Love me tender, love my friend
By: By R. Nadeswaran (Thu, 10 Feb 2011)
EVERYONE wants to be made to believe that the tender exercise for advertising services to Tourism Malaysia was above board. Everyone wants everyone to believe that friendship played no role in the selection of the successful bidders. Everyone believes Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen when she says she is not involved in the tender selection process. Everyone wants to agree that the successful bidders including Impact Creations were selected purely on merit and nothing else. Everyone wants to agree when the minister’s friend, Junie Ewe, declares that her company did not bid for the job directly to avoid putting Ng in a difficult position.
But she’s a consultant to the successful bidder and as a matter of fact, they share the same office and phone number. Of course, we are expected to say: “Yes, minister!” when Ng declared that “Junie (Ewe) is a friend from our women’s work.”
Theoretically, the minister may be right and we as Malaysians have always taken statements made by our ministers to be the truth unless proven otherwise. It’s as simple as that, but in the case of friends and friendship, it becomes more complex, especially when you happen to have first-hand experience and some documentary evidence to prove otherwise. Let it be said that there’s no intention to bring back the past or search for non-existent skeletons, but for the sake of clarity, accuracy and openness, facts must be presented so that readers can make a valid judgment and form their own opinions.
Before Chinese New Year in 2003, I handed Ng, who was then deputy tourism minister, an envelope containing documents related to her PR status in Australia. A meeting was arranged a month later by a mutual friend and I went to meet Ng together with former colleague Arion Yeow. And guess who was there as Ng’s companion, adviser and confidante? Junie! We did not discuss women’s affairs and I was there to get straight answers to some serious questions, especially that Ng took the oath of allegiance to king and country when she had one leg firmly planted in Adelaide. We had agreed that everything said at that meeting was “off the record” and I have kept my end of the deal.
After theSun broke the story on Ng’s previous affiliation with Australia, Junie sent a note to the editor, which was published on March 20, 2003 as follows: “+Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen sacrificed her medical practice to be with her three children while they were studying overseas, a sacrifice which women and mothers understand. As a leader she has given much of her time to champion causes and empower women into the mainstream of nation building. As a deputy minister, she works hard and is instrumental to keeping tourist arrivals on an upwards trend. She is dynamic and dedicated to what she stands for. She is our role model – a caring mother, a leader and a respected deputy minister.”
Perhaps motherhood and mother’s love fall into the category of “women’s affairs” but when over-flowing adjectives are used to pay glowing tributes in other areas, the intentions come into question. A week later, I invited Junie for a drink at the club and she called Ng on her mobile and passed the phone to me to have a chat. No, we didn’t share pleasantries or discuss women’s work or affairs.
But when ministers have short memories and suffer from temporary amnesia, they have to be reminded as Terence Fernandez did in his interview with Ng on Monday.
theSun: Is Impact Challenger one of the bidders?
Ng (appearing confused): Who is Impact Challenger? Are they one of the bidders?
theSun: Again perception! When we wrote about your permanent residency in Australia, a person by the name of Junie Ewe wrote a letter.
Oh, I see … Junie is a friend from our women’s work. Violence against women, child abuse, etc. Did they get the contract?
And Ng did not know a firm called Impact Challenger? She did not know about Junie’s links to the firm? I want to believe every word everyone says but I grew up in the era where Drama Minggu Ini was about the only local fare on TV. The Chinese wayang during the Hungry Ghosts Festival was a sort of escape from boredom of school textbooks but these days, I am having an overdose of re-runs including Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Occasionally, the thought comes to mind if I should shout: “Sir Humphrey, someone in Malaysia needs your services!” We have just watched the pilot programme and the rest of the episodes are likely to be on your TV screens sooner than expected.
Terence Fernandez is on leave. R. Nadeswaran is theSun’s UK correspondent. Comments:
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