CHINESE-language dailies have slammed Umno leaders’ attacks on Malaysian magnate Robert Kuok, with two of them pointing out in editorials that such rhetoric was only aimed at consolidating the Bumiputera vote.
Sin Chew Daily and Kwong Wah Daily yesterday said the attacks, while intended for a Malay audience, would do more harm than good, and showed the recklessness of the dominant party in Barisan Nasional.
In all, as many as six Chinese-language newspapers published commentaries refuting the statements against Kuok, who is based in Hong Kong.
Sin Chew Daily deputy chief executive editor Lim Sue Goan said in the editorial “Dragging Kuok Through the Mud”, that “these new allegations may be able to consolidate rural votes, but it is also a double-edged sword as it will undermine BN’s hard work in winning back the Chinese vote, as Kuok is highly respected in the Chinese community”.
“Whether this will help Umno gain more Malay votes is also questionable, as the Malay vote is already split. Kuok is a world-class entrepreneur (and) playing up the issue will not only negatively affect investments into the country, it will also affect the government’s credibility in its fight against fake news.”
Lim said the episode has also revealed BN’s internal conflict and exposed the insecurity of certain leaders who now have shot themselves in the foot.
In Kwong Wah, an editorial written by Hu Yi Dao said the attacks on Kuok were a “classic Umno strategy” to consolidate the Bumiputera vote by depicting the Chinese as wanting to take over the government while leaving Malays sidelined.
The paper also rubbished claims that Kuok was funding the opposition to topple Najib since the tycoon had already left Malaysia.
“Why would he spend a fortune to topple the government?” Hu asked.
He also questioned if Kuok, who had contributed hugely to Malaysia’s development, deserved to be attacked just because he stated a few uncomfortable truths in his memoirs.
Both Sin Chew and Kwong Wah in their editorials pointed out the dubious credibility of Raja Petra, who is fleeing sedition charges by residing in London.
MCA leaders have been quick to defend Kuok, with party president Liow Tiong Lai said he wanted Najib to put a stop to the attacks, while party secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan said such attacks could sour race relations.
The Umno leaders who have maligned 94-year-old Kuok are Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Nazri Aziz, both ministers. Tajuddin said Kuok had forgotten his roots, while Nazri called the tycoon “pondan” (effeminate) and dared him to return to Malaysia to contest in the 14th general election.
Their attacks came about following articles posted in the Malaysia Today website by blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who said Kuok was funding opposition party DAP and trying to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak in the next polls in order to set up a Chinese-led government.
Najib also took a swipe at Kuok, saying the country’s richest man, known as the “Sugar King”, would not have been so successful if not for government policies.
Kuok has denied the allegations and expressed his appreciation of the opportunities given to him, a statement that Najib’s office welcomed.
Kuok also said he is mulling legal action against Raja Petra.
Nanyang Siang Pau, meanwhile, published an open letter by prominent businessman Lee Kim Yew, who rebutted Nazri by saying “you are a minister but you don’t speak like one, not like a YB, but rude, very rude!”
“As a minister, your salary is paid with the people’s taxes, including the company taxes paid by Kuok, allowing you a comfortable lifestyle and you are free to spend public funds.
“Once your five-year mandate is over, you and your party will be evaluated. You may have been in power for too long and have forgotten that the people come first, thinking that the country and the party are one and the same.”
Lee also said: “Kuok is held in high-regard by all of us and we respect him deeply, your crude language has insulted him and damaged the country!
“We will not ask you for an apology, but we want you to apologise to the country, because your salary comes from the public, what you spend is the country’s money, and you represent the country.”