When the rumour-monger is a minister himself…

COMMENT The authorities are rightly concerned about rumour-mongering.

After all, when rumours build up, people become unduly worried over the possibility of a curfew or racial clash, and now, what comes closer to home is another possible terrorist attack equivalent to that in central Jakarta.

Against the backdrop of rumour spreading on social media that an Islamic State (IS) attack may target places like Bukit Bintang, Bangsar, Hartamas and other important tourist destinations, a friend on her way to church in Petaling Jaya yesterday said that she saw the police and an ambulance in the morning.

I am merely using this as an example, because she did not even link it with the IS attack, but given the situation, things could have created a big scare everywhere.

Rumour-mongering is irresponsible

We know the bogeyman of May 13 has been used again and again by BN politicians, but now, even irresponsible statements are made to create a public phobia of another possible IS attack.

What’s worse is that it was also in the news that several hotspots such as key shopping malls and tourist areas have been identified as possible targets for terrorist attacks. This is ‘official news’ announced by a cabinet minister and a senior member of Umno.

Not forgetting such news could have been picked up elsewhere, and this will drive down tourist arrivals. Even a cousin of mine from Australia sent me a WhatsApp message: “Is it true attempted bomb in Malaysia I had TV on but doing work kitchen heard M’sia didn’t hear full news” (quoted word-by-word).

I had to pull out the news about two South Korean tourists causing a minor bomb scare at Bukit Bintang, but at the same time, I came across the federal minister’s statement.

Although it is now clear that it was the case of the parang-wielding gang robbery at a petrol station in Kampung Sungai Ara, what if my friend had immediately linked it to the rumour that she heard about a possible attack at the Curve and she started spreading on WhatsApp that she noticed the presence of the police and an ambulance?

Would tension not be raised so high that if I had to react to it, I might have to stock up a lot of food for my family? While I may be prudent in urging members of my extended family not to visit these places for now, this is what rumour-mongering can lead us into and we become unnecessarily frantic.

Would tourists also cancel their visit to Malaysia? After all, the possibility of a terrorist attack on Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore cannot be denied, and I am glad that the Royal Malaysian Police is taking this seriously.

My question is, what if the source of the rumour is himself a cabinet minister? In short, how embarrassing it is that the rumour-monger is none other than Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor himself!

Justice must be seen to be done

Would Tengku Adnan also be investigated for rumour-mongering? In fact, even worse, he came out in the news as a member of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s cabinet identifying the specific hotspots and key shopping malls where an IS attack may be imminent.

This is not good for the economy. What is his motive? Did he even have the authority to say anything of this nature, especially since he is the Federal Territories minister and the Curve is not even under his jurisdiction?

Did he do justice to those shopping malls he had identified, which are located in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur? Did he hurt the sentiments of the traders in these shopping malls, whose businesses have already dropped? Should they also lodge a police report against him, for making public statements that confirmed the rumours already spreading on social media?

Would the police now charge him over the statement he made, since he has no authority to make such a statement, since he is not a member of the National Security Council? Had the unauthorised statement come from a civil servant, would he have been transferred immediately, or sacked?

Is Tengku Adnan also just as guilty of rumour-mongering, perhaps was he trying to stifle and sabotage the country’s economy, leading to what is sometimes an overused statement – everything is “a threat to our national security”?

When the rumour-monger is a minister himself…
18 Jan 2016 – Malaysiakini


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