Memo to Datuk Zaid Ibrahim: Your colleagues aren’t pulling with the journalists

MCPX

journalist media barred from parliament lobby area 240608 07Malaysiakini today reported that more than 100 journalists covering the ongoing Parliamentary sitting are staging a boycott after the Parliament administration restricted media access to the lobby, and barricaded the area. The journalists were outraged and stunned by the latest ruling which resulted in the entire lobby being cordoned off, apparently on security grounds. (Picture from Malaysiakini)

During the dialogue on June 1, 2008 with journalists at the National Press Club, Datuk Zaid had challenged journalists to get their act together and do a proper job. In an interview with Malaysiakini a couple of weeks ago, I was asked how I felt towards his comments. My reply was that whilst the journalists embark on pushing the envelope, Zaid and his colleagues in Parliament must also pull together in the same direction or media freedom will remain a dream.

Well, what can one make out of this latest move to restrict journalists’ access to the lobby? Apparently, this is the first time that Parliament has enforced such a ruling and the basis for this is reported to be security concerns. Last Friday, Parliament had already dished out a ruling that limits to five the number of journalists an accredited media organization may send up the hill. Parliament is not a place where anyone can walk into unchecked. If they think there may be journalists who could some equipped with C4, how hard is it to search 100 from tip to toe? In any case, the majority of Malaysian journalists are not really the gung-ho type if what Zaid is true.

This move is symptomatic of the government’s cluelessness when dealing with a crisis. Was there a crisis? For sure, the last few days had been rather traumatic for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. The attempt by SAPP to call for a vote of no confidence in the PM wasn’t nice at all but that pales on the excitement scale when compared with the (C4) bombshell by the most famous blogger in Malaysia, Raja Petra bin Raja Petra Kamarudin (also known as RPK).

In a statutory declaration (SD) dated June 18, 2008, RPK declared that he was reliably informed that Acting Colonel Aziz Buyong, a C4 expert, was the person who had placed the explosives on various parts of the Mongolian lady, Altantuya’s (apparently already dead from two gun shots to her head) body in the presence of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor (wife of the Deputy PM Najin Tun Razak) and Norhayati (wife of Aziz). He further declared that he was reliably informed that a military report confirming the aforesaid was handed to the Prime Minister, who then passed it on to his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaludin, for safe-keeping. Next, he was told that one of Rulers is also aware of the on-goings.

Haris Ibrahim in his blog The People’s Parliament labeled this SD as “the mother of all bombshells”. Indeed so for if what RPK has declared can be backed up, it means Datin Seri Rosmah, Aziz and Norhayati are all accessories after the fact, if not before the fact. That means murder punishable by death. It also means the PM and his SIL are both guilty of covering up a heinous crime and this calls for stiff jail time. As for the Ruler, I suppose he can always say that he is waiting to see if the others will do the right thing.

It is probably this SD by RPK that has caused the Parliament administration to make these bizarre rulings. We think they simply do not want questions on this SD and to keep the press away on security grounds seems so stupid. After all, they could have easily deflected all questions with a standard “matter is under investigation, so sheesh” statement. It unnecessarily tarnishes the government’s attempt to portray itself as being more open and friendly towards the media and the people’s thirst for information.

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