Published 6:51 amModified 6:57 am
“It proves Jasa is effective in countering DAP’s claims and an effective machinery in disseminating information of the government of the day.”
– Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi (July 2020)
COMMENT | I have no idea why the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government needs to inject RM85 million (and change) into what sounds to me like a slush fund, to “disseminate information” to the rakyat. To be honest, propaganda in this country, more often than not, is not focused on policy but rather the twin obsessions of the Malay establishment that is race and religion.
I always had a problem with the Special Affairs Department (Jasa). My problem was that it was so ineffective, that even when it was funded by Umno/BN it was flushing money down the toilet. Jasa obviously did nothing for former prime minister Najib Razak’s regime and when it was revived earlier this year, it did nothing for the PN regime.
When mainstream Malay politics is defined by the demonisation of the DAP (which Malay power structures view as a proxy for the Chinese community), you really do not need a propaganda arm. Propaganda is used in a hidden manner, not when the demonisation is in plain sight. This is why this sounds more like a slush fund than any real mechanism of the state.
This suspicion is made more concrete when Bersatu supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan said, “The rest is for procuring the necessary technology”, which is ludicrous because, as has been demonstrated by successful propagandists the world over, all you really need is a laptop and an internet connection and you could influence elections.
Wan Saiful casually brushes aside the designation of funds, but can you really trust a political operative who was part of a low-tech political coup that subverted the democratic will of the people?
Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman believes that what we have to look forward to is a rain of cybertroopers. However, seeing how ineffective they were before, it remains to be seen if Jasa will really spread PN’s messages, or is it just another slush fund for political operatives to fund their illegitimate affairs?
Of course, spending RM85 million to spread the word, when you have the entire mainstream media at your disposal, is pretty redundant. The rakyat is wondering how anti-DAP propaganda is going to benefit their lives and make life a little easier for those living on the margins in this pandemic. More importantly, could that RM85 million be used for something more tangible?
In fact, some DAP political operatives have no problem putting their feet in their mouths. This aids the far-right in its efforts to demonise the DAP. As what I’ve pointed out before, propaganda organs of the state turn the words of online DAP supporters back on them. My rule of thumb is, don’t make it easier for propagandists by doing their work for them.
However, this should not detract from the reality that the DAP, the only secular and multi-racial alternative, is in the crosshairs of the far-right in a way which it was not before the historic May 9th win. Umno’s Puad Zarkashi was transparent in his view that Jasa is needed to further anti-DAP propaganda.
The reason why the establishment gets so riled up about DAP is that sometimes the words and actions of the party resonate with Malay voters. Not many, but enough to cause instability. This is why Umno shuns working with DAP in a bipartisan way. Their propaganda diminishes when ordinary folk realise that DAP is not some sort of monster which would take away their special rights.
If anything, the attacks against DAP have become cruder, wallowing in the kind of easy racism and bigotry that should invite some sort of institutional response, but so far has been met by shrugs from the mainstream power brokers in this country.
Just look at what Umno’s Ahmad Maslan said about Muafakat National – “Kita tidak mahu DAP memerintah semula. Kekuatan DAP ini ialah kepada perpecahan Melayu. DAP tidak ada sebarang kekuatan jika Melayu berpadu dan Melayu ingin bersatu dalam MN.”
(We don’t want DAP to rule again. DAP’s strength is in the disunity of the Malays. DAP has no strength if Malays unite and Malays must unite under MN.)
If Syed Saddiq believes there would be more cybertroopers, I think this would also mean more restrictions on free speech. As it is, folks are worried about making comments that would be deemed by the state as worthy of sanctions. I have no doubt in the coming days we will witness more people attempting to curtail discourse, all under the guise of protecting racial and religious sensitivities by hectoring online news portals to censor comments.
The propaganda coming out of PN has been an attempt to follow the Trumpian model, which consists of gaslighting and deflection. It really says something about the priorities of this government, when it threw RM85 million plus at a propaganda arm which was ineffective in defining the discourse around the Najib regime. Now, of course, the current prime minister is attempting to revive Jasa and to assuage the anxieties of certain folks who believed that the gravy train was slowing down.
RM85 million is a steep price to pay when you are a morally and intellectually bankrupt government.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he hopes young people will assume the mantle of leadership – if there is to be any hope for this country.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.