Malaysia is truly Asia (at least in Dear Ambassador Todt, I had sought to prove that). And Malaysia is also truly oxymoron.
While the Prime Minister was going around town preaching that the media must be open and responsible, the very party that he leads banned the alternative media from covering its general assembly. Than, while the Prime Minister tirelessly went to town to promote his 1Malaysia concept - which according to the PM is all about living together harmoniously in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution - mainstream media like Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia and the NST, which the same party which he leads control, would go on a racial rampage calling Malays who promote equality as "traitors" and "cowards".
Everything in Malaysia seems to have two hands which work in diametrical opposites. It's like the right hand is holding the you-know-what in front and the left is shoving one huge one up the you-know-what at the back. Like that.
And so, now we have the "green dam" whatever. Another project by our benevolent Barisan Nasional government. And this is a complete oxymoron. The government on one hand would like to see broadband accessibility be increased to 50% (as opposed to the current 30%). It goes to town with multi billions smackeroonies broadband projects. Broadband here and broadband there. IT here and IT there.
Sometimes ago, as is usual with this land-of-songs of ours, there was even a song about it, which goes something like this, "cintailah IT"... la dee dum dum...dumb! (oh yes, have you all heard that "oh cun nya, barangan Malaysia..." yet? Cool!).
That was the right hand doing its stuff. The left hand however has invited a tender to "filter" the Internet. When pressed, Minister Rais said no, no, we are only looking at curbing pornography. Yea, rite. Like pornography had just been available on the net 4 days ago, when Paris Hilton had suddenly discovered the joy of pubic, er....sorry, public exhibitionism while being stoned on ecstasy pills.
The PM quickly came out to pour cold ice water on Minister Rais by saying, "No, we are not censoring the Internet!". He did not even refer to pornography. Than some commission or the other (sorry, I can't be precise here because Malaysia has lots and lots of commission) said that it was only planned as a study on Internet usage.
Hello...who is running this country please? Can anybody tell us what is going on? Is there or is there not going to be Internet censorship? A simple yes or no would suffice. If not, then what was the tender all about please? Thank you.
I am not a technical guy as far as computer technology is concerned. But I have read some materials which say that it is really difficult to censor Internet contents. I will however leave it to the experts to argue on this issue.
However, I would like to point out one thing. This is the MSC Malaysia 10 Point Bill of Guarantees. When Dr Mahathir was promoting the Multi-media Super Corridor, he caused the Government to issue this guarantee in order to attract participation in the MSC by the computer giants such as Bill Gates' Microsoft. Legend has it that the guarantee was given at the behest of Bill Gates, who initially was not very attracted by the idea of the MSC. (please note however that that story is not verified).
Anyway, what is verifiable is that such guarantee was in fact given. Point number 7 of that guarantee is as follows:
"Ensure no Internet censorship."
Now, that was and still is a promise made by the Malaysian Government to every individual and entity, whether private or governmental, who participate in the MSC. That is not a promise made by some Hussein, Hassan or Halim. It is a promise made by the His Majesty's Government, the Government of Malaysia.
People breach their promises or agreements every second of the day, everywhere on the planet. Some of them would end up in Court or arbitration. Some of them would get their head blown up because of such breaches. But when a Government breaches its promise, the consequences of such breach is far more serious.
Had that guarantee been made to, and accepted by a foreign Government or agencies, Malaysia could be dragged to the International Court if it breaches the guarantee. Judging from our performance in the International Court on the Pedra Branca issue, I would not be holding my breath to see whether Malaysia would win the case if indeed Malaysia is dragged to that Court again for breaching this guarantee.
Now, if the guarantee has been accepted only by private individual or entity, again, Malaysia could be sued for breaching the guarantee. Imagine the whole foreign, as well as local, participants of the MSC suing the Malaysian Government for breaching the guarantee. Nice eh?
There are also other ways to teach the Malaysian Government for breaching the guarantee. Bear in mind that we are not talking about some chikus with a 2 ringgit paid-up capital here. We are talking about entities like Microsoft, Googles and Yahoos, whose combine NTA is probably higher than our own GDP! If they are upset, they could do something really silly (well, silly for us lah, not for them). Just imagine Bill Gates boycotting Malaysia for 3 years, for instance. What will happen to all our computers? And to all the Government IT departments? And to our banking systems? Nice eh?
Most importantly is this. The guarantee is given by a sovereign nation. Under international law, sovereign nations are expected to fulfil its obligations, whether contractually or customarily assumed. Breaches of any international treatise, agreement or convention would invite international condemnation and repercussions.
In the commercial world, including international trade and financing, sovereign nations are rated daily for its bankability and credibility. Once a sovereign nation is known to have deliberately breached any of its contractual obligations, the repercussion for that nation, commercially, would be really serious.
As we know, every Government who partakes in international trade issue bonds or negotiated and transferable financial notes from time to time. It sometime also guarantees such bonds or notes when they are issued by its agencies or business entities. These bonds and notes carry with it promises to pay a certain yield or interest payment every year. The rate of yield or interest is dependable on the credibility of the issuer or the backer of the issuer.
Once a Government breaches any of its contractual obligation, its credibility goes down the drain. All Government bonds or notes or even Government backed bonds or notes would lose its attractiveness. If there are takers, the yields or interests would be high. More probably, not many would be willing to subscribe to such bonds or notes anymore. Why? Because they would remember what the Malaysian Government has done to the Bill of Guarantees.
Just think about it.
When Australia introduced 'a regulatory framework for Internet content' through the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999, the Australian Government was condemned by Internet users and fraternity. It was accused of not understanding the Internet technology and that the law would make Australia the 'Village Idiot' of the Internet world. (source: Nazis, Porn and Politics: Asserting Control Over Internet Content by Carolyn Penfold, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Research Associate, Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia)
My worry is, Malaysia would be viewed in the same vein. Worst still, Malaysia would be viewed by the international business community as a country which has the tendency to breach its contractual obligations.
I pray that wisdom would prevail.