Below here is second and final part of MO’s exclusive interview with Malaysian-born Australian lawyer Quintin Rozario.
In his first part, Rozario talked about the DOJ suit against four individuals, who had supposedly “stolen” monies from the country’s sovereign wealth fund – 1Malaysia Development Fund (1MDB).
In this segment, the Brisbane-based lawyer airs his views on abuse of democratic space provided in the social media and how the Malaysia government should exert control over it.
He also touches on Bersih, the so-called ‘free and fair election’ watchdog, and its alleged links to foreign funders with a mission to topple a democratically elected federal government.
Excerpts of the interview as below:
MO: Do you think Malaysians were abusing the democratic space provided in social media?
QR: It is not only Malaysians who abuse the space given to them in social media. This is an international problem that has its roots in the unbridled liberal democracies of the west. Whatever one thinks of Lee Kuan Yew, one cannot ignore his very effective attitude to defamation. Sue till it hurts.
MO: Do you think the Malaysian government has been too liberal in allowing many unsavoury and nasty remarks by social media users?
QR: Sadly the Malaysian government reflects the attitudes of its majority constituents, the Malays. Their patience is legendary. But go too far and not even social media will save those irresponsible users of social media space from the wrath of an angry provoked section of the population pushed against their limits. The current generation of young Malaysians has little or no memories of May 13 and what it is that provoked that violent backlash.
It made my flesh crawl when I saw a video shot of a group of Chinese youth at the last Bersih rally symbolically with a broom in hand sweeping the Malays (an effigy of the Prime Minister Najib Razak) in a repeat of a gesture not too dissimilar to that which the Chinese used to spark May 13 in 1969. To that I say, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
MO: Do you think the Malaysian government should tighten up the law and enforce it strictly to stem the abuse of social media?
QR: The Malaysian government in the situation that prevails in Malaysia today, has an obligation not a discretion, to tighten a number of laws. This includes the laws of incitement, racial vilification, the use of public space and the media to advance causes that are detrimental to peace and good order. There are constitutional imperatives and obligations on us all in this regard. However it is up to government to enforce these obligations and laws or they become redundant and ineffective from absence of enforcement over time.
It was a grave mistake on the part of the Malaysian government to abolish the ISA. Detention without trial is a part of law and order in the UK, most European countries, the US and Australia. Malaysia cannot wait till radicalised Christians, Muslims or any other of the diverse community decides to take their political and criminal activities outsides of the confines of the law. Laws have to also have a preventative element to it.
In any event it is still possible for the police and for government to order and to detain individuals without trial for extended periods of time.
As for social media, almost all western countries, India and China practice censorship and media control on a grand scale. Their justification for their actions in this regard may vary but the end result and objectives are the same. Even Israel complained to Face Book about the detrimental effects of its ‘free for all’ style of control.
MO: What you think the Malaysian government and social media users should do to use the social media as a platform for constructive and ethical issue-based discussions?
QR: Control. It is for users of social media platforms to act responsibly and not for government to have to enforce that element of social personal responsibility. There is no such thing as absolute free speech. Porn is banned and criminal where it involves children in most countries. There are serious penalties for it. Incitement and spilling of state secrets carries sanctions in the US and other western countries. Defamation carries with it a price where the defamation is proved.
MO: Do you think certain so-called civil society movements and independent online media groups in Malaysia were allegedly funded by powerful and influential foreign lobby groups to topple a democratically elected federal government? If yes, could you elaborate more on this with strong evidential examples?
Ambiga Srinivasan has alluded to the receipt of outside funding of her causes. She even went to the extent of identifying the Selangor state government as being one of the parties that funded her political party Bersih (which is what it is). Civil Societies and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have both been identified as being financial benefactors of Bersih which incidentally has an office in Geneva. The funding is not always in cash. It comes in the form of material and information, media and trainers and lobbyists at their disposal. Malaysian businessmen who supported Anwar Ibrahim in his quest to topple Dr. Mahathir Mohamad are also known to have funded Bersih.
MO: What should the government do to stop this funding, these movements and media groups?
QR: Where identified government ought to appropriately arrest, try and if found guilty jail these groups. The call is now in the US to “lock her up” in reference to Hillary Clinton and her breaches of laws in the US undermining US security. Hillary was and perhaps continues to be a supporter of the Bersih opposition coalition in Malaysia. The same call ought to be applied to the Ambigas, Maria Chin Abdullahs and the Teresa Koks and Cynthia Gabriels of this world. Bald allegations alone don’t make for a case against anything. If the government continues to ignore these people, it undermines the authority of the courts. That’s dangerous.
MO: How could the government disseminate the correct information to the people for them to realise that these foreign-funded movements were only out to use or misuse them to merely create chaos and, disrupt the peace and harmony in the country?
QR: The media. It is not using it effectively. It appears to have no strategy in place to counter the opposition and civil society’s lies and media campaigns.
MO: How can the people be made to realise that they were being manipulated and hoodwinked by these movements through spins of lies and falsehoods?
QR: By the dissemination of information and use of the courts. Where the government fails and leaves a vacuum in this war, a creative and mischievous opposition will fill in the void to the government’s detriment.
MO: Why these certain powerful foreign lobby groups are using these movements to destabilise the political landscape of the country, economic reasons or more than that?
QR: Hillary Clinton is now known to have orchestrated the destruction of Syria as part of her government’s foreign policy objectives to protect a vulnerable Israel, their ally in the middle east. It was revealed in one of WikiLeaks recent releases. That’s a foreign policy objective of the US in a part of the world where the lines are clearly drawn and US interests are at stake.
In Tunisia, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, Thailand and Myanmar to name a few, it was the object of bringing down borders and governments not compliant with the foreign policy objects of the USA. War has always been a business. In Southeast Asia, it is the fear of China’s growing influence resulting in a diminishing of US power and influence that bothers the US. Malaysia is not being very compliant because it has lot more to gain from a good strong relationship with China than it has with the US. The Malaysians seem to want a balance. With the Americans, it is George Bush’s attitude all over again. “Those who are not with us are against us”.
MO: What shall the federal government do pro-actively to lay bare these movements, their agenda and foreign funders? Should the government enact laws to curtail these groups?
QR: It should do what Dr. Mahathir and the late Razak Hussein did with great effect. Identify the culprits and swoop on them without warning, cutting off all access to them. Another operation lalang ala 1987 will do the country a lot of good and give unruly elements some cause for introspection.