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Ong Ka Ting Has “Killed Two Birds With One Stone” By Reducing MCA’s Financial Losses From Its Failed Nanyang Siang Pau’s Investment And Still Retain MCA’s Control Of Nanyang And Its Sister Paper China Press By Selling To A Friendly Party.
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday
): The sale of 21% stake by MCA in Nanyang Press Holdings to Ezywood Options Sdn Bhd, controlled by Rimbunan Hijau group founder and chairman Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King has created a new media monopoly power similar to that in the Malay papers. Tiong who already owns the best selling newspaper in the country Sin Chew Jit Poh will now control both Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, allowing him to control the top 3 Chinese newspapers in Malaysia.
However for MCA President Datuk Ong Ka Ting, it allows him to “kill two birds with one stone” by reducing MCA’s financial losses from its failed Nanyang Siang Pau’s investment and still retain MCA’s control of Nanyang and China Press by selling to a friendly party. With MCA’s remaining 20% stake in Nanyang Press Holdings, MCA can still maintain indirect control over Nanyang and China Press.
The 15.9 million shares in Nanyang Press Holdings were sold to Ezywood for RM64.67 million or RM4.20 per share. Huaren bought the stake at RM5.50 per share in 2001. This means MCA lost RM1.30 a share from its five-year investment or RM 20.9 million. Huaren paid about RM297 million in total to buy a 92 % stake in Nanyang, including the controlling block from Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan-controlled Hume Industries (M) Bhd.
By cutting its losses, Ong feels that MCA has a win-win solution in not only stopping its pumping of money to what it sees as a losing investment, and yet retain influence over the two Chinese papers and indirectly also with Sin Chew Jit Poh. Whether such a sale promotes press freedom is irrelevant for MCA as long as it perceives it can still control the Chinese press to its advantage.
DAP also views this development of creating a monopoly power with concern, especially in the crucial sector of newspapers with its impact on press freedom. In economic literature, monopoly power in any economic sector does not encourage competition as it is seen as negative and harmful to the economy and country. Creating monopoly power in the papers may lead to abuse of powers that benefits powerful interests at the expense of democracy and the interests of ordinary Malaysians.
The challenge for Tiong is to prove that his investment is a commercial decision that would not impact negatively on press freedom, especially in articulating the aspirations of the Chinese community. The Chinese community is worried that the Chinese papers will stop being their voice against the discriminatory policies by the BN government that continues to systematically marginalize the Chinese communtiy.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah denies that there press restrictions but admits there is self-censorship. This has resulted in self-censorship in Malaysia been refined to such a fine art that the censors could not do a better job. Tiong has to demonstrate there is no self-censorship and the Chinese newspapers are allowed to continue to print stories that reflects the aspirations, problems and hopes of the Chinese community.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP