With Utusan S Demise Pas Hopes Readers Will Shift To Harakah

PAS vice-president Mohd Amar Abdullah hopes Utusan Malaysia readers will shift to the party's organ Harakah following the demise of the former
"I sympathise (with the demise of Utusan) but I hope after this, Utusan fans will start buying Harakah," he told journalists after chairing a Kelantan state exco meeting at the Kompleks Kota Darulnaim in Kota Bharu this afternoon
Mohd Amar said he was saddened by Utusan's closure but did not want to elaborate further, stating that it was a "business matter"
Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd staff received a memo today informing them that the company was ceasing operations and all staff were to be laid off with immediate effect
The newspaper initially planned to shut down on Aug 21 but aborted the plan after receiving an RM1.6 million cash injection from Umno. It also moved to raise the prices of its newspapers Kosmo and Utusan Malaysia
However, the measures were shortlived for the company which had been struggling to repay its debts and it announced it was going into voluntary liquidation
A day before the announced liquidation, it was revealed that Utusan Melayu Bhd had sold a 70 percent stake of its wholly-owned subsidiary Dilof Sdn Bhd, which holds the printing licence for its newspapers, to Aurora Mulia Sdn Bhd, an entity controlled by Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary
It is not yet clear what the tycoon plans to do with the newly-acquired printing licence
Meanwhile, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said Umno had already tried to help the struggling newspapers a few times and the move to go into voluntary liquidation was a business decision
"The party does not need to interfere [...] their board of directors are free to make their decision," he told journalists in Parliament
He added Umno could do much as it was now a minor shareholder after selling off most of its stake to its former Kulim Bandar Baru MP Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir
He said it was "unfortunate" for a newspaper that existed since pre-independence to cease operations but added that it could not be nostalgic but needed to make decisions based on business sense
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said he sympathised with the fate of Utusan's staff who were laid off
"Hopefully, other media agencies will be willing to take them in so that they can continue to earn a living," he said in a Twitter posting
Meanwhile, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran told journalists at Parliament that the laid-off staff can apply for compensation under the Employee Insurance Scheme (EIS)
Under the scheme, laid-off workers are paid 80 percent of their last drawn salary for the first month. This is reduced to 50 percent in the next month, then 40 percent in the third and fourth months and 30 percent in the fifth and sixth months
This is to help laid-off workers their cost of living as they seek out new employment. They are also offered re-training
"They can make a representation to the EIS [...] but I hope it (the closure) doesn't happen. I hope the Utusan management will reconsider or maybe other buyers will take over," he said. - Mkini

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