REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (13-19 Jul)

In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

Sandra Rajoo brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Sources: Pencil- The Shane [email protected], newspaper- [email protected]

Utusan Malaysia’s spin fails to cover lies

‘Spinning’ – telling half-truths and double-speak when covering an issue – has become an art form skilfully practised by the media, the adept execution of which masks insidious purposes and distorted truth. That is how newspaper journalism has ‘evolved’ through the years. But is spinning wrong?

Utusan Malaysia deputy chief editor Mohd Zaini Hassan says it’s quite all right to “spin a certain fact to be biased”. But he fails to distinguish between spin and blatant lies. Utusan Malaysia has often crossed that key threshold. For example, it published outright lies not just once but twice about Penang CM Lim Guan Eng, for which it was sued and found guilty both times. No lessons were learnt from this, despite having to pay hefty sums for defamation.

Recall too, how Berita Harian and NST deliberately and unashamedly doctored an article about Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, making him out to be anti-Islam when in actual fact he was against Scientology.

Spinning is one thing, telling outright lies is quite another. We hope that all media are able to distinguish between the two. It has become the norm to gloss over journalistic principles in favour of political leanings. Readers not only have to be discerning, and clever enough to read between the lines of spin, they must also approach their daily media with a bucketful of salt.

I’m ignorant but innocent, Your Honour

Will former Transport Minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s cries of innocence gain the sympathy of the court? Dr Ling is accused of “knowingly deceiving the Cabinet” and causing the government to suffer massive losses in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) debacle.

During cross-examination, he pleaded ignorance over financial matters and claimed not to have seen “documents, minutes of meetings and memorandums”. It makes us wonder how our ministers sitting in such high positions of power can be so blissfully unaware of things they are responsible for. Obviously, prudent management of funds does not matter when the money doesn’t come from your own pocket.

As exemplified by this case, ignorance is truly bliss. Or is this another form of spinning?

Felda listing: who really benefits?

It had barely been a month into the government’s listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH), when thousands of unhappy Felda plantation settlers marched to seek the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s intervention against this move that would “short-change some 112,000 Felda settlers”. The feeling on the ground is that benefits will mainly go to large institutional funds, foreign investors and government cronies, not the ‘man on the plantation’.

“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”

(The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1797–98, Samuel T.Coleridge)

The prospect of dry taps even while it rains cats and dogs almost daily may become a reality for Selangor residents. State water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) is calling for water rationing but Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid views the move as “suspicious”.

The state government has now given notice to take over the Syabas water concession for failure to discharge its duties as required under its concession agreement. MB Khalid has said Selangor will take legal action to protect its citizens’ rights under the water concession agreement with Syabas should Putrajaya refuse this takeover request,

Syabas’ professed need for rationing does not appear to hold water. A visit to all the seven dams in Selangor by state exco member Ronnie Liu revealed that water levels were at “peak capacity”. Is Syabas trying to ‘spin’ the issue or telling an outright lie?

Death of an inspiring figure

The man who taught us how to be effective and successful individuals is gone. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, died of head injuries sustained in a bike accident. This writer, scholar, leader and businessman was remembered by his colleagues as “a powerful voice for personal integrity, strong character and extreme trustworthiness”. His family described him as an “approachable person with a good sense of humour”.

Covey’s writings have always been underpinned by ethics and clear reasoning, standards every writer should live up to. The principles he lived by should be a lesson to all.

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.
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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at

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