GEORGE TOWN: Saying his “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” remark to the Penang Institute had been taken out of context, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today retracted it.
Lim said in a statement: “I would therefore withdraw all references to the English simile of ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ or ‘barking’ and replace them with ‘not showing disloyalty to the State Government but giving members the right to dissent and make such differences publicly’.”
He said this to clarify a Bernama report published yesterday on his June 28 speech, which it titled as ‘Guan Eng warns Penang think tank over safeguarding State Government image’.
Lim said the words were not meant to threaten the members of the Penang Institute, but to remind them that Penang “was the only place where there is freedom before speech and freedom after speech” in the country.
Lim said he had merely reminded the think-tank that they were allowed dissent against the state government publicly, as their principal funders, but only wanted loyalty in return.
“In other words, they cannot work secretively and surreptitiously with those who openly oppose and want to bring down the State Government.
“I had contrasted the Penang State Government’s liberal position with the Federal Government which would act against and punish those who dare to dissent publicly,” Lim said.
He went on to accuse national news agency Bernama of being an opportunist, saying it had ulterior motives in reporting the speech some 10 days after the event.
Lim said the wire story was probably released as a diversion from “more pressing issues” such as the donation scandal and the GST.
“I regret that this has given opportunities to those like Bernama who wish to make a mountain out of a molehill or create controversy by highlighting a small part out of nothing at all,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lim said he was retracting references to canines that he had made in the speech – words such as “barking” and “watchdog” – to end an “unnecessary controversy.”
“I am aware that the Western context of a dog as a man’s best friend does not apply in the cultural context of Malaysia, especially when dogs are viewed negatively by nearly half the population.
“This has also other unnecessary cultural and religious implications.
“In that context, the word ‘watchdog’ meaning to monitor is positive in the West but may be construed negatively here for those with limited understanding of the English language,” he said.