Penang seeks Home Ministry sanction on Utusan
GEORGE TOWN, May 11 — The Penang government has filed a formal complaint to the Home Ministry demanding stern action against Utusan Malaysia for its report last week alleging a DAP Christian conspiracy.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said this afternoon that the state executive council had unanimously endorsed the complaint following yesterday’s admissions from two Umno state assemblymen that they, too, did not believe the report.
The admissions, said Lim, were made by Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Hilmi Yahya and Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Faris Saad during the state assembly sitting.
“The Penang state government would like to officially request that YB Minister initiate stern action against the false and malicious reporting by Utusan Malaysia in its front page story on May 7, 2011, which reported a purported conspiracy between the DAP and Christian pastors in Penang to establish a Christian State and to appoint a Christian prime minister,” Lim said in a letter to the ministry made available to The Malaysian Insider today.
He added that Hilmi’s and Muhammad Faris’s admissions showed clear proof that the Umno-owned daily’s report was based on lies and bordered on sedition.
Lim urged the federal administration to demand a retraction and a public apology from Utusan Malaysia for its “false and malicious” report, and for it to take action against the daily and all individuals responsible.
“The Penang government believes in freedom of information and freedom of press as basic tenets of human rights and democracy.
“However, this freedom does not allow you to print outright lies. This false reporting was conducted with malicious intentions, and could potentially inflame Malaysians through such bigoted and extremist sentiments,” he warned.
Utusan Malaysia front-paged an article last Saturday claiming a secret plot between DAP and Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya, abolish Islam as the religion of the federation and install a Christian as prime minister.
The report, based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, charged DAP with sedition for allegedly trying to change the country’s laws to allow a Christian prime minister.
The blog postings included a grainy photograph showing what was described as a secret pact between the opposition party and pastors at a hotel in Penang last Wednesday.
Christian groups and the DAP have, however, repeatedly denied the allegation and slammed the Umno daily for printing “dangerous lies”.
Pointing to this, Lim upbraided Utusan Malaysia again for refusing to voluntarily rescinding its report.
“Instead of retracting and apologising, Utusan Malaysia continued to fan the issue. Now, this false report has spread far and wide, causing anxiety and apprehension amongst peace-loving Malaysians,” he said.
As an example, Lim highlighted Sunday’s Umno Youth-inspired demonstration against the Penang government for its proposed toll-free alternative road from Jalan Bagan 29 to Jalan Siram.
During the gathering, said the chief minister, “strong language” was used by protesters against him for his alleged involvement in the purported Christian conspiracy.
Lim stressed that the state government had no complaints against the protest as it was the group’s democratic right to voice concerns over any state policy they disagreed with.
“However, it is wrong and dangerous for Penang Umno Youth to hold a demonstration to criticise with strong language against the chief minister for his involvement in the purported Christian conspiracy, as there is no basis and substantive evidence to support such lies.
“Demonstrating on the basis of lies is not democratic but in fact a dangerous act that could potentially destabilise the country,” he said.