24 July, 2007

Another Malaysian Messenger in the Firing Line

Poster courtesy of Mob's Crib

Press statement/Letter to the Editor by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee on UMNO Police Report Against Raja Petra

I am writing in defense of Raja Petra Abdullah and his commentaries in his website, Malaysia-Today.net. This website contains some of the finest and most incisive political analyses and commentaries on the problems and ills that beset our nation. Malaysia-Today.net is simply without peer – whether as a whistle blowing or expose revealing resource or as a barometer of the pessimism and cynicism that many Malaysians feel when given freedom to express their views. Whilst some of the comments that are contributed by the website’s considerable following – especially on racial and religious issues – may appear over-exuberant, they are no more than the honest - if sometimes – passionate views and sentiments of our own citizens who write in precisely because they love the country and want it to be a better place.

Raja Petra’s own writings have not only been consistently factual, balanced and temperate. In his investigation of the many follies in our nation, he is providing that model of fearless, patriotic and ethical journalism that can help bring about higher standards of governance and behavior, especially from our leaders.

A fair-minded government should not for one moment entertain - let alone pursue - the false charges that have been leveled against him by UMNO. I hope good sense will prevail - and Raja Petra and Malaysia Today can be allowed to continue unhindered in their good work aimed at achieving a better Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 24 July 2007.

M. Bakri Musa’s comments:

I join Dr. Lim Teck Ghee and others in condemning this police report lodged by UMNO. Just as I thought we had breached the depth of stupidity with Najib Razak’s utterance of Malaysia being an Islamic state, out comes this news of an UMNO Vice-President lodging the police report.

Without being unduly Pollyannaish, I see some good coming out of this bizarre police report. I always knew this double Muhammad to be utterly corrupted but I did not know that he breached his scholarship bonds or that his divorce settlement to his wife, the Sultan of Selangor’s daughter, was a cool $12 million ringgit. Thanks to Raja Petra, now we know.

This is the Muhammad who was acquitted on a criminal charge of trying to smuggle a couple of millions in cold cash on the technical grounds that he could not understand the customs declaration forms! This begs the question, if this graduate of a local university could not understand English (no surprise there), how could he follow Raja Petra’s exposes that are written in English?

That soiled characters like this double Muhammad could rise so high in UMNO reflects more on the nature of UMNO. UMNO in turn reflects more on our Malay culture and norms. That is the tragic part.

I am glad and not at all surprised that Raja Petra, far from being cowered by this latest challenge, is being emboldened. The kucing kurap of UMNO cannot rustle this lion of a prince.Thank Allah that Malaysia is blessed with such individuals as Raja Petra.

M. Bakri Musa

clipped from news.yahoo.com


Malaysia denies crackdown on bloggers

Malaysia's deputy prime minister denied the government is clamping down on bloggers after a prominent ruling party politician lodged a police report against a website, reports said Tuesday.

"Some of the offensive comments are capable of threatening racial stability and national security. The comments show that they do not respect the law," Muhammad said according to New Straits Times.

The incident comes after Nathaniel Tan, an aide to former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, was detained by police for four days over an anonymous posting on his blog referring to corruption allegations against a minister.

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Farish A. Noor :

Just a week ago a Malaysian blogger – Nathaniel Tan – was arrested and taken if for questioning by the police due to some postings related to allegations of corruption against politicians in the country. Now that a blanket ban has been used to close the forum of public debate on the Islamic state issue, worries have been raised about whether this marks yet another attempt to clamp down on cyberspace and silence the bloggers and cyber-writers.

Following the arrest and subsequent release of Nathaniel Tan, another prominent Malaysian cyber-writer, Raja Petra Kamarudin, who runs the hugely popular www.Malaysia-today.net site has had a police report filed against him by Muhammad Taib, former Chief Minister and member of the ruling UMNO party. The UMNO leader claims that Raja Petra, through his articles and postings on Malaysia-today.net had insulted the king, degraded Islam and incited hatred in the country.

As yet it is not known which of Raja Petra’s postings are said to have been insulting to King and country, though he dismisses the accusations as being baseless. According to Petra: ‘This has nothing to do with allegations about misrepresenting Islam, though such an accusation is the most convenient since when I write about religion I am expressing my personal opinions which are subjective and can therefore be discussed. But what really upsets them are my exposes on corruption in the country, which have been backed up with documents I have posted on the site. How can they refute that?’

Indeed, Raja Petra’s site has been receiving hundreds of thousands of hits daily precisely because of his exposes on corruption among politicians, businessmen, Malaysian criminal networks as well as the Malaysian police force; the last of which has taken a battering over the years due to a series of scandals and exposes related to cases of police brutality, deaths in custody and of course the now-infamous beating of the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim.

Activists, journalists and legal experts are now worried about what this may hold for the future, for the arrest of Nathaniel Tan and the police report against Raja Petra would suggest that moves are being made to silence the messengers on the internet. In the words of prominent Malaysian lawyer Malik Imtiaz: ‘it would be regrettable if this latest action is part of a wider campaign to close down the public domain of speech and discussion on crucial matters such as Malaysia’s constitution and the question of whether Malaysia is an Islamic state.’

In the midst of this, the Malaysian government’s reaction has been one of denial and retaliation instead. The country’s state-controlled TV channel RTM1 featured an editorial piece condemning local Malaysian newspapers that ‘cause trouble’ by raising sensitive issues on race and religion; while leaders of the ruling UMNO party continue to mouth a rhetoric of ethno-nationalism that is replete with communalist sentiments. The contradictions are clear, as is the paralysis of a government whose leader is on holiday while the messengers remain in the firing line. Full text here .

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad believes that there is an attempt by the government to curb voices of dissent on the Internet

"Yes there is an attempt. But you cannot stop people from using the Internet." […]

Mahathir said in the past, his administration would have liked to ban Internet pornography but it was "impossible" because, among others, the content was based overseas.

"Same with bloggers. You can’t stop them," he stressed. (Malaysiakini here)

Read also : " Growing trend towards stifling dissent " written by Dr Toh Kin Woon, executive councillor of Penang from Gerakan :

The recent arrest of Nathanniel Tan, a blogger and the call by Umno to the police to take action against ‘Malaysia Today’, a much visited blog by Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, reflect the growing trend towards stifling dissent in our country.

Despite earlier promises of allowing freedom of the electronic media as part of the effort to promote the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the government has reneged on these promises by suppressing blog sites deemed to air views critical of the government.

The action against Tan and the call to take action against ‘Malaysia Today’ are the latest in a series of undemocratic moves by the government. Another recent action in this series of moves was the ban imposed on the mainstream media by the Internal Security Ministry on the publication of views challenging the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

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