FOR the week of 4 to 10 May 2009, the Chinese press highlighted the possibility of Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek switching camps, the chaotic Perak assembly sitting, and the meningitis outbreak in Malacca.
The Chinese press reported that MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat responded coldly to the news that Chua might defect to the PR.
Ong, who is also the transport minister, said he only found out the news from media reports but would not be contacting Chua to ask about it.
“Is it necessary [to contact Chua]? I’m not going to respond to people who create news for their own personal agenda … You all (reporters) should go and ask the newsmaker instead,” a testy Ong said on 4 May, which was reported in all major newspapers.
Chen Li Liang from Oriental Daily immediately pointed out the differing responses from Umno leaders on the issue in his article No 2 may leave, beginning of MCA’s unrest on 4 May.
Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak on 2 May refuted claims that Chua might cross over, and said he believed Chua to be a loyal Barisan Nasional (BN) leader.
On the same day, Home Minister and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said he would be sad if Chua really intended to defect to the opposition as he had known the politician for a long time.
Guang Ming Daily, in its editorial on 5 May titled Don’t go to the extreme, advised Ong to be more diplomatic when dealing with Chua.
Ong“Since the MCA elections in October 2008, [the concept of] working together has remained only a slogan because Ong and Chua have been at odds with each other … It is for all to see that Chua is his (Ong’s) enemy, not colleague.”
The article also said if Ong continued to ignore Chua, not only would Chua strike back, but the grassroots might be angry or unhappy.
House in disorder
The chaos at the Perak state assembly sitting on 7 May also generated a lot of coverage in the Chinese media.
Sin Chew Daily commented on the historic sitting in its editorial Chaotic assembly affects social stability on 8 May.
The editorial said a state assembly loses its function to serve the people when the assemblypersons, regardless of political affiliation, are too busy fighting for political power. They are all guilty of betraying the trust and support given to them by voters.
“In the beginning of the crisis, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) called for the assembly to be dissolved so that fresh elections could be held. However, their calls were not heeded. The voters lost their right to have their voices heard in this entire episode; this has ridiculed our democracy.”
Sin Chew Daily also criticised the police for arresting people dressed in black, describing it as an “over-reaction” that created unnecessary panic. The whole episode was generally viewed negatively by the public.
Sin Chew Daily columnist Lin Rui Yuan also commented on 8 May that the Perak crisis had not come to an end with the state assembly sitting, but would likely end up being prolonged.
“If the process of electing a new speaker was flawed, the PR could challenge the new speaker’s place in court, and this would evolve into another time- and energy-exhausting political case,” he wrote in his piece Perak’s drama yet to end.
“Regardless of the High Court’s ruling on 11 May on who the rightful menteri besar is, the loser would surely appeal … The PR might also challenge the legality of the 7 May assembly sitting.”
Lin said the BN could therefore claim it has changed the speaker and taken control of the state assembly, but the PR would never recognise this and would fight till the end.
He added that if this crisis could not be resolved amicably, it would end up becoming a political burden for the BN. Even if the BN waited for the courts to decide, they would be distracted from governing the state, and Perakians would be the ones affected.
Ruckus during the Perak assembly sitting
China Press commended the Health Ministry for their efficiency and transparency when dealing with the meningitis outbreak in Malacca in their editorial Everyone to help prevent pandemic on 10 May.
“Not only did they immediately quarantine the officers and trainees [from the Road Transport Department's Tiang Dua training academy], they also called for a press conference at once, and informed the public about the details.”
The editorial also urged the public to remain calm, find out more about the disease and its symptoms, and take care of their personal hygiene.
“As children are the most susceptible, parents should be alert and reduce their children’s exposure to public places, and strengthen their immunity systems to prevent them from being infected.”
China Press also reminded readers to seek treatment immediately if they discovered any suspected symptoms of meningitis.