These are the two most important subjects that Cabinet should place at the very top of its agenda on Wednesday for both had precipitated grave nation-wide concern and alarm that the government is riding roughshod over the sensitivities of the people of Malaysia in the critical areas of nation-buiding, K-economy, human rights and democracy.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is wrong when he said in Penang yesterday that the proposed acquisition of Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd (which owns the two Chinese national newspapers Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press) by MCA’s investment arm Huaren Holdings Sdn. Bhd is purely a business deal and has nothing to do with politics, and that it is a case of “willing seller and willing buyer”.
Everybody knows that the MCA acquisition of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press has everything to do with the MCA politics of Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik with its two agendas, firstly, to internally wipe out the anti-Ling faction led by Datuk Lim Ah Lek and secondly, externally to obliterate the Opposition against the MCA by stifling and strangling independent views and opinions in the Chinese community, especially over the issues of Chinese education and a fair, just and progressive education system.
It is because of the first agenda of the MCA politics of Liong Sik that the “lightning raid” was staged with the deadline set for the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press to be completed by this week so that there would be some six weeks before the MCA Annual General Meeting on August 11 for the MCA “establishment forces” to conduct “terminate and mop-up operations” against the Ah Lek faction in the MCA.
The Chinese community and the country however are more concerned about the second agenda of the MCA politics of Liong Sik to stifle and strangle independent views and opinions in the Chinese community, especially over the issues of Chinese education and fair, just and progressive education system.
The Cabinet must recognise that the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press would be a double catastrophe - a national catastrophe against a free and independent press, human rights and democracy as well as a catastrophe to the Chinese community in general and Chinese mother-tongue education in particular in shutting out the voices of the Malaysian Chinese in the country to be given fair and due consideration in the highest decision-making councils of government.
Beginning on June 1, the two Chinese special aides appointed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to enable him to get direct feeback from the Chinese community “to know their thinking and the issues affecting the Chinese in the country” would report for duty.
It is hoped that these two unprecedented appointments by the Prime Minister for the first time in two decades stem from the realisation that the Barisan Nasional Government had alienated large sections of the Chinese community in the 18 months after the November 1999 general elections and the urgent need to woo Chinese voter support because of their crucial role in the 2004 general elections - as reflected in the controversies over the Vision School concept, Suqiu, the Damansara Chinese primary school and unfair university admissions policy for SPM and STPM high-scorers.
The Cabinet should be forewarned that if the overwhelming objection and opposition of Malaysians, both those who are concerned about the further concentration of political party media ownership and the Chinese community, are dismissed out of hand, and the MCA takeover of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press is allowed to proceed to completion, the degree of alienation of the Malaysian public would exceed that of all the controversies over Suqiu, Vision School, Damansara Chinese primary school and university admissions for SPM and STPM top-scorers added together.
Liong Sik was not being very honest when he said yesterday that the MCA is not involved in the takeover of Nanyang Press Holdings except to offer political support. He claimed that it was a commercial deal handled by experts as the MCA supported it as it was a “good buy”.
Nothing can be further from the truth. It is an open secret that Hong Leong, the parent of Hume which owns 72 per cent of the Nanyang Press Holdings, is forced to sell its stake in the two Chinese newspapers more for political rather than business reasons
This was powerfully illustrated by the massive RM60 million special dividend payout by Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd of 103.27 per cent on Thursday in a move to return capital to its parent, leaving it as an empty shell on its acquisition by the MCA investment proxy.
The “forcible” sale of Nanyang Press Holdings will have far-reaching repercussions on the investment climate of the country as it sends out the message of the corporate law of the jungle instead of good corporate governance prevailing in Malaysia, which can only frighten away what is left of interested investors, local or foreign.
If the MCA is not involved in the acquisition of the two Chinese national dailies, why then should the MCA Presidential Council take a vote on it last Wednesday, and in the coming Wednesday, the MCA Central Committee will be asked to take the crucial decision to approve the deal?
Liong Sik was trying to be ingenuous in his response to press questions yesterday that at least nine top executives, including the editors-in-chief of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, had been advised to quit their posts by next week when he said: “I do not even know any of these people”.
Does the MCA President really want Malaysians to believe that he does not “even know” who are the top editorial executives of Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press? What type of a leader of a party which claims to be the sole legitimate representative of the five million Chinese in Malaysia is that?
If Liong Sik claims that the MCA take-over of the two Chinese newspapers is a pure business deal and has nothing to do with politics, is he prepared to give a guarantee that no executive or editorial staff, from the very top to the lowest, of the two Chinese newspapers would be asked to quit in the next three years?
Furthermore, is the MCA prepared to execute a Charter of Press Freedom which guarantees respect for the independence, professionalism and integrity of the journalists in Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press as well as promising no interference, whether direct or indirect, in the news and editorial management, conduct and policy of the two dailies, with an independent panel of eminent Malaysians to monitor and implement the Charter?
It does not reflect well on Liong Sik for him to justify the MCA take over of the Nanyang Siang Pau and the China Press with DAP’s Rocket and PAS’ Harakah, as even primary school children can see the difference - being politicial party organs, just like the defunct MCA organ, the Guardian.
Liong Sik could not have used a worse example when he cited the Star as the model of a MCA-owned “professional” Chinese newspaper, claiming that the MCA was confident of its track record in the manner in which the Star was run whereby the party does not interfere.
Is Liong Sik suggesting that the Star journalists are so lacking in professionalism, independence and integrity that they would have voluntarily “blacked out” DAP news and other alternative views from the Star if not for a clear-cut MCA line and directive - which if it is not interference, Liong Sik can enrich journalistic vocabulary by coining a new word!
It would be a great tragedy if Nanyang Siang Pao and China Press degenerate into a pale version of the Chinese Star after a MCA takeover.
Everybody knows that the MCA does not respect the independence, professionalism and integrity of the good journalists in the Star and this is why the Star is not recognised as a free, independent, responsible and professional newspaper.
Does MCA want the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press after its takeover to become a pale version of the Star in the coverage of Chinese community concerns and Chinese education issues - like the Star coverage of the Damansara Chinese primary school controversy, where the parents and those who support the retention of the original Damansara Chinese primary school school as a community school are virtually condemned as anti-national and disloyal Malaysians?
In the three days last week from Friday to Sunday, the greatest concern of the Chinese community was the statement by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad on the extension of the 55:45 bumiputra quota to private institutions of higher learning (IPTS).
Star imposed political self-censorship in “blacking out” Musa’s statement on Friday’s paper, and during the two-day weekend, “blacked out” strong adverse reactions of the Chinese community to the proposal to impose the quota on IPTS as “turning the clock back” in national development and nation-building.
If such a high-degree of self-censorship is required to be exercised by the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press after MCA take-over, to the extent that they could not publish a word for three days on the furore in the Chinese community over Musa’s suggestion of the extension of the 55:45 quota on IPTS, the newspapers using the mastheads of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press would be completely unrecognizable creatures from the present newspapers!
The last thing the Chinese community and those concerned about mother-tongue education and a fair, just and progressive education system want is to allow the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press to lose their comparative freedom and independence and become a Chinese Star, for the biggest losers will be the Chinese community and Chinese education.
Once the MCA acquisition of Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press is completed,
there will be a long list of multiple victims, some immediate while others
will take a longer time to surface, such as:
The second issue which I stressed in my email to the Cabinet is the urgent need to restore public confidence in the education system by a clear repudiation of the Education Minister’s statement to extend the 55:45 quota to IPTS.
If Malaysia is to become successful as a K-economy and face the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and information and communications technology (ICT), the critical issues the Cabinet should give priority are the raising of the participation rate of each generation of Malaysians in the tertiary education level, ensuring world-class quality for our higher education system and ensuring that the emphasis is on producing a critical mass of scientific and technical manpower to power Malaysia into a hi-tech future.
Sadly this is not the case, as what concerns the Education
Minister are issues like raising the IPTA bumiputra quota from
55% to 66% and imposing the 55:45 quota on IPTS - raising the question
whether he is a fit and suitable Education Minister for a Malaysia
which wants to catapult into a knowledge-based
The MCA Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Ong Ka Ting,
has said in the Chinese newspapers that at the Cabinet meeting on the OPP3,
he had said that no quota should be imposed on the IPTS and that the Cabinet
decision was that the government would not restrict or limit the enrolment of non-bumiputra students in the IPTS.
If this is true, then Musa had breached the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility and he should be reprimanded and be required to make a public apology.
It is a matter of grave concern that public credibility in government data, whether educational or economic, has suffered grievous blow as both the Education Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir have been using false statistics about IPTA and IPTS university intake.
Both of them have been claiming that bumiputra students are only 55%
in the local public universities (IPTAs) and 10% in the local private institutions
of higher learning (IPTSs) when in actual fact:
In my email to the Cabinet Ministers today, I again reminded them that
they had not honoured their promise to help the SPM and STPM high-scorers
to get university places and asked them to re-open and reconsider the issue,
with the adoption of a four-point fair universities admission policy, viz: