KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s prime minister has condemned “ugly and disgusting” behavior online, urging citizens to show respect toward each other.
Mahathir Mohamad made the remarks on the eve of Malaysia’s 62nd National Independence Day celebrations in an address on public broadcaster RTM.
The country ranks among the top five globally in terms of internet penetration, with users spending an average of eight hours and five minutes online every day. Almost three hours of this is spent on social media.
“History showed how the country was built on the values of tolerance, noble character, mutual respect and sharing, unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the country,” said Mahathir.
“But these values should not stop when we achieve independence or progress as we enjoy them today.
“Unfortunately, when we look around us, in our midst of communication and digitalization, good values are being replaced with ugly and disgusting behavior online.”
In defending religion and ethnicity, insults are thrown against other races and religions, he said.
In defending religion and ethnicity, insults are thrown against other races and religions using profane and abusive language, in return can lead to anger and anxiety, he said.
Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957 and its cultural melting pot became the backbone of its economic development throughout the decades.
But pervasive corruption and racial politics led to discontent with the previous Barisan Nasional government, resulting in last year’s surprise election win by the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Mohamad and his government are harking back to his previous stint in office, in the 1980s and 1990s when the country experienced rapid industralization, by releasing a music video to remind people of the good times.
His administration has also adopted a theme — “Love Our Malaysia: A Clean Malaysia” — to refocus people’s attention to the damage wrought by corruption and efforts to tackle it.
The former prime minister, Najib Razak, has been hit with 42 criminal charges of graft and money laundering at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other state entities.
1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, is being investigated in at least six countries, and the US Department of Justice says about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“What we hope is to ‘clean’ the country from corruption that can thwart our efforts to bring peace and stability to all citizens,” said Mohamad. “One of the biggest disasters in the country is corruption and it also involves the civil service.”