The Pakatan Rakyat seems to have the exclusive domain over free press and free speech these days in terms of reputation. The perception has to be dismantled quickly if we wish not to escape a lie only to fall into another lie.
Pakatan Rakyat — especially DAP and PKR — rightly so deserves the association with free speech. The Barisan Nasional government unabashedly uses state apparatus to suppress free speech supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution, with the components of Pakatan Rakyat as the victim of suppression, particularly in the past before March 8 unraveled its chapter.
There has been some liberalization since thanks to the persistent struggle for greater freedom by many. The Barisan Nasional government still abuses state apparatus but threat posed them has receded significantly, ushering a new era of freer Malaysia. Much is to be done but clearly, we are seeing a liberal climate for us all to enjoy.
While enjoy we will, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
The clear and present threats to free speech — suppressive laws, litigation and coercion for instance — are always identifiable without much effort. One that is less obvious is when those with the reputation as advocates of free speech started to use it to their advantage with detrimental effect to others. With the Pakatan Rakyat component members finding themselves in power, they are susceptible to do so to slowly betray the principle which they are associated with. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
One can despise free market philosophy all they want but the safest bet one can make is that we all have our own interests and we do promote those interests to our own benefits. The fact that liberals understand this what makes liberalism so successful compared to any of its rival up to date. It is simply human nature and other systems fail simply because those systems try to impose idealism made in the heavens rather than work with reality on the ground for the advancement of humanity.
Those in Pakatan Rakyat are no different about having and promoting their self-interest.
There is nothing wrong in having self-interest and promoting it. It is self-interest that have brought humanity tremendous wealth and knowledge unmatched at any point in the past. What is wrong is when that self-interest is pursued in a way that violates others’ right. With respect to the issue at hand, it is others’ right to free speech and the maintenance of free press.
Despite their association with free press and free speech, the component members of Pakatan Rakyat lately have shown worrying tendency of barring journalists from news organizations unsympathetic to the politics of Pakatan Rakyat.
DAP sued Utusan Malaysia and a few others about a satire; the satire is distasteful, no argument about that but it is clearly only a satire, no matter how provocative it is.
In Kelantan, the PAS controlled state assembly barred a Berita Harian reported from its premised due to unkind reports. And who can forget how Zulkifli Nordin of PKR who stormed a forum demanding it to be halted; he has yet to be punished by PKR for what he done.
All this discourages free speech and free press and therefore competition of information.
In the past, supporters of Barisan Nasional were derided as believing in their own lies. At the moment, I am beginning to see supporters of Pakatan Rakyat believing in their own lies.
The best example was when Anwar Ibrahim claimed that there is a capital flight after the World Bank released a report showing FDI outflow overtook FDI inflow when in fact, the truth of the matter is that rather than capital invested in Malaysia flowing out, Malaysian firms are investing abroad.
The case of Teresa Kok claiming she was intentionally maliciously misattributed by Utusan Malaysia when in fact she did say what Utusan Malaysia reported is yet another example. Only that in this episode, free speech caused her to paddle back. Yet, some DAP supporters defended Kok only to suffer embarrassment when Kok found herself in an impossible situation to deny it. Without competition of information, Kok would not have apologize and would have gotten away with it.
As for me, I am unwilling to live in a lie after escaping from one. I am only interested in securing my liberty and not the self-interest of politicians from either Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat.
I am not entirely sure if some in Pakatan Rakyat believe in fair competition. Increasingly, it seems that they believe in fair competition only when the odds are against them. When in power, the ideal of liberty is conveniently thrown out of the window.
The antidote to this is the encouragement and maintenance of competition of sources. Any effort to limit competition should be viewed with utmost suspicion and nothing less.