I do believe the question is a valid one, now that the police have taken down the billboards. Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed believes that the police does have the authority to take down billboards approved by local councils if the content is political.
This is actually true.
In fact, it goes back to Selangor’s decision in 2010 not to allow 1Malaysia billboards for the very same reason – that the 1Malaysia message was a pro-government gimmick.
And personally, it was a gimmick that lacked substance – similar to these billboards by the PKR.
But let us do a comparison for the sake of argument.
First off, the “Free Anwar” billboards were obviously political because the PKR logo was in fact on the billboards itself.
Meanwhile, the 1Malaysia logos did not even bother to put up a Barisan Nasional logo.
Thus, clear indication of political sponsorship.
Secondly, who sponsored to put up the billboards?
In the case of the 1Malaysia boards, it was done by the government, paying advertising ringgits and placing them everywhere nationwide.
Meanwhile, whosoever launched the Free Anwar campaign should come clean and answer this question as well – who sponsored their billboards which are only placed in the state of Selangor, and at what cost?
Finally, here is a lesson for the Free Anwar campaign – did they actually get legal advice before putting up these billboards? Because political messages are actually disallowed.
In fact, it shouldn’t have even been passed by the local councils who regulate the messages. And thus now, that red shirted leader Datuk Jamal Md Yunos can actually sue the Selangor local councils who approved the billboards.
I’m actually surprised because if anything, he could also file a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate just how the approval process by local councils allowed these through in the first place.
And while the Pakatan state government did in fact undo their stance against the ‘1Malaysia’ billboards later on, it is still a federal government prerogative (under the police) to regulate billboards.
One would have thought that whichever agency that put up those ads and owns the rights to those billboards would have highlighted this problem to the Free Anwar campaign.
Unfortunately, I guess the campaign didn’t approach any of the multiple advertising firms such as Redberry or even Big Tree for their thoughts.
And thus, now that the ads have been taken down, the Free Anwar campaign has lost a huge sum of cash. At the same time, the state of Selangor may lose even more cash from lawsuits filed by Jamal.
Subsequently, if a report is filed with the MACC over how local authorities approved these billboards, expect the local civil service to bear the brunt of even more pressure from above and might be looking at transfers – after all, the civil service is oft forgiving and merciful to corruption.
A lesson we are even learning from Khairy Jamaluddin right now after his ministry was swindled RM100 million, no less.