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Sunday February 12, 2006

Sarawak needs new English daily, says top Tribune exec


KUCHING: Sarawak needs a new English daily to channel honest, accurate and true information to the public, said the editorial chairman of the suspended Sarawak Tribune, Datuk Idris Buang. 

Sarawak Tribune was a people-friendly newspaper and we were doing very well before the suspension. But we may not bring it back again. 

“So, I hope a new English newspaper would come up and take the role as a people and government-friendly newspaper and make information available to the people,” Bernama reported him as telling reporters here yesterday after attending the Excellent Sarawak campaign launched by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu. 

Idris, however, ruled out the prospects of The Sarawak Press Sdn Bhd, the publisher of the Tribune, of coming up with a new English daily.  

The Government suspended the 61-year-old Sarawak Tribune for an indefinite period for reproducing caricatures that were offensive to Muslims in its Feb 4 issue. 

The board of directors of Sarawak Press decided to shut down the daily even if the suspension order was lifted. 

In PEKAN, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the stern action against the Sarawak Tribune should send a strong signal to all quarters not to make a mockery of religions in the country. 

Referring to the indefinite suspension of the paper, he said: “We will protect the sanctity of any religion against such irresponsible action.” 

He said Malaysians valued their religions highly, unlike in the West where any topic could be made into cartoons.  

In taking action against the Sarawak daily, the Government had “walked the talk,” he told reporters after opening a national gathering of senior officers from the Special Affairs Department in Kuantan yesterday.  

Najib said, however, that it was up to the Attorney-General and the police to decide whether reprinting of the offending caricatures by the paper was seditious.  

Asked if the suspension would affect the ruling party’s performance in the Sarawak state elections, which is due in October, Najib said: “It is not the first time we are facing an election. We will always be ready.” 

In KUALA LUMPUR, former Iranian president Mohamad Khatami said leaders from the West should ensure such cartoons were not published and not remain indifferent towards the issue. 

He said a censure and apology by newspaper owners could have eased tensions and allayed anger.  

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