Monday, November 23, 2015

McCarthyism in Malaysia?

By: Choo Sing Chye

HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah - The Rulers ... are not, nor can they be, deaf, blind and dumb to the critical issues on which the nation is hinged.

Seriously, reading Arul Kanda’s interview with the pro-government media and the account of his close talk-sessions with the MCA and UMNO members, gives me bad vibes.  

It is like the replay of the heydays of the 50’s and 60’s  BBC’s  boring “airport interviews" and the "jolly good fellow" stuffs that had no news value which amounted to government propaganda.  

I wonder, why are we still trapped within this vicious vortex of  discerning government  propaganda after all these years?  

We should have arrived at the stage where the journalists write and politicians do the sweating.  

But sadly, it’s the reverse here.  

It is all because our democracy is still rigidly guided (Guided-Democracy) by the all powerful elites of the National Front (Barisan Nasional).

In the West where Liberal Democracy prevails, investigative journalism is the norm.  
And here in the West, the journalists act as a voice of the people and not the government or the opposition.  They will do a critical review on  government  policies and debates in Parliament without fear or favour.   

For this reason, ordinary citizens in the West tend to believe the media more than the politicians from the government or the oppositions.  As a consequent of this, they are more inclined to vote for leaders of their choice based on these reviews.

But in Malaysia, the main purpose of investigative journalism is to dig out sludge from opposition leaders and not from the government.  

Not that opposition leaders do not have them, but when journalists do a critical piece on an issue, it must be equal in intensity for both sides, the government and the opposition.

However in reality, when they found any sludge from the government leaders, they will with all their effort  hushed it up.  Or they would at their customary best, blame the oppositions of making it up stories to remove the “democratic” government leaders.

Thus balance news is never the norm or the appeal of the pro government media because whatever they write is prone to one sided views – the government views. 

The attitude of the many print media in Malaysia concurs with what had happened in the age of McCarthyism where the Right-Wingers had seemingly gone mad.  

Nevertheless, evoking the actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 50’s in American is to offer us a clear comparison between false accusations and the truth. 

Apparently there wasn’t a need for McCarthy to provide any proof, he just had to intercede any hearing with his famous “point of order” and whatever being said after this became the gospel truth.   

Hence many were indicted just on flimsy or false accusations. And those who were accused by McCarthy’s fearsome committee of being a communist or a homosexual meant instant dismissal and blacklisting. 

Television and newspapers editors knew about this, but chose to stand at the side line and sadly majority of them threw their self-respect away and supported McCarthy’s witch hunt. 

They were seemingly doped with fear of the mad Right-Wingers in the government and they knew pretty well what would happen to them if they did not toe the line. 

Nobody dared to utter unkind words about the government. Those who question the government or found not toeing the official line were bullied and destroyed. 

Two men stood against all these.  They were Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly.  Murrow, a journalist with the CBS and his producer, Friendly, decided to make a critical examination of Senator McCarthy. 

They examined nearly a million feet of film on McCarthy's fearsome committee hearings and every speech that McCarthy had made. 

They found out from their research that McCarthy was guilty of false accusations, bullying and character assassinations which had led the Americans to believe that there were communist agents under their bed.

The stage was set when McCarthy wrongly accused the Army Chief Counsel, Joseph Welsh of having a communist, a 19 year old boy in his law firm. 

Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly bought a quarter page advertisement in the papers for this crucial broadcast with money from their own pockets because CBS was afraid to attack McCarthy.

The climax came when Joseph Welsh, in front of 20 million television viewers, demolished McCarthy with these words: 

Little did I dream that you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is I regret that to say equally true that I fear that he shall always bear the scar, needlessly inflicted by you. 

If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I will do so. Let us not assassinate this lad further... have you no sense of decency? You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency? Sir.....Mr. McCarthy... I will not discuss with you further. You, Mr. Chairman may as you will, call the next witness." 

McCarthy stood there, humiliated, destroyed by a simple truth obtained from the, “million feet of film” by two men of integrity. 

The witch-hunt was over.

Ed Marrow concluded at the end of the broadcast:

..the action of the junior Senator from Wisconsin of course, caused alarm and dismay among our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. Whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it and rather successfully.”

It was a historic broadcast which gave birth to INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM.

Now coming back to our own back yard.  
The sacking of the main critics of the 1 MDB, notably, the deputy Prime Minister and coupled with an avalanche of documents out there in the open; Arul Kanda, had this to say:
We need to base ourselves on facts. We cannot rely on hearsay, allegations and other unsubstantiated statements without due evidence and due proof.”  

Predictably, the pro-government media columnists and journalists could not even pick up one teeny-weeny piece of incriminating evidence from this avalanche of documents. They, instead vehemently defended the position of the government.

Further, Arul Kanda on the October 28th Malay Mail Online’s news declared with this caption, “1MDB takes especially seriously the views of Malay rulers, says Arul Kanda.”  

In the following article, he said that “1Malaysia Development Berhad (will take) seriously the opinions of all parties, especially the Malay rulers, on the controversies surrounding the state-owned company.”

Apparently, Arul Kanda’s public relation statement falls short of being good manners.   It is not good manners to trivialise the Council of Malay Rulers’ Royal Statement  as “views” or “opinions”.  

We must not forget the fact  that the Malay Rulers have access to the country’s  intelligence and so, it is not proper for Arul Kanda to imply that the Royal Statement as just “opinions” or “views”. 

If we read the Statement carefully, it is not directed at Arul Kanda, but to HM’s government,  notably the Prime Minister, the Polis DiRaja Malaysia, MACC and BNM to do a thorough investigation and solve the 1MDB as soon as possible without fear or favour.  

Arul Kanda's role is not to answer the Royal Statement, but directly to the authorities investigating 1MDB.

To Arul Kanda, the whole 1MDB episode is hinged on  how he plans to restructure 1MDB and not to address the issue of mismanagement and the leakages so that there can never be a 1MDB Mark II. 

All these controversies happened before his time and to him these are all unsubstantiated statements and evidence.

This is a dreary PR exercise.  And if we really want to get to the bottom of this issue, the investigating authorities must be given the power without fear or favour to investigate 1MDB.   

This is what the Royal Statement is all about.  It’s as simple as that.

If it is not done, then it is another typical run of the mill patching up and repairing job with a huge collateral damage – us.

In sum, the significance of HRHs, the Malay Rulers’  statement could be expressed eloquently by  HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah’s address to the Oxford and Cambridge Society, on the subject of  the “Role of the Malaysian Monarchy” (1):

Let me end by way of a brief summary. The monarchy in Malaysia is more than a symbolic and ceremonial institution. In saying this, I recognise the tremendous social significance of national symbols. It does have discretionary powers that are set out in the Constitution, but responsibilities that go beyond what is written to what is intended. The Rulers also are not, nor can they be, deaf, blind and dumb to the critical issues on which the nation is hinged. Theirs are the voices of impartiality, fairness and reason when such are necessary. The Rulers must speak with clarity and firmness for those who cannot.”

Google definition of McCarthyism: It is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism."

(1) Paragraph 25 of the Address on the Role of the Malaysian Monarchy, made by D.Y.M.M. BY  Raja Nazrin Shah (Now Sultan), Regent of Perak Darul Ridzuan  to the Oxford and Cambridge Society, on the 27th June  2008.