Monday, August 10, 2009

Racial journalism from Utusan Malaysia - yet again

Endless racial debates seem to be the main agenda for certain national newspapers like the Utusan Malaysia. Notorious for their racially themed articles, the UMNO-owned paper clearly does not reflect its president's call for 1Malaysia. If Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is sincere in making his 1Malaysia pep talk a success, the first step would be to keep Utusan Malaysia in check from its racialism.

In my view, this is double speak from both UMNO and party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak who are advocating the 1Malaysia concept. Utusan Malaysia is the party's mouth piece and what it says reflects the party's stand and views. Also, being a national newspaper which is widely distributed to the masses, Utusan Malaysia has a social responsibility to fulfil - that is to ensure the right spirit of journalism is delivered to people.

Recently, Utusan Malaysia published an article entitled, "The Malays are cowards" and it suggests that the non-Malays are being disrespectful to the Malays by manipulating politics and questioning their special rights. [Click here for the English translation or the original Malay version]

In the article, the author comments that the non-Malays want more political power and is lamenting the possibility that one day, the majority of the country's top posts could be held by non-Malays. Not very 1Malaysia-ish, I'd say. This is the reason why the word "meritocracy" remain absent in the vocabulary of narrow minded bigots like Utusan Malaysia. For them, it does not matter if the Inspector-General of Police or a Minister is unqualified and incapable just as long as he is a Malay. On the other hand, the non-Malays have no qualms about having Malay leaders as long as they are capable and know what they are doing. So, race is actually beside the point. Malaysians just want able leaders to lead them.

The article further suggests that the Malays are being "attacked" by the Chinese and Indians for power over the country. And by doing so, the Chinese and Indians are instigating another May 13. The writer also points out that “what the Chinese and the Indians want now is more political and administrative power, not justice and democracy.” Is this not racially slanderous?

The Pakatan Rakyat have publicly condemn the article, citing it to be seditious and potentially detrimental to racial harmony. I agree. Why isn't Najib sticking his nose into this since such articles are directly opposing his 1Malaysia ideals?

PAS central committee member Dr Hatta Ramli criticized the writer's belief that public bodies like the courts, the police and the military are Malay institutions when they are actually upheld as Malaysian institutions. This lop-sided view only reflects the limited understanding of the nation's history. This country is not only built by one race but is a collective effort of the various immigrant communities that chose this land to be called their home. But sadly, racist bigots do not understand this historical portion of reality.

Nonetheless, we should all respect Utusan Malaysia's right to freedom of speech. But if that is the case, would the favour be returned if such articles like Utusan Malaysia's are written in a non-Malay newspaper? Would they not also cry foul and say it is seditious?

I will not call for a total ban on Utusan Malaysia because I respect their right to free speech. The least we - those who are disgusted with their version of quality journalism - could do is to not buy their papers. Banning Utusan Malaysia for their views, no matter how preposterous they may be, would make us indifferent to them. We may disagree with Utusan Malaysia but we should do our utmost to protect their right to say it.

That being said, however, does not stop Utusan Malaysia from making a fool out of themselves with their apparent "insightful" articles on race relations. Unless that is sorted out, Najib and UMNO can forget about convincing the rest of Malaysia that 1Malaysia is viable.