Dreading the late-night knock on the door

Tales of the Dark Days – VII
Recollections of some Star journalists of the Shutdown days

By M Veera Pandiyan
(4 November 2010)

The White Paper tabled in Parliament in 1988 stated that various groups had played up “sensitive issues”, creating “racial tension” in the country (leading to the Operation Lallang crackdown in October 1987). But it smacked of being orchestrated and being allowed to escalate before the swoop took place, in a dangerous strategy of brinkmanship.

Let me share memories of the dark days when my colleagues and I were jobless for five months.

The most productive and fruitful use of time was said to have been put in by Wong Chun Wai, who cast aside his troubles to pursue one of his biggest challenges – courting a girl in a bank who had caught his eye, former state athlete Florence.

Three other colleagues in Penang set up a pizza outlet while others drove taxis, set up pasar malam stalls and such.

ND Raj who had blown most of his money on his wedding earlier in the month and the rest on a lavish Deepavali bash, was among those in dire straits. He took a job as a carpenter, mostly turning screws into an endless number of hinges each day.

As for me, then Malacca staff correspondent, I accepted the first job that came along – fisherman. Together with Charles Cham, the head of the editorial art department in our headquarters in Peta­ling Jaya (who has since made a name for himself as an artist around the world), I went fishing with the father and son team of Lionel and Martin Theseira. Continue reading


A personal silver lining to Star closure

Tales of the Dark Days – IV
Recollections by some Star journalists of the days after the Shutdown

By Shah Adyll Dadameah

The day of the Star shutdown, I had been out at an MAS assignment in the morning. There was no inkling that I would be returning to a office that would be empty and silent for the next five months, a fate also to befall Watan and Sin Chew Jit Poh.

The first thought on learning that the Star’s KDN had been suspended was: would I be able to feed my family next month? But The Star was a magnanimous employer and continued to pay the wages.. albeit in dwindling phases.

I had no quarrel with the Government, nor with the Internal Security Act, Umno or the Chinese educationists for what The Star had to go through. From young I had learned that I have to be thankful to Allah in times of good and better. I tell myself there is ‘hikmah” (silver lining) behind anything that seems bad on the surface. So I continued to go to the office, try to pep up some spirit among the staff, listened to their plans and how they would tide through the troubled times ahead.

Looking back, I see that everyone went through those times of tribulations with a lot of courage, patience and determination: none became psychotic or traumatic zombies. Most, if not all, now lead successful lives with good careers, good homes and good friends, some making their home abroad.

We did go, and I promoted myself to the company as someone who could market the company’s corporate and public image. Continue reading

Tunku’s lament, then off in search of jobs

Tales of the Dark Days – III
Recollections by Star journalists of the Shutdown days.

By Chong Cheng Hai

The week of Ops Lallang saw me in Penang, on leave from the Subs Desk in Section 13, PJ. A day before I was to report back to work, I visited colleagues at the Pitt Street office and was shocked to learn that the paper’s KDN had been suspended.

My first reaction was that of delight at having an extended holiday in my hometown. But when the days stretched to a week and more, I returned to PJ.

Before that, a group of us called on Tunku Abdul Rahman, chairman of Star Publications, at his home in Ayer Rajah Road (since renamed Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman).

The Tunku graciously met us, lamented the paper’s fate and advised the staff to be patient. He said he could not do much as the matter was in the hands of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was home minister as well as prime minister.

The paper’s closure and subsequent temporary pay cuts as the suspension stretched from weeks to months did not affect me that much; I was still single then.

Other colleagues weren’t that lucky. On the day of the paper’s suspension a photographer with Penang office had just bought a second-hand Honda car; Subs Desk slotman Uncle John Khoo had started renovating his home kitchen and another colleague had signed the purchase agreement for a new home in Subang Jaya. Continue reading

Judge knocks out KDN veto of Malaysiakini

Ministry’s decision was improper and irrational … and misdirected as it exceeded limits of its jurisdiction
Mkini Dotcom v Ministry of Home Affairs

Stunning: Judge orders Home Minister to look at Malaysiakini application

We hope it will open the floodgates, every person has the right to print a paper
Leading counsel, Malaysiakini

The High Court has rejected the Home Ministry’s decision to disregard Malaysiakini’s application for a newspaper publishing licence and ordered the Minister to review the application again and make a considered decision.

In a stunning judgment, Justice Abang Iskandar Hashim quashed the Minister’s decision and agreed with Malaysiakini’s argument that the decision was ultra vires the constitution, improper in not following set procedures and unreasonable.

The judge upheld the principle that the fundamental liberty of free speech included the right to publish, and thus the right to a publishing permit as provided by law.

He held that the granting of a newspaper licence was not a privilege reserved to the government. Continue reading

Najib’s annual insult to the press — carry out fearless, open journalism

Najib Tun Razak made his fourth annual insulting appearance before the establishment media last Wednesday at the NPC press awards night, the second of two annual festivals of self-congratulation. (» Not a 9-5 job)

Keeping up his administration’s style, there was more bombast from the prime minister to provide a fine hand-polished gloss over the mean and vicious vindictiveness in his party and in the nomenclatura of his shambolic government and the party’s loyal cadre of right-wing attack dogs.

For the fourth year running, his speech at a press awards night dealt with the noblest principles and aims of journalism and free media — most of which, in practice, the establishment media either wilfully ignore or subvert, either on instruction or out of self-preservation.

Here are some typical quotes from his speech to the National Press Club: Continue reading

Selangor Times 22 June 2012

Selangor Times 15 June 2012

Selangor Times 2 June 2012

KDN ‘rejects’ Star explanation – suspension feared

The two-paragraph statement by KDN last night:
[The ministry] has demanded the newspaper to present a more affirmative proposal to the ministry to ensure this mistake does not recur and will serve as a lesson.

Following this, the Home Ministry stresses that The Star and all media organisations take more preventive, corrective and informative actions to avoid publishing material which are sensitive to the nation’s multiracial and multi-religious society.


The home ministry has rejected the explanation by the Star last week about its publication of a controversial Erykah Badu photograph, which caused the singer’s scheduled concert to be banned.

Amidst fears that the government intends to suspend the paper, the ministry asked the Star to provide “a more affirmative proposal” to the ministry of measures to ensure that further instances do not recur. Continue reading

How the Star used that Erykah photo

The Erykah Badu photo used by the Star on Monday came from Universal Music, the record label of Erykah Badu, and not from the promoters, Pineapple Concerts, journalists at the Star confirmed yesterday afternoon.

Universal Music also supplied the same photo to Pineapple for use in their concert publicity.

Pineapple censored the photo in its publicity material by blanking out the calligraphic representation of the Arabic word Allah. A journalist said Pineapple had informed Universal about the potential problem with the official photo. This could not be confirmed with either Pineapple or Universal.

A Star journalist said neither Pineapple nor Universal had suggested using the photo with care.

The Star’s article on Erykah Badu had been prepared on Friday for the Monday issue. Section 2 had commissioned a freelance writer to interview the singer, and to illustrate the story the deputy editor obtained the official photo from Universal Music. It was approved for use by the Section 2 editor.

"The photo did not show any cleavage," said a senior Star journalist. "The decorations on her body looked to be some kind of artistic representation. It did not appear to have any obvious religious significance."

The two globules containing the calligraphic representation of the Arabic word Allah also seemed to have been designed to take the shape of pineapples.

Failing to recognise the calligraphy within the globules, and mistakenly regarding them as decorative art, the editor approved the use of the photo.

The editor might have been more concerned with complaints about the apparent nudity.

The Malaysian morality gestapo are quick to have the home ministry send out warning letters to publications for using photos and images that show revealing necklines, cleavage, and body parts such as breasts or the genital area.

Cheng Hoe and Daryl suspended
Lim Cheng Hoe, senior editor of Star2 and Daryl Goh, deputy editor, have been suspended. Associate editors Rozaid Abdul Rahman and Shah A. Dadameah will now also be the paper’s eyes and ears on Muslim sensitivities