Articles, Opinions & Views: Stop using the coronavirus to limit free speech - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy


 
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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

Photobucket
He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Stop using the coronavirus to limit free speech - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, February 08, 2020
Malaysiakini: COMMENT | "In the longer term, the best way to counter misinformation is through building up trust in government information channels and in the media. That can only be done by the fulfilling of promises to repeal repressive laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Sedition Act followed by the enactment of a right to information law." - Centre for Independent Journalism
The case of journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias who has been slapped with three charges of making statements that could disrupt public peace is another example of how free speech in this country is being curtailed by the Pakatan Harapan regime. Governments always attempt to extend their power during periods of uncertainty. Let us be very clear. Noor Hayati’s posts were race-baiting attempts to racialise and perhaps even politicise this virus. If you do an online search of Noor Hayati’s reportage and social media feeds, you would get a better understanding of the kind of dialectic she is trying to encourage.
I have long since abandoned the idea of “journalistic” ethics merely because social media has blurred the lines between “citizen journalists” and “traditional” reporting which, depending on how you view things, is just state propaganda gussied up as “fact-based reporting”. As India has demonstrated, every country has its dumb and ignorant demographic who would react in the most violent manner when exposed to “fake news”. The BBC ran an interesting piece about India’s attempts to track WhatsApp messages – “There are more than 50 documented cases of mob violence triggered by misinformation spread over social media in India in the last two years. Many platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and Sharechat, a vernacular language social media start-up and app, play a role.”
Hence this idea that misinformation is harmless is debatable as is the role of social media companies in providing a platform for disinformation. All this, of course, collides with issues such as free speech and the control of the media and is perhaps the most important question facing the world now. Besides the environment, that it.
Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias
The recent crackdown especially in Southeast Asian countries is indicative of the kind of citizenry they have but more importantly the kind of totalitarian mindset of their governments. In Malaysia, the government has been attempting to convince the rakyat that mass panic on the scale experienced - though not necessarily regarding coronavirus – in other countries justifies the kind of measures to curb free speech. However, besides isolated incidents, the history of Malaysia’s mass political and social agitations has always been because of the planning and provocations of the political elites. Some are beneficial, like the "reformasi" movement while others tragic, like May 13.
Unlike some public commentators – especially those who advocate hate speech laws – I do not have an ahistorical perspective of societal discord in this country. When it comes to causing panic and unease, it has always been politicians who provoke, plan and cause public disorder on a mass scale. What did you think the old maverick meant when he said that the Malays would react in a very “Malay way”? While what Noor Hayati wrote/disseminated was despicable, it does not amount to the kind of sanctions the state wishes to impose upon her. I would argue that the persecution of Noor Hayati is bordering on mala fide considering the history of political rhetoric in this country.
Examine Noor Hayati’s posts closely. Forget about the race-baiting aspects of it - which is probably why so many people are going ape manure – and look at the substance or even the agenda behind them. Noor Hayati’s post like the one posted by Zed Zaidi – the Seniman president and in the words of Syahredzan Johan, Lim Kit Siang's political secretary, “erstwhile Umno member and supporter”, are designed to erode the rakyat's confidence in the government. Add the race-baiting aspects and it is meant to appeal to a certain demographic. A demographic that Harapan is desperately courting.
 Syahredzan Johan
It is pointless arguing that most fake news about this particular virus situation is anything but race-baiting posts about how the government is measuring its response because it is kowtowing to China or the DAP. Syahredzan acknowledges this in his article: “They want to fuel anger towards the government, creating the perception that the government is incompetent or is "friendly" to China by not imposing a total travel ban.”
Hence this is not a security issue or a national public healthcare issue but a political one.
Demonising China and the Chinese community has been a staple in Malaysia politics for decades. Before the election, non-Malay political operatives from Harapan stood by silently while the Malay component painted the Najib regime as colluding with China. Meanwhile, while Umno/PAS was playing the Malay/Muslim uber alles card, Harapan hooked up with Dr Mahathir Mohamad claiming that he was needed to secure the “rural Malay” vote even though it meant ditching its multi-racial platform in favour of BN-style politics. Hence Noor Hayati is merely continuing the race-based political propaganda that mainstream political parties indulge in.
Now, if you had confidence in the government and the state was transparent in its dealing with its citizenry , all of these “fake news” would amount to a hill of beans. Indeed Syahedran even acknowledges this when he writes: “On Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp groups, Malaysians are debunking fake news and countering disinformation. Fake news, like the one tweeted by Zed Zaidi, are being called out by netizens.”
The Centre for Independent Journalism argued that, “In deciding whether or not any statement should be investigated or prosecuted, authorities must consider whether the statement would actually incite the public to commit offences and endanger public health or public order.”
And this is an important point. Malaysians have proven remarkably resilient to fake news in the sense that while some folks have been jittery, there has not been the kind of violent reactions or mass panic.
 No doubt, this has a lot to do with how the state has handled this issue and Malaysia’s preparedness in dealing with this virus. But it also extends to other hot-button issues which we are told would lead to the kind of racial and religious violence witnessed in other countries.
Most Malaysians despite their political differences know dodgy news when they see it whether it comes from traditional sources or social media. Honestly, the only people who seem easily trolled are those in the Harapan government. Remember when a shyster trolled the Harapan government?
“Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, vice-president of some far-right outfit, managed to troll the Pakatan Harapan cabinet with his letter of demand, which resulted in the spectacle of several ministers visiting a high school in Puchong.”
But the big question is, can the people trust the government? I know that a certain segment cannot trust anything the government says when we have a chief of police who has lied about the whereabouts of a kidnapper and chooses to engineer a “happy ending”.
Keep in mind politicians from both Harapan and Umno say things which could be defined as fake news every other day. The political landscape is defined by race-baiting and racial policies designed not to spook the Malays.
While I do not buy the argument put forward by the National Union of Journalists that Noor Hayati was censured in her role as a journalist, I think that these kinds of cases are regressive and hypocritical moves by the Harapan government. This is not about journalism or encouraging open debate but rather about censoring certain forms of speech disguised as ensuring public safety and using low-hanging fruit instead of going after the big fish.
The fact that some people think that censuring Noor Hayati’s speech – dubious as it is – is a good thing is evidence that the government's attempt to hoodwink the rakyat is more corrosive than fake news.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 2:11 PM  
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