Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’


As we celebrate the 56th anniversary of our beloved nation, it is time to reflect on the circumstances which led to the formation of Malaysia with Sarawak joining the Malayan states, Sabah and Singapore to give birth to a new federation on Sept 16, 1963.

Watch this video!


Written by Lee Kuan Yew

REPRINT My concern today is, what is it I can tell you which can add to your knowledge about aging and what aging societies can do.

You know more about this subject than I do. A lot of it is out in the media, Internet and books. So I thought the best way would be to take a personal standpoint and tell you how I approach this question of aging.

If I cast my mind back, I can see turning points in my physical and mental health.

You know, when you’re young, I didn’t bother, assumed good health was God-given and would always be there.

When I was about 57 that was – I was about 34, we were competing in elections, and I was really fond of drinking beer and smoking.

And after the election campaign, in Victoria Memorial Hall – we had won the election, the City Council election – I couldn’t thank the voters because I had lost my voice. I’d been smoking furiously.

I’d take a packet of 10 to deceive myself, but I’d run through the packet just sitting on the stage, watching the crowd, getting the feeling, the mood before I speak.

In other words, there were three speeches a night. Three speeches a night, 30 cigarettes, a lot of beer after that, and the voice was gone. I remember I had a case in Kuching, Sarawak . So I took the flight and I felt awful. I had to make up my mind whether I was going to be an effective campaigner and a lawyer, in which case I cannot destroy my voice, and I can’t go on.

So I stopped smoking. It was a tremendous deprivation because I was addicted to it. And I used to wake up dreaming…the nightmare was I resumed smoking.

But I made a choice and said, if I continue this, I will not be able to do my job. I didn’t know anything about cancer of the throat, or oesophagus or the lungs, etc.

But it turned out it had many other deleterious effects.

Strangely enough after that, I became very allergic, hyper-allergic to smoking, so much so that I would plead with my Cabinet ministers not to smoke in the Cabinet room.

You want to smoke, please go out, because I am allergic.

Beer belly

Then one day I was at the home of my colleague, Mr Rajaratnam, meeting foreign correspondents including some from the London Times and they took a picture of me and I had a big belly like that (puts his hands in front of his belly), a beer belly.

I felt no, no, this will not do.

So I started playing more golf, hit hundreds of balls on the practice tee.

But this didn’t go down. There was only one way it could go down: consume less, burn up more.

Another turning point came in 1976, after the general election –

I was feeling tired. I was breathing deeply at the Istana, on the lawns.

My daughter, who at that time just graduating as a doctor, said: ‘What are you trying to do?’

I said: ‘I feel an effort to breathe in more oxygen.’ She said: ‘Don’t play golf. Run. Aerobics..’

So she gave me a book, quite a famous book and, then, very current in America on how you score aerobic points swimming, running, whatever it is, cycling.

I looked at it sceptically. I wasn’t very keen on running. I was keen on golf.

So I said, ‘Let’s try’. So in-between golf shots while playing on my own, sometimes nine holes at the Istana, I would try and walk fast between shots.

Then I began to run between shots. And I felt better. After a while, I said: ‘Okay, after my golf, I run.’

And after a few years, I said: ‘Golf takes so long. The running takes 15 minutes. Let’s cut out the golf and let’s run.’

Slower & Sluggish

I think the most important thing in aging is you got to understand yourself.

And the knowledge now is all there. When I was growing up, the knowledge wasn’t there.

I had to get the knowledge from friends, from doctors.

But perhaps the most important bit of knowledge that the doctor gave me was one day, when I said:

‘Look, I’m feeling slower and sluggish.’

So he gave me a medical encyclopaedia and he turned the pages to aging. I read it up and it was illuminating.

A lot of it was difficult jargon but I just skimmed through to get the gist of it.

As you grow, you reach 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and then, thereafter, you are on a gradual slope down physically.

Mentally, you carry on and on and on until I don’t know what age, but mathematicians will tell you that they know their best output is when they’re in their 20s and 30s when your mental energy is powerful and you haven’t lost many neurons. That’s what they tell me.

So, as you acquire more knowledge, you then craft a programme for yourself to maximise what you have. It’s just common sense.

Dad’s DNA

I never planned to live till 85 or 84.! I just didn’t think about it.

I said: ‘Well, my mother died when she was 74, she had a stroke.. My father died when he was 94.’

But I saw him, and he lived a long life, well, maybe it was his DNA.

But more than that, he swam every day and he kept himself busy!

He was working for the Shell company. He was in charge, he was a superintendent of an oil depot.

When he retired, he started becoming a salesman. So people used to tell me: ‘Your father is selling watches at BP de Silva.’ My father was then living with me. But it kept him busy. He had that routine: He meets people, he sells watches, he buys and sells all kinds of semi-precious stones, he circulates coins. And he keeps going. But at 87, 88, he fell, going down the steps from his room to the dining room, broke his arm, three months incapacitated.

Thereafter, he couldn’t go back to swimming. Then he became wheelchair-bound.

Then it became a problem because my house was constructed that way.

So my brother – who’s a doctor and had a flat (one-level) house – took him in.

And he lived on till 94. But towards the end, he had gradual loss of mental powers.

Angiogram

So my calculations, I’m somewhere between 74 and 94. And I’ve reached the halfway point now.

But have I?

Well, 1996 when I was 73, I was cycling and I felt tightening on the neck.

Oh, I must retire today. So I stopped. Next day, I returned to the bicycle.

After five minutes it became worse.

So I said, no, no, this is something serious, it’s got to do with the blood vessels.

Rung up my doctor, who said, ‘Come tomorrow’. Went tomorrow, he checked me, and said: ‘Come back tomorrow for an angiogram.’

I said: ‘What’s that ?’

He said: ‘We’ll pump something in and we’ll see whether the coronary arteries are cleared or blocked.’

I was going to go home.

But an MP who was a cardiologist happened to be around, so he came in and said: ‘What are you doing here?’

I said: ‘I’ve got this.’ He said: ‘Don’t go home.

You stay here tonight. I’ve sent patients home and they never came back.

Just stay here. They’ll put you on the monitor. They’ll watch your heart.

And if anything, an emergency arises, they will take you straight to the theatre.

You go home. You’ve got no such monitor. You may never come back.’

So I stayed there. Pumped in the dye, yes it was blocked, the left circumflex, not the critical, lead one.

So that’s lucky for me. Two weeks later, I was walking around, I felt it’s coming back.

Yes it has come back, it had occluded. So this time they said: ‘We’ll put in a stent.’

I’m one of the first few in Singapore to have the stent, so it was a brand new operation.

Fortunately, the man who invented the stent was out here selling his stent.

He was from San Jose, La Jolla something or the other. So my doctor got hold of him and he supervised the operation.

He said put the stent in. My doctor did the operation, he just watched it all and then that’s that.

That was before all this problem about lining the stent to make sure that it doesn’t occlude and create a disturbance.

New danger points

So at each stage, I learnt something more about myself and I stored that. I said: ‘Oh, this is now a danger point.’

So all right, cut out fats, change diet, went to see a specialist in Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital.

He said: ‘Take statins.’ I said: ‘What’s that?’ He said: ‘(They) help to reduce your cholesterol.’

My doctors were concerned. They said: ‘You don’t need it. Your cholesterol levels are okay.’

Two years later, more medical evidence came out. So the doctors said: ‘Take statins.’

Had there been no angioplasty, had I not known that something was up and I cycled on, I might have gone at 74 like my mother.

So I missed that decline. So next deadline: my father’s fall at 87. I’m very careful now because sometimes when I turn around too fast, I feel as if I’m going to get off balance.

So my daughter, a neurologist, she took me to the NNI, there’s this nerve conduction test, put electrodes here and there.

The transmission of the messages between the feet and the brain has slowed down.

So all the exercise, everything, effort put in, I’m fit, I swim, I cycle.

But I can’t prevent this losing of conductivity of the nerves and this transmission. So just go slow.

So when I climb up the steps, I have no problem.

When I go down the steps, I need to be sure that I’ve got something I can hang on to, just in case.

So it’s a constant process of adjustment.

Worst thing – isolating oneself

But I think the most important single lesson I learnt in life was that if you isolate yourself, you’re done for.

The human being is a social animal – he needs stimuli, he needs to meet people, to catch up with the world.

I don’t much like travel but I travel very frequently despite the jetlag, because I get to meet people of great interest to me, who will help me in my work as Chairman of our GIC.

So I know, I’m on several boards of banks, international advisory boards of banks, of oil companies and so on.

And I meet them and I get to understand what’s happening in the world, what has changed since I was here one month ago, one year ago.

I go to India, I go to China.

And that stimuli brings me to the world of today. I’m not living in the world, when I was active, more active 20, 30 years ago. So I tell my wife.

She woke up late today. I said: ‘Never mind, you come along by 12 o’clock. I go first.’

If you sit back – because part of the ending part of the encyclopaedia which I read was very depressing – as you get old, you withdraw from everything and then all you will have is your bedroom and the photographs and the furniture that you know, and that’s your world.

So if you’ve got to go to hospital, the doctor advises you to bring some photographs so that you’ll know you’re not lost in a different world, that this is like your bedroom.

I’m determined that I will not, as long as I can, to be reduced, to have my horizons closed on me like that.

It is the stimuli, it is the constant interaction with people across the world that keeps me aware and alive to what’s going on and what we can do to adjust to this different world.

In other words, you must have an interest in life.

If you believe that at 55, you’re retiring, you’re going to read books, play golf and drink wine, then I think you’re done for.

So statistically they will show you that all the people who retire and lead sedentary lives, the pensioners die off very quickly.

So we now have a social problem with medical sciences, new procedures, new drugs, many more people are going to live long lives.. ….

If the mindset is that when I reach retirement age 62, I’m old, I can’t work anymore, I don’t have to work, I just sit back, now is the time I’ll enjoy life,

I think you’re making the biggest mistake of your life.

After one month, or after two months, even if you go traveling with nothing to do, with no purpose in life, you will just degrade, you’ll go to seed.

The human being needs a challenge, and my advice to every person in Singapore and elsewhere:

Keep yourself interested, have a challenge.

If you’re not interested in the world and the world is not interested in you, the biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli, that’s real torture.

So when I read that people believe, Singaporeans say: ‘Oh, 62 I’m retiring.’ I say to them: ‘You really want to die quickly?’

If you want to see sunrise tomorrow or sunset, you must have a reason, you must have the stimuli to keep going..’

Mailbag


The 21-year-old Sabahan, Yong Vui Kong, sentenced to death by Singapore’s High Court for trafficking 47 grammes of heroin had his Singapore lawyer Ravi taking his own initiative to visit Sandakan to meet up with Yong’s mother. So nice of Ravi and all the Singaporeans who came along with him for the visit.

Who said Singaporeans are like machine and heartless? I have my cousins from my mothers side who are Singaporeans and they are beautiful people and so is Ravi and all other Singaporeans who have taken special interest in Yong. Before I forget, need to give a word of thanks to Rachel Zeng the activist from Singapore, who is so passionate about dignity of human life and has taken so much interest in Yong’s predicament and she has put a lot of us to shame for not doing enough for our fellow humans. I too like Rachel believe that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and it is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state and its cruel, inhuman and this degrading punishment is done in the name of justice, it violates the right to life.

See below Ravi’s meeting with Yong’s mother in Sandakan.

We visit on our third day in Sandakan. She looks surprised to see so many of us. But we’re even more taken aback by the state of her little two-bedroom flat. Vui Fung had told us earlier that she lives alone. We’d half-expected her home to be gloomy and untidy. But the place is immaculately kept. Clean, and bright and airy. There are photos of her children and grandchildren everywhere. A large, framed family portrait takes pride of place in the living room.

We’re all nervous about meeting her. Terrified we’d somehow let slip what she must not be told – that Vui Kong, her youngest son, sits on death row. We’d all heard her heartbreaking story. We know of her mental illness, her struggles as an impoverished single mother, her visit last year to Changi Prison, to see Vui Kong just two days before he was originally scheduled to hang. He had told her he was going away to seek penance for his sins and that he would never ever return.

That narrative had confused me back then. Did she really buy the story? Surely, a mother must know?

Meeting her now, I finally understand why Vui Kong felt he had to protect his mother from the truth. It is impossible to have a conversation with her. She hardly says a word. Doesn’t acknowledge anyone’s questions. It is as if she’s living in her own little bubble, a bubble you dare not burst. Vui Fung blames it on anti-depressants.

“They make her sleepy and slow.”

But her older kids don’t want to wean her off the pills – they’re afraid she might sink back into depression and try to kill herself again.

*
The previous day, we’d visited their old house, a two-storey building in the middle of an oil palm plantation. No one lives there now. It’s where the family keeps their unwanted junk.

Inside a room full of odds and ends, Ravi (Vui Kong’s lawyer) found an old cupboard full of children’s things. Her children’s things. Vui Kong’s mother had carefully preserved his old textbooks. Primary 1 to Primary 4. He’d dropped out of school after that, to find work in the city.

We found Yun Leong’s report card. He was an excellent student. If only he had kept on studying. We found an old school t-shirt and tiny shorts. All meticulously packed away.

See the rest Here

See here and here


We the citizens of Singapore, residents in Singapore and concerned individuals from the international community humbly put forward our plea of clemency for Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian who has been sentenced to death by the High Court of Singapore for trafficking 47 grammes of heroin. Yong was 19 years old at the time of offence. He currently faces impending execution.

You can read the rest of the petition HERE.

You can also read my earlier article on Yong Vui Fong HERE


The Pulau Batu Puteh Predicament: A Preliminary Study of Malaysian Media Coverage

Azliana Abdul Aziz, Vilashini Somiah, Azizah Hamzah

& Mohd Yahya Mohamed Ariffin

Abstract

The media plays a very significant role in keeping diplomatic ties between countries strong. The media is strongly responsible for covering issues as ethically and as unbiased as possible in order to deliver the news right. In May of 2008, the International Court of Justice had ruled that Singapore would be given sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh (also known in English as Pedra Branca), ending the 28-year old territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over the isle no larger than half a football field. Though the verdict brought about much mixed reactions from both parties, this research will only focus on the Malaysian news coverage given on the issue. The methodology for this research will be a qualitative one, in which the researchers will conduct interviews with relevant parties as well as evaluate random sampling of news materials that focused on the Pulau Batu Puteh incident in 2008. The researchers also aim to investigate how mediated political issues are presented and how it can affect its readers from Malaysia and Singapore alike.

Key words: Malaysia-Singapore news, political communication, Pulau Batu Puteh

Introduction

The issue of sovereignty over Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh (literally meaning ‘White Rock’), an island with an area of about 8,560 square metres, between Malaysia and Singapore, crystallized on 14th February 1980. The issue of sovereignty was brought to attention when Singapore protested against the publication in 1979 by Malaysia of a map depicting the island as lying within Malaysia’s territorial waters. 13 years later, on the 6th February 1993 it was followed up by the dispute as to sovereignty over Middle Rocks and South Ledge. This dispute was then brought to the International Court of Justice (The ICJ) to be settled. The only form of development found on this island located between the Singapore Straits and South China Sea is the Horsburgh Lighthouse, built by the British somewhere between 1850 and 1851 without seeking consent from any party as Malaya was under ruling of the British.

Both countries made endless efforts to stake their claim over Pulau Batu Puteh. Ralph Haller-Trost (1993) wrote in his book Historical legal claims: a study of disputed sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca), that Malaysia had historically tried to prove that the island belonged to them for almost 400 years.

Pulau Batu Puteh and Middle Rocks

Source: http://www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia argued that the Sultan of Johore had exercised sovereignty over the rock since 1513 when the Johore-Riau-Lingga Sultanate was founded by Sultan Mahmud…According to the Malaysian view, based on the Theory of State Succession, Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to the Federation of Malaysia because it was part of the Federation of Malaya into which in turn the sultanate of Johore was amalgamated when it joined the newly formed independent state in 1957” (Haller-Trost, 1993).

However, Singapore claimed that the presence of the Horsburgh Lighthouse, built by the British, was enough to prove that the island belonged to them. Singapore was entitled to inherit everything that was left behind after independence.

Singapore on the other hand, maintains that it has full territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction over the rock due to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty, and of the HEIC (Honourable East India Company) whose legal successor Singapore is-had built a lighthouse thereon and maintained it since 1851. No government authority (neither Johore nor Malaysia) had up to 1979 objected against this status, or had made any claim to the contrary. It therefore considers the rock being legally part of its territory” (Haller-Trost, 1993).

On the 23rd of May 2008, after a 29-year territorial dispute, the ICJ ruled that Pedra Branca was under Singapore’s sovereignty. In the official press release by the ICJ handed out on the very same day, it was mentioned “The Court finds that Singapore has sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh; that Malaysia has sovereignty over Middle Rocks; and that sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located.” (cite ICJ press release) The ruling in which decides the exact sovereignty of South Ledge has yet to be resolved.

The ICJ went on to explain that the reason for their decision was based on the fact that “Malaysia did not respond to Singapore’s conduct on the island, including the flying of its ensign, except for the republic’s installation of naval communication equipment”. (Site the star three reasons why island went to sing). The ICJ also pointed out that the Johor authorities and their successors took no action at all on the island beginning June 1850 for the whole of the following century onwards.

Distance from Pulau Batu Puteh and Singapore and Malaysia respectively

Source: http://www.malaysiakini.com

Objective of study

This paper looks into the coverage given by the Malaysian press on the debate over the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh/ Pedra Branca and its subsequent referral to the ICJ, focusing more so on written articles either printed or online. The reporting was inspected for the utilisation of the media for diplomatic or political motive, seeing as the long-standing territorial dispute offered a prime opportunity to employ the media as a political or diplomatic instrument on top of its original role of informing the public.

Theoretical Framework

In undergoing this research two forms of communication were mainly utilised in the analysis of the Malaysian media coverage concerning the dispute. The first of which, being that of mediated political communication and secondly the form of mediated diplomatic communication or media diplomacy (Gilboa, 2002). All the articles looked into during the course of this research were scrutinised for evidence of media diplomacy, the extent of its usage and what it entails.

Firstly, the characteristics of political communication is defined in terms of the intentions of its senders (McNair, 2003)

The crucial factor that makes communication ‘political’ is not the source of a message [or we might add referring back to their earlier emphasis on ‘public discussion’, its form] but its content and purpose” (Denton & Woodward, 1990)

McNair (2003) also establishes that a democratic media is needed in order to achieve objectivity in mediated political discourse. A democratic media must inform, educate on the significance or meaning of the facts, provide a platform for public discourse for ‘public opinion’ to emerge and later generate that opinion back to the public, who should be made available to information regarding those in power (the acts of whoever in supreme power made available for public scrutiny) and finally serve as a channel for the advocacy of political viewpoints.

Mediated political communications have of late, grown vastly in importance and poses as a substantial influencing medium towards public opinion. Seemingly it is the precise fact that opinions form the core of political communications that presents problems in objectivity (Bennet & Entman, 2001). However, from surveys held through audience analysis, it may be concluded that though broadcast coverage may contribute in a small way towards viewers’ preference of political candidates, it is the level of knowledge and personal interest in politics that an individual has, that ultimately governs his/her opinions (Traudt, 2005).

This brings us to the question of objectivity. Though it is often debated that complete objectivity could be something of an impossible task, as more often than not a writer’s personality or views will unconsciously be reflected within the written script, the attempt at writing objectively, putting forth facts without favouring a certain side of an argument or ellipsing information to elicit mediation, is still a task that many journalists strive to undertake. The result, is an, if not completely objective report, a report which endeavours to put forth uncensored factual information.

Journalism in Malaysia and Singapore has always been conceived to be restricted, and this year, they have held very close positions in the freedom of press rankings. In the eyes of the world, press freedom for both countries is seen as controlled and constricting. Ranking at number 143 and 145 respectively, out of 195 countries in the 2009 Freedom of Press World Ranking (Freedom House) with the bottom 64 countries, considered as having no press freedom, it is an obvious conclusion that the rest of the world views the freedom of press for both countries as severely lacking. This is a result of the legal boundaries upon both nations’ media, and these same boundaries can be seen most diligently observed in political reporting.

An alternative to the mainstream media is through the medium of new media, such as political blogs and online news groups. For Malaysia, this has proved to be promising, as recent findings from a Freedom House survey that charted the online freedom of fifteen selected countries, stated that Malaysian online freedom is ‘partly-free’ obtaining a moderate rating of 40 with a rating of 0 being completely free and 100 being not free (Freedom House).

Eytan Gilboa (2002), in the article Global Communication and Foreign Policy, has devised a table to illustrate the four different types of actors, called the ‘Taxonomy of Actors and Concepts’.

Source: Gilboa, 2002

Here, Gilboa formulised a systematic approach to analysing global communication by breaking it up into different categories of actors and its specific role. In completing this research, Gilboa’s theories were adopted and transplanted to cover the geographically smaller context of Malaysia and Singapore. With the Malaysian media, due to the constraints of the law, it is not possible for the mainstream to adopt the role of the controlling actor, where the media acts independently and has the power to swing public opinion and pressure government into acting as they believe fit (Gilboa, 2002). Online media may have the freedom to mildly tread in those waters but they do not command as much public attention as does the mainstream. In the case of Pulau Batu Puteh, the media generally emulated the role of the instrumental actor, following the concept of media diplomacy (Gilboa, 2002).

Media diplomacy has been defined as the ‘uses of the media by leaders to express interest in negotiation, to build confidence and to mobilise public support for agreements’ (Gilboa, 2002). In the press coverage of Pulau Batu Puteh, most if not all of the information broadcast had been received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or during press conferences at negotiations between the two countries. There were even articles published in the newspapers written by the diplomatic players themselves. Most notably, one that was written by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs himself, Dato’ Seri Utama Dr.Rais Yatim (2008).

Research findings

In order to go deeper into the reporting from both the mainstream media and its new media counterpart, an interview was conducted with a sample practitioner of citizen journalism and the Media Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was virtually the gatekeeper for all that was reported in the mainstream media. As mentioned earlier, most of the work was carried out on written articles as this is only a research paper, and it would prove to be an insufficient vehicle if all other forms of broadcast were to be incorporated instead of conducting only textual analysis.

Coverage on the long-standing dispute was extensive, and in the days leading up to the verdict, there was at least one article per day regarding the situation. However the vast majority of what was reported from each of the big four newspapers in Malaysia, New Straits Times (NST), The Star, Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian, was mainly reiterated facts drummed in again and again and did not vary by way of content from one news desk to the next. This in turn, led to the conclusion that information from all was obtained from only one source.

The mainstream media was also an instrumental tool in promoting relations between the two countries by giving exposure on the negotiations between both countries and the joint committee put together prior to the verdict to facilitate negotiations once the right to sovereignty was concluded. To assist in the research, articles on the event were divided into three sections. The first covers the period before the verdict, the second nearing the date of the verdict and the deliberations by ICJ and the third covering the post-hearing period. Press interest was at its height in the second section with coverage of the first and third on a somewhat equal status.

A pattern swiftly emerged upon the division of the articles. It was noted that the tone or morale of the information extended was significantly more positive and confident during the first period with article titles claiming ‘Rais confident of positive verdict over Batu Puteh’ and ‘Verdict over Pulau Batu Puteh will be in our favour’. Nearing the verdict however, a more tentative approach was adopted, where reports were published on negotiations and the establishment of a joint committee between the two countries to handle all actions pertaining to the territory in question (Zakaria Abdul Wahab, Singapore, Malaysia Will Accept Any Decision On Pulau Batu Puteh By ICJ – George Yeo, 2008) (Batu Putih: Malaysia – Singapura tubuh jawatankuasa bersama, 2008). Immediately after the verdict however, there was an attempt to draw focus to the fact that Malaysia had soverignty of Middle Rocks whilst downplaying the loss of Pulau Batu Puteh, by claiming it to be a win-win situation (Rais: Decision on island is a win-win situation, 2008) and rallying public support by suggesting expanditure of said island (New Dimension to Middle Rocks, 2008).

When asked as to the nature of the pattern and whether or not it was a deliberate diplomatic tactic, Edward Jules Savarimuthu, Media Secretary to the Foreign Minister of Malaysia and Media Strategist for the Pulau Batu Puteh case, claimed that, “There was no deliberate strategy that was tabled to preserve the good relations with our contesting neighbour back then. It just came out directy from the stove as fast as it was cooked, in reference to the media strategy” however he also acknowledged that, “we [Malaysia] came mid-stream when the case was already upstream, so much of what went around came in various level of deflection or rather deception. It was purely a case of “if you can’t convince them, confuse them“” in reference to deflecting negative press in the aftermath of the hearing (Savarimuthu, 2009).

However following the verdict, there was a brief period before the press continued its role in media diplomacy in early June, where criticism of the government’s administration of the case was broadcast to the public. These articles attributed the loss to the negligence of the Malaysian government and the Johor State in the past. The more condemning of these articles were those that appeared online, claiming Malaysia was lackadaisical in exercising their rights (Savarimuthu, 2009). These examples show evidence of the Malaysian media’s ability to take on the role of ‘constraining actor’, where “global news coverage may disrupt the routine policy making process … and whereas leaders may have to reorder priorities, they don’t feel forced to follow a particular policy called for by the media or implied by coverage” (Gilboa, 2002). In this case it merely means that the Malaysian media, primarily new media, is able to influence in some way the future conduct of its government. The advantage of online news as an advocate of the role of ‘constraining actor’ lies in its swiftness as “global communication constrains the policy process primarily through the high speed of broadcasting and transmitting information” (Gilboa, 2002).

At times though, the online news channels are considered to be a threat to national peace since it can cast doubts on the integrity and reliability of its personnel and those in high office” (Savarimuthu, 2009) in the instance of the Pulau Batu Puteh incident however, this can be considered to be a moot point as there was very little information on the case made public to explain the loss of the island. “Malaysia did not handle the case as per expected. Singapore had, from the start, the expertise and documents that Malaysia did not have. Had we known this from the media, we would have been able to understand better” (Somiah, 2009).

Conclusion

Regarding the issue, and its subsequent media attention, it can be concluded that the role of the Malaysian media was predominantly, through ‘media diplomacy’ with a brief vignette as the ‘constraining actor’ played mostly via new media. In order for the Malaysian media both mainstream and otherwise to grow to encompass both controlling and constraining actor roles, the tightly drawn strings of the law must first be loosened. However, this begets a whole slew of debates and diatribes from the two camps, those who believe the country is ready and those who deem it still immature.

In reference to the ‘media diplomacy’ portrayed during the Pulau Batu Puteh predicament, from the articles collected, in depth information regarding the islet, especially historical facts prior to the year 1979, which held most of the damning evidence that lead to the loss was not made public. Though it can be argued that the information was highly classified as it was still an ongoing court hearing, (Savarimuthu, 2009) the information was still kept under wraps after the hearing was over, and the allusions to the 1953 letter from the Johor Sultanate mirrors the instances when the media or political figures referr to the May 13 incident. An occurance everybody knows about but few know what it really is. In this respect, both interviewees agreed on one point that “there is a very thin line between diplomacy and hypocrisy” (Savarimuthu, 2009)

There is a very grey area between keeping the information on a need-to-know basis and deliberately withholding intelligence from the public. For the media to practice diplomatic communication successfully and still adhere to the journalistic codes, it is imperative that the truth and abundance of information is never discounted. At the end of it all, “the media is responsible for telling the truth and truth should not be hindered at the expense of diplomacy. By telling us the truth, the media will be able to help us realise our faults and this is beneficial in the long run” (Somiah, 2009).

Bibliography

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Newspaper References

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Batu Puteh berpihak kepada kita. (2008, May 16). Utusan Malaysia , p. 2.

Batu Puteh kembali kepada pemilik. (2008, May 23). Berita Harian , p. 10.

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Batu Putih: Malaysia – Singapura tubuh jawatankuasa bersama. (2008, May 22). Utusan Malaysia , p. 1.

Batuan Tengah mungkin dicantumkan. (2008, June 3). Utusan Malaysia , pp. 1-2.

Cabinet approval needed. (2008, June 4). The Star .

Choi, T. W. (2008, May 22). Close call likely in ICJ verdict. The Star .

D-Day in fight for Batu Puteh. (2008, May 22). The Star , p. 10.

First meeting after Batu Puteh verdict. (2008, June 4). The Star , p. 12.

Keputusan Batu Putih Esok. (2008, May 22). Utusan Malaysia , p. 2.

New Dimension to Middle Rocks. (2008, June 4). New Straits Times .

Rais confident of positive verdict over Batu Puteh. (2008, May 16). The Star , p. 38.

Rais wants all islands noted. (2008, May 29). The Star , p. 16.

Rais Yatim. (2008, May 15). Pulau Batu Puteh: Past, present and future. New Straits Times , p. 24.

Rais: Verdict over Pulau Batu Puteh will be in our favour. (2008, May 16). New Straits Times .

Ridzam, D. (2008, May 29). Taking heed of the lesson bitterly learnt. New Straits Times , p. 22.

Tay, G. (2008, May 23). Long wait for verdict on island. The Star , p. 24.

Zulkifli Jalil. (2008, April 17). Keputusan P. Batu Putih bulan depan? Utusan Malaysia , p. 13.

Online References

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Rais: Decision on island is a win-win situation. (2008, May 24). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from The Star Online`: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/5/24/nation/21355872&sec=nation

Singapore takes Pulau Batu Puteh, Malaysia gets Middle Rocks. (2008, May 23). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from The Star Online: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/5/23/nation/20080523184425&sec=nation

Three reasons why island went to Singapore. (2008, May 24). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from The Star Online: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/5/24/nation/21354853&sec=nation

Zakaria Abdul Wahab. (2008, April 17). Singapore, Malaysia Will Accept Any Decision On Pulau Batu Puteh By ICJ – George Yeo. Retrieved December 2, 2009, from Bernama: http://www.bernama.com

Zakaria Abdul Wahab. (2008, April 17). Singapura dan Malaysia Terima Apa Jua Keputusan Mengenai Pulau Batu Puteh Oleh ICJ. Retrieved December 2, 2009, from Bernama: http://www.bernama.com

Interviews

Savarimuthu, E. J. (2009, December 3). Interview with the Media Secretary to the former Foreign Minister of Malaysia- Honourable Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr.Rais Yatim . (A. Aziz, Interviewer)

Somiah, S. (2009, December 3). Interview with citizen journalism practitioner. (A. Aziz, Interviewer)



A Singapore judge ruled a senior Wall Street Journal Editor was in contempt of court on Thursday for two editorials and a letter to the Editor published last year about the city-state’s judiciary.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang also fined Melanie Kirkpatrick, Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, 10,000 Singapore dollars and said she must pay the same amount in legal costs.

Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for alleged defamation.

Justice Tay had fined Wall Street Journal in November for publishing the same material which the government claimed questioned the judiciary’s independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.