KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government failed in public communication, leading to its negative public perception after winning Election 2018, according to the man who was its leader for those 22 months.
Narrating the rise and fall of the PH in his latest book available for sale today, former two-time prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said despite being fantastic orators while in the Opposition, PH leaders struggled with public communications once they were in government.
“We didn’t handle social media well.
“We were a new Government, and while we were well aware that there were a lot of negative and plainly wrong comments being made about us, we didn’t spend the time we needed to rebut or clarify the misconceptions or half-truths that were going around,” he wrote in Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues For A New Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir said there were professional critics called “cybertroopers”—people who were employed to criticise or, worse, manufacture negative stories to make life harder for the PH government.
“Most of the Ministers, being new to their jobs, were so preoccupied with tackling problems in their ministries that they simply did not have the time or energy to understand what was being said about them and how they should deal with it.
“The Pakatan Harapan Government was then perceived by some to have been a failure as a result.
“This is a view I vehemently disagree with, but we weren’t doing enough to show the public that such accusations were unfounded,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the issue was even taken to the weekly Cabinet meeting to be discussed and looked into.
“We did discuss this problem in the Cabinet but the actual political experience is very important.
“If you’ve had the experience of dealing with the public, you’ll know how to respond,” he wrote.
Dr Mahathir said his ministers were new to their roles and were from parties that had been in the Opposition since the country became independent.
“Some found it difficult to deal with the constant criticisms that were coming in from so many directions, including the media,” he said.
Dr Mahathir recalled how former communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo was always complaining that the media was hammering the government too much and that ministers were not replying adequately.
“I must admit that some Ministers were afraid of the Press, and they couldn’t hold their own under questioning.
“Because of this, even civil society activists complained that the Pakatan Harapan Government had not achieved much,” he wrote.