Letter to Editor
THE “Information” portfolio is the traditional portfolio of what is currently known as the Communications and Digital Ministry and its minister is none other than Fahmi Fadzil.
To date, we have one of the youngest and better-looking ministers to helm the ministry for the first time. Previous ministers such as Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat still rings a bell.
Since taking over the ministry, I have noticed that Fahmi has been in the limelight very often. This goes without saying since he enjoys good relations with the press and he now has Bernama to support the government of the day.
It will not be long before his critics out to destroy the unity government will start hitting out at Fahmi, claiming that he is always hogging the limelight.
They will do this just to create a sense of jealousy amongst his own colleagues in his own party, with the aim of splitting the party.
Let me prepare Fahmi for this in advance, and let me also prepare the leaders in PKR and the public in advance. Perhaps, by doing this, it can avert an unnecessary attack on Fahmi and the ministry he is helming.
While it is true that his focus is on the key areas such as the 5G rollout and national cybersecurity, Fahmi plays a VERY IMPORTANT role as the Government’s spokesperson as well.
If I recall correctly, in my younger days, the ministry even had a department known as Jabatan Penerangan which broadcast the government’s key messages in villages using a small van.
Since then, most communication ministers holding the portfolio have never taken on this key role to be the government’s mouthpiece.
Fahmi is doing a great job at that. I believe, like me, Fahmi would rather keep a low profile, but his job requires him to appear ever so often in the press.
This is not about trying to steal the limelight from the others within his party. It is about putting a face to the government’s communication with the rakyat.
One reason why Barisan Nasional (BN) failed badly in the previous administrations is because there were insufficient explanations given by the leaders on current issues.
When there is a cloud of secrecy surrounding an issue, people will naturally want to dig out more. If explanations given do not make sense, the rakyat will surely hammer out more questions.
Study how to handle crisis communication
Being truthful and upfront is the way to handle the international press. Prompt responses to queries will also put Malaysia in good light in the way we handle our crises.
Their ability to communicate in English is also very important to command a sense of respect from the international journalists.
Fahmi is good at that, even in the absence of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim or Rafizi Ramli.
Decisiveness is also very important. The press will immediately detect it when the minister does not even have the answers to all the questions asked, things that are considered crucial in a crisis situation.
Our Cabinet ministers should be provided proper training on crisis communication before a crisis happens. This is so that, when they are confronted with the international press, they know how to handle them professionally.
It is not always the fault of the ministers concerned, but they must at least be well-versed with the nitty-gritty of their ministries. Otherwise, they can be lied to by the people below them just to make them look stupid.
There is a lot to learn from the way Singapore handled their airline crash compared to the way our leaders handled the press during press conferences held after the disappearance of MH370.
I was personally disappointed that then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak did not even bother to take the lead especially on the first or second day of the event. Instead, he was found somewhere in a supermarket holding a chicken.
Except for the then acting transport minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the other officials were largely ill-prepared to handle crisis communication.
Only competent communicators
Unless heads of government agencies are competent communicators, they should not be asked to handle international media.
Although I do not remember the details, what I can recall saying is: “Oh, no! What is this guy talking about!”
I have to say that officials on the job should just focus their attention to gather all the information that they need to provide to the minister.
Since information is crucial during a crisis, the officers responsible for providing the information must be competent on their jobs.
If they do a good job, they can be recommended for promotion, but, if they give crap to the ministers to make the ministers look stupid, it is time to cold storage these officers due to their own incompetence. – Dec 20, 2022
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.