Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak must explain if he manipulated the last general election, said Bersatu leaders.
Bersatu's deputy chairperson of strategy and policy Wan Saiful Wan Jan also wanted the BN chairperson to assure that manipulative tactics would not be used for the coming general election.
Wan Saiful was responding to reports that data company Cambridge Analytica, which reportedly played a key role in US President Donald Trump's 2016 election victory, admitted to conducting operations in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Bersatu supreme council member Rais Hussin expressed concern that Cambridge Analytica may play to racial and religious sentiments in Malaysia to stoke the “really deep-seated underlying fears” it claims to exploit.
The Bersatu politicians pointed out that Cambridge Analytica is a company mired in scandal for alleged unethical manipulation of personal data for electoral gains.
“They have been accused of extracting the personal data of up to 50 million Facebook users without consent, for use in the American presidential campaign to help Trump by targeting adverts to specific users in a manipulative way, exploiting their 'inner demons'.
“Cambridge Analytica's investor include Robert Mercer, a billionaire known for his financial contribution to Trump's right-wing campaign and other American right-wing organisations.
“Steve Bannon, a former key adviser to Trump and a person notorious for his right-wing views, was on the board of the company,” Wan Saiful said.
He said he was shocked to learn about the alleged relationship between Najib's campaign with Cambridge Analytica.
He said this raised the question as to whether Najib (photo) and Umno used tactics similar to the American right-wing movements and people like Bannon.
“Electoral manipulation is grossly unethical and detrimental to our parliamentary democracy. I hope that Najib did not intentionally bring Cambridge Analytica into Malaysia to exploit racial sentiments and create racial divide here, for his short-term political benefits,” he added.
As the head of the GE13 election team which was appointed and accredited by the Election Commission, Wan Saiful claimed that he witnessed how the environment was set up to favour Umno and BN.
“Following inputs from the 300 observers I had on the ground, I concluded that GE13 was only partially free and not fair because of how the environment was conditioned way before polling day itself.
“Now, this revelation about Najib and Umno's involvement with Cambridge Analytica makes a most worrying read,” he added.
Wan Saiful urged the prime minister to explain how much was paid to Cambridge Analytica with regard to the last general election and what was the exact nature of their work.
“More importantly, no matter how desperate Najib is to stay in power, he must not resort to divisive and unethical tactics of manipulating right-wing and ethnoreligious sentiments in Malaysia.
“Do not let your desperation to stay in power destroy the future of this country and our parliamentary democracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rais (photo) noted that in the UK’s Channel 4 exposé on Cambridge Analytica, the company’s Global Political managing director Mark Turnbull was caught on camera talking about its misinformation campaign against opponents of Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta.
Turnbull had said the company's job was to discover the deep-rooted fears of its target audience.
“It's no good fighting an election campaign on the facts, but actually it's all about emotion," he added.
Rais said that in Malaysia, that deep-seated fear would be issues about race and religion, particularly when aimed at rural Malays.
“If that happens, we will have a very divided nation, and we really, really need to be mindful (of that),” he said.
Rais urged the government to come clean on whether it had engaged Cambridge Analytica’s or its affiliates’ services whether in the past or in the upcoming 14th general election.
If so, he said the government should explain its purpose and its funding. In particular, he demanded to know whether public funds had been used.
He also urged the government to explain how much data Cambridge Analytica had mined in Malaysia, and how the data was obtained.
For the record, Turnbull had since denied that the company engages in deceit.
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