Sunday, December 31, 2006

Newsmakers of 2006

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Despite slowing down in the last two months of the year after a mild heart attack and despite all the efforts by Kalimullah & Co, the PM's men and women, and the 4th Floor apparatus to shut him out, deconstruct his legacies, and bedevil him, the former PM was still too good for the other nominees for Malaysiakini's "Newsmaker of the Year" for 2006.
I thought a tie with Abdullah Badawi would have been fairer. Both Dr M and the PM have created the biggest and juiciest news together or in relations to each other, not separately. In my opinion, Dr M became newsworthy in 2006 because of his scathing attacks and the follow-throughs on Abdullah's "half-past-six government". When the mainstream media shut their doors on him, Dr M turned to websites and empowered bloggers with his interviews and quotes. There were occasions when he made the news without touching on Pak Lah or his government, but these were few and far apart.
Abdullah deserves at least a joint-Newsmaker of 2006 title for the wrong reasons and no thanks to his press advisers like Kalimullah Hassan, Anuar Zaini, and the 4th floor boys. And to Tun Musa Hitam, too, for giving a name to Pak Lah's silence in the face of Dr M's attacks. The PM made full use of Dr M's absence in the last two months of the year by creating such great news as the USD8 million yacht and flying to Perth for holidays after a whirlwind tour of the country's worst floods in history.

Dr M and Abdullah aside, the other favourite newsmakers on my list are:
The Sultan of Johor
Khairy Jamaluddin
Lee Kuan Yew
Lina Joy and A. Rayyapan
Mukhriz Mahathir
The New Straits Times (Kalimullah Hassan's June 11 lies, Brendan Pereira's plagiarism scandal, Syed Feisal Albar's porn Weekend Mail, the Prophet's caricature controversy, the proposed merger with Utusan Melayu, and many other news)

Read the Malaysiakini article here and tell me who you'd have as your Newsmaker of the Year for 2006.


Selamat Hari Raya Korban.

There's talk of another increase in petrol/diesel prices come the New Year. You may have heard it, too, so let me remind you of what our PM said the last time such rumours were spreading: don't listen to damn rumours!
It is Eid-Adha, people. If we, the people, were asked to sacrifice a little bit more, just how bad could it hurt?
No, it can't be true. I won't believe it. Someone started this vicious rumour to spoil the festive mood.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Where are the Johor Ministers?

Where's Syed Hamid? Where's Khaled? Eleven people have died in the worst floods in Johor's - and the country's - history. Last night the number of evacuees in Johor rose as more areas went under. For now, it is getting worse for the state, not better.
And while the Menteri Besar has been working round the clock to help the victims, people have begun to notice the absence of certain Johor politicians and MPs from the scene.
They couldn't all have gone to Perth for holiday, could they?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dr M's aide slams pro-Abdullah blogsite over yacht scandal

Sufi Yusof has slammed a pro-Abdullah Badawi website for trying to tarnish his boss' reputation by dragging the former PM into the RM30 million yacht scandal involving the present PM, a boat maker called Kobra, and the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. Read his letter to RPK's Malaysia-Today website here.
"I take exception that in their eagerness to deflect the heat off the Prime Minister, certain irresponsible quarters should now try to drag and disparage the name of Dr Mahathir.
"This is pathetic. For your information, Dr Mahathir did go to Turkey in July this year for his holiday and to view a Turkish Gullet which was being built by her Malaysian owner who is known to Dr Mahathir as well as the Prime Minister. I am not at liberty to disclose the identity of the Malaysian. However, the yacht is certainly not Dr Mahathir's, nor does Dr Mahathir own any other yachts."
Don't you wonder who this mysterious Malaysian owner is?
By the way, the Gullet is a traditional Turkish fishing boat which has now become a popular tourist transport mode. It is different from the RM30 million yacht (or "cruiser") the Hurriyet said was ordered by Abdullah Badawi four months ago (Abdullah denied this on Dec 20 and yesterday Kobra said the Hurriyet's report was false).

Sufi advice. Interestingly, Sufi, a former press secretary to the PM when Dr M was the PM, also offered his advice on how the scandal should have been handled.
"The report in the Turkish newspaper to my point of view questions the integrity of the country's leadership. The right course of action, to my mind in defending the credibility and integrity of the the Prime Minister, is to seek some serious explanation and possibly an apology from the Turkish newspaper. After all the Prime Minister's denial shows that the report was indeed untrue and for this the Prime Minister deserves an apology from the newspaper."

Did the Hurriyet lie?

No order for yacht from Abdullah Badawi. Or so says Kobra, the yacht builder, in a letter to the Hurriyet, which was made available to Bernama and promptly published here. "The honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia does not have any order for the construction of a cruiser through our company," it said.
It's good that Kobra has come forward even if it took them 10 days after the story was published. But, all the same, we can't leave the task of defending the integrity of the Malaysian PM to a boat maker.
If the Hurriyet had lied in its Dec 17 report, as the PM himself said here, the PM's office should be the one challenging the report and demanding a correction and an apology.
For good measure, the letter should also state why Abdullah Badawi was in Bodrum in the first place.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Does Malaysia want a Grand Mufti?

Ikim's Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas says we need one. According to mSTAR Online, here, Islam in Malaysia is in dire need of a single authority/voice as the religion - and its authorities, including the muftis - are under siege.
Egypt, Jordan and Australia have adopted the grand mufti system to handle contentious issues regarding Islam in those countries.
Ikim is pushing for the appointment of Malaysia's first Mufti Besar, or grand mufti, next year.
All of which makes Greg Sheridan's thought-provoking piece, here, seems so timely.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Blogger down?

Kickdefella turned over, bought, reformed? On Dec 19, I wrote about blogger kickdefella who was feared missing in action. That posting [click here] drew several comments, one of them supposedly from the blogger himself.
On Dec 24, kickdefella supposedly left a final posting on his old blog here and announced the arrival of his new blog,
In that final posting, the blogger promises to discontinue his "below-the-belt" criticisms against the Prime Minister and his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin:
"Saya berjanji, tidak akan ada lagi tumbukan 'below the belt' buat menantu Perdana Menteri sekarang dan juga terhadap Perdana Menteri Malaysia yang amat prihatin membela bangsanya. Insya Allah. let bygone be bygone. Ikhlas, Sheih"
The transformation of this blog and blogger borders on the sinister, one must admit. In the new blog, kickdefella has decided to blow his cover, writes in English, and manages to confuse himself about his own age (born 1970, age 40). Gone are those notoriously witty movie-based posters you found here.

Temasek to get 20% of Synergy Drive?

All three agree. Last Friday evening, Golden Hope's board of directors decided to accept the merger proposal put forward by Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd.
Could they have said no even if they wanted to?
Sime Darby and Kumpulan Guthrie had already given the merge their nod. We have to assume that all the directors of all 3 companies know what they were doing. If this biggest merger in Malaysian corporate history fails, and insider Syed Munir Syed Qadri says it will fail, they must all be made to account for what will probably be the biggest failure in Malaysia's corporate history.

"Under the merger proposal, Permodalan Nasional Berhad will hold 45 percent shares in the merged entity, while 10 per cent will be held by the Employees Provident Fund. The other 25 percent will be the public spread while the remaining 20 per cent will be opened for foreign participation, in the name of globalisation.

So there's every likelihood that Singapore, with the help from some of its "friends" in the Prime Minister's Office, will buy the 20 per cent shares. They will also make an attempt to buy the shares available in the open market."

Click COMMENTS below to read the insider's letter.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

So this is Christmas!

Merry Xmas to All.
Wish the rain would go away, give us back those sunny days.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Help for the flood victims

"Please let yr friends+families+companies know we REALLY need HELP."
Blankets, tikar, biscuits, essential goods [see NST story here]. According to Zuraidah Atan, who is coordinating the relief efforts for banjir victims in Johor, you can send your donations to 3 collection centres:
1. Kontena Nasional office in Petaling Jaya
2. Parliament's dewan serbaguna
3. Puteri Umno headquarters at PWTC
So far, one shipment has left. The most convenient thing to do is to head direct for the Kontena Nasional office as this is the main collection centre. All items will be transported by KN to Batu Pahat, Pontian, Pagoh and Pasir Raja.

The PM has returned! He was in Tangkak a while ago to see the devastating floods for himself. Bernama has the story here. I was told he was planning to go to Perth, Australia, for the Christmas and year-end holidays. Looks like the PM may have changed plans. Good for him if that's the case.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Of Holidays and The Floods

It's by far the worst floods Malaysia has ever seen: six states ravaged, says the NST, scores of thousands more will lose their homes and the death toll is expected to be higher than the five reported in Johor so far.
The PM, Abdullah Badawi, who is holidaying abroad, has conveyed his sadness, according to Bernama.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

NST-UM merger is OFF

I was told the highly contentious NST-UM merger is not going to happen.
Watch out for the announcement.

update 22 dec Zahid Hamidi is also against the merger, here. Expect Zam to echo his deputy minister's sentiments.
So why is the Old Man supporting it? Read RPK's take here.

Rais Yatim burning bridges again?

Dayus. A man becomes "dayus" when he knows, for a fact, that his wife is sleeping with another man and does not or refuses to confront his wife or her lover. It is a very strong word to use on any man.
Rais Yatim says he will be become "dayus" if he closes an eye and allow Utusan Melayu to be taken over by another party. ".. This is a question of defending the Malay culture. I shan't remain quiet."
Now that's a man.
[read the Utusan Malaysia piece here. Mukhriz Mahathir, here, is also against the NeST-UM merger]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Turkish newspaper lied, Malaysian PM says

Abdullah denies buying RM30 million boat.
"The report is inaccurate. It is a lie. I don't know where it got such facts," he told reporters (in Venezuela) when asked to comment on a newspaper report that he went to Bodrum in Turkey recently to see the boat which he ordered four months ago. [read the report here]
The PM said Hurriyet, the Turkish newspaper which carried the report, will be asked to publish a correction.

I agree that the newspaper should be asked to carry a correction if there were serious errors in the report. It should be made to apologise even. But IF Hurriyet had lied about the yacht and Abdullah, a correction and an apology will not be sufficient. IF it had lied about the PM, the Malaysian government should demand that the Turkish government deals severely with the newspaper. This matter involves the integrity of the PM!
p.s. And let's have the official translation for the original report quoted by this blog here.

NST's 2007 line-up

Life after The Plagiarist
Group Editor - Syed Nadzri Haron
Assistant Group Editor - Kamrul Idris
Executive Editor News - K.P. Waran
Chief News Editor - P. Kathirasan
Business Times Executive Editor - Rajen Moses

A sign of things to come for Syed Nadzri, who takes over Brendan P on Jan 1: he was not consulted at all about the line-up. Group Editor-in-Chief Hishamuddin Aun told some people that he had no say either.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hope for Karim Sulaiman

VIP visitors. Malaysian Press Institute chairman Azman Ujang told some people that his predecessor Ahmad A. Talib, turned chauffeur yesterday and drove the Deputy Health Minister to Karim Sulaiman's home in Sri Gombak to visit the bedridden Berita Harian journalist. The Pahit Manis blogger wanted to make sure that the deputy minister did not lose his way.
Azman was one of Karim's visitors yesterday morning. The media were there. RTM featured Karim's predicament in the news over dinner. And The Malay Mail, still The Paper That Cares, has the story, here.
Karim has an appointment with an expert from the ministry later this week.

Blogger Missing In Action!

He's the blogger who anonymously created movie-based posters such as the ones here, a screaming box office on the Malaysian blog scene.
And he's gone MIA.
Friends said he left for work overseas about a month ago, promising to be back in a week. His last posting here was dated Nov 17. Some people think it could be blogger fatigue. His friends fear that something more sinister could have befallen him. At least one fella wants me to check if Kickdefella has been arrested under ISA!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cobras in colour

The Cobra Queen (right)

The Cobra King (left)

Pak Lah's Cobra Sultan will be ready in a year, probably just before the general elections. Will there be a Cobra Sultanah after that?
[pls leave comments in earlier posting The PM's RM30 million yacht here]

Quitely, she blogs!

Marina Mahathir. Her blog, RantingsbyMM, is an early Christmas gift to Malaysian blog society, one to bookmark. You can't get closer to the Dr M-Soros meeting than this, for a start.

The PM's RM30 million yacht

Malaysian PM here to see his (US$8 million) yacht.
That's the headline from the Hurriyet, a Turkish paper [click here]. I've got it translated [see below].
The report clearly said the luxury yacht belongs to the Malaysian Prime Minister. Not Ananda Krishnan's. The report did not say that it was given to Abdullah Badawi by the tycoon, either. It was very clear on the fact that this yacht, costing some RM30 million, is Abdullah's yacht.
Lost in translation? Or lost for word?

Hurriyet Newspaper
Malaysian Prime Minister here to see his boat
Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmed Badawi arrived in Bodrum yesterday to see his boat which he ordered four months ago. Badawi arrived in Bodrum at 1.30 am with a private jet that belongs to Malaysia Airlines.
The head official of Milas, Bahattin Atci, and Malaysian businessman Ananda Krishnan, who is the sixth richest man in Asia, welcomed Badawi. Kamil Sezgun, who is the director of Kobra Yachting and Tourism Ltd Co, was also present.
Badawi and his friend Krishan went to Gokova for fishing with a luxury motor yacht belonging to Kremala Holding, which was brought over here from Malta. The luxury yacht "Obsessions" is 40-meter long, made in the Netherlands and the captain of the yacht is Cavit Kabak. The yacht was anchored in Milta Marina.
Badawi said he loves Bodrum and south Aegean and the Mediterranean so much. It's a great pleasure for him to be here fishing and resting on the line (horizon) that connects blue and green (ocean and land).

The boat will cost 8 million dollars
The boat is made of Akaju, Maun, Sipo and Brimanya's tree which is imported from South Africa. It is expected to be completed in 16 months. Some 60 people are involved in the construction of the boat. The boat will be delivered after 12 months (since he ordered it four months ago). The capacity of the boat is for 14 people and the length is 44 meters. The boat will cost 8 million US dollars.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Soros on Abdullah's Malaysia

How can? He compares Malaysia to Sudan and Angola, and told Malaysians to demand for greater transparency and accountability from the Government. No wonder Abdullah Badawi refused to see George Soros. [click here for Soro's views on Malaysia's transparency]

Karim Sulaiman

Scleromyxoedema?Award-winning journalist Karim Sulaiman, 45, is dying at his home in Gombak. In 2000, the year before he won the coveted Hadiah Kajai for Berita Harian, doctors told him he was suffering from a rare disorder. He started suffering from migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes, difficulty in breathing, etc. "My body feels like it's on fire, Ky," he told me yesterday. From 2003, his physical appearance change dramatically. His good, boyish looks are totally gone. His speech is now slurred and he can't turn his head left or the right; if he tries to sit up straight, without support at the back of his head, his jaws will fall on to his chest. "His neck can't support his head," the wife said. She feeds and cleans him round the clock, and she also tends for their six schooling kids, the youngest is 9 and the eldest 17.

So Karim sits there on the sofa in the living room, everyday, wasting away. He used to weigh about 60 kg; now he is lighter than his youngest son. His mind is awake and alert, though. I asked him how long he's served Berita Harian. "I joined 12 December 1985. I've just completed 21 years of service. You are, what, six months my senior?" On the dot. I joined Business Times, another NSTP daily, in July the same year. Can't remember the exact date, though. "Ahmad Sebi, Nazri and Kadir interviewed me," he continued. "Kadir Jasin was garang (fierce)."

The Berita Harian special projects editor said on 9/11, the day they suspended the Weekend Mail, he was informed that the company had no choice but to place him on a 6-month's leave, to be followed by another 6 months of half-paid leave. By this time next year he will be living on Socso benefits. "If I live that long," he said. Six years on, the doctors can't say for sure what's killing Karim. I was told to google "papular mucinosis" to have an idea of what Karim is suffering from. "They told me it's an extremely rare disorder," his wife said.
Karim is not giving up hope. He says he is sure someone out there can tell him what exactly is wrong with him and what the cure is. "It's just a matter of finding that someone."

The exco of the National Press Club meets next week. We will work closely with Mior Kamarul Baid, one of Karim's ex-bosses at Berita Harian, and Pahit Manis (see his postings on Karim here and here) to see how we can be of help. We have raised funds for journalists in need before but what Karim needs now is help to find that expert who can give him the hope for a cure that he surely deserves.

I bring updates about this journalist in the days ahead. And I hope they'll be happy updates.

Not Moses' Last Day

One more year. Obviously, Rajen Moses' services are still needed by The Business Times as his contract, due on Dec 11, has been extended by a year. Reliable sources told me he will not be made Syed Nadzri Haron's deputy. But I could be wrong. Like I was wrong about his last day [here].

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rafidah against NeST-UM merger

No brainer, she says. Even the PM's most staunch backer in Cabinet, Rafidah Aziz, is not for the merger between the New Straits Times and the Utusan Melayu as they could end up losing advertisers as well as growth.
Two companies can work together and form strategic alliances. Why the haste to merge? Have they discussed the merger with their employees?
Sounds like the old Kak Pidah to me. [Read here]

But let's not forget, some people with inside knowledge have made a killing from the two stocks and, at this point, it won't make much difference to them if the two Umno-owned media companies merge or not. The Securities Commission and the Bursa are still mum about that! Business-savvy Umno leaders like Rafidah must call for an investigation to see who's been manipulating Umno counters for their own gains!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

So high, or Sor Hai?

60 per cent not so high, Samy?
"Although we allow for toll hikes, we make sure the increase is not too high." - Samy Vellu, when announcing the 20-60 per cent toll rates increase today.

But I hear so many people say "So high!". The Chinese have an expression that sounds just like that; naturally, that expression carries a totally different meaning!
Cuepacs could be smiling, though. It is demanding a pay hike for a million workers, including a 40 per cent adjustment for the lowest-income group. If 60 per cent salary increment for the highway concessionaires is not too high, the civil servants' pay demand can't be that high, right?
[read the 20-60 per cent toll increase here; Cuepacs' 10-40 per cent salary claims here]

Toll up, noise down

News mufflers. There'll be lots of poisonous emission from the people when Samy Vellu announces the increase in toll rates today but the din that they'll created will be greatly muffled, at least in the mainstream media. That's the priority: keep the volume down. The DPM has met editors, also quietly [read here], to brief prepare them for the rough patch ahead.
And a deputy minister - the Singapore media call it "junior" minister - has "leaked" the news to a foreign wire so as to soften the impact of Samy's announcement. Or so it is hoped. [Read the AFP scoop here, Jeff Ooi's perspective here]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Soros wants to meet Dr M

Moron & Menace. Dr M has agreed to meet the man he called "moron" at the height of the Asian financial crisis. The moron, who called Dr M a "menace to his own country", will be in KL this Friday to deliver a talk.
Read it here.

MPs, Senators "No" To NSTP-Utusan Melayu merger

They are angry. It's not what the PM and the 4th floor boys wanted to hear but when people are angry enough about something, they'll speak their mind in the end.
"Why should it merge with NST, in the last few years NST itself has lost its direction, if we merge, it could throw both off track." - Mohd Said Yusof
"The merger... what for, let Utusan Malaysia have its own way and NST also have its own way, what's wrong if we let them compete with each other." - Mohamad Abdul Ghani
"Quite a lot of people are angry about it." - Mohamed Aziz
[read what they said yesterday here]

More will oppose the mysterious merger at the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara. Privately, some of the people's representatives are asking why a certain investment bank previously linked to an Umno Youth leader was actively trading the stocks of the two companies before the merger announcement was made. [read my previous postings here and here]

Blame it on modern moms

Senator Syed Ali Syed Abbas Alhabshee says the decline in our youths' moral values today is due to the failure of modern Malaysian mothers, for they are so caught up with establishing their careers that they neglect their responsibilities at home. He said these working mothers should stay home and take care of the kids.
Was Syed Ali thinking straight or thinking at all? [Read the Bernama piece here]
Senator Dr Norraesah Mohamad probably thinks he was just being a prick. She says Syed Ali's remark belittle the integrity of women. The responsibility of educating children should be shared by the parents and not left entirely to the mother.
"That is why we talk of parents and the word parenting does not involve the mother alone. If mothers cannot go to work, imagine the number of single mothers who would suffer being unable to raise their children for lack of money," she says.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Old Man" smashed my son-in-law's pot of rice

Who's he fooling? In this segment of the interview with the Bangkok Post, the PM said something queer:
"I did mention that the old man practically smashed Khairy's pot of rice. That's something I am very sad about. He has sold his interest in ECM Libra. Sold it at a loss. Now he has some debts to settle."
I take it that the old man here is Dr M, who questioned Khairy's position in Pak Lah's office and his eligibility for a stake in an investment bank owned by a friend of the PM's.
But KJ has debts? Does that mean he's suffering, like he's missing his meals and losing his sleep?
And then Kamaluddin Abdullah is going around telling people: "I'm rich"!

[Read the Bernama's take here. Make sure you have a strong stomach, people].

Abdullah on clever cheats and rogues

"I'm happy with my achievement."
"Well, taking into consideration the time factor, also the problems that I have faced and the deficit that I had to reduce, what I have achieved today in the third year as prime minister, I have reason to be happy."
But Abdullah said in his interview with Bangkok Post here he wants to focus on the so-called National Mission that will take the country to Vision 2020. We are talking at least three terms here, I think.

The one they didn't coach him to say.
"There are many people who are clever people but who are cheats. Who are rogues. Who abuse power. Who are corrupt. I don't want that. If you are clever, you must be a good man."
I have a feeling he is talking about someone close to him. One of his advisers, perhaps?

... on Southern Thailand.

Abdullah Badawi expressed confidence that Surayud will succeed in achieving peace in Southern Thailand. On Dr Mahathir's role as mediator? The question was probably not asked. The PM won't answer questions on an Aljazeera and analyst reports that the Southern Thai insurgents will change tactics and attack tourist destinations.
[Read the Bangkok Post's piece here]

Monday, December 11, 2006

Washington Posted

Washington Post is closing its bureau in Jakarta, which also serves as its regional office, on Jan 1 2007, reports Unspun, the Malaysian blogger in Jakarta.

With the international newspapers cutting back on their spending and on their bureaus overseas is it a wonder then that more and more people are resorting to blogs to get their information? The alternative to blogs are local media who aren’t always consistent or professional with their selection of news from either their own reporters - who aren’t always reliable - and news wires.

This gives rise to a perhaps simplistic question, but one worth pondering on: Is it the rise of blogs that caused the circulation decline or the circulation decline that causes the rise of blogs?

Moses' Last Day

Clocking out. Rajen Moses, who was brought in by the then Group Editor-in-Chief Kalimullah Hassan in 2004 to lift the image of Business Times, ends his contract with the New Straits Times today. Rajen Moses livened up a media forum in KL last week when he publicly blamed the newspaper's politically-appointed GEIC for its journalists' sins.

But Rajen Moses is now somewhere in Kazakhtan, specially flown there to witness the launch of the Measat 3 satellite and this has led some people to speculate that he may be around longer than they hope. After all, if they actually make Syed Nadzri Syed Haron the Group Editor from January 1, they will be looking for a deputy.

Wither open tenders?

P. Gunasegaram, in his column in The Edge, had been one of the first to ask the question: What happened to open tenders and bids? [read his April 28, 2004 column here].
Last week The Edge carried the editorial, Whither open tenders? It asked the same questions Guna was asking nearly 3 years ago, the same ones many of us have been asking, too.
Why are are there increasing indications that open tenders for government projects are going out the window in place of direct negotiated or exclusive deals? .
...Some recent analyst reports virtually singled out YTL Corp as getting lucrative deals, among them a RM600 million transport-related job, a RM1 billion river cleanup and a RM150 million ERL terminal job at the new Low Cost Terminal in Sepang.
...It would seem that analysts and fund managers are of the opinion that such jobs will not go through a tender process. Otherwise, they would know better than to position certain companies as landing lucrative jobs without such certainty. They best way is to display clearly that open tender should be the norm in awarding big jobs. Then the whispers will stop and there'll no longer be an issue of open tender not being implemented.
YTL Corp is just one instance. One of the most memorable, to me at least, was the proposed RM400 million project to build a new palace. During the groundbreaking ceremony, it seemed nobody in authority had any idea who was going to get the project. Days later, the Press was told that the project was to be awarded to one Maya Maju Sdn Bhd. [open on Maya here]

Tougher Press laws to prevent Editors from lying ...

Malaysia may introduce tough Press laws to control journalists and prevent their editors from spreading "disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies" in their newspapers.
Deputy Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha accused some editors of writing controversial articles to attract readers.
"We are talking about creating Press laws to control those who abuse the newspapers," Datuk Kong said.
Ah, how sweet if Kong had really had the good mind to say this, especially if he had said it after the June 11 lies that Kalimullah Hassan wrote in his Sunday Times column. It was clear that Kalimullah wanted to create disharmony between the PM and Dr M with the lies. But instead of slamming lying editors, people like Kong pick on bloggers. The deputy minister's statement (the original one, not the imagined one above) about tougher cyber laws to control bloggers was made more than a week ago but is still being cited on the net, like here, giving the country a bad name.
p.s. I hear that The Liar's column was back again yesterday. Apart from the goodness of his own existence, he also wrote about a recent trip to Casablanca. Is that true now, or is it another lie?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Falling readership and "Sick" Burgess

Free fall. The Malay Mail and The Sunday/Weekend Mail readership numbers plunged 36 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively between October last year and September this year. It's something no journalist or editor in this country had ever accomplished in such a short time.
But then Kalimullah Hassan and machai Syed Faisal Albar are not journalists.
Kali's other machai, Hishamuddin Aun, had pushed hard for the "Latin" face-lift Berita Harian had last year. The company spent a six-figure sum (in US dollars) for some Mexicans to come up with that new look.
The result: a 21 per cent drop in readership for Berita Harian and a 14 per cent fall for Berita Minggu. [click here to read the report]

Oriental Daily, seen as the most independent of the Chinese papers, saw the biggest gain in readership numbers. Harian Metro, which plays up crime and sex stories and usually throw out political news unless it involves sex scandal involving politicians, saw a 24 per cent rise.
The surprise performer is NST, which saw a 0.3 per cent increase in readership. But rival The Star, already enjoying a bigger circulation, saw a 9 per cent jump in readership to leave Kali's NST further behind.

Note 1: The plagiarism row involving the NST's group editor and the suspension of the Weekend Mail happened in October and November, respectively, and, therefore, did not influence this latest readership survey.
Note 2: If editors like Syed Nadzri and Yushaimi Yahya are allowed a free hand, expect to see a serious rise in the readership numbers for both the NST and the Malay Mail next year.

p.s. It is learnt that Simon Burgess (read posting here) is now with FHM Malaysia working as Editor. Having been appointed prior to the Weekend Mail fiasco. MediaCorp, which is the Singapore-based publisher of FHM, decided to go ahead with "Sick" Burgess working under a pseudonym! A source said: "I'm not sure how long this subterfuge will work, though, seeing as he will have to show his face at many events".

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Christian, a Muslim, a Christian again

Muhammad Rayappan Abdullah. The late A. Rayappan was born a Catholic. That's a fact. Once upon a time in his adult life, the former van driver embraced Islam. That's also a fact. What was disputed, after the man died on Nov 29, was that he died a Muslim. The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) said Rayappan was a Muslim and applied to the Syariah Court last Friday to give the man a proper burial. Rayappan's widow objected and applied to the Civil High Court on Monday for Mais to release the body so that he could be given a proper burial.
It was a controversial case, the Lina Joy way. The world media carried Rayappan's story amid a religious row in Malaysia. The Cabinet chaired by PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi discussed the case yesterday and passed it to the Attorney General to decide.
Today, it was decided. It was decided that A. Rayappan was not Muhammad Rayappan Abdullah when he died. He was a Christian again, not a Muslim. [Read the full story here]
SHAH ALAM, Dec 7 (Bernama) -- The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) has decided not to claim the body of A. Rayappan for burial according to Islamic rites.
Mais chairman Datuk Mohamed Adzib Mohd Isa said all the information gathered before showed that Rayappan was a Muslim, but the evidence pointing that he was not a Muslim was overwhelming.
"So, I hope the matter is solved and we don't think the people will view us negatively because we make the decision based on the existing facts and not emotion," he told a press conference here Thursday.
The decision will leave many questions that need to be answered. Does this mean a Muslim in Malaysia can leave Islam? If Rayappan was a Muslim in 1990, he should be considered a Muslim till the day he died. No? Why should Mais worry if people would think of it negatively?
Mais has to answer all the questions. The A-G has to answer all the questions. I know of Muslims out there who said they have left Islam who want to do it publicly. Can they now, since Rayappan could.
Me, I had no doubt that Rayappan died a Catholic after reading the Sun's front page report here yesterday.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told theSun in a telephone interview: "The Cabinet is very sympathetic towards the family. The sentiment of the Cabinet was that he should be recognised as a Christian."

Singapore interest in Malaysia's merged media?

40 per cent. That's how much the market says Singapore could hold in the NSTP-Utusan merged company, mostly through proxy. Is that a plan?
You have no way of knowing at this point of time as both parties have signed a non-disclosure agreement, although that did not stop them the other day from briefing the analysts, who after that seemed very sure that the deal will happen. The renewed confidence, in turn, sparked NSTP's 19-sen rebound in this morning's trade.
I may be a minority shareholder but I want to know. If Lee Kuan Yew and Co holds even a single share in the NSTP or Utusan or, God forbids, a merged entity, I demand to be told before it happens.
That 1 share could be the golden share, man!

[read here for the 19-sen rebound and here on what the analysts had been told].
p.s. look out for regular updates in the next few days. the spin docs are working overtime to make the merge deal look prettier and sweeter for the Malay public and the Umno supreme council members.

update One: 4.55pm
First sweetener: Nasir Ali, the Utusan Melayu group executive director, is tipped to be the group CEO of the merged NSTP-Utusan entity. This is definitely aimed at putting the pro-Utusan group at ease. Where will Syed Faisal Albar, the CEO of NSTP, go? Full time at Malay Mail/(suspended) Weekend Mail or away from the limelight in the Media Prima empire?
[read the Bernama piece here on update 1]
[More Liquidity for the Market, says Nor Mohamed Yakcop here].

Blame it on Kali and Hisham!

Has the kitchen gotten too hot? I missed the Aidcom forum's morning session; some participants were still talking about how hot it was. Screenshots has the story here - a foreign editor pointing a finger at a local editor who had pointed a finger at his group editor-in-chief. Rajen Moses, the local editor in this kitchen, was brought into NSTP by the then GEIC Kalimullah Hassan and now serves under Hishamuddin Aun, the current chef.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The power of the blog

At the Aidcom conference today, I was one of the discussants for Jeff Ooi's session entitled The Cyber Platform - Does it have a space? Prof Wan Ahmad Zawawi Ibrahim was the other discussant and Zainon Ahmad, the political editor of the Sun, chaired the session.
I said yes, the Cyber platform has ample space. But how much space it will have is dependent on three players:
1/ people like Zam, who will want to regulate and stifle the blogs and on-line news;
2/ the bloggers themselves; and
3/ the hijackers, which include the mainstream media, which have the means to hijack the bloggers agenda by investing in blogs themselves.
Why are the authorities, represented by pembesar-pembesar like Zam, want to control the blogs/cyber platform and why did I say the likes of Media Prima would be keen to keep that "space" for itself? The answer, I said, is because blog offer "power" and "money" to those who know how to use it. In the US, advertising on the internet is expected to reach US$70 billion by 2010. We will see big ad money here in Malaysia, too. And as for power, just look around: there are already several people who run blogs, Jeff Ooi and RPK, who are today seen as powerful figures, sometimes more powerful than the editors of the mainstream media.
Poster Anak Dol Keropok is disappointed with me because I look at blogging as power and money. I did explain, however, that I don't get a single sen from this blog.
And the "power" of the blog is the reason why the likes of Zam want to control it and the likes of Kalimullah Hassan want to firewall and defeat it. It is not why I - like you - blog, my friend.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blogging for Democracy

Democracy for blogging. June from UM would like you to take this survey for her thesis. She interviewed me for her project last month.

Over the next two days, I'll be crossing keris, kung fu sword, silambam and kirpan with journalists, bloggers and journobloggers at an Aidcom forum in KL. Click here for details.

Hanky panky in media merger

Where are our guardians of good governance and transparency? [Or one for SC and Bursa].
From the point of good governance, the NSTP-Utusan merger stinks like landfill. One smells poor governance, low transparency, leakages, insider trading!
Lets look beyond this morning's bloodbath at the stock market, where these companies' share prices took a massive beating [read here for the report, here for the perspective], and go back to before the shares were suspended last Friday.
For more than a week before their voluntary suspension last Friday, the two counters had been doing double, triple somersaults to end up at their highest levels in a long time. How come? Don't the guardians of good governance at the Securities Commission and the Bursa KL wonder? To the analysts I spoke to, it is clear as day that some people on the inside were making a killing.
There is also the matter about the Singapore Straits Times breaking the news of the proposed merger (the Edge quickly followed up). The NSTP editorial adviser and deputy chairman Kalimullah Hassan is a former Singapore Straits Times reporter and has given several exclusive interviews to the Edge since his appointment at NSTP in 2004. He may not have been responsible for leaking out the news, but someone did. Surely the SC is curious to find out, no? This blog has warned it before of Vintage Wine in the Newsroom, remember?
And why did the Bursa suspend the counters (only) last Friday, long after Singapore Straits Times had broken the story of the merger and many days after some people on the inside may have made a killing in the rally before the suspension? The Bursa should call up the directors of the two companies and demand an explanation.
Otherwise, to hell with transparency and good governance.

NSTP and Utusan to trade today

Correction. In the tradition of good journalistic ethics, I apologise for an error in my earlier posting "Utusan Merger is OFF, for now". Under "update", I quoted a Bernama report that contained this para: The two companies said that their shares would remain suspended until both parties are able to reach a definite agreement in relation to the merger.
Fellow bloggers have been alerting me to a later Bernama report that has set the record straight:
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 (Bernama) -- The trading of shares of New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd and Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) will resume Tuesday, Bursa Malaysia said.
Read the full report here.
And while we're at it, mark these words from the Prime Minister.
Abdullah said he hoped the proposed merger would not involve the editorial departments of the two companies which managed their respective newspapers.
"What the Malays do not want to see is that Utusan being sent to the grave due to the merger," he said.
The full story here. Doesn't augur well for the merger talks, if you ask me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blog Ethics, Again

Two days after his deputy called for some blog ethics, Zam rules that bloggers MUST uphold the tenets of journalism, too. It's not a question of should, it's a MUST.
Read what the newly-crowned Tokoh Wartawan Negara has to say about my ethics - and yours - here.

Utusan merger is OFF, for now

Face-saving semantics. NSTP and Utusan Melayu have postponed their press conference until further notice, according to a joint statement quoted by theedgedaily here a while ago.

[Please note that it is the press conference and not the proposed merger that is being postponed].
[p.s. To avoid a bloodbath at the stock market tomorrow, NSTP may inform the Bursa that they are trying to finalize details of the merger and, therefore, would need the suspension of their counters since last Friday to be extended].

Non-disclosure agreement.
In separate joint statements, according to Bernama here, NSTP and Utusan Melayu told Bursa Malaysia that:
1/they haven't reached an agreement on the merger
2/they want to continue to explore the merger possibility and
3/they'll inform the Bursa should a final agreement materialize.
In the meantime, the two parties have signed a non-disclosure agreement. They have also decided to continue suspending their counters.
"Pursuant to excessive speculation in the stock market, the boards of both companies decided to suspend the trading of the stocks to enable both parties to commence negotiation on the terms of the cooperation," they said.
There won't be a bloodbath tomorrow.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Minda Massa

April launch? The MCA-owned Star Publications has a license to publish a Malay-language daily. It has been holding on to the permit for nearly a decade now. The people at the NSTP know it and the people at the Utusan Melayu know it. What they probably didn't know was that the management of the Star has revisited the idea of launching the new paper, whose working title is Minda Massa.
People familiar with the matter say the Star stands to be the biggest beneficiary if Media Prima is allowed to execute plans to eat up Utusan Melayu and merge it with the flagging NSTP.
In the event of an NSTP-Utusan Melayu merger, one or even two of the four major Malay-language titles in the two rival groups could be cannibalized. The people behind this proposed merger are hoping to corner the Bahasa newspapers market in terms of advertisements and circulation but they may have forgotten that the Star has a license to publish a Malay daily and has been on stand-by mode since 1997 to launch the daily.
Last October, they started the mSTAR Online as part of its run-up to publish Minda Massa. The mSTAR Online has garnered a huge following. Since news of the NSTP-Utusan merger, there has been talk about an April 2007 launch for Minda Massa.
A merger between NSTP and Utusan Melayu is likely to create a vacuum that Star would be more than happy to fill.

p.s. At the press conference to announce the merger tomorrow, questions on cannibalization and vacuum and Minda Massa will likely be raised. That is, if the press conference is not called off. I was told that after last Friday's resistance shown by some Umno Supreme Council members, the people behind the merger idea have been told to retreat. For now.

Making up a quote or two

Of Mukhriz Mahathir, Media Ethics and Mercenary Editors. Every newspaper carried the piece on Mukhriz Mahathir being given that stern warning never again to criticize the PM and party president, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
But none except the NST had this purported quotes from Mukhriz:
Asked why he took so long to apologise to Umno Youth, Mukhriz said he was told to give his side of the story at yesterday’s exco meeting.
"I now wait to meet Pak Lah to personally apologise to him."

The Bernama reporter and others who covered the meeting last Thursday must be wondering where the NST reporter got that one-liner. Mukhriz's one-liner, as quoted by Bernama and the others, was:
Meanwhile, Mukhriz, when met by reporters later, said he concurred with what was said by Hishammuddin.
Asked what was he going to explain in his meeting with Abdullah, he said:
"Let that be between me and the prime minister."
The above may be trivial to someone like Zahid Hamidi, who seems concerned only with blogging ethics. But such intentional misreporting, like Kalimullah Hassan's June 11 fabrication, is meant to inflict maximum damage and is detrimental to society.
Which is why the deputy minister should take a hard look at the ethics of the current crop of pro-government mercenary editors and why he should speak up and not let Utusan Melayu go down NSTP's way.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Blog ethics

Deflect the blogs. Zahid Hamidi does not want the public to be deceived by incorrect information and accusations by bloggers and wants the mainstream media to help government in putting the record straight. The Deputy Information Minister also wants bloggers to adopt good ethics and be responsible in their writing.
"They should have ethics ... everyone have ethics and self-respect. We hope the bloggers will also have ethics and self respect."
I am all for positive ethics and taking bloggers to account. Zahid, however, should be reminded that the mainstream media in this country aren't swell in the ethics department. Senior editors appointed by the Prime Minister to head the NSTP write blatant lies in their columns and plagiarize, and Zahid has never lifted a finger. He should know better than ask unethical journalists to deflect the blogs for the government when they could not even defend themselves against these blogs!

[read Zahid's call for blogger ethics here]

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who's killing Utusan Melayu?

And who can save it? Some members of the Umno Supreme Council, which is meeting at this very minute, are expected to raise the NSTP-Utusan Melayu merger talk at the meeting. They have been kept out of the loop and this they found disturbing.
It's been days since a Singapore daily broke the story about the merger of the two Umno-linked media companies. This morning the counters of both companies were suspended and still nobody has officially said anything about it.
The journalists and editors at Utusan Malaysia, always proud of their "Malay chauvinist" newspaper and the fact that they are deemed as representative of Umno and the Malays' voice, are very demoralized. Some are angry.

Watch out for updates.

Update 1 [10pm].
Poster Melayu Malaysia says a minute ago the proposed merger has been put on hold "due to strong resistance among the members of the (Supreme Council)". Thank you, Melayu Malaysia. We'll have to wait for the official announcement before we can thank, and congratulate, the Supreme Council members.

Update 2 [8:50pm]. The National Union Journalists "concerned" with NSTP-Utusan merger. Bernama has the story here.

Update 3. Bernama just filed this story here and here quoting the PM as saying that the identity and the role of Utusan Malaysia must remain should there be a merger between NSTP and Utusan Melayu. He did not spell out what Utusan's identity and role are or how it's possible to retain both if NSTP is allowed to eat it up.