A decision to stop government-controlled TV stations from airing a bi-partisan 4-minute video clip encouraging the people to vote has raised eyebrows and increased public ridicule for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who two weeks ago grandly announced measures to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world”.
“Nice work MCMC. Your blocking undilah video will mean more people will see it. That’s good because it is a must see!! Great video!” Ambiga Sreenevasan, the chairman of polls watchdog Bersih, said on Twitter.
“Dia kata kita mau demokrasi terbaik ka atau demokrasi terbalik (Did he say we want the best democracy or the opposite)?” tweeted Dzulkefly Ahmad, the PAS MP for Shah Alam.
Not even two weeks, reforms already proven to be a fraud
On Sept 15, Najib had proposed to repeal several oppressive laws including the Internal Security Act and also lifted a requirement for publications to renew on annual basis their printing permits. Given that he also proposed replacement laws, his announcements were greeted with skepticism.
Critics now say they feel vindicated, pointing at Information minister Rais Yatim’s reported call to the TV stations, which are nearly all government-controlled to boycott the video entitled Undilah or Vote-lah, featuring local stars Namewee, Afdlin Shauki and veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The message in the video pretty neutral favoring neither Najib’s BN coalition or the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. Razaleigh, who cut a grandfatherly figure in the video, advised his countrymen of their responsibility to vote and to “Remember, no matter what happens, this is our country”.
His tone was hardly inflammatory, yet pundits said Najib’s Umno party was probably upset because to them, it alluded to concerns that they may rock the country with riots and street protest should they lose their 5-decades grip on the federal government at snap polls, widely expected to be held in November.
“Razaleigh himself is an Umno member. His message is just to give courage to the people. Come out and vote, that’s all. If some people feel that he is also saying, don’t be scared, don’t let others bully you, this is your right, this is your country, so come out and vote because no matter what happens, Malaysia is our country – what’s wrong with that,” Eddie Wong, a PKR stalwart told Malaysia Chronicle.
No opposition faces allowed to be shown on TV?
Other pundits said another factor could the presence of opposition leaders in the video such as Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad. From the BN side, aside from Razaleigh, were Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong, and Deputy Health Minister Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirli.
“Overall, you get the feeling of inclusiveness and progressiveness in the video. No Ibrahim Alis or anyone waving swords and shouting threats. Just Malaysians enjoying life without the racial barriers put up the religious authorities instigated by Umno. To the party hardliners, who think they own the country, this may have seemed subversive as it can chip away at their authority over the people,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
The 4.38 minute clip was produced by Peter Teo, who told the press that before the clampdown, NTV7 station had aired the video for the first three days of its release, along with a special interview with those involved, rapper Namewee, actor Afdlin Shauki, director Benji Lim and himself.
“To date, no other broadcaster has committed to broadcasting it, although one has expressed interest. Am not sure if the interest still holds,” Malaysian insider reported Teo as saying.
So far, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has not issued any formal clarification.