Review of laws is regulator MCMC’s top priority, says new chairman
Given two years to achieve specific tasks
THE review of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commissions Act 1998 (MCMCA 1998) and the Communications and Mulitmedia Act 1998 (CMA 1998) is expected to be completed by mid-year, and will be tabled in Parliament before the end of the year.
The review is the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) top priority for this year, its recently-appointed chairman Dr Halim Shafie (pic) told local media at the industry regulator’s office in Cyberjaya on Jan 29.
According to national news agency Bernama, the review is intended to enhance governance in the MCMC by decoupling of the role of the chief executive from that of the chairman.
The MCMC comes under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, whose minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek had previously said that this would ensure continuity and the balance of responsibility within the organisation, Bernama noted.
The minister has not given details on how this is to be achieved, but speculation has been rife since the tenure of the previous chairman Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi was abruptly ended on Dec 31, 2014, when his contract was not renewed.
According to industry insiders, hardline elements in Umno, the dominant political party of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, wanted a ‘party man’ in the powerful post because Sharil had apparently not done enough to curb online dissent.
Some of these concerns were allayed when the well-respected Halim, a former MCMC chairman, was appointed to the chairman’s post, but speculation again mounted when Ahmad Shabery said the chief executive role would be decoupled, which observers say would still leave the path open for an Umno member to be lead the agency.
According to the Bernama report, Halim is on a countdown to achieve specific tasks given to him by Ahmad Shabery when he agreed to come out of semi-retirement to helm the MCMC again. His two-year term started in mid-January this year.
“Two years is not a very long time,” Halim said at the session with local media, adding that the minister’s list of priorities included ensuring “there is a healthy cyberspace for Malaysians to interact in and engage with each other for positive uses.”
“In the last 15 years, since the CMA 1998 came into force and Malaysia embraced convergence, things have changed so much. We have reached the point where we have relative ubiquity in our networks. Now, the emphasis has to be on content,” he said.
“We would like to see this network ubiquity being used positively in social terms so that the pervasiveness of the Internet has a constructive impact on the country, through a rich content and applications environment.
“In fact, with the infrastructure more or less in place, utility content becomes more critical and we need to fill the space in sectors such financial, health and education. This will require a high degree of integrity and security in our networks which we will need to continuously improve,” Halim said, according to Bernama.
Malaysia was one of the first countries in the world to have embraced convergence when the CMA 1998 was passed by Parliament.
Halim said he agrees with Ahmad Shabery that the review to the CMA 1998 is not just about creating a healthy cyberspace but also a holistic and healthy ‘cyber environment’ as communications and multimedia services can affect not just the economy, but also culture and tradition.
“If changes need to be made to the legislation, the focus will be about stimulating further growth in creativity, innovation and content, and creating a healthy cyberspace for governmental and industry development,” he said.
Ahmad Shabery (pic) had announced previously that greater emphasis will be put towards all aspects of digitisation for the country and he is keen to pursue a digital initiative which will cover both hard and soft infrastructure, Bernama reported.
“The Minister is right in saying that we need this if Malaysia is to remain competitive as a nation, which is why the MCMC will be focusing on content development, and utility content, in particular,” Halim said.
“Of course, we have to also constantly look at issues like quality, speed and affordability.
“What we need to do is ride on the ubiquity. Utility content needs to be increased because the future of public service delivery hinges on this and it will have a great impact on the rakyat (citizenry).
“This will add to a healthy cyber environment. What we need to do is keep our cyberspace healthy and safe for the government, industry and the people.
“We recognise the tremendous potential of communications and multimedia services in the development of the country, which is why we need to regularly review our regulatory framework to make it work for everyone, from all angles and perspectives,” he added.
Before his reappointment as chairman of the MCMC, the 65-year-old Halim was chairman of Telekom Malaysia, a non-executive position he held for close to six years after his first stint with the MCMC ended.
Halim served as chairman of the MCMC from April 2006 till May 2009. Prior to that, he was the Secretary General of the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications where he served for six years.
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