The BN government ought to have themselves to blame for the backlash caused by their secretive handling of controversial issues, says WH Cheng.
Barisan Nasional leaders, particularly those from Umno, should wake up and accept the fact that arresting and imprisoning people will not stop criticism from being levelled against the ruling party and the government.
Instead, it will certainly increase public suspicion over what these government leaders are actually up to.
Apart from that, such actions will also give the impression that the BN government is trying to cover up weaknesses in its administration.
In politics, public perception, whether negative or positive, exists in every form, be it criticism, commentaries, discussions, condemnations, debates, exchange of ideas or just simply a chat in a coffee shop.
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Whatever the BN government is doing or if any of its top leaders are linked to controversies or scandals, it will inevitably attract public attention and generate public perceptions based on the information obtained.
Perceptions are prevalent, and unless the BN leaders come forward to explain what has actually transpired, it will not help its cause. Bare denials of controversies or scandals will not help.
These BN leaders must also realise that they are in fact holding public office and not positions in their personal capacities. These leaders are elected to serve the people and the nation and owe it to them to be forthcoming with information.
They should be reminded that they are servants of the public who pay their taxes diligently every year to the government in order for the administration to serve and develop the nation and to provide the best for the people’s livelihood.
Let us take for instance the 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) RM42bn debt and the prime minister’s RM2.6bn donation controversy.
When the 1MDB issue was first exposed, many people were shocked by the losses allegedly suffered and demanded to know who was responsible for these.
Immediately, the public perception of 1MDB was that the scandal was a result of corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement. However, reactions from the BN government were slow and its leaders did not adequately address public concerns about the scandal.
As such, it drew widespread criticism and condemnation from the public for months due to the BN government’s inaction to resolve this issue. Speculation further intensified, and it went on until 1MDB’s reputation was almost damaged to zero credibility.
As speculation and criticism against 1MDB began running out of control, the BN government decided to act by purging social media space, revoking the publishing permit of a financial magazine, detaining some prominent opposition leaders, critics and civil society leaders under the Sedition Act, Security Offences and Special Measures Act (Sosma), Communications and Multimedia Act and Section 500 of the Penal Code by accusing them of undermining national security and public order.
The worst part of this episode was the suspension of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following the appointment of its chairman and several key members to the cabinet.
At the same time the action by the police to confiscate investigation papers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters and the arrest of several MACC officials drew even more suspicion from the public.
The people cannot be blamed simply because speculation began to spread nationwide, and such speculation will never create public disorder or threaten national security as claimed by certain powerful figures.
When there is criticism and condemnation, the BN government ought to have themselves to blame for the backlash caused by their secretive handling of such issues.
If the BN government had come clean on these scandals at the beginning, making themselves accountable, calling for a public hearing to deal with the matter or declassifying all the documents and deals for public scrutiny, things would not have blown up to this extent.
These problems are all the BN’s own making.
Source: Berita Daily