Hero's welcome for Nurul Izzah at UM forumLembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar was given a hero's welcome at a Universiti Malaya forum yesterday after she was dropped from speaking at the event as a result of government pressure.
Attending the forum yesterday afternoon as a member of the audience, Nurul Izzah walked into the lecture hall and was greeted by cheers and loud applause from the floor as she proceeded to take a seat in the front row.
The hall was packed with the crowd filling the walkways as well as the back of the hall.
The afternoon session of the forum was was originally slated to feature Nurul Izzah, together with PAS vice-president Husam Musa as well as Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and Hulu Selangor MP P Kamalanathan.
After courting the displeasure of the Prime Minister's Office and the Higher Education Ministry, the afternoon session of the day-long forum, organised by the Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (Umcedel), was replaced with a session by academicians.
The speakers were Umcedel researchers Shaharuddin Badaruddin and Thock Ker Pong as well as UM professor Mohammad Abu Bakar, with Umcedel director Mohammad Redzuan Othman moderating the session.
During the question-and-answer period, Nurul Izzah ended up on the stage after a student insisted that she answers a question on Pakatan Rakyat's ability to govern, given the diverse ideologies of its component parties.
"If I don't allow her (on the stage), the students may run amok," quipped Redzuan, who is also UM's Arts and Social Science Faculty dean, before inviting Nurul Izzah to the podium.
Opposition has matured
She then explained that unlike the 1969 general election where PAS and DAP could not get along despite the ruling coalition losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition had made significant progress in establishing consensus following the 2008 general election.
"It is a political process for any coalition, it isn't automatic. What is important is for the component parties to have consensus on the constitution and a common policy framework.
"It has now entered the fourth year (of the Pakatan coalition) and the people can judge for themselves," Nurul Izzah said.
She said there would be differences within Pakatan, with each party being an equal partner and none being dominant.
Nurul also posed a question to the panellists, asking whether it would work against the BN if Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak debated with her father, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, or if space was granted to the opposition to air its manifesto on television.
Shaharuddin's view was that it could go both ways, with the possibility of the government being perceived as being more open or the opposition's message could resonate well with the people.
"There are risks if the government is more open. But I imagine if Najib and Anwar were to debate, this would capture international attention and boost Malaysia's reputation," he said.
Added Redzuan, in reference to the Najib's excuse for refusing to debate with Anwar: "For your information, Kenya just had its presidential debate, and it looks like Kenya is ahead of us. But in Malaysia, debating is not our culture."
Mohammad Abu Bakar, who once moderated a live debate between PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub and Umno supreme council member Saifuddin Abdullah that reportedly had an audience of 2.7 million, speculated that the ruling coalition may feel that debates impacted it negatively, which was why no more live debates were allowed.
Mohammad also addressed the question of defections. He believes that while the BN and Pakatan would ensure that their candidates are loyal, defections remained a real possibility because the ideological glue is weak on the part of all parties.
"There is a lack of ideology among the people and among political leaders. Therefore, without an ideological barrier, movements among parties are likely," he said.
'Scared of ghosts'
After the forum, several students approached Nurul Izzah to shake her hand, while others posed for photographs with her.
Speaking to the media later, the Lembah Pantai MP expressed disappointment over the government's interference with the forum, noting that BN leaders were also slated to speak.
"This should not happen. It contradicts with the prime minister's promise of transformation, especially at the campus level... people can evaluate themselves. It is not about propaganda. We must respect (universities) as institutions of learning," she said.
Also addressing the media later, Redzuan said the forum today proved that the government's concern was unfounded.
"This is an academic event. There should not be any obstruction, especially now when university freedom is being boasted about. This is an academic matter and politicians should not interfere.
"You have seen today that there was no problem, no provocation, no touching on racial matters. Sometimes we worry about ghosts that do not exist," Redzuan lamented.