Over the last few months,the PR company advising the federal government must be working overtime trying to repair the damage done to its client.
From the cow head incident, Allah controversy, arson attacks on places of worship, racist statements made by several individuals and extreme right race based organisations to the Anwar sodomy trial, there are too many negative news about Malaysia.
It appears that PM Najib's grand vision, 1Malaysia, has failed even before it takes off. A few days ago, his aide had uttered some racist statements in a 1Malaysia forum causing widespread criticism for his insensitive and arrogance. However, political arrogance and disrespect for citizen rights is a common feature in local politics.
Nasir Safar has garnered support from the usual suspects e.g. Ibrahim Ali, the president of Perkasa, a Malay supremacy pressure group. This group has successful roped in supporters from the high places including royalty and the ex-premier Dr Mahathir. Mahathir claims that Perkasa growing popularity is largely due to UMNO's inability to defend the Malay supremacy.
It would be interesting to put this hypothesis to test by bringing back Dr Mahathir to helm UMNO and make Ibrahim Ali his deputy.
I was asked if these incidents and controversies are signs of Malaysia's growing Islamisation. Hardly, but a sign of extreme right race proponents fear of losing mass support from the majority community.
The failure of arson attacks on places of worship to incite communal clashes is a sign of growing maturity and calmness in the society. Better information sharing through the internet, mobile devices and the role of online activism was able to send the right messages out to the public. Extremist groups can no longer manipulate false information and use hostile tactics to create communal tensions.
However, the role of internet also means that statements such as Chinese women would come to Malaysia to become prostitutes or Indians come here to beg will travel fast to the public forums in these countries. The outcome will be devastating to the Malaysian tourism industry and international image.
It is sad to note that the Anwar sodomy trial is dominating the front page coverage in almost all mainstream newspapers. The trend will continue until the end of his trial. On the other hand, the trial for those who were implicated in the biggest financial scandal in the country, the PKFZ, has not even started. High profile personalities who were supposed to be hauled up to face the trial have not been caught.
Anwar's sodomy trial is going to be a PR disaster for the country. It exposes the biggest hypocrisy in the country. It appears to put sodomy as a much bigger offence than corruption or murder. Ironically, the Malaysian judiciary faces the biggest test in the 21st century and the process of the trial will indicate to us if there is any hope of a true reform can work to regain public confidence on our justice system.
A less than fair coverage on Anwar's sodomy trial may erode completely the credibility of all mainstream editors in the country and may mark the downturn of some media companies. Most of these companies are already facing shrinking advertisement revenue due to readers shunning their publications.
There is still hope for these media companies to reform and play a responsible role in the society. They should focus their reporting on important issues such as corruption, poor governance, education reform, economic revival and others. Not just Pakatan bashing or Barisan apple polishing. Media companies should stay above politics. Sadly, this is not something achievable in Malaysia. Not in the next two decades.
The impact of negative perception towards Malaysia overseas is going to hurt FDI inflow into the country. Local investment is also footloose. The net outflow of investment is going to hurt our industrial development and employment sector. Growing unemployment amongst undergraduates is going to be more serious in the next few years.
The fact that the government is introducing a weird two-tier pricing model for retail petrol sale is a sign of poor fiscal condition. Public debt is growing to more than RM500 billion by 2011. The implementation of GST to diversify the government revenue stream is facing a strong opposition. Barely 2 million taxpayers are paying for the country's development expenditure. Unpredictable oil price is causing a major dilemma for the government to plan its budget.
We must play our role as the watchdogs of political parties and politicians. We must not let ourselves be blinded by political parties and politicians using race supremacy to mask their own incapability and selfish desires.
We must learn to work together to protect our nation from the ravages of unscrupulous politicians.