New Straits Times associate editor Rehman Rashid - one of the country's most distinguished journalists - was sacked for 'insubordination' following his refusal to write a speech for the daily's editor-in-chief.
"I've never been fired from a job in my life before," he said when contacted today.
Rehman's ( left ) shocking termination came in the wake of last week's domestic inquiry, set up by the company to investigate charges of insubordination against him.
"I don't know exactly what had transpired because I wasn't called in (by the inquiry panel)," he said.
"The only representation is my reply to the show-cause letter," he added.
The termination letter was delivered to Rehman's house in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, late yesterday by an unidentified NST administrative staff.
The top journalist was charged with insubordination when he refused to write a speech for NST group editor-in-chief Abdullah Ahmad ( right ) to be presented at a corporate event a fortnight ago.
He was immediately slapped with a two-week suspension. The company later sent him a show-cause letter and launched a domestic inquiry to investigate the matter.
Rehman conceded that his employment contract contained a clause which required him to write speeches for his boss.
He told malaysiakini that he had originally agreed to the clause because as associate editor he would have the opportunity to "make a difference in the newspaper" and help boost NST 's circulation by improving its journalistic standards.
However, he decided to put his foot down two weeks ago when he was told to write a speech for Abdullah.
"I refused to write this speech because I found that the speech-writing work was steadily piling up on my desk, leaving me very little time for anything else," he said.
Rehman said he had hoped to fulfil his other roles stipulated in the contract, which is to provide "quality control" in the newspaper.
"Is there no consideration for my other functions as an associate editor?" he lamented.
Rehman, who first joined NST in1981, left the Umno-linked English-language daily seven years later after he was reprimanded for writing a scathing editorial criticising the 1987 banning of The Star , Watan and Sin Chew Jit Poh by the government.
He returned to NST a year ago where among others, he served as a leader writer and columnist.
Before he was sacked, Rehman was in the midst of preparing a writing guide for journalists as part of the newspaper's efforts to upgrade its reporting.
"I really enjoyed working at the NST the last one year, and I'd like to believe that I made a difference, at least to some people in there," said Rehman, who has been writing for 23 years.
chief executive officer Syed Faisal Albar, who had signed the termination letter, was not available for comment.
According to Rehman, he would now like to complete his novel which he has been working on, and hopes to write another book in the near future.
His 1993 book 'A Malaysian Journey' - which presents the author's reflections on the Malaysian society since independence - was a best-seller.
Rehman won the Malaysian Press Institute's journalist of the year award in 1985 for covering the 1984 US presidential elections.
Besides the NST , he was a senior writer for Bermuda Business (Bermuda) and Asiaweek (Hong Kong), a senior editor with the Sun and a key editor with the now defunct news website Agenda Malaysia .