Social media campaigns in Malaysia

'Black flag' protest against govt over its handling of Covid-19

Police launch probe into anti-government campaign for alleged seditious elements

A black flag hangs outside Ms Laila Mohd's house in Selangor's Subang Jaya township.

It is a sign of solidarity against poor governance. The 32-year-old told The Straits Times: "It's about time we kick this government out, Malaysians deserve better."

Ms Laila is among tens of thousands of Malaysians who are part of a new social movement #BenderaHitam (black flag) which calls on social media users to share pictures of black flags on various platforms, to protest against the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government for allegedly failing to contain the coronavirus pandemic and care for its people.

The campaign is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. It also wants Parliament to reconvene immediately and the state of emergency to end.

Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, had granted Tan Sri Muhyiddin's request for a state of emergency to help Malaysia contain a worsening Covid-19 outbreak. But the crisis has become worse during the emergency.

Twitter user cenationgabriel posted: "For killing the country's democracy. For the lives we have lost under this government.

"For the ineffective pandemic management. For the unequal treatment... Today, we fly the black flag!"

Most states are under an indefinite full lockdown, which was imposed on June 1 and extended last Monday. It will not be lifted until daily new cases fall below 4,000.

But daily cases have persistently exceeded the 6,000 mark. Yesterday, the country recorded 7,654 new cases, bringing the total tally to 792,693. There were 103 deaths and a record 943 people in intensive care.

"If #BenderaHitam fails to be controlled, it can grow, spread and lead to the fall of PN," political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya told The Straits Times. "The direct impact of this campaign is it affects the government's credibility."

Meanwhile, police have launched an investigation into the movement for allegedly containing seditious elements.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Abd Jalil Hassan said the investigation is still in the preliminary stage and the case is being probed under the Sedition Act, Penal Code as well as Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

The birth of the black flag movement came shortly after several PN lawmakers discredited #BenderaPutih (white flag), a social media campaign to help those in need of food and other essentials, amid a surge in suicide cases due to job losses and slashed incomes.

Mr Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, a leader of Parti Islam SeMalaysia, dismissed the initiative, calling on people not to easily admit defeat and urged them to pray instead.

Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor labelled the campaign as "political propaganda" against the PN administration. He called on the state's residents to seek help through "official channels" instead.

Some angry social media users have lashed out at politicians and their family members, particularly the children of International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali.

His daughter Amira faced flak after some netizens blamed the minister for not closing factories, where many clusters of Covid-19 infections in Selangor had originated. "May you and your family receive what you've gifted to Malaysians millions fold back (sic)," wrote Twitter user apamgulamelaka.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2021, with the headline ''Black flag' protest against govt over its handling of Covid-19'. Subscribe