When the Sunday Star almost defied KDN
Tales of the Dark Days – IX
Recollections by some Star journalists of Shutdown days
By Cheryl Dorall
The fact that The Sunday Star had a separate KDN permit seemed to have escaped the attention of the officers at the Home Ministry. In fact for a wild 24 hours in the newsroom we thought we would cock a snook at the Government and publish the Sunday Star that week. Publish and be damned so to speak, go down with all guns blazing.
It was amazing that we had spotted that the Sunday Star’s KDN was not on the list of the proscribed and that someone in the Home Ministry had not.
In the end cooler heads prevailed and a delegation went to speak to our chairman Tunku Abdul Rahman who advised (possibly wisely) not to poke this particular stick at the Government.
So the office duly contacted the Home Ministry and asked them sweetly whether they also meant the Sunday Star. I can imagine the red faces there. They said ‘yes’ and promptly sent round a notice adding the paper to the list.
• The day of the dictator
• Those black days when the Star was shut down
• The game of Risk in journalism
• Tunku’s lament, then off in search of jobs
• A personal silver lining
• How the Star newsroom culture changed
• The voice of silence. . .
• Dreading the late-night knock on the door
• Wedding bells and tears – then screws and hinges
• Hidden hands of the blackest day
I wonder whether these notices have been preserved. I hope so because they form part of the history of both the daily and Sunday newspapers which at that time were striving to reflect a different society to the one the official Juggernaut preferred.
Months later, having moved on, I was pleased to learn that the community had given its own verdict on the closures and that advertisers flocked to the Star-Sunday Star and floated its fortunes again. I was very pleased, too, that some 800 people had got their jobs back.
Was not a Tamil-language paper also shut down (for the sake of racial balance)?
But I don’t recall any message from Pak Samad quietly passing on the word that some editors had to go. After 25 years, the memory does play tricks and I never kept a diary for fear the Special Branch would get its hands on it (as they did my telephone).
Cheryl Dorall, who won the 100m gold medal at the 1967 SEAP Games, started in journalism as a reporter with the Malay Mail and the Straits Times. She was editor of the Sunday Star in 1987 after having moved from the New Sunday Times a few years earlier. She was later with the Commonwealth Secretariat based in London, retiring two years ago.