There is no dearth of ‘wannabe’ newsmakers in Malaysia, where politicians among other public figures compete for attention with statements and actions that alternately cajole, condemn or confuse their audience.
As the malaysiakini team narrowed down the choices and cast its vote openly, the choice fell on Deputy Information Minister Zainuddin ‘Zam’ Maidin. Seldom has anyone managed to amuse, annoy and agitate Malaysians all at once. And here’s why.
Zam spent the better part of the year thinking up new uses for an old television network that has been regularly dim in the ‘bright ideas’ department.
The Information Ministry parliamentary secretary since 2000 and deputy minister from November this year, he took a kerajaan boleh approach to generating propaganda for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).
And so, the horror year began for media consumers, especially in rural Malaysia, who had to absorb the full impact of blatantly anti-opposition messages over the two television channels of Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).
Also in the line of fire over the year were media activists, religious leaders and regional ‘bananas’, whom he goaded with statements designed to discredit their respective positions on civil and political rights or international relations.
In December, perhaps chafing at the confines of domestic politics, he took on Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt, who appeared in a Toyota commercial. The advertisement was banned because it did not conform to guidelines stipulating the use of ‘Asian’ faces.
That made the news in parts of the US as well — and Zam to emerge the clear winner.