Air Kelantan splashes cold water on integrity

The state water authorities confirmed the Aidilfitri bonus payment, but not before getting its legal officer to make a damning report against the whistleblower 

BRITISH rock band Coldplay’s first concert in Malaysia attracted comments from some PAS leaders. They wanted the maiden gig cancelled. Nothing surprising there. It was PAS sticking to its tried-and-tested script. 

With elections coming up soon in six states not too far down the road, this was mere politics. This is about playing to the gallery, keeping supporters close to their chests. So, it was business as usual. 

Officials from the same party recently also came out to defend payment of Aidilfitri bonus to directors and staff of Air Kelantan Sdn Bhd, a state-controlled company. PAS today runs the state governments of Kelantan as well as Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis. 

Someone had leaked a letter claiming that Air Kelantan was planning to pay RM10,000 to the directors and RM200 to the staff. 

After falling under the intense public glare, the state water authorities confirmed the payment, but not before getting its legal officer to make a damning report against the whistleblower. 

Some immediate questions come to mind. 

What was the consideration for the bonus payment, especially when it involved the directors themselves? And is it for all the directors? A number of state officials also sit on the Air Kelantan board. They include Kelantan State Secretary Datuk Nazran Muhammad, state finance officer Datuk Norazman Abd Ghani and state legal advisor Datuk Idham Abdul Ghani.

Are they also pocketing the bonus? If the rules don’t allow it, a clarification would be helpful. A check on their website, done just before the Friday prayers begin, shows no statement on display to explain the bonus payment. 

The next obvious question is how they arrived at the payment quantum. If the RM10,000 figure bandied about is true, that means each director gets the equivalent of what 50 staff would get. But the staff went home with a pittance. 

Here, Air Kelantan can take a leaf out of Singapore Airlines Ltd’s (SIA) book. The neighbouring republic’s airline will pay staff a bonus of around eight months’ salary after posting a record annual profit. Eligible staff will be paid a profit-sharing bonus equivalent to 6.65 months’ pay, and a maximum of 1.5 months’ salary of ex-gratia bonus in recognition of their hard work and sacrifices during the pandemic, reported Singapore’s Business Times. 

Wait. Here comes the clincher. The SIA senior management will not be receiving the bonus, the newspaper added. 

When international borders reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic, SIA and its low-cost airline Scoot ramped up its operations at short notice to capture the pent-up demand as air travel returned with a vengeance. The passenger load factor (PLF) jumped 55.3 percentage points to 85.4%, the highest in the group’s history, according to its statement. So, the Singapore airline group rewarded its staff who worked hard to deliver results. 

What has the management of Air Kelantan got to show? The stories coming out of the state are one of murky waters and poor service. 

At the outset, it looks like Air Kelantan lacks integrity. It is a far cry from the supposed integrity upheld by the late Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the PAS former spiritual leader and Kelantan Mentri Besar from 1990 to 2013. When people talk about him, they talk about someone honest and upright. Ironically, Wisma Air Kelantan is located on Jalan Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz. 

Integrity is an indispensable moral virtue that includes acting with honesty, fairness and decency, says a line from a business school textbook. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Integrity is also said to be a foundational moral virtue and the bedrock upon which good character is built. 

In a speech given many years ago, Warren Buffett — easily one of the most successful investors of all time — outlined three qualities you need to do well: Intelligence, energy and integrity. 

“We don’t want to hire someone who has intelligence and energy but does not have integrity. We rather hire somebody dumb and lazy…Integrity is absolutely an option. You may not be able to run 100m in 9.8 seconds…but you can choose where you stand on the integrity scale,” said the billionaire from Omaha, US. 

Well, we can see where many Malaysians stand on integrity. It’s not just the story of Air Kelantan and PAS. It is permeating everywhere, in so many nooks and corners of this nation. 

I’m fine with the idea of PAS leaders berating us on Coldplay if only they display integrity in their actions. We need a concerted effort to make integrity an integral way of life, and not allow the opportunists to throw cold on the idea. 

  • Habhajan Singh is the corporate editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition