Press Freedom and Good Governance.

So far, Malaysia has used ISA and OSA to protect the Government of Day safe from free discussion on contentious issues uttered by members of the ruling party as well as the general public including the opposition or exposition of issues discussed whether in private or public which can create controversies affecting the chances of winning the next election or creating hatred or suspicion amongst Malaysians. Political parties from the opposition are expected to have their own papers circulated amongst members only and permits for general circulation are generally denied. While Ministers and their officials are generally allowed to attack their political opponents, rebuttals from the opposite sides are seldom heard. Muting the opposition through the press didn’t help to stop the Government from losing its two third majority in the last General Election but a freer Press could have toppled BN, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

While Malaysia cannot afford to have the repeat of May 13th, present constraints put upon free discussion and debate have not helped the Ruling Party from losing two third majority in the last general election. The question remains whether Malaysians are “mature enough” to discuss and argue on contentious issues has been answered by the number of walkouts or interruptions in the sittings in both Parliament or the State Assemblies. The recent walkout by the Opposition members was staged after the Prime Minister-in-waiting, Dato Seri Najib refused to be interrupted while reading “his” speech in Parliament on Tuesday, 4th, 2008. The question remained whether it was a proper thing to do show displeasure or does it show impatience, discourtesy or disrespect by the Opposition. Is the Freedom to interrupt vital to good governance or policy making? The priority in presenting policies to be affected belongs to the Ruling Party and cannot be otherwise. Just to interrupt maybe good for publicity but is that sort of behavior be that of “HONORABLE MEMBER”? Alternatively is the Finance Minister cum Deputy Prime Minister too arrogant and is trying to “show off his power” or unsure about how to answer any request for clarification by Honorable Members who dare to interject? The answer will be forthcoming after he takes over as the Prime Minister in March 2009 after the UMNO Convention when the present PM hands over his duties, but not now.

The Opposition would have gained more political mileage if they had allowed him to finish the speech and then grilled him after, but they walked out instead. Does it mean that total Freedom of expression is not tolerated by the Opposition too? I still remember the days when the Opposition Leader would NOT allow us to interject when he read his prepared “post Budget” speech. I was surprised to read that he also joined the walkout when Najib just took a leaf from him as well. Until we all have the patience to endure all sorts of abuses, total Freedom of expression or total Freedom of the Press will not help in ensuring good Governance. Such right may be just a good excuse for a few to disrupt and create chaos. However shutting out such right will also deprive the Ruling Party from receiving constructive criticisms which are always useful these days and age where knowledge about nature and the universe is not complete nor comprehensive enough to bestow anyone exclusive expertise in any field.

If Press Freedom can be use purely for the dissemination of knowledge, good or bad, and is given and/or taken in good faith then the World and/or country will quickly benefit from it. The World is what it is to-day because every decisions or actions taken by people, leaders or nations are based purely on what we, as decision makers, already knew. Look what happened when the Iraq War was waged based on “FACTS” known by Western Intelligence at that material time? Where are that “WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTIONS” now? Both Bush and Blair are out now because of the “FACTS” known then. The fall and death of Saddam has installed the first African-American President in America and Gordon Brown as Prime Minister in Britain, while thousands have died in the process. The financial meltdown could be derived also from the expensive War which Americans have to pay in order to install “democracy” in Iraq which so far they neither appreciated nor wanted because of continued factional infightings, each wanted their own views prevailing just like Saddam also. Even with the American Press Freedom, such deception by the Conservatives had fooled even the well educated Americans. Does it mean that the Freedom of the Press had been usurped by the vested interest groups? Can we say this and that they won’t have denied it there and then?

Look even the play “that Harry Clinton lied about BEING UNDER FIRE” when visiting the Troops in Iraq made her lost ground to the now President Elect Obama. McCain 2004 bid for the Presidency was grounded to a halt by the “HOORAY gesture” he made upon winning the New Hampshire primary. He could be President then and America may or may not have the IRAQ War.. but why care for we will never know. Even if, Florida had not been under Jeff Bush, there maybe no Iraq War.. But there is an Iraq War for Obama to worry about and how to resolve it on a win-win situation.

Such was,is and will be the power of the media. Only the media owners are responsible for the contents of their information- good or bad – there can contribute both ways. Can we then ask BBC, CNN and AJE use their power as the instruments for World Peace? Can all major Governments allow investigative reporting to the fullest? What can the Secretary General or General Assembly do to promote World peace without UN being charged “as interfering in the INTERNAL AFFAIRS of that nation”?

It must be done because eventually when things happened to bring in human tragedy to a certain level UN would be asked to move in anyway. Look when happened in KOSOVO, Lebanon and in Africa, etc. Why wait until human tragedies reach a certain level only then we ask and allow the UN to move in? Why the World Body would not be asked to consider an early preemptive action? Why do we, as people of the world, allow a ruling party to mistreat their own people ? For instance, why can’t we ask UN to demand that all National Banks especially Swiss Banks to make full disclosures of deposits made to them by World Leaders to start with?

It must be accepted by UN that no leader who hides away his income by making overseas deposits will serve the cause of World peace and progress. He who steals from his family is NOT and will NOT be a good Father. A leader is the Father of that State or Nation. If he accepts overseas deposits and keep them, he is stealing from his “children”. This is why UN must not value such a person as a “Leader of that nation”. Use the Press to condemn them by making sure that their people know about his foreign and overseas deposits! Only with this mechanism in place can there be a deterrent for “BAD AND CORRUPT” GOVERNMENT. Otherwise how will the suffering people know that their Leader is actually a “THIEF”. The local press will always be the voice of the “thief”. Any local accusations without proof will be detrimental to the accuser!

Transparency Index(TI) ratings is not good enough. It only punish the nation by not attracting getting foreign investments. Such punishment will result in the problems we face to-day in the world – under employment, low food production leading to potential and real food shortages, real, quiet or silent wars, etc- all having untold human tragedies just because corrupted and inept leaders remain in power in more places than not…

It is better to use Press Freedom for World peace, Economic Stability and prosperity. Press Freedom, if used responsibly, will ensure GOOD GOVERNANCE locally, nationally and internationally. If it is used to inform “WHAT IS NOT KNOWN” and every LEADER and individuals UNDERSTAND THAT WHAT WE know TO-DAY IS NOT that IMPORTANT but TO KNOW WHAT WE DON”T KNOW NOW is MORE IMPORTANT, then we are on our WAY to a BETTER FUTURE.

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