Four PKR divisions postponed their elections due to fighting and disruption. Losing candidates called press conferences accusing the party headquarters of complicity in fraud and irregularities. The Deputy President aspirant Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim’s comments drew a retort from incumbent Deputy President Dr Syed Husin Ali, sparking an exchange between senior party leaders. The mainstream media lapped at the fracas and accusations. The public mourned in grief while BN leaders gleefully pointed out that disharmony were not confined to their political parties. Anwar Ibrahim said there were Trojan Horses out to cause chaos and disruption.
Who are the Trojan Horses? Adopting the tagline in the movie, “Who is Evelyn Salt in PKR?” Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent, Evelyn Salt who swore an oath of loyalty to her country, the United States of America. She turns out to be a Russian spy, a sleeper. She is a spy embedded in America having infiltrated the CIA. She waits for decades before being activated to carry out her mission, to assassinate the Russian President visiting the USA thereby wreaking chaos and discord. The latest action in the Keadilan Party elections has turned out to be just as exciting as this blockbuster movie. Are the events unfolding in PKR an indication of PKR imploding or is this the work of a sleeper that has arisen to wreak havoc?
The public is rightly concerned whether the party has lost its direction with infighting reported amongst the leaders. The present discord and disruption is an unfortunate but necessary growing pain PKR must undergo and overcome it, if it is to lead the way to Putrajaya. The party is made up of members from diverse ideologies and backgrounds. It needs to be bound and cemented by the common goal of removing racial politics, injustice and corruption and to articulate its policies in concrete terms. Although there are many selfless and tireless activists and reformists, it also has its share of ineffectual and indifferent members as well as opportunists. The party needs to clean up the deadwood and flush out the Trojan horses. The party acknowledges its weaknesses. It has hitherto a comparatively small membership. There is a lack of depth and quality in its leadership, both at the senior and middle level.
One of the criticisms made against Keadilan is the weaknesses of some of its elected representatives. It has suffered the ignominy of having the highest number of turn coats crossing over to the other side. It is imperative that the party take steps to improve the quality and quantity of the members, machinery and leaders.
Advocates of intra party democracy argue that political parties using internally democratic procedures are likely to select more capable and appealing leaders, to have more responsive policies and as a result, enjoy greater electoral success. Further, it is believed that political parties that “practice what they preach”, strengthen democratic culture generally. The party made two major decisions. The first was to embark on a membership drive. The second to amend its constitution to allow for direct election of party leaders by grass root members at a special congress on 26 February 2009.
The reason for the first decision is that the party must improve the quantity and quality of its members. The reason for the second decision is that if the party is to fight for democracy then it must lead in the practice of democracy. A democracy needs strong and sustainable political parties with the capacity to represent citizens and provide policies that demonstrate the political parties’ abilities to govern for the public good. Since the Mahathir era, there has been a disconnection between the citizens and the elected leaders of our country. This is due to a deliberate design to keep the people in the business of seeking a livelihood separate from the people seeking to maintain themselves in the business of politics. From students to businessmen and housewives, the people have been cowed to stay out of politics. Keadilan seeks to change this and to re-establish the connection between the people and government. A government of the people must be by the people and not by a select few.
The direct election is part of the transformation Keadilan seeks to create in re-establishing this connection. Keadilan seeks a more open political environment in which citizens can actively participate in the democratic process. No ordinary UMNO member has ever voted to elect his president. The UMNO President is elected by the handful of delegates and becomes the Prime Minister. No ordinary MCA member voted in the recent contest for the President. No ordinary MIC member voted even once for Samy Vellu to be President in the thirty-one years since he took over on September 13, 1979. By these party elections, every Malaysian who is a member of Keadilan has a right to vote for its President. Every Malaysian who becomes a member will be able to participate in the abolishing of unjust laws and formulating the new agenda for the nation in Keadilan’s division meetings. The ordinary citizen will be an active participant in determining the direction and policies of the nation.
There were valid concerns that the two decisions will lead to trouble in the party. The first is resistance from incumbents threatened by the new blood. The second is the opening of floodgates to opportunists and infiltrators into the party. There is no doubt that by opening its doors and in allowing direct election, the party earned the ire of ineffectual leaders and allowed infiltrators to slip through to wreak havoc; spreading misinformation and disinformation, sowing dissent and discord among the rank and file. Evelyn Salt was embedded or slipped in during this process.
With full cognizance of these concerns and dangers, the party leadership and grassroots took the brave step to unanimously approve the amendments to the party constitution. It was decided that if the battle for a better Malaysia is to be won, it would only be by Malaysians standing up for justice and freedom. It would be by Malaysians rejecting injustice and corruption. In the same vein, if the party is to transform and lead the fight, it can only do so if the members choose good leaders and not be misled by infiltrators, moles and Trojan horses. The party put its faith in the grass roots’ ability to make the right choice, reject deadwood and not be misled by the Trojan horses.
Evelyn Salt has been activated in these party elections.
Is Evelyn Salt the persons who assaulted the members in the division meetings, attacked reporters and destroyed the ballot boxes? No! There is a method to the madness. The goons and louts were agent provocateurs. The party disciplinary committee will take appropriate action against them. They were instigated by Evelyn Salt.
Is Evelyn Salt, Janapala a/l Perumal, the former assistant secretary who suddenly took upon himself the role of being a gadfly like Socrates did in ancient Athens. He started to hold press conferences to disclose the party’s alleged wrongdoings during these elections. The Athenians executed Socrates by ordering him to drink hemlock. Janapala too will have to answer for his deeds. But no, he is not Evelyn Salt. His allegation that he was wrongfully prevented from contesting in the party elections cannot hold water. He had been sacked more than a year before for forming a new political party. Sacked members cannot stand for elections. He has further admitted that he is an undischarged bankrupt. Bankrupts cannot hold party posts. In any event, the Official Assignee will be interested to find out how an undischarged bankrupt is able to afford holding a press conference in a hotel. Students having difficulty in learning Science and Mathematics in English should ask Janapala for tips as to how he improved his English overnight. He not only spoke the Queen’s English but used verses that will turn William Shakespeare green with envy when he read the prepared text at the press conference. He sounded more like an Englishman looking up to the figure of the famous admiral in Trafalgar Square and not the Malaysian English he used in the party meetings in Merchant Square. He is not Evelyn Salt but Evelyn Salt gave him misleading information such as claiming 800 immigrants with false identity cards were allowed to vote in the Kudat division. Records confirmed that only 268 members attended and voted. The claim of 800 illegal immigrants voting is false and a complete fabrication.
Is Evelyn Salt one of the candidates for senior party positions, making public statements in the mainstream and alternative media? No! Candidates making speeches and comments that the party will be doomed if they failed to be elected may have said or wrote things in the heat of the campaigning. They are more likely to have acted out of impetuous exuberance. Dr. Molly Cheah, Chairman of the Party Election Committee is there to keep their fervour in check. However, if despite the warnings candidates persist with rhetoric that burnt bridges within the party then the members will have to be wary of them. The candidates cannot adopt a slash and burn tactic in an internal party election. Such candidates even if they win will end up with pyrrhic victories. One who is sincere in seeking the job to look after the house cannot in the process of seeking that job burn down the very house one he is aspiring to manage. None of the candidates is Evelyn Salt but some may have been provoked and baited by Evelyn Salt to embark on a misguided scorched earth strategy.
So who is Evelyn Salt? He or she is not acting out of naïve exuberance. He or she is carrying out overt actions for a covert design. The members and public will be able to detect Evelyn Salt as the elections move to the next phase. The running dogs and the sleepers will reveal themselves eventually. He or she is the one who spreads misinformation, disseminates disinformation and instigate agent provocateurs to sow dissent and discord.
Misinformation is incorrect information. One of the most popular forms of misinformation on the internet, especially email is the passing along of urban legends. Urban legends are untrue stories that are passed along by sincere people who believe them and feel the need to inform others. The allegation that the headquarters is involved in irregularities in the party elections is an example of this misinformation. Due to weaknesses in previous administrations, the list of members for each division is incomplete. The Secretariat instructed each of the divisions to check the accuracy of the members’ list for the 2009 annual general meetings in preparation for these 2010 party elections. However, because there were no division elections, there was a lack of interests by both division leaders and the members to confirm the accuracy of the list then. As a consequence those whose names were not in the list of members were not able to vote at the present elections.
Disinformation is the lowest of the low. Never underestimate the evil intentions of some individuals or institutions to say or write whatever suits their particular purpose to the extent of deliberately fabricating false information. Propaganda is generally an appeal to emotion not to intellect. It shares techniques with advertising and public relations. Propaganda seeks to change the way people understand an issue for the purpose of changing their actions and expectations in ways that are desirable to the interest group. Propaganda is part of political warfare. Psychological warfare is one of its weapons.
Propaganda can be classified according to the source and nature of the message. White propaganda generally comes from an openly identified source. Information provided by openly identified BN biased blogs and media is white propaganda. Black propaganda is identified from one source but in fact from another. This is most commonly done to disguise the true origins of the propaganda. Black propaganda and disinformation is fabricated by organizations purporting to convey information in a neutral or impartial manner but is in fact propaganda slanted insidiously towards its own interest group and its personal agenda.
Many associate the special branch as the men in black monitoring opposition party members. It must not be forgotten that the special branch is acknowledged as one of the best agencies in the world. Its ability to infiltrate the Malayan Communist Party (“MCP”), feed false information back to the MCP and to have a special branch agent not only infiltrating the MCP but elected as the second highest ranking official are legends in the world intelligence community. It is the special branch that taught the Americans in the Vietnam War the tactics now known as “Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People”.
The infiltrators into Keadilan have taken the playbook from the special branch manual in spreading misinformation, disinformation and black propaganda.
Democracy depends on a sufficient portion of the electorate having adequate and reliable information so that they can make well informed decisions. The crucial key to a successful democracy is not the quantity but the quality of information provided to voters. Little attention has been given to the role of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda in a democracy. There is misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and finally censorship. The withdrawal of Suara Keadilan’s license by the Ministry of Information, the sacking of radio and television broadcasters for airing news unfavorable to Barisan Nasional speaks volumes on the use of these tactics in Malaysia.
Winston Churchill said:
“A lie travels half way around the world before the truth puts on its shoes.”
A television broadcast or a newspaper article with misleading or even false facts can be seen by millions long before a statement countering the false allegations can be printed in some remote alternative media. Malaysians must be aware that the country is now in the midst of a political war. Barisan Nasional and its supporters are not fighting according to Queensberry Rules. Deception disinformation and propaganda are not new subjects in politics. As early as the 16th century Machiavelli concluded that there were two means for a nation to gain its objective from an unwilling adversary; force or fraud. Since the application of force entailed expending resources and taking serious risks, Machiavelli strongly recommended that a ruler should “never attempt to win by force what he might otherwise win by fraud”. The Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu wrote in the 4th Century B.C.E. that all warfare is based on deception and devoted an entire chapter on the use of spies. Do you expect Barisan Nasional to ignore Machiavelli and Sun Tzu in their attempt to retain control of their political powers?
An example of the disinformation and black propaganda is the story of the Keadilan leadership being undemocratic and that the headquarters is manipulating the party election by fraudulent means. The Headquarters appointed 120 volunteers to supervise the division elections. The volunteers are from a different state from the divisions holding the elections. They have no interest in the particular division elections and do not even know the members of that division. The allegation of fraud made against these volunteers who man the polling booths from 10.00am to 4.00pm and then count the votes for the 3 senior division posts and 15 committee positions and the same number of positions for the Women and Youth Wings would only be completed by 3.00 am or 4.30 am. This accusation is the unkindest cut of all.
The story of infighting amongst leaders such as Tian Chua with Chua Jui Meng is another piece of disingenuous disinformation. Disinformation can be detected when one compares the story with known and reliable facts. When a story is inconsistent with the known and established facts it must be viewed critically. This story is irreconcilable with established facts. Anwar who was imprisoned for more than six years for an offence that he did not commit, Dr Syed Husin Ali who was incarcerated in solitary confinement for eight years under the ISA, Tian Chua and others who have been detained without trial, can it be conceivable that they would all suddenly changed from waging a struggle for justice and freedom to a struggle for personal power? Chua Jui Meng has not declared any interest in vying for an elected position, so how can there be any disharmony between Chua Jui Meng and Tian Chua?
Malaysians need to be able to discern true information from propaganda, disinformation and deception. This means that one must learn to read, hear or view articles and information from the mainstream media, alternative media and even emails critically. We must analyze the stories with a clear awareness of the point of view they embody, recognizing the attempt to influence our thinking and beliefs. One must be vigilant that one sided presentations are not the truth. We must seek viewpoints that are dismissed or ignored. One must always ask oneself who is the author of the story, whether the article identifies the source of the information or whether it is from an anonymous source, the purpose for the statements and whether such a story is consistent with the known and trusted information on the person or subject matter of the story. In this information age, it is vital to know how one can be manipulated if one is not sensitive to verifying sources, determining quality, assessing plausibility and apprehending “effects”.
The same tactics used by Barisan Nasional against PBS in Sabah are now employed against Keadilan. It had turnover PBS leaders and lured them to cross over with offers of Ministerial positions and the establishment of new political parties. The most effective tactic of overcoming a strong opposition is to use the trusted method of “divide and conquer”. The people of Sabah were split when the PBS leaders established new political parties. In the end PBS loss control. It was rendered impotent by defections and establishment of what was deemed as third forces. Sabahans live to regret it to this day.
Those who proposed the formation of a third force on the excuse that Keadilan and Pakatan are weak or ineffective or are purporting to expose its weaknesses to champion the formation of a third force are in fact employing the same tactics used against PBS. These tactics are part of political manipulation. This tactic is commonly referred to as creating a “controlled opposition”. This is where the opposition to a party is infiltrated and manipulated until it is taken over and used as a foil to the benefit of the subverting party. It operates either by making a caricature of the opposing party through antics and scandals or by channeling popular opposition to an ultimately futile and demoralizing direction.
The people must remember the saying:
“Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”
The people must not be fooled again. The people must have faith that the majority of the Keadilan members will have the wisdom and the acumen to choose the right leaders. The people must believe that Keadilan is a rough diamond that will be polished in the crucible of fire by these party elections. It has started its detoxification process. It will overcome its shortcomings and mature into the party needed to lead this nation to a new dawn. Just like our computers, we must install in our minds anti-virus programmes to filter the information received and block disinformation. It is when the people can detect the lies and deception would the Evelyn Salts and Trojan horses be neutralized and wiped out. The American propaganda failed in Vietnam and those who try the same tricks in Malaysia should fail too. Keep the faith.
William Leong Jee Keen
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
6th October 2010.