By Mariam Mokhtar
ARROGANT. Toady. Sycophant. Contemptuous. Dysfunctional. Self-serving. Spineless. Childish. Wannabe politician.
These were some of the words used by several 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 on May 5, he was asked about sexual harassment and abuse in schools, and whether the NUTP would order a probe on the complaints lodged.
And he went on the defensive. Shame on him!
Tan appeared to be sceptical about the allegations 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 Tan trying to please? Is it Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or Education Minister Datuk Radzi Jidin? Or all of the above?
Well, he is definitely not doing teachers and students any favours. As a NUTP leader, Tan should be taking care of their interests and concerns, instead of being arrogant, insensitive and brown-nosing.
Tan failed them and 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?
“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! Tan’s head is buried in the sand, which could explain why he doesn’t seem to know how the Malaysian society functions.
Anyone who makes a legitimate complaint, through proper channels, is hounded, threatened, demoted, set upon by thugs and in some cases, forced into a retraction.
Decades into 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, no thanks to people like Tan. They abuse their position of authority. They are dismissive. They sweep aside any allegations. They are irresponsible.
Tan’s job is to acquire the data. He could arrange for a confidential online survey to find out if both students and teachers have been sexually harassed in schools, instead of brushing aside their concerns.
Making things worse, Tan started victim-blaming.
He demanded to know how many other reports had been made about sexual harassment, besides the one made by Ain Husniza.
Does an absence of reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, mean that Ain Husniza had fabricated an accusation about the teacher?
Would Tan adopt a similar dismissive stance if his own daughter or wife was at the receiving end of being sexually harassed?
Backlash followed by Tan’s back pedalling
The rakyat were outraged at Tan’s remarks. Some demanded his resignation. They are quite right too!
He then tried to appease them with an apology. He went on to issue 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 in his profession.
“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,” Tan said.
“The point I was trying to make was that the majority of the country’s 450,000 teachers are dedicated, hardworking, and caring educators.”
No! No! No! Tan, did you even listen to what the interviewers or the 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 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 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 due to dismissive people like Tan, because of stigma and fear of receiving threats (remember the student who said he would rape Ain Husniza for making the allegations)?
If Tan cannot learn to listen, how on earth did he become a teacher and the secretary-general of the NUTP?
About his remarks, he said, “Unfortunately, that did not come across clearly.”
Tan is wrong. Everything he said came across crystal clear. He has shown that his position is untenable and he should resign.
When 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 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 girls should never be lawyers”. That angers me to this day,” she tweeted.
Fuelled by Tan’s nasty remark, Jaschintaz went on to pursue law and she has been in the legal field for 16 years. She has also launched a petition calling for Tan’s resignation as NUTP secretary-general.
Meanwhile, there are many more who came forward, claiming that they were Tan’s former students.
One alleged that 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.
Tan lost the plot during his Astro Awani interview, then went home with his tail between his legs.
Naturally, he denied any wrongdoing when asked about the allegations. – May 9, 2021
Mariam Mokhtar is a socio-political commentator.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Photo credit: The Sun