This came about because I wanted to hold the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to full public account for his "hands-off" and "minds-off" attitude to the daily death toll from the human carnage on the roads although he should be the Cabinet Minister most concerned about road safety.
When Ops Statik IV was first launched on 23rd December 1999 to reduce deaths from accidents during festive seasons, The Star like other mainstream newspapers gave full co-operation to the campaign by giving prominent coverage to the daily news and statistics.
But The Star decided that its journalistic mission is to protect Liong Sik rather than the Malaysian people when I launched a campaign to hold the Transport Minister to account for his "hands-off" and "minds-off" attitude to the grave national problem of the criminally high death tolls on the roads.
On 29th December 1999, I issued a media statement asking the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi what disciplinary action would be taken against Liong Sik as hands-off Minister in showing utter indifference to the 73 road deaths in six days of "Ops Statik IV".
This was because Abdullah had revealed a few days earlier that at the first meeting of the new Cabinet on December 15, the Prime Minister directed Cabinet Ministers to carry out their duties with collective responsibility, loyalty, efficiency and dedication as well as to be "hands-on" in their work.
But in less than a fortnight, Liong Sik had already set the worst example as a "hands-off" Minister in relation to the road carnage.
When there was no response from Liong Sik, I pointed out the next day that Liong Sik was not only a "hands-off" Minister, he is also a "minds-off" Minister from the litany of ineptitudes under the Transport Ministry, whether the failure of Ops Statik IV or the 18-month cargo handling mess at the RM9 billion Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), making it unable to provide better service competitive to the Singapore and Hong Kong airports or other airports around the world.
On 5th January, 2000, when Liong Sik continued his "hands-off" and "minds-off" attitude on Ops Statik IV, I publicly urged the Prime Minister to take over the Transport Ministry as the country cannot afford a "hands-off" and "minds-off" Minister and to appoint a new fresh mind to launch a national campaign to slash road fatalities and accident rate by 50 per cent within 12 months
However, The Star had meanwhile decided to implement its new policy that its mission was to protect Liong Sik rather than to reduce road deaths. On 31st December 1999, The Star did not carry any report on Ops Statik IV although there were five fatalities and 629 accidents.
On 1st January 2000, New Straits Times carried a prominent report entitled "13 more fatalities across nation" as the death toll on the eighth day Ops Statik IV, but The Star continued to ignore the road carnage and carried no report whatsoever as if 13 deaths meant nothing at all!
The Star carried short and inconspicuous reports on January 2, 3 and 4, 2000 on eight, 15 and four deaths on the ninth, tenth and eleventh day of Ops Statik IV respectively . The Star would undoubtedly have continued to ignore or minimise the death carnage if the Prime Minister had not personally spoken of his concern over the mounting death toll and advised drivers to exercise patience as it was better to be "late than never" - placing the story on the front page on January 5, 2000. Although The Star carried a front-page story "STAY SAFE" in its January 6, 2000 issue, its reports on 10 and 14 fatalities on the 14th and 15th day of Ops Statik in its issue of January 7 and 8, 2000 were very obscure, and in many instances, the total number of death tolls for the whole campaign was omitted.
I find the reporting by The Star on Ops Statik IV most disappointing, giving priority to protecting the Transport Ministerís "hand-off" and "minds-off" mentality rather than partaking fully in a national campaign to reduce the death toll on the roads and save lives.