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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ong 'insulted', national coaches under scrutiny, only the best for Malaysia

As published in Mailsport today

By Haresh Deol 

KUALA LUMPUR — Datuk Ong Kim Swee is not a happy man.
The national Under-23 coach, who was recently made interim national coach, is dumbfounded after seeing advertisements by FA of Malaysia (FAM) in local dailies for the position of national Under-23 coach yesterday.
While trying to respect his pay masters, Ong was clearly frustrated over how the new coach is being appointed.
“Where do I stand?” he asked.
“I still have a contract and it ends in December. I was not told about the advertisement. I wish some people would be more sensitive towards my feelings as I have been tasked to run the national team and we have an important job in front of us ... to win our coming matches and improve our Fifa ranking,” he said.
Malaysia are placed 171 in the latest Fifa ranking on Thursday — its worst performance ever. The national team hope to redeem their pride when they play Laos in a friendly in Bangkok on Oct 8 followed by a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier against Timor Leste in Dili on Oct 13.
Ong was tasked to take over the national team after Dollah Salleh quit following Harimau Malaya’s 10-0 beating by United Arab Emirates last month.
Insiders said Ong had ambitions to take over the national team but was now contemplating his position. 
“He had been toying with the idea of leaving but when handed the interim coach role, he believed it could be an opportunity to showcase his potential and secure the job,” a source close to Ong said.
“But now he has been insulted. The least FAM could have done is to speak to him and offer him a plan. At least Ong would know if he will be part of the national team.”
Another source said Ong would now be more determined to go job-hunting.
“He shouldn’t be distracted but instead he will now spend the next three months negotiating with teams before his contract expires. If FAM are interested, they should talk to him quickly. He can’t be waiting till the eleventh hour, he has a family to feed,” he said.
“It’s sad as it has been Ong’s dream to coach the national team but with all this happening, it’s as though he has been taken for granted and it is time for him to put his foot down.”
Former national coaches too have criticised the advertisement, saying it showed FAM have failed to groom coaches and did not have a succession plan in place.
Where is the succession plan?

By Haresh Deol 

KUALA LUMPUR — Former national coaches insisted the FA of Malaysia (FAM) should look within and groom their coaches instead of advertising to fill such positions.
They argued the national body had the full data of the qualified coaches in the country and as such must adopt a system to ensure these coaches spend time on the field. 
FAM had advertised for the post of Under-23 coach in major dailies yesterday, despite having to yet receive the findings of its “white paper” on whether the Harimau Muda programme should be scrapped or not.
The selection panel for the job comprised those within FAM and the National Sports Council.
“There shouldn’t be an advertisement,” said former national coach Datuk M. Kuppan, 78.
“Instead, we should be grooming these coaches who should then be given targets to improve at every level. 
Whoever is selected as national or Under-23 coach must make sure the team improves between 10 and 15 per cent. Only then we will see progress.”
He said Malaysia had many A-licensed coaches.
“But where are they now? They should be on the field, teaching, guiding, unearthing new talents at every level.
“If we had more teams at the grassroots, it would be more opportunities for coaches and the other backroom staff. This is lacking and as such, we tend to take the easy way out.”
Kuppan, started playing for Penang in 1958 and went on to don the national jersey, playing alongside the likes of Edwin Dotton, Tan Sri Ghani Minat, Yusof Bakar and M. Govingaraju. As national coach, he guided legends such as Datuk Mokhtar Dahari, Datuk R. Arumugam, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk M. Chandran and Datuk Santokh Singh.
Kuppan said many today tend to rubbish past glories and methods.
“Times are changing, so are methods and approaches, but one thing will never change – one’s passion towards the game. It’s either you have it or you don’t.”
Chow Kwai Lam, who coached the national team and the Barcelona project in the 1990s, also did not see the need for FAM to buy advertisement space to fill the position.
“Perhaps FAM don’t have other coaches, thus the advertisement. So who do we blame?” he questioned.
“It goes back to grassroots development. How many teams in the M-League have academies and clubs at the lower levels? The more teams a state has, the more coaches one can develop. Then we will have a larger pool of coaches and backroom staff to select.
“There is no point having many A licence coaches but they are not on the field where they should be. 
Experienced coaches should run the show,” he said.
Another insider, in the thick of the team’s preparation during Dollah Salleh’s short stint as national coach, said Malaysian football needed more than just a good coach.
“FAM can advertise and we can even lure the best in the world, yet our rankings will not improve as we don’t have the right foundation,” he said.
He added coaches did not have a large pool of talents despite the millions pumped into the national teams of various levels.
“Harimau Muda C’s playing stint in Slovakia was described as a success after the Under-19 boys won 15 out of 17 matches. So much money spent yet the same team were handed a 6-0 beating by hosts China (in the on-going Asian Football Confederation Under-19 2016 Qualifier on Friday). 
“We are struggling at the lower levels and it is evident,” he added.
Coached by Hassan Sazali Mohamed Waras, the Under-19 team take on North Korea at the Jiangsu Huai’an Sports Centre Stadium today.
“There seems to be no solution in sight. Clashes of ego, lack of planning ... an advertisement in the newspaper is not going to solve anything.”
Malaysia are 171 in the latest Fifa rankings released on Thursday, its worst ever standing – a far cry from its 75th position in 1993.


Only the best for Malaysia

By Haresh Deol 

KUALA LUMPUR — The national team conceded 48 goals in 18 matches since August last year, bringing the quality of coaches under further scrutiny.
Malaysia’s worst performance was in a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier against United Arab Emirates, losing 10-0. On Thursday, it was placed 171 in the Fifa ranking – its lowest ever.
Former national goalkeeper Lim Chuan Chin said it was important to ensure the quality of national coaches was not compromised if Malaysia intended to progress.
“You need the best, only then you can get the best. There must be some form of standards which we should strive to meet,” said Lim, who is now FAM’s coach education department head.
Former Johor goalkeeper Omar Salim was part of Dollah Salleh’s set-up. Checks revealed he was a B licence coach.
Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, had on July 24 last year, questioned Wan Mustaffa Wan Ismail and Omar Salim’s appointments as assistant coach and goalkeeping coach respectively for Harimau Malaya as the duo were sacked by Johor FA for underperforming. 
The Johor Crown Prince’s statement was made on the Johor Darul Takzim website,, three days after FAM named Dollah and his backroom staff. Dollah and his coaches quit the national team after the humiliating outing against UAE.
The two highly qualified goalkeeper coaches in the country were Kris Yong, who is part of the Under-23 team, and Lim. Both have AFC instructor licences.
“It is unfair to just blame the coaches when things go wrong. Also, coaches are like grass, if you keep cutting them all the time, how will they ever grow?” Lim asked, adding it was important coaches be given room to explore and spend time on the field instead of replacing them immediately.
Asked if he was game on being part of the national set-up, Lim said: “Why not? I’m always ready for a new challenge.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

No. 171 — Enough already!

As published in Mailsport today

By Haresh Deol

PETALING JAYA — Malaysia are now ranked 171 in the world. Yes, you read that right. 

This is the worst performance ever by the national team, further frustrating fans after Harimau Malaya were whacked silly 10-0 by United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifier last month.

Malaysia are tied at the spot with suspended Indonesia and remain among the worst performing countries in the region —behind the likes of the Philippines (ranked 134), Thailand (145), Vietnam (149), Singapore (157) and Myanmar (163).

Indonesia was suspended by Fifa following government interference. 

Supporters and stakeholders have taken the FA of Malaysia (FAM) officials to task, stressing they have failed in producing a strong national outfit — despite the millions of ringgit spent over  decades and world-class facilities.

Caretaker coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is well aware of the sentiments against the national body and the team. To him, being placed at the rotten end of the table is disappointing.

“I know what is being said (against FAM and the team), especially on social media. Even if I am not in the position (caretaker coach), I would still be hurt over our latest ranking,” said Ong, who replaced Dollah Salleh.

“But there is no point in looking back. I’m not trying to run away from the responsibility but let’s look at the facts. We’ve not won a single match since the start of the year. And I say this with no disrespect to Dollah (Salleh).”

He is determined to improve the ranking, starting with an international friendly match against Laos in Bangkok on Oct 8 followed by a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier against Timor Leste in Dili on Oct 13.

“It’s not going to be easy but we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves in the two matches. The players know it and are eager to collect points.

“I just took over this position, I didn’t ask to be placed here. But I’ve been given a task and I’ll try my best.”

Ong’s words may pacify the fans to a certain extent, but the dumbfounding silence by FAM officials continues for reasons they know best. At 171, they have humiliated the nation and must be held accountable.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hand AFC the red card

As published in Malay Mail today

Comment by Haresh Deol

AND just like that, a case is closed.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) may call itself the guardian of football in this region but it lacks the will to clean up its house in Bukit Jalil. 

This was despite promises of reforms which includes transparency, accountability and good governance by president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa when he took office in 2013.

AFC, run by officials in suits, is good in producing brief statements. But that too has somewhat regressed as they would only speak when asked repeatedly to do so. 

It has been almost six months since Malay Mail exposed the ''tamper or hide'' video involving two key AFC personnel. The revelation was published on April 25. It highlighted a video showing AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hong claiming that former AFC general-secretary Datuk Alex Soosay telling him, “protect me”, before asking, “can you tamper or hide documents which relate to me?” The video was recorded by former Fifa investigator Michael John Pride on July 26, 2012, three days after Kuan met Soosay at the latter’s office at AFC House in Bukit Jalil. Soosay denied the contents of the video, saying it was an attempt to smear him. Kuan refused to comment on the video.

An AFC representative collected a copy of the video on May 11. Two days later, Soosay was suspended as AFC, had in a statement, said it was able to verify the video's authenticity. Its legal department initiated an internal probe. Soosay, however, quit on June 17.

After months of requesting the status of the internal probe, AFC issued a statement yesterday that read: "Following the publication by the Malay Mail of a story earlier this year, AFC launched an internal investigation to establish the veracity of the allegations made in the leaked video from 2012 at the centre of the story.

"Due to the inability to obtain any additional or corroborating evidence to substantiate the claims made in the video, the investigation had to be closed. This is despite repeated attempts by AFC to obtain information. The Fifa investigator, who recorded the video, has so far refused to comment or engage with AFC." 

In short, AFC just said let's forget about this and move on.

AFC lodged a report with Cheras police over the theft of documents from AFC House in 2012 — a case that the police are still pursuing. The status of the investigation remains vague. Police were supposed to wrap up their probe on May 13 and hand the investigation papers to the deputy public prosecutor’s office. On June 26, Kuala Lumpur Prosecution Unit head Suhaimi Ibrahim said: “Please check with the IO (investigating officer).''

Suhaimi has not responded to queries regarding the case since. Even the authorities seemed to have moved on.
An AFC insider once asked: "What else do you expect AFC to do?"

Plenty. For starters, they should reveal the findings of its internal investigation. That will show transparency. Secondly, it must show efforts were taken to communicate with Fifa pertaining the matter. It is baffling to note that a former investigator of the world body had a video with damning contents yet nothing was done about it until it surfaced this year. Was Fifa or AFC ever informed of the investigation? Has AFC followed up with police regarding the theft probe? Who will be held accountable for the fiasco?

And to pro-actively address an issue that rocked the region reflects good governance. To issue a statement after repeated requests shows otherwise. 

AFC has been dribbling around this issue for far too long, not wanting to tackle any party. It has instead scored an own goal, putting Sheikh Salman's ''transparency, accountability and good governance'' vision to shame.

Closing the case without providing answers is the worst foul AFC has committed. For that, it deserves a red card.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Wanting the best - is that too much to ask?

As published in Malay Mail today 

By Haresh Deol

THEY spoke at great lengths with one goal in mind — to resuscitate Malaysian football.

Somewhat poetically, the “boys” of St John’s Institution, class of 1975 to be exact, had gathered in an office at Wisma Paradise in Jalan Ampang that had a nice view of their alma mater. It was there, during their younger days, that they played football in the rain while idolising the likes of the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari, Datuk Santokh Singh and Datuk Soh Chin Aun.

About two weeks ago, they met to discuss the current state of Malaysian football. This was fresh after Malaysia suffered a humiliating 10-0 beating to United Arab Emirates on Sept 4 — our worst result at an international match to date.

But it was not just another session of coffee shop talk. They had a plan.

“We plan to take over a club or state team and run it. Don’t worry, we will be able to find the resources and teach the others a thing or two about professionalism and dedication,” said Datuk Zarul Ahmad Zulkifl i.
Zarul, who is now Zenith group chairman, joined his 20-odd former classmates as they explored the possibility of running their own team.

“We are tired of the shame Malaysian football has brought us. Football belongs to all. Now, we see only one particular race dominating the sport. I am sure you can find many others, from various backgrounds and races, to play for the country.

“We must be professional in our dealings. Things have changed and so should our mindset in approaching and administrating football.”

Datuk Pardip Kumar Kukreja echoed similar sentiments. The former Johanians were at the Paradise Group executive chairman’s office for the discussion.

“It’s not about being bullish by trying to make a difference.

Instead of just talking, let’s do it. Let’s adopt a team, unearth new talents and help contribute to the national team,” he said.

It looks like the bashing has somewhat turned into a blessing in disguise. It is unifying people from all walks of life to rap the guardians of Malaysian football — the FA of Malaysia (FAM).
Just criticise the national body, no matter how silly it may ound, and one will instantly get cheers.

The same was seen during a football forum at Dewan Melati, Section 7 in Shah Alam last Friday. The “Hala Tuju Bola Sepak Malaysia” event saw a panel comprising the likes of National Coaches Association president B. Satianathan, former international Asmawi Bakiri, Astro Arena host Rizal Hashim (who used to be a Mailsport journalist) and Ultras Malaya leader Alfadli Awaludin, better known as Rambo.

The cheers some of the speakers received beat the likes of politicians. If there was a political party called Parti Anti-FAM, it could very well win at the next general election.
The forum was attended by close to 200 fans, mostly university students, which included several young women.

As the floor was opened for questions, many took the opportunity to hog the microphone. One even went to the extent of sharing his research into the game. Despite the boos, he continued. He wanted to make a point.
The moderator explained efforts made to invite representatives from FAM and the Youth and Sports Ministry provide futile. The only closet “representative” from  the ministry was National Football Development Programme director Safirul Azli Abu Bakar, who shared some insights towards the end of the forum.

Once again, we saw passionate individuals with plenty of ideas — all eager to have a say in something close to our hearts.

The enthusiasm displayed was priceless. Many continued to take shots at FAM as they demanded answers and want to see light at the end of the tunnel. They believed in our capabilities, that Malaysia was capable of achieving more than just glory at the Southeast Asian Games.

The loyalists also wanted to see accountability. Why was it that fans who caused riots are quickly penalised but those who have corroded Malaysian football, despite the millions pumped in, remain in office?

Two wrongs do not make a right, as pointed out by Rizal during the forum. True. The fans shouldn’t have reacted by launching flares and smoke bombs onto the pitch during the Sept 8 match at Shah Alam Stadium between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

But what is the right channel, they ask. Emails and tweets to the national body have been ignored. How else can they express themselves?

As Rambo candidly said: “Perhaps the sound of firecrackers lit from the stands is the only way to get their attention.”  He also said: “... vocal coaches are slapped with (FAM’s) articles while vocal fans face Sections (of the law)”, referring to several fans who were arrested over the Shah Alam ruckus.

What the powers-that-be lack is engagement. They often think and speak on behalf of the other stakeholders without understanding their true sentiments. They assume and pretend they know what is best for everyone. They only rely on the feedback and views given by their small circle of friends and believe that is reflective of the majority. They are wrong.

While the number of articles criticising FAM have decreased, the fans have not forgotten. They would remember and remind FAM about the 10-0 fiasco for days, weeks, months or even years to come.

We have a long way to go. The journey to success may seem blurry, but one thing is clear — fans want to see the best in Malaysian football.

Is that too much to ask?

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

HARESH SAYS: As long as you are ‘able’...

As published in Malay Mail today

By Haresh Deol

SO should we just chain ourselves to trees, I asked environmentalist Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil at the sidelines of the recent KL Fashion Week.

The Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Sekitar (Peka) president broke into a smile while her associates, who were seated  on the same table, laughed.

In a classy blue dress, accompanied by a tiara on her head, Sabrina looked like an Arabian princess from a Walt Disney movie as we discussed something close to our hearts —Mother Nature.

She apologised for being “overly” dressed, stressing it was her way of showing support to the fashion show. But she was certainly not sorry over her sharp criticism of the authorities in protecting the environment.

There are those who have rubbished Sabrina’s work, and those who speak ill about the work of Peka and similar NGOs. Environmental activists are often seen as those with nothing better to do expect to go against any form of development.

“People often forget where they come from. If we don’t protect nature, then there will be no future for our children,” she said.

“I’ve had issues with politicians, even royalty. Trees are being chopped and land cleared indiscriminately. It takes centuries to make a jungle and only days to destroy it.

“They think we oppose development. We don’t. We just want a balance between development and nature.”

Sabrina’s words rang in my ears as I drove to work on Monday. I left Ampang at 7.25am and reached Petaling Jaya at 8.45am. It was a slow drive, not due to heavy traffic but because of poor visibility.

The haze may have blurred my vision, but I could see clearly how the average man-on-the-street  is suffering.

Motorcyclists tied bandanas around their faces while some motorists drove with face masks despite their windows wound up tight. 

Even animals are suffering. Birds are hardly flying while my pet dog has been sneezing since the air got bad. 

It’s an annual affair. Large tracts of land are being cleared in Indonesia as the authorities there continuously combat peat fires. Winds bring smog to Malaysia and Singapore, causing citizens to suffer. 

This has been going on for decades. Governments play the blame game. Yet, no one is able to do anything. Nothing has been done.

People fall sick and work productivity is affected. The same cycle is repeated the following year. When will this stop?

If Asean is all about unity and togetherness, then the nations concerned should end such suffering. To say Malaysia and Singapore enjoy good air for 11 months and bad air only for one month is utter rubbish. 

If Malaysian and Singaporean companies are behind the forest fires in Indonesia, then the local authorities should come down hard on them. Penalise them, ban them. Just do something.

We forget about the trees only to be reminded when the haze envelopes the country. By then it is too late as nature has been destroyed, the atmosphere tainted, leaving the people to suffer.

Why is it right for people to destroy trees but wrong for us to tie ourselves to trees to stop the massive rape of jungles? Where is the justice?

As Sabrina said: “This is where the leaders should step in end it, as we are only able to do so much.”

As long as you are ‘able’...

The FA of Malaysia (FAM on Monday revealed it is seeking new coaches to guide the national and Under-23 squads. Nothing new there, except for the criteria. FAM vice-president Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad raised eyebrows when he told the press the national body was seeking someone who is “able” and a “professional”. Are we missing something?

The problem with FAM is that it has adopted a trigger-free culture — ‘shoot’, explain later. Stakeholders are confused.

They announced a task force to assess the poor performance of the national team but had no clue about the roles of those in the set-up. 

Such a move is not new. In 2007, a similar task force was formed to “evaluate the poor performance of the national team” following our forgettable outing at the Asian Cup. 

The committee, then headed by Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad, was supposed to submit its report, including a post-mortem on the state of Malaysian football, to the Cabinet Committee for Sports Development. FAM’s then technical director Robert Alberts was supposed to have presented his blueprint to the task force — despite having submitted it a  year earlier. 

So what happened to Alberts’s blueprint? What were the findings of the 2007 task force? 

The two things that have remained consistent over the years are FAM’s inability to explain matters and the national team’s dwindling performance.

FAM has difficulty explaining matters because despite being the guardian of football, it is not on the ball.

It is still unable to explain why we were humiliated 10-0 against United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifying match earlier this month, despite the millions spent on the national team and coaching staff over the years. 

It is still unable to explain how fans were able to smuggle flares and smoke bombs into the Shah Alam Stadium during the Malaysia-Saudi Arabia World Cup qualifying match.

And it is unable to explain what ‘able’, in the context of hiring a national coach, means.

So FAM, will you ever be ‘able’ to explain anything?

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He hopes to see changes as we celebrate Malaysia Day today. He can reached at or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Monday, September 14, 2015

Yellow, black, red and white colour of democracy

As published in Malay Mail today

 By Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

TRULY,  Malaysia is witnessing the many colours of democratic action by groups of citizen. First, we had the Bersih 4 rally symbolised by the yellow colour. Bersih 4 had reforms of the electoral process as its main objective and rally cry.
While I was not supportive of the choice of date for Bersih 4 — one day before Merdeka Day — the generally peaceful nature of the assembly was commendable. In fact, the police were also to be praised for their role in ensuring a peaceful assembly.
It was unfortunate though that there were some quarters who had taken part in Bersih 4 chanting anti-government slogans. I thought this may actually distract the rally from Bersih’s avowed aim of electoral reforms. This may also alienate the ones that support the government and also want electoral reforms.
In many of the discussions that followed, it was made an issue that the participants were mostly Chinese and very few Malays.
I can understand the concern for so-called ethnic representations in a multi-ethnic society. However, to the best of my knowledge, Bersih 4 did not vocalise anything racial and hence I find the concern baseless.
Now, in response to Bersih 4, a group of red shirts intend to assemble at Bukit Bintang. At the time of writing this article, it is still unclear who the organisers are. The rally has been spoken of as “Himpunan Maruah Melayu” or  “Malay Dignity Gathering”. I must confess though that I am not exactly clear what the purpose of their gathering is though I am aware of various speculations.
Whatever it is, judging by the response, the red shirt rally seems to have invited real concerns for safety and ethnic relations. I hear concerned citizens wondering why the choice of Bukit Bintang knowing fully well the recent Low Yat incident. Some are even wondering at the title of the gathering implying as if the “dignity of the Malays” is somewhat under threat.
Like Bersih 4, I am not too pleased personally at the choice of Sept 16 by the red shirts. I strongly feel that Malaysia Day should be celebrated by all Malaysians and if there was any rally it should be one that celebrates us as being Malaysian irrespective of ethnicity, religion or culture.
Interestingly, former Malacca chief minister Tan Sri Ali Rustam, the president of Pesaka, the national silat federation, reportedly said that members of the federation will be assembling at Padang Merbok. They won’t be wearing red T-shirts but black. Their gathering is called “Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu” and anyone can attend wearing any colour they want. If I am not mistaken, in this seeming confusion, I believe any Malaysian who wants to is invited to join in the Pesaka-led rally.
I also faintly recall reading somewhere about someone proposing that we all wear white on Sept 16 for some reason or other. So, talking about freedom of expression, there has been lots of opinions on gatherings and why they want to assemble.
My wish is very simple — whoever wants to assemble I only hope they assemble peacefully with the least of inconvenience to immediate stakeholders or residents. I hope that more than short-term political objectives they will all remember that we will be living in this country for a very long term because we are Malaysians. Hence, the best reason to assemble is to remind each other that we are all Malaysians who want the best for each other irrespective of man-made differences.

Jahaberdeen is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at

Friday, September 11, 2015

Film festival went on as planned, says Finas

As published in Malay Mail today

By Lavinia Louis

KUALA LUMPUR — The National Film Development Corporation (Finas) denied there was any form of “interference from a VIP” during the 27th Malaysian Film Festival held last Saturday.
Its director-general Datuk Kamil Othman instead said the programme went on as per the original plan. Finas was the organiser of the awards event.

Kamil said he had, after going through the line-up of performances on Friday night, wanted Najwa Mahiaddin to perform second-last, followed by Amy Search to show the film industry had evolved to a brighter future. 

“It was a last-minute decision because I only got to see the sequence of performances on the eve. Then I saw the full-dress rehearsal and I thought Najwa’s performance had a gothic feel, so I wanted her performance to be second-last followed by Amy Search ... where the film industry is moving from darkness to a brighter side,” he said.

“However, I was informed by the producer on Saturday night that if changes were made, it would be disastrous as the performances had all been lined up. So, I told them to just follow the original plan where Najwa will perform as the closing act.”

Kamil was non-committal over Najwa’s comment where she had thanked Finas for “finally allowing” her to perform. She had tweeted it right after the show.

“I don’t know why she said that. It’s best you ask her.”

He also denied there was a post-morterm meeting held on Monday.

Malay Mail, had on Monday, reported that industry insiders claimed a prominent individual had instructed the organiser to not allow Najwa to perform. Observers believed it could have been a political move as her father, former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was dropped from the Cabinet in July.

Najwa was supposed to sing in the second segment of the show that was aired live on Astro. Host Nabil Ahmad was about to introduce her onstage when he suddenly called for a commercial break. 
A tense situation ensued backstage between Najwa’s representatives and the organiser, revealed insiders. 

Najwa appeared as the final act, mesmerising the audience with her rendition of the classic hit Seri Mersing.

Kamil said there was no reason to give Najwa a proper explanation over the matter as “everything went on as planned”.