Allegations of dirty tricks have emerged in the campaigns for the May 5 Malaysian elections after a number of websites were hacked and broadcasts by radio stations were apparently jammed.
Websites belonging to Radio Free Malaysia, Radio Free Sarawak and the news portal Sarawak Report, among others, were subjected to DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which editors blamed on the Malaysian government.
Typically, DDOS involves saturating a website with information and requests that slow its response to the point of being inoperable. The attacks have been traced to Russia and Eastern Europe.
One site apparently received 64 million hits.
“This is not a proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money and it only goes to prove how vulnerable this 50 year old regime feels to the truth,” said Clare Rewcastle Brown, editor of Sarawak Report and founder of Radio Free Sarawak and Radio Free Malaysia.
Sabah and Sarawak, the two Malaysian states in the country’s east on the island of Borneo could cost Prime Minister Najib Razak and his United National Malays Organization (UMNO) its first election since independence from colonial Britain in 1957.
The leadership in both states have faced widespread allegations of corruption that include government kickbacks and illegal logging and have been pivotal in delivering the UMNO the required votes in previous national elections.
Details of the attacks have been restricted in cyberspace with the web operators relying on social networking sites like Facebook and bloggers like Din Merican to get information on the attacks out to the Malaysian public.
“BN (Barisan Nasional) controls every single newspaper and broadcast outlet in Malaysia, which are all forced to pour out propaganda favoring their party and to attack opposition leaders without allowing them their right of reply,” Brown said. “And yet BN are nevertheless clearly terrified by even the most modest platforms providing independent news or alternative information.”
Similar allegations of hacking were made during the recent Sabah crisis, when at least 200 militia members from the Southern Philippines crossed the maritime border and launched a bloody insurgency in the name of the self-anointed sultan. The action cost more than 70 lives.
The Malaysian government was roundly criticized for its inability to control its eastern borders and deal with the rebels effectively and this was expected to cost the UMNO votes at the upcoming poll.
Prior to the insurgency in early March, the UMNO was widely expected to win the upcoming election. But opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has gained an unlikely political advantage from the violence in Sabah. Given his unprecedented gains in the 2008 elections, victory for his Pakatan Rakyat coalition is no longer totally out of the question.