Three weeks ago, Bernama scored its first “international scoop” when it reported a scurrilous attack on Anwar Ibrahim by Amy Ridenour, president of, the National Centre for Public Research, which was published by Washington Times, accusing the jailed former Deputy Prime Minister of having close links with radical Islamic fundamentalists after the Barisan Nasional government had earlier accused him of being a CIA agent!
Bernama described the National Centre for Public Research as a “non-partisan American think-tank”, when in actual fact, it is not a “non-partisan American think-tank” but a “papa-mama” think-tank outfit and a reactionary, 'free market/conservative', Reagan/Bush campaign operation while the Washington Times where the commentary appeared is owned by the moonies, or the unification church - a bastion of American conservatism and the Republican right.
This prompted my question as to whether the National Centre for Public Research had been hired in a campaign to win the hearts of Washington, whether Malaysiahn taxpayers’ monies were involved in the retention of American lobby groups to provide “sweeteners” to pave the way for a meeting between the Prime Minister and President Bush, and whether the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) and the militant Islam issues are being cynically exploited to win the ear of Washington.
There was no denial or response from the Malaysian authorities although the New Sunday Times front-paged the denial by Amy Ridenour a week later that she or the National Center for Public Policy Research had been paid by the Malaysian Government or any other entity for her report on Malaysia.
Now, Bernama - which had never distinguished itself for any exclusive journalistic coups but has a poor record in refusing to give instant publication of many international reports which do not give Malaysia top marks in their reports or surveys, whether by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Forum, Amnesty International, Transparency International or US conservative think-tanks like Heritage Foundation - has now scored a second “international” scoop in three weeks when it “obtained” an exclusive report on Malaysia by “an influential American group” to United States Congressmen.
Bernama said that the report purportedly by the Washington-based American Defence Council and “an authorised programme of the American Taxpayers Alliance” entitled “Special Report for Foreign Policy LAs” was distributed to all aides of the US Congressmen in Capitol Hill.
The US group described Malaysia as "the most politically and democratically stable nation in Asia" in spite of the country's heterogeneous society and warned of the danger posed by PAS to the Malaysian democracy.
It said: "Its (Malaysia's) political future is inseparable from our hope for the promotion and spread of peace, democracy and tolerance throughout all of the Asian region."
It said Malaysia lies squarely at the significant trade routes that link Middle East (West Asia) and the Far East.
"All of this is endangered by the growing threat to Malaysia's democratic institutions by religious fundamentalists, militants and extremists," it said.
It said these groups shared a profound hostility to Malaysia's inclusion of women and minorities in senior positions of state responsibility as a longstanding policy of toleration and embrace of the country's ethnic and social diversity.
Bernama said that the US group slammed PAS, calling it “the best organised of the reactionaries opposed to a modern state based on the politics of tolerance, diversity and inclusion”. It singled out remarks by Terengganu Mentri Besar and PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in an interview to “a friendly reporter” as causing great concern among non-Muslims and Muslims.
The US report concluded by saying the contest for Malaysia’s future was a choice between a forward-looking state characterised by toleration, blessed by prosperity and devoted to democracy or a theocratic regime helmed by clerics whose rule was grounded on their claim to know God’s will.
In my media statement of 26th August 2001, I had said that it is an open secret in Washington that in the past few months the Malaysian government had been very active in orchestrating an intense campaign through the Malaysian private sector and individuals - particularly through a Malaysian lady lawyer living and practising in Washington - to win the media and the powers-that-be in Washington and to pave the way for a meeting between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and President Bush.
I had also asked both the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim and the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar to explain whether their recent visits to the United States had any connection, directly or indirectly, with the outrageous NCPPR report and the forthcoming visit to Malaysia by the acknowledged leader of the Republican extreme right, Congressman Tom DeLay at end of the year.
With the second international “scoop” of Bernama, it would appear that the Malaysian authorities is “scraping the bottom of the barrel” in their campaign to win the favour of Washington and American media.
Although Bernama described the American Defence Counsel as “an influential American group”, nobody seems to have heard of it and it could not be located on the Internet, unlike the “mama-papa” think-tank National Centre for Public Research which at least has a website. An American lobby group which does not even maintain a website cannot but be a very fringe outfit.
As the report is described as “an authorised programme of the American Taxpayers Alliance”, there is also no website for the American Taxpayers Alliance , although a search uncovers two references, one in June this year describing it as belonging to the “Top Ten Conservative Idiots” and another in July this year that the American Taxpayers Alliance was being sued in California for spending millions of dollars in airing political television advertisements in violation of the elections laws of the state.
It is a tragedy and national shame if the Malaysian authorities have to resort to roping in obscure, fringe extremist rightwing American groups for its international media campaign to bolster its domestic stocks, befriend the Bush presidency and gain Mahathir an invitation to the White House.
If the latest report on Malaysia is by an “influential American group”, why is it not to be found in any credible media in the United States, not even in the moonie-owned Washington Times this time - raising the question as to its credibility.
The US Congress has been on vacation for a month and has just returned --- and it has weighty issues on its plate, like the US economic slowdown, the looming disappearance of the surplus and other policy concerns, and it is most incongruous that Malaysia should suddenly be one of its top policy concerns.