Spammed by the Prime Minister!

By Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysian Digest
Tuesday, 01 February 2011

NO less than the Prime Minister has just spammed me! In an e-mail wishing me Happy Chinese New Year. I’m not pleased. In fact, when I got the e-mail, I freaked out. How did he get my address? I take strong umbrage against whoever gave it to him. It is an invasion of my privacy.

Najib Razak (or rather, his assistants) reportedly sent out that e-mail to 1.5 million people. The Star reported that many were happy to get it – in a report quoting only three people. And two of them had Muslim-sounding names! From the tweets I’ve seen, it seems many Muslims have been getting the e-mail too. Some tweeters considered the greeting “insincere”, some suggested reporting the matter to Cyber 999 and even the police.

Many questioned how Najib or his assistants got their e-mail addresses. There’s a theory going round that it came from the database of a media conglomerate. If this is true, the practice is, of course, not right. It contravenes the cyberworld law of data privacy. Whoever gave the data to him showed that they did not respect that privacy.

My wife got a CNY greeting from Najib too – via an SMS. Did her telco give her number to Najib and Co? Is that a proper thing to do? This episode shows that the personal details of Malaysians are not safe from prying and abuse. And that Big Brother is watching. That’s a scary prospect.

Najib’s greeting is yet another of the public relations campaigns he has been mounting for more than a year now. Those who are aware realize they are nothing more than efforts to win votes for the next general election, but there are plenty of others who are not so clued-in.

This Chinese New Year campaign seems to have had an effect, especially on fence-sitters. Some of them said they were touched. They seemed swayed into believing that the PM cared enough to send them the greeting. This is not surprising, because gullible Malaysians often fall for cheap tricks all too easily. The number who have fallen victim to Internet scams must be substantial. As a politician of long experience, Najib must surely know that.

More public relations at work can be seen in the awarding of datukships in conjunction with Federal Territory Day. The number of Indians being awarded this year is relatively high. Seen in relation to Barisan Nasional’s bid to sustain its regaining of the Indian vote, this is to be expected.

Among the awardees, also expected, is K Rajagopal, the national football coach who recently guided his team to winning the small-time AFF Suzuki Cup. I’ve written before that his achievement in that competition is not something worthy of a datukship, but we all know that football ranks high in the popular Malaysian imagination, so not only has Rajagopal been made a datuk; also awarded is former football ace Santokh Singh.

Najib’s own special assistant, Ravindren Chelliah Ponniah, also gets to be a datuk. So do a couple of other Singhs. And guess who else? R Thanenthiran, president of Parti Makkal Sakthi Malaysia. For what? For forsaking Hindraf and crossing to the other side?

What about the Datuk Seri title for the president of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), M Kayveas? What has Kayveas done of late to deserve this higher award? That’s how the next general election is going to be won – by public relations. Of which BN being in government has plenty of resources to invest in.

Similarly, it has the resources to hijack Pakatan Rakyat’s recently announced pledge to abolish toll on all highways within 100 days of coming to power. A few days ago, Najib declared – in perfect time for the Tenang by-election – that the toll for the Salak to Taman Connaught stretch on the East-West Link Expressway would be abolished by May. He also announced that the toll for two other expressways would not be increased for the next five years. According to him, no compensation would be paid to the highway concessionaires, implying that it would not cost taxpayers anything.

Whether this is true remains to be seen. An engineer of long experience in the relevant industry that I spoke to is very sceptical about it. He feels that there will be other ways of compensation made to the concessionaires that will ultimately involve payment by the rakyat.

Last December, when Pakatan Rakyat announced its pledge to abolish tolls, Najib pooh-poohed it and said it was irresponsible. But now he’s going for it himself. He has even hinted that there will be more good news on the same subject soon. I suspect he will make the North-South Expressway toll-free. He might announce this on the eve of the next general election and make a major score from it. If that happens, you can bet that the taxpayer will not be able to avoid compensating the concessionaires in one way or another. Regardless of what Najib might say then to the contrary.

We have to be circumspect. We have to learn not to be so easily fooled. On the surface, a proposition may sound good, but there can be hidden drawbacks underlying it which of course will be kept secret at the time of announcement. We have also to be aware that all these public relations efforts made by Najib are intended for one main purpose. Apart from that, they also distract public attention from the questionable goings-on.

Only last week, it was revealed that there is now a new department in the Prime Minister’s Office called FLOM – for First Lady of Malaysia – manned by a staff of six. And it looks after the operational needs of Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Never in our history has there ever been such a department. It reeks of nepotism and other things besides. Why should the PM’s wife have a department all to herself? Are there institutionalized provisions for such a thing? Who is paying for the upkeep of this department? We need to snap out of our distracted state and pressure Najib to justify the setting-up of FLOM. Let’s see how his public relations advisers will respond to that. For CNY, they came up with spam; for FLOM, will they come up with flam?

Just for fun, here are two Urban Dictionary definitions of “flom” – 1) To untie someone’s shoe lace while they aren’t looking, so they get pissed off and have to retie it (e.g. “Hey, stop it! This is the fifth time you’ve flommed me!”); 2) to do something sexual to someone of the opposite sex.

Either way you look at it, it sounds naughty!

  1. #1 by limkamput on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 12:33 am

    Damn, I did not get the email or sms from PM. I did not get the datukship also. How come? But never mind lah, got tins of Milo, cheap biscuits and angpow earlier.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 12:41 am

    NR is practising I scratch your back now n U remember 2 scratch my boLA next time,OK?

  3. #3 by baochingtian on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 1:00 am

    I received the greeting via sms. Funny, I’m not thrilled at all. But I started thinking if he’s using his money to pay for the telco service charges or the rakyats’ money again…. What a waste of nation’s resources. Do something good and beneficial to the rakyat and that’ll be the best greetings.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 1:37 am

    ///It contravenes the cyberworld law of data privacy. Whoever gave the data to him showed that they did not respect that privacy…This episode shows that the personal details of Malaysians are not safe from prying and abuse. And that Big Brother is watching. That’s a scary prospect…./// – Kee Thuan Chye
    Our Personal Data Protection Act 2010 was debated on 5 April 2010 passed as law in the Dewan Rakyat, gazetted on 12 June 2010 and would be enforced any time now after Personal Data Protection Commissioner appointed.

    The thrust of the Act is to ensure that the processing of personal data requires consent of the individual data subjects. Based on the “Notice and Choice Principle” data users are required – in relation to data subjects- to request for access of their data or notify them regarding the purpose for which the data is collected.

    Our Act principally aims at protecting and regulating the use of private data to the private sector & commercial transactions and specifically excludes Federal & State Govts. (which have the biggest data pool) from its application. This is the biggest omission.. Dr Rais Yatim claimed safeguards were already in place to take care of government channels “We do not involve government concerns here because the Government already possesses the relevant authorities and legal precincts and parameters — such as the Official Secrets Act and laws pertaining to creditors,” he said (See The Star report by Yeng Ai Chun July 15, 2009). Govt is as significant a potential abuser of data as commercial people. I wonder what Dr Rais has to say about Mr Kee’s compliant about this CNY greeting via e mail from the PM. Our Opposition though debated the Act (at bill stage) for a short 2 hours in Parliament (5pm-7.30pm) Monday, 5 April 2010 has generally not highlighted the implications of this to the general public.

    Much depends on the individual Personal Data Protection Commissioner and how committed he is in ensuring privacy. By the Act he is not independent – appointed by government and under its pay roll.
    Those in developed countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong have statutory provisions underwriting their independence, not found in our case. The international Data Protection Commissioners have established accreditation requirements which require that a Data Protection Authority has ‘an appropriate degree of autonomy and independence’ and has the ability ‘to operate free from political or governmental interference’ and is subject to ‘removal only for inability to perform the office, neglect of duty or serious misconduct’. The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) meeting requires members to be accredited to the international conference. Our Malaysian Commissioner could not even attend regional Commissioner’s meetings as a full member, or global meetings (Reference – Graham Greenleaf, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law in his publication in Privacy Laws & Business International Newsletter Issue 104, April 2010).

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 1:47 am

    ///That’s how the next general election is going to be won – by public relations.///

    We noticed that PR failed in some of the recent by-elections as it could not get the support of Felda Malays. I suggest PR emulate Najib and use public relations to win the hearts and minds of the Felda Malays.

    In regard to invasion of privacy (use of other people’s email addresses and hand phone numbers without their permission), UK had, in 1984, come up with a law called the “Data Protection Act”. It is an offense to use another person’s data (name, address, phone number etc) with his permission. I wonder whether such a law can be implemented for Malaysia.

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 1:51 am


    It is an offense to use another person’s data (name, address, phone number etc) with his permission.

    should be

    It is an offense to use another person’s data (name, address, phone number etc) WITHOUT his permission.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 4:25 am

    Even if there is the “Data Protection Act” in M’sia, will NR care?
    Just like FLOM, public $$$ spent just as NR n RM please, no bother abt can or cannot

  8. #8 by Bunch of Suckers on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 5:46 am

    Look like our Bolehland does not have Spam Laws in effects! Even it does have! This sucker is sucking around without the Law… Pretty soon your Bank Accounts & Credit Cards will be peeked into.

    Never ever seen a national leader sending Wishing to his Rakyat via improper channels! Many other world leaders sending their wishing via proper Media, such as newspapers, TV, Radio and personal website, instead of emails and SMS. Can’t blame those suckers often sucking around their hoggy heads.

    UMNO/BN is pretty creative and innovative without knowing that it will violate the SPAM Law and personal privacy! LOL

  9. #9 by ktteokt on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 8:45 am

    I just received the SMS yesterday evening but I am not pleased with what Najis is doing!!!!!

  10. #10 by assamlaksa on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 8:54 am

    i received both the email and sms. m thinking to make a police report after cny holidays.

  11. #11 by Motorist on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 9:03 am

    Every breath you take,
    Every move you make,
    Every bond you break,
    Every step you take,
    I’ll be watching you.

    Ironically, guess which famous band sang the above song?

  12. #12 by wanderer on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 9:06 am

    Nagis C4, don’t forget those residing overseas we are your “strong supporters”!!! We’ll return to vote too, a small red ang-pau included will be a good incentive…

  13. #13 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 10:22 am

    What? No datukship for that saifool who brought down Anwar?

    Samy retired from mic, but unlike Lim Kang Yaik and Ling Long Sick, no tunship for that moron. Why, why, tell me why….

    FLOM manned by a staff of six. Suppose each of the six gets RM5,000 a month, wastage of taxpayers’ money of RM360,000 per year

  14. #14 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 10:28 am

    //you can bet that the taxpayer will not be able to avoid compensating the concessionaires in one way or another.//

    In 2008, Bad Ah Wee “abolished” school fees for all primary and secondary school students. And guess what? In return of not having to pay RM4.50 fees per annum, parents now have to pay RM200 in administrative, PIBG, computer education fees per child! Net profit of RM200 – RM4.50 = RM195.50 per child!

  15. #15 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 10:38 am

    They can trace you mobile phone and eavesdrop your conversation.My company traced one bogey contractor who ran away to Indonesia and finally hid in Thailand by trailing his mobile phone.With e-mail,easy la for them.They can manipulate on line internet through e-government services to obtain their vested result.That’s how &&& are made.

  16. #16 by perampok cinta1 on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 10:50 am

    It’s just a CNY wish. Common man, you really think that the Malaysian government is capable of doing something like CIA? That’s just funny!

    In fact, I’m quite frustrated that I didn’t get the CNY wish or even Raya wish from the PM. That would really make my day ; )

    Wow, Malaysians are quite paranoid these days…

  17. #17 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 11:31 am

    Malaysian government is not doing something like CIA but perhaps more like having three hats – one for throwing into the ring, one for talking through and the last for pulling rabbits out of.We are not paranoid but are totally awed with government’s illusory unimaginable magic.

  18. #18 by waterfrontcoolie on Friday, 4 February 2011 - 9:02 am

    Well, out of the 1.5 million, surely he would get a good portion among them who would feel swelled! After all these years, many are still dreaming of things turning well in the future! this might win him some votes. Let’s see how they react in the next few years when reality sets in!

  19. #19 by Not spoon fed on Friday, 4 February 2011 - 9:53 pm

    We do not want just greeting by email or by SMS. We want actions and uncorrupted government and we do not want a shadow government from Mahathir. We want clean government like Penang State who has received, in 2009, a praise from Transparency International. During Mahathir’s 20+ years of authoritarian ruling, his government has never received a good remark from Transparency International. For what uses to send a greeting when Barisan Nasional have not solved, for example, the Indian and Chinese schools about shortage of teachers, the fair play of ACA and Police. Corrupted attitude is “everywhere” in Malaysia. So, solve this first Najib.

  20. #20 by Not spoon fed on Friday, 4 February 2011 - 10:20 pm

    One the one hand Najib sent this greeting, on the other hand his TV channels kept on airing former chieh minister of Penang (Koh Soo Kon) who now does not represent Chinese or Indian communities. This is a hidden public relation done by Najib and Najib’s hidden agenda about constant airing Koh Soo Kon to show his “present contribution” to Penang state and Koh’s well “spoken words”. Whenever you see Koh Soo Kon appears on TV, you could see Najib’s putting a person who does not represent any people: for what? Najib wants Penang state to fall into his Barisan Nasional again….

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