Don’t overreact, MoE told over probe into ‘anti-palm oil propaganda’

(FMT) – The education ministry has come under fire for its investigation into an international school following a viral video clip showing students speaking against the palm oil industry at a school concert.

Media lecturer Gayathry S Venkiteswaran said there were many people both locally and abroad who had legitimate concerns about the palm oil industry.

She said the students were well within their rights to express their views on the matter.

“The government’s long arm of control is deplorable,” she told FMT.

Yesterday, the education ministry said it would probe the school over the students’ presentation which triggered angry comments by Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok.

Calling the presentation “anti-palm oil propaganda”, the ministry said the school had acted against national policies, and that it could also tarnish the country’s image.

Gayathry said the ministry’s reaction was unjustified and that there was nothing to investigate as schools were a place for knowledge and critical thinking.

“They are not there to serve any government or industry,” she added.

She urged the government to recognise and respond to demands for sustainability, environmental protection and the rights of communities whose lives are affected by deforestation.

“It should immediately drop this mindset of control and censorship and become more professional and educated in its approach,” said Gayathry, who is attached to Nottingham University Malaysia.

Activist Haris Ibrahim (pic) said the government should not restrict views on any issue beyond what is defamatory.

“Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he said.

“I’ve long advocated that this must be coupled with the right information, but even if someone chooses to sound like an idiot, their freedom of speech is still guaranteed.”

He said a mature society must be prepared to allow for diverse opinions, adding that the public could determine who is making informed remarks or otherwise.

“You may disagree, but there’s no need to bring out a stick or silence others just because you disagree. Don’t attack the messenger, address the message.”

Haris, who previously initiated the Anything But Umno movement, said for decades, Malaysians had lived with a government that silenced its critics.

“After the 14th general election, we all have hopes for a new beginning. Please don’t dash these hopes,” he added.