MCA chief ‘behind reshuffle’

(The Straits Times) – THE recent personnel changes at Malaysia's English daily, The Star, would earn Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat much support from his Cabinet colleagues, reported a news website.

'It is an open secret that the tone and coverage of the country's largest English daily has been under scrutiny since Election 2008, with ministers and senior civil servants griping about the space the newspaper has been giving to the opposition and the tone of its reports on government initiatives,' said the Malaysian Insider website.

An unnamed senior government official was quoted as saying: 'There is a concern that The Star is behaving like an anti-establishment paper. One minister even said that it was like Harakah.'

The Harakah newspaper is published by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and is known for its critical views of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and its policies.

Last Friday, the deputy chairman of Star Publications, Datuk Steven Tan, tendered a six-month notice of resignation beginning Jan 1, reported The New Straits Times (NST). The 59-year-old, who is also the company's senior adviser, was the group managing director and chief executive officer for over 22 years until he was replaced by Datin Linda Ngiam last June.

A former financial journalist, Mr Tan will remain as a non-independent and non-executive director of the company, according to NST.

The boardroom changes also affected other senior personnel.

Datuk Seri Ong, who is also the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), which owns The Star, declined to comment on the reshuffle. 'This is not the forum to discuss it,' he was quoted as saying by NST. 'The Star has its own board and makes its own decisions.'

According to the Malaysian Insider, analysts view these changes at the boardroom level as steps by Mr Ong to increase his influence in the influential daily and reduce the hold of those close to former MCA president Ling Liong Sik.

The Star, Malaysia's largest- circulating English daily, sells some 315,000 copies a day.

Mr Ling is seen as a strong supporter of MCA deputy president Chua Soi Lek, who is a staunch rival of Mr Ong.

'In all likelihood, these boardroom changes have more to do with political affiliation than with a change in editorial policy but there is a view in government that Datuk Steven Tan and his protege Linda Ngiam, were driving editorial policy,' the Malaysian Insider wrote.

But, quoting unnamed officials who have attended meetings with ministers and government officials, the article said that the names of the other newspapers owned by the Barisan Nasional coalition have also been raised at such meetings 'but inevitably the discussion veers to The Star'.

The article concluded: 'Recently, the paper was lauded by the opposition for its coverage of parliamentary proceedings – a fact which served to only confirm the misgiving hawks in the administration have about The Star.'