If the Economist is to be banned for its April 3 survey on Malaysia, is Abdullah going to sack the entire Publication Control Division in Home Ministry for its failure to ban it four weeks earlier and demote the two Deputy Home Ministers for their gross omission of oversight for drawing his attention earlier?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has called on the Home Ministry to ban circulation of two foreign publications, The Economist and The Asian Wall Street Journal, claiming that these two media have their own agenda and intentionally created issues to divide the society. (Berita Harian)
The escalation of the frenzy among UMNO leaders over the The Economist special survey on Malaysia in its April 3 issue, with one UMNO leader after another upping the ante and even expanding the boundaries of the frenzy, has not come as a surprise to political observers, as the issue at stake is not the articles in The Economist but the intensification of the power jockeying and realignment of forces for post-Mahathir UMNO.
At this rate of upping the ante and escalation of the frenzy to feverish pitch, it is only time before some UMNO leaders call for the ban of the internet editions of The Economist, and to ensure that this could be carried out, the withdrawal of the Multimedia Super Corridor Bill of Guarantee of no censorship of the Internet.
Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, had advised the people to be rational and not be guided by sentiments and emotions when the United States launched the unilateral-led war against Iraq without United Nations sanctions on March 20, and this is an advice he himself should act on in the face of the feverish frenzy by some UMNO leaders over The Economist for its 16-page special survey some four weeks ago.
Abdullah should realize that if The Economist is to be banned for its April 3 survey on Malaysia, is he as Home Minister going to sack the entire Publication Control Division in Home Ministry for its gross failure and negligence to ban it four weeks earlier, allowing it to be circulated in the country for such a length of time, and to demote the two Deputy Home Ministers Datuk Chor Chee Heung and Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin for their gross omission of oversight if not ineptitude in not bringing the matter to his attention earlier?
Tengku Adnan should explain why he had expanded the boundary of the UMNO frenzy to include a call for the ban of The Asian Wall Street Journal. Adnan had cited as example the AWSJ error of publishing a photograph of a terrorist but giving the caption of Dr. Mahathir.
The AWSJ had run an embarrassed correction on 22nd April, 2003 for wrongly captioning the picture of a top terrorist suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as Mahathir, which said: "The error was entirely unintentional and wasn't intended to make any implications concerning anyone in Malaysia."
It was a stupid, most unprofessional and even inexcusable mistake but nobody except the most suspicious, devious or pathological mind would believe that it could be deliberate or intentional.
Why had Adnan re-opened the issue when the Prime Minister’s Department had accepted the correction, though grudgingly, placing on record its “dissatisfaction”, also referring to the previous incident where AWSJ used a Malaysian flag to accompany a story about Indonesia some six months ago?
Is the real but unstated reason for Adnan’s outburst the AWSJ report on Monday entitled “Washington to Reward Its Friends”, which said that Malaysia heads the US “hit-list” in Southeast Asia for not co-operating with the Bush Administration in its war against Iraq, by suspending US military flights over Malaysian airspace?
The AWSJ said the US has “begun to reward Asia-Pacific governments that support its campaign to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and to penalize some that didn’t”.
It quoted Asian and Western diplomats as saying that the quick U.S. military victory in Iraq has “reinforced a policy that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which President George W. Bush’s administration is making a clear distinction between countries it can rely on and the others” and that “fresh from its battlefield success, the Bush administration – now driven largely by foreing-policy hawks – is judging countries according to where they stood on Iraq”.
The AWSJ report said Washington would make “a sharp distintion” between Indonesia and Malaysia although both opposed the US on Iraq, because of Malaysia’s “gratuitously hostile” statements, as in forums such as the Nonaligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and at the U.N.
It reported that Mahathir had “deeply angered” the Americans by referring to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the October 2002 Bali bombing as collateral damage, prompting U.S. to “begin lodging what became a series of official protests with the Malaysian government” It said Kuala Lumpur’s decision to refuse U.S. military overflights from the beginning of April forced the U.S. to divert air traffic through Singapore and Thailand.
As Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Adnan’s responsibility should be to clarify the AWSJ report that Malaysia is on the top of the US “hit list”, whether this is true, as well as the veracity of the various statements, claims and allegations in the report – instead of the stone-age reaction of calling for the ban of the publication!
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman