Local Sabah daily apologises for misreporting Dr M’s quote

KOTA KINABALU: A local Sabah newspaper admitted today to altering a quote of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Daily Express apologised over the articles titled “Sabah leaders didn’t complain: Dr M” and “DE has contacted PM’s office on matter”, both written by its chief editor James Sarda and published on Aug 17 and 18, respectively.

The newspaper published a brief statement from the PMO in its front page today with the title “PM’s Office replies”, referring to the two articles.

In the statement, the press secretary to the prime minister Endie Shazlie Akbar said the prime minister was not referring to Sabah ministers in the federal Cabinet when he was responding to a question posed to him during a press conference during his visit to the Red Q building in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.

“Hence, the words ‘Sabah representatives in the federal Cabinet’ that were placed within brackets in the said report was an assumption.

“Shazlie also wished to put on record that it was he who contacted the paper on Aug 17.

“We regret and apologise for any inconvenience caused to those concerned,” said the Daily Express report.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong had earlier demanded an apology and a retraction of the initial article last Saturday.

That article said Mahathir had blamed Sabah federal Cabinet ministers for not raising state issues at the federal level, which triggered denials from International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking and Liew.

The issues involved the departure levy, the introduction of Jawi script in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus for Year 4 pupils and the appointment of the new Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) vice-chancellor.

The second article, among others, was an explanation that no misreporting had taken place and that the Daily Express had contacted the PMO over the previous article and was awaiting its response.

The local daily had quoted Mahathir as saying: “As far as I’m concerned, they (Sabahan representatives in the federal Cabinet) did not say anything (about various current issues).”

Meanwhile, Warisan Youth exco member Norazmi Alimat said while the Daily Express had admitted the report was made on an assumption, the chief editor had failed to own up to the misreporting.

“It is regrettable that Sarda has refused to retract the misleading article nor offered any sincere apology to all the Sabah ministers in the federal Cabinet,” he said in a statement here today.

He added it was unfortunate that the said article also misled other opposition lawmakers into believing Liew had attacked the media by shooting the messenger.

“Clearly, Sarda was not a messenger but an instigator to stir up unnecessary tension and dispute. In addition, Sarda was untruthful when he claimed he had sought clarification from the PMO when in fact, it was the press secretary to the PM who requested the managing director of Daily Express to clarify Sarda’s misreporting.”

Norazmi said Sarda should retract his article and personally apologise to the prime minister as well as all the ministers he had wrongly accused.