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10 APRIL 2024

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A citizen's nightmare: Najib slammed for Utusan's 'Christian tweet' row

A citizen's nightmare: Najib slammed for Utusan's 'Christian tweet' row

A social networking tweet meant for friends has turned into a seditious act, a nightmare come true for Malaysians whose fundamental constitutional right of freedom of speech is often curtailed by Prime Minister Najib Razak's increasingly hardline government.

Normal Malaysians are trying to come to terms with what is happening in the country, where it is now forbidden for wear a T-shirt with the word Bersih or even just the colour yellow, depending on the occassion. To the outside world, this may seem ludicrous but there is a long list of 'No-Nos' and the latest to join the banned list is 'tweet'. Yes, Twitter's tweet.

Chan Lilian who tweeted last month 'I think all Christians should march for all the persecution they had done to us and our Lord. Don’t you think so? I go sleep now, bye-bye. :)' was considered seditious after oneTony Yew lodged a police report, which was immediately played up by the UMNO-owned Utusan. Lilian is now being investigated by the police and faces jail if found guilty.

Blaming Najib's UMNO party for the latest blow to social freedoms, state assemblywoman for Pending Violet Yong accused the federal government of picking on Christians as part of its usual game of racial and religiuos politicking.

According to her, tweeting was just a social networking tool meant to be shared amongst friends and UMNO should not politicise and turn it into something seditious.

It also does not help to appease unhappy citizens or boost confidence in the federal leadership that police seem to have "nothing better to do" except go around looking for unfortunate people, who are brave enough to speak their minds, she added.

"There is no freedom of expression, no allowance for one to express our own thoughts and minds to our own group of friends. The government has become so paranoid now,” Violet told Malaysia Chronicle.

“So it is alright for people like Ibrahim Ali to announce his racial remarks and getting away with it but not right for someone who tweet to friends. Or is it because Chan Lilian is a Christian and need to be taught a lesson."

Consistent speech and action

Violet was also extremely upset with the PM’s recent speech, where he called on Malaysian to move from racial tolerance to acceptance. Before doing do, Najib should ensure certain reforms were in place rather than just make 'pretty' comments on which no further action was ever taken, she said.

"If we say we are tolerant of each other, that means there still exists walls that will make us fell a bit uneasy with each other. But if we accept each other, then we can celebrate our togetherness and be fully united as Malaysians," Star had reported Najib as saying on Thursday.

According to Violet, the PM has not done anything to tackle the deep-seated unhappiness felt by the Chinese minority, who have been marginalised and hit by verbal onslaughts from the likes of rabble rousers, such as Malay rights group Perkasa.

"Is he telling us to accept Ibrahim Ali’s racist remarks and not just to tolerate it? Is he telling us to accept the brutality of the police during Bersih rally, to accept the tear gas fired into the hospital, to accept the Teoh Beng Hock’s RCI? It may sound emotional but it comes to that, you know. I think Najib should learn to accept the people’s real feelings of unhappiness and grouses first before he asks for acceptance,” she said.

What is the measure for 'seditious', who decides?

State assemblyman for Padungan, Wong King Wei also shared the view that the tweet from Lilian did not promote hatred amongst any religion. To him, there was no sign of any seditious element.

He threw his moral support behind Lilian, saying she was a brave citizen who dared to stand up against Utusan and those who were made used of to go against her.

“The government is trying all means to stop, curtail and destroy the Internet influence. A good government welcomes social media to spread the truth without fear or favour. For a recalcitrant government, it is afraid of the truth to be exposed,” said Wong.

Wong also pointed out that the police were also trying to find out who had posted the negative remarks in the Prime Minister’s Facebook, telling him to 'shut up' or 'diam lah'. Such an incident had broken out last Tuesday, shocking the nation but also speaking volumes about Najib's hold on the people following his harsh and extremely unpopular crackdown against the July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections.

“If the prime minister wants to know the truth of his people, he must allow the people to air their views and not only accept ‘good’ statement and praises,” Wong lamented.

Shutting down dissent is not the answer

See Chee How, state assemblyman for Batu Lintang also wondered which part of Lilian’s statement was seditious and what was the yardstick in the tweet to say that it was seditious. Again, See pointed to the example of Ibrahim Ali, who is famous for attacking the Chinese community with his racial taunts so as to win the hearts of the Malay community, of which he insists he is a protector and champion.

“Is the government saying that Ibrahim Ali’s statements are never seditious when even people from UMNO have thought so? How does the government measure seditious words uttered or written. Or is it just to whim and fancy?” See asked.

The PKR leader warned that the people regardless of race would only 'listen' to Najib if his specch and actions were consistent. So far, the PM has been accused of saying different things to different groups. Neither has there been much action taken by his administration at all to really reduce the racial polarisation which has intensified since he took over the top job in April 2009.

"This is a clear sign of the government's violation of freedom of speech. A government that is mature does not have to silence the public even when the truth hurts. A smart government not only hears but listens to the voices of discontentment and acts on it in the right way. Silencing the masses by force and initimadtion is the last thing a government should do. It will only create more noise," admonished See.

- Malaysia Chronicle

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