Who is (really) behind the news?

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By Alexander Winifred

I write this in response to a commentary that appeared today in The Independent Singapore.

In a world where the truth is increasingly the exception rather than the norm, the press has a responsibility to stick to their role and report the facts. Even commentary pieces by unidentified characters should be scrubbed by qualified editors and fact-checkers.




There are some major issues with this so-called opinion piece, which first implicates Anwar in the PKR video scandal(!), and then devolves into a critique of Anwar's handling of the Bumiputra rights and privileges issue.

1. How do we know it is Anwar who was the mastermind behind the video? And if it was, why wasn't Anwar named by the police boss?

2. Did the non-Malay Malaysians who voted for Pakatan Harapan in the last election vote for Tun Dr Mahathir to be PM of Malaysia? Many believe they voted for Anwar. They surely did not vote for Azmin. Pakatan Rakyat's supporters have rallied for a coalition led by Anwar for years. They did not rally for Azmin. We have to face the facts here.

3. The Islamic and Malay agenda and restoration of Bumiputra rights and privileges is actually championed by Mahathir's party, PPBM. Not by PKR, although Azmin has a role to play as Economic Affairs Minister. I have not seen a single communique from PKR about Reformasi being about restoring Bumiputra rights and privileges. We all understand that within the alliance, it is PPBM that has held that responsibility as a mainly Malay party.

4. "Harapan came on the back of a manifesto that assured the electorate the repeal of harsh, draconian and state-enforced religious observation." Reformasi, says the unknown writer, "is now a cry for change from corruption to integrity, from racist and bigoted policies to one that gives everyone a fair go at life." I do not recall such statements in the manifesto.

Just to be sure, I double checked again. The manifesto said: "We reiterate our pledge as stated in the Pakatan Harapan Promise (9
January 2016) that we will:

• Uphold the Federal Constitution; Islam as a religion of the Federation and other religions can be professed freely and harmoniously in-line with Article 3; and champion the special position of the Malays and the Bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak as well as the legitimate rights of all citizens in line with Article 153."

5. Saying the ruling Harapan government has been rocked by the video scandal is a gross overstatement. I do not see DAP and Amanah collapsing in the near future. In fact, since the last general election, the state-aligned media has constantly painted a picture of gloom and doom - that a break-up of the coalition was imminent. The worst that can happen would be the split-up of PKR - which would be actually be a good thing because infighting would be more a thing of the past.




6. Finally, the writer suggests Anwar has become "ruthless" and desperate in his bid to be PM. Let's think for a moment. Was the rivalry between Azmin and Anwar so strong up to a point where Anwar had to kill off Azmin's career in such fashion - by spreading a pornographic video of Azmin, real or fake? Does Azmin really have the potential to be PM of Malaysia? As I explained earlier, I don't see Azmin commanding the sort of public support Anwar - or even Rafizi - has.

As a former journalist at a major publication myself, I have never failed to be amazed by the dark nature of inbred hatred, patronage and cynicism that has consumed our industry - destroying our ability to think clearly and write independently.

While the op-ed in The Independent describes what it alleges as Anwar's actions as his undoing, I argue that it is the publication of views not grounded in facts - but emotions -  that will be the undoing of our entire industry. When the public ceases to believe in the press, we lose whatever role we've held in society.

And as readers, we need to broaden our perspective and go beyond the headlines. We need to think - who is really behind the news?

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