This is a most extraordinary way of conducting the affairs of the trustees of Huaren Holdings Sdn. Bhd., the MCA investment arm, where trustees are called to a meeting after the RM230 million takeover deal of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press had been signed and sealed in the face of strong opposition of the Chinese community and substantial objection inside the MCA.
The Huaren trustees should have met first to decide whether to proceed with the deal to buy over the Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd. before the signing of the deal, and not after the deal had been signed.
Maybe the MCA leaders had been treated as “rubber-stamps” for so long in the Barisan Nasional that they have acquired the “rubber-stamp mentality” and this was why Ling treaterd the Huaren trustees as mere “rubber-stamps” whose job are “to do and die and not to question why”!
In any event, the belated convening of the Huaren trustees is proof of the validity of the criticism of the anti-takeover MCA faction led by the MCA Deputy President Lim Ah Lek that the Huaren board of trustees had not been convened to approve the deal.
What is the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting of the Huaren trustees? Is it to ratify the RM230 million buyover of Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd when such a deal is illegal without all the trustees giving their approval in the first place?
Or are the Huaren trustees going to conduct a full review as to whether MCA should proceed with the takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press in view of the strong opposition of the Chinese community as well as the widespread objection inside the MCA to the deal, bearing in mind that circulation of both newspapers had already been adversely affected from 10 to 20 per cent - raising the very real prospect that Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press will suffer the fate of the previous MCA-owned newspaper, Tung Bao as a result of the boycott of the Chinese community?
In actual fact, if the belated meeting of the Huaren trustees on Wednesday is not to be charade, it should consider not only the strong opposition of Chinese community to MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press and adopt a resolution that the MCA should pull out of the takeover deal, but it should also discuss the relinquishment of MCA ownership of the English daily, The Star.
Political party ownership of the mass media in the country must by systematically reduced and ended if there is going to be a free, independent and responsible press, which is the bedrock for a meaingful democracy in the country.
Although The Star is a successful business enterprise, it is not an independent and professional newspaper, a fact which the professional journalists in The Star will themselves concede.
The Huaren trustees should devise a system whereby MCA ownership of The Star is fully divested where its journalists and staffs can also acquire an important ownership stake in the Star.
All Members of Parliament who cherish a free press should support legislation to prohibit political party ownership of the mass media as an important guarantee for a free, independent and responsible press.
In this connection, the revelation by the MCA Vice President and Human Resources Minister, Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn in Penang yesterday that Gerakan is jealous about the MCA takeover of the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press because Gerakan failed in its attempt to outbid the MCA deal by offering RM6.50 a share instead of MCA’s RM5.50 a share for Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd is most shocking.
Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik and the other Gerakan leaders should make a full clarification of the issue as well as declare their position on the question of political party ownership of the mass media in Malaysia.