Anthem of the govt bully

The forces of Ketuanan Melayu, aided and abetted by KDN, rapped the The Star on its forehead yesterday on the eve of its launch of the paper’s Bahasa Malaysia weekly Mingguan Star by the Sultan of Selangor, scheduled for today. The weekly is to be distributed free with the Sunday Star.

By uppercaise

In what seems a carefully-timed move, the KDN issued a show-cause letter to the paper on the same day the paper had carried an apology for managing editor P Gunasegaram’s reasonable and well-argued plea for Persuasion, Not Compulsion in his column last Sunday.

Now nothing there...The column was pulled from the website, to outcries of anger and disgust from such as » Raja Petra Kamarudin, » Lim Kit Siang, and the Airkosong blog which demanded that the Star stand up for your rights.

On Tuesday, the paper’s GEiC, Wong Chun Wai, had been hauled up by KDN to be politely told off about the column and warned that a show-cause letter would be forthcoming. KDN officials were reportedly “quite nice” at the meeting but such a private attitude is in complete contrast to the government’s recent actions to further repress freedom of expression.

It is no surprise that the show-cause letter comes just days after police reports were filed by groups allied with the newly-formed Malay rights movement Perkasa, which has the prominent backing of Mahathir Mohamad.

Even before this, there had been a history of antagonism between Mahathir and the Star, which he described as a thorn in his flesh during the early years of his government. Operation Lallang in 1987 provided the Mahathir government a convenient opportunity to close the paper by withdrawing its licence, together with those of Sin Chew and Watan, on grounds of national security.

Not coincidentally, the daily Star had almost matched the NotStraitsTimes in circulation and was about to overtake it. Its six-month closure delayed that event by several years. The rapid rise of what Umno viewed as a Chinese-owned paper to supremacy over its flagship, the NotStraitsTimes, was an affront to the whole concept of Malay supremacy, Malay overlordship, and Malay domination — the key ingredients of Ketuanan Melayu.

Yesterday’s action against the Star comes against a backdrop of the paper’s foray into Malay-language publishing as well as the impending revamp of the NotStraitsTimes in another futile attempt at closing the 2:1 gulf in circulation sales. The revamp is due on March 1 is being carried out by its current leadership of Mahathir loyalists brought back by the 1Najib administration — the walking undead as described by Umno blogger Sakmongkol AK47.

There was an inevitability about the events leading up to the show-cause letter. Similar action against the Star in the past had followed a similar pattern:

  • The Star publishes something that the loony far right finds displeasing
  • “Champions of Malay rights” spring forth with loud condemnations
  • This is given prominent space in the Utusan Malaysia, or police reports are made, or a Minister loudly condemns the action
  • The KDN springs into action, super efficient in preserving its vision of public order

Several objectives are met by this process.

The voice of the bully is rises above the voice of reason. Public debate and discussion, especially on anything relating to Islam, is again stifled. The non-Muslim is reminded by arch-conservative bullies that everything about Islam is off-limits to them.

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