KUALA LUMPUR: The government does not fear bloggers but wants to be part of them and know their views even if it is constructive criticism, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
"I believe this relationship will be an important relationship based on mutual respect. We might not agree all the time but we cannot be disagreeable.
"What is important for us is to put forward your (bloggers) views, even your constructive critism and together we can build a better Malaysia and future for us," he said in his keynote address at the First Malaysia-Asean Regional
Also present were the patron of Blog House Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, president of Blog House Malaysia Syed Akbar Ali and Najib's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Najib said the era of government knowing everything was over and the government needed to know from bloggers who represented the Malaysian community, their views and criticism.
"But we should draw the line; if we use the cyberspace to tell lies and half truths, that is wrong. I agree with Tun Dr Mahathir that there must be a line that we cannot trespass."
He said if bloggers worked within those parameters, he believed they could indeed play a vital part in shaping a better future for Malaysia and Asean.
Najib said the governments of today were being challenged not just with the use of guerillas and mercenaries armed to the teeth with deadly weapons, but also by the deployment of cybertroopers who waged viral warfare with the might of their keyboards, keypads and smartphones, as the Iran "Twitter" and Egypt "Facebook" Revolution manifested.
"We are also one of the most ardent Facebook fans - there are 10.1 million FB users. I have no doubt whatsoever that Malaysia has one of the liveliest blogospheres in the world and definitely one of the freest if not the most free.
"Malaysians have to thank Tun Dr Mahathir again for this. When he was prime minister and Malaysia was developing its Multimedia Super Corridor, Tun made the promise to the world that Malaysia would never censor the Internet. My government is fully committed to that wisdom; we intend to keep his word," he said.
Najib believes that the Internet is an engine for economic growth, the portal that opens up to a knowledge society.
"This is applicable to all societies, even a government that is not too keen about the democracy part of 'digital democracy' should embrace the digital part, as the economic implications are simply too great to ignore.
"The social media, blogging and microblogging are capable of bringing nations closer as for the first time in the history of mankind, people are able to communicate with each other in real time and without having to wait for days or even weeks for the mail," he said.
The two-day conference, starting yesterday with the theme of "Blogging Mindfully and Responsibly" is organised by Blog House Malaysia, an association that provides a platform to derive defensive mechanisms to protect the plethora of bloggers in blogosphere, especially on Malaysia and Malaysia-centric postings.
The objective of this conference is to bring together regional bloggers from the Asean region and to highlight the obstacles faced by these bloggers as well as the adversity that bloggers might experience in their day-to-day tackling of various issues.
Meanwhile, during the question-and-answer session, Najib said the government was still open to suggestions on the teaching and learning of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI).
He said although the policy was scrapped, the government was committed to enhancing students' proficiency in the English language.
"We believe strongly that proficiency in English is a prerequisite to becoming competitive, and it is important for Malaysians to speak English competently together with the national language."
Najib said there were different views on PPSMI, with some feeling that learning Mathematics and Science in their own mother tongue is easier for the students to master the subjects, while others feel that teaching the subjects in English will make it easier for the students to comprehend.
"The debate is still on. But it is undeniable that we are committed to making people more proficient in English."
He said several initiatives had been taken for that purpose, including increasing the hours for English lessons and bringing in English teachers from overseas to teach here.
As such, Najib said, bloggers could also contribute their views on this matter.
"We are keeping an open mind and can look into greater details. Let's share your views so that we can find a solution that is acceptable and can be implemented," he added. -- Bernama