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Confidence booster for Pakatan Rakyat

FOR the week of 6 to 12 April, the Chinese media spotlighted the impact of the three by-elections on the Pakatan Rakyat, the announcement of the new cabinet line-up, and the barring of online news site Merdeka Review from covering the event at the Prime Minister’s Department.

On 10 April, an article titled Pakatan Rakyat will have no fear published in Guang Ming Daily talked about what the three by-election results mean to the opposition coalition, and how it can expect increased support from the people in by-elections to come.

The article stated that the results of the Batang Ai, Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections were as expected, demonstrating that the winds of change have become stronger in peninsular Malaysia.

PAS and BN supporters in Bukit Gantang (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of theSun)

However, the coalition has not made any inroads in Sabah or Sarawak due to developmental issues.

“The results of the by-elections offer encouragement for the Pakatan Rakyat in facing two more potential by-elections, giving the coalition the confidence to rid itself of any harmful elements within its parties, especially Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR),” the article noted.

It went on to say that PKR has to resolve its internal problems. Two of its assemblypersons are embroiled in scandals, namely former Penang Deputy Chief Minister (I) Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin and Selangor state exco Elizabeth Wong.

Mohammad Fairus, who is assemblyperson for Penanti, resigned his post as DCM I after facing graft allegations. Wong, meanwhile, who is Bukit Lanjan rep, had earlier quit after intimate photos of her became public, but her resignation has yet to be accepted and she is currently on leave. But it is possible that both seats will end up being vacated, triggering by-elections.

“Wong won her seat with a majority of 5,155 votes in the general election. The strong sentiment for change, coupled with the (Selangor) Pakatan state government exposing malpractices committed by the former BN state government, makes it likely that Pakatan will win if a by-election is called,” the article noted.

Cabinet expectations

Sin Chew Daily‘s editorial on 9 April commented on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s cabinet line-up. The press noted Najib’s cabinet was not leaner than expected and lacked new faces.

Sin Chew, however, applauded the introduction of a key performance indicator (KPI) for the ministers. It also lauded the appointment of Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who was named minister in the prime minister’s department, to be in charge of performance management and unity.

“Najib’s line-up recognised the efforts of Sabahan leaders who helped in retaining the BN’s power in the previous election by allocating four ministerships in the cabinet,” Sin Chew also said.

“Some leaders who lost in the 8 March general election were appointed to the cabinet after being sworn in as senators. This, however, seems to go against people’s expectations that those who were not elected should not be appointed as ministers,” noted the editorial.

Earlier on, it was rumored that the MCA had requested for an additional deputy prime minister’s post. The paper noted that similar requests were not heeded by the Umno leadership back when MCA had been performing well in elections, what more at a time when the party appears to have lost the support of the Chinese Malaysian community.

Return to the past

After being barred from covering the announcement of the new cabinet at the Prime Minister’s Department on 9 April, online news site Merdeka Review responded the next day with Barring Merdeka Review from coverage, NGOs: Najib’s credibility shattered.

Since Najib has been making repeated statements recognising the importance of the new media, the decision to bar Merdeka Review from entering the Prime Minister’s Department to cover the cabinet announcement revealed the hypocrisy of the Najib administration, said the article.

In a joint statement on the issue published online in the news site on 10 April, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (Wami) noted that Merdeka Review had published a series of articles criticising mainstream Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily‘s pro-Najib stories. 

Merdeka Review editor Chang Teck Peng, who was quoted in the CIJ-Wami statement, said he had written to the prime minister to protest against the ban, criticising the act as a violation of media freedom and depriving the people’s right to information. The online news site also requested for an explanation as to why it was banned from covering the event. However, it has yet to receive a reply.

On 11 April, fellow online news site provided some insight as to why Merdeka Review was banned. A submission by citizen journalist Lin Shi Hao reported an insider as saying Merdeka Review published articles by Lim Hong Siang and Josh Hong which made some people in the prime minister’s office unhappy.

At the end of his submission, Lin wrote: “…it is interesting that the informant also noted the articles were translated by ‘outsiders’ before they were sent to the prime minister’s office. So, who translated these articles?”

The following day, another submission by citizen journalist Li Sheng Yu remarked that for those who are familiar with the Chinese media operations, such incidents do not come as a surprise.

“As early as [Tun Dr] Mahathir’s administration and before the takeover of Nanyang [Holdings], there were people in the Chinese media who would translate articles of rival press for free and send them to the prime minister’s office. According to veterans who were indirectly involved in the process, such acts can be traced all the way back to 29 Nov 2000 when BN lost the Lunas by-election”

It was believed that the Chinese [Malaysian] voters voted for the opposition in Lunas because they were influenced by Nanyang and its sister publications’ writings, writes Li.

As the story goes, an influential MCA member who was with a rival publication submitted three folders full of translated articles and commentaries from Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press to Mahathir. It was alleged that the incident resulted in Nanyang Holdings being bought over by an MCA-linked company, Huaren Holdings.

Li concluded: “Entering Najib’s era, [we] never imagined that volunteered translation by ‘outsiders’ would cause a stir again.”

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