Mariam Mokhtar: Malaysian Deputy Ministers Are Cyber-Bullies

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They abuse their powers to intimidate the rakyat, spread fake news and call citizens liars. Will the Doraemon minister censure her colleagues for bullying Veveonah? Why should the deputy ministers escape scot-free?

Two nobodies who shot to infamy for defaming Sabah teenager, Veveonah Mosibin, are the Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister, Zahidi Zainul Abidin, and the Deputy Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Bakri.

When Malaysians mauled them for attacking 18-year-old Veveonah, these grown men started the blame game and passed the buck.

Zahidi blamed Abdul Rahim, who in turn blamed a village headman and an unnamed university professor. This is what 63 years of Umno-Baru stupidology has done to them. It’s always someone else’s fault. Never theirs!

Anyway, what was Zahidi thinking when he accused Veveonah of lying? The irony is that he is a deputy minister for Communications, and yet he failed to communicate and engage in dialogue with Veveonah.

If PN ministers were accused of lying, they would swifly start legal proceedings and yet, they are free to call people names.

Was there any need for the character assassination? What had she done to upset him? Does he even know the challenges faced by students, especially rural students like the Orang Asli children, and east Malaysian students?

It is unconscionable for Zahidi and Abdul Rahim to pick on Veveonah.

Instead of taking the moral high ground and making wild and baseless accusations, they should have investigated her reasons for making the video. As deputy ministers, they have an arsenal of aides and civil servants to do their bidding.

How often does the Kudat MP visit his constituency? Is it allegedly once every five years to offer cans of milk powder and packets of rice to say “Hey, vote for me and your village will have electricity supply and also internet coverage?”

Although Zahidi has since apologised for his daft attack on the teenager, the damage had been done. His reputation is now in the gutter. He probably only apologised, after the public vented their fury at him.

Abdul Rahim took the cowardly path. He criticised Veveonah in a long Facebook post, then promptly deleted it. What was he scared of and if so, was he lying?

Both men are now well known for their arrogance, their ignorance, their heavy-handedness and their failure to reach out to the public, to investigate the issues involved and try to resolve them. That is part of their remits as deputy ministers, although they may have been unaware of this.

Zahidi had accused Veveonah of making her YouTube video to court fame as a YouTuber and get more likes on social media.

In early June, Veveonah recorded the preparations for her examinations, and the video went viral, and became a sensation amongst Malaysian and overseas viewers.

Her video entitled, “24 hours on a tree” showed her disappointment that the hut she had built on a hill slope where she could get better internet coverage had been destroyed during heavy rains and strong winds.

Undeterred, she scaled a tree and stayed overnight in the branches, protected from insects by a mosquito net. She had a few packets of rice and water for sustenance, stationery, and a jacket to keep her warm.

If these two politicians had watched the video, they would have understood the trials and tribulations of many rural east Malaysian students.

Veveonah said her village did not have internet coverage or electricity. They light candles at night, and to save on the cost of candles, are in bed by 7pm.

We also had a glimpse of the life of a rural teenager. Like most children, she gets up early, every morning, to help her parents tap rubber. She also outlined the perils of walking in the jungle, such as being careful not to tread on hornets’ nests because the bites from hornets can kill.

However, the disgraceful deputy ministers ignored Veveonah’s narrative, and accused her of lying about taking an exam.

He said, “…there are no exams. We’ve checked. She is just a Youtuber who wants to make a name, she is famous for a moment, and she does it just for entertainment”.

He also said, “…we urged the parties report to the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) if there is any blind spot or no (internet) coverage. (sic)

“We will immediately resolve the issue, especially when it comes to education…”

Ask any Malaysian, including those who live in affluent areas of Kuala Lumpur about internet coverage. Despite making numerous complaints about poor internet coverage, the issues remain unresolved; but for the deputy ministers to accuse Veveonah of lying is simply not acceptable.

Many rural and east Malaysian students, like Veveonah, have many problems accessing good and affordable education. The quality of education received, the transport costs, the accommodation issues, the high cost of books, tuition and items such as laptops all add to the long list. Children juggle study and work, helping their parents provide for the family.

The Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated their problems, but the deputy ministers seem clueless about the issues faced by students.

Zahidi’s apology does not come across as sincere. His arrogance and desire to belittle Veveonah was unwarranted.

Her grit and determination to succeed impressed many people. Veveonah has already won a scholarship to University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), so why did Zahidi and Abdul Rahim feel the need to attack her? Why now?

Will the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development aka Mdm Doraemon come to the defence of Veveonah and censure her colleagues? – Rebuilding Malaysia