Is KL fingering Taib?

By Reina

If you thought the control on the mainstream media from the federal government was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The situation in Sarawak is far worse.

Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has many times refused media organisations from Semenanjung to set up bureaus or house their correspondents in the East Malaysian state. He has ordered and/or threatened existing WM news bureaus to close down if the newspaper has “offended” him.

Even Sarawak-based media has not been spared. Many editors have been hauled up for publishing news that favour the opposition parties or politicians within Barisan who are not on his side. Many a reporter and editor are at wit’s ends trying to second guess Taib and wondering how he would interpret a seemingly innocent story or issue.

For a WM media organisation to set up a bureau in the state, it would need to kowtow and woo Taib. And one of those who were successful was James Ritchie of NST.

The story of James Ritchie is an interesting one. He came to Sarawak as a New Straits Times correspondent. Apparently Taib did not want him but Ritchie managed to change Taib’s mind through his charm, singing and guitar-playing skill – and the love for golf. So I’ve been told.

Henceforth, Ritchie remained in Sarawak for a long time. When NST wanted to replace him with someone else, Taib kicked up a storm. He apparently told NST that if Ritchie left Sarawak, then he would close down the NST bureau in Kuching. So NST had to leave Ritchie there for a while longer. Only much later, Taib allowed a replacement – not sure why or what happened.

Interestingly Ritchie is now the editorial adviser (or something like that) for the  Sarawak Tribune which is now back in the limelight since May 2010.

Meanwhile, the editor of Sarawak Tribune, Paul Si, has been suspended for publishing a Bernama report on the Sarawak CM – ‘Is Taib Mahmud testing the waters?’.

Sarawak-born Si was in WM for a very long time working at The Star and the Malaysian Insider before going back to Kuching to take up the post of editor at the resurrected Sarawak Tribune.

His brother is also on the editorial team and his cousin is a lawyer who has acted for the original Sarawak Tribune.

The funder for this newspaper, incidentally, is said to be someone who is closely linked to Taib.

There are lots of questions and speculations as to why Paul Si would go ahead with the decision to run the story by Bernama when he knows clearly how easily Taib can get upset/offended/angry/all of the above.

Some say that Si had been in Semenanjung for far too long and has forgotten the way things are done in Sarawak. Others say that he wanted to make a stand and let Sarawak Tribune lead the way in press freedom in the state.

Then again, the story in question (by-lined Alan Ting of Bernama) – ‘Is Taib Mahmud testing the waters?’ – outwardly has nothing controversial or negative in its content. It featured the response to a statement made by Taib that he was prepared to step down if the people did not want him anymore. 

However, there are some conspiracy theorists who feel that the federal government had a hand in the way the story was written. That Sarawak Tribune picked up the story is another matter altogether.

Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier said that he wanted to have a “heart-to-heart” talk with Taib.

With the Sarawak state elections and speculation that Sarawak Barisan might not get as many seats this time around, Najib probably felt it was time he had a little chat with Taib which may invariably include delving into Taib’s wealth abundance as disclosed at the “Sarawak Report” website.

A Bernama story of this nature is unlikely to have gotten through without the nod from highly placed people. Thus, it may have even germinated from some top-ranking ‘political officio’, and not from the editorial floor.

The Bernama story was probably meant to show Taib that the federal government holds the trump card when it came to ‘changing of the guards’.

Back in Kuching, Paul Si’s suspension may arguably be a reciprocal message for Najib i.e. Taib and his family’s way of showing the PM that Sarawak and its media are still under the family, and KL certainly cannot do anything about that.

Si’s suspension seems like a state-initiated matter and not likely to be linked to two recent cases involving journalists – the suspension of Star RFM’s 988 radio host Jamaluddin Ibrahim and the charging of Malay Mail editor Irwan Abdul Rahman (Hassan Skodeng) over a blog post entitled “TNB To Sue WWF Over Earth Hour”.

These other two cases are federal-initiated moves and seem to suggest that there’s a bigger matter that is being played out. More on this another time.

Therefore, the Sarawak Tribune fallout seems to be a case of a PM telling a long serving Sarawak chief minister to leave, and Taib saying ‘Nah!’ to Najib.

__________________________________________________________

Updated: 2.o2pm with clarification on Paul Si’s brother and cousin.

Comments
7 Responses to “Is KL fingering Taib?”
  1. Paul says:

    Did anyone consider Paul’s background as a journalist? He was mostly a sub editor and a motoring writer.

    • Max says:

      Someone made mistake hiring Paul, not because he was a sub editor and motoring writer, but because he is not a card-carrying member of the ruling political party. He thought he was supposed to be a real newspaper editor when what the “New” Tribune wanted was an old-fashioned Yes Man.

      • paul says:

        when he took the high paying job (which also included a package to hire his wife as sub-editor), paul knew he was supposed to be a “yes” editor to the taib family.
        don’t think press freedom had anything to do with the oversight of running that bernama piece.
        paul made the mistake as he is not really a news man. he only know cars and other non-political stuff.
        the problem with people writing about paul si is they only know what they know.
        even if he read the piece, paul don’t have the political savvy to know that it might cause him his job.

  2. rc says:

    Most of the south east asian newspapers are not worth the paper it is printed on. They are all controlled by a few politicians.The younger generation can read between the lines.

    Those who are currently in power are clueless and still trying to control it through force and bullying

  3. paul says:

    max, do you know who hired paul? the si cousins who are close to tribune owner. and that article came out simply because paul as a motoring journalist dont understand politics. he should know better as a sarawakian that taib’s family dont appreciate news they perceive as negative to the cm.

  4. paul says:

    “Some say that Si had been in Semenanjung for far too long and has forgotten the way things are done in Sarawak. Others say that he wanted to make a stand and let Sarawak Tribune lead the way in press freedom in the state.”

    Are you kidding? Any hard-nosed journalist with knowledge of Sarawak politics knows how things are done in Sarawak.

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