Why Has The Astana Negeri Sarawak Issued Threats But No Photo-Ops?

Astana officials file police report over fake news on Sarawak TYT’s health, well-being:

Astana Negeri Sarawak officials lodged a police report today over fake news regarding the health and well-being of the Head of State, Taib Mahmud, on various social media platforms.

The Governor’s press secretary Peter Sibon said no specific names were given as it is up to the police to conduct their investigation and take the necessary action….

According to Peter, the police will investigate the case under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for offences of using network facilities to transmit communication deemed to be offensive or could cause annoyance to another person.

The Section provides for up to one year in jail, a fine up to RM50,000, or both upon conviction.

The Astana Negeri Sarawak officials also lodged a similar report with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission for further investigation.

A statement issued by the Astana Negeri Sarawak yesterday said Taib is well and in good stead.

The statement said all news unverified by the Astana regarding the Governor’s well-being which had gone viral were completely fake and untrue.

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Our comment

It was as long ago as Thursday that the Astana Negeri Sarawak took the highly unusual step of issuing a press release to state that the Governor is “well and in good stead” contrary to what it admits has been “viralled and unverified news regarding the wellbeing of Tun in social media platforms” that “are completely fake and untrue.”

The following day, the officials took a further public step in the form of a naked threat to the media or any individual who dares to speculate on the Governor’s health by posturing outside a police station where they say they have made a police report, under Malaysia’s notorious ‘Fake News’ laws, against unspecified people who they say have used social media platforms to pass ‘untrue information’.

The officials waived their report against these anonymous folk and their unspecified ‘fake news’, encouraging the media to remind the world that in Malaysia someone can be landed with ‘up to one year in jail, a fine up to RM50,000, or both upon conviction’ thanks to this law re-vamped under former prime minster Najib Razak. This for “a communication deemed to be offensive or could cause annoyance to another person.

Najib himself charged Sarawak Report under this very law for alleged ‘fake news’ regarding 1MDB – presumably we annoyed him.

It is to be noted that it is in fact Najib who is now in jail (for 12 years and rising) because what Sarawak Report published was in fact entirely true.

Meanwhile, since those extremely heavy handed and unusual actions there has been no further report whatsoever emanating from the Astana relating to the hale and heartiness of the Governor.

Nor has there been any sighting of the head of state who was reported (apparently untruthfully) to have been taken ill whilst flying with his wife Ragad by private jet to Turkey. If the head of state is indeed in excellent health, as claimed, then five days is quite long enough for him to have arranged to be seen functioning at some official or social event in order to lay concerns to rest.

This would be far more effective in silencing untrue speculation than sending underlings to issue threats outside a police station.

Alternatively, if the Governor is unwell then why not say so? It happens.  If he is very unwell the people have a right to know and to be assured that provisions are being made.

In the absence of further information people are naturally left wondering and whispering instead. Some have said he is being treated in Kuching others say he has been taken into hospital in Turkey – it is a law of fake news that speculation fills a media vacuum and apparently fake news is what the Astana has been seeking to avoid.

Confidence in the transparency of this state government has been therefore further undermined (if possible).

Anyone can see that this over-reaction by the Astana Negeri Sarawak has only fuelled the speculation and fanned concerns, particularly given the secretiveness and deceptiveness of the past. Why were Taib’s officials the only one being photographed making dire threats outside a police station when it would be so much easier for the Governor to speak for himself and put an end to all the gossip?

As for throwing folk in jail, the people have a right to know if their head of state is fit to govern, temporarily indisposed or at death’s door. They also have a right to speculate when such speculation can so easily be put to rest.

The legal complaint by Taib’s children against his second wife, which has simultaneously flared up in recent days as Ragad suddenly started to acquire large chunks of Taib’s assets, apparently at his behest, meanwhile continues ….. and continues to raise questions about what exactly is going on behind the firmly shut doors of the Governor’s mansion.

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