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MPO boycott: ‘Country’s image not affected’

 | August 3, 2012

The call to shun MPO’s auditions is merely an overreaction, maintains Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez.

PETALING JAYA: The call for a global boycott of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s (MPO) auditions will not threaten Malaysia’s image as a budding arts hub, Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez said.

He was commenting on the call on Wednesday by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), urging musicians worldwide to shun the upcoming auditions in New York over claims that the Petronas-owned MPO had unfairly sacked nine of its expatriate staff.

While speculation is rife that the case is set to embarrass the national oil company as well as the country, Fernandez, who is president of an organisation championing local musicians’ causes, maintained that Malaysia’s image will remain intact despite FIM’s “overreaction”.

“I don’t think this boycott will lead to any fallout to Malaysia’s image. After all, it was a policy decision made by the company itself [to terminate the musicians’ contract] and they must have thought it through beforehand,” he told FMT.

In a strongly-worded statement, FIM had claimed that the nine musicians were terminated with no apparent reason, but suggested that it was related to newer, “much-reduced” contracts being offered to future and remaining members.

“The concept of firing long-term musicians only to try their luck at hiring slightly cheaper ones, is disgraceful and beyond most people’s moral comprehension,” it wrote.

But Fernandez said that FIM’s call for a boycott was too “extreme” and that the union should have tried to understand the true reasons behind MPO’s decision before releasing such a statement.

“I heard that [the musicians’] contracts weren’t renewed, rather than they were sacked.

“These things happen. Musicians who work overseas don’t have permanent basis, they can be terminated at any time,” he pointed out.

He also suggested that the worldwide boycott could even be viewed in a positive light, as the MPO could now look into hiring more local talents to aid the Malaysian music industry.

“MPO is Malaysian – instead of outsourcing, they should hire more Malaysian musicians as we have an abundance of talent here. This can greatly help the local music industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, influential music and cultural affairs commentator Norman Lebrecht revealed on his blog Slipped Disc that MPO’s European auditions have been poorly attended after the story was published on his site and in the German magazine “Das Orchester”.

MPO is set to hold its auditions in New York on Oct 4 to 8, while its Kuala Lumpur auditions are to be held from Dec 3 to 5. Applications for these auditions ended on July 31.

FMT has requested the MPO for comment and is still awaiting a response.

Musicians stay mum’

When asked to comment, local musician Tony Leo Selvaraj agreed that the situation had been “blown out of proportions”.

But he was hesitant to say much on the topic, as the claims that the nine members of the orchestra had been unfairly sacked have yet to be proven.

“There are always two sides to a story,” Selvaraj said.

“I’ve talked to some of the musicians from MPO, and they said that while it’s a bit cruel to sack these nine, at the same time they realise it’s business, and the management did what it had to do to survive.”

But Selvaraj was optimistic that the international boycott of the MPO could help keep the industry in check.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about image, and after what happened, I don’t think Petronas would dare to sack their musicians unfairly in the future – if it’s true that’s what they did,” he said.

Guitarist and composer Az Samad also declined to comment on the issue, but maintained that the local arts scene was supportive, and that he had done very well since returning from the US.

Also read:

No discord here, orchestra says

Boycott on Malaysian orchestra sounded


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