But I’m really sad. I’m sad because after 50 years of independence, my fellow Bumiputera Malaysians still require the virtual crutches provided by the powers that be, to survive in a world which is becoming more and more globalised.
Take the recent outcry by Juhaidi Abdullah, the owner of Kelantan Delights Restaurant whom formerly traded at Suria KLCC, the nation’s premier world class shopping establishment, as an example.
He claims that Suria KLCC’s management enforced Draconian policies which “squeezed” and “intimidated” bumiputera tenants at the mall. He claims that he was forced out of business from Suria KLCC because he refused to agree to the ridiculous rental rates increase imposed by the mall and also for not agreeing to renovate his premises as required in the new tenancy agreement. He claimed Suria KLCC did not give room at all for negotiations. And the list goes on and on.
First, his predicament was highlighted and championed by a major Malay daily which created the issue as follow-up to a previous similar case also involving another bumiputera tenant who claimed they were “victimized” by Suria KLCC (the frachise holders of Levi’s / Dockers). And then the issue cooled down after 3 or 4 stories were published by the newspaper.
Apparently, Juhaidi was not satisfied and decided to seek the sympathy of another media organization – this time around, a major private television station. The first story was aired on 31st August 2007, the day we celebrated our 50th year of independence. And true enough, the station decided to angle the story of Kelantan Delights’ plight in the direction of bumiputera entrepreneurs whom were still being “colonized” by a foreigner running the shopping mall.
The story was so lame, if you ask me. If I was the producer of the news bulletin, I would have angled the story like this – “After 50 years of independence, why do bumiputera entrepreneurs still require special treatment? Can’t they now survive on a level playing field? Don’t they think it’s time to put away the crutches for good?” Something like that. But no, they just had to angle the story in a manner which would make other races in this country look down on bumiputeras, on the Malays.
What does Juhaidi expect Suria KLCC to do? To give him a discount on rental rates and exempt him from doing renovations on his restaurant? What would the other tenants say? Juhaidi should bear in mind that Suria KLCC is not Arked MARA or Kompleks UDA or some such premises established with the sole purpose of helping out bumiputera entrepreneurs. Suria KLCC is a world class shopping mall and it must be managed in a manner which befits its status as an international shopping establishment at the bottom of the world’s tallest twin towers housing one of the seven most influential oil and gas companies in the world.
To me, the success of Suria KLCC mirrors the success of its parent holding company which I need not mention here. Doesn’t it occur to us that this particular company in question has achieved what it has achieved today, being the only Malaysian company in the Fortune 500 list, because of excellent management and best business practices, without fear or favour? And let’s not forget, the people at the helm of the company are bumiputeras. The success of that company is also the nation’s success and we as Malaysians actually get the benefit through billion ringgit repayments back to the government which in turn distributes the wealth back to us. Only we don’t realize it.
So, to Juhaidi and his supporters, please think again. If you’re not up to it, then you don’t actually have what it takes to be a global champion. Not yet.