No reason for Sin Chew to topple DAP

Readers of Sin Chew Daily were shocked to read a recent statement issued by DAP’s secretary-general highlighting Sin Chew Daily’s alleged objective of bringing down the party.

So far, Sin Chew Daily has been the only newspaper that has published the statement.

There are two reasons why this is surprising.

First, why does DAP, after becoming one of the ruling parties, allege that the only objective of the newspaper, which has been promoting the party since its formation, is to topple DAP? The statement tabulates recent events but is hardly convincing that Sin Chew deserves the blame.

Second, why has Sin Chew remained relatively calm in the face of such a high-profile accusation by DAP? It did not rebut nor clarify, but opted to run the statement in full for readers to judge for themselves. In Malaysian press history, such a move has been unprecedented.

It is a huge misunderstanding to conclude that Sin Chew’s objective is to topple DAP. This also reflects the fact that the party’s current leaders are suffering a memory loss about history.

DAP was born out of the People’s Action Party of Singapore. After Singapore gained its independence on 9 August 1965, the Malaysian wing changed its name to Malaysia Democratic Action Party on 8 March 1966. DAP was led by Devan Nair, who later returned to Singapore after serving a full term as a member of Parliament. Goh Hock Guan took over as secretary-general in 1967. The party started its journey as DAP in Malaysia.

The leaders in Johor Bahru then – Chen Yi Neng, Guo Rui Xiang, Ye Guo Xin and lawyer Song Xin Hui – used to release their statements through Sin Chew’s office at Dhoby Street and Maju Street. They were close with the paper. Most of the time their statements would be published, even if little space was allocated for them.

In the 1980s and 1990s, DAP grew stronger in Johor. At one time, it won three state seats in the state legislature. Lee Kaw even won the Kluang parliamentary seat, a breakthrough for DAP.

During this period, Sin Chew did its best to help promote the party while other non-Chinese newspapers would generally stay away from DAP.

During Ops Lalang in 1987, the publication of Sin Chew was suspended, to resume only five months and 11 days later. Lim Kit Siang was arrested under the Internal Security Act. Everyone shared the same fate.

In 2008, Dr Boo Cheng Hau achieved another breakthrough in Johor by winning the Skudai state seat, reversing the party’s drought since Lee Kaw’s election victory.

Sin Chew gave him the widest possible coverage. He had a dedicated column in the paper’s Johor Bahru metro edition for many years.

After the two general elections of 2013 and 2018, in which Lim Kit Siang took the lead by running in the Johor Bahru area, DAP secured impressive results in the state. The party won almost all parliamentary and state seats that it contested in Johor during last year’s election as a component of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Before and during the last two elections, Sin Chew allocated editorial space for DAP leaders to pen their columns. Liew Chin Tong had a dedicated column in the Opinion page for his views.

During the election campaign, Sin Chew also offered generous coverage for events organised by the party. It was utterly courageous for Sin Chew to do this, given the tight media control by the then Barisan Nasional government.

In a nutshell, Sin Chew has contributed to DAP’s impressive election results.

After DAP and other coalition members of Pakatan Harapan took over the federal and state governments, the community page of Sin Chew’s Johor Bahru metro edition offered space for the party’s wakil rakyat in Johor, from members of Parliament and state assemblymen to city councillors, to express their views six days a week. The columns were well-received by readers.

Sin Chew often provided news coverage for activities attended by DAP state executive councillors, assemblymen and MPs.

All this proves that Sin Chew has never treated DAP as an enemy.

Because of all this, Sin Chew is at ease with its conscience and takes the statement issued by the secretary-general without haste and opted to publish the statement for readers to judge for themselves.

Sin Chew has been playing its role as the fourth estate in criticising polices of the new government, of which DAP is an integral part. But truth is hard to accept. The newspaper only hopes that DAP will deliver the pledges it has made to the people to offer better services.

As the Chinese saying goes: the sea accepts all rivers. A good government should be similarly magnanimous.

If a news report is wrong, Sin Chew would run a correction, as with the time it handled the news of a “small matter which has been blown out of proportion”, re-publishing an entire statement after an error was detected, and apologising to Deputy Minister of Defence Liew Chin Tong.

As two institutions with separate missions where both claim to serve the people, the party and the paper should work together instead of confronting each other. There are thousands of reasons for both to understand each other and communicate. As a media organisation, there is no reason for Sin Chew to make toppling DAP its primary objective.

There are profound misunderstandings here.

In New Malaysia, the two sides should resolve their grievances instead of holding grudges against each other. They should do so as Malaysians, in the interest of the Malaysian Chinese community.

Su King Siang is a veteran writer who has served with Sin Chew Daily for over 40 years. This article was first published at My Sinchew on Sept 9.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.