What drove Mat Over … over the edge?

What drove Mat Over… over the edge?
By Zan Azlee

The slapping incident is probably going to be something much talked and written about in the next few days. It is not just because it something quite sensational (it’s between a semi-famous actor and a factory-line film producer after all!), but also quite apt in context.

It began when film producer David Teo was given the microphone to ask a question to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who was having a Transformasi Nasional 20150 (TN50) town hall meet with members of the Malaysian entertainment industry.

Before proceeding to his question, Teo criticised the moderator, actor Rosyam Nor, for only selecting those at the front of the stage rather than paying attention to the crowd all around.

Then, right as he was about to begin his question by reciting a poem, actor Sulaiman Yassin (aka Mat Over), walked from the side of the stage and attempted to give Teo a slap, which landed on the producer’s arm.

A struggle ensued as Teo retaliated by trying to kick Sulaiman. Security personnel immediately separated the two men. Rosyam calmed the crowd down and the town hall continued as usual. It was reported that the duo eventually shook hands in front of the prime minister on stage.

News reports also said that Sulaiman claimed that it was just a gimmick and part of the show, but he also said that he did not regret assaulting Teo because he felt that he needed to teach the producer a lesson for not displaying any manners.

Teo, on the other hand, said that he was shocked at what had happened and that he did not know Sulaiman personally. But he considered the issue settled and will not be taking any further action. The prime minister was calm and silent throughout the incident.

Now here’s the deal. I may not enjoy the films produced by Teo and his film production company, Metrowealth Pictures. But I do not think he should be physically assaulted for whatever reason, and especially not for being verbally critical at a town hall dialogue.

A dialogue session is for people to talk, discuss, debate, argue and, yes, criticise, in a civil manner. It is supposed to be an open and safe platform where people should feel confident to voice their thoughts and opinions.

Nobody has the right to violently hit somebody just because he does not agree with that person. And for Sulaiman to say that he felt that he needed to teach Teo some manners by slapping him is simply wrong on every single level.

If you feel so strongly about a certain matter, then put up your hand, ask for the microphone and in this case, say your piece against Teo. That is the civilised and dignified reaction. Physically assaulting someone for any reason is against the law and plain wrong.

What was worse is the fact that Sulaiman thought that he was acting in the interest of the prime minister. He stated that he felt that he had to do what he did because Teo was being disrespectful to the nation’s leader.

A ‘bodek’ move?

Maybe Sulaiman needs to rethink what it means to be an elected leader. An elected leader is someone who has been entrusted by the people to govern and so he is answerable to the people. And the dialogue that was organised was a platform for that.

If Teo wanted to question the prime minister, then so be it. Being at the event, he has a right to do so. If it was a criticism, then the prime minister would, of course, have to address it.

But Sulaiman went to do his evil deed even before Teo could finish his question or make his comment. The prime minister and the moderator had agreed to allow Teo to speak. So what was Sulaiman’s real objective anyway?

Was he trying to gain brownie points with the prime minister? Was it really a ‘bodek’ move as claimed by Amanah MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa? Was he trying to show that he was a tough guy? But these are all assumptions. Who knows what really went through Sulaiman’s mind.

The perception it shows is that some people in the entertainment industry can actually act like gangsters. Do they think they can do whatever they want without facing any consequences? Who do they think they are? Are they above the law? Are they better than everyone else?

The prime minister’s reaction was also quite surprising. He remained silent during the whole incident, aside from getting them to shake hands at the end. By not making a statement on the incident, it may come off as if a violent act is something that can be taken lightly.

And what does an incident like this say about our society? That we Malaysians have no capability to handle open discourse. So much for creating a matured, sophisticated and thinking society when the action taken if you disagree with someone is to slap him or her in the face.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!


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