PETALING JAYA--A locally created Facebook fanpage has been blocked from administrator access since Wednesday, with its creators alleging their freedom of expression has been oppressed.
The fanpage was created five days after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak proposed the erection of a 100-storey skyscraper--costing 5 billion ringgit (US$1.6 billion)--in the heart of the city, next to the historic Merdeka Stadium, where the country's independence was first declared.
Embedded in Najib's 2011 Budget speech tabled in Parliament last week, the proposed Warisan Merdeka (Heritage of Independence) Tower will be built by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), a government-linked fund management firm. When built, the building will surpass the iconic 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers as the tallest building in the country.
The news, however, has triggered widespread objection and condemnation on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook, as well as in blogs and opinion articles submitted by opposition political parties to various news portals.
It also resulted in the creation of a Facebook fanpage entitled, "1M Malaysians Reject 100-storey Mega Tower". The profile has since garnered over 68,500 Likes.
The vociferous opinions mounted against the Malaysian government is due in part to public perception that such a building would be wasteful during a time when the country needs to tighten its belt to cope with falling foreign direct investments and rising cost of living.
Public frustration is further exacerbated because the project is widely perceived to be financed by tax payers' money.
"Malaysia needs better education, better healthcare, better public transportation, safer neighbourhoods and cleaner water, but not a taller building," said the administrator of the Facebook fanpage. "We don't need another white elephant!"
In a report Wednesday by national news agency Bernama, however, PNB's chief executive Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman, said the government investment fund was "well positioned to finance the construction [of the tower] from its own internally generated funds".
Facebook fanpage blocked
Chatter on Twitter and Facebook began surfacing in the early afternoon of Wednesday, claiming that the fanpage was blocked from public access. Local news portal Malaysiakini reported that while Facebook users could still join the fanpage, its owners were barred from posting any message on the profile page.
"While new media offers room for social movements, the authoritarian governance by the Internet giants like Facebook has sunk to a new form of censorship," Malaysiakini quoted one of the creators of the fanpage to say.
Later in the day, various updates on Twitter clarified that administrator access to the fanpage was blocked because Facebook requires administrators of large pages to confirm their affiliation with the brand, business, person or entity that their Page represents.
To date, the administrators are still blocked, with no signs of them attempting to confirm their affiliations as stipulated by Facebook.
Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.