Saturday, June 1, 2013

What happened at THE STAR'S 2013 AGM, May 22?

The following appeared on the online Business Times Premium website, but have since been removed.

Wong Chun Wai (WCW)
Fong Chan Onn (FCO)
Vincent Lee (VL)
Koh Beng Huat (KBH)

There was a big turnout for the AGM. The venue (room next to
auditorium) was crammed and overflowed and this was pointed out by two
shareholders. "It is too small, you are not performing your social
responsibility and it looks bad."

A lot of shareholders expressed concern about the falling share price
saying if revenue, circulation and readership is going up as claimed
why the dip?

 One shareholder noted that even Star directors were selling their
shares to which one director said he is still buying.
FCO said Star is an investment stock, not a betting stock and still
pays good dividends.

A visibly upset shareholder criticized the paper for telling lies and
inaccurate reporting and said she represents many other readers with
similar sentiments. "If you don't report correctly, who will buy your

WCW responded by describing the shift in the sentiments of urban
voters/readers of Star as being anti-establishment /angry with
anything associated with BNasional. He said that Star was generally
accurate in its coverage and online portals like TMI and Malaysiakini
were sometimes wrong.

For example, he said Star never said Barisan would win in Penang. He
added they report what politicians say. The comment, "Don't talk
rubbish" was overheard while he was talking. He asked for
shareholders' patience in hearing him out WCW said he has to work in a
difficult situation as he has to answer to KDN (Home Ministry),
shareholders, owners, and readers. "I am praised and bashed by both
sides. We put Anwar on the page one with Najib and I got a shelling,"

An ex-employee said he would support a management buyout (MBO)
provided the buyers are those with a good reputation as he said it is
better if Star is out of the Barisan/MCA mode which comes with tight
controls and obligations.

 He also criticized the partisan advertisements in the run-up to GE13
ie "A vote for DAP is a vote for PAS" saying it had angered readers
and that they were ill-conceived and not thought out properly. The
directors reiterated there will be no MBO and MCA has no intention of
selling off Star.

Other shareholders asked what rates were charged for the political
advertisements but the BoD said it was given on a "group buying basis"
but did not reveal the actual rates. They said it was according to
"professional market pricing" and there was "no special treatment for

Another shareholder said the Star should lead the way in offering
unbiased and objective writing. Star writers should be professional
although she acknowledged that specialist writers/columnists have a
right to have their say.

A shareholder also questioned how the recommendations for the
re-election of directors are done. "The next AGM, when we elect a
director, please let us know what their contributions are."

Finally, after all the resolutions were passed by a show of hands, the
former general manager of Star, Koh Beng Huat, got up to speak. He
pointed out that he had given the secretary a list of written
questions and asked that the answers be read out. Most pertained to
the welfare of Star employees. He also asked about the progress of the
book which was to be published in conjunction with Star's 40th
anniversary. The answer was the editorial team was busy because of
GE13 and they are now editing and "verifying interviews."

KBH: This is the first time I have stepped forward since I left. The
humble workers laid the foundation for the company. The employees are
the most valuable asset but the impression given is otherwise.  I hear
a lot of negative remarks about the paper and the company - from both
current and former employees. Why couldn't Star retain Ho Kay Tat?  He
was a true professional. Did he leave because of politicking among the
top management?
I sold 30 lots of shares. The price has gone down from
3.20 to 2.60 after Ho Kay Tat left.
The performance bonus should be scrapped. I've seen how the system was
abused more than 30 years ago in NST, resulting in victimization and
favouritism. I don't want Star employees to feel the same. I know you
reward your favourites, those you don't like you minimise and cut off.

The ex-gratia bonus had been successfully implemented for many years.
It was a motivator to employees.
Star is not performing the way it should be performing. It used to be
among the top 100 companies by market capitalization. Something is
seriously wrong. We are told circulation and revenue is going up but
the share price is dropping. What are the directors doing?
I'm not protecting WCW, I'm sad for him. He is a professional. He
should concentrate full time on editorial matters. Don't get involved
with the BoD.

There is too much politicking - they will make use of you. He loves
the paper, so do I.  WCW don't spend time designing T-shirts and
accepting mock cheques. Don't spend time on the BoD. They will grill
you and politicians want to make use of you. Get out of the Board.

I am a lifetime member of MCA. MCA owns 40% - they act like they own
the paper. And whack each other like mad. Star should not get involved
in internal party politicking. You can't run Star like an advertising
agency. (VL interjected and said that Naga had been second largest
contributor to Star revenue).  Advertising is a dog eat dog. A
newspaper is very different.

Don't bully the staff, don't' take them for granted. Don't ignore
them. Treat them with respect. Take care of the employees - they are
our greatest asset. Star cares for its workers. Why is it until now
they have not been given their increment and performance bonus? Don't
give out titles as you like. Don't bully the employees and transfer
and redesignate them. This is not your father's company. David Yeoh is
a wonderful newspaperman. What is he doing in Penang?

The Star has achieved great success over the years but this year is
not going to be a good year. I heard a lot of negative comments about
the top management and BoD. The rate they are carrying on Star is
going downhill.

When I and Steven Tan went to see the chairman, FCO, when he was
Minister of Human Resources he brushed us off and said he was too
busy. The chairman and directors come and go. I hope FCO will not
brush us off this time and give a firm commitment. Make sure the
company is run properly. Don't disappoint
Tunku Abdul Rahman. Don't ignore his contribution.

2.  PUBLISHED MAY 24, 2013
Poll results a hot issue at Star AGM
A few shareholders accuse publication of supporting BN


WHAT was to have been a routine annual general  meeting of Star
Publications last Wednesday turned out to be anything but.
According to people present, one man told Wong Chun Wai, the firm's
editor and executive director, that though he remained a shareholder,
he had stopped buying the newspaper because of what he felt was the
publication's one-sided coverage that seemed to favour the ruling
Barisan Nasional.

Another accused Tony Fernandes, who was seeking re-election as the
firm's independent director, of using chartered flights to ferry
Bangladeshi "phantom" voters - a widely believed rumour spread by the
opposition - to cast ballots in the May 5 general election. Mr
Fernandes, the controlling shareholder of budget carrier Air Asia,
agreed that there had been chartered flights but said they had been
used to ferry Sabahans working in Johor home
to vote.

The general tone of many of the shareholders was hostile. "It was as
if the elections weren't ended," one shareholder who was present told
The Business Times. "Instead of talking about business or profit, they
just wanted the paper to bash the government."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tan Teng Boo, Managing Diector, Capital Dynamics Asset Management, talks on Malaysia's disappointing Q1 GDP numbers

Dharmendran's death made world news

Thursday, May 30, 2013


"   . . .   Because they only formed 29.8 percent of the Voters in GE13, contrary to the "Chinese tsunami" conspiracy theory, even if 100 percent of Chinese Malaysians (and for good measure, let's also throw in 100 percent of Indian Malaysians as well) voted for the opposition, there is no way Pakatan could have logically garnered the support of 5,623,984 Malaysians.

  . . .   at least three million voters therein were Malay / Bumiputera   . . .

. . .   This means, conservatively, 42 percent of the Malay / Bumiputera electorate in Malaysia actually voted for Pakatan nationally.    To put this into proper context, there was no such Chinese tsunami but instead, it was a Malay / Bumiputera Tsunami because 56 percent of the opposition's votes actually came from the Malays / Bumiputera   . . .  "

The Root of the Problem !
  Gross distortions in Malaysia's voting system

The recently completed May 5 general election (GE13) revealed some interesting facts and figures based on the results as published by the Election Commission.

There have been, for a long time, much criticism of the 'first past the post' (FPTP) election system we practise in Malaysia, because of what is inherent in this antiquated system.

The FPTP is one of the legacies of the British rule in Malaya and was based on giving all segments of the populace a voice in Parliament. Hence, constituency boundaries were drawn based on this segmental need for representation.

The original intention was noble indeed, that people in Sungai Buloh should have a voice in Parliament, just as those from Shah Alam, even though the Shah Alam constituency may have a population five times larger.

To prevent abuse and disproportional representation, certain limits were set when our founding fathers drew up the federal constitution. One important feature was that there should not be a population variance greater than 20 percent between the smallest and largest constituencies.

This safeguard was gradually eroded by successive ruling governments, since they enjoyed two-thirds majority Parliament to amend the country's laws, until this sanity check on societal representation was totally removed.

As a result of this, today we have 26,000 voters in Putrajaya, Igan (18,000) and Lubok Antu (19,000) commanding the same parliamentary voice as those in Kapar (144,000), Serdang (133,000) and Gombak (123,000).

This hardly seems fair when three small zones command an equal representation in Parliament, compared with their brethren who are at least five times larger, at least from the perspective of a majority rule.

Disproportionate representation

Criticism of such disproportionate representation led to some countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Israel, modifying their electoral constituencies to be more representative and hence, the FPTP no longer applies in these countries.

In a related example, besides throwing 90,000 tonnes of tea into the Atlantic Ocean, a new country was born some 237 years ago simply because its 'rakyat' couldn't accept taxation without representation. One can draw similar parallels, if this inequitable scenario was to ensue here in Malaysia.

The greatest disservice of this FPTP system was shown clearly in Malaysia in GE13 when 915,560 voters in East Malaysia sent 48 BN candidates to our Parliament, or simply put, the average vote cost per BN lawmaker was 19,074.

Because of the severe skewering (aka gerrymandering) of the constituency delineations, it cost an average of 84,053 votes to get one Pakatan Rakyat MP in East Malaysia, or 4.4 times more expensive.

On the national average, it cost BN 39,381 votes per MP as opposed to Pakatan's 63,191 votes. Quite frankly, Pakatan had to work 60 percent harder than the BN had to.

What this means is that unless the present delineation boundaries are redrawn to fix this severe misrepresentation of societal voice, any opposition will need about 60 percent of the national votes to be on par with BN come election time, forever.

Here, I dare opine that GE13 was largely won by BN by capitalising on the severely disproportional FPTP system, rather than on phantom voters, repeat voters and such. Several jumbo jets full of Bangladeshis, Burmese and Nepalese could not have caused the damage to Pakatan as done by this antiquated Westminster delineation system.

From a strategic point, there should have been more focus in the territories where the opposition could have got more "bang for its ringgit" (pun intended) because the voter distribution and pattern (based on past election results) would have been known upfront anyway.

Admittedly, getting Pakatan's voice to the people in the jungles of Borneo would have been a Herculean task, given the physical and political hurdles.

However, mathematically speaking, if Pakatan had won the same number of seats from the 915,560 voters and maintained the same results in the peninsula, it would be firmly in power now.

Perhaps that's the reason why the BN is believed to have chartered several flights to carry voters from the peninsula to Sabah and Sarawak. I'm inclined to believe that the BN knew, from day one, that this was how it would win GE13.

Some interesting facts

Based on the Election Commission website, let me highlight these other interesting facts from the FPTP vis-à-vis GE13   -

1) BN received 46.2 percent of the popular votes in Peninsular Malaysia and 54 percent in East Malaysia, or a national average of 47.4 percent.

2) Based on this, BN was able to garner almost 51 percent of the parliamentary seats in the peninsula and 87.3 percent of those in Sabah and Sarawak, for a national average of 60 percent, or 133 seats.

3) Interestingly, 8.2 percent of the voters (in Sabah and Sarawak) gave BN 22 percent of the parliamentary seats, meaning 39.2 percent of the voters (in the peninsula) gave it the remaining 38 percent in Parliament.

4) Pakatan received 54 percent of the popular votes in Peninsular Malaysia and 35 percent in East Malaysia, for a national average of 51 percent.

5) Based on the above, Pakatan was only able to garner 49 percent of the parliamentary seats in the peninsula and 12.7 percent of that in Sabah and Sarawak, for a national average of 40 percent, or 89 seats.

6) It cost Pakatan 21 percent and 441 percent more votes per MP in the peninsula and East Malaysia respectively, to be on par with BN. On average nationally, Pakatan had to work 60 percent harder per MP than the BN.

7) Because they only formed 29.8 percent of the voters in GE13, contrary to the "Chinese tsunami" conspiracy theory, even if 100 percent of Chinese Malaysians (and for good measure, let's also throw in 100 percent of Indian Malaysians as well) voted for the opposition, there is no way Pakatan could have logically garnered the support of 5,623,984 Malaysians.

Conservatively adjusting for a 25 percent Chinese support for MCA and Gerakan (as was seen where there was a large Chinese voter base), at least three million voters therein were Malay/bumiputera.

This means, conservatively, 42 percent of the Malay/bumiputera electorate in Malaysia actually voted for Pakatan nationally. To put this into proper context, there was no such Chinese tsunami but instead, it was a Malay/bumiputera tsunami because 56 percent of the opposition's votes actually came from the Malays/bumiputera.

For Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to have made this arithmetic blunder publicly was totally ill-advised and it has now caused needless uneasiness among the rakyat.

8) Finally, as explained earlier, 915,560 people, who are basically very removed from urban and national politicking, more or less sealed the fate of 11,054,577 voters or about 29 million people in Malaysia - thanks to the FPTP system.

Seriously and practically speaking, would anybody consider 3.2 percent (915,560) of Malaysians deciding the future of the country a fair run of democracy under the FPTP voting system?

Without a concerted effort from our MPs to make our country fairer by insisting on equitable representation in Parliament, it will indeed be very difficult for Najib to ask for national reconciliation when the very premise of his assertion was fundamentally flawed.

If you don't know what's broken, how can you fix it?
[Contributed by Dato Ramesh Rajaratnam - A Chartered Accountant and a keen follower of Malaysian politics]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The ‘Datuk Onn syndrome’, 60 years on

Call it what you want — rebranding, reconstruction or repositioning of Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in the aftermath of the divisive 13th general election. But it will all boil down to one huge definitive component: political will.

In today’s lingo, balls. And this inevitably includes putting in the guts to go through the Datuk Onn Jaafar road once again.

Some clear messages that cropped up from the election results have surfaced with certain quarters calling for a transformation of Umno in the face of new realities, while some are suggesting that BN becomes a single multiracial party for the sake of its survival, and to attract younger voters.

In the true spirit of striking it while it is hot, in which many Malaysians are adept, the move should be met with a resounding “boleh”. But along the way, it is not going to be that easy at all.

The push for modifications even prompted Prime Minister and BN chairman Najib Tun Razak to state on Sunday that there was no other option for the coalition but to adapt to changes now.

Just before that, his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin had said the proposal to turn BN into a single party was rational but needed to be studied in detail. He also noted that the feasibility of merging 13 parties into a single entity needed to be determined by all its component party members.

The most important question now is who, particularly in Umno, is going to take that crucial step of reliving the “Datuk Onn Syndrome” so to speak, and declare the end of race-based parties and politics. And then probably suffer the same fate as the founding father of Umno 60 years ago.

Under all kinds of pressure from the British colonial masters and the Johor palace not long after Umno was formed in 1946, Onn sought to open Umno’s doors to non-Malays. In the face of deep sentiments among Malay hardliners at that time, it proved to be his greatest undoing.

Onn had to leave Umno and formed the Independence of Malaya party in 1951. He failed miserably at that. Later he set up Parti Negara and that failed as well. So, who among the present crop of Umno leaders would want to go through that road again even if it is established that race-based politics is so Jurassic?

The sentiments are just not right at the moment, especially when what is in the minds of some people is that it was indeed a “Chinese tsunami” that caused the drubbing of MCA and Gerakan candidates and the BN to lose ground considerably in the latest elections.

Old sentiment will prevail

It cannot be denied that this Chinese factor seems to be stuck in some critical Malay minds, causing a backlash of sorts and some sections to even call for a boycott of Chinese businesses said to be supportive of Pakatan Rakyat.

Their simple argument is that if the Chinese themselves are not receptive to the various BN programmes benefitting all, why should the BN administration continue having them in the team when it is clear that Malays will form 70% of the country’s population in a few years.

This, in fact, is anticipated to be a battle-cry in the coming Umno general assembly, more so since it is election time for the party where every single merit point counts. It is expected that, with the current prejudice on misjudged Chinese support, the person who is most vocal about the interests of the Malay community would do well in the Umno polls.

Just watch. The sentiment would flow thick and fast. There will just be no time for anyone to come out of the blue and propose the dissolution of Umno-based politics in place of an all-party new-look BN.

Even if we get over this “political will” part, the next step is even more complicated because the main part of Malaysian politics is so deeply-rooted in communal divisions and power play.

For instance, if there is to be a single multiracial party to take over from the coalition of 13 race-based parties of BN, how is it going to depart from the norm? Instead of parties, will there be racial divisions within the organisation instead so as to “safeguard” the interests of specific communities?

How much of a difference will that be from today then?

And will there be quotas imposed? On the presidency and leadership structure? And most of all, if it is agreed that there is to be a single multiracial party in place, does it mean that Umno, MCA, MIC and all the rest will be dissolved? If so, this is important — what will happen to the assets?

My bet is the deep-seated old sentiment will prevail at the upcoming Umno assembly and there will not be much support for a single multi-racial party in place of Umno-BN.

[Contributed by Syed Nadzri, Redberry Group media advisor]