NST Leader: We have to put bullies out of business

Bullying in Malaysia is a serious problem with eight out of 10 having claimed they had encountered bullying in schools, a 2018 nationwide survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund showed. – FILE PIC

THE award of RM616,634.20 to a bully victim by the High Court in Kuala Terengganu on Sunday is unprecedented. That the victim became deaf in his right ear from injuries makes it even more pressing for anti-bully laws to be implemented, and soon.

Nine parties — including five former students, a student affairs senior assistant, former school principal, Education Ministry director-general and the Malaysian government — were ordered to pay exemplary and aggravated damages to the plaintiff.

Bullying in Malaysia is a serious problem with eight out of 10 having claimed they had encountered bullying in schools, a 2018 nationwide survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund showed.

The survey involved over 2,000 children below 18. It also revealed that 70 per cent of children said they had witnessed a peer being bullied.

Respondents called for a national anti-bullying law, anti-bullying school policies and programmes to counter bullying.

A sustained high-profile effort must be carried out to counter bullying because it is a social problem that never really goes away. It is an unwanted, aggressive behaviour among children or teenagers that involves a “real or perceived power imbalance”.

The behaviour is often repeated — both the victim and bully have serious, lasting problems.

Those bullied are often depressed and anxious, and suffer from sleep and eating disorders. Such symptoms may persist into adulthood, say psychologists.

Most random shooting cases in the United States in the 1990s were by shooters who had a history of being bullied.

Take the case of T. Nhaveen and navy cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, which received wide media coverage and was a topic on social media that went global with masses questioning the mental health of Malaysian society, especially our youth.

Nhaveen, 18, was viciously assaulted by several youths, which resulted in him becoming brain dead.

He never came out of his coma. Zulfarhan, meanwhile, was tortured by more than 10 students with a steam iron over a missing laptop. He died a few days later. Both cases were in 2017 and are ongoing.

Such senseless and horrific deaths. No decent human being should be made to suffer such a fate. This is the 21st century, not the middle ages. We are not barbarians.

Justice must be served and perpetrators must be made accountable.

The landmark decision should not only act as a deterrent to other bullies, but also a lesson — not only must the bully be held accountable for his actions, it is also the whole chain of actors who have allowed the deed to happen.

How much longer do we have to witness bullies “killing” innocent youths, asks a psychologist? The buck has to stop somewhere, he says, and adds that bullying happens because we allow it to happen.

He also says bullies have to be sent for rehabilitation and taught the value of human life. “Once they have served their time, they should be sent for psychiatric sessions. Victims too, need to undergo similar sessions,” he says.

It would be worthwhile to remember what Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said — if one remained neutral or silent in unjust situations, then he has chosen to side with the oppressor.

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