In search of ‘killer’ campaign messaging against your opponents

Why would Pejuang allow its assemblyman to make a police report based on such a rumour? The answer could be that Pejuang, with just four MPs, is no longer a force to be reckoned with in Malaysian politics.

Jamari Mohtar, The Vibes

IT seems rather strange that Kuang assemblyman, Sallehudin Amiruddin of Pejuang, has made a police report on March 18 urging authorities to investigate a rumour that RM500 million had been paid to Bersatu for use during the upcoming 15th general election (GE15) through a high-profile lawyer who helped Putrajaya reach a settlement with Goldman Sachs.

Since when must police investigate a rumour? Is Malaysia descending into a rumour-mongering country where every rumour reported to the police must be investigated? This is different from asking the police to investigate an allegation with factual basis.

It is a waste of state resources for each and every rumour to be investigated by the police. A police report made on this basis is basically saying “forget about the need to provide factual proof, leave that for police to investigate”. If this is allowed, numerous rumours can be used as bullets to attack your opponent.

A rumour that is not proven factually constitutes fitnah (slander/persecution). No wonder the Quran says: “Persecution (fitnah) is worse than murder.”

The rumour, which is the basis of the police report, was first circulated by former Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam through a Facebook video broadcast on March 16, which got traction and later went viral.

The gist of Lokman’s claim is that prominent lawyer Rosli Dahlan has received almost RM2 billion, or 10% in legal fees, for the work his firm did in recovering about RM20 billions of 1MDB’s stolen money. Lokman went on to insinuate Bersatu might have received a kickback of RM500 million from the fees.

It is so mind-boggling that after stating all these allegations, Lokman admitted: “This information I received is a rumour” and yet continued in the next breath as a Muslim: “…but this rumour must be answered by the AG, whether it is true or not”.

All these show the need for anti-fake news legislation to be introduced. Otherwise, innocent people would get “killed” through character assassination, which is worse than outright murder. Worse still is when partisan politicking thrives on rumour, which is another name for fake news.

Why would Pejuang allow its assemblyman to make a police report based on such a rumour? The answer could be that Pejuang, with just four MPs, is no longer a force to be reckoned with in Malaysian politics.

The ongoing feud between Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on who should be the prime minister has weakened both parties, if not the opposition.

But it is Pejuang that is most affected, because Anwar still has 88 MPs supporting him, while Dr Mahathir has only four.

Realising the 1MDB scandal was, for lack of a better term, the anchor issue during GE14 that successfully toppled the Najib administration and ended Barisan Nasional’s uninterrupted rule for more than 60 years (including the rule of its predecessor, the Alliance Party), Pejuang is in need of another anchor issue to mobilise the opposition so that it will once again play the leading role in the opposition and harness the rakyat for another killer campaign message during GE15 that will bring down the current Perikatan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The police report by Sallehudin could be the first salvo aimed at creating an anchor issue that can be dubbed as 1MDB Scandal 2.0. But this is an anchor issue that will be a faux pas, a tactless blunder that will soon self-destruct because everybody knows the resumption of the talks with Goldman Sachs in the middle of last year represented a major breakthrough in Malaysia’s 1MDB asset recovery campaign.

This is because talks had stumbled since mid-2018 due to missteps by the previous Pakatan Harapan government that left negotiations with Goldman Sachs, the United States Justice Department (DoJ), and the Abu Dhabi government in varying stages of limbo. The resumption of negotiations last year marked the final attempt between the parties to hammer out a multi-billion-dollar financial settlement over the fiasco at 1MDB.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun actively engaged with officials from the DoJ and Goldman Sachs to iron out key bugbears in the asset recovery negotiations.

The turning point came sometime in May when Kuala Lumpur signalled that it was prepared to participate in the so-called global settlement initiative led by the DoJ to hammer out a solution with the counter-parties comprising fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic) that guaranteed the 1MDB bonds amounting to US$6.5 billion (RM26.9 billion), and Goldman Sachs.

Read more here