Malay Press: BN underestimated social media, columnist says

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PETALING JAYA (May 15): Barisan Nasional (BN) had underestimated the power of social media thus resulting in the ruling coalition's lacklustre performance at the May 5 polls, a Berita Harian columnist said today.

In his column, Malaysian Language and Literature Institute former chairman Johan Jaaffar said BN was “beaten” by an unrelentingly “vicious” and “merciless” social media. “The opposition used it effectively. BN’s virtual soldiers fought, but the attacks from the opposition were too intense and terrible,” he said. He said the Pakatan Rakyat had marketed their messages well; some even bordering on artful virtuosity. “I believe, as there was no grave national issue to leverage upon, the opposition played on the BN and Umno-hating sentiment really well,” Johan said. “All throughout campaigning, there were videos in the cyber plain showing a discreet rejection of BN and Umno,” he added. Johan related an example, in which two Chinese youths wearing BN shirts and bearing Malaysian flags enter a restaurant where they meet a woman and a man who explain to them, in detail, BN's failure in addressing issues of national safety and corruption. In the end, one of the Chinese youth remove their BN shirts and fold the Malaysian flag, an act followed by his friend. “This video does not show any violence or harsh behaviour, but how youths ‘bow’ to the explanation of the adults. At the end of the video the logo ‘Ubah’ shows up,” Johan cited. “These are the types of videos that win the hearts and minds of voters. Amidst the vicious, accusations and profanities which occur online, there are also messages crafted creatively and artfully to win the hearts of the voters. “These were the kind of programmes that shaped the Chinese people’s standpoints on BN and Umno this time around,” he added. He said BN leaders, on the other hand, were gentle in their approach, talking about the events they had graced, launched and talked about transformation. The Pakatan Rakyat leaders, on the other hand, attacked BN and Umno, to show the government's failures and weaknesses which had some effect on youths in rural area who had access to social media. Johan said the real battle in politics occurs in the cyber realm, and BN and Umno must find new approaches in order to succeed. “More aggressive, directed and brave actions need to be taken. Accusations need immediate opposition. Explanations should be given immediately,” he said, adding the power of youths to determine an election outcome should never be underestimated. Meanwhile, another Berita Harian columnist, Imlan Adabi, said the time is ripe to consider the unity of Malays for the survival of the race and Islam as the opposition is now made up of mostly Chinese leaders with the significant win of DAP at polls. “Umno and BN have to study the betrayal of the Chinese community and the election’s effects on racial unity in the country,” he said. “Putting blame on the Chinese tsunami without grounds does not solve problems. A solution must be found as the 14th general election is only four years away,” Imlan said, adding the propensity of the Chinese community to go against Umno, BN and the government of the day is understandable. “The issue of race and fight to empower Chinese education has been a planned movement since the 1970s,” he said, adding Chinese businessmen had proposed a Merdeka University in 1978 to allow Chinese students to continue tertiary education without inhibition. However, the Merdeka University was shockingly against the National Education Policy since it would only use Mandarin and admit Chinese students. “They had claimed the public universities were practising partiality by implementing quotas and admitting only 10% of non-Malays into the institutions' halls,” he said.   “Many pleas from Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman to be upgraded to university status were turned down by the government led by Tun Hussein Onn,” he added. Chinese education and the business associations movement would serve as the basis for DAP’s struggle, which weakened MCA and Gerakan’s foothold in BN. “This development led to DAP gaining more than 70% of the total 222 Parliamentary seats it contested in the 13th general election,” he said, adding DAP won 38 seats out of the 51 seats it contested. He said this also led to DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang breaking through BN's formidable fortress in Johor, winning in Gelang Patah. DAP also won in Kluang, Bakri and Kulai, but lost in Labis and Tanjong Piai. He said the significant rise of DAP had a serious effect on the racial unity in Malaysia. “When the Chinese are the opposition and Malays are not fully in support of BN, it lends support to the formation of a weak government and racial issues could explode at any time,” he said.