While the politicians from both divides are busy debating the NEP and NEM, Tamil Language newspapers appears not in the know of the whole discussion and debate. For the benefit of many of my non-Indian readers, this write up is to provide some information on Tamil dailies in Malaysia.
I only buy Tamil Newspaper in weekends and I finish it within 15 minutes as there are usually no interesting contents except for politicians slamming and slandering each other. The main reason for my weekend habit of buying all mainstream newspapers (including Utusan but not the Chinese newspaper – I can’t read) is to keep in touch with the language and also follow latest issues and happening within the community. I do read online version of Sin Chiew and others.
Tamil newspapers in Malaysia have extremely low circulation and read mainly by the working class. There are 3 main newspapers, Tamil Nesan, Malaysia Nanban and Makkal Osai. There were attempts to bring some others to the streets but they eventually die a natural death due to low circulations.
Despite all the negatives, these 3 newspapers are among the 15 surviving main Tamil language dailies in the world, the others mainly based in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. For those who are not aware, Tamils are the buggest ethnic group within the Indian Community in Malaysia with population at around 1.2 Million. The rest are mainly telugus, malayalees and small number of Ceylonese, Punjabis and northern Indian ethnic groups.
Tamil Nesan is owned by Samy Vellu, where his son Vell Pari is the Managing Director while if I am not mistaken, his wife Indrani is the advisor.
The initial purpose if this newspaper is promote the image of the MIC, it’s president, his wife and of course, to make money.
Samy Vellu, despite his serious demeanor and strong language, used to write poems every Sunday in the main page. It was so popular that it was taken off the page last year. For many, the poems, despite it’s language prowess, lacks in substance and proved to be a source of laughter. The contents are usually for community building, leadership, respect etc, but proves something contradictory to the behaviour of the MIC leaders themselves.
On the other hand, His wife occupies half a page of the last page. News reports appear almost daily on her activities, usually social or charity events graced by her.
The second page belongs to maverick writer, Tamil Mani, once a fierce Samy Vellu critic turned friend In need.
His contribution, or rather non-contribution are clearly exemplified here
It must be recognized that post March 2008, the newspaper underwent many changes and surprisingly they now provide positive coverage on opposition party leaders, some of whom had openly derided Samy Vellu before. Despite attempting to become more independent and open, circulation remained low.
Makkal Osai is closely linked to Datuk S,Subramaniam (ex-Deputy Minister). Despite being reasonably popular in the past, the paper has lost it’s shine ever since they went into various rows with Tamil Nesan.
It appears that the sole purpose now is to promote Subra and his allies while providing extensive coverage on politics in Tamil Nadu and plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.
Malaysia Nanban was founded by Dato Sikandar Bacha, a prominent Indian Muslim businessman in the 80s. Nanban is seen as more independent and neutral in it’s coverage throughout the years.
Nanban is brave enough to criticise or support both BN and Pakatan when it matters to Indian community although it had made some blunders in the past resulting in delays to renewal of their annual permit. They were also once warned for going to the extremes in reporting Sri Lankan civil war where their reports were more in support of rebel Tamil Tiger leader, Prabakaran of LTTE, which is labeled as a terrorist group by UN. More on Malaysian Tamils affinity with Prabakaran here
Similarities between the 3 newspapers
All 3 papers have only about 20 pages every day except for Sunday where they provide a leisure supplement.
All 3 dailies provide at least one page coverage on issues affecting the Sri Lankan Tamils. It used to be 4 pages during the civil war.
All 3 papers provide at 2 least 2 page coverage on politics in Tamil Nadu and India. Most of the news are from the same syndicated source. They target Indian National living in Malaysia as well as Malaysian Tamils who are still fond of what some of them call, their motherland. (As them to go and live there, they never will)
All 3 newspapers provide extensive coverage on event involving MP, ADUNs or Indian VIPs depending on their political leaning although all 3 attempts to cover both BN and Opposition.
All 3 papers have limited advertisements hence their main source of revenue depends on number of copies sold.
All 3 papers provides inconsistent one page sports coverage, with no follow throughs the following day or week.
Tamil Nesan and Makkal Ossai of recent, are more fond of sensational headlines, usually associated with MIC political rivals.
All 3 newspapers hardly provide any information of how to get assistance of government agencies for various needs such as getting aid for the hardcore poor, resolving identity card issues and other common problems associated with the community.
All 3 news papers hardly provide regular coverage on business opportunities or business loans or funding available to the community.
None provide regular coverage of stock market, business news or investment opportunities.
None has active online presence. Online version of Nanban is not promptly updated and at times not at all.
Not much except for more neutral and independent Nanban where there are semblance of nation building editorials every day.
Malaysia Nanban is also favoured by Najib, who graced their SPM students prize giving event for last 2 years.
All 3 newspapers have not done much for community where it matters most, let alone nation building.
I have the opportunity to mingle with working class people whose source of news are solely from Tamil newspapers. They appear to be lost when informed of latest happenings in the country, political or non political. That’s how shallow the information that they get from these dailies.
They are also not aware of many aid and assistance available from many government and state agencies due to lack of coverage in the dailies.
They also have less knowledge of history, therefore do not appreciate country progress in politics, economy and socially throughout the years. This is also one of the reasons for their support for Hindraf, who received extensive coverage in Nanban and to a certain extend, Makkal Ossai.
All the mud slinging between Makkal Ossai and Tamil Nesan even invited the reprimand from PM Najib during the recent MIC AGM. Despite the reminder not to use newspapers for own political agenda, both papers have continued the ugly fight till today. Read here for more.
It would not be a loss for the tamil community if any of these dailies are out of business or even shut down by government. Both Tamil Nesan and Makkal Osai should just shut down their operations so that Nanban can thrive to become more authoritative independent voice of the community.
Perhaps a dual language (Bahasa and English) equivalent should be introduced to cater for the non-Tamil reading/speaking group within the Indian community.