On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Water, tudung and land issues concern us too

And the water supply comes from Malaysia. If Malaysians
feel that Singapore ought to pay more, the media has every right to play it up.
The Malaysian press would be failing in its duties if such an important issue
were to be buried.

In the case of Saifuddin, he is making these accusations to the Malay audience
who may not read the two English newspapers.

Readers of The Star and NST would know that these dailies have devoted much
space to these issues, the latest being the controversy over reclamation works
by Singapore at Pulau Tekong.

Worse, Saifuddin has distorted the matter – two Singapore companies merely hold
a negligible combined shareholding of 3.07% in NST Press and 7.85% in Star
Publications (M) Bhd.

He claimed that Singapore had editorial control over the policies of these two
newspapers, which is nonsensical. There are no Singaporean reporters in these
two dailies, let alone Singaporean editors.

If he checks his facts, Saifuddin would have realised that the Foreign
Investment Committee allows investment in media firms if the stake is below
30%. There are also no Singapore representatives on the boards of these two
companies, as alleged.

But experienced journalists usually take statements from politicians with a
pinch of salt, even if these politicians consider themselves respectable

In the case of Goh, it is his opinion that the Malaysian media has
sensationalised the issue. Opinions are personal sentiments and need not
necessarily be correct.

As for Saifuddin, his facts are wrong – and dangerous if conveyed to listeners
at ceramahs. He should know that unlike Singapore and Thailand, Malaysian
newspapers do not employ foreigners.

In Singapore, Malaysians working in newspapers there have found that they are
usually not assigned to cover local politics. Most are restricted to layout
work or to cover Malaysian news.

In Thailand, Malaysians are employed in English language newspapers because of
their proficiency in the language. They are usually hired as copy-editors and
sub-editors to clean up news reports submitted by locals.

These Thai newspapers are quite liberal in recruiting foreigners, to the point
that Malaysians sometimes complain that even backpackers are hired and given
better treatment, simply because they are whites and presumably more fluent in
English than Malaysians. Again, that is a matter of opinion.

The tudung issue has been given much coverage in Malaysian newspapers because
many Muslims here wear tudung. They can relate to the issue, and many of them
have relatives in the republic.

Malaysian newspapers have, in fact, been cautious in dealing with the issue.
The Malay dailies, while defending the right to wear tudung had, after all,
been critical over the wearing of purdah and burka.

The reclamation issue has generated interest because of reports that the Pasir
Gudang Port in Johor Baru could lose its competitiveness once large vessels are
forced to fork out extra expenses for pilot services to sail through the
would-be narrowed Tebrau Straits resulting from the land reclamation.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman had said that once the works were
completed, the width of the straits would he halved, as indicated by the
graphics of the project that were made available to him.

He had said that with reclamation work, it would result in only a mere 700m
separating the Royal Malaysian Navy's training college, near Kota Tinggi, and
the edge of the reclaimed land.

The onus is now on the Singapore Government to argue its case and to convince
Malaysians. As far as the Malaysian press is concerned, the issue is