A jostling, juggling Tan

Joceline Tan, a columnist of the Malaysian Star newspaper, has received another round of brickbats; this time for heaping praise on Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia’s 31-year-old enfant terrible, who is the deputy youth leader of his country’s ruling political party, the United Malays National Organization (Umno). Joceline’s critics have often condemned her for her political propaganda for the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition government. Bloggers, like Susan Loone, are offended by Joceline’s flattery of Khairy in her column in The Star, owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second largest party out of 13 in the national coalition government, to promote Khairy’s candidacy for the Umno Youth leader’s post. Khairy, the son-in-law of Malaysia’s premier Abdullah Badawi, intends to succeed his father-in-law in office, according to his friends. But his brashness and meteoric rise in politics have irked many in his party and his critics who see him as Malaysia’s de facto Prime Minister. But few of Joceline’s critics fault her poor command of the English language and her apparent lack of training in journalism although she is a senior journalist with many years of job experience at The Star. Perhaps they sympathise with Joceline, who, like most Malaysian journalists who write in English, has not mastered the tools of her trade. Her diction is poor and her grammar is wanting. She lacks cohesion and coherency in her writing. Joceline is good at making statements but she doesn’t give any evidence to support them. She is fond of meaningless clichés which a cub reporter is taught at the outset to avoid. Joceline describes Khairy as a “happening guy”. While it is fashionable to talk of a place as “happening”, such as a “happening bar” to mean a Japanese sex club, she doesn’t explain what she means by a “happening guy.” She also has difficulty in linking ideas in compound sentences: “The 31-year-old rising star evokes strong and often negative emotions from people outside his party but within Umno, he is the most happening guy.” The juxtaposition of the two simple sentences in this compound sentence is incomprehensible. And she doesn’t know how to use prepositions: on the invitation of Faisal Abdullah”? (It’s at and not on). “One of the earliest shows of support came at the Bukit Bintang Youth meeting last month.” (It’s from not at) .

Blogger Susan Loone says Steven Gan, her ex-boss who is the editor of Malaysiakini, is mesmerised by Joceline’s descriptive writing. But any English-language newspaper reader who is proficient in English, except perhaps the editors of The Star, would have trouble trying to understand Joceline’s assertion that “a gigantic drum in the middle of it all” is part of the uniform of “a 50-man guard of honour in full uniform down to their white gloves.”Other examples of Joceline’s poor writing from her article, “On the wings of Youth wing”: “Faisal, who is also Selangor Umno Youth deputy chief, said that if Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was ready to move up from his Youth leadership (leaders do relinquish their post to assume another of greater importance. But move up from his Youth leadership?) next year, all 22 Umno Youth divisions in Selangor were prepared to nominate and accept Khairy as the next Youth leader. (Perhaps in Malaysian politics, it is usual to nominate someone for a party post only to reject him at the polls. So Khairy be warned!) Those present rose to their feet in a long and loud applause.” (Could those absent rise to their feet? And how do you rise to your feet in a long and loud applause? Did those at the meeting get up from their seats to give Khairy a resounding applause or did they stand up to the occasion when they heard a resounding applause for Khairy?)

Joceline says, “Khairy was bowled over. He stood up, took a bow and when the applause continued, got to his feet again to acknowledge their support. (That must be some feat: Khairy stood up to acknowledge the applause, then he bowed and then he got to his feet again. Perhaps Joceline mistook Khairy’s squat to be a bow.) In fact, he was so flustered (not very complimentary to someone who aspires to the youth leadership) that his own speech (was Khairy expected to deliver someone else’s speech?) lasted only 45 minutes as opposed to his standard one-hour-plus (a Manglish cliché?) speeches at these events. (Oh, dear, such circumlocution! And she has to put her readers through so much agony just to say that “Khairy was so dumbfounded that he could only speak to the members for only 45 minutes. At other times, he would have spoken to them for more than an hour as he usually does.”)

It’s easy to run a red-ink pen all over Joceline’s “masterpiece”. But here’s just a sampling of her “gems”. And here’s more:

“Faisal is a trusted confidante of Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo…” (Is there a confidante you can’t trust with your secrets? And is Faisal, er.., a woman?)

“…the masterstroke on Faisal’s part was loaded with political subtext.” (Well, how on Earth do you do that?)

“… Khairy had turned to whisper to division chief Datuk Azim Zabidi: “Whoa, mati man, like this. What am I going to do?” (Was Joceline sitting so close to Khairy and Azim that she could hear what Khairy whispered to Azim?)

“… he (Azim) could not see anyone else more suitable on the horizon.” (The horizon is the farthest that you can see, where the sky appears to meet the land or the sea. Is Azim saying that there’s none more suitable to lead Umno Youth than Khairy, that silhouetted (dark) figure on the horizon? “On the horizon” is an idiomatic expression that means something is imminent or likely to happen soon. Example: Trouble is looming on the horizon. Or is Azim saying that Khairy is a cloud on the horizon?)

“This round of division meetings has clearly established his claim to the Umno Youth leadership.” (This is the first time in her article that Joceline Tan tells her readers that Khairy is laying claim to the Umno Youth leadership. Oh, the plot thickens! Khairy wants Hishammuddin Hussein to “move up (out)”)

And, well, finally, this one should be a warning to the Prime Minister:

“He has also used the forum to show his allegiance to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The fact that he officiated at the Youth meeting in Pekan, Najib’s home turf, was duly noted.   He knows his future does not lie with his Prime Minister father-in-law but with the Deputy Prime Minister.” (Joceline doesn’t tell her readers why Khairy must show allegiance to Najib and why his future is with Najib and not Abdullah. Is Khairy about to dump his father-in-law for Najib?)


7 Responses to A jostling, juggling Tan

  1. […] A jostling, juggling Tan [image]Joceline Tan, a columnist of the Malaysian Star newspaper, has received another round of brickbats; this time […] […]

  2. UMNO says:


  3. Ahead of Time says:

    Jocelyn Tan’s masters are the MCA and UMNO. Her articles on the opposition politicians and personalities like Raja Petra have always put them in a bad light. No right thinking people should allow themselves to be interviewed by her.

    [Editor’s Note: This comment has been edited for language and clarity. I welcome comments and criticisms from readers; but please keep them decent and dignified. I won’t allow racist, derogatory, and vulgar remarks in this blog.]

  4. ylchong says:

    wow, a good analysis of journalists’ English proficiency in MSM Malaysia — I believe the few named in your Post deserve similar dissections.

    how would you rate a self-claimed scribe, maybe not scribe, investigative newshound? — proclaiming with a header “May the truth KILLS us all”?

    and her confessed idol changing a sentence like “He saw the robber drive off with the Mercedes Benz” to “He saw the robber drove off…”

    by contrast, jocelyn falls only on the “finer” aspects of writing in English, not basic grammar, so I can live with her failings. Not surprising, as a former state MB pleaded deficiency in Ingerris in filling up Immigration/Customs form to get out of a difficult situation in Queensland involving “small “change of RM2million-plus:) I used “small” similarly in the context of another delinquent SA saying his 4-1/2 palatial mansion is just a “small” house. Sorry if I digress, a Blogger’s privi to abuse:(

    PS: I enjoyed thy piece tremednously, can I buy you tehtarik some time?

  5. Jonah says:


    Thanks for your compliment and invitation. Sure, why not. One of these days. I’m snowed under right now.


  6. ylchong says:

    a mite late — a group of Bloggers — howsy, myself n johnleemk, we call ourselves G7! — are meeting 4-7pm TODAY (Friday, yes, 30mins from now starting!:) at mamak restron next to Pos Opisin Section 14, PJ. Tehtarik is on Desi butt the birs are flee4Awe!

  7. Abdul Wahab says:

    I do not have to read all but one can tell that the writer is being over-critical of Joceline. Like they say one man’s meat is to another poison. When it comes to malaysian politics I sure want to know what Joceline has got to say. Her master of the Malaysian political scene is very insightful. Carry on the good job, Joceline. I look forward to your further comments of the malaysian political debate.Just as there are anti-Joceline individuals, there are many more pro-Joceline groups.I hope this is motivation enough for you to soldier on.Good luck…Wahab

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: