Bang the government as hard as you want, says Anwar

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim expressed his gratitude to Malaysians who spawned ideas for change and reform through social media.

KUALA LUMPUR: PKR president Anwar Ibrahim today gave his blessings to Malaysians to criticise the government of the day “as hard as you want”.

Anwar said Malaysians, who had the wisdom and confidence to vote for a change in government, now had to continue their role of keeping those in Pakatan Harapan (PH), the ruling pact, in check.

“We don’t want to listen to the same old statements of arrogance which we sometimes hear. You have all the freedom online to bang them as hard as you want,” he said in his closing keynote speech at the Malaysia Social Media Week 2019 here today.

Anwar said Malaysians had demanded change and fought against many things that ran contrary to the aspirations of Malaysians.

“You demanded change. Ostentatious lifestyles, waste of public resources; squandering wealth to enrich the family and cronies. You fought against all that.

“We are committed to honour that promise. So, let us remain positive. It has been 11 months and I remain optimistic. Let us pray we will succeed.

“We welcome your support through your statements, supporting our positive policies and criticising us when we tend to be either sluggish or deviate from what we promised,” he said.

Anwar earlier expressed his gratitude to Malaysians who spawned ideas for change and reform through social media.

“You did it, at a time when some people considered it a period of despair, when there was no hope. That was the general assessment.

“The opposition leader Anwar was in jail. Mahathir (Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad) was old. Wan Azizah (Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) is a lady. Hence, all three are disqualified.

“But then you somehow still had confidence. I don’t understand how; what the rationale or basis was. But you and the general masses had the wisdom to decide and we have decided,” he said.

During his period of incarceration, and even when he was hospitalised, Anwar said he was optimistic that PH would win in the 14th general election.

“Who did I ask? Prison guards. They said: ‘Don’t worry, you will win.’ I said: ‘Okay, I agree with you.’ When I was hospitalised, the nurses said: ‘Yes, you will win.’

“So I was very optimistic. All political analysts, experts, not only here but elsewhere, all said it was impossible to unseat an authoritarian regime. They had all the funds, they had the political apparatus and machinery, and the media.

“But they forgot that they could not control social media. And I must, on behalf of all those who are in this journey together, say thank you,” he said.

Anwar said concerns had been raised on the negative impact of social media, where people highlighted certain issues a bit too much.

“Governments tend to overreact by introducing laws to limit (critical views). I do not believe this is the correct strategy. Of course, you must have certain provisions and laws to ensure social media is not used to incite hatred or violence,” he said.

Anwar said one should only be fearful “if you are blatantly corrupt or if you intentionally would like to cause harm, or be a purveyor of hatred, or terrorism.

“But otherwise, one should be given some latitude and space to be critical. Otherwise, we will just be like the past government,” he said.

Anwar, who is also Port Dickson MP, said his priority was to ensure Malaysia could re-emerge as a great and vibrant nation, which was democratic, fair and just.

“Enough of corruption and racism. But as you are aware, you have a role, not just governments and departments, to impart knowledge to challenge those outrageous and religious bigots,” he said.

Anwar pointed out that social media had been used to propel and support the rise of racism in Europe, and in the US, neo conservatives were using even Christianity to preach hatred against others.

“In Malaysia, such sentiments are growing. It is something disconcerting. But I am very confident we can rise to the occasion. We should have the courage and conviction to fight this. That will ensure our survival.

“It is not a political or racial battle, but a battle for the survival of this great nation. Malaysians, particularly the young, must take responsibility,” he said.