Damansara school arrests: Abdullah should explain who  directed media blackout of the photographs?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Information Minister Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob’s announcement that the information and foreign ministries are  setting up a joint-committee to deal with inaccurate reports about Malaysia  appearing in the foreign media sounds most hypocritical when the government is blissfully unconcerned and even responsible for the unfair reporting appearing in the local media.

It is most foolish for the Information and Foreign Ministries  to swing into action and set up a special panel just because of  the picture of Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad appearing in the Jan 26 issue of 'Asiaweek' which, according to the Prime  Minister, attempted to potray him as a foolish and tired-looking person.

It would do Khalil, the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar and Mahathir a lot of good to read the poem by  our own local poet, Martin Stephen Jalleh as a result of this episode of the Asiaweek photograph of the Prime Minister, as follows:

The Poor Old Man

The man says:
I don't care what people say about me.
I don't care how I will be remembered
I don't care if people will remember me
I don't care if they will forget me
I really don't care.

Yet, he gets angry over just a photo :
I think it was deliberately done
I was made to look like an idiot
I was taken in by Asiaweek magazine
I ...well...maybe I was tired...
I work almost 24 hours a day....!

Who cares, really?

It is very sad and tragic that Mahathir, Khalil and Hamid are so upset about the Asiaweek photograph but have no complaints about the contents of the interview published by Asiaweek, where he publicly admitted the rampant money politics in UMNO (highlighting the impotence  the Anti-Corruption Agency which could not arrest or prosecute anyone despite such high-level admission accompanied by tears in public), and where the Prime Minister seemed to be more angry with the UMNO grassroots for having the mentality of insisting of getting their  “few dollars” when the leaders “make so much money for themselves” and that “If you don’t take (the money) then somebody else will” than with the corrupt among the high and mighty in UMNO.

Unless the Information Minister is prepared to address the long catalogue of examples of unfair manipulation and fabrication of news reports in the local media,  his attempt to correct inaccurate reports in the foreign media after the episode of Mahathir “unfair” photograph is not only sycophantic but a poor advertisement of  his Ministerial  professionalism and integrity.

Recent examples of such  unfair manipulation or fabrication of news reports in the local media are:

Abdullah should explain whether the directive to the local media not to use photographs of the police arrests in connection with the Damansara School controversy  was made with his personal knowledge and authority, and if so, to explain why he had started on the unhealthy and dangerous practice of media censorship; and if not, to immediately rescind such a directive.

The police arrest of parents and a school old boy in connection with the Damansara school issue, when no threat to law and order was posed by a peaceful sit-in protest, is most deplorable and must be condemned by all Malaysians and Abdullah should not only ensure their immediate release but to issue strict directives to the police not to be used as pawns in an educational controversy  which should be resolved through government respect of parental wishes rather than the misuse of the instruments of law and police authorities.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman