PETALING JAYA, 8 Sept: Sin Chew Daily today said it was standing by its story on Bukit Bendera Umno Division Chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail uttering racist remarks at a ceramah in Permatang Pauh.
In a statement released today, the newspaper also denied that it had any hidden agenda to stir up racial tensions in the country.
The leading Chinese daily in its report on 25 Aug 2008 said that Ahmad described the Chinese people here as being “only penumpang (squatters)” while making a speech during the by-election campaign.
After Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak made a public apology on behalf of Umno, certain newspapers, websites and bloggers started to question Sin Chew’s professionalism, and claimed the paper had its own agenda. They also accused Sin Chew of provocative, irresponsible journalism.
“The reporter was reporting the event factually and did not have any intention to play up Ahmad’s speech,” says the statement.
Sin Chew stressed that Ahmad did not make any clarification or issue any denial of the report, and neither did he request the paper to make any correction until 10 days later.
Ahmad admitted in a press conference on 4 Sept that he did make the remark about the Chinese being squatters, but claimed that it was taken out of context, and that his remarks referred to the pre-Merdeka period.
However, his refusal to apologise has provoked a series of protest from Chinese-based political parties, guilds and associations, and some DAP politicians have even called for Ahmad to be charged for sedition.
The issue has turned increasingly contentious, and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday urged the Malaysians to stop discussing this issue as it could only bring disharmony.
In the statement, Sin Chew also dismissed Ahmad’s claim that the reporter who filed the story, Tan Hoon Cheng, had a personal agenda, did not specialise in news coverage, and was not fluent in the Malay language and so could have misheard him.
Sin Chew said Tan, a Universiti Sains Malaysia mass communications graduate, was a reporter with nine years experience who had an exemplary record in her coverage of political events.
Sin Chew stated that it is normal for news reports or commentaries to be challenged and questioned, but felt that allegations being hurled at it at present were without merit.
“We do not know the motive of these particular individuals or organisations, but to us, these allegations are not only unfair but false,” said the statement.