Loyalty is great, but so is rationality

Couldn’t employees still love a workplace, but put their wellbeing and that of their families’ first and make a living elsewhere?

pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

I BET every Malaysian’s Facebook and Twitter timelines yesterday were buzzing with droves of comments related to the shuttering of Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!.

Although it was no secret that Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd was in a financial hot tub, the news still came as a shock to many, especially in the abrupt manner which it occurred.

Truth be said, rumours of the publisher’s financial ruins are as clear as a glass of bottled water. But it soldiered on and continued to publish newspapers.

Netizens shared and re-shared reports on the social media. Many of the posts were followed by both the “like” and “sad” emoji reactions. The “likes” were most likely from those who had been aiming their guns at the oldest Malay language newspaper, which they said incited disunity among Malaysians for 80 years.

“Serve you right,” said Facebook user Arthur Teng, while on Twitter, @storagegaga said: “It’s good to see an institution which has been spewing racial and religious rhetoric, rather than contributing to nation building for a better Malaysia for decades, go down.”

Those who clicked on the “sad” emoji, however, were not so much saddened by the newspaper’s stoppage of operations. The sympathy was for the company’s over 800 employees whose futures remain foggy.

They were ordered to bring boxes, pack up their belongings and leave by 1pm yesterday (later extended to 6pm today.) They had to hand over all the company’s properties including access cards and office keys which meant as a stark reminder of: There’s no coming back.

Facebook user Hareneidh Nadhar expressed sympathy: “I feel very sad for the staff and I wish they do get jobs soon to keep feeding their families. Hope they will be alright. God be with them.”

Twitter user @DaudSuratman commented: “The unfortunate part is that there are many journalists and editors in the Utusan Malaysia group who are professional and objective in doing their job, yet, they are equally impacted by this closure.”

This sentiment was echoed by @AubreySuwito who tweeted: “Sometimes, a few bad apples can ruin the livelihood of many. To all my friends at #utusanmalaysia, I wish you the best and pray that you get back on your feet quickly.”

In a press conference held around noon yesterday, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Utusan branch chairman Mohd Taufek Abdul Razak revealed just how clueless the employees were of the situation.

He said they each received a memo which ordered them to, based on his understanding, “take a break” and not a termination from their duties. “We love this company. We have worked here for many, many years. We do not want to see it closed down,” he said at the press conference.

Some former Utusan Malaysia journalists said leaving the newspaper was not easy, but they had to put their priorities first.

“We loved reporting and miss it, especially now that some of us are working in different fields, but at least we can pay off our debts, rents, bills and not worry about the next meal. If only our ex-colleagues, who had stayed on, had done the same thing. Now, we wonder where they would go.”

In August, when news first got out that the publisher and printer of the oldest Malay newspaper would be shut down, the New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd’s NUJ organised a donation drive to help their comrades.

The donation drive, which had collected over RM10,000 in cash and more in daily needs, was one of the many held for the suffering group’s employees, whose salaries were still not forthcoming.

“How long were those contributions going to last, though?” one of the former journalists said. “Malaysians supported the newspapers when it carried on publication and sold at RM2 (Utusan Malaysia, from RM1.50) and RM1.50 (Kosmo!, from RM1), but for how long?

Does leaving a company, however, necessarily mean that one has lost his or her love for it? Couldn’t employees still love a workplace, but put their wellbeing and that of their families’ first and make a living elsewhere?

Granted, times are hard and finding new jobs is easier said than done, but this writer was made to understand that there were some in the group who were loyal to a point that they had not even tried to apply for new jobs.

“Loyalty is great, but so is rationality.”


Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.