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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Chinese rally? Oh, please!

As published in Malay Mail today



Haresh Says
By Haresh Deol

THE numbers ranged between 25,000 and 500,000. Some stressed the bulk who attended Bersih 4 over the weekend were Chinese.
But two men who participated in the gathering were unperturbed with such talk. 
“Would it make a difference if I am Justin Lee, Justin Nathan or Justin Mohammed? Whether it is 25,000 or 500,000 people, Malaysians of all walks of life participated and that counts the most,” said Justin, who insisted his last name was immaterial.
Justin joined many others who were eager to be heard over the weekend. He said those who attended the rally, deemed illegal by the authorities, had various grouses but were united in their objective — to demand a cleaner and transparent Malaysia.
“You can’t place a number. There were many others who could not make it for the rally but were with us in spirit.
“I was at Dataran Maybank and there seemed to be more Chinese. My friends who were at Sogo said there were more Malays there. But who was counting?”
He added that most of the speakers who addressed the crowd were non-Chinese. 
“Just because PKR’s Rafizi (Ramli) said there were more Chinese, we must agree with him? He was only at one location, how would he know?
“To the judgmental lot, were you at the rally? Or did you judge based on what you heard from your friends and pictures you saw on your Facebook timeline?”
This racial talk has got many riled up. The 34-hour rally was even labelled a DAP-led agenda and it was presumed the lack of Malay support was a result of PAS not being in the picture. 
Civil society rights in Malaysia are usually championed by political parties who more often than not are defined by race (Umno/PAS — Malay, MCA — Chinese, MIC — Indian ... you get my point). Thus it comes to no surprise why our observation towards everything is racial in nature.
MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was quick to say the assembly had nothing to do with race. He is right. Or perhaps the echoes of ‘apa lagi Cina mau’, said right after the 2013 general election, continue to ring in his ears. The “lack of Chinese support” saw the downfall of his predecessor Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, giving Liow the shivers he, too, could suffer the same fate.
Another participant, Yew, said many had turned up with bright yellow Bersih 4 T-shirts despite a Home Ministry 
ban last week. 
“We had the T-shirt ban. We had the armed forces chief (Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin) saying they would take over if a state of emergency was declared. We also saw provocative and racist posters promising blood bath if the rally continued. It’s 2015 ... such scare tactics do not work anymore,” he said. 
“Instead, it made the authorities look pretty bad.”
He wondered if the authorities would maintain a similar stand as the Red Shirts, an anti-Bersih group, pledged to gather 1 million people on Oct 10.
Despite the ban and rally declared illegal, the police did not act. As former Malay Mail editor-in-chief Datuk Ahirudin Attan said, it was “restrain, restrain, restrain” for our men in blue. 
In his Aug 29 posting on Rocky’s Bru, Ahirudin wrote: “Outnumbered and closely watched, the cops — most of them on the front-line are in their youths — have also to exercise restrain at all times throughout Bersih 4. That’s the order that has been given to them and they have to follow orders. Unlike riot police in Western countries, ours are not seasoned or used to handling protesters. Ours aren’t brutal.”
It turned out to be a wise order. Cool heads prevailed.
It was not an easy thing for the cops, especially with their political masters breathing down their necks. But the way they handled the crowd and traffic won the admiration of many. 
Words on the banners carried by Bersih rally-goers, and their chants, were already subjects on social media and spoken about at coffee shops. They were nothing new. 
Some politicians rubbished criticisms made by the participants. The ‘mature’ few, well aware of the ground sentiments, chose to remain silent — even on ‘Twitterjaya’.
There were those who jumped on the bandwagon. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has been critical about Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration in recent months, made his presence felt over the two-day gathering. Even his loyalists readily admitted they were puzzled by his action. 
While he remains a hit among many, critics of the former prime minister argued he was vocal about such gatherings in the past.
They also said Dr Mahathir, who had repeatedly said there was a need to censor the Internet, was ‘blessed’ for not having to deal with social media and such resentment during his era. 
Dr Mahathir said he “just wanted to see” the gathering and “was there (at the rally) for the people”. He was, however, no where to be seen when the people gathered at Dataran Merdeka for the Merdeka Day celebrations on Monday.
Is taking to the streets right? Your answer will depend on which side of the fence you’re on but it should never cause mayhem to the country.
So, did Justin and Yew waste their time?
“It took decades before the Internal Security Act was repealed. This is only the fourth rally. Maybe a few more will make a difference,” said Justin.
Yew added: “It is about making ourselves heard. All we want is for Malaysia to enjoy good economy and uphold transparency.”
The two, 25,000 or 500,000 rally-goers have said their piece. Now it is for the authorities to take cue and move forward. 
Maybe the next gathering, if any, should be devoid of political representation and led by civil society movements. Such voices must be by the people, for the people to benefit the people.
Please do away with the racial connotations and dear leaders, start practising what you preach. Only then, you will win the hearts of many.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Monday, August 31, 2015

BEING FRANK: Ruin of once soul and character of nation

As published in Malay Mail today


Being Frank 
By Frankie D'Cruz

MERDEKA Stadium looks about 80. But she is not, she is 58. That is not old age, but it is not young either.
She deserves to have pride of place in the altar of celebrations as the nation revels in 58 years of independence. But she is all alone, almost in embarrassing anonymity.

She looks aged and forgotten while Malaysia, her same age, looks the opposite — riveting.

My point? The very spot where Tunku Abdul Rahman stood on the morning of Aug 31, 1957 to declare Malaya’s independence from the British is missing in the towering significance of Merdeka Day cheeriness.

The joy is further dampened by the stadium being a victim of historical amnesia.

You must agree with me that in the current struggle for national recovery, the stadium which in recent decades fell into disuse, would have been a beneficial venue for inspiration.

Turns out it is historical disrespect. Consider: Eight years ago, when Malaysia celebrated 50 years of independence, I helmed a team that produced a 13-episode television documentary ‘Sports — a nation builder’ for the government.

The opening scene of the Merdeka Stadium episode began with three questions: Have you heard of Merdeka Stadium? Where is Merdeka Stadium? Have you been to Merdeka Stadium?

Students and those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, gave disheartening responses: that they had never been there; vaguely remembered reading about the stadium in history books; one man said he had been to the stadium only once on his first date with his wife to the fish head curry restaurant.

The five were among some 50 Malaysians interviewed, the majority of whom had completely forgotten Malaysia’s independence icon. It was the same story last year when a Malay Mail poll on the stadium was equally distressing.
Yesterday, at a regular Sunday community gathering, I carried out a similar exercise during my current affairs session involving the same age groups — and it was the same heartbreaking story.

The blistering honesty about Merdeka Stadium, once the conscience that fed the Malaysian dream, is that she has been airbrushed from Malaysia’s annals.

Once, the soul and character of Malaysia and her sporting feats. Once, the scene of an outpouring of unbridled joy during the declaration of “Merdeka”.

Once, where people of all ages and races bonded in local and international sporting, youth, culture and religious events.

Once, where Malaysians threw off the straitjacket of pessimism and attained a cloak of adventure.

If Merdeka Stadium had tremendous depth, diversity and appeal, why is she being sidelined as a venue for Malaysians to gain some pace and quintessentially Malaysian gusto?

When tens of thousands, their spirits soaring, filled the stadium to hear Tunku — our first Prime Minister — proclaim “Merdeka”, it was the start of Merdeka Stadium’s national duty to help build more pride, self-esteem and a sense of belonging among Malaysians.

That she did — in style. Merdeka Stadium promoted the virtues of sports and family units by bringing the rakyat together through activities, achievement and integration.

She became an instrument of understanding among people. She became a formidable vehicle for the education about the world at large. She instilled in children and young people values such as respect and tolerance.
It enabled a fledgling nation like ours to share the international sporting stage with bigger and more developed nations in a way that few institutions could.

Merdeka Stadium was the brainchild of Tunku, who had in his speech at the opening ceremony, said: “I have great hope that the stadium will be the meeting place for sportsmen throughout the world. Through sports, we hope to promote peace and happiness and goodwill in this world.”

A national stadium had already been the dream of the sports-loving Tunku as early as 1951, though the idea was not mooted until 1953.

When Tunku laid the foundation stone in 1957, at the site of Coronation Park (earlier known as People’s Park) where every sports-loving person gathered, he said:
“Every sportsman has been clamouring for it and the demand was so great that I plucked up sufficient courage to pose a question at the meeting of the Federal Legislative Council on March 18, 1953. My question was greeted with derisive laughter from all over the House.”

His detractors, mainly British administrators, believed that it was a waste of public funds. They were to be proven sorely wrong later.

Tunku’s critics never foresaw the powerful brand that Merdeka Stadium was to become.

Merdeka Stadium continued that people’s tradition and almost everything involving the rakyat was held there.
She stirred the nation, motivated and unified the people. She was the model to effect desirable change, the best love story on the land — a romance between the nation and a bastion of a nation’s accomplishments.
It was where the stirring sight of the best kind of Malaysian hero — the unheralded kind — whose unpredictable skills emerged.

It was where the first Malay Mail Big Walk, or warmly known as the Biggie on Feb 21, 1960 involving 2,864 participants was flagged off by Tunku.

If Sri Shanmuganathan and his boys shimmered by finishing fourth at the Hockey World Cup — our best-ever placing  in the tournament —  it was also in 1975 that the world spotlight shone on Merdeka Stadium when boxing great Muhammad Ali fought Joe Bugner. It was where Michael Jackson performed.

Clearly, many Malaysians, most of whom were born post-Merdeka, especially those who had not grown up in Kuala Lumpur or who were totally disinterested in sports, are totally unconcerned about the stadium.

If Merdeka Stadium was once the centrepiece of unifying force, one wonders why the authorities now don’t see its obvious value to the nation.

Why haven’t we been able to imprint Merdeka Stadium in the minds of Malaysians as the site of Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka?


Frankie is editor emeritus of 
Malay Mail. He can be reached at 
Twitter @dcruzfrankie

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Who should Serie A, La Liga fans blame?

As published in Malay Mail today



HARESH SAYS
By Haresh Deol

IT started with an email from a long-time Juventus fan, Jason Ong.

Ong, had in his Aug 13 email, said Serie A fans were disappointed upon learning Astro would not be airing the Italian league.

“I would like to ask if there is anything you or Malay Mail can do to help us voice our disappointment,” he said.

A Juve supporter for 20 years and committee member of Juventus Club Malaysia, Ong’s frustration is understandable. It mirrored the disappointment M-League fans suffered earlier this year as only selected matches were aired live. It remains unclear if there will be any live matches when the Malaysia Cup kicks-off next month.

Upon obtaining clarification, I had on Aug 14, tweeted: “Astro is in the midst of negotiating broadcasting rights for Serie A. Sports ain’t cheap these days.”

Yes, sports is not cheap.

It was reported on July 10 that Telefonica had bought the La Liga rights for the 2015-2016 season for 600 million euros (RM2.9 billion). Reuters had last October reported Italy’s football league awarded international television rights for Serie A games for 557 million euros (RM2.7 billion) for the next three seasons, almost 60 per cent more than the previous auction. In May, Italian regulators launched an investigation into a possible collusion between Italian broadcasters Sky Italia and Mediaset, in connection with the sale of Serie A football broadcasting rights.

The email from Ong also reminded me of how football fans were up in arms after Astro increased its subscription fee by RM6 following the escalating cost of English Premier League broadcasting rights in 2013.

I had then, together with fellow journalists Tony Mariadass and Satwant Singh Dhaliwal, met Astro’s chief operating officer Henry Tan, who told us: “There has been an increase of up to 300 per cent on the cost of bidding for international sports events. We do not decide how much we want to pay as there are several factors that push the owners of the rights to raise prices.”

Once again, Astro faces such a predicament, leaving fans dismayed over the situation.
It is not just about purchasing the rights to air the league alone but being forced to buy a “package”. This explains why Astro is still in the midst of negotiating a deal to air Serie A and La Liga. Broadcasting insiders revealed rights holders often want to create their own sports channels with their sports properties. As such, broadcasters, including Astro, would need to purchase the whole channel, including other less- known sports properties. Imagine buying a package that consists the rights of a top notch football league bundled with handball and curling.

Astro subscribers can relate to this. After all, they are required to purchase certain packages, although they may not like a certain “pack”. The way I see it, the rights holders are “doing an Astro” on Astro.
But Astro is not alone in this dilemma.

In Singapore, Fox Sports Asia, which has been holding the local rights to the Spanish league since 2012, was unsuccessful in securing a deal this time around. The channel, which is available on both StarHub and Singtel TV, will not screen any La Liga matches this season.

The New Paper reported the Asian rights to the league were secured by beIN Sports, which does not have a channel in Singapore.

Other rights holders prefer a direct relationship with their viewers by offering sports content online. I was able to catch highlights of Serie A matches, including the Udinese 1-0 win over Juventus last Sunday on Eleven Sports Network (http://elevensportsnetwork.my/watch-now/). While it is apparently “free for a limited time”, fans who want to watch it online will need to get their credit card details ready for every match and invest in a really big monitor or a smart television. But this may please their other halves, who will now be able to watch Devious Maids on the big screen at home.

Yesterday, Eleven Sports announced its multi-year deal with EverSport.tv to provide live streaming services of its content, including the English FA Cup, French Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A, direct to consumers, with Malaysia as the first of the network’s launch territories. 

Eleven Sports group managing director Danny Menken said: “The aim of our network has been to optimise the fan experience and to reach as wide an audience as possible. This deal is in keeping with both ambitions. Soon, we will be able to offer millions of our fans a wide spectrum of top content, when and where they want it, and in their local language.” The statement added that the service will be made available to viewers on a monthly or annual basis.

A fan said Eleven Sports had charged US$3.23 (RM13.71) for the friendly match between Roma and Sevilla on Aug 14. 

With the current rising cost of living and sliding ringgit, another price revision in its subscription will not go down well with viewers – something Astro would logically want to avoid.

Sports content escalates annually. It is rather frustrating for viewers when the only thing that would distract us from the daily grim is now turning into a costly affair.

In not so many words, Astro’s head of sports business segment, Lee Choong Kay, said there is still hope for fans.

“Although the new season for the Spanish and Italian leagues have kicked off, it doesn’t mean negotiations stop. Astro is still negotiating with the rights holders and may take us into the season,” Lee said.

To Ong and football lovers, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope we will finally catch Serie A and La Liga matches in the comfort of our living rooms soon.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Saturday, August 22, 2015

BEING FRANK: Aren’t we proud of Merdeka?

As published in Malay Mail today


Being Frank
By Frankie D'Cruz

BRAND Malaysia is again being portrayed irresponsibly — this time, schoolchildren in Penang have been thrust into political crossfire instead of being taught the values of independence.
Barring students from the Merdeka Day parade in Penang is cheap, silly and unkind to them. 
Penang’s slogan ‘Bersih, Cekap, Amanah’, (Clean, Fair, Trustworthy) for this year’s state celebrations as opposed to the national theme #sehatisejiwa (One Heart, One Soul) was pointless. 
The nation must stand as one. It is the biggest national event and political differences must be cast aside.
However, both the Education Ministry and the state government seem to be at a loss over how to inspire a national day party. They are clearly clueless over how to motivate children to be proud of the nation and respect the great leaps Malaysia has made since independence.
They have no idea of the poetry of togetherness and spirited nationalism. Did someone forget the parade would be paralysed without students as school bands make up nearly half the performances in the state’s Merdeka Day parade?
The absence of children in the celebrations would be a major blow to a generation that needs to be constantly reminded of the passion, hopes and struggles of the country. 
Independence Day is a celebration for everyone from Their Majesties to the man-on-the-street. It should be for all to tell a story with a strong sense of national character.
Our society is increasingly more intolerant and certain people are starring in their own wretched soap opera to blacken Malaysia as oppressive and regressive in racial and religious ties.
Hate speech and incitement that spark reckless and confrontational actions are worrisome. The conveyor belt of attention-grabbing stunts has enlarged and political weakness is disturbing.
So grave is our distress that being glued together as one is hurtling down the tracks as an accident waiting to happen.
Childish pandering aside, the lack of maturity by the decision-makers gets at everything Malaysia doesn’t want its citizens chewing over.
Clearly, it’s a case of a credible sparkle in the nation’s history nudged into absurdity.
Aren’t we proud of our independence? Is just asking people to fly the Jalur Gemilang enough to whip up energy on the streets and raise national happiness and patriotism?
Frankie is editor emeritus of Malay Mail. He can be reached at frankie@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @dcruzfrankie

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Enough hot air, just deflate balloon project

As published in Malay Mail today



Haresh Says
By Haresh Deol

IT has been acknowledged as a flood-prone area by the authorities since the 1960s. Yet, little has changed for those living and trading in Kampung Kasipillay.

Perhaps inaction is Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s cynical way of preserving history, to compliment the Low Yat buildings that still stand strong amid the rapid development in the area. What used to be the Low Yat sawmill and other light industries have now turned into commercial banks and restaurants.

The population ratio, too, has increased with several new high-rise buildings.

Yet, flash floods continue to cause mayhem there, disrupting traffic and wrecking homes. Efforts were undertaken in the past but failed to address the situation. Water continues to enter homes despite the nearby Sungai Batu being realigned, widened and lined with concrete walls in the 1980s. 

The latest flooding incident happened last Thursday. It is baffling that such episodes continue to haunt those living in this neighbourhood — located barely 3.2km from City Hall’s headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut. 

I received a phone call from long-time resident and retired teacher M. Silvaratnam, 60, regarding the floods. Cikgu Silva, as most of us fondly call him, has been updating me on the flood situation there.

“It’s happening again. And worse still, the balloon did not function. We were not warned,” he said during our brief chat on Thursday evening.

The balloon he was referring to is part of a flood warning system. Inaugurated by former mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib on Dec 15, 2013, the system works when a sensor installed on the riverbank detects rising water levels. A siren will sound and the balloon will rise in stages as a warning to residents. The RM120,000 project, a joint effort between City Hall and the Drainage and Irrigation Department, was said to be “the first of its kind in the world”. 

But no sound was heard nor did the balloon rise last Thursday, much to the residents’ frustration.

I had, in my column ‘Give us back the balloon, Mr Mayor’ published on Jan 22, last year, highlighted the balloon was nowhere to be seen a month after it was installed. City Hall then confirmed the balloon was brought down on Jan 7 the same year as it was believed to have been punctured by firecrackers. The residents have been poking fun at it since.

Those living there just want the old siren back. They told Malay Mail on Monday the system had failed at least five times previously. Retiree Phua Thian Wah, 60, said it only took about an hour for his house to be flooded. 
“I didn’t hear any alarm. Is it even working?” he asked.

City Hall project implementation and maintenance executive director Datuk Tan Keng Chok insisted the system was functioning but said he will look into complaints raised by residents and traders.

He said the river was rising faster because of increased run-off from development taking place in Bukit Tunku. 
With all due respect, Tan, this is not new. In fact, this was highlighted in the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 draft which was unveiled in 2008. In a section specifically on Kampung Kasipillay, a paragraph reads: “Over the years, the development of Bukit Tunku now compounds the problem of flooding by the overflowing of drainage of the culverts from Jalan Kuching back flowing in to this area. Thus, if the river does not flood the area, the Jalan Kuching culverts will flood certain parts of the area, namely Jalan Duku/Jalan Tampoi.”

The final paragraph reads: “Last year, 2007, during the huge flood alleviation, Kampung Kasipillay was part of the programme to have a pump house with a budget of RM5 million.”  

What has happened to that programme?

City Hall is well aware of the flooding situation, yet they have no qualms approving the many projects near Kampung Kasipillay and in Bukit Tunku. Shouldn’t the city council address the situation before allowing new development to take place? 

The folks in Kampung Kasipillay get jittery each time it rains and when it pours, they are already expecting the worst. Will City Hall be responsible if a death occurs due to the rising waters?

Such matters must be addressed immediately. Kuala Lumpur comes to a standstill each time it rains. An hour long downpour will see many areas in the city, including Kampung Kasipillay, flooded. The poor drainage system is to be blamed as rubbish, including construction waste, continue to clog our drains and choke our rivers. The spillover effects are horrible — from motorists trapped in their vehicles due to flooded roads to residents fleeing homes. 

Please look into the plight of those living in Kampung Kasipillay and other flood prone areas in the city. For the time being, City Hall should just install a really loud siren that wails when water rises at Sungai Batu.

As for the big helium balloon, just place it as a decorative piece in front of City Hall’s headquarters.


HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

HARESH SAYS: National attire saga continues

As published in Malay Mail today


HARESH SAYS
By Haresh Deol

THE national attire hogs the limelight for the not-so-right reason, yet again.
 
Mesuma Sports Sdn Bhd had last week initiated legal proceedings against the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) after the sports company claimed it was not given the opportunity to exercise the right of first refusal to extend its sponsorship agreement for another four years as stated in the agreement between both parties. 
 
Mesuma Sports has been providing the national contingent the tiger-stripe jersey since 2006 until it got into a spat with National Sports Council (NSC) over the ownership of the design in 2011.
 
While Mesuma Sports' George Heng has every right to proceed with legal action, some have questioned the timing as it comes before the OCM elections on Aug 22. Those contesting for positions are already going to town with the news as Mesuma Sports had also named OCM president Tunku Imran Jaafar, vice-president Datuk Low Beng Choo and long-time secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi in the suit.
 
Disputes over the national attires are not new.
 
Decades ago, Yonex was associated with the national athletes. There was no specific design or agreement as the sponsorship deal was perceived as “goodwill”. 
 
However, when Kuala Lumpur hosted the 1989 SEA Games, NSC decided it should provide the national contingent with uniformed kits. Another sports apparel company, Antioni, was associated with the national athletes before the government decided to inject a fresh breath of life for the jersey.
In 2005, a nationwide competition was held to introduce a uniformed theme for national athletes. 
 
Assistant architect Zulkifli Abdul Aziz from Johor won the contest that saw over 4,000 entries. The winning design was then tweaked by Limkokwing University College before it was launched by then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak the same year.
 
Present at the launch in Putrajaya were then youth and sports minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said and Low, who was then the chef de mission to the Manila SEA Games.
Mesuma Sports was given the honour to produce the jerseys, which were originally five stripes but later reduced to three stripes to make it “commercial friendly”. 
 
The sports apparel company, based in Brickfields for decades before shifting to its new premises in Petaling Jaya, had established a close working relationship with NSC. 
So close that Heng and former NSC director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong enjoyed a cordial relationship, evident throughout the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand.
 
But the situation turned sour in 2011.
 
NSC entered into an agreement with Telekom Malaysia to launch the Team Malaysia Panthera jersey on April 28 that year. Present to launch the jersey was then youth and sports minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
 
Mesuma was unhappy as it was the registered proprietor of the trademark for 10 years from July 9, 2009 to July 9, 2019. The issue was then exposed by Malay Mail.
 
Former NSC director-general Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz, had in 2011, told this newspaper no efforts were made to register the tiger stripes. This was said during a meeting at NSC in Bukit Jalil which saw Zolkples leaving the room abruptly, saying he had “another function to attend”.
 
Following a series of threats and animosity, NSC sued Mesuma. The government agency claimed it was the rightful proprietor of the design. The judgments in the High Court and Court of Appeal were in favour of NSC. The case is now awaiting Federal Court judgment.
 
I doubt Heng and Zolkples ever spoke after that. The relationship among the others was also strained. 
 
It showed how some people were overly ‘passionate’ about our national jersey.
 
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin did not want to inherit this problem. A new design was introduced last year.
 
The ministry took extra precaution to ensure the new design would not meet with bad publicity. 
 
This included sending representatives to meet sports reporters days before the launch, hoping for good press. 
 
While there are those who believed Melinda Looi did a good job in transforming a “boring and ugly" design, others felt the new creation looked like mud splattered on a jersey. 
 
Yonex was back in the fold as the new brand for the national jersey.
 
Mesuma Sports claimed OCM had entered into an agreement with Sunrise & Co Ltd as the official sports attire sponsor for the Malaysian contingent to official multi-sports games under the Yonex brand from 2014 to 2020. 
 
An OCM insider said to the contrary. He claimed OCM was “clueless” about the ministry engaging Looi and adopting a new design, including a new apparel partner. 
 
Apparently they did not want to “offend” the minister and as such agreed to adopt the new design.
 
By convention, NSC provides the apparel for the opening ceremony. What the athletes use during competition is based on the sponsorship deals by the national sports association. OCM will provide tracksuits, shoes and T-shirts used before and after competition. 
 
Will this new case be detrimental to those contesting the elections? Some said no. 
 
In fact, it should be seen as just a clear-cut business deal that did not go down well with one party (i.e. Mesuma Sports) and as such they have exercised their legal rights to allow the courts to judge. 
 
Others believe the delegates will question OCM for allowing this to happen. Many also ask if there was a tender process prior to Yonex being named as the new sponsor.
 
Delegates will also have to be mindful of individuals who already hog numerous positions in sports. 
 
Commercial agreements between stakeholders and sponsors can no longer be treated lightly. Such 
disputes will only scare potential sponsors. Disputes will occur but the manner in which they are handled will make a difference. One would hope fairplay and sportsmanship, in such instances, prevail.  
 
Hopefully such episodes will not jeapordise the spirit of those donning our national kit. Will this be the last of the national attire saga? We shall see.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached at haresh@mmail.com.my 
Twitter @HareshDeol

Monday, August 10, 2015

Act protects genuine whistleblowers

As published in Malay Mail today



By Jahaberdeen Mohamedd Yunoos

IN the midst of seeming confusion surrounding the business of 1MDB, there appears to be a major confusion among some sectors of the public on what a “whistleblower” is in law.

A whistleblower, in law, is not someone who whistles any tune or music loudly in public with the purported motive of disclosing a wrongdoing by some government department. If that was the legal position, then any number of government agencies can be vilified and undermined in public on the pretext of whistleblowing.

Likewise, writing a blog article for example, based on so-called inside information, to disclose a purported wrong by say, a minister or a ministry, also does not qualify as whistleblowing in law. The blog writer, contrary to his expectations, could end up committing various crimes and may even face potential civil liability if his accusations of wrongdoings are levelled at individuals.

For this reason and reasons that follow herein, I am quite surprised why quite a few refer to the Sarawak Report as a “whistleblowing site” because, at best, what is reported are allegations which are not proven in accordance with the law. At the bottom end of the spectrum, they may have committed serious crimes, including breach of national security, if indeed they had obtained leaked information from government agencies.

There is a specific definition of who a whistleblower is in law. A “whistleblower” is specifically defined as “any person who makes a disclosure of improper conduct to the enforcement agency under section 6” of the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 (Act 711).

The Act is a powerful tool to combat corruption where the Act itself provides it is “an Act to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sector, to protect persons making those disclosures from detrimental action, to provide for the matters disclosed to be investigated and dealt with and to provide for other matters connected therewith”.

So clearly, the Act seeks to encourage citizens to disclose information relating to corrupt practices and improper conduct by providing legal protection to the whistleblowers.

“Improper conduct” means any conduct which if proved, constitutes a disciplinary offence or a criminal offence, for example, giving or receiving bribes.

The Act covers both the public and the private sector.

However, while the whistleblower is given protection under section 7 of the Act, he himself must disclose in accordance with the law. This is to balance interests which may sometimes conflict.
Hence, section 6.(1) of the Act provides that “a person may make a disclosure of improper conduct to any enforcement agency based on his reasonable belief that any person has engaged, is engaging or is preparing to engage in improper conduct: Provided that such disclosure is not specifically prohibited by any written law”. Hence, the disclosure must be to an authorised person or an enforcement agency and not to the media.

Once the whistleblower discloses the relevant information to the enforcement agency, section 7 of the Act confers the following protection to the whistleblower namely, (a) protection of confidential information; (b) immunity from civil and criminal action; and (c) protection against detrimental action. The Act actually provides comprehensive protection to the genuine whistleblower including ensuring he does not consequently suffer loss of income or employment and security of personal safety.

This protection however may be revoked.

Section 11 (1) of the Act provides that “the enforcement agency shall revoke the whistleblower protection conferred under section 7 if it is of the opinion, based on its investigation or in the course of its investigation that — (a) the whistleblower himself has participated in the improper conduct disclosed; (b) the whistleblower wilfully made in his disclosure of improper conduct a material statement which he knew or believed to be false or did not believe to be true; (c) the disclosure of improper conduct is frivolous or vexatious; (d) the disclosure of improper conduct principally involves questioning the merits of government policy, including policy of a public body; (e) the disclosure of improper conduct is made solely or substantially with the motive of avoiding dismissal or other disciplinary action; or (f) the whistleblower, in the course of making the disclosure or providing further information, commits an offence under this Act”.

As we saw earlier, the Act protects genuine whistleblowers and not those who have obtuse motives such as throwing sand into someone else’s rice bowl, character assassination or committing some offence under the law.

Hence, under section 21 of the Act, any person who wilfully makes in his disclosure of improper conduct or 
complaint of detrimental action a material statement which he knew or believed to be false or did not believe to be true commits an offence.

Whenever one thinks about whistleblowing in law, one should not forget other aspects of governance and life that other laws seek to protect such as safeguarding national security, and so on.