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SMS blasts to public in defence of 'unity govt' slammed

Some recall criticism by Pakatan Harapan politicians of the previous government's move to send text messages on behalf of the National Security Council.

Staff Writers
3 minute read

Several SMS messages in defence of the coalition government led by Anwar Ibrahim have stirred criticism that the communications and digital ministry led by PKR's Fahmi Fadzil is resorting to mobile networks under its control to push its political narrative to the public.

The messages have been received by mobile users across various networks since last week, defending the "unity government", the phrase that government leaders have used to describe the newfound alliance between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN).

"The Unity Government is a solution based on the Federal Constitution and the law," said one message received on a mobile device last week.

Another message on the same topic broadcast this afternoon described the government as represented by MPs from various races and religions, as well as those with "expertise and experience".

A Bersatu leader slammed the move as "desperate", calling it an abuse of the network facility by the government.

Dr Muhammaf Faiz Na'aman also compared it to "communist" propaganda tactics to "brainwash the public into accepting the narrative of the government".

"Is this unnatural government afraid and not convinced about the acceptance by the public and Malaysians towards them, to the extent that they have to resort to sending such SMSes?"

A Twitter user also reacted angrily after receiving such messages on his device, urging Fahmi to explain their purpose.

He recalled that PH politicians had in the past criticised text messages by the government on behalf of the National Security Council (MKN) during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.

"In the past, PH criticised by saying that MKN's messages about Covid-19 were a waste of public funds. 

"Don't be a hypocrite and cease immediately!" said user Ayep.

MalaysiaNow has contacted Fahmi, whose communications and digital ministry reach includes telecommunication networks.

The Lembah Pantai MP has already been a target of criticism since taking over the ministry which was rebranded from the previous communications and multimedia ministry, with critics saying he has been more interested in silencing political critics than improving the country's digital infrastructure.

Several PH politicians had in the past criticised the text messages sent to the public from government agencies, accusing the previous government of using the network for propaganda.

They include DAP's Segambut MP and current Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh, who said that messages sent to the public should assist them. 

"Stop abusing MKN SMS platform to nag or to spread subtle propoganda. Use it to help people fight Covid – give them relevant information to be informed of symptoms of new variant, what to do if positive and etc," she said in July 2021, not long before Umno leaders aligned with current Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi engineered a series of defections that led to the downfall of Muhyiddin Yassin's administration in the middle of the pandemic.

The term "unity government" has been used by government leaders, especially those in PH, to explain the move to join hands with long-time foe BN in the wake of the 15th general election last year. 

Following a hung parliament, Zahid successfully led 30 MPs to back Anwar for the top office, with both leaders saying that the arrangement was to fulfil the wishes of the palace to form a unity government.

The phrase was however absent from the official statement by Istana Negara proclaiming Anwar as the 10th prime minister following days of political drama.

Critics have said that the present government cannot be described as a unity government, as it does not include a large number of MPs represented by PN, which rejected Anwar's invitation to join his government.

During the first Parliament sitting on Dec 19, the use of the phrase "unity government" by DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng sparked strong objection from opposition MPs.

"Don't use the Agong's name. This was never mentioned in the Tambun MP's (Anwar) appointment letter," said Beluran MP Ronald Kiandee.