April 15th, 2008

Blogger Friendly

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Was at the National Press Club in Malaysia to meet up with various bloggers.

Quote Rockybru “Malaysia is the most blogger friendly country in the world now.”

Strange world. 6 months ago, bloggers are jobless liars. Today, all politicians must have a blog “or else you are not a leader” :-)

Note to self: Don’t play scrabbles at National Press Club. ^_^

March 9th, 2008

Malaysia Election surprises!

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Malaysia 12th election ended last night. I stayed up until 3am refreshing Malaysiakini (mirror) watching the election unfolded.

While BN still remains in control, it suffered the biggest lost ever, garnering merely 61% of the seats (source). The last time the election come this close in 1969, it resulted in a major racial riots. Jeff Ooi, the popular blogger who did won the Penang seat (congratulations my friend :-), called upon all supporters to remain calm so not to give anyone any excuse for riot.

UMNO may be surprised at the result but the writing is on the wall many months ago. Pak Lah was a popular PM when he took over Dr. Mahathir in 2003. He led a landslide victory for BN in 2004, 90% seats, the highest ever.

His slow and steady approach handling matters is a refreshing change for Malaysians but after the first two years of “honeymoon”, many Malaysians have called for results (around 2006). Promises of more developments, opportunities, less red-tapes, and fighting corruptions has nothing to show for. Instead, Malaysians got murder, sex and corruptions scandals.

The V.K Lingam Video is a prime example of what went wrong in Malaysia. When questioned by the Royal Commission, former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin strongly denied that V.K Lingnam and his family arranged the New Zealand vacation together. Even with evidences of receipt and acknowledgment from travel agency, he insist they merely chance upon each another when they are in New Zealand. A while later, the ex-secretary of Lingnam testified “I arranged Kiwi trip”.

Scandals happens. What is more important is how people behave when it happens. Here is a formerly Chief Justice and a top lawyer who potentially lied in front of a Royal Commission and they think can get away with it.

Furthermore, as UMNO fights against PAS, a more radical Islamic party, over support from the Malay/Islam voters, UMNO has taken a more radical stand in many issues, that alienate the non-Malays and more importantly the majority of the moderates Malays. Ironically, PAS become more moderate in the process.

At the height of the racial tension over Article 11 (religious freedom) in 2006, a keris (a Malay sword/dagger) was brandish at a political gathering yelling “defend Malay rights”. Obviously thats going to make non-Malays uneasy. Many remembered the racial riot and killings in 1969. The keris was brandish again a year with a statement that pretty much say “deal with it, sucker!”. Maybe you can do these if you are an uneducated street hooligan but not when you are the Chief of the Youth UMNO (see Keris Controversy)

Race is a dangerous card to play. You play with fire, you will lose.

The result of this election is a clear message to the BN, the ruling coalition, that Malaysians have enough!

August 14th, 2007

Social Media : Singapore vs Malaysia

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Shel Israel did an interview with me a few weeks ago. As I was replying Shel’s email, it occurred to me there are sharp differences between the development of Social Media in Singapore and Malaysia.

First, there is no doubt Social Media is creating huge impact on media around the world, not just Singapore and Malaysia. Just not so long ago, both CIA & NSA acknowledged bloggers are journalists, signifying the amount of recognitions bloggers now have. This is no difference in Singapore or Malaysia.

Even as far back as in 2005, when AcidFlask was threaten with a lawsuit by Philip Yeo (the then Chairman of A*STAR), the Singapore online community flared up. While AcidFlask eventually pulled down his site, Philip did not pursue the case further which was surprising for those who knows him. There was no doubt the public pressure played a part, since the general sentiment portrayed Philip as an aggressor against a small-time blogger. As I told a friend who was pretty work up then, “We know, they know. That’s good enough.”

A side story: A year later, Philip Yeo made available the offending entry and it is quite clear he has a valid case. He probably should have make that available sooner (that I am sure the lawyers will freak out) when it is clear it has turned from a legal to a PR case.

A year ago, mrbrown’s incident with MICA also ended in a surprising manner. In precedence cases, academics made to apologies in public withdraw their report, journalists get fired and writers get a firm scolding. On the other hand, while mrbrown was “suspended”, there is no further action nor response, until much later, and even so, pretty mild. The public online sentiment and reaction once again make the government more caution in their response. It is yet another case of “We know, they know. That’s good enough.”

Another side story: mrbrown keeping quiet then also makes it easy for the government to do nothing without losing face. If mrbrown has not kept quiet, I am pretty sure the government will certainly not let things blow over, for they would not tolerate such disrespect nor symbolic insolence.

The government sometimes makes mistakes, but each time, they are able walk away with some face saving measure. Each time, they learn something and they make less mistake. To the extend, when Li Hong Yi (son of PM) incident blew up online, the army was quick to response and responded very appropriately, not by covering up, nor with usual army secrecy (“It is an army business”) but clearly and openly.

What turned the sentiment around was when Li Hong Yi’s censored letter became available (as a comment on If it was indeed planned, it was one of the most brilliant move.

This strange quiet pushing is what makes Singapore social media scene unique. The government continues to take lead in a slow but steady media reforms, at least on talking terms if not better with media socialists in Singapore.

Sadly things don’t turn out as well in Malaysia.

In the last couple of months, there are more and more severe warnings coming from Malaysia government. Bloggers get sued, Bloggers get detained, and threaten with revocation of citizenship. The Cabinet debating over it, the ruling government continues with their warnings. Still, nothing changed.

I don’t expect to see any change because both side are no longer talking.

There are several reasons leading to this situation.

Firstly, the unwillingness for Malaysian authority to open up several sensitive issues. When faced with difficult debates, like rights to chose religion, to PM re-marriage, racial affirmative action, each time, the Information Ministry issued a media blackout. That works in the past but certainly not now with Social Media. When bloggers ignored those media blackout orders, the government become upset as it is seen as a challenge to their authority.

Secondly, the confrontational-style the Malaysian bloggers adopted does not help with the situation. When bloggers stand on losing ground, they gathered among themselves with their readers, using public sentiments to hold back government. When bloggers stand on strong ground, they take no-prisoners and go for blood, leaving no route for government to retreat.

At the end, it is about “saving faces”. One did and one did not. One ends up with quiet evolution, the other is on the way to revolution.

* Some would remember my previous article: What is a Media where I said “And to those Singapore bloggers who try to argue how powerful the new media is, I think you are doing a disservice to the blogging community.“. It is my “we know, they know. That’s good enough” philosophy.