Anti-mega tower Facebook group grows beyond buildings

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 – At four months old, the anti-mega tower Facebook group has moved beyond saying no to Malaysia’s next multi-billion ringgit skyscraper to standing up for public accountability and reforms.

The two hottest topics of discussion on its Facebook page currently revolve around Putrajaya’s recent RM6 billion deal to buy six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs); and a repeated attempt to control Internet content — both drawing hundreds of comments in reply.

The 1M Malaysians Reject 100-storey Mega Tower was initially set up on Facebook in mid October last year as a campaign platform and for citizens to vent their outrage against the Najib administration’s proposed RM5 billion building under Budget 2011.

Since then, it has gained 290,918 followers on the popular social networking website, at the time of reporting this morning. In contrast, the Facebook page that sparked the Egyptian revolution that unseated President Hosni Mubarak this morning — We are all Khaled Said — has only 70,545 followers or people liking the page.

Bolstered perhaps by the rapid response to its original protest, the outfit’s Facebook managers have decided to expand their causes, keeping it under the umbrella issue of public accountability.

“We are more than just a Facebook fan page. We are a community. We are as diverse as Malaysia on many fronts, yet we are united by one single cause: public accountability,” the self-professed political community against an arrogant government explained on its Facebook information section.

Insisting it was non-partisan, the movement appear to be using the using the page to pressure the government to overhaul its policies. “Malaysia needs better education, better health care, better public transportation, safer neighbourhoods, cleaner water, but not taller buildings and not another white elephant!

“We are proudly a non-partisan political community of ordinary Malaysians demanding public accountability and better value for tax money. A desire for a better tomorrow unites us Malaysians from all walks of life,” it added.

The outfit’s bid to enlist one million followers to its expanded causes appear to be gaining ground, but at a slower pace compared to the rapid and overwhelming support it drew to its original cause.

The anti-Warisan Merdeka page started signing up fans at an astonishing rate of over 1,000 per hour when it started out a day after the Budget 2011 proposals was tabled on October 15, 2010.

On October 20 the same year, it had 37,420 fans at 5.55pm, breached the 50,000 mark at around 11.30pm and hit 60,408 fans at 11.50am the next day.

Comparatively, a posting calling for a factual assessment of the OPV controversy raised by DAP lawmakers more than a week ago have drawn 109 responses to date.

Another posting on February 8 on the same topic but questioning the hefty RM1 billion price tag per patrol boat did slightly better in rousing response from 144 people.

“1Billion per Patrol Vessel? with that amount, probably can buy a second hand aircraft carrier,,,, or a stealth warship! 1Billion per Patrol Vessel? Alot of people gotta laugh all the way to their bank!

But then,who needs an aircraft carrier when we have unflyable jets with no engines? After the last experience with a unsinkable sub, they decided to pay more to ensure having an unfloatable vessel?” said Facebooker Christopher Chai.

Another user that goes by the online name, Tsunami Nami, noted the recent scandals involving the defence ministry and expressed his dismay at Putrajaya’s spendthrift ways.

“Recent scandals showed there are more pirates in the government than in Malaysian waters. We don’t need OPVs, we need better roads, full of potholes, better street lights, wider roads, better schools,” he said.

The Facebook community’s highlight on the home ministry’s plan to change the Printing and Publishing Permits Act (PPPA) to bring the cyberworld to heel also drew lukewarm response despite the possible impact on Internet-savvy Malaysians.