It never rains but it pours for victims of the recent massive floods, particularly those living in the Klang Valley.
Having already received the full brunt of the deluge, they subsequently had to contend with what they said was the government’s slow response to the calamity and poor coordination of its relief efforts. Precious time was lost as a result.
Now, some of these people, particularly Twitter users, were reprimanded by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for having expressed their grievances and dissatisfaction over what they considered to be the government’s poor performance in their hour of need.
It appeared the government was upset by the dissenting voices amid the catastrophe.
In a move that could be read as naked arrogance, the MCMC asked Twitter to take down certain tweets and their hashtags that were deemed offensive.
Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 states that a person commits an offence if he or she makes “any comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”.
Hence, the MCMC found it “offensive” that a Twitter account holder was critical of a flood fundraising event that involved the high-heeled Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun.
The commission also found it unpalatable that someone had tweeted criticism of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Noh Omar over his statement regarding the eligibility of flood victims for government aid.
There are, of course, others on social media who were more cutting in their remarks about the government that could easily earn them the wrath of the MCMC, such as one who said that the government had gone absent without leave (Awol), suggesting a clueless leadership.
Or another that insisted that the prime minister required a special assistant on floods to be able to manage the disaster, which was a dig at his propensity to hire special assistants.
Twitter’s refusal to entertain the MCMC’s request was commendable as to have done otherwise would have been a sheer violation of the people’s freedom of expression.
The government is expected to serve the common people to the best of its ability, especially during emergencies.
Therefore, any shortcomings on the part of the government must be called out in the hope that improvements would be made in preparation for future eventualities.
Going after critics of the government is the last thing that the people, especially flood victims mired in mud, misery and economic hardship, would expect of regulatory bodies such as the MCMC.
Even if the MCMC were to succeed in suppressing such criticisms, it does not mean that similar grievances would not fester under the calm surface or that the people are unaware of the incompetence of certain ministers faced with colossal destruction.
Instead of attempting to quell dissent, the MCMC would have done the common people a world of good if it had tried, for instance, to seek ways to swiftly help re-establish internet connection in flood-stricken areas with the joint collaboration of the internet service providers.
In most cases, communication is essential in saving lives and expediting search-and-rescue operations, especially ones initiated by good-hearted individuals and civil society groups whcih have to make the most of limited resources.
The flood victims need not be inundated with antics and measures that are unhelpful, if not insulting. – The Malaysian Insight