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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Aiming for goal, Putrajaya hits crossbar; when police fail to shoot down rumours

As published in Malay Mail today.

Aiming for goal, Putrajaya hits crossbar

Comment by Frankie D’Cruz

THERE was one moment this week when cumbersome rules upset our lives. It was a case of how everything that could go wrong was going wrong.
On Monday, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah disclosed the government was still studying a fuel subsidy mechanism after saying it would be rooted on the income of vehicle owners who would be split into three levels.
That meant the new system had yet to be finalised. The result of announcing just one aspect: a storm of criticism in the next day’s papers, and the next and the next.
Welcome to the (almost) weekly edition of “Public Information: How to create noisy debate”.
It has been a full five days since we learned that those earning more than RM10,000 a month would not enjoy fuel subsidy; those with income between RM5,001 and RM10,000 would be given partial subsidy; and those earning below RM5,000 would be fully subsidised.
With no further details on the system, public frustration ticked up a notch over an incomplete picture. I cannot believe there was no choreographed plan for a matter this huge. I believe it was a move to measure public response and to seek their input.
Cunning or not, Putrajaya has been getting loads of feedback, though not in the spirit of public consultation.
To be sure, this has done nothing to trust. The delay in providing full details of the scheme has caused restlessness and cynicism among the people.
A wrong answer or amending the script now could make the government’s rationalisation of the petroleum subsidy knottier.
The issue of subsidies, especially petroleum, is never easy for any government. Tough decisions should be based on caring and sharing governance.
There’s another duty to be observed: the duty to be methodical.
Fixing fuel subsidy and restructuring other financial assistance won’t be easy. Laying bare facts is imperative. Ensuring that the three arrows hit their marks will require unremitting focus on the part of the archer.
The first part for unavoidable action to contain subsidies weighing down on the nation’s fiscal position was relatively easy. This year, the government allocated RM40.5 billion for subsidies compared to less than RM600 million 20 years ago.
No one has any issue with subsidies going towards the needy, but the inevitable fuel price hikes will hurt many. Hence, the importance to manage the subsidy overhaul with transparency.
Putrajaya must learn some serious lessons from this pressing matter. The greatest danger for any government is being laughed at — mockery is the hardest thing to recover from in politics.


When police failed to shoot down rumours

Comment by G. Prakash

BAD news sells, hence no surprise that negative news spreads faster than good news.
As the saying goes; if it bleeds it leads.
We live in the era of smartphones and mindless people, where social media platforms act as powerful tools to share news immediately. Whether the news is true or otherwise does not seem to be an issue. 
On Thursday evening around 4pm, news about a shooting that led to a lockdown in Penampang, Kota Kinabalu, emerged. Online portals were quick to suggest something major was brewing.
Within minutes, speculations had it that a hostage situation was taking place, while some reports on news portal and social media claimed it was a militant intrusion.
As the hours past, the malicious rumours kept growing rapidly, sparking intense fear among the masses over what was going on in Penampang.
Pictures of what looked like masked armed robbers, who were actually policemen, went viral online. A picture of two men shot dead inside a four-wheel drive also made its way into Facebook and Twitter.
Surprisingly, the authorities kept mum. Media queries over the incident were left unanswered as newsmen struggled to get the facts.
Reporters at the scene were not given any information and were warned by police to delete pictures they had taken.
Sabah police chief Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman then added fuel to the speculation. “We will have a press conference tomorrow,” was his response to a question on what transpired in Penampang.
Asked if it could be a police exercise, he replied: “Maybe.”
Why Jalaluddin waited till the next day to inform the public that armed robbers were shot dead by police is puzzling.
Surely, he knows that the security situation in the state has been of great interest to the public since the Sulu intrusion in January last year.
Sabah police’s crisis management over the incident failed big time.
All Jalaluddin had to do was issue a short statement to deny the rumours and inform the public what happened.
Penampang police chief DSP Ratan Kumar Singh was at the scene but did not address the press. News reports claimed cameras
belonging to photographers were seized and pictures were deleted.
Did police think by doing so, no photographs of the incident will appear on public domain?
It will only set alarms ringing, with critics suggesting it could be a cover-up.
Again, as a gentle reminder, we live in the digital era where news is disseminated instantly.
When it comes to police success, the force is quick to call for a media conference. Why should it be any different when it comes to an incident that has engulfed the masses with fear?

FAM sponsorship deal: Astro, Zenith or Media Prima-TM?

As published in Malay Mail today.

M-League teams want bigger slice of pie

By Vijhay Vick

PETALING JAYA — M-League teams want their share of the pie increased when the FA of Malaysia (FAM) sign a new bumper M-League sponsorship deal.
Under the current RM30 million-a-year deal with cable television operators Astro, each of the 12 Super League, Premier League and FAM League teams receive RM350,000, RM250,000 and RM50,000 respectively.
There are also incentives based on league placings.
The grants work out to a mere RM7.8 million — meaning FAM keep the remaining RM22.2 million to run the league, pay incentives for league placements and for other expenses such as RM15,000 to home teams and RM5,000 to away teams for matches shown live.
Malay Mail spoke to several state FAs and clubs regarding the new deal which could be worth in excess of RM70 million and they unanimously indicated the need for a bigger pay cheque.
“I can’t put a figure on it but the amount must be justified as we (teams) are the main selling commodity of the league,” said Kelantan FA general secretary Azman Ibrahim.
“FAM need to do the calculation for organising costs and other fees. Perhaps, they could take 10 per cent for administration and leave the rest to the organisers of the league.”
His Selangor FA counterpart Rosman Ibrahim was more outright.
“We should get at least RM1.5 million. It’s because of the teams, M-League sells,” he said.
Felda United secretary Kamaruddin Mohamad said: “Once the new deal is signed, we should get at least RM1 million.
“It costs a lot to set up a team. Even RM3 million is not enough to run a team for a season.”
Representatives from other state associations said they should get between RM1 million and RM2 million with many urging FAM to revise the fees paid for live matches.
The teams also said if FAM hand over a bigger budget, they would utilise it for development purposes.

Money isn’t everything

PETALING JAYA — The FA of Malaysia (FAM) face some tough decisions over the direction of football in the country when they seek a new M-League sponsorship agreement for next year.
Observers are urging the national body to consider the betterment of the sport before making a decision whether to stick with current commercial and broadcast rights holders Astro, who have Fox Sports Asia on board as a partner, or sign a more lucrative deal with media agency Zenith or a joint bid by Media Prima and TM (Telekom Malaysia).
All bids include commercial and broadcast rights but while Astro wants “to run the league”, sources have revealed Zenith’s presentation included hiring expertise to privatise the M-League in line with Asian Football Confederation regulations.
“FAM need to decide what it wants. Are they serious and ready to privatise the league? Do they want a third party deciding all aspects of the league apart from footballing matters such as disciplinary and Fifa regulations?
“Or FAM could decide to go with the tried and trusted, which would be Astro or Media Prima-TM,” said the source.
On Aug 26, Malay Mail had revealed the joint Media Prima-TM bid in excess of RM70 million per annum and Zenith’s RM75 million offer.are the frontrunners to secure the rights as Astro’s offer was in the region of RM50 million — RM20 million more than its current deal with FAM.
However, Zenith’s bid has raised concerns among football administrators.
Many are asking who their broadcast partners are and how are they going to promote
the M-League.
Speculation is rife they are banking on selling the broadcast rights to Media Prima, Foxsports or even Astro, who have invested heavily on state-of-the-art equipment over the last four years.
Astro revealed they want to play a major role in the soon to be formed independent committee running the  M-League to “protect their commercial interest”.
It is learnt Media Prima-TM, who are only interested in the commercial and broadcast rights, have also spoken to FAM about playing a role in developing the grassroots. They will also sit in the independent committee.
“TM could dedicate a channel to the M-League on HyppTV or at least telecast live matches or side shows on various HyppTV channels, TV3 and TV9,” said a Media Prima official.
An observer noted: “Zenith are at a disadvantage with regards to not having a viewership platform.
“Going with Astro-Fox Sports Asia will put the M-League on regional television but the financial reward is far less. Also, if they are running the league, what happens when the contract ends a few years down the road?”
FAM president Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah had said a decision would be made by the end of September but until today, there have been no updates from the national body.

Friday, October 31, 2014

It's not our fault, says FAM

As published in Malay Mail today

By Vijhay Vick

PETALING JAYA — FA of Malaysia (FAM) general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin conceded there was a miscommunication between the national body and the Malaysian Stadium Corporation (MSC), the guardians of the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

The Malaysia Cup final between Pahang and Johor Darul Takzim, the Lan Berambeh Anak Sarawak 2014 Carnival and a Buddhist prayers event all take place in and around the National Stadium tomorrow.

Mayhem is expected as more than 150,000 people are likely to converge  on the vicinity of the 100,000 capacity stadium. Further, carparks A and B are closed for the Sarawakian event while the prayers take place at the Putra Stadium.

“It was a miscommunication. For them (MSC) the stadium is in good condition and able to host the final. Only later, we realised about the other two events,” said Hamidin.

However, Hamidin insisted the National Stadium was the best venue to host the final.

“The game could be moved but we must also understand Shah Alam Stadium cannot accommodate the expected crowd. The demand for tickets is great. The Shah Alam stadium faces difficulties even with 75,000 people.

“It’s better to have little problems outside than crowd trouble inside the stadium.

“The National Stadium is better equipped in the sense it is safer and allows a larger crowd.” said Hamidin.

However, getting to the stadium is expected to be a mess due to a lack of parking bays.

The public has been advised to turn up at the stadium before 2pm or risk not being able to enter the vicinity with their vehicles. Buses ferrying fans would only be able to drop them off at the stadium if the traffic permits or head straight to the designated bus parking areas at Technology Park Malaysia (Johor) and Selangor Turf Club (Pahang).

Also, only the Ampang LRT Line will operate beyond its normal operating hours. The Kelana Jaya LRT Line operates as usual until midnight.

Shake-up in Malaysian sports begins - only the qualified need to apply

As published in Malay Mail today.

By Vijhay Vick 

KUALA LUMPUR — The National Sports Council (NSC) is set to see two new faces within its top leadership while the Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) will see a new chief, reaffirming the Youth and Sports Ministry’s mission to restructure Malaysian sports.

Dismayed with the national contingent’s pathetic outing at the Commonwealth and Asian Games this year despite the millions of ringgit spent, the ministry will advertise the position for a new NSC director-general, replacing Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong, and an elite programme director in selected newspapers on Monday. Ariffin Ghani is the acting elite programme director. 

The ministry is also on the lookout to replace MSC chief executive officer Ahmad Helmi Harun. 
Insiders say Zolkples will head the 2017 SEA Games secretariat.

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, had tweeted yesterday: “There will two major vacancies in Malaysian sports under @KBSMalaysia which will be filled by open recruitment soon. Watch this space.” while referring to the ministry’s Twitter handle.

In a subsequent tweet, the Rembau MP posted: “Sorry make that 3 vacancies.”

“It is a bold initiative by the minister (Khairy Jamaluddin). He wants fresh faces with vibrant ideas to help chart Malaysian sports,” said a source.

“Hopefully, those hired would fully understand their roles, appreciate the NSC Act and play ball with the other stakeholders — especially national sports associations (NSAs) and the Olympic Council of Malaysia. Malaysian sports is not owned by any one particular person ... it is a owned by all.”

But the source said there must be progress and this could also mean drawing up new plans to ensure programmes for elite athletes are supervised. It is also to further facilitate the NSAs to develop their grassroots through the distribution of funds.

“There is no engagement with the masses, very little presence on social media and strained relationships with the national sports associations, Olympic Council of Malaysia, National Sports Institute and even the press. This must stop and we must move forward.”

Zolkples replaced Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz as NSC director general in 2007. 

The national contingent won six gold medals in the Commonwealth Games and five gold medals at the Asian Games, their worst performance in the past 20 years.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Exodus of national football coaches?

As published in Mailsport today.
By Haresh Deol

PETALING JAYA — Trouble seems to be brewing in Wisma FAM as several national coaches may opt to quit following continued interference by FA of Malaysia (FAM) officials.

Insiders claimed the coaches were “fed-up” with the national stable as decisions were made without consultation.

They also claimed officials were quick to blame the coaches if they failed to achieve targets without taking into account the poor eco-system in the establishment.

“The coaches are being very polite but things are not looking good and if left unattended, they could just leave,” said a source.

“The national team management committee decided several matters recently and the coaches only found out about the changes from newspapers,” the source said.

Among the decisions made by the committee included the possibility of disbanding Harimau Muda A after the Singapore SEA Games (June 5-16, 2015).  Plans are afoot to include several Harimau Muda A players in the Harimau Muda B team ahead of the AFC Under-22 Qualifiers in March.

Dollah Salleh is the national team coach. Datuk Ong Kim Swee coaches Harimau Muda A while Razip Ismail guides the Harimau Muda B squad.

Eighteen out of 25 players from Kim Swee’s side are eligible to play in the Under-22 tournament.
The source said: “This would mean Kim Swee would only have a handful of players from December to March and only two months to prepare for the SEA Games.

“The logical solution is to disband Harimau Muda A immediately and for Razip to prepare the team for the AFC qualifiers followed by the SEA Games.

“After all, the AFC qualifiers doubles up as the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. That is more important than the SEA Games.

“It’s best to speak to the coaches and not presume what is best for them and their teams.”

Another insider said the semangat kenegerian (strong sentiment for the state) adopted by officials is apparent.

He also claimed a “top FAM official” aided Razip’s assistant Mat Zan Mat Aris’ move to Malacca United.

 Mat Zan started his new role with the FAM League outfit last month.

“State sides seem to be more important than the national teams. Former national coach (Datuk) K. Rajagobal suffered the same fate as his views were never sought and it looks like nothing has changed,” he said.

“In Malaysia, they never respect coaches. But when things go wrong, they are the first to be given the boot. That’s the sad reality.”

Several parties have taken advantage of the situation and have apparently approached the coaches, including Kim Swee.

The former international is linked to Pahang and another two states. He, however, refused to comment about the speculation.

“If you write about this, a witch hunt will take place to find out who talked to you, not how to address the issues,” the source added.

FAM ‘praying’ for the best, fans disgruntled over online ticket system

As published in today's Malay Mail

By Vijhay Vick

KUALA LUMPUR — “Don’t let me down.”

That was the message by FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Tengku Abdullah Shah to the men in blue after chairing the Malaysia Cup security committee meeting at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

His anxiety comes as no surprise as the National Sports Complex is set to host three events — the final between Pahang and Johor Darul Takzim, the Lan Berambeh Anak Sarawak 2014 Carnival at car park A and B outside the main stadium and a Buddhist prayers event at the nearby Putra Stadium.
Some 150,000 people are expected to flock the complex. Football fans have been advised to head to the stadium by 2pm —more than six hours before the kickoff at 8.45pm.

But fans will only be allowed to enter the stadium after 4pm.

“We need the cooperation from the fans. Otherwise, the police will not be able to handle the volume of people,” said FAM security committee deputy chairman Datuk Osman Salleh.

Cheras OCPD ACP Chong Kok Sin refused to reveal the strength of their workforce on Saturday but FAM deputy president Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah later revealed the number of personnel would exceed 2,000. Chong, however, assured the police will be at the venue as early as 8am and stay on until “everyone leaves the area”.

KL traffic operations office ASP Mohd Irwan Abdul Rahim said: “Road closure will be as per necessary. No decision has been made and any closure will be based on the situation at that moment.”

Why is FAM insisting on organising the match in Bukit Jalil instead of Shah Alam Stadium?

“It is the best stadium in the country and we need a big stadium so the fans are not left disappointed,” said Afandi, who is also the competition committee chairman.

“Hopefully everything goes on smoothly. We pray for that.”

FAM were informed by Pahang FA and Johor FA that between 300 and 500 buses ferrying fans will make their way to the stadium. But fans would be forced to walk for 3km as buses would only be allowed to drop off passengers at the stadium if the situation permitted.

Buses ferrying Johor fans would be parked at the Technology Park while buses from Pahang would be stationed at Selangor Turf Club.

Other fans have been advised to take public transport but it remains unclear at what time the services will end.

Syarikat Prasarana Sdn Bhd has not, officially, extended their operating hours.

“Trains will leave the station every 3.5 minutes after the game. Each train could accommodate between 1,000 to 1,200 people. The trains will run until the crowd is clear,” said Prasarana group communications and strategic marketing executive vice-president Lim Jin Aun.

“I can’t say we will wait until there is zero people. We have experienced crowds like this and those on duty at the stadium know what to do.”

However, he was only speaking in regards to the Ampang LRT Line as the Kelana Jaya line will close as usual.
Tengku Abdullah (right) juggles a ball after inspecting the pitch at the National Stadium yesterday. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

By Nicholas Anil

PETALING JAYA — The online ticketing system, introduced by FA of Malaysia this year to eliminate counterfeit tickets and ease congestion on match-day, brought about a new problem.

Fans claim they were unable to purchase the tickets from yesterday.

“It was impossible to make a booking. Our supporters were eagerly waiting to purchase the tickets online as we knew it would go on sale (yesterday). We tried buying tickets since 10am but was unsuccessful. Later we were told the tickets were sold out by 1pm,” said Johor Darul Takzim supporters club president Azman Abdul Jalil.

“Our only option now is buy tickets at Larkin Stadium.”

Some 20,000 tickets will be up for sale at the stadium while another 20,000 distributed to the various fan clubs. coordinator Mohammad Fauzi Abdul Manaf also said Pahang fans suffered the same fate.

“There were some of our fans who managed to get the tickets but they did not receive a soft copy of their receipt and no e-mail notification to validate their purchase,” he said.

“I visited their office in Damansara (yesterday, 4pm) to confirm my ticket purchase. I was told by their staff that 252 tickets were available online although the website indicated ‘sold out’.”

“It is a sheer inconvenience as fans spent hours online trying to buy the tickets.”

Efforts to contact Ticket Hotline proved futile.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FAM refuses to budge over Bukit Jalil venue for Malaysia Cup final

As published in Malay Mail today.

By Vijhay Vick

KUALA LUMPUR — The FA of Malaysia (FAM) had insisted on the Malaysia Cup final to be held at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday, revealed Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Khairy said there was not much the Malaysian Stadium Corporation (MSC), which comes under the purview of his ministry, could do as they had already committed to two other events — a Sarawakian carnival and a religious prayer — scheduled on the same day.
Johor Darul Takzim will play Pahang in the final which was earlier scheduled for Nov 8 but brought forward to this Saturday to give the national team time to prepare for the Asean Football 
Federation Cup which starts on Nov 22.
“It was unfortunate FAM changed the date of the final. MSC had already committed to the other two events and both the event organisers have paid in full for the use of the facilities,” said Khairy.
“FAM insisted on playing the final at the National Stadium. There was nothing much MSC could do. Fans are advised to come to the stadium earlier or take public transport.”
Khairy downplayed the possible traffic and parking nightmare by saying: “It should be okay.”
Nearly 100,000 football fans are set to flock the stadium while close to 50,000 people are expected to attend the other two events nearby.
The Sarawakian festival will be held at car park A and B, leaving only car park C and D for those watching the final.
Sarawak governor Tun Taib Mahmud and state chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem are expected at a dinner which will be attended by 10,000 people during the Lan Berambeh Anak Sarawak 2014 Carnival.
The Buddhist prayers will take place at the Putra Stadium, located next to the main stadium.
Fans from Johor and Pahang are expected to turn up in numbers. FAM expects some 400 buses to ferry fans to the stadium.
Parking has always been a major problem for fans, who usually turn up six hours prior to the 8.45pm kick-off just to get a parking spot. Most of the time, traffic comes to a standstill after the match.
The Shah Alam Stadium — which hosted last year’s final — is available. It is unclear why FAM insist on playing the match in Bukit Jalil.
Efforts to obtain an explanation from the national body proved futile.
FAM deputy president and competition committee chairman Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah said: “I’ll have to check with the secretariat.”