The friendly exhange between two former Group Editor-in-Chief (GEIC) of the Umno-backed New Straits Times Press (NSTP) is not over. Both are using their columns and blog to hit at one another.
On Sunday (March 26) Kalimullah Hassan wrote in his The Sunday Column (NST) about "A few good men...". In this particular article, the good man is none other than former Transport Minister and ex-Malaysian Chinese Association president, Dr Ling Liong Sik.
As usual Kalimullah or Kali, boasts of his close friendship with national leaders, as for Dr Ling Kali wrote "Dr Ling and I still meet regularly and speak over the phone." They had dinner on Tuesday and Kali invited some of Dr Ling's friends and their families, all of whom have their own busy schedules. Could they be, I may ask, Kali's business partners, sleeping or otherwise?
At the dinner, Kali claimed that lots of stories were told but through it all, Dr Ling was repetitive in his stated affection and concern for another person from his home state, Penang, a politician who is now Prime Minister (Abdullah Badawi).
Got you! DR LING IS NOT FROM PENANG. Kali is not, after all, knowledgeable. Yes Dr Ling was once the Member of Parliament for Bagan (Butterworth, Penang) when Kali was a rookie reporter. But that does not mean that he is from Penang. Dr Ling is from Taiping, Perak.
Leave that silly mistake and let it be. Now let me say why I believed that Kali and Kadir Jasin are after each others' throats.
In Kali's column, one sentence caught my attention, and I quote:
"Many of them, including some editors, were rewarded, some with positions, others with privatisation projects and management buyouts of their companies."
I am certain (100 per cent) that Kali is referring to Kadir Jasin. The words "management buyouts" or MBO confirmed it.
As a refresher, Kadir and three of his friends in the NSTP registered a company named Realmild to "buy out" the NSTP and became instant millionaires. One of his partners Nazri Abdullah, then group editor of Berita Harian, migrated (some say escaped) to London and is now enjoying his wealth in the British capital. I am in the dark about Yunus Said (ex-TV3) and could not recalled the name of the fourth member of the MBO. Kadir is now the proud boss-cum-publisher of Berita Publishing, which was taken out of the NSTP group and handed over to him.
Kali wrote the next sentence..."But such is the will of the Almighty that fame and fortune derived on the back of the misery of innocents has a way of dissipating in ignominy."
In his write up on the Cabinet reshuffle, Kadir wrote that "An interesting sideshow to the reshuffle was provided by the high-profile former Group Editor-in-Chief of The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd (NSTP) Datuk Kalimullah Hassan, when he took a swipe at the new Information Minister."
Kadir said that Kalimullah, who continues to wield extensive power in the newspaper group in his new capacity as deputy chairman, accused Zainuddin Maidin (then deputy Information Minister) of seeking the sacking of the top editors of the NSTP group in a closed-door Umno Information Bureau meeting days earlier.
In making the allegation, Kalimullah, who is also chairman of the private banking group ECM Libra Bhd and timber-based Ekowood Bhd, revealed just how closely linked he is to the Umno organ.
Kalimullah could count on key editors, his appointees and compatriots from his foreign correspondent days, to keep his detractors at bay and in check. Now the editors (mostly Malays) who did not see eye-to-eye with him has left the NSTP group, some by opting for the company's latest round of voluntary separation scheme (VSS), Kalimullah's hold on the newspaper group is unquestionable.
Kadir questioned Kalimullah's stand on press freedom when he wrote:
"It is ironic that Kalimullah should cite press freedom as one of the cornerstones of Abdullah's aadministration while at the same time continuing to ban this magazine (Malaysia Business) and other publications belonging to Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd (BPSB) from being advertised in the group's newspapers."
The ban, which alo covers BPSB's corporate advertisements, has been in effect since January 2005. It was imposed soon after Kadir had written in his column commenting on an article in the NST by Kalimullah in which he revealed, among other things, that Abdullah had phoned him to seek page-one treatment for his speech. (The ban was on the directive of Kalimullah)
The soft feelings between Kadir and Kali continues. Both were bestowed with datukships, so is Nazri Abdullah (ex Realmild) and other "favourable" editors such as Rejal Arbee, Khalid Mohamad, Ahmat Talib, the two Wongs of The Star, Hishamuddin Aun and Azman Ujang, to name a few.
Both Kadir and Kali are my friends. I knew Kali when he was in his teens way back in the late 60s in Penang. He was then a member of the India-based Jamaah Tabligh (a missionary group). His family migrated from Kroh, a small Malaysia-Thailand border town in Perak, to Penang.
I first met Kadir when I joined Bernama, the national news agency in August 1971. He joined the agency two years earlier when I was then with the Social Welfare Department, Penang. Kadir was then head of the economic desk, practically a one man show just like Rejal at the political desk. But, they were pioneers of the desks. Rejal is now director of the KL Monorail, a long hop from journalism to transportation.
Kadir and a few others including Ahmat Talib left Bernama to join the NSTP, then under the Fleet Group, where they found their lucky stars.
Like Kali, Kadir had his days and control over the newspapers when he was GEIC of NSTP. But Kali is luckier to have as "close friends" none other than the Prime Minister and his son-in-law. That is all.
Every dog has it's day.