The Sultan of Perak, UMNO’s Utusan and Politics

March 2, 2016

The Sultan of Perak, UMNO’s Utusan and Politics

by Cmdr S. Thayaparan

I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.” – Christopher Hitchens

COMMENT: Utusan Malaysia has been one of my bêtes noires for a long time. However, I do not dwell on this insidious propaganda organ and the noxious brew that they spew from the cauldrons of Putrajaya, simply because what they write I consider outrage porn and no self-respecting human being should be in the business of giving them more visibility in our limited public space.

My disdain for Utusan Malaysia is based on two factors. The first are my attitudes towards freedom of expression. I have no problem with the racist, bigoted bile that this rag produces on a daily basis. What I object to is the privileged position it has when it comes to other media outlets.

Utusan gets away with everything – notwithstanding the legal damages and retractions it has had to dole out for libelling opposition figures and other public personalities – which other media outlets do not have when it comes to the UMNO state.

The second, is the fact that Utusan Malaysia has radically shifted from its left-leaning, people-centric position to one of a right wing Ketuanan Melayu state-owned propaganda organ. I will elaborate on this shortly.

Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak

HRH Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah

However, the recent statement by Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah in defending this most perfidious of propaganda organs deserves a response in a bear witness kind of way because, at the end of the day, Utusan is the ugly visage of the baser elements of this regime.

In January this year, this is what Sultan Nazrin said of the credibility of state-owned media: “News reporting which is impartial and based on half-truths is not beneficial and counter-productive. If the country’s official media institutions carry on doing this rampantly, it will eventually create a rift between the people and the government.”

I wonder if the Sultan is aware, considering his rejoinder that the credibility of state-owned media is at stake, that the Utusan editors are on public record of saying that their job is to spin for the BN government.

‘Spin we can… that’s okay’

Actually, this is what Utusan Malaysia’s deputy chief editor Mohd Zaini Hassan said in a forum organised by Biro Tata Negara: “In our style of writing, we have fact, spin and one more – blatant lies. From the point of psychological warfare, let’s not follow ‘blatant lies’, let’s not write lies. Spin we can; no matter how we spin a certain fact to be biased in our favour, that’s okay.”

Furthermore, the editor said: “But we over here, I apologise for having to say this, if there is no money, things don’t work.”

Therefore, in other words, this propaganda organ is not really spinning because they believe in a political agenda but really, cash apparently is king. So much for embodying the concept of 1Malaysia.

If the editor’s words at the forum are not enough, hear the head of the UMNO young ulama secretariat Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya, who said that deception was acceptable in Islam.

Commenting on reclaiming the “middle path of Islam”, this is what Sultan Nazrin proclaimed: “This is where the major challenge lies – in the actual behaviour of ourselves, of our leaders and of our communities and our nations.”

What does this say about the way in which Islam is propagated in this country, when an editor’s claim that it is okay to spin for the government (Umno), is endorsed as religiously acceptable, by an ulama from Umno?

Look at how it treated lawyer Rosli Dahlan

The Sultan lamented that the Malay intelligentsia abandoned Utusan Malaysia, when he said: “In its last moments, I was informed that Utusan Melayu sought and begged for help. However, it was treated like a street beggar by the Malay intelligentsia who have become captains of various conglomerates, industries and companies, who did not show any willingness to help or to give a lifeline for the continuation of a valuable heritage.”

Which is understandable. If you want to know how Utusan deals with the professional strata of Malay society, look at how it treated senior lawyer Rosli Dahlan (photo above).

Here are excerpts from its official public apology: “We hereby again, upon request and with the consent and express agreement of lawyer Rosli Dahlan, repeat the contents of the said public apology referred to above and hereby again unconditionally and unreservedly apologise to lawyer Rosli Dahlan for our said untruthful article and we regret the damage that we have caused to him.

“We further acknowledge that lawyer Rosli Dahlan has been conclusively discharged and acquitted by the court from all charges made against him by the ACA, which is now known as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).”

Utusan also accused Rosli of being a “Singaporean lawyer who did not declare his assets” and acting deceptively to frustrate the ACA. For the record, Rosli is a Malaysian lawyer and citizen who had declared his assets and gave his full cooperation to the ACA. So much for speaking up on “Malay” issues.

There is of course a reason for all of this. The real history of Utusan Malaysia is buried under a layer of muck by years of UMNO propaganda.

The Iconic Editor of Utusan Melayu

Readers interested in the forgotten narrative of Utusan Malaysia, should read former Utusan Melayu editor, Said Zahari’s memoir ‘Dark Clouds at Dawn’. For a sympatric portrait of the man, I consider a true Malaysian patriot, readers are encouraged to seek out Mariam Mohktar’s ‘This is Said Zahari: Patriotic, powerful and principled’.

Mariam elaborates on the history of Said and Utusan, stating “As the editor of Utusan Melayu, Said Zahari led a strike in 1961, to protest against a takeover of the paper by the government of the day. The government demanded that the paper conforms to its policy. Said refused to back down when confronted by an Umno man called Ibrahim Fitri, who was sent to pressure Said Zahari.”

UMNO taking over the paper had the predictable results.Hata Wahari, a former Utusan Malaysia journalist (and now DAP member) had this to say: “What is done by Utusan appears to always have something to do with Umno policy… unless they get the nod from the leadership, they won’t play up an issue.”

Hata related to me his frustration at getting alternative viewpoints using the media, to the Malays in the rural heartlands. All this, of course, is what happens when you are disavowed for doing your job and highlighting issues that are inconvenient to the UMNO state.

And no, I don’t think defending someone by calling them ignorant, as opposed to defending a person’s right of freedom of expression, means that Utusan embodies the 1Malaysia spirit, considering it’s long history of provocations, spinning and lies.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

29 thoughts on “The Sultan of Perak, UMNO’s Utusan and Politics

  1. HRH The Sultan of Perak has been misled and ill advised into making his comments on Utusan Malaysia. That is all I can say in mitigation. You can be polite since it is an Utusan function but this is over the top.–Din Merican

  2. If you had difficulty writing your own thesis for your PhD and outsourced it to a ghost writer, then burnishing the Utusan’s credentials with such royal magnanimity is just a short hop and skip away. I just so love to see how the yellow-clad denizens of the istanas seem so out of touch with what goes on outside the moat.

  3. I don’t quite understand this line: “News reporting which is impartial and based on half-truths is not beneficial and counter-productive.” Sounds like a contradiction to me.

  4. /// “… and those who have an agenda to eliminate the social contract agreed upon by our forebearers in formulating the main policies that form an independent nation,” the Perak ruler said.

    I hope our Perak Sultan would encourage the appropriate party to gazatte the Reid Commission, in the spirit of allowing the rakyat to better understand the social contract. Until then, I learned that the Reid Commission has provided the following guidance.

    /// 76. After fifteen years there should be a review of the quotas and preferences and the appropriate legislature should then determine whether to retain, reduce or discontinue them (paragraph 167).

  5. Looks like no one, despite their high positions or distinguished degrees from prestigious universities is immune from the racist poison!

  6. How unfortunate that the highly learned and educated Ruler of Perak can’t recognize the games and racists oped by Utusan Malaysia.

  7. Has his HRH moved over to “the dark side” in trying to defend the indefensible? I think this comment is not reflective of his intellectual capacity but who know given that all our institutions’ integrity are all suspected these days.

  8. Quote:- “… the highly learned and educated Ruler of Perak…”

    This is “…impartial and based on half-truths…”

  9. “Pokkai”, meaning bankruptcy, comes to mind.
    I wonder what made think of the word? Utusan?

    As for ‘the Dark Side’, no One can say. OGK (Only God Knows), but it’s seldom ‘Intelligentsia’ becomes ‘Analgesia’. Beware of Apologists who peddle Panadol.

  10. Unfortunately, most, but not all, of the royal households in the country have chosen to close a blind eye and condone the corrupt UMNO leadership at the expense of the rakyat they are supposed to serve. In this “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” pact with the devil, the royal families have grown rich through sweet-heart contracts and concessions doled out by the government. At some point, the rural Malays will wake up and see what is going on and that is when change for the better will happen, not a day before.

  11. Wayne, don’t think Harvard U gives out MPA and PhD easily. Harvard U is one of the 7 Ivy League schools and not a diploma mill.
    Care to elaborate on the ‘impartial and based on half truth” part for my education. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school but my son had a hard time getting admitted and graduating from Brown Univ.
    Orang Malaya, Brown Uni is a good place to be. I congratulate your son. –Din Merican

  12. Should be partial. Must be the ghost writer’s mistake.
    What he said is original and good. However that which is good is not original and that which is original is not good.

  13. What do you HRH mean misled? I fear for my comment be viewed as seditious. All I can say is thank god we have Johor Sultan.
    My comment should be read in its entirety. Here it is again:

    “HRH The Sultan of Perak has been misled and ill advised into making his comments on Utusan Malaysia. That is all I can say in mitigation. You can be polite since it is an Utusan function but this is over the top.–Din Merican”

  14. Thinking this through, I actually agree with Sultan Nazrin’s words. In a functioning democracy, I see no issue with a major newspaper working with a Malay agenda. Our Constitution has been written as such, in its’ current form.

    After all, I wrote a blog entry called ‘Saying I love you to Ibrahim Ali’. But, I just hope the government would grant as much freedom to newspapers that would work on the premise of fighting various ‘Supremacism’. Our constitution is a living document. I pray Sultan Nazrin would recognize this publicly also, and support due process to uncover the original spirit of the forebearers who wrote the first Constitution.

  15. CLF: If “pokkai” is a Cantonese phrase I think it is, it does not mean “bankruptcy”. It is a common curse phrase in Cantonese literally meaning “falling onto street”, that may be translated into English as “drop dead”.

  16. PM Najib visited Saudi Arabia suddenly. I feared 1PM might be attempting to bring in a Saudi prince royalty into our mix. Perhaps more Wahabism in the making. Perhaps, more competition would come in the ways for the local royalties.

    Teflon Assad, 1PM is here to stay with a billion USD war chest.
    My view is that this No.1 crook belongs in jail doing hard labour.–Din Merican

  17. im pretty certain i am unable to afford what’s he’s smoking but out of curiosity i would still like to know where he sourced it from and how much 🙂

  18. Sultan Nazrin, most of the times expressed a liberal, modern, reformist views BUT at times like this his statements does not even fit with the facts. It’s highly puzzling, given his carrier and education, he can be so contradictory. It could be his position forces him to express such views as its not popular with some even in his state and we know such views are held by his father.

    Nevertheless, why this? Utusan not racist just because of anecdote of an excuse? It’s inconsistent with a legally trained mind.

  19. How did Sultan Nazrin, a well educated and knowledgeable person has come to this sort of understanding of the Utusan which is fond of creating racial tensions by giving room to racial bigots often attacking other races.

    I am taken aback of his speech and likewise many others in the country would have felt the same. Let’s be straightforward to express the good and the bad for people to decide. That would have been the least I expected from his Highness.

  20. If you do a PhD in a Canadian University first of all you have to do a Bachelor’s Degree. Then 2-4 years of Masters which includes exams and practical training, including tutoring work. Then you have 4-6 years to do your PhD. Two years of course work including some teaching and then you do your thesis. So in this world of ours we have Ambassadors and Ambassadors.

  21. I read in another thread here that the Malaysian Civil Service is 99% Malays.

    Are we not ashamed of ourselves to let this prejudice happen?

    Perhaps Utusan can spin it to make us feel that we are living in 1Malaysia.

  22. “Furthermore, the editor said: “But we over here, I apologise for having to say this, if there is no money, things don’t work.”

    If I’m not mistaken, this same editor [also said that the Opposition media has passion and beliefs] but the State media needs cash if not things don’t work.

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