Union chief rails against Umno, bosses as guillotine finally falls on Utusan

Utusan NUJ president, Mohd Taufek Razak, speaks during a press conference at Utusan Melayu Berhad building in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Utusan NUJ president, Mohd Taufek Razak, speaks during a press conference at Utusan Melayu Berhad building in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Utusan Malaysia’s journalist union chairman reminded Umno today that the newspaper had tried to resist its interference since 1962, blaming the political party for the demise of the country’s oldest Malay vernacular paper today.

Speaking at the press conference, Mohd Taufek Razak said the decision of Utusan Melayu Bhd to cease operations today left 862 people jobless.

He said Umno’s decision to meddle in the newspaper’s direction meant Utusan Malaysia was forced to share whatever fate befell the former ruling party.

“So today it has been proven that when Umno is no longer in power, this is what we are forced to face,” Taufek said emotionally.

“To us, this is the aftermath of political control on a newspaper. The Utusan newspaper operated from last time, not for profit, but mere political interests.”

The national president of the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) and Utusan Malaysia’s branch chairman also expressed anger towards the company’s upper management, whom he accused of refusing to meet with employees even to this day.

“From a humane perspective, the manner in which we were treated by Utusan’s management today was inhumane. Without any compensation, with a short notice telling employees to leave. All these things, we feel are unjust, because these matters, rightfully, they could have planned earlier on.

“Even today, we didn’t see anyone. Our executives, company representatives aren’t here. They handed the matter entirely to the liquidators and to the editorial department. The department heads in the specific units had to do the briefing.

“Our executive chairman is not here to give the briefing. Our human resource manager is also not here, our finance manager is also not present. They all ran away,” Taufek said, labeling the management a spineless lot for not being brave enough to meet the employees face-to-face and explain.

The current executive chairman is Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, an Umno member.

Taufek said that the liquidators have given the staff time until tomorrow to clear their belongings from the office building.

However, he said that they are still in the dark as to whether they have been effectively dismissed.

He said the workers would be paid their salaries till the end of October.

The workers were informed to be present at the publication’s office on Oct 30, to be briefed by liquidators, on the direction of the company.

Taufek informed the press that Utusan Malaysia has also not fully paid staff’s Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions, and is doing so by way of installments.

“We had a session with AKPK two weeks ago, and from there, they have registered themselves to seek new employment, for those who feel they want to,” he said when asked about Utusan Malaysia’s staff plan, moving forward.

AKPK refers to the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency.

“Actually, we stayed on here because we love Utusan, and the age factor also played a role. For those who are young, they can maybe find employment elsewhere, but for those with age factor like mine, maybe it would be harder to find jobs at another place,” he added.

Utusan Malaysia’s management announced this afternoon that it would cease operations officially today, after a prolonged financial crisis that saw its workers protest it over unpaid wages.

Its publisher, Utusan Melayu Bhd, sent out a circular to inform employees that its board of directors approved on October 7, the creditors’ voluntary liquidation and appointed UHY Advisory KL as its interim liquidator.

In the circular, the company’s management said that the dwindling sales of both Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, as well as failure to hit the RM4 million monthly advertising revenue had led to the closing down of the company.

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