Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNMC Lake and a community garden were the predominant topics discussed during the SA Sustainability Officer hustings, which took place on March 14th, at F1A13.
During the gathering, Ahmed Hammaed Saeed, Eric Ting Tze Yik, Hayaat Ali Kurmaully and Pouvalen Seeneevassin presented their visions to a sizable body of students.
The candidates took the podium in alphabetical order, each going over their manifestos in strikingly different ways. Their slides were displayed on the projector for all in the audience to follow.
Ahmed Hammaed Saeed.
The meaning of Sustainability was the opening line of this candidate. Ahmed started by linking that to what Sustainability personally means to him, and how he plans to achieve these ideas. His strategy was briefly summarised into three words: Awareness, Action, and Innovation.
His expansion on these points referenced regularly occurring charity events and spreading awareness about recycling among the student body of UNMC through workshops. The traffic issue in the university was also brought up, with Hammaed proposing that students should be able to commute via bicycles, which would follow specially constructed pathways that he intends to create. Another one of Ahmed’s points was the battle of smoking on campus, with the implementation of smoking-designated zones as his remedy to the issue.
The last idea stated was a five-day fundraiser, named Go-Green week. Each day is to host a different type of event, ranging from recycling workshops, donations to a farmers’ market and even an eco-friendly fashion show.
Question and Answer Session: Ahmed Hammaed Saeed.
After the candidate got his chance to sway potential voters, it was their turn to dissect what was presented to them. The first question came from Uraiba Asif, the outgoing Sustainability Officer, who brought to light several hindrances to Hammaed’s plan.
She stated that, as per Malaysian Government laws, it is prohibited to have a smoking designated area in an educational institute. This appeared to throw Hammaed off, but he did not respond immediately as Uraiba continued to point out some more concerns. She said that Sustainability Awareness Week, an event similar to Go-Green Week, will be conducted next week. Uraiba then concluded her turn by raising the question of where the bicycle pathways are intended to be built.
Although he didn’t seem more nervous than he was whilst going through his manifesto, Ahmed appeared to answer the outgoing Sustainability Officer’s question with questions of his own. He explained that the path for cycling will be connecting the university and the TTS Bridge, and then asked Uraiba to confirm whether the bridge was part of the university. As for the smoking issue, he countered that monitoring through cameras and increasing security can rectify the problem, as the perpetrators would be caught in the act of smoking in non-smoking areas, and thus, action could be taken. He then reiterated the smoking-designated areas as a backup plan.
Jason Ong Jin Hui, the SA Vice President for 2016/2017, then brought into question the originality of the events composing the proposed Go-Green Week, and what exactly Ahmed meant by “bringing back” sustainability awareness. Unfortunately, the questioner once again became the one being questioned, as Ahmed asked Jason whether a fashion show had been conducted before, and then went on to ask if the workshops were enough of a creative idea. As to resurrecting awareness, no clear answer was given.
After being prompted by the SA Returning officer, another question was posed by Jason. As recently, 17 SDGs were implemented by the UN. So, Jason’s question for Ahmed was which SDGs does he feel would bring awareness to our campus.
Ahmed’s reply was that he’ll check and return with an answer.
Smoking was brought up yet again, with audience members demanding to know what exactly are the proposed techniques to produce a smoking-free campus, besides the ones currently active, such as imposing fines. However, Ahmed re-used his previous answer of having cameras to catch those smoking on UNMC grounds. To this, the outgoing Sports Officer, Andy Tan, asked Ahmed to specify who would be behind those cameras, considering that Security Officers have been witnessed to be smokers themselves. Andy’s question was not given a clear answer.
Finally, based on his answer to another inquiry, the candidate plans on constructing the cycling pathway in lieu of the stairs leading to TTS, with funding obtained from the SA. This statement seemed to provoke the audience, with many giving strong responses.
Ahmed’s last few answers seemed to follow the same pattern. At one point, he stated that previous experience is not needed for being a successful SA Executive officer, and as proof, he pointed out that in the regulations to apply as an SA Candidate, specific experience is not required. He concluded by mentioning the creation of a survey as a means of quantifying his success, and that awareness, he believes, is a vital ingredient in solving many of problems addressed in his manifesto.
Eric Ting Tze Yik
Next to take to the platform was first year accounting and finance student, Eric Ting Tze Yik. Themes included in his manifesto were inclusion, sharing, and teamwork. His first suggestion drew on the theme of communication, as he aims to unite clubs and societies under the umbrella of C.E.S.J – an acronym for charity, environmental and social justice. Eric also plans to conduct events to spread awareness through collaborations between the clubs and the sustainability network.
His second point was facilitating the communication between the student body and the management. Marketing, emails and Facebook are some of the methods that he plans to employ for this purpose.
Eric then reflected on his experiences for his next point. He told the audience how he was involved in numerous club and society events, and so he is aware of the struggle to obtain resources for events on campus. Eric believes that these resources could be shared and even recycled. For instance, for an event of his own that will be carried out next week, his team recycled the cardboard boxes used during the recent Bunkasai event. Hence, he plans to coordinate events to prevent overlapping so that materials would not go to waste.
However, Eric said that such ideas cannot work smoothly without the aid of a team, and urged those who are passionate for a better UNMC to be part of his team if he becomes Sustainability Officer. This theoretical team will then have the function of updating everyone about events that are C.E.S.J based, ensuring the smooth flow of and wide reach of these events. He also plans on continuing the conduction of successful events done by his predecessors.
Question and Answer Session: Eric Ting Tze Yik
The audience seemed impressed with the ideas presented in the candidate’s manifesto but questioned their mechanism.
One of the audience members had asked Eric how he plans to ensure the voices of the students are heard by management and the specifics of creating his team. Eric’s reply was that approaching the management with collected ideas was a possible solution. He said that the feasibility of an idea is not just up to the students, as the key elements in making ideas come to life, such as funding, are often hard to get, but could be provided by the management. Thus, Eric says the main idea would be to open direct communication with the management, Student Association, and the students.
As for his plan to recruit possible future team members, Eric plans to send emails asking students to sign up and then conduct interviews, to ensure that he knows exactly who is a part of his team.
The candidate was then questioned by Jason about continuing efforts in bridging the gap between local and international students. Eric’s answer was a proposed, “We are one UNMC” campaign, which has in fact already been implemented. Eric then went to acknowledge the past sustainability officers’ role as a valuable source of knowledge in that field and said that he hopes he can find backup in the several clubs and societies.
C.E.S.J was questioned when somebody asked about ideas regarding charity and social justice, as these were not clarified during Eric’s speech. His reply indicated that a possible plan would be to approach clubs and societies and then discuss it with them. The inclusion of charity and social justice was to ensure that students knew they could rely on the sustainability team for these issues. However, Eric admitted that currently, he had no concrete plans regarding these two aspects as he did not want to make empty promises. The candidate then reiterated the need for a team before any further discussions and declined to expand on specifics that as of now, were not confirmed.
Another point mentioned in Eric’s manifesto was the sharing of resources. The audience appeared to approve of this idea, but the system for implementing it needed clarification. The candidate highlighted creating designated areas near recycling bins for reusable resources. He also believes that, although the management can object to such an idea, he would be able to come up with something.
Accessory plans to events that can make the campus more sustainable and inspire awareness were also brought into question. According to the candidate, such ideas are actually already implemented but not wildly known. An audience member then interjects, saying that she believes awareness does not really generate concrete change, specifically concerning the plastic waste problems. To this, Eric responds by revealing to the audience that during a previous recycling event he had participated in, they had managed to collect 90 kilograms of plastic materials from the campus. Thus, he strongly believed that increasing concentration and frequency of awareness would be the best solution.
Following this, an audience member pointed out that Eric had included his position as the UNMC Earth Hour 2017 organising chairperson in his list of past experiences. Thus, the questioner then asked about plans to enhance the sustainability of the event.
Eric’s reply was that the clubs and societies should conduct more environmentally-friendly projects prior to the event, or even set up awareness booths during the event. He then went on to inform the audience that his team for the event managed to get eco-friendly sponsors, such as Baba. According to Eric, this means that and there was a very high possibility of Earth Hour participants being given a biodegradable pot, which will have a seed inside. A number of audience members appeared very impressed by this.
As for encouraging recycling, Eric thinks that spreading awareness is the key.
A member of UNMC Nature Club then raised the question of how the candidate intends to involve more international students in the organising committee of said club since the predominant presence was of Chinese students. The boldness of this question brought out mixed reactions from the audience, as the candidate holds the position of President of the UNMC Nature Club for the 2016/2017 term.
Eric’s response was surprisingly honest, as he admitted that the asker had spoken the truth. He then addressed the audience, asking those in the crowd who were willing to be his team members to remember this question, as it was proof that international students do want to be involved. Having accepted accountability, Eric then went on to suggest involving more international students in the UNMC Nature Club committee next year, as it was not realistically feasible this year.
Finally, the community garden and its continuity were raised as a concern by one of the students. Eric said that he intends to bring more focus to the project, which could be done by encouraging committee members to inform their friends, and by sharing achievements and success of the project with the university.
Hayaat Ali Kurmaully
After checking as to whether the SA President, SA Vice President, and other members of the committee were present during his hustings, Hayaat greeted the whole crowd and thanked them for attending. He went on to say that the people give him the confidence to work, persevere and to achieve his and ‘our’ goals.
The Sustainability candidate then laid out his manifesto, saying that it was the voice of the whole UNMC and not just his solutions. According to Hayaat, he wants to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Finally beginning to discuss his manifesto, he claimed that he had done sufficient research about the issues UNMC students faced.
He then posed a rhetorical question to the crowd about the frequency of inspections of stores. According to Hayaat, the answer was only one per semester. Hence, in order to put a stop to the student’s complaints about hygiene issues, the candidate said that he wished to implement a stricter regulation for the hygiene and food safety of the campus.
He then moved on to his next point. To the surprise of many, Hayaat singled out an audience member and asked that the crowd give him around of applause. According to Hayaat, the student, Daniel, should be congratulated as he is currently in charge of UNMC’s community garden. However, two problems that Hayaat had found out from the Director of Campus Services about the community garden is that there was a lack of awareness and a lack of continuity. Hence, Hayaat promised that he would ensure the community garden prevails.
Regarding food wastage, the candidate spoke about starvation in Asian countries and then asks if “the crowd” is still willing to waste food. Hayaat then goes on to explain that he aims to carry out sustainability campaigns for the staff and students concerning proper food wastage and channel them to the existing composite area at Kapas hall.
Additionally, Hayaat claimed that he would strive to increase the number of cyclists, improve the bicycle infrastructure on campus, promote healthier lifestyles and even create environmental awareness amongst the UNMC community. For those goals to happen, he said that he would implement a bicycle rental system on campus.
Then, quoting Wiston Churchill, Hayaat said that “You make a living from what you get, but you make a life from what you give”. This was followed by his proclamation of appreciation for the unity from the clubs and societies for their donation drives. He claimed that they would always have his support.
Finally, the Sustainability Officer candidate showed a picture of an ATM worker sitting by the ATM machine to repair it. Another rhetorical question was posed to the crowd as Hayaat questioned how one ATM is sufficient for the whole campus. His own conclusion was to provide an ATM machine at Univillage. The reason that he intended for an ATM to exist in Univillage instead of on campus is unclear. But Hayaat ends his speech confidently, appealing to the whole crowd to support him and stating that he works for a cause, not a place. He then opened the floor to questions with his campaign tagline, “Let’s discuss solutions”.
Question and Answer Session: Hayaat Ali Kurmaully
Despite his strong start and his calls to discuss solutions, it appeared that the question and answer session did not go as Hayaat had planned. The candidate was bombarded with a number of questions from the crowd, many of which Hayaat answered vaguely, or responded by restating his manifestos.
The first question brought up was regarding what Hayaat planned to do with the existing implementation of “Cradle to Cradle”; a composting centre on campus located near the hockey field. However, instead of providing a plan, Hayaat thanked the asker for his input and stated that, “my idea to reduce food wastage, is to reduce food wastage”.
The audience member who proposed the question, appearing unsatisfied, then informed Hayaat that “Cradle to Cradle” had been established since the 16th of November 2016. There was no clear response to this statement.
A follow-up question about the food wastage addressed the fact that the composting bin already exists. The asker then goes on to question the candidate’s plans to improve its efficiency. Hayaat responded that he aimed to carry out a “better” or a “proper” way of channeling the food to the composting area. But what is meant by “better” or “proper” is not touched upon.
The next question brought up was regarding the plans for the bicycle renting system. Hayaat was asked what he would do differently to make sure this system is implemented, as it is actually currently in the pipeline. Hayaat then spoke about reviving the current bicycle project that had been put on hold. He claimed that he had the “results” of the authorities giving him the green light to have the bicycle renting system on campus.
However, when asked for proof of the “results”, he moved on to say that funding is not a problem and that “we” can manage the funding of the bicycle renting. When questioned about who “we” is referred to, he stated that he has communicated with the Director of Campus Services regarding this issue and that the bicycle project can be revived.
A question was then proposed by the IGNITE team, concerning how is the candidate plans to prove to students that he is a cooperative leader since community support is needed for almost all the sustainability events. The asker mentioned that this question was raised due to some concerns highlighted to the IGNITE team. However, Hayaat answered the question with a question of his own, asking the audience member to define what she meant by ‘cooperation’. Yet, not understanding the question well enough even after asking for it to be repeated, Hayaat stated that he had been a leader before and knows how to work with a team.
Linur Chubaev, the outgoing SA President, then asked Hayaat a question regarding waste separation. Going into specifics, Linur explained how many times, the improper type of products and even cutleries, end up in the food waste bin or in the wrong recycling bin. Hayaat was then asked how he plans to solve this.
In response, Hayaat talked about having a ‘proper’ separation. Cutting him off, Linur stated that a team who does separation of the products already exists. Hence, Linur says that what is needed is not a team but a solution. Hayaat replied by stating yet again that the solution was to have ‘proper’ food separation and then channelling it to the composting area.
However, the SA President questioned Hayaat yet again, this time concerned with how a team would help all the students ensure that cutleries are not thrown into the food waste bin. Perhaps flustered under the pressure, Hayaat candidly replied that “That is your fault, my friend.” To this, a large number of the crowd chorused in disagreement and shock.
Diffusing the situation, Linur then requested Hayaat to come up with a solution to prevent bins from having unrelated products or objects in it. He then went on to ask another question, this time regarding the bicycle renting system. According to Linur, the funding would be a big issue. When the candidate questioned why funding was an issue, the SA President stated that the price of an eco-friendly bicycle was about RM3,000.
Hayaat, appearing unsure about the price of the bicycle, continued to state that his manifesto referred to a bicycle renting system. He moved on, talking about the bicycle project being on hold and that it will be revived based on the conversation he had with the Director of Campus Services.
Another question was proposed with the context of Hayaat not having a background scope that is related to the Sustainability field, based on his Facebook page. Hence, Hayaat was asked how he planned to prove that he is a better candidate than the others who are running for the same position.
Hayaat stated that he was president of the agriculture club, under the Ministry of Environment, and was on the student council of his high school. Cutting him off, the person from the crowd questioned him regarding how he could convince her that those positions contributed to his role as a Sustainability Officer. Hayaat simply stated that “These are all my points, if you support my points then you can vote for me.”
Another controversial question brought up was regarding the implementation of the ATM machine at Univillage and its relevance to the Sustainability officer’s role. A person from the crowd pointed out how Hayaat had mistakenly mentioned at the hustings of the Home Officer that some issues were not under the job scope of a Home Officer, and then pointed out that Hayaat was doing the same thing as the ATM does not fall under sustainability.
Hayaat replied that he agreed with the statement, and spoke about his conversation with the director of the Univillage management. He believed that this ATM is something the students need, and so he had discussed this with the management, and it would be implemented. However, several of the outgoing SA Execs interjected, mentioning their own experience of struggling to set up an ATM due to the requirement of a minimum 100 transactions a day for that to happen. Hayaat responded by saying that this was not what he had been told and that the figure he received was different. It remains unclear which party is correct.
Then, Hayaat was asked how would he manage to maintain and keep the community garden. In his reply, he stated that the community garden is currently not under the Sustainability officer and he intends it to be under the Sustainability officer’s job to ensure its continuity. He also promised to create awareness about the community garden.
As for the lake and any plans to clean it, Hayaat stated that it’s not within his capability to carry out the task. The final question was about his plans to promote social justice and equality on campus. Hayaat replied that there will be talks held for the students. He ended his hustings by stating “I rest my case” and mentioned that all of his goals have been acknowledged by the campus services, waving the paperwork as proof.
Currently a first-year student in Environmental Science, Pouvalen began his speech by telling the audience that he was an engineering dropout in Electronics and Communication back in Mauritius. During his summer break, he helped out with the Mauritian Wildlife foundation, which is an NGO. From his experience working there, he intended to make this field his life. Hence, he said that in order to fulfil his aim of making a change to the planet, he decided to start somewhere, and run for Sustainability Officer. His involvement in UNMC includes being part of the Enactus club and the Sustainability network. Stating that he is aware of the amount of work that the Sustainability position entails, Pouvalen claims that he feels he is ready for the job.
Beginning with his manifesto, Pouvalen explained that he plans to come up with awareness booths in terms of SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals). He aimed to break the ignorance in the students and let them know that Sustainability is more than the environment alone by creating these awareness booths.
Pouvalen then continued by speaking about saving electricity. He said that there is an ongoing competition between the campus accommodation halls that aims to achieve this. Hence, he wants to raise awareness of the competition and make it more attractive by presenting the winning hall’s committee with rewards that the students would look forward to, like parties with pizzas or barbeque.
Speaking about the campus environment, he said that he plans to encourage recycling individual waste from rooms, improving the lake water quality, renovate the pathway around the lake, propose more frequent cleaning of plates and trays disposal facilities at the cafeteria as well as more frequent inspections to increase food quality and safety.
Pouvalen said that it is also his intention to promote charity and create a fun aspect to it by having an event that students could enjoy, and then channelling the money to charity. So, he wants the events to be attractive to the students to encourage more participation. He also said that the events need not be related to the Sustainability department but the results would be.
Pouvalen also had a concept of a United UNMC in his manifesto and said that the plans that he had for this can only be done with the help of all the students of UNMC. One of his plans is called “Tag yourself day” where students would have their names tagged to their shirts, which would encourage all passerby to greet them. Finally, Pouvalen ended his speech by stating that “a united campus is one that flourishes”.
Question and Answer Session: Pouvalen Seeneevassin
The first question asked was directed to all the candidates running for Sustainability Officer. It was concerned wth how they plan to empower the people of UNMC to want to care for sustainability. Pouvalen answered the question by relating it to his manifesto point of creating awareness booths. He said he aims to tackle all of the SDG’s through the booths and not only inform people about sustainability, but also the effects that would take place if there is a contribution to the field.
A question was then raised about the exact goals of SDG that Pouvalen planned to implement at UNMC. He answered that he intends to implement all the 17 goals of the SDG. For instance, in terms of the Innovation and Infrastructure, he said he plans to collaborate with the engineering department that is related to this field to come up with ideas and activities. In terms of gender inequality, Pouvalen said that he thinks FEMSoc would be a good choice to collaborate with. For fields such as conservation, he would organise field trips for the students to learn awareness.
In regards to his manifesto, a question was raised regarding the improvement of lake water quality. Pouvalen said that based on what his Hydrology lecturer had told him, the issue with the lake is in fact not the sediments but just algae. However, in order to tackle the issue from the source which runoffs from the gardens such as the fertilisers, he planned to use biodegradable fertilisers or use composites. He said that after speaking to a second source regarding the lake water, finance was pointed out to be an issue based on a research conducted. Hence, a new analysis of the lake water is needed and Pouvalen aimed to be updated with the research in order to do something about it.
Another audience member raised the question of how often the awareness booths will be around, what would the people behind the booth exactly be doing and how does the candidate plan on running them. Pouvalen answered that he plans on having a team who would help him out in those booths. Furthermore, since he aims to cover all of the SDG goals, he plans to have 17 booths and have 2-3 goals combined in one booth. As to how often would the booths be around, Pouvalen admitted that it will be figured out later, but insists that he does aim to cover all of the SDG goals.
The next question was raised regarding the lake water, concerning how realistic it would be to clean the lake water within a year. Pouvalen honestly answered that he would not be able to clean the lake within a year, but said that he could be able to reanalyze the situation and come up with solutions, then they could pass the information to the Sustainability candidate for the following term.
An asker highlighted concern for the way the dogs around the campus are living and asked Pouvalen if he had a plan to create awareness and tackle the issue. Pouvalen once again honestly replied that he is unsure if dogs are technically allowed on campus but would certainly look into the matter and come up with possible solutions if he is elected.
In terms of saving electricity, a question was asked about his ideas to save electricity within the campus itself and not just the accommodation halls. Pouvalen said he aims to put up posters or stickers next to the switches and hoped for the students to cooperate with him by abiding with those posters or stickers. A proposal was then made by the crowd to create automatic lights at the halls. Pouvalen replied that he had not considered that solution but surely will if he gets elected.
Regarding the community garden, a question was asked about how he intends to incorporate the community garden into sustainability. Pouvalen answered that he had not included the community garden in his manifesto because Daniel was not too sure if he would want the community garden to be included under the SA. However, once Daniel has confirmed wanting it under the SA, Pouvalen said that he would then start working on it. He plans to create awareness by setting up a booth with the showcase of the harvest from this garden and encourage the students to contribute to it.
The final question was proposed by someone who has been involved in the unofficial animal welfare society of UNMC for the past three years. She asked to what lengths is the candidate willing to help the society out as the two main problems they have faced was funding from the university and that apparently animal welfare is a controversial issue on campus. After being informed by the outgoing SA Execs in the crowd that dogs and cats are not allowed on campus, Pouvalen stated that he would not know how to tackle the problem as it is already a rule on campus that dogs or cats are not allowed. As for helping the unofficial animal welfare society, based on the past attempts by the society, Pouvalen said that he can only try to get better results, but he would make sure that he does try and help the society.
Written by Renad Sadig and Suchitra Sugumaran.
Photographs by Malik Hisyam.