Let me preface my speech with some observations about what the distinguished panelists have said this evening.
Firstly, the special appearance of the founder of Sarawak Report, Claire Brown from United Kingdom on Skype including a question-and-answer session with the audience in this hall highlights the futility of those in power to censor or control the flow of information in the Internet era.
Secondly, thanks to the government ban on The Malaysian Insider, more Malaysians have acquired the very simple skills of circumventing the Internet walls erected by Putrajaya to block access to The Malaysian Insider and other websites, with The Malaysian Insider becoming The Malaysian Outsider, getting acquainted with Unblocking sites and the “wide wide wide” world of Internet devoted to fighting all forms of Internet censorship. This is because all the secrets of overcoming Internet censorship can be mastered in a few minutes by searching the solutions on the Internet.
The CEO of Malaysiakini, Premesh Chandran had rightly cited the “tsunami” loss of UMNO/Barisan Nasional in the 12th General Election in 2008 to the Internet as the Prime Minister at the time, Tun Abdullah had subsequently admitted his “serious misjudgment” in underestimating the power of the Internet, losing the cyberwar to the Opposition.
For the next 14th General Election which will have to be held by 2018, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak – if he survives till then – is making another “serious misjudgment” in underestimating the intelligence of Internet users in Malaysia to differentiate truth from falsehood – just as Pak Lah made the fatal mistake in the 12GE in underestimating the impact of Internet. I believe Najib will find that just deploying an army of robotic cybertroopers flooding the Internet with meretricious lies and falsehoods about the Opposition will not win for him the cyberwar in the next polls.
The Chairman of the Bar Council’s Young Lawyers Committee Syahredzan Johan has rightly castigated a Minister who claimed that freedom of speech is a privilege and not an absolute right.
Ministers are sworn in their oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” but it is clear that many Ministers, including those directly responsible and tasked with safeguarding the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, expression and information, do not understand these Constitutional guarantees and safeguards and are in fact actively violating their oath of office when they undermine and subvert instead of discharging their duties to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”.
May be our lawyers who are in the forefront of protecting the public interest in public litigation cases can consider what legal action could be taken against these Ministers who not only do not understand the Constitution but are violating their oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”.
Parti Amanah Negara MP for Parit Buntar Mujahid Yusuf Rawa has described today as the best of times for Malaysia, referring to the Citizens’ Declaration gathering earlier today to Save Malaysia.
I agree with him, but only in part.
In fact, I am reminded of this opening of Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, which was one of my literature text books in Form IV in the fifties, which said:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
I think this describes aptly Malaysia in the year 2016 – and in particular today, March 4, 2016 – where the Citizen’s Declaration gathering can be described as “the best of times”, “the epoch of belief”, “the season of Light” and “
the spring of hope” while another event today, the Public Accounts Committee meeting where the Auditor-General’s final audit report on 1MDB was, in a unprecedented development, classified under the Official Secrets Act – which is a supreme insult and contempt of Parliament by the Executive – qualifies to fit the categories of “worst of times”, “the age of foolishness”, “the epoch of incredulity”, “the season of Darkness” and “the winter of despair”.
The first term of the Prime Minister Najib was all about Najib’s 1Malaysia, which he wanted to convince Malaysians is not a fake.
Najib’s second term as Prime Minister is all about the 1MDB scandal, including his RM2.6 billion “political donation” scandal, which even the world does not believe is “all over, no more an issue and had been resolved” – when the opposite is the case, Najib’s mega financial scandals mushrooming like a nuclear cloud, ever bigger and bigger, dragging Najib’s credibility and Malaysia’s image further down the abyss.
The subject we are gathered here tonight, “Media Shackled, Democracy Dead?” over the ham-fisted and sledgehammer ban of The Malaysian Insider by the Najib government is all because of Najib’s RM55 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals writ large – which are also the reasons why I am sitting out the forthcoming Parliamentary meeting because of my six-month suspension from Parliament because of our persistent pursuit for answers to the twin mega scandals.
(Speech at the DAP forum “Media Shackled, Democracy Dead?” at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Friday, March 4, 2016 at 830 pm)