KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak has been urged to come clean over a claim that Barisan Nasional (BN) had used the services of a scandal-ridden UK-based firm accused of manipulating personal data for electoral gains.
PPBM’s strategy and policy deputy chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan asked if BN had used the services of Cambridge Analytica, after an explosive documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 on the company’s practices worldwide.
The documentary among others secretly recorded top executives from the company claiming they could use bribes, former spies and sex workers to entrap politicians around the world. The company also said it had done electioneering work in Malaysia.
Wan Saiful referred to a company related to Cambridge Analytica, which claimed on its website that it had helped Najib win the last elections.
According to CA Political, it helped BN win in Kedah in the last polls with a “targeted messaging campaign highlighting their school improvements since 2008″. In 2013, BN wrested Kedah from the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat with a landslide victory.
Cambridge Analytica, linked to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and pro-Trump right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, has been accused of extracting the personal data of up to 50 million Facebook users without consent for use in the US presidential campaign to help Donald Trump.
It is said to have done this by targeting adverts to specific users in a manipulative way, exploiting their “inner demons”.
“This raises a question in me, on whether Najib and Umno used tactics similar to the American notorious right-wing movements and people like Steve Bannon,” said Wan Saiful.
“Electoral manipulation is grossly unethical and detrimental to our parliamentary democracy. I hope that Najib did not intentionally bring Cambridge Analytica into Malaysia to exploit racial sentiments and create racial divide here, for his short-term political benefits.”
Wan Saiful, who early this month quit his think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), said based on inputs from 300 observers, he had concluded that the last general election “was only partially free and not fair because of how the environment was conditioned way before polling day itself”.
“Now, this revelation about Najib and Umno’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica makes a most worrying read,” he added.
Wan Saiful said Najib should immediately explain how much was paid to Cambridge Analytica for its services, as well as the nature of its work for Umno.