DAP reiterates that there is no Red Bean Army manning its online campaign, just passionate volunteers who want to see change in the country.
I command my Red Bean Army to make Umno and Utusan Malaysia the biggest bowl of Ice Kacang now,” DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua recently joked on Twitter and Facebook about what he called the defamation of “the delicious red beans”.
The party’s political education director Liew Chin Tong, however, is not as amused about the so-called DAP-funded cybertrooper buzz.
“I am amazed that this baseless allegation is still in the news. DAP does not have any cyber troopers. No one is paying for any online participation.
“Our supporters came forward as volunteers to help our online campaign. They are people who want to see change and voice out their opinions. They are using their own names and their own accounts, not fake accounts or names,” he attests.
Liew echoes the statements by his party supremo Lim Kit Siang and Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who have categorically rubbished the reports on the Red Bean Army alleged to be on the party’s payroll.
Lim claims that it is part of a larger plot by Barisan propagandists “to demonise DAP with lies and falsehoods” since January.
Last month, Utusan Malaysia reported that DAP has been employing more than 2,000 cyber troopers, tagged as the Red Bean Army, on a RM3,000 monthly salary for the last six years.
As the Malay daily claimed, the opposition party forks out more than RM1.5mil a month on this covert operation to allegedly incite hatred towards Barisan, especially among the Chinese, and attack via social media networks any politician, businessman or celebrity deemed as pro-Barisan.
Lim has refuted the claims, putting out his calculations of the total sum of the purported expenditure over six years, which he said in a statement is simply out of DAP’s reach: RM108mil.
“DAP just does not have this type of money although to Umno/Barisan, this is just a drop in the ocean of their funds,” Lim claims.
Concurring with Lim, Liew alleges that it is Barisan and Umno who are funding their own army of cyber troopers.
“They are funding their own Ikan Bilis Army or whatever, and they are using their own model to imagine that the other side runs on the same basis. We have no funding for such endeavours,” he says.
Umno Youth New Media Unit chief Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, however, argues that if no monetary remuneration was on the table, how could the volunteers be so committed?
“If they are not getting paid, how can they respond online almost immediately? If they are volunteers, they’d be like those in Barisan and Umno – we cannot respond promptly because we don’t sit in front of the computer 24/7. We have to do other work,” he disputes DAP’s claims.
Tun Faisal alleges that there are many businesses that can fund DAP’s cyber operations.
“Our intel shows that there are businesses from overseas and the underworld that can pour money into DAP. If they don’t have money, how do they fund their political movement?”
The money trail can be traced in the statements made against the party by people like former DAP vice-chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim and former Klang DAP Youth chief Shen Yee Aun, he adds.
“If DAP says they are lying, they should sue them. Or do they dare let it go to police investigation?” Tun Faisal challenges.
One of the alleged “overseas funders”, Taiwan-based Malaysian entrepreneur Pua Khein Seng, whose company Phison Electronics Corp was behind the world’s first single-chip USB pendrive, has rebutted the accusations of him funding the Red Bean Army. Pua, in a statement, says he is considering legal action against his “accusers”.
Liew shares that DAP is also looking at possible legal action.
“The people who are saying this should retract their statements or produce the evidence to back their proclamations,” he says, stressing that his party survives by organising fundraising dinners. “And the party does not survive on a big budget.”
Liew believes an underlying issue is the entrenched political culture.
“Barisan simply does not understand participatory politics. They cannot conceive how people can voluntarily get involved in a participatory campaign. There is no budget from DAP or organisation to have a Red Bean Army,” he insists.
Jeff Ooi, Malaysia’s first blogger elected into Parliament, believes that all abusive, threatening, defamatory and utterly senseless comments online are extensions of the chatroom culture which was prevalent in the 1990s. When social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter replaced blogs as the flavour of the month, every Tom, Dick and Harry could post their thoughts, leading to the further degradation of the online decorum, says the IT expert.
Ooi observes that a majority of those who are politically active online belong to Gen Y with ages ranging from 25 to 35, and most hold steady jobs and are educated.
“These cyber activists fall mainly into two groups – pro-Barisan Nasional and pro-Pakatan Rakyat. Most are expressing their angst, writing about what they think and talk about in the kopitiam and office.”
The new phenomenon, he says, is the political awakening of Gen Y.
“They give little thought to convention, tradition or even decorum when online,” he shares, opining that many cyber activists do not know that racially or religiously sensitive issues can be seditious, or that whatever that’s illegal or termed as a criminal act offline can be classified as criminal and punishable online.
Ooi also categorically reiterates that DAP does not have the resources to pay for any cybertroopers, what more an “army” of them. “What we have are supporters (who are active online) but they all have full-time jobs.”
He concedes that there are DAP cyber activists taking the moral high ground.
“We don’t discount the fact that there are some who speak on our behalf without our consent but if we clamp down, then there’s no freedom of expression. However, if nothing is done, the entire platform of public expression through the online media will degrade. So, we try not to stoop to gutter politics,” he says.
Calling on all online activists to “be responsible, have a face and engage positively”, he advises cyber activists to always cross check their facts with several sources, include real names and faces, allow for two-way conversations whether it’s positive or negative responses to promote intellectual discourse and to include hyperlinks of the sources quoted in the posting so that readers can form their own opinions.
“Please observe some kind of decorum and never accuse people of being guilty unless you have proof,” he advises.
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