COMMENT As a former regular writer of the New Straits Times for over 15 years, I am expressing my utter disgust with the headline news yesterday alleging PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar of promising future government contracts in exchange for information.
The report is about Nurul Izzah having allegedly offered US$2 million (RM8.6 million) to former PetroSaudi International executive Xavier Andre Justo in future government contracts if the opposition comes to power.
It goes without saying how the New Straits Times has gone to the dogs with such deplorable standard of journalism, carrying the front-page story without first sieving through the information that it received or verifying the facts with Nurul Izzah before the story hit the newsstand.
It is like saying, “Let’s shoot to kill first before we hear the true story.” It was too premature for the paper to front-page the story.
To me, such a story, unless it is a direct confession from the person involved, should never have been played up. At most, it is a few paragraphs on page 3 until Nurul Izzah, in this case, responded.
To me, it is obvious that the people who own and those who run the paper now are too desperate to get hold of anything that they can lay their hands on, possibly to character-assassinate the daughter of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The controversy is also probably an attempt to raise the sales of the two newspapers which have, since 2008, suffered from a dwindling readership, while trying to distract the people’s attention from the real issues plaguing the nation.
In my opinion, writing anonymously, the NST team has also acted in an irresponsible manner. They have merely picked on something that they read in Justo’s confession that they could expand on, apparently for reasons only known to themselves.
This marks a new low in the journalistic standards of the Umno-linked papers that I was once happily associated with, but now question their integrity and independence as news publications.
The source of the news apparently came from a written confession of Justo. It is what one man said that has not been tried in court yet.
Unlike the concrete evidence provided by The Wall Street Journal that linked the RM2.6 billion to the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the allegations were made about Nurul Izzah without providing any concrete evidence.
Justo has not even offered any concrete evidence to prove that Nurul Izzah had personally offered the said contracts in exchange for data on the 1MDB.
Justo, for all you know, can make any confession as he wishes after realising that he would be facing imprisonment anyway. Therefore, one has to treat the confession with care, and due diligence should be carried out to determine the truth by talking to the person(s) involved.
The confession of one man is not the entire gospel truth, and certainly the New Straits Times team, presumably involving some senior editors as well, should be fully aware of that. How is it that they have taken Justo’s confessions as the whole gospel truth?
The fact that they had tried to contact Nurul Izzah on several occasions, including through WhatsApp, does not necessary mean that they can fall back on the attempts that they made, when justifying the reason why they front-paged the story.
In fact, within the past one week, I have personally phoned, emailed and sent WhatsApp messages to Nurul Izzah and regarding a book that I am working on, and she has not been responding. Understandably, she would have a thousand and one messages to respond to.
Occasionally, whenever she could, she responded with a quick but short reply.
There is no reason to believe that Nurul Izzah was trying to avoid answering to the allegations as serious as that. In fact, her immediate response after the article was published appears to be of one shocked by the allegations.
I would too, if I were in her position, when someone accuses me of offering ‘future government contracts’ when, say, I become the prime minister of this nation.
Judging from the circumstances, it appears to me that a bitter but reasonably high IQ Justo has successfully created a situation that further embarrasses the people whom he knows have benefited from the money from 1MDB that has gone missing.
Justo probably knows that by dropping names like Nurul Izzah or Anwar as bait, the gullible fish would take the bait straightaway without even thinking. To me, the allegations that Nurul Izzah had wanted to purchase data relating to the 1MDB using future money are nothing but a red herring.
Unless Justo has the evidence to show, and the New Straits Times team has it in their possession, that Nurul Izzah had indeed promised ‘future government contracts’ (I repeat, f-u-t-u-r-e government contracts), the front-page story would not hold water when it goes before a good and fair judge.
We shall wait and see.
STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.