Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Officials directed to read letters published in papers

©New Straits Times

ImageJOHOR BARU, Jan 17: State officials have been directed to read letters published in newspapers to gauge public sentiment on government projects and services.

Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, who gave the directive, said newspapers’ letters pages were an invaluable source of public feedback, and state executive councillors and heads of department should pay attention to the points raised.

"I know many do not even read the newspapers, let alone the letters pages. But they must make it a point to do this every morning," he said after opening the RM600,000 new clubhouse of the South Johor Chinese Press Club (SJCPC) here yesterday.

Ghani commended newspapers such as the New Straits Times for expanding their letters section from one to two pages, as the views expressed were a vital source of public feedback.

He said he told the state exco at a meeting yesterday to scan the newspapers for letters on problems in Johor, and respond to such complaints.

Ghani said the suggestions and views expressed in the op-ed pages of newspapers were also of merit and should be considered by the state exco and departmental heads.

A case in point, he said, was the piece by lawyer Roger Tan headlined "Religious freedom the keystone" in the New Sunday Times on Jan 8.

Tan, Johor’s state representative to the Malaysian Bar Council, had written about the difficulties non-Muslim groups faced in building places of worship and commented that the authorities should be more magnanimous in approving such applications as "a nation which is religious will only produce God-fearing people".

Ghani supported that view, saying such balanced, impartial and thought-provoking articles were eye-openers and should be read by those making decisions on the ground.

On the subject of the "bad Press" Johor had been getting lately in the Singapore media, he said the State Government was not overly concerned as most visitors knew that such reports were an exaggeration.

Regardless, he added, Johor would seek federal assistance to beef up security with an enlarged police presence on the streets here.

Earlier, he announced a RM200,000 State Government allocation to the SJCPC in aid of the clubhouse renovation project.

The 23-year-old club has 300-odd members from six Chinese newspapers in South Johor.

It has an Education Fund for members’ children and regularly gives out contributions in cash and kind in aid of the poor and needy.

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