Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The foot is in the mouth ... again

The foot is in the mouth ... again

WHEN mobile telephones and their related technology landed on our shores more than two decades ago, they were deemed as "telecommunications equipment" which enabled the people to stay in touch with each other without the need for telephone exchanges, wires and the other trappings of a land line.

Some of them at that time appeared to be weapons of destruction, one of which was the size and weight of a brick! Over the years, with the advent of modern technology, they have become smaller and have a host of applications.

The technological advancement has not stopped. What could be classified as an innovation today could become obsolete the next day. Instead of just being used to make calls, the mobile telephone can be used as a camera, a voice recorder and even a video player. And images and voices can be sent out at the press of a button to hundreds of people instantaneously.

It is because of this that certain countries chose to ban certain brands and applications because of the threat of abuse and for security reasons.

Many holding positions and those in high office take cognizance of these existing and innocent-looking gadgets and choose to be guarded when speaking in private knowing very well that the mobile telephone has other uses.


That was perhaps what Home Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did not take into account or deliberately chose to ignore when he made the threat of closing down newspapers in a speech last Saturday.

Unknown to him, someone in the audience had made a complete recording of his nonsensical tirade and his innocuous links to a secret society which had been banned by none other than his own ministry.
That audio recording has now gone viral and no one is paying any heed to his threat and the Chinese Newspaper Editors Association has urged Zahid to retract his threat.

The threat aside, what was more shocking was his endorsement of the Tiga Line underworld group, calling them his friends and urging them to do what they needed to do.

Tiga Line, he thundered, weren't thugs and were in fact some form of benevolent gangsters that only turned up at festivals.

"I tell our Tiga Line friends, do what should be done," he can be heard in the recording, which has now been made available in several internet sites.

His remarks drew loud cheers from the room, and he took it further by taking a racist line when he declared that Malays were the usual victims.

"The largest drug dealers are Chinese, the smaller ones are Indians and the users are Malays. In internet gambling, the bosses are Chinese, operators are Indians and patrons are Malays. 

Therefore the victims are Malays," Zahid is heard saying, adding that he is home minister due to Malay support that made him Umno vice-president.

It is understandable the minister is in the race for a senior party post but to take a racial stance on victims of crime is certainly the bottom of the pits.

Using crime to pit one race against the other is not acceptable. Crime has no race barrier. Using imagination and not foresight, the minister has chosen to conjure his own reasons without any facts or figures, just to win a few brownie points for the sake of his career and political expediency.

It is obvious that he has little respect for the law; pays no heed to common sense; lacks good judgment and has no self-esteem by resorting to such levels of disgusting popularity-gaining efforts.

Besides, the threat to close newspapers goes against the basic grain of the prime minister's promise of easing up on press freedom. What message are we sending out to the people when the minister openly defies and derides the country's No. 1 and his own plans for a fully-developed nation?

How will the PM face an international audience when a member of his own cabinet makes such unwarranted threats and attacks? How will he be able to defend his policies when renegades start putting their foot in the mouth?

I am writing this article from the heart – fully aware of the consequences. I am well aware that a fellow journalist was arrested for "her own protection". I very well know that I could incur the wrath of the Lord and Master.

Silence is no longer an option for those who choose to call themselves journalists. For our dignity and pride, we have to stand and say our piece on those who choose to ride roughshod over us.

Politicians should no longer be allowed to use journalism as cannon-fodder for their actions or the lack of them. Or for that matter, for political gain and political glory.

If we want to practise good journalism to serve as the eyes, ears and mouths of fellow Malaysians, we cannot be practitioners with the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

R. Nadeswaran believes that bullying and threats have to stop to allow journalists to practise their craft. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

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