Rais: We cannot do anything about Radio Free Sarawak

We cannot simply terminate any signal from an Internet source or through the shortwave band

Rais Yatim, the information minister, has spoken a little sense about Radio Free Sarawak: he as good as admitted that the clandestine radio station based in London was beyond the Malaysian government’s reach.

Radio Free Sarawak broadcasts on short wave and through the Internet. The station, and its sister web site Sarawak Report, carries reports critical of Taib Mahmud, the Sarawak chief minister, and highlights massive corruption and abuse of power as hallmarks of his government, and has exposed the extent of the Taib family’s wealth which it said came from lucrative government contracts and from shady land deals.

Rais’s remarks, though, were buried at the bottom of a Bernama report which instead highlighted other remarks that the communications commission would carry out a study to find security implications in Radio Free Sarawak broadcasts.

But Rais had really said:

“We cannot simply terminate any signal from an Internet source or through the shortwave band as this is embedded in the Human Rights Convention of Geneva. Criticising per se, we cannot do anything. We should not be too alarmed whether they are saying the truth or otherwise.”

While the minister was saying that Radio Free Sarawak was, in effect, beyond the government’s reach, he typically made appropriate threatening noises for political effect, thus giving the impression that something was being done.

The Youth wing of Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu recenty lodged a police report against Radio Free Sarawak, in order to enable the communications commission to begin investigations. The party is headed by Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud, who is the target of articles at the Sarawak Report web site and broadcasts on Radio Free Sarawak, highlighting his family’s enormous wealth and exposing links between his family and lucrative government contracts and shady land deals.

The communications commission is the government regulator for broadcasting and the Internet. However, as Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak are based in London, they would be beyond Malaysia’s jurisdiction.

Bernama said the communications commission would study whether the radio station was instigating the people or using innuendoes, bordering on security issues. The Home Ministry had also been cautioned of the station’s existence.


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