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Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 21st April 2009: 

Rais Yatim – be Minister for Broadband instead of Minister for Propaganda and Blogs

Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim was named Minister for Information, Communications, Arts and Culture in the Cabinet of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak 12 days ago.

Since then, “Arts” have been dropped from the longish name of his Ministry although the portfolio remains with him.

However, his pronouncements since becoming Minister for Information, Communications and Culture have raised eyebrows and questions whether he is turning back the clock of the information age, as illustrated by the following headlines of one newspaper in the past few days: “Rais warns of legal action against errant private groups and bloggers” (15 April 2009), “Govt wants to ensure Internet not abused” (16 April 2009), “Rais: Do not abuse the Internet” (17 April 2009).

Rais has been in the Cabinet of five Prime Ministers, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir, Tun Abdullah and now Najib.

He will end his Cabinet career in less than glorious terms if he regards his present stint as a Minister for Propaganda and Blogs instead of being a Minister for Broadband.

At yesterday’s launch of Pikom’s (Malaysian IT Industry Association) National ICT Month, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili said Malaysia is lagging in its efforts to achieve a 50% broadband penetration by the end of 2010.

He said:

“Things are rather slow. The concern of the broadband industry is that we need to move at a faster rate. The target is to achieve a 50% broadband penetration by next year.

“Currently, we are still at 22%, 26% at the most. It is outside my portfolio. I am looking into the strategy, policy and content but not the infrastructure for the industry.”

Whose baby is it? Of course, Rais who is now the Minister for Communications!

This concern should be expressed by Rais. Unfortunately, he seems to be totally unconcerned and indifferent about the abysmal rollout of broadband and only interested in the rollback of information control like in the years of Mahathir premiership!

Rais must be reminded that we are now in the internet age and he should not try to resurrect the old media controls, which will be completely at cross purpose with the “vibrant, free and informed media” which Najib had committed his administration to as the “new way forward” three days after the latter was sworn in as Prime Minister.

It is most shocking that in his 12 days as Communications Minister, Rais has not a single word for “broadband” which should be his most important and challenging portfolio, especially at a time when there is so much broadband development internationally.

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a A$43 billion new national broadband plan to provide broadband speeds of 100 Mbps to about 90 per cent of Australian homes, schools, and businesses by 2018. The other 10 per cent will get broadband access via wireless technology.

In the United States, President Barack Obama has provided a US$7.2 billion “broadband” stimulus and begun the process of developing a holistic plan for improving broadband access nationwide.

In the United Kingdom, the government is committed to a Universal Service Obligation to provide broadband to every household with a minimum speed of 2Mbps, although one recent opinion survey revealed that 55% of the population believe 2Mbps will be too slow for a national minimum broadband speed.

What is Malaysia’s national average broadband speed? Nobody is talking about 2Mbps – lucky if 512 or 256kbps without disruptions!

We just cannot compare with the national minimum or average broadband speeds of broadband power houses. Japan and South Korea, for instance, have download speeds of 63Mbps and 49Mbps respectively.

In 1996, when Malaysia announced the Multimedia Super Corridor concept, we were at par with other countries in broadband penetration. Now Malaysia has been left far behind by broadband powerhouses with household broadband penetration, like South Korea (93%), Hong Kong (83.8%), Taiwan (76.8%) and Singapore (100%). Malaysia has only 21%.

These are issues Rais should give top priority, to turn Malaysia into a broadband power, both in broadband penetration rate as well as in broadband speed, if Malaysia is to enhance its competitiveness to take its rightful place in the global arena.

Malaysia will be crippled if we do not have a real Minister for Broadband.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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