KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa today denied claims by certain quarters that the party have washed their hands off beleaguered Malay daily Utusan Malaysia — a news organisation that was once dubbed as the voice of Umno.
Annuar said the party is doing its best to help Utusan Malaysia but its hands are tied, with Umno no longer the majority shareholder and its bank accounts and cashflow frozen by the government.
“I fully support what Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today, if the government can be so kind to unfreeze our account, we are in a better position to assist Utusan.
“Our cash and also our accounts have been frozen for more than a year — putting Umno in a tight financial position. Otherwise we could help Utusan.
“If tomorrow our account is unfrozen, we have more than RM200 million and we can help with their welfare,” said Annuar.
Malaysia’s oldest Malay newspaper is expected to stop printing tomorrow in light of financial woes. Hundreds of staff have not been paid in months with some being forced to borrow money from loan sharks just to stay afloat.
Prior to Umno’s defeat in the 14th General Election, Utusan Malaysia could count on financial assistance and funding from the party as it was a major shareholder in the news organisation.
“Umno used to hold substantial shares in Utusan. But at the beginning of this year, Umno decided to forego a major bloc of shares held by Umno.
“We hold a remaining small percentage of shares. Umno no longer has any say in the day to day operations of Utusan. As far as we are concerned, Utusan now faces business problems and not political problems.
“And we strongly believe that they need a business solution but we are in no position to dictate or say anything because we are no longer the majority shareholders. So I think Utusan’s board of directors should determine what needs to be done,” said Annuar.
However, he added that the party feels “duty bound” to help the troubled newspaper.
Due to its ties to Umno and its highly politicised editorial content which was biased towards the former ruling regime, Utusan Malaysia had been vilified and maligned by the general public.
This led to a loss in advertisers and decreasing subscription — a one-two knock-out punch in an era where the news print is considered to be part of the sunset industry.