Black Hole Trial: Retired journalist admits quoting Taib without interviewing him

By Emma Victoria

A RETIRED journalist admitted that he did not interview the former Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud despite quoting the latter in an article related to the Sarawak ‘Black Hole’ case.

During cross-examination, the journalist Joseph Tawie, 74, said it was also his editors decision to publish the article more than a month after the press conference held by DAP state chief Chong Chieng Jen.

The Kuching High Court heard today that although the press conference was on Jan 2, 2013, the article was only published on Malaysiakini news portal on Feb 18, 2013, and that too with a headline that sounded more of an attack on Taib.

Tawie said he wrote the article titled “Taib under fire over missing RM11 bil” using the pen name “Dukau Papau” as he was also working for the Free Malaysia Today portal at that time.

Chong, who is also the Kota Sentosa assemblyman, is being sued by the Sarawak government and the State Financial Authority (SFA) for defamation after using the term ‘Black Hole’ to insinuate that RM11 billion had gone missing from the state coffers.

His allegations were published in the Rocket, Malaysiakini and Sin Chew Daily on Jan 3, 2013 as well as on pamphlets distributed by Chong and the DAP.

Chong is defending himself in the case.

During today’s court proceedings, Chong also questioned if Tawie had clarified the issues raised in the pamphlets with Taib before quoting him in the article.

In the article, Taib was quoted as saying: “This opposition person is still young, but he has gone too far in his accusation. We in the state government have put the money into a savings account.”

Tawie then admitted he did not speak to Taib but disagreed that it was “unethical journalism”.

Chong however retorted that the article and its title sounded like an attack on Taib.

Tawie stressed that his article was based on the pamphlets and explanations given during the Jan 2 press conference.

The witness also agreed that the main message of the pamphlets was to demand the state government to be accountable for the RM11 billion funds.

He also insisted that Chong did accuse Taib of trying to deceive the public and avoiding questions he had raised in the state assembly. Tawie, who is the author of the book “The Broken Shield: The Dayak Dilemma”, also denied he dislikes or hates Taib.

This is despite a book written by him, claims that native customary land (NCR) in Sarawak were declared as state land and given to Taib and his cronies.

Tawie said the contents of the book were based on interviews and was nothing personal.