Oxford student denies being ‘aggressive,’ calls forum where he questioned Dr. M ‘a debating society’

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Photo: Facebook screengrab/ Darrion Mohan

Darrion Mohan, the young Singaporean student from Oxford who recently engaged in a debate with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr. Tun Mahathir Mohamad has defended himself against critics who have called him too ‘aggressive’ or ‘confrontational,’ claiming that the forum where he asked Dr. Mahathir questions is “fundamentally a debating society”.

On January 19, Friday, Mohan posted a video on his Facebook account, wherein he questioned the Malaysian Prime Minister concerning Singapore and Malaysia’s bilateral relations, primarily on the incident on January 9 when Osman Sapian, the Chief Minister of Johor, made an unauthorised visit to a Malaysian government vessel, the Pedoman, now located in disputed waters. Dr. Mahathir did not answer him directly, but brought up the issue of 22-year-old Mohan’s citizenship, pointing out that Mohan is not Malaysian. The Prime Minister also opted to talk about the 1962 Water Agreement between the two countries, mainly to focus on how unfair the agreement is to Malaysia.

The media picked up on Mohan’s video and it went viral, getting thousands of likes and shares.

However, not all the attention given to the young Singaporean has been positive, with some commenters calling Mohan out for his attitude toward the Malaysian Prime Minister which they deemed disrespectful.

In a report in The Straits Times (ST) on Tuesday, January 22, Mohan defended himself, alleging that the forum was indeed the ideal place for the exchange to have occurred since the Oxford Union is “fundamentally a debating society”.

The ST reports him as saying, “When leaders speak at the Union, there has always been a strong tradition of them being confronted with tough questions and challenged robustly.”

Furthermore, Mohan said that he recognized that the opportunity to experience a “back-and-forth exchange” with the Malaysian Prime Minister on the territorial dispute is a rare one indeed, and he believed it would be “interesting” to hear from Dr Mahathir himself.

Mohan is a second-year student of history and politics at Oxford, where he received a partial scholarship. An alumnus of the Raffles Institution, he interned at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore in 2017.

The young man not only showed that he has kept abreast with Singapore’s current events by asking Dr. Mahathir about the current bilateral tensions, but he also clarified points that the Malaysian Prime Minister made concerning the water agreement issue, as well as the disputed waters.

Mohan wrote, “during our exchange, Dr. M repeatedly referred to the disputed waters off Tuas as “international waters”. This contradicts previous statements from both Dr. M [1] as well as the Malaysian Transport Minister [2], who stated that the disputed waters within the new Johor port limits are Malaysia’s territorial waters. Dr. M’s concession that these are in fact international waters significantly undermines Malaysia’s initial claim.”

Read related: Heated argument between Singaporean Oxford student and Dr. Mahathir regarding ongoing maritime disputes

Heated argument between Singaporean Oxford student and Dr. Mahathir regarding ongoing maritime disputes