View from City Road: Malaysian row rumbles on

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The Independent Online
Prospects for British business in Malaysia do not seem to have improved since Andrew Neil, editor of the Sunday Times, was exiled to New York. The row rumbles on judging by comments made yesterday by Jamaluddin Jarjis, chief executive of EPE Power. Mr Jarjis was quoted as saying that as far as he was concerned his company's joint venture with Rolls- Royce to build 10 high-voltage power substations was suspended as long as British newspapers 'continued to be irresponsible in reporting lies about Prime Minister Mahathir'.

All companies hate to lose contracts, especially when it is not their fault, but it is hard to exaggerate the level of anger that this particular row has stirred up in the business community. Sir Ralph Robins, chairman of Rolls-Royce, and many other leading British businessmen, are hopping mad about it. Even if the allegations were true, they insist, a responsible national press with the interests of British jobs and business at heart, would not have aired them. Well, perhaps, perhaps not. Certainly the view that the proper function of the press is to help British companies sell their goods overseas is plainly nonsense. Sir Ralph and others are not going to forgive the press easily, however. A relationship long characterised by mutual suspicion has been made worse, to the detriment of both sides.