By Kee Thuan Chye
I was greeted first thing this morning by an SMS from a dear old friend. It read: “Saudara XXX [my friend’s name in full], Selamat Menyambut Hari Lahir. Happy Birthday. Ikhlas dari DS Ir Mohd Zin Mohamed, Kordinator BN Selangor. Sayangi Selangor, Yakini BN.”
At first, I wondered why my friend had forwarded me this SMS. Then when I saw the four-letter word he had appended at the end of it, I understood. He was sharing with me his disgust at the greeting from Mohd Zin.
This coordinator of Selangor Barisan Nasional (BN) who is campaigning to win the state from Pakatan Rakyat at the soon-to-be-held general election has been sending out many such messages to a whole lot of people ever since last year. However, they have become such an annoyance that the recipients invariably express nothing but disgust each time they receive such messages.
Some of my other friends have also been complaining to me about Mohd Zin’s barrage of not only SMSes but postcards and letters as well. And social media is full of curses against him and his unsavoury proselytising efforts to the BN cause.
Most recipients know that all this is being done for a blatant political purpose, which means the gesture is not one of goodwill. Nor is it imbued with sincerity. Many even say that no other country in the world practises this kind of tactic to solicit votes.
They are greatly concerned that Selangor BN has easy access to their private particulars, like their birthdate and mobile number. And even the constituencies they’ll be voting at – for these are also included in the postcards and letters. Who has been supplying Selangor BN all this information?
And why should the electoral constituencies be included when the purpose is supposedly to send a festive greeting? Why run it with the tagline “Yakini BN” (Have Faith in BN), right beside the BN dacingsymbol, at the top of the letter?
Another question on people’s minds is: Who is paying for all these proselytising efforts? Is the rakyat’s money being used?
I’d like to think that since this is a BN initiative, the expenses should be borne by BN. I’d also like to think that BN has tons of money so paying for it should not be a problem. I certainly hope this is the case.
My own children received a Chinese New Year letter last week wishing them Gong Xi Fa Cai and attempting to indoctrinate them about BN’s transformation programme. One side of the letter is in Chinese, the other in Malay. The letter is signed by BN chief Najib Razak and carries a picture of him. But the people behind it are Selangor BN, going by the contact details provided at the bottom.
This is the third or fourth time my children have received such a letter. The first one was in conjunction with Malaysia Day last August. Then, the contents of the letter were aimed at emphasising our so-called “non-confrontational culture” in order to persuade the recipient to eschew street protests.
What that letter said was hogwash because if ours was truly a non-confrontational culture, Umno would not have led the massive street rallies to protest against the Malayan Union in 1946. The letter was an obvious attempt at brainwashing.
The same is true of the Chinese New Year letter. Acknowledging that there are people who are still sceptical about BN’s economic and political transformation programme, it tries to persuade the recipient to accept the idea that such a programme will take time and effort to be realised. Hence the need for long-term stability in government. In other words, vote for BN.
Each letter was accompanied by ang-pow packets also bearing Najib’s picture. I was horrified and bemused at the same time when I saw them. Which Chinese person would put money into these packets to give to others if they know that face represents a ruling party that is corrupt? Most would just throw the packets away!
I must be right – BN does have tons of money, perhaps too much since it’s spending it so foolishly.
I, too, received a Chinese New Year message. Like my friend’s birthday greeting, it came from Mohd Zin.
Before that, I got one from him in December wishing me Merry Christmas. It wasn’t the first and it gave me a creepy feeling. So I posted a comment on his Facebook page telling him in no uncertain terms to stop bothering my family and me.
Another friend of mine reacted similarly but not at him when she got a birthday greeting last year. She forwarded it to me instead, with a curse on the people who had sent it. She was livid that BN had nothing better to do than to track people’s birthdays and to stoop to such a low tactic to try and win their votes.
Then there was the occasion when a Malay friend of mine received a racist SMS in Malay which read: “Congratulations! You are a registered voter for the Subang parliamentary constituency. Please fulfil your responsibility by ensuring that Malays continue to rule. BN IS THE CHOICE OF THE YOUTH.”
This SMS was, however, anonymous. But what’s intriguing is that the sender knew my friend was registered to vote for the Subang parliamentary seat.
My friend sent back an appropriate reply also in Malay: “It’s not important to the devout whether the ruling party is Malay or non-Malay. Leaders who are free from corruption and hypocrisy will be the choice of those who have faith. God willing, I shall fulfil my responsibility of ensuring that we are ruled by a government that is caring and trustworthy. BN/Umno is the choice of obstinately stupid people regardless of age. Salam Bersih!”
Another friend who had been blasted with a wider range of propaganda wrote me an e-mail full of ire and concern:
“My mother and I recently made a day trip back to Ipoh by train and throughout our journey, we were appalled and disgusted to see how the trains and every platform pillar from KL to Ipoh bore images of that megalomaniac Najib. Even the discount card that’s going to be issued to those earning less than RM3,000 will bear Najib’s image. Only dictators have the need for this amount of propaganda.
“When we reached home that day, we found in our mailbox full-colour letters and small calendars individually addressed to us – again bearing Najib’s image. The letters had our voter information and referred us to the Selangor BN website. While I am planning to use the letter with Najib’s image to pick up my dog’s poop, there are a number of burning questions on my mind: How much is being spent to clutter our mailboxes with BN propaganda? Who’s paying for this? Let’s not forget that postage costs have gone up. Is the ruling coalition using federal funds for political campaigning? Are limits imposed on how much can be spent?
“Is there an avenue where complaints can be made regarding the excessive propaganda in the media? I pay to subscribe to satellite TV and am forced to put up with propaganda videos interrupting the TV shows I’m watching. All of it is in the same insipid vein of the ‘Cinta IT’ rubbish that aired on RTM, forcing me to switch channels when it is aired.
“Is anyone keeping tabs on how much taxpayers’ funds are being spent on generating the incessant propaganda we are being bombarded with? If Ng Yen Yen can spend RM1.8 million on creating six Facebook pages, how much is being paid to create these propaganda video spots as well as for broadcast airtime, in addition to the mobile and billboard advertising, not forgetting the ubiquitous banners bearing images of BN figures?
“I sent a complaint to MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) about the invasion of privacy but did not get any response. Not even the usual canned response.”
Our reactions – my friends’ and mine – reflect our annoyance and our concerns. Mohd Zin and his cohorts need to be warned that the more they irritate us, the more we will be swayed against their cause. And this may actually work against them.
To borrow from a recent analogy, the more they ask, “Are you ready for BN?”, the more loudly they will hear the resounding reply – “No!”
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!