Fair dialogue by all on Malaysia’s future

By Tuesday April 7th, 2009 No Comments

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants to en­­courage respectful and fair dialogue on Malaysia’s future involving the whole nation that takes place in a vibrant, free and informed media.

The Prime Minister said the country needed a media which could responsibly report what they saw, without fear of consequences, and to hold government and public officials accountable for the results they produced.

This is to build a democracy responsive to the people’s needs.

“That is why as one of my first official acts, I lifted the ban on two media outlets (Harakah and Suara Keadilan) which are extensions of the Opposition at the federal level,” he said in his speech on Policy, Politics and the New Media – A New Way Forward at the MPI-Petronas Malaysian Journalism Awards last night.

It was his first official speech on his first day of work as prime minister.

Najib said that when too much of political discourse descended into “rumours and name-calling”, people would turn off the traditional media and interact directly with each other and with leaders, as they sought dialogue and not just monologues from politicians.

Acknowledging that the new media played an important role in Malaysia’s political and civic future, he said he wanted to encourage debate that takes place across all media and the country.

The Prime Minister called on Malaysians to establish a “new national discourse” on the principles of transparency and accountability; service to all, not just a few; and respect and fairness in the public dialogue.

He said the starting point is the Government’s commitment to transparency and dedication to getting results and a website to monitor and provide data on the allocation of the two stimulus packages would be launched on Thursday.

“(The website) offers greater transparency of usage of government resources,” he added.

Najib also wants a world-class, fact-based reporting and media that was fair and responsible to foster constructive debate about the nation’s future.

However, he stressed that “responsible reporting” did not mean the media must take the Government’s side, noting that it meant looking more sceptically and critically at some of the claims from all sides.

“The media best serves the public interest when it goes beyond the superficial, when it asks the tough questions of the rumour-mongers, when it does not lend credence to false innuendo and instead reports on facts and details – whether that is helpful to the Government or not,” he said.

Saying that personal attacks only undermined public confidence in the political process, Najib said that he, too, had endured his fair share of these from some quarters of the media.

He pledged to always be accountable for his decisions as Prime Minister, adding that personal slurs and false accusations against national leaders were deeply damaging to the nation’s political discourse and international reputation.

Najib called on all parties who wanted to engage in “a new national conversation about the nation’s future” to respect others’ opinions, value discussion and discourse, and recognise that opponents need not be enemies.

Differences of opinion, he said, need not come from malicious motives but from a concern for Malaysia’s future.

He added that respectful dialogue must take place all over the country – in homes and restaurants, in kampungs and cities, in workplaces and friends’ gatherings, and in the traditional media and the rapidly growing online media.

On what he gathered during his Saturday walkabout in the city, Najib said the people were not in despair or anger over the country’s political process but wanted to be assured that the Government would work hard for the people.

The people wanted to hold the Government accountable if it failed, he said.

Najib also said that for Malaysia to achieve its long-term ambitions there must not only be policy renewal but also political and institutional renewal.

Source : The Star

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