Saturday, July 3, 2010

We were asked to leave

Source: ((By JAYAGANDI JAYARAJ, 3/4/2010)
PETALING JAYA: My colleague Bavani M. and I were very excited upon receiving a text message from Istana Negara project main contractor Maya Maju that they were calling for a press conference yesterday. We thought that finally, the contractor would give his side of the story over allegations that many foreign workers at the construction site had not been paid salaries from several project sub-contractors. Our previous attempts to get the contractor to speak to us had been unsuccessful despite repeated visits to the site office and its headquarters in Sri Hartamas. Our repeated telephone calls to the office were also left unanswered.

(On June 21, both of us had accompanied Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng to the site to interview the foreign workers, visited the Maya Maju’s head office in Jalan Sri Hartamas and spoken to Finance and Admin manager Hasrul Mansor to get some comments. Hasrul said then that the bosses were abroad.) Two days later, we went to Maya Maju’s site office and spoke to Project Manager Abdul Razak Mat Yunus who directed us to seek further clarification from the Public Works Department.

It was even more difficult to get in touch with Maya Maju after our story on the issue was published on June 27 headlined Cry for Help. We were promised a press conference with the bosses two days later by a Maya Maju spokesman but to our disappointment, The Star was left out of the press conference. So when we heard about a second press conference, we were a bit more hopeful. To our disappointment later, the spokesman said Maya Maju’s bosses were not keen on having The Star at the press conference. After a few persistent calls and text messages to him, Bavani asked again if The Star was invited. “I don’t know. You may try your luck”, the spokesman said. So, I tried my luck. I met photographer M. Azhar at 10am at the main gate of the project site. We rode in on his motorcycle and were allowed into the project site. But when we reached the site office, we saw some workers carrying a banner that read ‘Hentikan Fitnah Terhadap Kami’ (Stop defaming us). A security personnel then stopped us and asked where we were from. Then, he said he had received instructions from his superiors, to not allow The Star into the press conference. We were asked to leave immediately.

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