DAP calls on MSC IAP members to send urgent messages of protest to Mahathir against police raid of Malaysiakini and violation of the MSC Bill of Guarantee of no Internet censorship as it has precipitated an international crisis of confidence in the MSC

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): DAP calls on members of the International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the Multimedia Super Corridor(MSC) to send urgent messages of protest to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad against the police raid of Malaysiakini and violation of the MSC Bill of Guarantee of no Internet censorship as it has precipitated an international crisis of confidence in the MSC.

The IAP members should demand an immediate return of all the 19 Malaysiakini computers, a public apology and an iron-clad guarantee of no recurrence of such violation of the MSC Bill of Guarantee in order to save the MSC.
It is most regrettable that my call on Tuesday to the Cabinet to intervene before irreparable damage was done to Malaysia's ambition to be a world-class K-economy and IT power by directing the police to abide by the MSC Bill of Guarantee of no Internet censorship fell on deaf ears.

It would appear that the Cabinet in the last nine months of the 22-year Mahathir premiership is proving to be the most marginalized and irrelevant not only under Mahathir but also under all Prime Ministers in the nation's history - as evident from the triple failure of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to address three pressing national issues facing the country, viz:

  • The high-handed police raid of Malaysiakini carting away its 19 computers in an abortive attempt to effectively shut down the Malaysian Internet news site and the harassment of Malaysakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan and its other journalists;

  • The Cabinet's continued silence and indifference to the rising death toll in the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history, with 32,289 dengue cases as of 28th December last year and which could have killed as many as over 80 people last year with at least six dengue deaths in the first two weeks of the new year.

  • The Cabinet's impotence and irrelevance when it could not insist that the second Mahathir education review committee, whether the policy decision on its establishment, terms of reference, composition or modus operandi, must be made or endorsed by the Cabinet and not merely by the UMNO Supreme Council on Nov. 29 last year - maintaining a clear distinction between the ruling party and the government-of-the-day.

It is both regrettable and deplorable that the Cabinet had not addressed the high-handed police action against Malaysiakini, because of its far-reaching implications for democracy and human rights, the nation's ambition to transform Malaysia into a K-economy and Information society and in particular the fate of MSC, and thirdly, our national competitiveness to achieve the Vision 2020 of Malaysia becoming a fully-developed nation by 2020.
In the past several months, Malaysia had constantly been in the eye of the international media, mostly in a most unfavourable context making the country an increasingly unattractive destination for foreign investors and tourists - particularly the slew of reports about Malaysia as a launching pad for international terrorist activities like the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the Oct. 12 Bali bomb blasts and as a haven for al Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah.

Since Monday, Malaysia has again taken centre-stage in the international media as a country which violates its MSC Bill of Guarantee of no Interrnet censorship and turned its back to an Internet Age with the requisite mindset, culture and way of life of an information and knowledge society.

Members of the IAP, comprising the Who's Who in the world IT industry such as Bill Gates of Microsoft (who had never attended a single IAP meeting), Dr. Kenichi Ohmae, Don Tapscott, Dr Stan Shih, Michael R. Bloomberg, Louis Gerstner Jr, Michael S. Dell and Robert Madge, should requisition for an emergency meeting of the IAP as the high-handed police action against Malaysiakini could well be a death knell for the MSC.

The IAP was formed to advise and counsel the Prime Minister and Malaysia on "strategic issues related to the MSC, such as infrastructure and the environment, policies and cyberlaws, marketing and incentives, and the development of domestic industries".

As at stake is the very survival of the idea and dream of the MSC, IAP members should ask Mahathir whether his declarations in London in 1997 that the MSC is Malaysia's contribution to the new millennium, the "World Century of the Information Age", and "Malaysia's gift to the world" as "a huge test-bed for trying out not just the technology but also the way of life in the age of instant and unlimited information" still stand.

Five years since the idea of the MSC was mooted, more and more people inside and outside the country have been disillusioned with it. Even members of the IAP, world-class multi-national corporations like Microsoft, Intel and Oracle, remain non-committal about the MSC, what it really meant to them or their direct contributions to it.
Today's press report quoting the Science, Technology and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding, that the scheme to lure Malaysian scientists serving abroad to come back home had not been encouraging, is one clear proof of the failure of the MSC and other government plans to improve the country's skilled-knowledge base to ensure the success of MSC, attract more foreign direct investments and transform Malaysia into a K-economy and information society.

An original member of IAP, renowned futurist Alvin Toffler announced his resignation intention from the international advisory panel in 1998 "if Anwar and Munawar Anees are not released from prison unharmed as soon as possible", declaring that the MSC cannot flourish in a "climate of political repression".

Alvin Toffler said he had written to Mahathir and stressed: "The Internet cannot deliver its full economic and cultural benefits in a climate of political fear."

Anwar is still in jail and Alvin Toffler has never attended a single IAP meeting since, although I do not know whether the futurologist has formally sent in his resignation from the IAP.

The high-handed police raid on Malaysiakini is a direct threat to the very survival of the MSC, which had been suffering from a listless and lacklustre implementation in the past five years, developing into a real estate instead of an Asian Silicon Valley.

If the government and Cabinet are not aware of the lethal threat to the very survival and success of the MSC posed by the police raid on Malaysiakini, then the IAP members must spell out the message and implications loud and clear in an emergency IAP meeting in their remit to advise and counsel the Prime Minister and Malaysia about the strategic prerequisites and determinants for the success of the MSC.

The single most challenging task facing all patriotic and far-sighted Malaysians is how to prevent the high-handed police raid on Malaysiakini on Monday and the violation of the MSC Bill of Guarantee of no Internet censorship from dealing a fatal blow to Malaysia's ambition to become a K-economy and IT power and how to ensure that gung-ho, overzealous and even misguided police personnel are not be allowed to undermine the national agenda and quest for Malaysians to be at the cutting edge of ICT in the global arena.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman