TRANSPARENCY..... Robert Phang said that transparency in the dissemination of information is vital in arresting the rumours over the armed intrusion in Sabah.
By : ANISAH SHUKRY
KUALA LUMPUR : Authorities must be transparent in providing information on the armed intrusion in Sabah, Robert Phang, chairman of non-governmental organisation Social Care Foundation, said today.
The former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panellist said this was necessary to avoid rumours spreading regarding the Sulu sultanate army’s attacks on Malaysia’s security forces.
“The absolute and only way to stop rumour-mongering is for the authorities, when reporting of the situation, [to report] with transparency,” Phang said at a press conference here.
“This certainly will dispel uncertainty and restore the confidence of the rakyat.”
However he said that he understood that there were certain situations in which information need to be protected for the sake of national security and its (such information’s) sensitivity.
“In such cases, we are all agreable that the authorities need to protect information outflow,” he said.
Unverified reports of police officers beheaded, stabbed and gutted, as well as four Malaysian “officials” captured have been making their rounds on social media, news portals as well as newspapers.
Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar has claimed that the armed intruders were spreading the rumours to lower the morale of Malaysia’s security force.
But instead of helping to disseminate the truth, police have reportedly curbed journalists’ attempts to capture the situation in Sabah.
Yesterday, theSun reported that army personnel demanded the local English language daily’s photographer, Norman Hiu, to delete the pictures he took of the Lahad Datu clash on Sunday.
Norman said he had been standing around the army “camp” 15km away from Kampung Tanduo at about 4pm when he was warned to stay away.
Similarly, Star journalist Philip Golingai tweeted last Friday: “Public must understand that some pix coming out from #LahadDatuAttack were taken with friendly M16 pointed at photographers.”
But Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has denied trying to hide any information on the armed intrusion, insisting instead that the delay in information was a result of the government attempting to obtain complete information.
“That is why we did not release the information [on the Lahad Datu incident] earlier… we waited a little.
“We were not covering up and not wanting to tell the people. We needed to give a clear and accurate picture. We didn’t want to be hasty in releasing information,” Najib had said on Sunday.
But Phang today warned that any attempts to curb information could result in chaos among Malaysians.
“It is absolutely necessary for us to remain cool, level-headed and not panic. We must strongly continue to support the authorities in the current crisis situation,” he said.
He also appealed to the leaders on both sides of the political divide to set aside politics and finger-pointing, and instead work together to resolve the crisis.
“Settle this issue first before politicising it, because politicising will not do anything for the nation,” he said.
“We must encourage and support our policemen, we don’t want to see anymore political parties trying to politicise this issue.”
“We believe the government will take the necessary and appropriate action to safe guard the dignity and sovereignty of the nation as demanded by the rakyat,” he said.
Najib had recently announced that the government would probe claims of the opposition instigating the Sulu Sultanate to reclaim Sabah, which it said was their ancestral land.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has denied the claims, which first surfaced in the Philippine newspapers and international news agency Reuters, and instead blamed Umno for creating the allegations to weaken Sabah’s support for the opposition pact.
Meanwhile, Phillipine news website ABN News reported yesterday that the Sulu Sultanate has denied that Pakatan Rakyat had helped stoke the Sabah crisis.
“We are not connected to the Malaysian opposition; we have not talked to any of them,” Princess Jacel Kiram, daughter of self-styled Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III reportedly said.
RM160,000 for families of fallen heroes
Meanwhile, Phang said that Social Care Foundation would donate a total of RM160,000 to the families of the eight policemen who were killed during the attacks by the Sabah intruders.
“We are donating RM20,000 to each family, to the total of RM160,000, addressed to the Media Prima Tabung Wira Lahad Datu,” he said.
He also appealed to other corporate bodies and individuals to donate to the families of the fallen men.
“No matter how small the donation is, please forward it to the families of the fallen heroes. Their wives are now single mothers, struggling to take care of the children,” he said. (FMT)