Palm oil controversy remains high in media, overshadowing the cost of living issue


The dependency graph shows several of the Malaysian public’s concerns for the month of January 2020, such as palm oil, PPSMI, fuel price, cost of living and Muafakat Nasional.


The palm oil issue came to the media’s attention after India imposed a ban on importing the commodity from Malaysia. The ban was in response to Tun Mahathir’s statement on the ongoing Kashmir conflict.


During the 2019 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the Malaysian Prime Minister said that India invaded and occupied Jammu and Kashmir.


India is Malaysia’s biggest palm oil buyer, purchasing 4.4 million tonnes of the commodity in 2019.


Apart from the palm oil issue, another public concern that was consistently mentioned by the media in January was cost of living.


However, upon further inspection on the articles that mentioned cost of living, the sentiments on the issue were mainly positive.


Then, the media highlighted on the Government’s initiatives to tackle the public concern, such as handling out RM300 under Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) and RM 30 under the e-wallet initiative.


In addition, the data also showcased that the trend of ‘Muafakat Nasional’ was slowly gaining momentum in the mainstream media during the second half of January 2020.


‘Muafakat Nasional’ refers to the cooperation between the two largest political parties in Malaysia, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) on September 14, 2019.



In the following month, ‘Muafakat Nasional’ peaked on February 8. On this day, Tun Mahathir dismissed the rumour that he was planning to form a new coalition with several parties from the opposition, which some have dubbed as ‘Pakatan Nasional’.


In the past one-month period, ‘Muafakat Nasional’ occupied almost 28.73% of the share of voice, falling behind the palm oil controversy which has remained strong in the media throughout the year.


The issue became a hot topic in the second week of February 2020, overshadowing the cost of living which used to be at the top of the people’s concerns.


From the ‘Share of Voice’ graph, it can be observed that the issue of cost of living has been slowly diffusing in the mainstream media going from 32.7% in the last 12 months to 22.68% in the last 7 days.


Looking at the media trend, the media shifted their focus from high cost of living to the palm oil issue, following India’s ban from importing the commodity from Malaysia.