Thursday, April 24, 2008

Malaysian Politicians Blogging for Blogging Sake

Have they not learnt from our PAP's pathetic attempts at blogging (e.g. George Yeo, P65, Ypap blog... )

The reason why they dont work and why the BN will also fail miserably is because political blogging is more than just owning a blog.

  • It is about no holds barred, but respectful, engagement with anyone on cyberspace.

  • It is about putting yourself out there to criticisms and alternative thoughts.

  • It is about leveling the playing field between agents of disparate status and power.

  • It is where ideas and thoughts have more currency than position.

It is most definately NOT about just creating a new channel meerly to propagate your message - another podium for you to speak and be heard.

If there is no engagement, there can be no enlightenment.

April 24, 2008
BN turns to blogging in a belated turnaround
By Hazlin Hassan

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S political leaders are rushing to set up blogs and increase their postings on existing ones after recent polls showed how effective the Internet has been.

Those joining the bandwagon include former Selangor menteri besar Khir Toyo, Malacca Menteri Besar Ali Rustam and former health minister Chua Soi Lek of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

The move signals a dramatic turnaround because until recently, senior political leaders dismissed bloggers as rumour-mongers and even described some as 'stupid' and 'monkeys'. The authorities have also detained some bloggers for allegedly libellous or seditious postings.

Many of Malaysia's popular blogs - such as by prominent blogger Ahiruddin Atan, by well-known blogger-turned-politician Jeff Ooi, by former premier Mahathir Mohamad's daughter Marina, and several others - contain critical commentary on the government.

Some have been blamed for the unprecedented losses of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in the March general election, which also saw blogger Jeff Ooi being elected to Parliament on an opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) ticket.

Critics accused BN and its politicians of being out of touch with voters, particularly the young, most of whom seem to rely on the Internet for information these days.

After the election, blogging has been made mandatory for Umno Youth candidates contesting national posts, and the mainstream media and some bloggers have been publicising some of the new blogs.

Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, secretary-general of the youth wing, told The Straits Times: 'We have to accept now that as far as the younger generation is concerned, they are very much suspicious of the mainstream media. This is one way to tackle that. Better late than never.'

He has a bilingual blog, www.mpkotabelud.blogspot. com, in Malay and English, and updates it three times a day.

Deputy Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin started his website,, before the election. Now he also has an active Facebook profile and there is one for his father-in-law, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, as well.

Another new face in cyberspace is former Selangor strongman Dr Khir, who lost his seat and his state to the opposition.

But instead of wooing much-needed support for Umno, one of the first things he did on his blog was to urge Datuk Seri Abdullah to step down.

The Prime Minister 'must be brave enough to accept the facts and create an exit plan', Dr Khir wrote on his Malay-language website 'This transition can be done in the near future or in a longer period.

However, it should not take too long because this could jeopardise the administration and the preparations of the party for the next election.'

On average, he receives a couple of hundred comments on each entry.

Ms Tricia Yeoh, director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, an independent research institute in Kuala Lumpur, said: 'Although initially critical of blogging as a tool of dissidents, the BN politicians now realise the importance of open, honest, rational dialogue and conversation between leader and voter.'

But it may be too late for the ruling coalition. Opposition DAP leader Lim Kit Siang has been blogging since 1997 at and his Facebook profile has more than 2,000 'friends'.

De facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Facebook site is even more of a hit and he has more than 4,000 online friends.

Another politician who has taken to the Internet is Datuk Chua, who resigned after a sex DVD scandal. He has started a bilingual blog in Chinese and English at and has been blogging almost every day. He has an online survey asking visitors to say if it is fair for a leader to step down after a bad loss in the general election.

Not everyone has that kind of time, though.

Malacca Menteri Besar Ali Rustam logs on only about once a week. And he has disabled the comments section of his blog after receiving hundreds of reactions online following a comment he made on the need to clean up pig farms in Selangor.

His remarks provoked a flood of criticism, mostly for 'playing up racial sentiments'. Malay Muslims shun pigs on religious grounds.

Sceptics complain about the quality of blogs though, with one saying that 'the mainstream blogs are just as bad as the mainstream press'.

Editor of New Media at The Star newspaper A. Asohan wrote in a Sunday editorial about the move: 'As a cranky and cynical journalist, it is my duty to burst this bubble. It's not going to work.

'You want to counter all that criticism on the Net? Easy: don't give people any ammunition. Don't say stupid things, don't release ill-conceived statements, don't contradict yourself, don't harp on issues that only you seem concerned about,' he said.

Political analyst James Wong, however, believes that the technology should not be ignored. 'We are now dealing with a mass society, it's no more walking around your kampung, talking face-to-face,' he told The Straits Times.

'We have to address the crowds in an everyday sense. The BN totally misunderstood blogging and blogs before the election. The question of whether blogging is good or bad is like saying television is bad. Technology is neutral.'

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