The fact that Parti Rakyat Sarawak has set up its own Unit Media Baru is an admission that it has lost control in the cyber space.
KUCHING: Dayak based Parti Rakyat Sarawak is banking on cyber-troopers in its newly established Unit Media Baru (UMB) to counter allegations by the opposition in the run up to the general election.
But whether it will effectively help them retain their six parliamentary seats in Sri Aman (Masir Kujat), Lubok Antu (William Nyalau Badak), Julau (Joseph Salang Gandum), Kanowit ( Aaron Ago Dagang), Selangau (Joseph Entulu) and Hulu Rajang (Billy Abit) respectively is left to be seen.
PRS and its leadership under James Masing have come under heavy assault over its arrogance, lack of compassion and alleged deceit following a directive issued by its Youth chief, Mong Dagang, who is also an assistant minister, to revoke a government subsidy and welfare aid to a deformed farmer because he is a strong opposition supporter.
Since then statements made in defence of Dagang by Masing and other PRS leaders have only made matters worse.
Disclosure of Dagang’s directive to the agriculture and welfare departments also led to other online revelations of secret land deals and millions of ringgit worth of contracts awarded to Masing-linked companies and his PRS cronies.
The revelation has added on to PRS’s headache. Already the state Barisan Nasional is under pressure to recoup its ‘lost’ support in the mixed-constituencies and rural fringe.
Following last April’s state election, analyst noted an almost 49% swing in votes for the opposition in these areas. Although the Taib-regime kept their majority, its polls outcome nonetheless shook their confidence.
Much of this swing was attributed to the alternative media.
Said PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian: “I think they (BN leaders) know the people are fed-up with the lies. I know many of my friends have not turned to RTM and TV3 for news for so many years already.
“They read news from the alternative media such as the internet and blogs.”
Admission of failure
Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said the setting up a UMB was clearly admission by Masing of the ‘effectiveness’ of the alternative media.
“I think they probably realise this (alternative media) effectiveness and power in it.
“They are trying to make use of the cyber outlet. (But) whether their messages reach the ground or whether the people and ordinary people will believe in half truths or lies is another matter.
“These ordinary people and the readers are now more intelligent and aware. I put my trust in Sarawakians to make a decision on their own with the track records and evidence,” he said.
Bian believed that it is a good thing for the nation that so much information and a lot of things are coming out from the internet.
“That is not the work of the opposition, but the work of the bloggers who give the information. It means the people are not happy with the Barisan Nasional.
“This is very healthy,” he added.
He pointed out that whilst the BN component parties have all the media with them, they cannot continue to fool the people.
“For the opposition, we have no choice but to depend on the alternative media to dish out our news and information.
“In the mainstream media, we are given restriction,” he added.
Past mistakes Meanwhile, Masing said that the state BN is determined not to repeat the mistake of underestimating the impact of social media in shaping public opinions.
“We were caught with our pants down in terms of cyber warfare, and for the next two or three months before the election, Unit Media Baru (UMB) will grow in importance,” he said, when he handed over five blackberry phones to UMB chairman Majang Renggi.
Masing, who is Land Development Minister, believed that the social media is growing more and more important by the day when compared with the main stream media in terms of readership.
“Because of this, the party realises that shaping the people’s minds lies in the cyberspace.
“We will use it (cyberspace) to counter allegations and slanderous statements against BN in cyberspace and to give the general public the true picture of what was happening in the country,” he added.