Apr 16, 08 4:58pm
The Home Ministry today rejected the renewal of Tamil daily Makkal Osai’s publication permit, a move believed to be related to the widespread coverage given to the opposition.
When contacted, Makkal Osai general manager SM Periasamy confirmed that the ministry issued the letter which stated that the daily’s application ‘will not be considered’. The letter did not state any reasons for the rejection.
According to Periasamy, the daily - which is closely linked to former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam - had submitted an application for renewal in July, three months ahead of its permit’s expiry. Since Oct 15 - the day its permit expired - the daily has continued publication with the understanding that the government was in the process of considering its application for renewal. It finally received the answer from the ministry today.
It is noted for the extensive coverage given to the opposition often featuring lengthy articles on their leaders such as PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim. The daily’s headline today was about police presence at Anwar’s house yesterday over the Black 14 probe. It also asked if Anwar’s wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail would be arrested for failing to give a police statement.
Insiders also say that the ministry was also upset over the daily’s publication of photographs of Hindraf leader, the ISA-detained P Uthayakumar, while receiving treatment at the Taiping hospital last week. The daily, launched in 2005, has also given prominence to the Makkal Sakthi (people’s power) movement which sprang to life following the Nov 25 mammoth rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
However, the daily saw a decline in its circulation after Subramaniam buried the hatchet with his former nemesis MIC president S Samy Vellu who owns the rival Tamil Nesan daily.
Filing appeal tomorrow
Apart from the two dailies, the other Tamil newspaper in the market is Malaysia Nanban.
“We will file an appeal against this decision tomorrow,” said Periasamy. Makkal Osai, whose office is located in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, has some 100 staff. Their fate remains unknown. Makkal Osai or “The People’s Voice” has a circulation of 52,000.
This is not the first time that the newspaper ran into trouble. On Aug 24 last year, the government lapped a one-month suspension after the Tamil daily published an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can four days ago. It was published as a weekly newspaper for 15 years before it became a daily in December 2005. It is an offshoot of Tamil Osai which ceased operations in 1990 following a management dispute.
First sign of repression?
Meanwhile in an immediate reaction, DAP’s veteran leader Lim Kit Siang questioned if the daily was banned for giving too much coverage for the Pakatan Rakyat. “Is this the first sign of repression and crackdown on human rights and the little space opening up in the printed media after the March 8 political tsunami?” he asked in a statement today.
He said that it was clear that the decision to stop the publication of Makkal Osai was made at the weekly cabinet meeting today. “Why did the ministers, particularly from Umno and other Barisan Nasional component parties, particularly from the MIC, who have promised to end their subsidiary and subservient role in cabinet , agreed to such a repressive measure as to immediately close down Makkal Osai?”