KUALA LUMPUR Jan 18 — Student activist Bawani KS, at the centre of a storm over the viral “Listen” video, today accused organisers of a controversial forum at her university of attempting to make undergraduates “stupid” by deviating from the topic with an assault on opposition leaders and civil liberties champion Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
The second-year law student at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) had previously alleged state-funded universities of using student fora as a platform to “brainwash” undergraduates.
Unable to stomach the misinformation being perpetrated by invited speakers to the UUM forum titled “Seiringkah mahasiswa dan politik? (Are undergraduates and politics aligned?)”, Bawani (picture) said she stood up to challenge their depiction of PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Ambiga and activists protesting against the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).
“It had nothing to do with the forum topic ‘Seiringkah mahasiswa dan politik?’,” the Perak-born told a news conference here.
Her protest was cut off by one of the invited speakers, Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin, who appeared to be a staunch pro-Barisan Nasional (BN) supporter.
A video recording of Bawani’s exchange with the Suara Wanita 1 Malaysia (SW1M) president, which has gone viral, showed Sharifah Zohra taking away the microphone from the student before telling her to “listen” 11 times.
The forum was held at the university in Kedah on December 8, but a storm over what was initially seen as a sanctioned bullying of an undergraduate broke after the 20-minute clip was posted on YouTube last week.
Bawani recounted that she was dissatisfied with the organiser’s handling of the forum as students were allowed to put forward only two questions, and cast suspicion on an oath-taking session forced on students after the forum ended.
“That is why I am of the opinion that the forum was no longer to hear the voice of undergraduates, but was instead to make students stupid,” the 27-year-old said.
She added that she was disappointed that many of her fellow undergraduates in the hall for the forum last December 8 had applauded Sharifah Zohra, dubbed the “Listen” woman, saying the attitude displayed showcased the local student mindset who were too fearful stand up and speak out for their rights.
Bawani related that her life had undergone a huge change since the video went viral, and that she now had a personal assistant to deal with flood of phone calls and comments online.
She added that her friends had also chipped in to help manage her Facebook and Twitter comments.
The student also said she had no plans to run for office in Election 2013, or join any political party although she admitted that her beliefs most matched a socialist ideology as championed by the tiny Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).
She said she focused on fighting for free tertiary education.
Bawani however said she did not harbour any ill-feelings towards Sharifah Zohra, the latter who has been widely panned on social media for her treatment of the undergraduate.
A Facebook movement has also sprung up demanding Sharifah Zohra publicly apologise to Bawani.
“I feel there is no need for Sharifah Zohra to apologise to me,” the student said today, but she appeared eager for another chance to square off with the older woman.
“I invite Sharifah Zohra to another forum with undergraduates this January 26,” she said.
The student-oriented workshop to discuss a national blueprint for free education will be held at the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall here.