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The MAS Story: Malaysian Hospitality or Malaysian Humbug
by Mariam Mokhtar (received via e-mail) 

In MAS, MH stands for Malaysian hospitality which many of us know is highly overrated; MH might as well stand for Malaysian humbug. Or Malaysian hanky-panky.
A once proud airline is now a shadow of its former self. It is run by the corrupt and the incompetent – all puppets of the government. If the MACC were a responsible outfit, MAS would not be in the position it is today and many MAS senior managers, and government ministers, past and present would be languishing in jail.
The new MAS-AirAsia merger is shrouded in secrecy. Tony Fernandes is just a public front and assumes the rôle of pilot in this move.Someone else has charted the route for him.Who is that person?

One thing is certain. There is talk about solving the operational issues in MAS. Will Tony be able to alter an UMNO-BN culture that has been allowed to corrupt all levels of the airline’s hierarchy? This UMNO-BN culture is mired in controversy. MAS, like other GLCs, is haemorrhaging money. Attempts to stem this outflow have been unsuccessful.
Would any CEO of MAS be as daring as Peter Hill, the British CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines, who stood up against the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2007?
President Rajapaksa, together with his family and several officials, was in the United Kingdom to witness the passing out parade of Rajapaksa’s son from the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. When Rajapaksa demanded that 35 seats be reserved for his entourage to return to Colombo, Hill refused to bump passengers off the flight from London. Hill may have been the passengers’ hero but his work permit was rescinded.

Unfortunately, the work culture that exists in MAS is symptomatic of our government’s performance. Some dishonest MAS staff allegedly “steal” from the airline.
Perhaps they are taking their cue from the government officials or from previous chairmen. Perhaps they see this as part of their perks and benefits.
Cost cutting has reduced many allowances which they once enjoyed.One stewardess who declined to be named, said that she had lost track of all the items she took from the plane and according to her, “everyone did it”. In an attempt to justify her actions, she blurted, “What about the millions the chairmen have ‘stolen’?” She is wrong. It is billions. Not millions.
How many politicians and their spouses have used their influence to obtain free flights or bullied airline staff for upgrades for themselves, their officials, friends or relatives? How many times have we heard of a spouse of a leading politician wasting taxpayers’ money on transporting her shopping via MAS and MAS Air Cargo?
How many genuine passengers have been victims of alleged over-booking by MAS when it is well known that government officials were offered preferential seats over normal fare-paying passengers?
It is also well known that MAS practices two sets of rules: one for Malaysiansand another for westerners. One Malaysian mother and child were bumped off one flight to the UK. Under EU rules, cancellation of the flight meant they were due compensation. Only her teenage son was offered compensation because he had an English name. The mother was refused compensation despite pointing out the discrepancy to the senior managers in London.
In one European airport, it is alleged that some members of staff have protected their long-term positions by fraternizing with senior politicians and VVIPs. In most companies, employees would not be allowed to remain in one posting indefinitely, but not, apparently, in this location.
Another person alleges that it is common knowledge that a member of staff would use influence to perform “dodgy” upgrades for friends or people of influence and later be rewarded with “gifts”. Others allege, too, that this person removes items from the aircraft on a regular basis. Cheese, toilet rolls, toiletry bags, duvets and blankets from First and Business Class may not be classed as the crime of the century, but it is theft all the same.
The modus operandi appears to be to wait till the flight and cabin crew, have left the aircraft. The security staff must be complicit in these thefts. Could there be hanky-panky with food and fine wines from the Golden lounge?
One wonders why work colleagues have remained silent about the alleged petty theft. Are the senior station managers in these postings incompetent or in collusion? Perhaps theses managers don’t want to deal with the problem.
Co-workers are probably afraid of whistleblowing because they fear they will be known as troublemakers. They wonder, “Can the system be trusted or will they will be identified and crucified?” Like the Malaysian public and corrupt politicians, employees are reluctant to report irregularities because they do not see much hope of redress.
Perhaps the worst sort sycophancy is the one which is ignored by all because it involves VVIPs. In one European airport, it is alleged by many that some MAS employees turn up, even when they are not officially on duty, to attend to the VVIPs. This is no charitable act or selfless dedication to duty. The rewards are high. Cash and expensive, small personal electrical items are the norm but the most prized of all is a title.
When even the bodyguards of the VVIPs proudly display their designer labels, which lowly worker can fail to be impressed?Which junior employee would refuse a title in exchange for making sure personal baggage and the truckloads of luxury goods are safely loaded onto the plane? Who dares ensure that the customs at KLIA will tax these items?
It wouldn’t take a genius to trace the titles that are dished out to MAS employees at some of the overseas airports which are frequented by VVIPs. And it would surprise no-one that even those in menial positions in the airline, can acquire Datukships.
The equilibrium at work must be disturbed as it is alleged that those conferred titles are known to be generally work-shy, are late for work, despite occasionally reporting for extra duty for VVIPs.
It is baffling that these employees are allowed, allegedly, to have a stake, either directly or indirectly, in companies which provide airline services which are in conflict with MAS cargo services.
Will Tony address the staff, who only attend to VVIPs and celebrities who give them benefit in kind? This is a form of bribery and theft from the airline, reminiscent of UMNO political tactics.
Will he put pressure on those in charge of complaints? VIPs get their complaints seen to promptly. Others may take months. The truly unlucky customers have theirs swept under the carpet by lazy station managers.
So what else is going on? Tony should whip the corrupt and inefficient MAS work-culture back into shape and the MACC should investigate these irregularities. Then again, pigs might fly.
_______________
The MAS-AirAsia deal has been aborted. Agitated Tony Fernandes has decided to relocate the airline’s regional hub to Jakarta, Indonesia. But the problems of MAS remain. This is because the MAS culture is rotten to the core, and it is also trite to say that the culture has to change. Mana Ada Sistem is the reputation MAS enjoys, Mesti Ada Susah.


We need a Peter Hill, or Jan Carlzon who changed SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) in MAS so that real transformation can take place. If the MAS Union is an obstacle to change fix it.

To operate an airline profitably every seat must generate revenue and every flight is  making money.  That is basic in management. It is, therefore, the duty of the sales people in our national airline to do their job. And they are not.

Have you tried booking a flight to London? It is always full. But when you are finally given a seat and board the aircraft, you will find there are still plenty of seats available. The problem of overbooking must be solved and ticketing agents should be penalised for blocking more seats than they can sell . You can deal firmly with erring ticketing agents, if they are your cronies, friends or relatives.
I myself cannot understand why certain number of Business class seats on domestic routes, for example, must be reserved for Royalty and Politicians. Can’t these VVIPs plan their trips? What are the private and political secretaries doing if they do not know the travel schedules of their bosses. It is that simple, yet it is not done.

There is no such a thing as a free lunch. MAS has to bear the burden of serving privileged customers. Furthermore, first and business class passengers must be treated in the same manner, irrespective of their social class or political office. No double standards, please. Will MAS top management answer me?–Din Merican

CYCLING: Landmark rider

ON A ROLL: Fatehah breaks new ground in London

FATEHAH Mustapa is accustomed to creating history right from the beginning of her cycling career and the London Olympics provides just another test of how well her star has shone.

The Kuala Terengganu lass lines up for the women’s keirin at the London Velodrome as the first ever woman cyclist to qualify for the Olympics and she has achieved that four years ahead of schedule, as the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) had initially targeted her for the 2016 Olympics.
It’s all been fast-tracked as the reigning Asian women’s keirin champion has gone through two of her best seasons yet, which has seen her rise to prominence on the world stage as well.

Fatehah has come a long way since she first exploded onto the scene in the 2004 Malaysia Games in Negri Sembilan when she stunned a field of mainly elite national riders to win the road race gold medal.

At just 15 then, she set the record as the youngest ever cyclist to win a gold medal in that Games which still stands.

There was never a doubt about Fatehah’s potential and since she went under the watchful eye of national head coach John Beasley at the elite squad’s base in Melbourne two years ago, it has been as if a fast forward button had been switched on.

Malaysia had waited 44 years before Noor Azian Alias won the country’s first medal in a women’s event at the Asian Cycling Championships, a silver medal in the road road in Bangkok in 2007.
But Fatehah had bettered that with multiple medals since she raced as an elite rider in 2008 and topped that with another piece of history for herself when she delivered the first gold medal in the keirin at the Asian meet in Kuala Lumpur in April.

By now, the country’s most famous woman cyclist, Fatehah will enter the Olympics, ranked 13th in the world and her chances of going beyond what she has achieved in the UCI World Cup legs and the World Championships have been heightened by the regulations limiting nations to just one rider for the keirin in London.

That means Russia, who have three riders in the top 13, France who have four and Britain who have two, will only be able to field one rider, roughly placing Fatehah as the seventh seed entering the Games.

“For sure I’m going to give it my all. My first target is to make the final. Everything will be towards that. When I make the final, then anything can happen.
WIth the right strategy and if everything goes my way, I may be in with a shot for a medal,” said Fatehah.
She is with the rest of the squad in a training camp in Ghent, Belgium ahead of the Olympics and yesterday, the squad headed for Cologne, Germany where they will go through their final preparation race.
• Name: Fatehah Mustapa
• Date of birth: March 11, 1989
• Place of birth: Kuala Terengganu
• Achievements: 2004 Malaysia Games – women’s road race gold medal
2011: Sea Games, Jakarta: gold medals in the 200m sprint, team sprint and 500m time trial.
2012: Asian Championships – keirin gold medal.
• London expectations: Hoping to reach the keirin final
• Competition date: Aug 3

http://sportsnewsmalaysia.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-roll-fatehah-breaks-new-ground-in.html#more

Who is proselytising?
By Shanon Shah | 07 November 2011
A FEW weeks ago, I took an English friend to visit the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur before the zohor prayers. At the entrance, my friend, a practising Christian from the Church of England, was given a purple robe to wear — I assume because he was wearing knee-length shorts and I was in full-length jeans. When we went to the main prayer hall, he was barred from entering. The sign read “Muslim only”.
Just outside the main prayer hall, a leading Malaysian Islamic non-governmental organisation (NGO) had books and leaflets about Islam on display. Among these were a pamphlet called The Truth about Jesus Christ. Something about the title of the leaflet, placed so prominently outside the mosque’s main prayer hall, made us want to leave quickly.
What do these rules governing behaviour at the mosque tell us about the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia? What does it say about Islam in Malaysia that Muslims have the power to declare the “truth” about another religion, yet non-Muslims are being accused of undermining their faith?
In the “Christian West”
And how do our local experiences compare to places of worship in other countries with religious diversity?

The first time I visited Westminster Abbey in London, I went for Evensong on Sunday. Even though I was studying the sociology and anthropology of religion, and this was a non-Eucharistic service, I wondered if it was wise of me as a Muslim. I think I saw a Muslim woman in a hijab going in and that relieved me a bit. Reading the service sheet before the actual worship began, I was moved that the Abbey explicitly welcomes people of all faiths to participate in the service or merely observe.
Clearly, there was no sign barring a non-Christian from entering the church. Additionally, there weren’t any Christian books or leaflets titled The Truth about the Prophet Muhammad, or The Truth about the Jews. It seems that in England, a country with an established church, the Church of England doesn’t need to assert its “truth” about another religion.
My purpose in sharing these experiences is not to judge one religious tradition against the other. That would be a trap too easy to fall into. Especially since Malaysia’s current social and political climate is as charged as it is now, what with public demonstrations and anxieties about apostasy among some Muslims and tense debates about hudud. Rather, I wonder if this is about the boundaries between religions in a diverse society, and how these are created, maintained or even dissolved.
Sharing or proselytising?

When I finally read the pamphlet, The Truth about Jesus Christ, I had no quarrel with it. It merely included Quranic verses relating to Jesus, who is a revered prophet in Islam. In fact, these are verses I have shared with my English friend, and we have had meaningful and affectionate exchanges about Christianity and Islam as a result. I guess one difference is that I presented these as Islamic perspectives of Jesus, rather than The Truth about Jesus.

Pamphlets from the National Mosque (pic courtesy of Giles Goddard)
So was the Islamic NGO presenting Islam to the world or was it proselytising to non-Muslims through its different pamphlets? Have I been merely sharing my faith with my friend or have I been proselytising? Yes, there are times when we know people are proselytising aggressively. “Accept Jesus as your saviour or you won’t get to Heaven,” I’ve been told by some Christians. But it can be subtler than that. So what is the boundary between sharing one’s faith and proselytising? Who determines when someone is proselytising? And in the case of Malaysia, where proselytising to a Muslim is a crime, who determines what constitutes proselytising?
And how was it that I did not feel proselytised at Westminster Abbey? There were clergypersons reading lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. There was a priest preaching at the pulpit. The Trinitarian formula was invoked, and the choir sang from the Anglican hymn book. The substance of Christianity and the Church of England’s worship style were on full public and active display. At the same time, I might not have felt proselytised at but would all other non-Christians feel the same way?
Boundaries and foreclosure
This is where the 22 Oct 2011 Himpun Sejuta Umat demonstration deserves scrutiny. Surely it is a group of Muslim citizens’ right to publicly assemble and express their anxieties about proselytisation and apostasy? And surely the state’s response — allowing the demonstration to go ahead and listening to the protesters’ demands — was also justifiable?
On another level, I am deeply alarmed by Himpun and the state’s response to it. What does the Barisan Nasional government hope to accomplish by endowing “apostasy” with such aggressive political meaning, and simultaneously whipping up fears about a monolithic “Christian enemy” in our midst? And what is the state doing, taking on Himpun’s demands without criticism or caution? Furthermore, the prime minister himself has justified the state’s amicable interaction with Himpun and compared it with the state’s antagonistic interaction with Bersih 2.0. We now get an idea of not only where several boundaries are in this country, but where they should be according to those who hold social and political power.
There are two big problems with this. Firstly, these particular boundaries around religion foreclose our ability, as Malaysian Muslims and non-Muslims, to think and act on our own behalf especially when it comes to something as private as faith.
Secondly, the state is itself actively engaged in drawing these boundaries for all of us. Ironic, given that Himpun Sejuta Umat only managed to draw a few thousand Muslims despite the absence of tear gas, water cannons and the threat of arrest.

“David Beckham people”

Not all is doom and gloom though. A few days after we visited the National Mosque, my English friend and I went to Alor Setar, Kedah, and visited Masjid Zahir. The security guard there, a nice Malay-Muslim Malaysian, handed my friend the customary robe. Pak Guard then welcomed us into the mosque. He even offered to take several pictures, including with us on the minbar where the imam delivers the Friday sermon.
When the grand imam walked in, Pak Guard wanted to introduce us, but the imam was in a hurry, and so only smiled and waved. Pak Guard even engaged my friend in conversation. “So, you are the David Beckham people?” My friend laughed. “Pi lah bawak dia minum teh tarik kat belakang! Mesti dia seronok,” Pak Guard said to me.
There are so many observations one could make about this special encounter. I prefer to just declare how happy my friend and I were after we left Masjid Zahir. He was even more enchanted by Alor Setar, and I was proud to be a Muslim born and bred there.
Was Pak Guard just being nice, or was he proselytising? Was it a bit of both, or neither? And if a Muslim were to be similarly welcomed into another religion’s house of worship in Malaysia, what do we think would happen?

Shanon Shah did his MA in Religion and Contemporary Society at King’s College London, and often maintains his anak Kedah boundaries in Kuala Lumpur and London.

http://www.thenutgraph.com/who-is-proselytising/

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