Mahathir said at the end of the second day of the UMNO General Assembly yesterday that he had never directed MCA to acquire Nanyang Press Holdings but gave the nod because his opinion was sought.
If the MCA had not approached him on the matter, Mahathir said, he would not have said anything.
He said: “He (MCA president Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik) asked me whether they can buy and I said okay. If he did not ask me, I would not say okay.” (New Straits Times).
However, Mahathir openly conceded at the media conference that the government was “uncomfortable” with the previous management of Nanyang Press Holdings - the publisher of two major Chinese dailies - over its unfavourable reporting especially during the Lunas by-election. (Malaysiakini and AFP).
Malaysiakin quoted Mahathir as saying: “Nanyang has been against us. It has been highlighting the extremists’ views such as Suqiu’s during the Lunas by-election.”
“Is it wrong if a paper is more supportive of the government?” he asked.
AFP reported that Mahathir supported MCA’s takeover of the two Chinese newspapers because “Nanyang and the China Press have been instruments of the opposition parties ... they have been very active campaigning against us.”
Mahathir said: "They have always highlighted anything against the government. They have supported the extremist views such as Suqiu and the Chinese school teachers. Is it wrong if newspapers were to be more supportive of the government?"
It is not wrong for newspapers to be more supportive of the government, but it is clearly wrong, undemocratic and abuse of power for two independent Chinese newspapers to be forced to be sold to the MCA just because the government is “uncomfortable” with their management. The question Mahathir should answer is whether it is wrong for newspapers to be more critical of the government, without government pressures to change the newspaper ownership?
I am really surprised that the Prime Minister continues to use the argument that if DAP can have The Rocket and PAS Harakah, why can’t MCA own Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, when there is no comparison whatsoever between party organs (like MCA’s Guardian and UMNO’s Merdeka) and public newspapers.
Mahathir cannot have a very high regard for the intelligence of Malaysians if he thinks he could continue to use such ridiculous reasons to justify the MCA takeover of the two Chinese newspapers.
Now that the Prime Minister has openly admitted the political dimension
and implications of the Nanyang controversy, I call on Liong Sik to own
up at the MCA EGM tomorrow that the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and
China Press is a reprisal against the Barisan Nasional defeat in Lunas
and the Suqiu controversy, and answer the following questions:
The 2,385 delegates to the MCA extraordinary general meeting tomorrow must decide whether they agree that Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press should be punished for their “unfavourable reporting” against the Barisan Nasional in the Lunas by-election and over the Suqiu issue by forcing a change of their ownership, forfeiting their editorial independence and undermining their traditional role to uphold the legitimate citizenship rights of the Malaysian Chinese.
The MCA delegates should realise that the decision that they are making tomorrow does not concern the MCA alone, but even more important, the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese community, Chinese education, press freedom, human rights and democracy in Malaysia, and for these reasons, they must rise above party, factional and individual interests and vote unequivocally to return Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press to the Chinese community and the Malaysian people by relinquishing the entire MCA stake in Nanyang!
Between the interests of Ling and his faction in MCA on the one hand and the rights and interests of the Chinese community, Chinese education, press freedom and democracy, the choice is very clear. Let the 2,385 MCA delegates answer the call of history as well their conscience tomorrow.