An image shared by Twitter users as part of the #SuspectMyPM campaign, a satirical take on the #RespectMyPM campaign that was intended to garner support for Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak but which backfired in spectacular fashion.
It was an epic fail.
Supporters of Malaysia’s scandal-struck Prime Minister Najib Razak thought they were doing him a favour by inventing the #RespectMyPM hashtag.
The ensuing mockery soon rocketed the hashtag to the top of the country’s trending charts, and spawned a scathing response: #SuspectMyPM.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak has faced harsh scrutiny over a US$ 680 million “political donation” that ended up in his bank account. Photo: Reuters
“#RespectMyPm Because nobody in this world received a bigger political donation in their personal bank account than him. NOBODY!,” tweeted @bonkersz
“I can’t find a good reason to #RespectmyPM but I hv many reasons to #SuspectMyPM,” wrote @ngszehan, as part of a common refrain.
Najib is battling corruption allegations surrounding the controversial state investment firm, 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), of which he is chairs the advisory board. His image has been further tainted by revelations that he received a US$680 million “political donation” from Saudi Arabia that was deposited in his personal bank account.
Najib has denied using the funds for personal purposes and the Attorney General’s office cleared him of all wrongdoing in January.
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad calls on Najib Razak to step down as premier
It’s so obvious that it is a government propaganda move and for young people, respect has to be earned. So the whole hashtag has become a laughing stock because it is intended to force people to respect the Prime Minister when people obviously don’t have any for him. So they turn it into an ironic and sarcastic game instead. It is a way of ridiculing the Prime Minister.
Local press reported that the #RespectMyPM campaign to garner support for Najib kicked off a few weeks ago. It only came under the spotlight last Friday after former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad gathered a coalition of opposition politicians, NGOs and social activists to sign a “citizens’ declaration” calling for Najib to step down.
A Facebook page called Pertahan Negara Kita (Defend Our Country), responded by calling on Malaysians to rally behind Najib.
“The internet has always been a space where Malaysians feel they can express themselves without the usual restrictions on liberties,” said civil liberties lawyer, Syahredzan Johan.
“The government now realises that freedom on the internet is damaging, so they are trying to control information on the internet.
“That is why we are seeing state action such as new legislations and the blocking of websites.”
The government blocked the popular Malaysian Insider news website on February 25 over its bold reporting on 1MDB, a move which drew rebuke from the US government.
Last July, another publication, The Edge, was also suspended for its reporting on 1MDB. A High Court judge lifted the suspension in September 2015.
“Social media is the next step in the “democratisation” of information,” Syahredzan said.