New Straits Times most unfair, unethical and unprofessional in not giving fair coverage to my reply on its misguided and mischievous front-page attack on me
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Friday): The New Straits Times (NST) has been most unfair, unethical and unprofessional in not giving fair coverage to my reply on its misguided and mischievous front-page attack on me on Thursday on at least four grounds:
to allow the public the opportunity to judge whether the NST had any basis and was fair or right to launch such an attack to ridicule and malign me as one of the “untouchables”.
In its rejoinder to me today, NST said I did not explain why I had singled out Zainul when other mainstream newspapers including The Star and Chinese-language newspapers “had been even more scathing of the performance of MPs in recent weeks”.
In the first place, I never “singled out” Zainul, and I would want to know, whether from NST or the Bar Council Chairman Yeo Yang Poh , why they have so little confidence in the institutions of government, justice and fair play, that they must regard any reference to the Committee of Privileges as a “foregone” punitive action before a kangaroo court to “bludgeon” freedom of speech, instead of an opportunity for Zainul to defend freedom of speech, vindicate his criticisms and in the process help to raise the quality of parliamentary debate and performance?
I fully endorse Zainul as far as his strictures of MPs who raised trifles and inconsequential issues or made sexist, offensive or silly remarks, and if Zainul agrees and this is permitted by the circumstances, I am prepared to appear on his behalf before the Committee of Privileges to defend both his right and his correctness in making such criticisms.
But there is one big difference in Zainul’s column, which separates him from other critical media commentaries on MPs to date, whether it be Wong Chun Wai’s “Jester performance of MPs not amusing” in The Star; B. Suresh Ram’s reference in The Sun to “hare-brained suggestions, which ranged from giving addicts free drugs to public beheadings” made by MPs, or the Chinese language newspapers which “had been even more scathing of the performance of MPs in recent weeks”.
Zainul’s mistake was to make too sweeping a generalization as to tarnish the reputation of all MPs, including MPs from both the government and Opposition who are deeply offended by the uncouth conduct and disgraceful utterances of a handful of MPs in Parliament.
Anyone who read the critical and caustic criticisms of Wong Chun Wai, Suresh Ram or those in the Chinese-language newspapers, would be left with no doubt that they are referring specifically to the handful of guilty MPs who fully deserved such public castigation, as they are not making generalized statements bringing all MPs into public ridicule and contempt. Their targets are clear and specific.
This is not the case with Zainul. This is why the Barisan Nasional MP for Beluran, Ronald Kiandee, complained when he sought clarification during my speech in Parliament on Wednesday when I referred to Zainul’s column, saying:
“Saya setuju rencana itu menghina Parlimen, tetapi dia tidak merujuk kepada mana-mana ahli parlimen seperti pembangkang. Kita sebagai seluruh anggota parlimen, merasa terhina terhadap article itu, saya baca pagi-pagi tadi. Tetapi Yang Berhormat Ipoh Timur, setujukah tidak dengan saya, dua minggu lepas ini kita membincang banyak perkara yang berguna untuk negara kita. Tetapi news, press, picked up the issues yang dibawa oleh dua tiga orang ahli parlimen! Dia tidak membayangkan keseluruhan ahli parlimen ini sebagai tidak berguna tidak relevant! Sebab itu saya katakan article itu tidak betul saya setuju! Saya setuju itu. Tetapi kita mesti setuju bahawa dua minggu lepas banyak perkara yang berguna kita bincang. Tetapi diambil oleh press, perkara kecil remeh dibawa oleh dua tiga orang ahli parlimen! That doesn’t reflect the whole ahli parlimen. Setuju kah?”
It was most unfair that NST included Ronald Kandee in its quartet MPs’ “rogue’s gallery” in yesterday’s front-page report when like me, Ronald Kandee had not pilloried or attacked NST, and we were both disgusted by the antics of a handful of irresponsible MPs. Is NST prepared to tender an apology to Ronald Kandee for including him in the quartet MPs’ “rogues’ gallery”?
Despite’s Zainul’s mistake in his generalization tarring all MPs and not just to zero in specifically on the erring MPs, he has done a public service in helping to highlight the disgraceful conduct of the errant MPs, and his service outweighs his error.
This is no excuse or justification however for the NST to launch a baseless campaign to picture me as a champion of the few errant MPs, when it is very clear from the video clip of my speech in Parliament that my target are the errant MPs themselves and to raise the quality of parliamentary debate and performance, and not Zainul, although there is an equally urgent need to raise the quality of media reporting and commentary, whether NST or other mainstream media.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman