KUALA LUMPUR: Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad staff received good news today.
Contrary to market talk that Utusan would cease to exist after this week, its management has confirmed that the publishing house will not be closing down.
Executive Chairman Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir said claims that the newspaper group which publishes the Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo dailies was going to close down were not true, although admitting that the 80-year-old company, which is publicly listed, was in dire straits.
“The easier option would be closing down, but Utusan has been around for 80 years and has chalked many successes in the country. We (Utusan) stood up against the Malayan Union, Utusan was at the forefront on getting independence for the country and pushing for Bahasa Malaysia to be given its rightful status.
“If we were talk about operations, Utusan would have been gone 10 years ago. If we want to talk about losses, Utusan has been experiencing losses since 2010 just that it was still subsidised by the government,” he told a press conference after a briefing session for the staff at Utusan’s office, here today.
Abdul Aziz also announced that salary arrears of existing staff and dues to staff who took up the company’s Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) would be settled, starting with a RM2,000 payment by tonight.
However, he did not give a timeline on settlement of the dues.
Meantime, Abdul Aziz said to help the company recover financially, it had no choice but to increase the prices of its publications – Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo – by 50 sen a copy beginning Friday (Aug 23). — Bernama
The price of a copy of an Utusan Malaysia newspaper is currently RM1.50, while Kosmo costs RM1.
Post-World War Two, the British colonists wanted to form the Malayan Union, that is a union of the Federated Malay States, Unfederated Malay States and the Straits Settlements (Penang and Malacca but Singapore was excluded), which would give equal rights to the multi-racial people who wished to apply for citizenship and left the Malay rulers with diluted powers.
It ran into opposition among the Malays which resulted in its dissolution and the birth of the Federation of Malaya (Malaya) on February 1, 1948. Malaya achieved independence on Aug 31, 1957 and six years later Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia.
Singapore left the federation in 1965.
Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz also urged the public to exercise concern about the fate befalling the company and assist it by buying the newspapers, and invited more investors for the company.
‘’I appeal to all Malaysians because Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, buy our newspapers if you want to help Utusan, advertise and subscribe to the Utusan e-Paper. We will strive as best as possible to provide relevant news because that is our duty,’’ he said.
He also explained that the political party Umno was not directly involved in the operations of the company and the main focus of Utusan was being the platform of the people and not as an Umno mouthpiece.
On the possibility of Utusan being delisted from Bursa Malaysia, Abd Aziz said it would not impact the company but more worrying was the spread of the story yesterday, that Utusan would be closed down, which had adversely affected its management and operations.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Utusan branch chairman Mohd Taufek Abdul Razak said although there was no fixed date for the settlement of salary arrears and Volunteer Separation Scheme (VSS) dues, he believed in the assurance given by the management that they would be met in two months.
He said that from discussions with Abd Aziz, it was gleaned that the management was in the process of selling its printing plant in Bangi, near here, for RM60 million.
‘’They promised that the problems of salary and VSS payments will be solved if the asset in Bangi can be sold,’’ he added. — Bernama