Social media Malaysia is entirely different from real-life Malaysia and the fake news and hate speech which dominate the social media to incite suspicion, distrust, fear and hate pitting race against race and religion against religion must be strontly curbed

On my way to this programme, I thought of my youth.

Because of the advent of the Internet, it is possible to do a quick search and I found the editorial I wrote 62 years ago when I as editor of Form III A class magazine, “Light”, in Batu Pahat High School.

In this editorial in 1957, I said:

“Now Malaya has become a young nation and she is taking her rightful place and her part of responsibility in this strife-full world. She must accept and overcome all challenges and, one day, be counted among the greatest of the great. However, the great men of today who hold the steering-wheel of the country cannot be with us always.

“We, the youths of today, are the leaders of tomorrow, who will take the helm and navigate the Ship of State to Utopia or Doom. We must now prepare ourselves to ‘serve to lead’. Let us not while away our time in meaningless pastimes and waste away precious moments.

“The role of youth in Independent Malaya is now more pressing and difficult for the inexperienced shoulders of the youth of this generation. We will be the first true independent shoulders to bear this responsibility. Let us then work with greater zeal and will, that our standard be not flying at half-mast, so that the whole world may say that the youths of Malaya, our youths, have not been wasted.

“However, to accomplish this in this new nation with a cosmopolitan population, we must bear in mind that co-operation between the different races is of paramount importance.”

That was what I wrote when I was 16 years old.

For the rest of my life, I had always been guided by this principle– the paramount importance of inter-racial understanding, tolerance and harmony in multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia.

I have various programmes in Iskandar today to mark the 62nd Merdeka Day celebrations, apart from this Lim Kit Siang Cup Young Malaysians debate tournament. Early morning, I flagged off the 62nd Merdeka Day Run in Kangkar Pulai which was participated by some 2,000 people. There was also the Pesta Bola which was participated by 32 teams from the surrounding Malay kampongs as well as the 62nd Merdeka Day Convoy of Motor-Bikes in Iskandar Puteri.

From my interactions with Malaysians on the ground, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians in these 62nd Merdeka Day celebrations, it is clear that the social media Malaysia is entirely different from real-life Malaysia.

The perception created by the social media is a Malaysia which has never been more polarised in racial and religious terms in the nation’s history, as if the country is teetering on the verge of violent race and religious relations if the highly-orchestrated mountain of fake news and hate speech which dominate the social media to incite suspicion, distrust, fear and hate pitting race against race and religion against religion is not immediately curbed.

Instead of inter-racial animosity, distrust, fear and hatred, I find on the ground only goodwill, understanding, harmony and tolerance among Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians.

It is imperative that the government must not allow fake news and hate speech on the social media to distort and poison inter-racial and inter-religious relations and strong and firm action to stop fake news and hate speech which incite inter-racial and inter-religious suspicion, distrust, fear and hatred must be the top priority of the government-of-the-day.

I will give one example of the danger of such fake news and hate speech.

Recently, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) system malfunctions were used to spread alarm and fear that three million Chinese nationals have entered the country, changing the demography in the country, when there is completely no basis for such fake news as the process of inspecting the entry of foreigners was conducted by the Immigration Department manually, and all visitors had to follow terms according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

If three million Chinese nationals had entered in the three days of the KLIA system breakdown, it would mean an average of one million Chinese national passengers landing in KLIA a day – making the KLIA the busiest airport in the world!

This would mean over 10,000 aircrafts landing in one day – which is a clear impossibility.

Fake news and hate speech is no respector of truth or facts and this is why Malaysians should develop greater social media literacy so that they do not easily succumb to lies and falsehoods of the pedlars of fake news and hate speech.

Youths are an important national asset, more so after the amendment to the Constitution to lower the voting age form 21 to 18 years.

I became Secretary-General of Singapore National Union of Journalists in 1962 when I was 21 years, plunged full-time into Malaysian politics at the end of 1965 when I was 24 and elected as Member of Parliament (Bandar Melaka) in 1969 when I was 28.

Three things happened during my first Internal Security Act detention in the Muar detention centre. First I started on law studies, which gave me a law degree with the University of London (external) and I was later called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London. Second, I taught myself to read and write Jawi. But it was the third event which moulded my whole life, about integrity and loyalty to principle - the saying of the great Chinese patriot, Wen Tianxiang:

Who can avert his death since time immemorial?

Let my heart remain true to shine in the annals.

Malaysia is the confluence of four great civilisations in the world – Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western. I always believe that Malaysia must be able to leverage on the best values and virtues or these four great civilization to build a great Malaysian nation and civilization – that we should be an showcase to the world of the success of the Alliance of Civilisations and not a failure as a result of the Clash of Civilisations.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri