identified as Han Yang Toh.

The video starts with the university students swearing an oath in the national language before cutting to the student, Bawani, who took to a microphone in a packed auditorium to speak on a court ruling on the Bersih electoral rallies last year and ask why Malaysia was unable to offer free education like other countries.

Sharifah Zohra, who appeared to be emceeing the forum, interrupts her mid-way, telling her to “Listen!” a whopping 11 times and even taking away the microphone from Bawani to stop the student from speaking further.

“Number one, when this is our programme, we allow you to speak,” Sharifah Zohra said, and then added, “Number two, when I speak, you listen.”

Sharifah Zohra also quelled another student who attempted to speak out, saying insistently, “Let me speak” before asking the rest of the auditorium audience: “Students in the hall, 2,300 students everywhere. Did I give her respect? Did I give her respect? I came up to her, shook hands with her and gave her respect as another woman. Do you think I need to answer her question with this attitude?”

She then labelled Ambiga an “anarchist”, and criticised the student for highlighting the need for free education in the country, even telling her “if you equate Malaysia to other countries, what are you doing in Malaysia?”

“Go to Cuba, go to Argentina, go to Libya, go everywhere. Because all the students in this hall are happy with whatever the government does for them,” she said, and ticked Bawani off for having “a very least of pendidikan [education]”.

A Barisan Nasional deputy minister and the Umno Youth chief have been forced to engage in damage control to prevent its fallout from impacting the ruling coalition ahead of Election 2013.

Undergraduates in local universities have in recent years become increasingly more vocal and critical of the government, more so after the Najib administration moved to loosen the law allowing students to participate in politics, in a bid to draw support from the younger generation who are seen to make up a substantial voter demographic group.

Last year, several student groups took part in demonstrations nationwide to demand greater freedom and free university education.