There are many lessons to be learnt from the latest episode of ministerial cyberbullying, when two deputy ministers, one of whom is also the Kudat MP, used the internet to launch a vitriolic attack on a Sabah teenager
Firstly, Veveonah Mosibin and her channel on YouTube called “Veveonah M”, have done more to highlight the beauty and complexities found in the state of Sabah, than the local MP Abdul Rahim Bakri, or Tourism Sabah, have done or could ever do.
For those who have not watched her channel, the 18-year-old’s videos about rural Sabah have brought into sharp focus the struggles of people who live outside the towns and cities, at the same time showing the simple joys of being a teenager in the countryside.
She gives us a glimpse of what it is like to receive an education in Sabah, with long absences from family as most children like her have to attend boarding schools.
She shows how to survive in the jungle, help her parents on the farm, tells us how to forage for food with the most basic of tools, and educates city folk on how to identify and avoid certain dangers in the countryside.
Veveonah makes exploring the jungle exciting and her courage and determination to succeed should be emulated by everyone.
In short, the bubbly, creative and articulate teenager is an inspiration to everyone who watches her videos.
The same cannot be said for deputy communications and multimedia minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin, or Abdul Rahim who is also deputy finance minister.
They cyberbullied Veveonah and accused her of lying just because she made a short video last June about the lack of internet coverage in her area in Sabah.
Their cyberbullying caused Malaysians to react with fury and admonish them for their “abuse of power”.
The politicians lacked sensitivity and failed to engage with her to verify her claims or find out how they could help her community.
The irony is that Zahidi, who is the deputy of the “communications” ministry, lacked the ability to communicate. He should have been the first to reach out to Veveonah and invite her to meet him or his representative to discuss how coverage could be improved in her area.
Instead, these grown men were oversensitive and felt slighted by Vevenoah’s video, so they reacted with venom.
She had not criticized them, but had merely shown the challenges she faced as a person living in a rural area of Sabah whilst sitting for her exams.
Zahidi did not have to assassinate her character by accusing her of lying and trying to be popular on YouTube. He may have apologized, but his actions opened the door for cyber trolls to attack Veveonah and discredit her.
Is the deputy communications minister not aware that anyone who uploads a video on YouTube really has no idea if it will go viral? Veveonah’s video on June 13 took off and garnered over 732,000 views when she first made it.
This can only mean that her viewers agree with what she said, liked what they saw or had learnt something new from her video.
Perhaps, Zahidi should learn the basics of communications and multimedia first, before attacking Veveonah.
How often does Kudat MP Abdul Rahim visit his constituency? Both men should have taken the initiative to visit Veveonah and see for themselves the conditions in which rural people have to live!
To visit Veveonah, they would have to travel by 4WD or a sturdy vehicle. The journey will take several hours. If the road to Veveonah’s village is like other rural roads in east Malaysia, they should be prepared for a bumpy ride along a road which is dusty and potholed in dry weather.
After a heavy downpour, they will travel along a mudslide and the tyres of the vehicle will fail to grip.
The ride can be hair-raising. There are sharp bends, and in some parts, the narrow roads run alongside deep ravines.
However, these politicians would probably take a helicopter to visit her village.
It is shameful that these politicians launched cyberbullying attacks, then after being slammed by netizens, they started the blame game.
Zahidi claimed that Abdul Rahim had given him the wrong information, whilst Abdul Rahim claimed that a Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) professor had volunteered the information to him.
If Malaysians had been caught sharing fake news, we would have been in great trouble, but it appears that the deputy ministers have escaped scot-free.
Although Zahidi has since apologized for his cyberbullying, Abdul Rahim has not. In a cowardly act, he criticized Veveonah, then deleted his remark from Facebook.
These two men have again shown us that few politicians would listen to their constituents. If they had watched Veveonah’s video entitled “24 hours on a tree”, they would have learnt that her village has poor internet coverage and no electricity. They would have a glimpse of the life of poor families who live in the interiors.
It is apparent that these two men are clueless about some of the challenges faced by students, especially rural students like Veveonah and her peers, Orang Asli children, and other rural east Malaysian students.
Who will educate these ignorant politicians? Moreover, deputy ministers should not intimidate the rakyat by cyberbullying.
- MalaysiaKini: Info from Kudat MP, deputy minister who accused Veveonah of lying
- MalaysiaKini: Kudat MP doubles down on Veveonah, then deletes Facebook post
By : Mariam Mokhtar – SIN CHEW DAILY