Fake news mars historic occasion

THE date May 9, 2018, will go down in history as a turning point in Malaysia's political landscape and direction.

It was the day the rakyat decided to forego tradition and pass the mantle of the nation's federal administrative leadership to Pakatan Harapan, instead of Barisan Nasional.

The world sang its praises of Malaysia for the smooth and peaceful transition of power after the 14th General Election. The losing coalition conceded defeat and promised to ensure an orderly transfer of power.

There had been an air of uncertainty during the run-up to GE14, no thanks to the many rumours that were circulating everywhere.

While rumour had it that the losing side was not going to bow out without unleashing chaos, the political parties took turns to "slay" each other and vilify each other's election candidates. The social media, in the meantime, was littered with slander and what have you.

"Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth," so goes a saying. The same applies to slander.

I myself have been caught in the midst of heated discussions whilst having dinner with friends and I have seen some of them vehemently declaring that they were ready to go to the streets if the party they supported lost in the election.

From the look on their faces and their body language, it was obvious to me that they were not joking.

Even on polling day, all kinds of stories were making their way to the people through Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

In fact, certain quarters were using fake news as a weapon to cause unhappiness among the people and, worse still, create an element of aversion towards the monarchy.

An influential news portal made matters worse by uploading several photos of armoured vehicles that were supposedly stationed in Putrajaya by the Malaysian Armed Forces.

The portal eventually changed the content of its Facebook status after taking flak from the public but it did not remove the photos. Fortunately, the Armed Forces and police swiftly refuted the portal's posting.

Nevertheless, the damage was done as the images went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp. The people began to feel uneasy. It did seem like the rumour-mongers had succeeded in putting fear in the public.

Even the rulers were not spared. Apparently, according to the rumour mill, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was not in the country on Election Day and that the Selangor and Johor sultans had opposed to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's appointment as Prime Minister and this was the reason his swearing-in ceremony was delayed.

Although the two states promptly issued official statements refuting such claims, the slanderers nevertheless managed to cause some public resentment towards the rulers.

There were unofficial reports that the new prime minister's swearing-in ceremony would be held at 9am on May 10. The time was later changed to 5pm and finally to 9.30pm.

I think the biggest culprit behind all that slander and resentment was the person or organisation that circulated the "news" that the swearing-in ceremony would take place in the morning on May 10. When it did not proceed as scheduled, all kinds of conjectures came to the fore.

None of the accusations hurled at the royalty was true.

For the record, our king Sultan Muhammad V was very much in the country because at about 3am on May 10, just after it was announced that Parti Keadilan Rakyat or PKR (the official name used by the Election Commission in reference to PH) had obtained a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat, party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was immediately summoned by Istana Negara to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Just imagine, the king himself was still wide awake in the wee hours of the morning following the election results!

During the audience, the king invited PKR to form the new government.

This was confirmed by PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution when contacted by Bernama.

He had said, among other things, that the swearing-in ceremony for the prime minister would not be held until Istana Negara had received GE14's full official results from EC.

Istana Negara deserves a lot of praise for handling the matter calmly although much criticism came its way from outside the palace walls.

The EC submitted GE14's official results to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at 2.45pm on May 10. After the king had gone through the documents concerned, the leaders of the PH component parties were requested to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at 5pm the same day.

The swearing-in ceremony was fixed at 9.30pm after the king was satisfied that all the party leaders – Wan Azizah, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu – fully supported the appointment of Mahathir as prime minister.

It should be remembered that as head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can only make a decision on any matter after much deliberation in order to avoid unwanted repercussions.

Some two weeks have passed since the election but, sadly, there is no sign of any mitigation in the dissemination of fake news via social media.

When will all this end? Can't Malaysians put the election behind them and focus on the nation's development?

The answer to this is simple. It has to start with us. If you're not sure, don't share.

This commentary is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the stand or views of www.peoplesvoice.news or Bernama on the matter.

* This commentary is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the stand or views of www.peoplesvoice.news or Bernama on the matter.