Many Malaysian leaders turn bloggers

May 31st, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 31 (IANS) Blogging is the new buzzword in Malaysia with more and more politicians and others in public life taking to it. The number is growing since the government last week announced that it would take on bloggers using cyberspace to vent their grievances.

The country’s long-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad remains the most prominent blogger: his blog scored one million hits in May.

Mahathir raised a political storm earlier this month by resigning from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) that he helped found in 1946.

He has been demanding that his successor, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, step down from the party’s leadership after the poll debacle in March.

UMNO and ruling coalition Barisan Nasional lost their two-thirds parliamentary majority, emerging victorious but weakened from the elections.

A close Badawi supporter and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the government would join the ‘cyberwar’ to explain its side of the story on each issue.

Last month, Raja Petra Kamruddin, a known critic of the government, who had accused Razak of being involved in murder of a foreign woman, using his blog, was arrested.

He was released on bail amid international publicity glare.

Many politicians have found blogging useful to reach out to the people.

The latest to join is M. Sarvanan, who is the information chief of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

MIC, also part of the ruling coalition, fared badly in the elections badly, with its chief S. Samy Vellu losing his ninth re-election bid.

Sarvanan said he was taking to blogging in line with the move by the “establishment” to engage netizens.

He wanted to “get closer to the people” and to hear what they have to say through his blog and a website.

Saravanan is also federal territories deputy minister in the Badawi Government.

His website has links to the websites of political parties, including those of the opposition, and the opposition alliance, called Pakatan Rakyat.

“I believe the use of the Internet in the country has reached a level where people are logging in more than ever and, as politicians, we have to be on par with the current goings-on.

“I invite people to read the contents of the site and then judge me from there. Please don’t listen to rumours and coffeeshop talk. If you have a doubt, mail me or get in touch with me through the blog to clear the doubt,” official news agency Bernama quoted him as saying.

The bloggers community, which was treated with distrust and even contempt before the last general election, has gained a measure of respectability, with the ruling administration admitting that failure to engage the netizens was a factor in the BN’s poor showing at the polls, The Sun newspaper noted Saturday.

But this could be a passing phase.

The newspaper added: “It now seems trendy for Barisan Nasional leaders to start blogs, although it remains to be seen whether their enthusiasm can be sustained.”

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