Malaysia

Home Ministry won’t renew Suara Keadilan permit

By Clara Chooi
August 04, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 – The Home Ministry insisted today that it has closed the file on Suara Keadilan’s printing permit, indicating that the PKR organ would not be obtaining its long-awaited renewal.

The ministry’s Publications Control and Quranic Text secretary Datuk Zaitun Ab Samad told The Malaysian Insider this afternoon that as it stands, the party cannot proceed with publishing Suara Keadilan as its permit had expired last June.

“Nothing has changed. Their permit has expired and that’s that,” she said.

She insisted that there was nothing further to discuss regarding the issue, pointing out that the ministry had already informed PKR that it was not satisfied with the party’s explanation on its queries.

The ministry had earlier slapped a show-cause letter on the party, seeking for an explanation on several offensive articles it had published, including the controversial “Felda Bangkrap” article.

It held back indefinitely on its decision to renew the party’s printing permit, which had expired on June 30 this year.

“We already told them that we were not satisfied with their explanation so what does that mean? As far as we are concerned, their permit continues to be expired,” she said.

When asked if this meant that the ministry had made a decision not to renew the publication’s permit, Zaitun said: “It’s not about that. The question of renewal does not arise. Like I said, their permit expired and it remains expired. We have also said we were not satisfied with their first explanation and they have not given us another one since then.”

When informed of Zaitun’s response this evening, PKR chief strategist Chua Tian Chang chided her for making such a statement, claiming that it was “not her job” to say if she were satisfied with PKR’s explanation.

“In fact, it is not up to us to satisfy them. The question now is whether the Home Minister himself is satisfied. If not, then he should be banning us right?,” he said.

He insisted that the ministry had no power or right to stop PKR from proceeding to find ways to spread information through its newspapers.

“Just like how you can reject an application for a ceramah but you cannot stop people from gathering? They canot stop us. They can throw you in court, or arrest you but they cannot stop you,” he said.

To avoid being penalised for printing Suara Keadilan without a permit, the party has since resorted to printing its editions under different names, the latest being “Utusan Keadilan”. It has so far printed “Keadilan”, “Obor Keadilan” and “Sinar Keadilan”.

It is utilising a loophole in printing laws that allows it to print one-off non-serialised publications without obtaining a permit, similar to the editions it published from 1999 to 2008 when it finally received a permit.

“They cannot stop us. And you know what? They will never be satisfied with whatever we say. Imagine, they claimed that we had undermined the government’s image. What do they expect from an opposition party paper?

“You cannot expect articles that they would consider as ‘responsible statements’,” an irritated-sounding Chua said when contacted.

He said that the party would deal directly with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein during the next Parliamentary session.

“When I see him, I will personally ask him what he wants to do. Oftentimes, when we deal with ministry staff, all they tell us is that the decision is the minister’s to make so I do not know why suddenly this person, I don’t care what’s her name, is saying this,” Chua said, indicating Zaitun.

Meanwhile, for DAP’s The Rocket newspaper, Zaitun said the ministry would be making its final decision very soon on whether to renew its permit.

“Now that they have responded to us, we will make our decision fast,” she said.

She noted that the party had been asked to respond to three queries by the ministry on why the publication had continued printing under expired permits, why it had failed to submit eight copies to the ministry prior to each publication and why it had printed an inaccurate permit number on one of its issues last year.

DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua confirmed with The Malaysian Insider this morning that the party had responded to the ministry through a letter delivered late last week.

“We are expecting a response very soon,” he said.

He noted that unlike the PKR, the DAP would not go ahead and print its publication by changing its masthead.

“At this juncture, we are not considering it. Our content is ready but we will wait for the ministry’s response,” he said.

As such, the Rocket’s English and Chinese versions missed its printing deadline late last month for this month’s edition.