The series of Hustings for the SA Elections 2018/19 came to an end on 7th March when the Presidential Hustings took place. The race saw two presidential candidates, Lamath Adnan and Am-Abdul Aziz, come head to head announcing their manifesto to the audience and fielding questions both from the floor and each other.
Am Abdul Aziz
After greeting the audience and introducing himself, Am-Abdul Aziz, commonly known as Am, proceeded to highlight the key points in his manifesto. These included providing buses to IOI Mall, Putrajaya, and also the socials to increase transparency of the SA.
Shedding light on the issues about the bus to IOI, Am stated that he had talked to the management about this and had given a few ideas on how to improve the situation. Fortunately, the management had decided that it was feasible to see these changes in the campus.
In his manifesto, he proposed Socials, which was a social gathering event that he believed required minimal effort. Its main objective was to allow students to mingle around with the collaboration of different clubs and societies, which could benefit students to expand their network. Through this, the clubs and societies could promote their clubs as a sneak peek into what they could offer. The executives too shall benefit from this, as Am said that he would like to attend every single event to socialise with students, in which he believed would help in the transparency of the SA.
Before ending his speech, he elaborated on his plan to improve transparency in the SA through a more direct approach to spread awareness about the SA. Although there have already been existing platforms that create awareness about the SA, such as UNMC, Let’s Talk!, Am still believed that a different approach needed to be taken instead- something more “hands-on and direct”. Thus, it was emphasised that socials would then play an important role since students could directly go to him for questions.
Question and Answer Session
The first question for Am was asked by Tormalli Francis, the 16/17 SA President, on how he was going to make the Socials happen when students would not be bothered to attend it. She elaborated that a similar effort was done during her term as Education Officer before, but was met with poor response from students. In response, Am highlighted that Socials is a platform with joint forces of the clubs and societies to get together, to mingle around and to relax with minimal effort and minimal resources so the turn out would be better.
He was also asked why only two ideas were featured in his manifesto, namely the bus to IOI and Socials. Am replied that before making his manifesto, he had met the management to discuss about his ideas. Some ideas were not in his manifesto because the management found them not “concrete” enough to be implemented. Thus, he was unable to give a 100% assurance to include them, not wanting to be someone who could not fulfill what had been promised.
A follow up question was then asked if he would have no other plans after the two “concrete” plans were to be fulfilled. Am then emphasised that while he could not promise students entirely, he would continue to work on the other plans that were not on his manifesto; for example the paving of the Sports Complex parking lot and installing washing machines and dryers at Nexus.
Am was then prompted about how his 2 years on campus, with no direct experience with the SA, was enough to convince students to vote for him. Am disagreed with the comment and explained that, not only was he was involved in the current Education Network as a course representative, he also worked closely with the SA through his involvement in the Freshers’ event as an emcee.
He was then asked whether the skills that he had gained from working with the SA was sufficient enough for him to be the president. His reply was that, to be the president, communication skills was most important skill that he had learnt from past experiences as a leader. As a result, he believed that such a skill had helped him motivate others to make sure they flourish collectively, which could change SA for the better if he were president.
Having previously run for vice president last year, Lamath Adnan made a comeback this year by running for the position of President. In his speech, he explained his manifesto that outlined 3 points that could be improved in the SA.
His first and most elaborated point was bringing about change that students needed. He described an idea polling mechanism for ideas to be conveyed to the SA. Through this portal, students could suggest ideas and take a stand on other ideas by liking or disliking it. Popular ideas would be brought to the committee based on its feasibility.
Awareness about the SA was one of his manifestos as well, as student involvement was little during the elections. Thus, he hoped his campaign could raise awareness about the roles in SA to get more students involved.
In his final point, the issue of increasing and improving transparency was discussed, since students often did not attend student council meetings or open emails from the SA. As a result, a mechanism that was easier on the eyes and more accessible to students was then proposed.
Question and Answer Session
Lamath was questioned on how he would deal with ridiculous requests and how he would encourage student participation in order to implement those ideas. He responded that even ridiculous ideas might benefit future students. His idea on how to get students involved in the poll was to set up tablets around the university.
A member of the audience stated that some ideas were not feasible and gave “false hope”, and questioned if students would continue to provide feedback if there was no change. Lamath answered that his main intention was not to have a 100% success rate, but for students to come forward to share their ideas. He then argued that some impractical ideas did not necessarily mean that other possible brilliant ones had to be rejected.
When asked how he would regard his presidency as a failure, he replied that part of the responsibilities of a president was to manage the SA team. He considered that failure of fulfilling the responsibilities of the other vacant positions would mean failure as a president himself.
The next question was regarding the building and cost of the polling mechanism. Lamath responded that currently there was a capable team and a working website. Although he did not have exact estimates, he still believed that the portal could be set up without much effort.
Finally, a spectator commented that the idea of this portal might seem like Lamath was relying on students, instead of coming up with ideas of his own. Lamath’s response did not seem to answer the question, but replied that he focused more on the idea polling mechanism because it was an unfamiliar concept to the student body.
Rapid Fire Round
The Rapid-fire session was held where the candidates were asked questions by the Student Council Chair, Dinesh Jayabalan, and they were expected to give answers as soon as the questions were given. The session kicked off with Am answering the question first and alternating with Lamath throughout the whole session.
The session started off when Dinesh asked both the candidates to describe their strengths and weaknesses. Am answered first, saying his biggest strength was his ability to motivate people and handle them well. He described people as “the most complicated creatures on Earth”. As for his strength, Am said that he is a very tenacious and persistent person.
Lamath responded that his biggest weakness was his poor public speaking skills, and therefore he had a hard time approaching new people due to his inexperience. In terms of his strength, good teamwork skills were highlighted.
The second question that was asked was the forms of criticisms that they had faced before and the ways in which this criticism was handled. Lamath told the audience that he did not keep track of the people outside of his group of friends as he was not the type who would go out of his way to do networking.
Am started his answer by saying that as a stand-up comedian, people who did not know him well would not take him seriously. He claimed that only those that he had worked closely with would know the extent of the amount of effort he put into his projects.
The next question was about the comments from students that the SA Execs who received payment every month, have done nothing to earn the payment they received. Am gave his view that most of the SA Execs did not do the work for the money. He explained that the execs could have used their time to study or mingle around, but did not do so for the sake of working for the SA. A follow-up question came for Am when he was asked whether the RM700 that they receive every month was necessary, to which he responded confidently that he would still do the job without pay.
Lamath approached this question by saying that he would use the money received to buy a suit if he were to win the elections as had attended his Hustings simply clad in T-shirt due to the fact he didn’t own a suit. Just like his opponent, he responded to the follow up question initially addressed to Am, stating that he could do without the money as well.
The candidates were then asked about their familiarity towards the SA Constitution Handbook and nervous chuckles were heard from them. The number of chapters in the constitutions were asked and both of Am and Lamath took a guess, with 20 and 37 chapters as their answers respectively. Unfortunately for the both of them, the correct answer was 26.
In relation to the troll candidate that they had this year, Presidiva Trump gave a lot statements about the candidates who were running for the elections. They were asked about their views on those statements. Am completely denied the claims that were thrown towards the SA Executives by saying that they were all untrue. Lamath apparently had not seen the statements so said that he had no comments on them.
The session ended with a question on why they think that they are better than the candidate that was sitting next to them. Lamath claimed that his ideas and manifestos were more doable, and also described himself as an open-minded person. On the other hand, Am defended himself by saying that as a president, one would need to represent students well, as well as being approachable. He claimed that he possessed all of those qualities as people were not scared to approach him to convey ideas on how they could contribute to the SA. He emphasised that the SA needed someone who could represent the students and lead the SA.
Presidential Debate Session
The heat was on when Lamath questioned Am on why he thought of including the IOI bus in his manifesto when this issue was under the authority of the Transport Committee and Home Officer. Am responded that among his many ideas the bus was the only one on which a definite answer he received from the management. He went on to say that his manifesto was concrete and he still has many more things to work on apart from that.
In turn, Am asked Lamath how he planned to finance the tablets that were to be placed all around campus. Lamath explained that it would boil down to the amount of funding he would receive and that he would monitor the response from the polls. He would stop pursuing it if the response rate was discouraging.
Next, Am’s view of clubs and societies not having sufficient interaction that he needed to implement Socials was questioned. Am then explained that Socials was just a gathering of clubs, claiming that students did not have enough opportunities to meet with people from different clubs or courses.
Am’s next question approached the issue of Lamath using the same manifesto as he did running for VP the previous year. He mentioned that Lamath would make a brilliant VP and asked him why he did not run for VP again. Lamath was unperturbed, responding that even in the previous year, his friends were insistent that he should have run for president and he retained his manifesto because he was assured of its quality even after a year has passed.
Following that, the chairperson directed a question at Am asking him why he had not applied for Education Officer seeing as it was uncontested and he was in the current education network. Am confidently answered that he possessed the skills to help the entire SA as a whole and that he would not want to limit himself to the Education Network, and would like to contribute to more aspects of the SA.
Lamath challenged Am on his ability to gather students for Socials, stating that even Student Council meetings that provided free pizza are unable to muster many students. Am countered by saying that such meetings are more work-based whereas Socials would just be for students to socialise.
The Open Forum
The Open Forum was conducted by a returning officer, Sasha Amirah, who was a former Home Officer. She posed her first question to the two candidates on how they would deal with the possibility of vacant positions in the SA. Lamath suggested electing deputies to temporarily take the positions, while Am proposed raising awareness in attempt to increase participation.
Next, they were asked to justify the decreasing number of students applying for positions even though the nominations period was longer. Am responded saying that SA executives getting criticised for the lack of transparency was the problem. On the other hand, Lamath had a more positive approach stating that conditions (food, welfare and transportation) have greatly improved so students were less motivated to voice their opinions.
Am was asked how he would motivate the SA when he was unable to motivate the room to vote for him during the Voter’s Perception Survey. Am defended himself saying that he “worked well” with a team and would be able to motivate them to perform well.
Unfortunately for him, Am landed himself in a sticky position, when the School Representative from the School of Economics was quick to point out that he was always tardy with feedback forms as a Year 1 Course Representative. He then justified his behaviour, saying that his work had always been “meticulous”.
His superior then responded that the Year 2 Course Representative did the same thing but never missed his deadlines. When a follow-up question asked Am if he would have similar tendencies with punctuality as President, he went on to describe the difficulties of a being a class representative, and how quality was his main priority over being on time. However, he was criticised by the Student Council Chair, who stated that there is “a difference in giving excuses and answering questions”, and demanded to know how Am could promise to do bigger tasks on time as president. Am defended himself by going back to quality, and how producing “quality work” would take time to complete.
Next question to Lamath was about improving transparency and he responded with a visual representation, explaining how points in a manifesto would be tracked on the SA website and many other places.
Another question came for Lamath enquiring the reason he applied for the position of president much earlier when most candidates applied on the last day. Lamath once again repeated how his friends had a lot of confidence in him as his answer.
Lamath had earlier on commented on how he disliked public speaking and the next question asked him how he would manage, as a leader needs to be outspoken and approachable. He acknowledged the problem as something he could not fix in a day and hoped students would make good use of his portal to better communicate with him.
The next question came to the both of them asking their contributions to the university so far. Am replied first saying he had always wanted to give back to SA, listing participating in Freshers’ squad as one of his contributions and Lamath said he has previously worked with the ISO as well as various clubs and societies.
Later on, Tormalli asked the both of them to win over the audience with a sentence. Am replied saying students should vote for him because he was capable, willing to help others and would do well with a team; while Lamath self-assuredly said “You already know I can do it so just vote for me.”
A meaningful question came from the audience asking them if the person with less votes would work together with the elected president after the election ends. Am replied saying he would want to do that in any way possible and Lamath explained that in the previous year he had actually agreed to the Postgraduate Student Officer using his manifesto points although he himself did not get elected.
When asked if they had previously overseen change on a large scale, Lamath answered that although he has not actively taken part in the SA, it is no reason to believe he is incapable of making change. Am dodged the question saying he would like to focus on improvement of ideas but finally answered no.
Then, the two presidential candidates were asked about their flexibility skills if a plan did not go well or the way they wanted. Am explained that he had to take the blame when his classmates did not answer the lecture surveys in time. However he had misinterpreted the question and went on to answer that he was always concerned about his friends’ well-being and once, he had to take on the role of a music conductor impromptu. Lamath said he could not give an answer but replied that since he usually had free time, he would “prioritise to help his friends” who would be holding the posts using that free time.
When asked about other manifesto ideas they may have, Am talked about the paving of the Sports Complex parking lot and washing machines and dryers in J block. Lamath answered that he would like to raise awareness about SA portfolios, commenting that there was no specific booth explaining SA portfolios as of yet.
Lastly, when asked about their response to an SA Executive not performing their duties, Am said he would communicate and question them, believing that there were many ways to convince someone. Lamath mentioned reporting to higher authority and removing them from their posts. When dealing with misunderstandings, Am suggested discussing in private and Lamath agreed with him.
Follow-up Questions from IGNITE with Am:
1.Have you read the VP’s manifesto? Do you not think it’s important to know the people you might be working with?
I did skim through his manifesto as well as the other SA Execs’ manifesto and may have mixed his up with previous manifestos as well. But I will look through it after this.
2. In what way are you going to make sure everyone will get the transparency they needed since not everyone can come to the Socials. How are you going to cater to all of them?
Regarding transparency, we already have so many platforms out there such as UNMC Confessions, Catching Up with The SA’s. Socials is just another platform to supplement the existing platforms that are out there. I will try to keep on improving on the current ones that we have. And I will also try to shed light more on the subject matter during the Socials.
3. Transparency is not just about talking to more people, it is about publishing exactly what you’re doing through official manners. Can you tell us exactly what you’re doing to spread the word on transparency?
My predecessors already have this platform and ways to spread awareness. They have been advocating for awareness for a long time because people don’t seem to be aware of it. However, if that fails, I will try to improve it. But if it does still fail, I’ll expect Socials to supplement the efforts. It is not a stand-alone effort but it goes hand-in-hand with other platforms.
4. Why did the buggy ride disappear from your manifesto?
I have talked to the management about that too. I thought that it is a great idea as a lot of people are complaining about how they have to walk up from J Block every day. The management told me that although the buggies are electrically powered, the entire theme of this university is a greener university and we want the students to be healthy.
5. What motivated you to run for this position? Alternatively, what made you think you have enough motivation to run for this position?
I have had work experience before this. Although people don’t know this, I am 24 years-old despite being in first year. What I did was I went around the world and built all of these skills and it feels like it’ll be a shame if I can’t really use it to contribute and lead people to make sure they flourish.
Follow-up Questions from IGNITE with Lamath:
1. Who would be moderating the poll to ensure serious concerns are addressed, and how would you decide whether an issue was serious enough to warrant action?
A matter that warrants action would depend on how popular it is (students’ vote). I believe that the VP has a communications team to manage communication channels between the SA and students so there are already people to handle this.
2. It is part of your post to be able to present yourself well to the students. How will you connect with students if you have difficulty in public speaking?
I go out of my way to communicate with students which inspired me to come up with the Idea Polling Mechanism. If the need arises, I will see what improvements can be made, maybe by attending Toastmasters.
3. How would you attract people to regularly check up on the SA website when they don’t even check emails?
Post more relevant materials on the SA website so students have to visit the website.
4. How would tracking the progress of SA on SA’s website help attendance of the Student Council & encourage transparency when the students don’t even interact with the executives?
While students do not interact with SA execs, SA should still be proactive in giving information to the students. It is our responsibility to work around that.
5. Have you tested the Idea Polling and do you know how difficult it is to set-up and maintain it?
There are various way to do it. For example Qualtrics can be used to conduct surveys.
6. You were thinking of appointing deputies to fill vacant positions. Where would you get the extra manpower from, who gets to run the positions and will they be given the same fees?
I could approach the council to ask if I could appoint deputies to fill in these positions. Whether or not they would be paid would depend on what the management decides.
Written by Charmaine Phong and Khairina binti Khairul Nizam
Photographed by Anne Marie