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February 11, 2006 20:28 PM

New Daily Should Take Over Sarawak's Tribune Role

KUCHING, Feb 11 (Bernama) -- A "newborn" English newspaper should take over the role of Sarawak Tribune to make information available to the people in the state, said Sarawak Tribune editorial chairman Datuk Idris Buang.

He said Sarawak was in need of an English newspaper as a proper channel to deliver honest, accurate and true information to the public.

"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 newborn English newspaper would come up and take the role as a people and government-friendly newspaper and make information available to the people," he said after attending the "Excellent Sarawak" campaign launched by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.

Sarawak Tribune, the 61-year-old English daily in Sarawak, was suspended indefinitely by the Malaysian government for reproducing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in its Feb 4 issue.

The board of directors of The Sarawak Press Sdn Bhd, the publisher of Sarawak Tribune, had decided to shut down the daily even if the suspension order is lifted.

Asked to comment on the Sarawak Tribune management's decision, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said it was up to the company if it wanted to establish a new daily to replace Sarawak Tribune.

"It is up to them whatever they want to do and probably minus all the possible liabilities of the kind of staff they have," he told reporters after receiving a visit by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at his residence in Demak Jaya here Saturday.

Describing the action of the daily, the oldest English language newspaper in the state, in reproducing the caricatures as "a big let-down" not only to the Muslims in Sarawak and Malaysia but throughout the world, Abdul Taib said he was very disappointed with Sarawak Tribune.

He said it had always been understood that the reproduction of images of God, Prophet Muhammad and even other prophets and the very holy people was prohibited.

"This has been the tradition among the Muslims. We respected it for hundreds of years, so when this kind of thing came up, I felt very disappointed," he said.

Idris ruled out the possibility of Sarawak Press coming up with a new English daily to take over from Sarawak Tribune.

"It's quite impossible. But I agree that a new English newspaper should take over the role of Sarawak Tribune and it can help the 300 (Sarawak Tribune) staff," he said.

He said the livelihood of the 300 staff under Sarawak Press, including those from Utusan Sarawak, the company's Malay language edition, would be taken care of following the suspension of the newspaper.

Although Utusan Sarawak was not affected by the suspension as it held a different licence and would continue to publish as normal, yet "they are sharing the same revenue and same pot of rice", he said.

Idris said the management would bring the best professionals to repackage the paper in the best interest of the staff.

"Most of the revenue came from Tribune because of advertisements. Following the suspension, there is not much revenue to be shared. So the executive director, Polit Hamzah, is doing his best to restructure the staff. As a management boss, he knows who can do the best," he said.



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