I was reading the Star today. Whoa…on the cover it is announced that building plans for the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) could be submitted, and approved, online. Meanwhile, in KL, the DBKL launches what they term as “e-licence”. It simply means that advertising and premises licence applications could now be made online as well. Approval letters will be issued online and printed by the applicants. Congratulations to both agencies.
We are a country which initiated the Multimedia Super Corridor. During the Mahathir administration, we made a vow, a resolute one at that, that we would not exercise controls or censorship over the net. That was a definite packaging and marketing exercise. It was made for obvious reasons. Rumour has it that Microsoft would not have supported the MSC had we not made that non-intervention policy. As our country prepares for its 50th independence celebration, the above move by the 2 agencies should be lauded. Online applications no only help to save time for applicants, but they also help to curb, if not eliminate, corruption. It is time that other agencies take a similar step to improve efficiency and delivery. This is a small step, but a step in the right direction nevertheless.
But when I turned the pages of the Star, I just could not help but to feel bemused by the rhetoric in the Parliament yesterday. Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister was reported as saying that bloggers using locally hosted websites may have to register with the authorities in the future. Like, duh? This was a measure being considered by the government to prevent the spread of negative or malicious content on the net. I almost choked on my roti kaya! Whatever words the government use to spin this utterly astounding, and in the face of the non-intervention policy made by the previous administration, ridiculous plan, would not be good enough to conceal the government’s real intention. And that is to exercise some sort of a passive censorship of the net by instilling fear into the minds of bloggers. It’s like saying, you bloggers are registered now and if you say something wrong we would know who you are and we would take action! Cummon’, that’s it isn’t it?
There are other ways to curb malicious, negative or misleading contents on the net. But what the authorities must do first is to understand why our society thrives on rumours. When a text message was, for example, sent and circulated about a supposed plan to baptise some Malays at a church, a motley crew of characters began congregating at the church showing anger. Then there were rumours of a tsunami. Then there were rumours surrounding the Altantuya murder. Our society seems at all too willing to embrace rumours. Why? Is it because we are a gullible society, unable to exercise our discretion to filter news from rumours, no matter how stupid the latter may sound? Or is it because we are a society bereft, and deprived, of any usable information which is deemed sensitive by the authorities? Or have we become numbed with cover-ups so much so we choose to believe rumours rather than official news? After all, there is a saying on our streets and that is, rumours are not true until they are officially denied!
Assuming a blog comes out with such negative contents about a government agency or any person within the government or authorities, can’t the agency or the person log onto that blog and explain himself? And in this era, almost every other agency has a website. Can’t that negative content be addressed on the agency’s website? There are sufficient laws to deal with untruth or malicious statements. These laws could be used by the aggrieved party to seek remedies. Why the need to register bloggers? If this is done, I am afraid to say that, in these days when we have intelligent 400k toilets which clean itself, Malaysia would be ridiculed by the international community. And oh ya…Microsoft would not forget the policy which we so avidly announced before.
As I flipped the newspaper, I saw another disturbing news. Remember the 4 gorillas which were smuggled to the Taiping zoo in 2002? As it was found out that those gorillas were brought in using false documentations declaring that they were captive bred specimens instead of wild ones, a decision was taken to relocate them where they came from, ie Cameroon. Well, of course there were a thousand procedures which needed to be complied with and in the meantime those 4 were sent to the South Africa as some sort of a transit. The latest attempt to relocate them to Cameroon failed because, it was reported, that the Malaysian Government had not given its go-ahead! Apparently, our cabinet sanction was needed and the Cabinet had not sanctioned as yet. It’s been 5 years, for God’s freckin’ sake! But of course, the Cabinet will have to wait for a report, or further report I suppose.
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry was quoted as saying that it will send a note to the Cabinet to get the latter’s endorsement.
Hmmm, can’t they do it online?
ps I was just thinking. Why can't the relevant Ministry issue a one liner letter saying that we have no objection to the gorillas being relocated to their home country? I mean, the fact that the gorillas do not belong here is already settled in 2002. So, whatever Ministry in charge could issue the letter. Why must there be a cabinet decision? Afraid to take responsibility? I can just imagine next wednesday, the Cabinet having discussed the 30 billion dollar Iskandar Developement Region; the twin rail train project and heard Azalina Othman's report that Singapore's proposed F1 race is doomed to failure, the secretary to the cabinet meeting would say, "Yang Amat Berhormat Yang Amat berhormat, Yang Berhormat Yang Berhormat, agenda berikutnya ialah keputusan kabinet mengenai 4 ekor gorila yang ingin balik kampung....." Awesome!