BTN given leeway to stoke racial tension with ‘spin’, says Kit Siang

July 14, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government is “giving its blessing” to a national agency aimed at promoting nation-building to continue pushing biased and racial “spin” despite promising to revamp its modules, a senior opposition lawmaker said today.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang demanded that the Prime Minister’s Department explain to the public why it is allowing the controversial National Civics Bureau — better known by its Malay name Biro Tata Negara (BTN) — to carry on with its racial propaganda just hours after a deputy chief editor in Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia reportedly told a forum on social media that it was “okay” to “spin” facts detrimental to opposition leaders to paint a desired picture to readers.
Lim said Utusan has been given free rein to attack the opposition repeatedly over the last few years. — File pic
“Malaysian taxpayers are entitled to know why is the Umno/Barisan Nasional government giving its blessing to such unethical and dishonest journalism by being involved in the social media convention through the Biro Tata Negara of the Prime Minister’s Department, not only to disseminate unethical and dishonest principles of journalism and its application in the social media, but to carry out what is clearly divisive and destructive social activities which could only undermine inter-racial harmony, national unity and 1 Malaysia nation-building. “Is this confirmation that Biro Tata Negara ... is back in business as the most divisive and destructive brainwashing centre in the country, dividing instead of uniting Malaysians regardless of race, religion, region, class, age or gender despite earlier assurances that BTN is being reformed into a truly Malaysian rather than racist institution?” Lim asked in a statement today.
Utusan’s Datuk Zaini Hassan was reported by news portal Malaysiakini as telling social media practitioners that writers were allowed to “spin” facts in favour of the ruling party.
“In our style of writing, we have fact, spin and — one more — blatant lies. From the point of psychological warfare, let’s not follow ‘blatant lies’, let’s not write lies.
“Spin we can; no matter how we spin a certain fact to be biased in our favour, that’s okay,” Zaini was quoted as saying at the forum organised by the BTN and the 1 Malaysia Social Media Convention secretariat at the Regency Hotel in the city today.
Lim seemed livid at Zaini’s blatant disregard for impartial reporting presented at a national agency platform that appeared to be counter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reform agenda under his 1 Malaysia inclusive plan.
The veteran federal lawmaker said Utusan has been given free rein to attack the opposition repeatedly over the last few years, and was increasing its unsubstantiated allegations targeting the DAP in the run-up to the 13th general election due soon.
Lim pointed to the paper’s front-page report on July 9 alleging the DAP would contest 90 of the 222 parliamentary seats to dominate the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact and appoint the prime minister in the next national polls that could see a regime change in Malaysia for the first time since independence in 1957.
“This was part of an irresponsible, unprincipled, malicious and anti-national campaign by Umno propagandists to stoke baseless racial suspicion, distrust and fear that the Malays will lose political power if Umno is defeated and the Barisan Nasional replaced by Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election,” he said.
“There is simply no kernel of truth in such a claim,” he added.
Utusan had previously front-paged another unsubstantiated report that the DAP was conspiring with Christian groups to set up a Christian Malaysian state and install a Christian as prime minister, Lim said.
The BTN has drawn widespread controversy over the past few years after several participants leaked information that the government agency was explicitly promoting Malay supremacy and the governing BN, which resulted in the Selangor PR government banning state civil servants, employees of state subsidiaries and students at state-owned institutions from attending BTN courses in November 2009.
The Penang PR government followed suit the following month.
The Cabinet held a meeting to discuss revamping the modules that same year in a bid to placate public uproar over institutionalised racism, with Najib saying: “This must end.”
The controversy, however, appears to have gone underground instead of being resolved.

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