Malaysia probes black flag movement for alleged seditious elements

#BenderaHitam is demanding for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign, Parliament to reconvene immediately and for the state of emergency to end.
#BenderaHitam is demanding for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign, Parliament to reconvene immediately and for the state of emergency to end.PHOTOS: HUSNAADNAN3/TWITTER, ARVENESH/TWITTER, LIZZIEZANY/TWITTER

KUALA LUMPUR - 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 pandemic and care for its people.

The black flag campaign is demanding for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign, Parliament to reconvene immediately and for 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 period.

"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!" said Twitter user cenationgabriel.

Most states in Malaysia are under an indefinite full lockdown, which was imposed on June 1 and extended on Monday (June 28). It will not be lifted until daily new cases fall below 4,000. Daily cases have persistently exceeded the 6,000 mark. On Tuesday (July 6), the country recorded 7,654 new cases, bringing the total nationwide 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."

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 lawmakers from PN discredited #BenderaPutih (white flag), another social media campaign by Malaysians 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, on June 29 dismissed the initiative, calling on people not to easily admit defeat and urged them to pray instead. Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor on July 1 labelled the campaign as a "political propaganda" against the PN administration. He called on the state's residents to seek help through "official channels" instead.

The heightened anger among the people has also led to social media users targeting politicians and their family members, particularly the children of International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali.

"Lol buzz off. Cause your dad refusal to close factories now there's PKPD in Selangor. And people rushing to buy groceries today. May you and your family receive what you've gifted to Malaysians millions fold back (sic)," Twitter user @apamgulamelaka said to the minister's daughter Amira Azmin. PKPD is the Malay acronym of the enhanced movement control order.

The spouse of Umno MP Nazri Abdul Aziz, Ms Haflin Saiful, was also slammed for flaunting her wealth and flying to France during the lockdown, leading to a petition on Change.org which urges France to keep the couple there.