Malaysia's Tourism Minister is again in the news. This time, spending a cool RM1.8 million on 6 Facebook pages to promote tourism. The webpage designer must be an overnight millionaire.
So blatant is the discrepany that even her colleagues in BN smelt blood and rushed to take advantage of her mishap. UMNO leaders, in particular, went for her. Sad to say, it appears that if you are from MCA - as long as not from UMNO - you are game.
But if your name is Rosmah, not a pip or a squeak will come out from these macho men including Nazri Aziz, the minister in the Prime Minister Najib Razak's Department.
Corruption Fighters and Defenders of Public Expenditure
It never fails to amaze Malaysians how distorted the UMNO fairness-measurement index is. Assuming that it even has one, that is. But it seems that some people can never be guilty - until and unless they fall from grace and can no longer protect themselves. Then the vultures will swoopi in. Such is the culture in the BN, especially boss UMNO.
So it came as no surprise when Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin rushed in to get his piece of cake, so to speak. He told reporters on Thursday that the Cabinet would seek an explanation from the hapless Yen Yen over the expenditure. Ominously, he warned that if the tourism minister’s explanation was not satisfactory, the government might investigate the matter.
“I think the Cabinet will ask for a complete report from the (tourism) minister tomorrow and she can explain the basis of the expenditure. The explanation has already been given in Parliament but if people are unsatisfied then we can ask for a detailed report. We have nothing to hide especially when it involves public expenditure,” Muhyiddin told reporters.
Strange that he did not notice Yen Yen had clarified the RM1.8 million was for a full social media campaign and not for the 6 Facebook pages. Normally, they do try to defend each other a bit, but perhaps Muhyiddin and UMNO have changed tack and now see themselves as Corrupton Fighters.
Whichever, the most interesting point the DPM mentioned and should not be allowed to forget is that, "We have nothing to hide especially when it involves public expenditure.”
Surely then, Najib and wife Rosmah must be the first to be grilled on this "public expenditure". Was public money used in their recent Kazakhstan trip that includes a 200-strong entourage. Were there also personal guests amongst the entourage specially flown in on public expenditure to attend the 22-year old Nooryana's engagement party?
Why the double standards? How to be Corruption Fighters when there are double standards? Obviously, Muhyiddin and UMNO have still much to learn before they can talk about transparency and honesty with conviction.
In hot soup
Meanwhile, Yen Yen must be having sleepless days. She may have laughed at the DAP and felt sorry for them. But maybe now, they are laughing back at her, sorry to say. Initially, the news was the pages were developed at a cost of RM300,000 apiece, which barely takes an experienced web designer about a full day, if given all the right images, information and flash videos. To date, the Facebook page has about 31,000 fans. The contract was given to Impact Creations Sdn Bhd with a maintenance package of two years.
How much does it cost to attract fans to your Facebook? Harakahdaily - launched its Facebook page last year without spending a single cent, and today it boasts a pool of more than 170,000 fans growing by the hour.
Rasah MP Anthony Loke and Tangga Batu MP Idris Haron had demanded that the Tourism minister justify the cost, and asked for a detailed breakdown. It seems the contract included creative design, layout, flash programming, coding, testing, debugging, uploading, launching of application, system server deployment, maintenance, development of database from contests, campaign management and monitoring, as well as online advertisement and fans recruitment.
Facebook is free to the public. Anyone can develop a page or pages in Facebook. One can also advertise for free. Literally, anyone can utilise a hundred pages or more in Facebook to advertise their products free of charge. A simple Facebook page takes as little as 15minutes to complete.
Why would anyone wants to pay RM1.8million for 6 pages? It would probably go down in history as the most expensive web design in Facebook. Currently Facebook has around 600 million users. The service, which is provided free, generates its income out of online advertisements on its user pages.
The six Facebook pages are Cuti-Cuti 1 Malaysia, Citrawarna 1Malaysia, Karnival Jualan Mega 1 Malaysia, Kempen 1Malaysia Bersih, Fabulous Food 1 Malaysia and Festival Pelancongan Seni Kontemporari 1 Malaysia.
RM1.8mil? Let us help
Anthony said it was strange that the Tourism ministry had no one who could manage a Facebook page and had to resort to appointing a company for such an exorbitant amount. Rembau MP Khairy Jamaludin also lent his voice to the criticism, saying that he has 2,013 fans who 'like' his page and its design is nothing fancy, and uses the same template.
“You need RM1.8 million to run Facebook pages and applications? A six-year-old can start a Facebook page," a stunned Loke told reporters. "If Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen has problems getting people to help start Facebook pages, DAP headquarters can help her out, we have people who can develop these things at no cost."
Yen Yen’s reply was to mock DAP, accusing it of being stuck in an opposition mentality and "always twisting" the facts and telling lies about the BN.
Anthony was not amused. He vowed to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission if Yen Yen could not offer a detailed explanation.
Specialist not generalist
At 65, Yen Yen is no spring chicken although her looks belie her age. She is also no bimbo and was a top student from Kuala Lumpur's famous Victoria Institution. Her dad wanted to marry her off at 17 but her mum took her side and the rest is history. Starting off with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery or MBBS from the University of Malaya, the Kelantanese lass of long ago slowly wound her way into the grand dame of MCA politics.
She is often targeted by opposition lawmakers, who question her for her legendary spending sprees which includes the Shanghai Expo Pavilion and allegations that Tourism contracts were given to companies linked to her family members. Also in focus are her high travelling expenses and costly but ineffectual campaigns at international tour exhibitions.
Even her former party boss, ex-MCA president Ong Tee Keat had demanded that she explain her travelling costs. During the period 2009 to 2010, Yen Yen had racked up travelling expenses of RM3.25 million for 16 overseas visits. That averages out to be around RM200,000 per visit for very brief and frequently overnight stays only.
She also took offense at being labelled a "tourist minister" rather than the Tourism minister and arguing that her critics could not hope to understand her because she was a "specialist" while they were "generalists.
Really, it does not go down well with the public, at a time when the country is facing subsidy cuts, and the cost of living is shooting sky-high. Electricity and water-bills are also shooting through the roof, and we have a Minister allegedly spending that kind of obscene amount for 6 Facebook pages which most people are able to build on their own for free. At RM10,000 a page, it would have been obscene, not to mention RM300,000 a page. That smells downright fishy.
But it is even more disgraceful if a couple as rich and wealthy as the Malaysian first couple did really attend their daughter's engagement party using taxpayers money. Not only would that make them guilty of abuse of power, corruption and graft, but well and truly deserving of being laughed at as being "cheapskate", "freeloaders" and "no class" as they were accused of when the news first broke out early last week.
Nazri defends Rosmah, while Yen Yen thrown to the wolves
Pakar: RM1.8 juta untuk laman FB 'agak tinggi'