On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Making little political sense


BY : Wong Chun Wai

IT’S a difficult decision to defend. In fact, the whole exercise to shut down Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s website serves little purpose except to infuriate more Malaysians, especially the urban middle class who have become increasingly disillusioned with the Government.

Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor has said that it was not the Government’s decision to block access to the Malaysia Today news website but a directive from the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission.

In short, it was not my decision, blame them but I will support them. If it was not politically motivated, as Shaziman said, then what is it? A decision based on sports, economics or entertainment reasons? Surely, he cannot expect Malaysians to believe this.

But for sure, the decision would not help the Barisan Nasional government because it is hugely unpopular, unjustified and gives the impression that the Barisan is unable to take on a fight and it has to resort to shutting down a website which has given the coalition a nightmare.

Shaziman has, in fact, admitted that the commission decided to block the website after receiving numerous complaints about the site’s contents.

He said that this year alone, 127 blogs and websites, among them get-rich-quick schemes sites, were blocked by the commission for contravening the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Just as RPK has a large following of fans, he also has an equal number of critics who find him irresponsible and offensive with what he has written. Certainly, he is daring, highly imaginative and critical, something amiss in the mainstream media, but he has little regard for accuracy.

Police reports and statutory declarations are hardly taken seriously any more, let alone regarded as evidence, although they are put up to back his claims.

But the best way is to rebuke him, insist on a right to reply and, of course, sue him or arrest him for criminal defamation. That will allow him to defend himself in the court of law. In fact, RPK is already facing criminal defamation and other charges for his postings.

Yes, he has made the rich and powerful shiver each time he sends a posting with his allegations of corruption and abuse of power and the rakyat has cheered each time; these leaders, who are perceived as untouchables, are walloped.

But those on the receiving end, especially the families of those who are innocent, have also suffered with what he has written.

Politics is about perception and convincing the voters with your arguments. If RPK has managed to attract a large following, with some actually swallowing as gospel truth whatever he writes, then the Government has failed to counter him effectively, credibly and intelligently.

It is the job of the ruling government, with all the resources at its disposal, to find the right talents to argue why the Barisan is still the best option, in the wake of mounting pressure to replace the Government.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may not meet his Sept 16 deadline to topple the Government but the next general election is just four years away, and one year will fly by soon.

The Government may not realise it, and many ministers would never see it or admit it, but it is simply shooting itself in the foot with the latest decision, and all Anwar needs to do is to sit back and enjoy the backlash.

Shahziman cannot compare get-rich-quick schemes with Malaysia Today because it’s like comparing oranges and apples. Such an argument is illogical and unconvincing.

Has the Government realised that after blocking RPK’s website, his followers can still read them on a mirror site, which makes the entire decision a mockery and exercise futile? The move will only make RPK more popular and give the impression that our leaders and members of the commission are computer illiterate with little understanding of what they have done.

More than half of the people in this country are below the age of 23 and this is the largest concentration of computer users; most of them must be wondering what was on the mind of those who made this decision and how they could lead them, if they cannot apprehend how the Internet works.

The political fight is increasingly being fought on the Net, a tool which the Pakatan Rakyat has embraced effectively. In the United States, presidential hopeful Barrack Obama can’t live without his Blackberry but his opponent John McCain has admitted that he does not even know how to send an e-mail, reflecting the digital divide of the generations and how he would lack an understanding of young minds.

Yes, small meetings, ceramah and personal contacts are still major Malaysian campaign weapons, especially in rural settings, but it would be foolish to dismiss the power of the Net from now.

So, if tomorrow RPK decides to start another website, would the commission be shutting down that website?

The Government cannot be using the same method, which it has done for the last 51 years, to tackle the demands of the New Malaysia. It has to offer new answers because the electorate is new, and even the opponents are new – this is something they need to reflect on during the long National Day holidays.

The National Day is not just about parades and fireworks but an appropriate time for the nation, especially our leaders, to review what we have done or failed to do. And more importantly, where we, as a nation, are heading towards.