Malaysia: BMF move could have saved Utusan, says activists' group head

VOICES.NEWS, KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim rights activists believe that Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd could have been saved if it had been fully-bac...

VOICES.NEWS, KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim rights activists believe that Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd could have been saved if it had been fully-backed by the Buy Muslim Products First (BMF) campaign, which was aimed at prioritising the purchase of Malay-Muslim products.
They believe that if the campaign was purposefully implemented, the company’s newspapers, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, which championed Malay and Muslim interests, could weather its financial storm.
Gerakan Pembela Ummah chairman Aminuddin Yahaya said the campaign should include Utusan in its movement to help the oldest Malay daily survive.
He said although some segment of Malaysians were unhappy with Utusan being Umno’s mouthpiece, it should not be punished for its mistake.
He said whatever the newspaper did, its employees did not deserve to be treated in such a way where they were given insufficient notice of termination aside from not having any other prospect.
“Since its inception in 1939, Utusan has helped the country in gaining independence and it was always at the forefront of the battles fighting for the Malays and Muslims.
Utusan was there to educate us, our parents and grandparents on what’s best for us.
“It’s unfair to punish them for one mistake when they have done many other good deeds,” he told the New Straits Times.
The BMF campaign began on social media with the Bumiputeras urged to avoid buying products made by businesses owned by non-Bumiputeras first, as a sign of support for products made by Muslims.
Although criticised by many over the way the campaign was curated, proponents of the BMF campaign denied that they called for non-Muslim products to be boycotted.
Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd ceased its operations last Wednesday. PIC BY MOHD KHAIRUL HELMY MOHD DIN
Supporters of the group, which include Aminuddin, previously said the purpose of the campaign was to empower the economy of the Malays who were struggling to make ends meet.
As such, he said, Utusan too should be included in the campaign. However, he warned politicians against politicising the matter.
“Anything that can be done to help, empower or motivate the Malays should be carried out and this includes helping Utusan.
“I just hope no more politicians will try to meddle with Utusan. Enough with the politicking.
“We don’t want to see another victim of politics like Utusan ever again.”
Pertubuhan Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) head of Islamiyat bureau Omar Kassim expressed a similar opinion, saying that as a Malay daily, Utusan was a Muslim product and, therefore, should be supported by the BMF movement.
“Not all of Utusan’s former employees were involved in politics. So it is unfair for anyone to link them to politics.
“It is my hope that under the new management, all former Utusan employees who were laid off will be given another opportunity.
“They are capable and have the experience. As for BMF, we will continue to prioritise Muslim products.”
However, Pas’ Economy, Real Estate and Entrepreneur Development Committee deputy chairman Mazli Noor said the BMF campaign couldn’t include just any Muslim or Malay product.
He said, while Utusan should be categorised as a Muslim product, it was important to view the newspaper’s business structure and whether it was making profit.
“The BMF campaign is not about buying Muslim products only, but buying Muslim products first. So, in the case of Utusan, we have to look at the overall viability and profitability of the company.”
Utusan officially ceased operations last Wednesday, leaving its employees in the dark about their future as all staff were told to go on forced leave until Oct 30.
Recently, Human Resources Minister M. Kula Segaran said the ministry would be going after the management of Utusan for shutting down its operations without sufficient notice and leaving its workers in a lurch.
He said legal action would be taken against the company for breaking the law.
Earlier last week, Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd announced that it would sell 70 per cent of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Dilof Sdn Bhd, to Aurora Mulia Sdn Bhd, a company understood to be controlled by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.
Dilof is the holder of the publishing licences issued by the Home Ministry for the group’s newspapers — Utusan Malaysia, Mingguan Malaysia, Kosmo! and Kosmo! Ahad.
Last Thursday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said some former employees of the newspaper would be rehired by a new media group, dubbing it as the “new” Utusan.
However, he did not elaborate on how many out of the 800 former employees would be rehired.
The Malay daily was first published as Utusan Melayu in Jawi in 1939 before it switched to romanised Malay in 1967.
The paper has been running at a loss since 2012.
In August this year, Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd received a RM1.6 million cash injection from Umno but it was not sufficient to rescue the company.
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