A students’ play that drew a politician’s wrath

Schools often stage plays to allow their students much-needed creative space to voice their heartfelt messages that otherwise, would be locked forever in a dark and hidden vault. And this particular play would have gone unnoticed if not for its environmental content having caught a Minister’s eyes that drew a response that was more disturbing than the environmental issue that the students were trying to highlight! Instead of appraising the students’ efforts in highlighting a very pertinent issue, that is, the impact on the wildlife such as the orang utans due to indiscriminate and unsustainable deforestation by the palm oil industry, the minister had chosen to condemn them.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Kok had criticised an unnamed international school for organising the play and accused it of propagating falsehoods about the palm oil industry.

Propagating falsehood about the palm oil industry? Really??? Wow. And the matter got even more serious. The unnamed international school was said to have apologised to the Minister about the unfortunate “incident” and the Minister was now very happy and all is well and settled. Not only was the school named, so were its senior administrators!

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — An international school has apologised over its students’ performance that Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok had criticised as allegedly being “anti-palm oil”, she said today. In a post on her official Facebook account, Kok said The International School @Parkcity’s senior administrators — education director Andrew Dalton and principal Jonathan Turner — as well as Parkcity director Sukhdev Singh had yesterday paid her a visit to explain the incident involving an alleged “anti-palm oil message”.

Kok said the international school’s administrators had shared with her the video clip which was shown at the school’s assembly for its students, with the video clip featuring an excerpt of environmental watchdog Greenpeace’s alleged “anti-palm oil video” titled “Rang-Tan” and with the students merely enacting the roles in the latter video.

“They apologised to me for the unfortunate incident and said that on hindsight, they could have handled the situation better,” she said in a statement today.

The question on my mind is: WHO should have apologised over this matter? And WHO should have handled the situation better? The Orang Utans certainly deserved a mention in the entire discourse in the media, because THEY were the unfortunate victims being highlighted in the play in the first place! But unfortunately, their existence was non-existent in our politician’s eyes, who had only the palm oil industry’s well-being in clear view.

Sad. Not only for the fast-disappearing wildlife due to the fast-disappearing forests, but also for the very confused students who had courageously staged the play. What will the senior administrators of the school going to tell their students? That the play was all a mistake and that they have got to bend down to the politician who, for some strange reason, interpreted the environmental message as a propaganda against palm oil?

But there was a lone voice of reason coming from a deputy minister, Hannah Yeoh, who had defended the school and was convinced that there was no agenda to undermine the government’s effort to promote palm oil.

On July 4, Kok’s DAP colleague and women, family and community development deputy minister Hannah Yeoh defended the international school which was within her constituency, saying the video clip was only a small excerpt of a 24-minute performance on multiple environmental issues by students at their weekly assembly.

Yeoh said she had personally watched the full video and was convinced that there was no agenda to undermine the government’s effort to promote palm oil.

Kudos to Hannah for defending the voice of the students! We need more civil-minded government officials like Hannah Yeoh who serves the community with acumen and humility, and not the other way around!

So here is an excerpt of the controversial school play and see for yourself, what is so controversial about it.

The controversial school play

In the meantime, our forests are still being indiscriminately cut down and our orang utans and other soon-to-be extinct wildlife are still at risk. But who cares about them? The continual survival of our palm oil takes precedent, and our erstwhile Minister, Teresa Kok, will see to that.

For further readings on the topic:

https://orangutan.org/rainforest/the-effects-of-palm-oil/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/10/palm-oil-orangutans-multinationals-promises-deforestation

https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/summer-2015/articles/orangutans-and-palm-oil-protecting-forests-to-help-great-apes

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029390-200-dont-demonise-palm-oil-to-save-orang-utans/

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