Mariam Mokhtar on sec-gen of NUTP Harry Tan

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Harry Tan, the sec-gen of the NUTP, went on the defensive and was victim-blaming. 

His position is untenable. Parents and students should take this issue further. Saying sorry after being slammed on social media is not good enough. Resign.

Arrogant. Toady. Pillock. Sycophant. Contemptuous. Dysfunctional. Self-serving. Spineless. Childish. Wannabe politician.

These were some of the choice words used by a few Malaysians to describe Harry Tan, the secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP), when they were shown a clip of his interview with Astro Awani.

In the interview of 5 May, he was asked about sexual harassment and abuse in schools, and whether the NUTP would order a probe to find out if sexual harassment and abuse were problematic in schools.

His response

First. He went on the defensive. (Note his arrogance and tone)

Shame on him!

He appears to be sceptical about the allegation made by 17-year-old Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, who last week said that her teacher had made a joke about rape during class.

Who is Harry Tan trying to please? Mahiaddin Yassin? Or Radzi Jidin, the Minister of Education? Or all of the above.

He is not doing the teachers and students any favours. He should be taking care of their interests and concerns, instead of being arrogant, insensitive and brown-nosing. He failed them. He is not worthy of his post.

He said, “How is it a widespread problem? Where are the statistics? Where is the data? Who are they talking about? How many schools are involved?

Muhamad Shahril Rosli/The Star

“We have 450,000 teachers in the country, we have 10,000 schools. How many schools are they talking about? Give me the facts.”

Silly fool! Harry Tan’s head is buried in the sand, that he appears not to know how Malaysian society functions.

Anyone who makes a legitimate complaint, through the proper channels, is hounded, threatened, demoted, set upon by thugs and in some cases, forced into a retraction. After decades of the Malaysian culture of fear, few people dare to complain. The problem grows until it reaches unmanageable proportions, like what is happening now.

The problem is not helped with people like Harry Tan. They abuse their position of authority. They are dismissive. They sweep aside any allegations. They are irresponsible.

Harry Tan’s job is to acquire the data. He could arrange for a confidential online survey to find out if people, both students and teachers, have been sexually harassed in schools, instead of brushing aside their concerns.

Second. He started victim-blaming.

Harry Tan demanded to know how many other reports had been made about sexual harassment, besides the one made by Ain.

Does an absence of reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools mean that he thinks Ain fabricated the story about the teacher?

Would Harry Tan adopt a similar dismissive stance if his own daughter, or wife, was at the receiving end of being sexually harassed?

Backlash followed by Harry Tan’s back pedalling

Malaysians reacted with outrage at Harry Tan’s remarks, so he tried to appease them with an apology.

Some demanded his resignation. They are quite right too!

Harry Tan released a press statement and admitted that his response was insensitive.

What a pillock! He said “Sorry” after the rakyat reacted with fury. He is not sincere. He is only saving his badly tarnished reputation (and post), and if truth be told, the teachers in the NUTP should demand his resignation, too!

He is a sycophant and not worthy of the title of secretary-general. He failed his profession.

Harry Tan said, “Please accept my sincere apology. Neither I nor the NUTP would ever support any teacher who perpetrates the systemic nature of sexual harassment, rape, and abuse in schools.”

“The point I was trying to make was that the majority of the country’s 450,000 teachers are dedicated, hard-working, and caring educators.

No! No! No! Harry Tan, did you even listen to what the interviewers or the Malaysian rakyat asked?

No one is blaming all the teachers for sexual harassment. No one is tarring all the teachers with the same brush. No one is questioning the dedication and hard work of the teachers.

All we want to know is whether the NUTP will start an investigation following the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse?

One allegation of sexual harassment or rape is one too many.

These teachers have access to our children. Throughout their teaching career, they will have unfettered access to scores of thousands of children. The bad teachers are in a position to easily take advantage of our children.

By all means defend the innocent teachers, but Harry Tan must learn that the bad, deviant and perverts in the teaching profession must be weeded out.

So, how many other sexual harassment cases go unreported because of a culture of fear, because of dismissive people like Harry Tan, and because of the stigma attached and the threats (remember the student who said he would rape Ain for making the allegations)?

If Harry Tan cannot learn to listen, how on earth did he become a teacher and a secretary-general of the NUTP?

About his remarks, he said, “Unfortunately, that did not come across clearly.”

Harry Tan is wrong. Everything he said came across crystal clear. He has shown that his position is untenable and he should resign.

Dirty Harry

When Harry Tan’s interview video went viral, a few of his former students made serious allegations about him.

In an excerpt of the Malaysiakini report, Twitter user “Jaschintaz” claimed that Harry Tan was her STPM English teacher in 1998, and she accused him of being sexist. She said, “During a lesson, we were asked to present our job ambitions. I said I wanted to study law – note, not be a lawyer, just study law.

“He uttered a sexist statement that angers me to this day: ‘Girls should never be lawyers’,” she tweeted.

Fuelled by Harry Tan’s nasty remark, Jaschintaz went on to pursue law, and she told Malaysiakini that for the past 16 years, has been involved in the legal industry. She has also launched a petition calling for Harry Tan’s resignation as NUTP secretary-general.

Meanwhile, others who came forward claimed that they were Harry Tan’s former students.

One alleged that Harry Tan had watched lewd videos while teaching as a substitute teacher, while another alleged that he had stored lewd videos on a laptop which he then lent to students for a project.

Harry Tan lost the plot during his Astro Awani interview, then went home with his tail between his legs.

Naturally, Dirty Harry denied any wrongdoing when asked about the allegations.