5G Malaysia Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) looks set for doom and gloom. As some outrageously claimed, DNB was far from the next 1MDB
(Pictures for representational purposes only). Representatives from Gegar Malaysia holding placards as a sign of protest against the government and urging the Parliament to debate about Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). PIX: HAZROL ZAINAL / 14 December 2021 / MalaysiaGazette. Wakil Gegar Malaysia memegang plakad sebagai tanda menggesa kerajaan membahaskan isu Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) dalam persidang Dewan Rakyat di hadapan Bangunan Parlimen, Kuala Lumpur. Foto HAZROL ZAINAL, 14 DISEMBER 2021.
The following article is submitted to the editorial of MalaysiaGazette by reader, Raja Nur Fadzliana.

As prompted by my Facebook Live notification yesterday, I saw the Opposition Leader, YB Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, giving a lecture on the culture of corruption permeating the administration referencing Pandora Papers, Spanco (the government contractor for government vehicle maintenance), and Digital Nasional Berhad. He is a shadow of his former glorious self. Here was a man who challenged the Government in 1998/1999 via a political front made out of necessity. The party only enjoyed the fruit of his labor some 20 years later, and he is looking frail now, less sharp and indeed less fiery. Even his speech on Dr. Wan Azizah ‘s FB page didn’t attract much attention, nor was furor usually associated with such a historical figure in our democracy. What gives this time? Was it
the MOU signed between the Government and Opposition to stop the political upmanship and avoid a change of Government that softened him?

It was probably for the first time, of course, discarding the Pandora Papers and the Spanco scandal (which the public knew very little about). It is the first time Anwar didn’t fight for the people he claimed viciously represented. It was already circulating out there those countless efforts by big telcos, prominent politicians’ figures, including the squeaky-clean Muhammad Haji Hassan from UMNO and the gifted brain of Khaled Nordin to undermine Digital Nasional Berhad, the national provider for 5G.

The background story was simple. DNB had authority (critics call it the monopoly) of 5G
implementation through SWN (single wholesale network) model. Why? Because seven years of failed 4G implementation has caused our students like Venonoah to climb trees and become the object of ridicule by our very own Deputy Minister, the polygamous Zahidi Zainol. The chaos of poor service, long-standing fights between MCMC, telcos, and Ministries prompted the MCMC in 2019 to release a report stating that fast internet is not a luxury. It is about national security and economic prosperity, and it is fast becoming one of our basic needs and rights. Hence, an official agency (not even government guaranteed), much like Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Telekom Malaysia or Keretapi Tanah
Melayu is being born. Digital Nasional Berhad was supposed to be us, by the people for the people.

Instead, they found a way to finance it not through government funds or our taxes but leveraging their absolute authority. But under suspicious, virulent attacks by telcos through multiple spokespeople, including from UMNO and now, Anwar Ibrahim of Pakatan Harapan, it is under threat since Minister Annuar Musa and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri have vowed to review the entire model putting Malaysian reputation as a safe, committed place to do business under threat.

It was made easy, though, by the bosses of DNB. They didn’t engage Deputy Minister Zahidi Zainol, turning him into adversarial towards the whole idea. I mean, this is the same person who attacked a student for climbing trees to get internet; it is not rocket science to figure out that without a consistent engagement: if it was apparent there wasn’t any benefit to him either in power or influence, it would be difficult for him to understand that DNB was meant to ensure his constituency in the Perlis gets the
same access to 5G internet as perhaps the modern and vibrant Petaling Jaya. It didn’t help that they appointed Ralph Marshall, ex Maxis boss who is allegedly under investigation in India. In the current political climate, it would be better if DNB selected Dr. Wan Azizah, who may know nothing about telecommunications but certainly enjoy a better public rapport thanks to her gender and race. Rais Yassin, former MDEC or the famous MAGIC CEO, would be a better choice as appearance and image wise, of course.

It also didn’t help that DNB is on a specific plan of financing that requires no government guarantee but was led in the implementation by Tengku Zafrul, the finance minister with no political radar whatsoever and under intense scrutiny for almost daily public relations brouhaha (the image of him standing on a boat navigating the worst flood but filled with cameramen and high-level officers supervising must be the nominee of WORST PR moment of the year). DNB looks set for doom and gloom.

They say if it is too good to be true, it must be it. As some outrageously claimed, DNB was far from the next 1MDB, determined to make it fail. It was not rocket science that the big telcos have yet to sign up for DNB. After all, why jeopardize your profit margins by providing equitable access for poor people of Sabak Bernam and Baling? Why not get the best payment from the best-paying clients of Bangsars and Mont Kiaras of Malaysia. Is there hope for Malaysia that now UMNO and Anwar Ibrahim speak the same language, echoing the same desire after two decades of skirmishes?

Enter MUDA. Wait a minute. The MP of Muar and Kepong DAP raised the monopoly question in parliament during a parliament session in November last year. Now even MUDA and DAP are batting for telcos. And greed.

Unfortunate for us. With the SPRM chief under scrutiny, the SC is under investigation, and countless allegations surrounding Bank Negara chief and now political rivals speaking on the same tone against a mechanism built to benefit us equitably, is there any hope of Malaysia?

Looking at my children today, we must persevere and keep believing. Praying that the Cabinet of Khairy Jamaluddin, Saifuddin Abdullah, Mustapa Mohamed, and Azmin Ali persuade the Prime Minister and Minister of Multimedia and Communication Annuar Musa to do the right thing.

Not for their bellies. But, for our future.

Raja Fadzliana is a former architect turn digital entrepreneur and home maker.

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