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AP: Keng Yaik Condemns Paper Deal

6/6/2001 8:16 am Wed

Tuesday June 5, 7:37 PM

Ally in Malaysian Coalition Govt Condemns Newspaper Deal

KUALA LUMPUR (AP)--In a rare show of discord in Malaysia's government, one ethnic Chinese party in the ruling coalition criticized another Tuesday for buying control of two influential newspapers.

Lim Keng Yaik, president of the Gerakan party, urged the Malaysian Chinese Association, or MCA, to call off its takeover of the two Chinese-language dailies, saying that the deal could cost the government votes in the next general elections.

"They should take heed of what the Chinese community is saying and perhaps review the situation with in mind that they have to face the Chinese community in the next coming election," the national news agency Bernama quoted Lim as saying.

Gerakan and MCA are allies in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's National Front coalition government which has ruled this Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain in 1957.

Parties in the coalition rarely comment on the internal affairs of others in the alliance.

Lim's comments come amid mounting fears among ethnic Chinese leaders and opposition parties that MCA's takeover of the Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press newspapers will strengthen government control over the media.

The MCA already holds a majority stake in Malaysia's leading English newspaper The Star. Mahathir's United Malays National Organization also has strong links with a company which owns several newspapers and a television station.

The MCA takeover of the two Chinese dailies last week went ahead despite opposition from some party leaders who fear that it will erode support for the party. Ethnic Chinese form more than 33% of Malaysia's 22 million population.

Their support ensured Mahathir a win in 1999 general elections despite his own party losing ground among ethnic Muslim Malays who make up around 60% of the population.

Mahathir has said that he won't stop the takeover.

MCA president Ling Liong Sik said the 230 million-ringgit ($1=MYR3.8) deal was done purely on commercial considerations and the party won't interfere with editorial policies.

On Tuesday, Lim said he wasn't convinced by Ling's assurances.

"I have my fears," he was quoted as saying.