(Pic by arte_ram / sxc.hu)
A FRIEND of a mine, a schoolteacher, sent me this. It is related to a minor incident that caught my eye recently:
To En Wan Hamid Abdul Kadhir
Sekolah Menengah Tunku Azlan Shah
DISCIPLINARY INCIDENT ON 7 MAY 2009
Pertaining to the matter above, I am replying to your request for a formal report of the events of last Thursday, 7 May 2009, during the state-level debate finals — the so-called Royal Prestige Cup — which was hosted in our school’s Sultan Riwayat Hall between 2.30pm and 4pm. This is my attempt to explain why I dragged out the Opposition speaker from the hall so forcibly.
The debate saw our school’s team, drawn from the Debate Society, pitted against that of our arch-rivals St Engels Institution. The debate topic was Constitutional Monarchy Should Be Retained in Malaysia.
As you are well aware, the debate final was actually a rematch, as a previous contest between the two teams, hosted in St Engels, could not be concluded because of unprecedented controversy. Our opponents had claimed that Tengku Shamshir Ahmad, Second Speaker of Tunku Azlan Shah’s debate team, had bribed one of the judges with a week-long holiday to Tahiti. However preposterous the claim was, it was entertained by the judging committee.
By the way, I have to say here that I thought your written protest to the Royal Prestige Cup judging committee was principled and erudite. We had the points and the numbers to win!
Besides, we had proof, in writing, that St Engels had previously offered judges free tickets to their annual fundraising gala. If that doesn’t count as bribery, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, such facts were already causing arguments on the morning of the rematch. This resulted in minor heated arguments between our student body and boys from St Engels. In the interest of neutrality, I administered squat punishments to all involved. Father Aloysius, my counterpart from St Engels, can testify to this, as we oversaw discipline jointly.
Because of the controversy, there was a lot of external attention, with a record number of parents and visitors from other schools turning up to watch the debates. I had to turn away several errant boys who, thinking that the debate match meant a school holiday, decided to turn up in jeans and 1BLACK Metal t-shirts. I recorded their names and stopped them from entering.
After some negotiation, I allowed a journalist from The Light newspaper into school grounds to cover the debates, after he assured me that he would give a fair and balanced report.
Trouble started even before the debate match could begin. St Engels’ team immediately occupied the government side of the debate stage, and refused to vacate it even at the prompting of the judges. Their First Speaker, Form Five student R Sreenavasan, argued that, as this was technically a rematch, the teams should reprise their positions – i.e. that St Engels be Government, and Tunku Azlan Shah be Opposition. Our Tunku Azlan Shah students, of course, wanted no such thing.
While the judges deliberated, Sreenavasan was booed by Tunku Azlan Shah supporters. As MC, I attempted to control the situation. Sreenavasan, responding to the heckling (which included slurs I will not repeat here), said, “We are Speakers of the Government. We are right to be here!” He also said, “Let the judges decide lah. I have not been removed yet.”
Someone from the audience shouted: “St Engels sit down! St Engels sit down!” This sparked more shouting from both sides’ supporters. My attempts to keep the hall quiet were ignored.
Eventually, at 2.30pm sharp, the Tunku Azlan Shah First Speaker, Form Five student Chan Chin Foong, stood up, turned off Sreenavasan’s microphone and attempted to begin the debate by arguing the Government side of the topic. The booing by St Engels students drowned her out. It was around this time that St Engels Second Speaker, Form Five student Hwa Yoong Huat, got out of his seat and threw pieces of paper at Chan.
I thought they were receipts at the time, but later discovered that they were Air Asia tickets to London. Kids these days. Where they get the money to buy expensive stuff like that I don’t know. Chan grabbed the pieces of paper and tore them up.
The confrontation between Hwa and Chan caused the audience themselves to stand up and begin shouting at each other. I heard Tengku Shamsir shout “Haram!” Others were shouting: “Engels! Get out!”
When I was trying to break up the argument between Hwa and Chan, I saw Sreenavasan approach Tengku Shamsir and say: “Go lah. Just go. Salvage your school’s reputation.”
This caused Tengku Shamsir to punch him.
I must admit that, by now, I was very angry. I could not take the brazen disregard for discipline and manners that students from both schools exhibited. I dragged Tengku Shamsir and Sreenavasan out of the Hall by their shirts, and caned them both. This was around 2.40pm.
I admit that I displayed poor control over my actions. I am prepared to face the consequences. The threat by Sreenavasan’s parents to sue SM Tunku Azlan Shah is something I should face alone — although if a suit is actually filed I will require some financial assistance. I am also prepared to face any disciplinary action that the Ministry sees fit to bring against me.
I must stress, however, that I will not apologise. As you know, sir, I am a firm believer in corporal punishment. Misbehaving youth must feel the pain that their misbehaviour causes. Also, I need to point out that it was the students who had precipitated events, and I was merely reacting to their actions.
SM Tunku Azlan Shah
After reading the above, I scoured The Light for its news report on the debate. The paper’s 8 May edition revealed that the debate judges had deliberated in favour of St Engel’s Institution, and that SM Tunku Azlan Shah had withdrawn in protest. The story quoted student Tengku Shamshir as saying: “We are like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. We will respect the judge’s decision. We will continue our struggle peacefully.”
The drama continues unabated. On 11 May, it was reported that the Royal Prestige Cup judging committee has decided on a third — and, hopefully, final — rematch. Ah, the vagaries of youth.
Zedeck Siew wishes he had participated in his secondary school debate society more actively.