Giving flowers to monkeys?

by Sim Kwang Yang

I have found some of the most interesting and provocative reading materials on the Internet at Malaysia Today edited by Raja Petra bin Raja Kamarudin.

He has opened up a no-holds-barred Debating Corner, where he invites readers to give their views on extremely sensitive questions. Should Sarawak and Sabah have joined Malaysia? Should Malaysia remain a Monarchy or become a Republic? Is politics very much part of Islam? Does Islam Hadhari really exist? Have the Malays changed (for the worse or for the better)?

I must applaud his courage in opening up these Pandora Boxes. In more developed liberal democracies, public discussions on these issues may be a matter of routine. In Malaysia, however, to venture into these tabooed territories would border on the foolhardy, if not downright self-destructive. Any view that is not politically correct would immediately bear the stigma of sedition.

What Raja Petra attempts to do is only possible on the Internet, for no government licensed media would want to touch these untouchable subjects with the proverbial ten-foot pole. But even on the Internet, in malaysiakini for instance, I balk at tackling these and other sensitive matters that really matter in our national life.

My hesitation has nothing to do with the ISA. It is just that you never know how your views are going to be received by the netizens out there in anonymous cyberspace. It is an irony that communication on the Internet should deteriorate in proportion to exponential advance in information technology. The freedom of expression afforded by the Internet has more often than not led to a complete breakdown of meaningful dialogues.