COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
April 10, 2014
DAP’s Tony Pua has been ‘uninvited’ by the organisers of the Malaysia Summit Australia conference due to pressue from sponsors of the event. – The Malaysian Insider pic, April 10,2014.DAP MP Tony Pua is not speaking at the Malaysia Summit Australia (MASA) in Melbourne on April 22 because the event’s main sponsors felt that “it was not in the best interest of everyone” to have him on the panel.
Among the sponsors are Shell Malaysia, Astro, Education Malaysia Australia, Ayam Brand, Malaysian Australian Alumni Council and Kelab Umno Australia.
Obviously, it is their right to decide on the speakers line-up as they are funding the annual summit that features Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
This is not the first time that those who are critical of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government are barred from students events. Last week, Universiti Malaya (UM) refused to allow former Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan to speak at a law convention.
Pua, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP, also revealed that he had been barred from speaking in UM on at least three occasions. Again, that is UM’s right.
These incidents reflect the mindset of the varsities, organisers and the sponsors, who are more interested in being in the good books of the ruling government than being the catalysts for students to listen and learn from those on all sides of the political divide.
As MASA told Pua, “despite our best efforts to convince them otherwise, our main sponsors strongly feel that it was not in the best interest of everyone to have you in the line-up of panellists”.
For the organisers, the show must go on and they are at the mercy of these sponsors. It would be unthinkable for them to make a stand and cancel the summit just because they cannot get Pua as a speaker.
But Malaysians and students in Australia should not feel the same way as the organisers.
It would be an insult for the students in Australia now to attend the summit and only listen to a limited list of speakers rather than the diverse opinions that was first suggested when the event was being planned.
They can send a signal to both the organisers and sponsors by making a stand to boycott the summit.
While the sponsors and organisers might feel an obligation to the powers that be, the students have no such obligations and insist on their right to listen to all and sundry rather than a sanitised list of speakers.
Perhaps the other speakers too should boycott the event or be gracious enough to insist that the original speakers line-up is reinstated.
Malaysians too should show their displeasure that such controls exist in this day and age. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said this at the outset of his administration that “the era of government knows best is over”.
That idea should also be extended to the organisers and sponsors of the April 22 summit in Melbourne – that they do not know what is best for the students and no one should be barred from speaking on the vague notion of “best interest of everyone”.
It is in the best interest of the sponsors that people and consumers think better of them than believe they are part of a movement to keep people blinkered and brainwashed.
No one knows who among the sponsors have such veto powers that the MASA organisers capitulated to them. But Malaysians should punish these sponsors because they are doing a great disservice to the country’s future.
It is up to Malaysians and Malaysian students to listen to as many people as they want and decide who they want to follow – not sponsors who think their money can dictate who should and should not speak at an event. – April 10, 2014.