Umno injects RM1.6 mil for cash advance to Utusan staff

Utusan Melayu Bhd has announced that it will continue publishing Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! but with an additional cover price of 50 sen.

KUALA LUMPUR: Utusan Melayu Bhd received a cash injection of RM1.6 million from Umno which enabled it to pay its staff an advance of RM2,000 each today to ease their financial burden.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Utusan chairman Mohd Taufek Razak said Umno agreed to channel RM1.6 million in funds during a meeting between party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Utusan’s board of directors yesterday,

He said this was a result of a picket held by a number of current and former employees at the company’s headquarters yesterday to press for payment of arrears of wages.

“We are pleased with the decision and will continue to support the company,” he said at a press conference.

In a circular issued by the company this afternoon, its human resources manager said all employees would be credited with an advance of RM2,000 tonight to alleviate their financial difficulties.

The amount would be offset against their salaries.

Earlier this evening, the company’s executive chairman, Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, announced that its two flagship publications, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, will continue to be published. However, their cover prices will go up.

Quashing speculation that the papers will cease publication, he said Utusan Malaysia will be sold at RM2 a copy, up from RM1.50, while Kosmo! will also see a hike of 50 sen, to RM1.50.

Abd Aziz said there had not been any interference from Umno, which previously owned the company, since he took over the newspaper.

He said the editorial board was free to determine the direction of the paper instead of favouring Umno alone, adding that the paper was not affiliated with any party.

“I have never received a call from Zahid asking for some news reports to be published. We are free, we bring the message of unity, and we are not racist,” he said.

In a statement today, Umno said it sympathised with the company’s employees, including some who had opted for the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS).

Its secretary-general Annuar Musa said Umno would not be able to do much financially because its accounts were frozen but would help the staff in a “humanitarian” way.

Annuar said Umno had disposed of its shares in Utusan to a private company in February, adding that it was a business decision.