Two former Utusan Malaysia editors said they are appalled that the newspaper they once led is still entrapped in "its own cocoon replete with prejudices".
In a hard-hitting statement today, Zainuddin Maidin and Johan Jaaffar said the newspaper manifested its racist stand by playing racial sentiments which were detrimental to a multiracial country like Malaysia.
Citing the latest issue surrounding the appointment of the new attorney-general, they said it was totally unacceptable that Utusan played with fire by stoking fear and discord, especially among the Malays and Muslims, over the appointment of a non-Malay and non-Muslim to the post.
Utusan, they said, chose to portray a scenario in which the interests of Islam and the Malays would be severely compromised with the appointment of senior lawyer Tommy Thomas (as the new attorney-general).
Zainuddin and Johan pointed out that the principle of the appointment should be "integrity above all else".
"We're pleased that a crisis was averted when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong assented to the appointment of Tommy Thomas," they said.
Zooming in on Utusan's racist stand, the former editors said it created unhappiness among the people, especially among the Malays, in the 14th general election.
In fact, they said, Utusan had been blamed as one of the factors that contributed to the dismal performance by Umno and BN in GE14. Umno has a stake in Utusan.
"Unfortunately to this day, the editors of Utusan have failed to accept the resounding mandate given by the people to Pakatan Harapan and the government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad," the statement said.
Zainuddin, who was the chief editor from 1981 to 1992, and Johan (chief editor from 1992 to 1998), conceded that Umno had once shown a high level of tolerance and upheld the principle of unity among the races.
Since the time of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman (the country's first prime minister) until quite recently, they said, Umno had not shown such desperation to win the hearts and minds of the Malays.
They said Umno's dramatic change came when Malay support was severely affected, and Utusan now reflected that desperation.
"We would like to remind its editors to take note of the shifting dynamics in society as well as the changing political landscape. The earth is moving under their feet but perhaps they're not realising it," the former editors said.
Zainuddin and Johan said it appeared that it was business as usual for Utusan.
Despite the financial predicament it faced now, they said, Utusan had not worked towards improving circulation or bringing in advertising revenue, they said.
"We implore upon the editors of Utusan to come out of their cocoons. We're now at the dawn of a new era. We're witnessing a new Malaysia. To deny that is a fatal mistake for them," they said.
They said while taking advantage of the new-found freedom of the press, Utusan must not be allowed to be used by certain quarters with nefarious agenda to undermine the government of the day.