Malaysiakini has been served an order to vacate its rented premises in Bangsar Utama by landlord PC Suria because the online website had been found to be involved in "unlawful" activities.
PC Suria in a Jan 22 letter to malaysiakini has asked the controversial online daily to vacate its office by the end of February.
PC Suria is the sole distributor of computer products produced by Perbadanan Komputer Nasional Bhd (Nascom). Launched in 1997, PC Suria is now wholly owned by Nascom, a government-backed enterprise formerly known as PC Malaysia Bhd.
According to the notice of termination, the main reason for the eviction order is that malaysiakini "had been found involved in activities which contravene the laws of the country".
The eviction order, signed by PC Suria managing director Orissa Baharum, came two days after the police raided the malaysiakini 's office and seized 19 computers, including four servers.
The raid followed a police report lodged by Umno Youth on Jan 17 over a letter published on the website.
Umno Youth claimed that the Jan 9 letter allegedly contained seditious statement that could create chaos in the country.
In the course of their investigations, the police have thus far recorded statements from malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan and four other senior editorial staff - news editor Nash Rahman, chief sub-editor Chuah Siew Eng and sub-editors R Ananthakrishnan and Chow Chui Lin.
The police are investigating Gan and the letter writer, nicknamed 'Petrof', under the Sedition Act and if charged and convicted are liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment for up to three years, or both.
Gan had refused to divulge the writer's identity, citing professional ethics.
"I'm outraged by the eviction order. This is yet another attempt to try to shut malaysiakini down. We believe that the authorities have put pressure on PC Suria to evict us," said Gan.
"This latest attack on malaysiakini will be another splotch on Malaysia's image as an information technology hub. IT investors have been spooked by the police seizure of our computers. It shows that the authorities will not respect the integrity and confidentiality of the information contained in servers of IT companies.
"Now, with this eviction order, investors will be worried that they too could face eviction from their premises, costing losses amounting to thousands of dollars to their businesses," he said.
Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran said that malaysiakini will suffer a loss of around RM100,000 as a result of this eviction notice.
"We have spent over RM30,000 in renovations. We estimate that the relocation will cost at least another RM30,000."
He said that the process of moving into another office will result in at least two weeks' of downtime.
"The disruption to our operations will mean a loss in subscription revenue, as well as loss in confidence among our readers and subscribers. We estimate that this will set back our earnings
by a further RM40,000 at least," said Premesh.
Efforts to negotiate fail
Efforts by malaysiakini to contact PC Suria managing director Orissa and other senior managers over the past two days have been unfruitful.
"We have been referred to PC Suria's lawyer. But efforts to contact him have also failed," said Premesh ( right ).
Malaysiakini rents the fourth floor of a five-storey office block owned by PC Suria, which occupies the ground and the third floor. While there is one other tenant in the office block, two other floors are currently vacant. Malaysiakini has been renting the Bangsar Utama premises since December 2000.
Gan said that malaysiakini will fight this eviction.
"If they think that evicting us will cripple our operation, they are wrong.We urge our readers and supporters to be patient as we deal with this crisis," he added.