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Journalistic integrity and a president's enemies

Yesterday afternoon was one of those very rare occasions when I picked up a copy of The Star at the nearby newsstand. On page 26,

I came across  an ‘analysis’ of Ong Tee Keat which said, “He was MCA president for only 17 months during which he made more enemies than he could handle”.  

“Enemy” is a very strong word invoking references to antagonism, hatred and harmful designs of  the offensive kind. An enemy may be a group of people, a force, an institution or even a state. These are some possible enemies of a president, after all Tee Keat was the president of a political party with members numbering close to a million.

What, then, is the likely number of enemies that one would not be able to handle? To an ordinary person, one (1) could be sufficiently fatal. As for Tee Keat who was then the president of MCA, I trust the writer of the analysis, a senior journalist of The Star newspaper, could provide the answers.

In my article, ‘Has media behaviour gone sideways?’ (Malaysiakini Nov 20, 2009) I raised the matter of journalistic integrity. Linguistics pervade all aspects in journalism, albeit that the reported article was labelled  as narrative or meant to be an analysis.

The sentence, “He is standing on what one might call no man’s land in his own party” calls for much explanation. Describing  the parliamentary constituency (P100) as “no man’s land” was cruel not just to the voters and other residents there. It was an outright insult to the government of the day which administered Pandan.

Have the state assemblypersons of Pakatan given up the Chempaka (N21) and Teratai (N22) - the two state constituencies of Pandan? As for the BN Member of Parliament, being Tee Keat himself, his footprints are in every corner of Pandan.

As for  the comment that Tee Keat “is in his own party”, I will strongly  recommend that Tee Keat clarify with MCA whether his membership had been terminated. Alternatively, the article might have been designed as an insinuation that MCA had disowned Tee Keat - to mean that  voting for Tee Keat in the coming general election will  not equate to giving one’s vote to MCA?  

Clarity in this matter is a priority as it was later mentioned that Tee Keat’s “challenge this round in Pandan is not only from Pakatan Rakyat but also from within the party (MCA)”. Further, “he is unlikely to get the organisational (MCA) support that he will need to win.”

This comment,  that Tee Keat will not be receiving support from MCA, did not come as a surprise, particularly from a newspaper that is owned by MCA, and if my earlier suspicion of directed writing was correct.

The Star's article had  portrayed Tee Keat as a political outcast. It mentioned that Sin Chew Jit Poh labelled Tee Keat as the “worst president in the history  MCA”. “DAP is said to be wary of him after watching the havoc wreaked in MCA during the time he was in charge”.  

The Sin Chew comment was grossly unfair as the late Lim Chong Eu who was MCA president from March 1958 to July 1959 and left MCA and founded an opposition party, Gerakan, which initiated the erosion of MCA’s representation for the Chinese in Malaysia. Whether or not DAP kept a distance from Tee Keat because of “the havoc he wreaked in MCA during the time he was in charge”, also needs to be supported by confirmed sources for accuracy.

This Star article lacked the basic characteristics of  political analysis. The outdated opinions of others reproduced without due reference nor critique had reduced it to mere mamak stall prattle.


DR DAPHNE LOKE  is the author of Political Sojourn.