Posted on 9 April 2012 - 12:40am
Saiffuddin ... Twitter has changed the way ministers communicate.
by Pauline Wong and Radzi Razak
“IF a pirate fights a ninja, who do you think would win?”
“Well, it depends on the location. If it’s on land, it will be the ninjas. If it’s at sea, the pirates will win.”
This exchange was not between two friends at a mamak stall, but rather, between a Malaysian citizen and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on micro-blogging site Twitter.
In 140 characters, Malaysians can reach out to familiar strangers – politicians, members of parliament, even the prime minister.
This friendly banter would have been unimaginable years ago, when people like the premier would have maintained their distance.
Then four years ago, the social media grabbed Malaysians by the nose and opened up methods of communication.
The best part is, it is free of charge.
Twitter has gained an avid following from both politicians and celebrities as it is more private than Facebook.
It is also a fast and engaging way to reach out to fans and the masses.
The first generation of political bloggers was from the Opposition, with the likes of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong being the first to adopt Twitter as a tool to reach out to more people.
Others are DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and a slew of opposition MPs whose “blackout” in mainstream newspapers led them to the internet to reach voters.
They all now have their own Twitter accounts with more than 500,000 followers between them, mostly youths.
When Barisan Nasional lost its traditional two thirds-majority in the 2008 general election, its
politicians realised it was high time they too get their smart phones and learn to flex their thumbs tweeting.
Soon enough, Najib himself created a Twitter account, his own website, and two Facebook pages. His account (@najibrazak), was launched on Sept 28, 2008 and gained 496,323 followers.
Umno new media unit head Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz said the party realised the importance of a presence in social media. “Before this, the opposition bloggers had a tight grip on social media, and we adopted it to create a level playing field,” he said. Tun Faisal, who tweets at @tunfaisal, said Twitter allows him to respond to any allegation and broadcast the party’s aspirations and principles.
There are people who think as Twitter as the great leveller and equaliser.
One of them is Zain HD, a prominent social media activist in Twitterjaya (what Malaysians call themselves collectively on Twitter). “We used to think that the politicians are different and maybe it is because we exclude them,” he said. He and his peers have organised #budibicaraTJ, a virtual space that seeks a healthy exchange of ideas from both sides of the divide. “Twitter provides an avenue for everyone to join in and discuss things as it should be,” he added.
Technoprenuer and amanz.my chief executive officer Ikhwan Nazri said with Twitter, bureaucracy was no longer a barrier to reach politicians and people in positions of power. “We can air our views on things or policies which we do not agree with and get our voices heard,” he said.
The print media too play a big role in Twitterjaya by tweeting breaking news with links to its websites, simultaneously allowing politicians to react or respond to the latest news.
Deputy Higher Learning Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah @saifuddinabd said Twitter has provided him the means to connect with people. “It is so easy to communicate and respond. If they want to know my views or ask me something, they can tweet me.
“It has even changed the way ministers communicate. It brings more accountability and honesty as people can see what you have tweeted and how you behave. “A tweeter is much more personal. It gives you accountability as the public can see and judge you by your tweets,” he said.
Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahalan, who has almost 8,000 followers, predicted that Twitter will be used in the next general election. “Political parties, activists and everyone would want to air their views . The coming general election will