The emergence of the paper, named Naam Naadu (Our Nation), has set the Tamil newspaper industry on fire, with rivals fuming over the idea of a new newspaper.
Naam Naadu, said to be financed by Kenneth Eswaran, the Malaysian Associated Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) president, will hit the streets in the very near future, sources reveal.
Naam Naadu would become the fifth Tamil daily in the country. The others are Tamil Nesan, Malaysia Nanban, Makkal Osai and Thina Kural. All these newspapers are jostling for over 100,000 Tamil newspaper readers daily.
Tamil Nesan is in the hands of former MIC chief S Samy Vellu, while Makkal Osai is being held by former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam. Malaysian Nanban, on the other hand, is controlled by the family of former Kimma president, the late Sikandar Batcha while Thina Kural is being run by the family of renowned Tamil newspaper editor the late Athi Kumanan.
Sources say Eswaran, known to be a close ally of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, wants to use the newspaper as the “official organ” of the Barisan Nasional government, explaining to the Indian community the policies implemented by Najib’s administration.
However, there are fears that the new newspaper will ruin the Tamil newspaper market in Malaysia.
Tamil Nesan CEO S Vell Paari, while welcoming the new paper, said there was fear that the increase in the number Tamil newspapers would ruin the industry.
Below market price
“The newspaper printing sub-industry, especially Tamil dailies, is small. Honestly, most Tamil dailies survive on advertisements… the ads are shrinking annually. The inclusion of a new paper will obviously make it harder for all the papers to survive. The advertisement cake is small… how many can share it?” he said.
“I was informed that Naam Naadu would be sold at RM1. This is below the market price of RM1.30 for any Tamil daily in the market now,” he added.
Vell Paari is also concerned that the emergence of a cheaper newspaper would result in some existing dailies being shut down in the future due to stiff competition.
“I have no problem with the price slash since we run Tamil Nesan for MIC’s political mileage and not for profit. But, how about others who are mainly dependent on advertisement revenue to pay their staff,” he said.
In a related development, a MIC leader who declined to be named claimed that Eswaran was starting the newspaper to further his personal agenda.
“I believe Eswaran wants to use Naam Naadu as a tool for his political entry. He was initially interested in the MIC treasurer’s post. But the current president [G Palanivel] did not invite him to take up the appointed position.”
FMT could not reach Eswaran for comment as he is overseas.