Tough questions about state’s Purple Shirt volunteer patrol
Penang’s chief minister Lim Guan Eng, his press secretary, and an executive councillor have come under criticism from Tay Tian Yan, deputy editor-in-chief of Sin Chew, who has called for a public hearing at which the press could freely question state leaders about the controversial state-sponsore Pasukan Peronda Sukarela community service unit.
In his weekly column Without Fear or Favour on Friday, Tay questioned Guan Eng’s handling of the press, the combativeness of Guan Eng’s press secretary, and mentioned the harsh response from councillor Phee Boon Poh, who oversees the voluntary unit, towards reporters’ enquiries.
Tay’s column So who is meek and who is evil now? was republished at the Malay Mail Online and Malaysian Insider at the weekend, a day before police arrested 158 PPS members and councillor Phee after the Merdeka Day parade. The column was also carried at Malaysia Today this morning.
The Sin Chew editor’s criticism comes amidst rumblings of growing disenchantment among the Penang press corps about Guan Eng’s “arrogance” — which has dogged him from the beginning when he parachuted into Penang months before the 2008 election ending up as Chief Minister.
There is also the uncomfortable contrast between his carefully-cultivated public image of reformer and people’s hero, and his agressiveness and sometimes open hostility when fielding questions from the press.
There is now quiet coffeeshop talk among some reporters about the growing disenchantment in the Chinese press coupled with talk of sending him packing back to Selangor at the next general election in favour of local boy Chow Kon Yeow, the senior executive councillor and head of Penang DAP.
Tay had questioned the manner in which executive councillor Phee Boon Poh had responded to a reporter’s question about fears that the voluntary patrol unit was infiltrated by secret society members. Over the weekend, Penang police have made similar allegations and questioned the legality of the unit (Guan Eng says PPS comes under the state and therefore cannot be illegal).
He also questioned the aggressive tactics and combativeness shown by Guan Eng’s press secretary Cheong Yin Fan, a former Chinese newspaper reporter. Tay questioned “if she wanted reporters to behave like PPS members when dealing with Umno” and said she had labelled the Chinese journalists’ association and the press club as “foxes that have exposed their tails”.
To be frank, the Chinese press has never been lenient to each and every instance cited by press secretary Cheong. Don’t tell he she is not contended with just this as if she wanted reporters to behave like PPS members when dealing with Umno.
It is unbecoming for her to demonize her former colleagues as “foxes that have exposed their tails.” How said that a talented young lady groomed and trained by the Chinese press could end up this way.
We don’t know of any other individuals who would slam the Chinese newspapers this hard like CM Lim and his men. And indeed none others that we know of could possibly stretch our tolerance this far.
Penang’s journalism fraternity wants a public hearing, and has invited CM Lim, exco Phee et al to attend. I absolutely agree that this is a very open and fair way of doing things. We want the world to know who it is that is the fox that fears the evil and takes advantage of the meek.
‘Lust, lies and ego on overdrive’ remarks
Tay Tian Yan has clashed with Lim Guan Eng before. In January last year, responding to a barrage of criticisms against him, Tay wrote:
politicians must also remain loyal to the political faith they once cherished, instead of falling into the trap of power and getting dragged in the nose by their lusts. » Tay’s column
Guan Eng is noted for his touchiness in responding to perceived slights; many have notably taken to effusively pointing out that they had no personal intent when making criticisms of government policies.
The chief minister and DAP secretary-general has been particularly aggressive in attacking Barisan Nasional-owned newspapers such as the Star, whose political writer Joceline Tan he once called “a liar” at a public forum, and has even called out journalists from online media which have been generous with coverage of the opposition leader.
In January last year, the KLxpress blog noted that “Guan Eng seemed to be at loggerheads with” Tay, demanding space in the Chinese newspaper to put up his defence, and said Guan Eng had made “incessant attacks against him for harping on issues of the ultra sensitive Chief Minister”.
KLxpress said: “Perhaps Guan Eng should take a leaf from his father to remain calm in times of adversity and not bark like a crazy dog. He should know well that as Chief Minister, he should be prepared to be scrutinised by the public and that his actions are subject to ridicule and public opinion. Guan Eng should learn to manage his ego mannerism [sic]so that it does not go into overdrive.”