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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bookies tried to fix Malaysia-Palestine match, reveal sources



Bookies had attempted to fix a world cup qualifying match in Kuala Lumpur, sources have revealed, as the FA of Malaysia (FAM) will continue to keep a close eye on the matter.

Insiders revealed a foreigner "had hooked up" with a local match fixer to manipulate the Malaysia-Palestine match in favour of the host team at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on June 16. Malaysia, however, were hammered 6-0 by the middle east outfit.

"Our information has revealed there were at least two people involved. They had tried to manipulate the match but we believed they failed to do and there were no irregular betting patterns for the match," an insider said.

An Asian Footabll Confederation (AFC) source confirmed the regional body was well aware of the allegation but said the case had since been classified as NFA (no further action).

FAM integrity department head Osman Bakar said he was notified about the matter by AFC and had cautioned the coaches and players prior the match.

"Yes, we were informed but there was nothing more to it. I've been keeping an eye on such cases since 2012 but it's always a situation of allegations without anything concrete for us to follow through," he said.


HARESH SAYS: Red card for football governance

As published in Malay Mail today



Haresh Says
By Haresh Deol

THE inability to juggle transparency, accountability and professionalism is evident. Governing bodies of football are struggling to score in this department.

And they seem to cloud the stakeholders —  fans and media — with technical jargon and hide behind their uptight attitude. The neatly knotted ties and tailor-made jackets may project an organised look but football administrators seem clueless in tackling the issues surrounding the world’s most popular sport.

Fifa is battling a host of woes on its turf. The decision to play on artificial turf continues to draw controversy at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Canada. 

“I have plenty of blisters on my toes,” United States forward Alex Morgan was quoted as saying last week, summing up the continuous fight by female footballers who dropped a legal suit they initiated last October against the world body and Canadian Soccer Association, alleging gender discrimination over the use of artificial turf.

One must wonder about this misguided direction, where the welfare of the athletes — the mainstay of football — seems to be ignored. The decision makers are power hungry.

Sepp Blatter was ticked off by Domenico Scala over the weekend after the embattled Fifa president indicated he wanted to hang on to power despite pledging to quit on June 2.

Scala, Fifa’s audit and compliance committee independent chairman, urged Blatter to uphold his earlier decision. Scala, had in a statement, said: “The times of flirting with power are definitely gone.
“I call on all concerned, including Mr Blatter, to endorse in the interest of the reforms unequivocally the announced changing of the guard at the top of Fifa.”

And such reforms must be translated into action. Sadly, this is not the case.

Fifa remains silent over the situation in Nepal.

In an email to Fifa regarding Ganesh Thapa’s controversial position as All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) president, the world body said: “... we kindly suggest you to contact the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee.”

An email was then sent to the committee. Its spokesman replied: “Due to Article 36 of Fifa’s code of ethics, the Independent Investigatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee of Fifa does not comment on any pending (or not pending) investigation.”

For the uninitiated, Fifa and the Nepal government are investigating Thapa following claims he embezzled funds and accepted bribes from abroad. Last year, Thapa had admitted receiving money from former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammad Hammam. Hammam courted controversy during his stint with AFC and was banned for life from football in 2012. AFC’s silence on the matter is also deafening.

AFC, in cooperation with a Nepali non-governmental organisation, Saathi, has been supporting an anti-domestic violence campaign in Nepal. It was reported ANFA vice-president Karma Tsering Sherpa and two other vice-presidents had filed complaints with Fifa and AFC against ANFA deputy general secretary Mani Kunwar. The complaint was based on an allegation by Kunwar’s wife in the Nepalese media and a Nepalese court of having been robbed of her belongings by her husband and being beaten by Kunwar and Thapa’s wife.

Thapa, who went on a self-imposed ban since last Dec 3, returned to ANFA on Sunday. 

Fifa had last October said the Nepal association was the subject of an “unsatisfactory” external audit in 2012, when “unappropriated cash movements” were identified. It was the same year AFC launched an external audit, which saw its financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hong claiming former AFC general secretary Datuk Alex Soosay had asked him to “tamper or hide” documents related to him, as exposed by Malay Mail on April 25. Soosay was suspended following the expose and later quit.

It’s been more than six months and Fifa remains undecided if they should flash Thapa the red card. Its inability to address such pressing matters is baffling, just like how they sidestepped Malay Mail’s expose by redirecting queries to AFC.

This despite the video, where Kuan    made the allegations, was recorded in 2012 by former Fifa investigator Michael J. Pride in the presence of another AFC staff James Johnson who is now attached with Fifa.

AFC, having lodged a report with Cheras police over the theft of documents from AFC House in Bukit Jalil in 2012, remain “clueless” over the status of the case. Insiders admit they have been repeatedly told “the case is closed”. AFC’s legal department, which spearheaded an internal probe last month, has yet to make public its findings although AFC maintains “the internal investigation is essentially concluded”.

Cheras police are still pursuing the case. The status of the investigation, however, 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. 

Asked about the status of the investigation, Kuala Lumpur Prosecution Unit head Suhaimi Ibrahim had last Friday said: “Please check with the IO (investigating officer).” 

It remains unclear how long more investigators will take to wrap up the three-year-old case. 
The FA of Malaysia (FAM) too are far from being professional. Their latest slip-up in prize money allocation in the Felda FAM Futsal Cup is inexcusable. Having first promised RM100,000 and RM60,000 to the champions and runners-up of the men’s and women’s categories, FAM slashed the prize money to half, calling it a “minor mistake”. Teams are contemplating legal action against the national body, as reported by Mailsport over the weekend. 

The inability to practise professionalism while injecting transparency and accountability is indeed worrying. 

These officials are “blessed” (sic) for many continue to overlook such flaws and pay full attention to the beautiful game. Yet, it does not give the guardians of football the right to avoid issues and skirt queries by the stakeholders. 

They must be transparent and be held accountable. These are key ingredients of professionalism.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

HARESH SAYS: 'Thank you, Malaysia'

As published in Malay Mail today 

Haresh Says
By Haresh Deol

TAMIL songs greet you the minute you open the door.
There stands M. Nagarajan with several strands of hair neatly combed on his balding head. The 53-year-old never fails to flash a smile at his customers as the scent in the barber shop — a combination of sweet smelling hair tonic and coconut oil — fills the air.
It is never easy finding a barber you can ‘trust’. But with Nagarajan, I am able to sit comfortably and close my eyes as he whips out a good old straight razor and places it just above my Adam’s apple before he starts shaving.
Nagarajan hails from Tiruchirappalli, 333km south of Chennai, India. I have been his loyal customer for six years. My last visit to the barber shop where he works in Lembah Jaya, Ampang made me a sad man.
“I’m leaving Malaysia for good in August,” said Nagarajan in Bahasa Melayu. His command of the language is admirable; able to shame Malaysians who remain ignorant about the national language.
“I’ve spent 17 years in Malaysia and it is time to go home.”
He clearly remembers the first time he entered Malaysia in hope of seeking 
greener pastures.
“It was Aug 28, 1998. I worked at a barber shop in Felda Sendayan (near Seremban). It was a week before Malaysia celebrated Merdeka, the same year (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) was arrested, the new airport (KLIA) started operating and Kuala Lumpur hosted a big sporting event (Commonwealth Games).”
He has worked in several places since. He said his close to two decades in Malaysia have enabled him to send enough money back home to put food on the table.
“It’s not been easy but nothing is easy. With what little I have been sending home, my children have managed to pursue their education and my three daughters were able to marry.”
“Here, I go back to an empty flat. When I am sick I am all alone. But I’m lucky I’ve been generally healthy. Come end of August, I will be returning to my family and hope to play with my grandchildren and see them grow.”
While he is a barber in Malaysia, he will return home as a proud husband (his wife Saroja turns 51 tomorrow), father to four children aged between 25 and 33, and tatta to six grandchildren.
His children have done well. One of his daughters studied pharmacy while his youngest child, a son, has a Masters in Business Administration.
“I’ve been searching online to see if there are jobs for my son in Malaysia and Singapore. If you do know of any jobs suited to my son’s qualifications, do let me know,” he said. 
Nagarajan said there are ample job opportunities here.
“Look at Malaysia now … you have Indians, Indonesians, Bangladeshi, Myanmar nationals, Nepalis, Pakistanis and so many other nationals working here. They come because there are so many opportunities.
“You can’t say there are no jobs. There are plenty. But maybe Malaysians don’t like to be barbers or waiters.”
 “If Indian nationals decide to leave tomorrow, almost all the barber shops and mamak restaurants in Malaysia will close.”
He was spot on. We are so overly dependent on foreign labour that businesses and even industries will collapse if they decide to leave the country overnight.
Foreigners go great lengths, including coming in through illegal means, just to make a living in Malaysia. Sadly, our locals do not appreciate such opportunities. As an acquaintance working in a job recruitment agency crudely said: “Locals tend to be disillusioned thinking they can secure big money by shaking legs.”
And this explains why these hardworking foreigners are able to operate businesses, raise families and can even afford to buy decent vehicles. They remind us of the struggles faced by our grandparents or great-grandparents.
Some of us tend to take our opportunities for granted. If foreigners are bold enough to leave their homes and families only to start afresh in this country, why can’t we do the same in our own backyard? Why can’t we venture into the many opportunities out there and work our way up?
I’ve had many friends seeking greener pastures abroad only for them to admit “there’s nothing like Malaysia”. 
We are not perfect, I admit. Abuse of millions, if not billions, of taxpayers’ money often hogs the headlines. The man on the street shouts corruption at every level. Our politics is a complete circus. Despite laws and regulations, we are lax in enforcement.
Many of us want the best for our fellow Malaysians and the country. But the nagging negative sentiments have turned us into a blinded and angry society.
Perhaps we need someone like Nagarajan to remind us about the beauty of Malaysia. His motivation was to provide a better life for his family and he aced it. He has also served many Malaysians along the way.
“Malaysia is beautiful and has provided me many opportunities. I am thankful and happy,” he said, ending the conversation by clasping both hands as a sign of gratitude.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ordinary royals, extraordinary lives

As published in Malay Mail (June 13, 2015)
 
 
By Frankie D'Cruz
 
IT was a remarkable ‘newsroom’ filled with some of the biggest names in journalism, super rich with collectively hundreds of years of experience. With sacks of skills, these journalists told thousands of great stories, wrote thousands of headlines and made The Malay Mail your lunch companion.
 
These heady editors, sub-editors and reporters had a magical knack of knowing what Malaysians were thinking, and this sharpness made them some of the best journalists the country has seen.
All their gifts came together in irresistible abundance in a breathless recent catch-up of 18 ex-Mailers, from the late 70s and 80s, with former editor Chua Huck Cheng — now happily retired — who was on a visit here from New Zealand. 
 
It was pure theatre. A convivial June 5, Friday evening had emerged at Pietro Ristorante Italiano in Damansara. Wine and stories flowed. Straight-talking rants and witticism ruled.
 
Prolific is the word that springs to mind when one thinks about the opus and personality of many of them such as Kek Soo Beng, a mentor who took me in as a stringer in Seremban and fought for me to get into the New Straits Times Press which then professed ‘rock solid’ English and had a tight recruitment policy.  
 
Like Kek, when people like Chua — the youngest editor of The Malay Mail at age 30 — and other editors Philip Mathews, P.C. Shivadas, Lim Thow Boon, Tony Francis and Ben d’Cunha blinked, reporters were emboldened.
 
Our relationships took various forms, maybe not quite similar to mine with R. Nadeswaran, a streetfighter with pugilistic skills, now The Sun’s editor of investigations.
 
Nadeswaran and I were a combination of drinking buddy, excuse-maker, confidante, firefighter and witness to far more exceptional exploits than can be comfortably listed in a 500-page hardback of journalistic jaunts.
 
Champagne Sheila Rahman, who began reporting life as many of us under training ground sergeant-majors Chua, Philip Mathews and the late Ratan Singh and Sri K. Nayagam was nostalgia-bingeing.
“It was delightful to have the big bosses and forever journalists and listen to them reminisce the glory days. My life is like journalism every day … a new(s) day,” she gloated in a message to me after the party.
 
Standout sub-editor Soo Ewe Jin, who now writes a heartwarming weekly column ‘Sunday Starters’ in The Star put those times in perspective: “Many of us cut our teeth in journalism in The Malay Mail in the 80s.
 
“Those were heady days of exclusive investigative stories, the latest in world news (no Internet or 24-hour TV then) and unique community services like Hotline and People's Live Telecast Fund (PLTF). So, we are more than old friends.”
 
Pause. PLTF is a truly inspiring story generated by a call to Hotline by an insurance agent Peter Teo. A day after he had watched Belgium upset Argentina 1-0 in the opening match on June 13, Teo suggested that Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) allow the public to contribute RM1 each to pay for more live telecasts.
 
RTM began live telecasts of the World Cup from 1974, and continued this in 1978 and 1982, but up to that time football fans here could only expect live transmissions of the opening match, the two semi-finals and the final. 
 
Then editor, Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar, saw the potential in Teo’s suggestion and a story was published in Hotline on June 15. It triggered a lightning-quick chain of events such that by June 19, The Malay Mail launched the PLTF and handled the fund-raising.
 
PLTF’s aim was to collect at least RM60,000 for one ‘live’ telecast, and from the meagre RM228 that trickled in on the day of the launch, the donations swelled to RM66,116.45 on June 24. Each day, The Malay Mail listed the names of all new donors and the amount they contributed ­— and they included the king and prime minister.
 
Eventually, the PLTF soared past RM300,000, enough to pay for  five matches. The pride-inducing phrase, “Ditaja oleh Rakyat Malaysia” (Sponsored by the People of Malaysia) became a buzzword. The intense interest shown by Malaysians that year influenced the corporate sector that subsequently sponsored live telecasts of all World Cup matches until 2006 when Astro took charge.
 
And last Friday — 2,039 days or 32 years, 11 months and 17 days later — we relished in the power of PLTF and the tone it had set for the tagline ‘The Paper That Cares’.
 
Several of us are still in the epicentre of newspapering. Then high-flying reporter, Lee Boon Siew, who recently retired as editor-in-chief of The Heat said: “This group's history dates more than 40 years. And some of them are still churning out great stories. Of the 18 present, nine are still practising journalism, either in writing or editing.”
 
D’Cunha, now with The Sun and Malay Mail sub-editor Ian Pereira, both in their mid 70s, exude marathon endurance in the profession and show no signs of winding down.
 
Once eternally combative photographer Chai Khian Chong who delivered stellar images and stamped his mark on ‘Page Three Girl’ is sort of winding down. He squared his jaw, grit his teeth and said: “I just want to enjoy being in this ‘newsroom’ with the best of the best.”
 
The more serious ones spoke about the hoary topic of the newspaper business, circulation challenges and current affairs. Such talk however took long breaks especially when engaging stories of Chua as editor were related.
 
Chua, who at times as editor resembled a bulldog chewing a wasp, looked like the cat that got the cream that night as he milked every moment of the occasion.
 
Much of journalism is about knowing when to press and when to withdraw. The temperature in Pietro, owned by former New Straits Times group editor-in-chief, Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan, never plummeted to sub-zero.
 
In many ways, this was a celebration of human relationship.
 
The reporting landscape could well be different if only today’s journalists embraced the life these newspaper elders knew. The life they loved. The life they enjoyed.
 
Pereira and I are now the only ones in this group whose days are governed by Malay Mail. Both of us continue to preach that the paper should herald itself as a beacon of liberal sophistication and objectivity.
 
Fortunately, that pride among the current batch is there all the time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Help our talents hit the right chords

As published in Malay Mail today

HARESH SAYS
By Haresh Deol



HER flaming red hair stood out among her peers on stage.

There stood Bihzhu (pic above) in her bubbly self. The fingers of the bassist and guitarist ran wild all over the frets but just as the Penangite sang, my left foot was already tapping to her jazzy tune.

Halfway through her performance during Moonshine at Publika last Wednesday, I asked myself why such songs do not enjoy airtime on radio.

Amir Jahari was next. The young Kuching lad went on to play several yet-to-be recorded songs, impressing those who attended the show. The others who performed that night included Bil Musa and Narmi.

I joined Amir after he performed and asked him how life had been in the scene.

“Bolehlah,” he said with a smile.

“I’m not making much, but it’s enough to put food on the table, pay the bills and do what I love doing … singing.”

Amir, who turned 23 on May 31, has come a long way since busking in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. The self-taught musician has impressed many through his blend of folk, country, jazz and simple pop music.

Unlike most of his peers who performed on stage, Amir (pic below) has had his tunes played on radio. Songs like Tanpamu and Penghibur Jalanan are among those that have secured spots in the local charts. He even made an appearance during Anugerah Juara Lagu 27.


But Amir, just like many other talents out there, is dying for support. They make good music but good is not enough, says his manager Joe Lee. Joe is no stranger to the media fraternity and was once a Malay Mail journalist.

“Just look around you,” he said pointing at several young musicians after the show.

“These are real talents. You may not hear or know of them but they have performed with some of the biggest names in the local music industry. If only more people know about them.

“I’ve told Amir he must make a name for himself by 25. The only way to move forward is to make a name outside Malaysia. We don’t need another jaguh kampung. We need more artistes like Yuna and Zee Avi, who have made a name for themselves by themselves.”

Yuna has performed at the Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo festivals, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Zee Avi, another Sarawakian talent, has headlined several shows including San Francisco’s Noise Pop, Austin’s South by Southwest and Mountain Jam in New York.


Joe has big plans for Amir which includes dominating the Indonesian market and setting sights on cutting albums in UK. After all, UK artistes have been making it big internationally as evident through the likes of Coldplay, Adele and Mumford and Sons, to name a few.

But this is not just about Amir and his grand vision of making it big. This is about an industry that still harps about Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, the KRU brothers and Amy Search. 

One wonders what happened to Mawi and the others who graduated from reality shows.
No disrespect to them but just like sports, we hardly see our local acts making it big on the international scene. There were the likes of Pop Shuvit, One Buck Short and Koffin Kanser, to name a few, who I thought had the capability to give foreign acts a run for their money.

Budding artistes are in a fix as it is near impossible to secure loans from financial institutions to catapult their career.

Some plead to the government to lend a hand. As such, MyCreative Ventures was formed in 2012. It received an allocation of RM200 million from the government.

Since its incorporation, MyCreative received some 300 applications and approved RM65 million for 42 companies.

But there has been criticism levelled against the entity. Some argued MyCreative should give out grants instead of loans. At the sidelines of this year’s Southeast Asia Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference, MyCreative chief executive officer Johan Ishak told reporters grants would not turn players into successful entrepreneurs.

He was quoted as saying: “We are interested to build a business with players who have a longer-term plan rather than on a project basis, tell us what they want to do and pay us back with returns.
“But currently many players do not have that mentality.”

So where do we go from here?

We must build a culture to ensure our talents will have the space and opportunity to produce their best. We have plenty of homegrown talents in the country who are ready to shine, even brighter than foreign artistes. These include painters, actors, sculptors and many more who are brave enough to break the conventional mould of society by expressing themselves and making beautiful art along the way.

Corporate sectors should open their eyes and see the full potential of our locals. With the right business model, they can promise return of investment.

Help our talents hit the right chords. They can make us proud.

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

Pictures by Tang Chun Cheuh

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HARESH SAYS: Salute to everyday heroes

As published in Malay Mail today


HARESH SAYS
by Haresh Deol

I THOUGHT I had given up hope on humanity. I was convinced generosity and even common etiquette had disintegrated over the years.

With news of corrupt practices, abuse of power, lackadaisical attitude and greed constantly highlighted, we seem to live in a selfish society that believes in ‘I’ rather than ‘we’.

But Aliyah proved me wrong.

I was with my better half at a mall in Taman Maluri on Monday where the missus decided to buy a silver chain and some other items.

She bought a chain she liked and we went to two other outlets before leaving the mall. Hours later, we realised missus had misplaced the bag of items which we bought from the first store.

She quickly called the store and Aliyah answered. The young salesgirl insisted the bag was not in the store. Wifey explained she went to two other stores after buying the chain.

Aliyah, out of her free will, said she would check and asked missus to call again in 30 minutes.

When she called again, Aliyah said: “Miss, I found your bag. You left it at the personal care store that you last visited.”

We returned to the outlet, got our items and thanked Aliyah. We repaid her kindness by buying her a cheese cake, which she accepted with a big smile on her face.

This young woman went out of her way to find the misplaced bag. It may only be a silver chain and she could have given us the typical “tak tahu” (I don’t know) answer. But she didn’t.

Aliyah from Dragon Silver made our day. And it served as a good reminder — that there are many out there who are able to prove me wrong. There are many ‘heroes’ among us who work their magic to keep us safe and sound, to help us out in time of need and who pacify our fears.

They come in all shapes, colours and sizes. They can be a taxi driver, a policeman or even a mountain guide who is willing to risk his life saving hikers on Mount Kinabalu.

Having climbed the mountain years ago, I know how caring the guides and locals are when dealing with visitors. From simple advice by asking us to do away with fancy boots and to slap up a pair of ‘kampung adidas’ shoes to ensuring no one was left behind when we travelled in a group — they were there for us all the way.

They never once whined or griped if there was a problem as they facilitated us in our once in a lifetime quest. They had plenty of stories to tell and were even willing to share food and water.

The tributes that poured in, honouring these unsung heroes following last Friday’s earthquake in Ranau, are of no surprise. These malim gunung deserve the recognition.

While we may live in a crude and cruel world, we must appreciate there are those around us who are willing to go the extra mile for others.

These people have changed lives and will continue to do so in their own way.

They are an inspiration and prove that humanity still exists, that compassion and love are very much alive in our daily lives.

I salute all our everyday heroes out there — your contributions, no matter how small, have and will make a difference.

It is time we open our eyes and appreciate the wonders of people.

The sooner we acknowledge their good work, the sooner we will learn to realise there is more to life and humanity.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

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

Monday, June 8, 2015