Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, March 1, 2008

BN Wins But (Disgruntled) Rakyat Pays for Victory Do

BN Wins, two thirds majority - still - but the margins of victory are thinner this time. This is expected. Some PKR / DAP candidates became giant-killers; the opposition having made many in-roads in the face of a lackluster economy paired with an equally lackluster PM. . .

This,my left-of-center self says, is good.

I should be happy, right?

But no, something else is bothering me.

How would you feel if I tell you that THE PEOPLE is paying for the upcoming BN's "victory" celebrations? Yes, you heard right.

Even though you voted opposition, you may not like it if your taxpayer ringgits is going to something you might not agree to. It's like taking out money from your own pocket and giving it to your "enemy" to enjoy. A quintessential Manglish phrase comes to mind:
where can? Sure can-lah, because when it comes to your money BN gets carte blanche.

How so?

Well, a few posts back I mentioned a ToTo concert that will take stage at the Perdana Lakeview East in Putrajaya on March 15. This has nothing - I repeat - nothing to do with the upcoming BN victory celebrations that involves your money. This is just a part of Toto's Far East Tour.

Then sometime later I was shocked to hear another concert, this time a mega one, scheduled on the
very same day. Great balls-of-fire timing. The concert, dubbed K.L. International Sunburst Festival (what the hell is "Sunburst" anyway?) will feature 26 foreign and local acts. Funkadelic Parliament's (not ours, silly) George Clinton, John Legend, Incubus, Incognito, The Roots (with Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson), Raul Midon, Gigi and Tompi headlining the "international" part while Search, Pop Shuvit, Love Me Butch, Meet Uncle Hussain, Joe Flizzow are among the local performers.

Well, fine and dandy by me because I couldn't go to both concerts (nor the voting booth for that matter) since I will be away in a neighboring country foraging for food and menggarayangi ABG's (go ahead, look it up). Doing what Malaysians fondly call
cari makan.

So what, you say. Being a music fanatic, I clicked on the organizer's website only to learn that it's helmed by children of the late former Selangor MB, Tan Sri Ahmad Razali. A few google clicks later I became deeply fascinated by the delectable
Gol and Gincu star, Nur Fazura, currently embroiled in an ugly court case over a cat-fight in a bar with Geraldine Wong, the ex-wife of Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi's son, Ezra. Whoa . . . lifestyles of the rich-but-not-so-famous. And what were they fighting about? About stealing boyfriends. And the boyfriend in question is none other than Razman Ahmad Razali, MD of Pineapple Concerts, the company organizing the "Sunburst" event. Ha!

So, the children of the late Selangor MB are into concert / event / promotion business. No harm in that. And they ARE politically well-connected. No harm in that, too. Of course Mr. Harm is never far away: In court, Nur Fazura, claimed that Geraldine tore her sleeveless black-and-gold top, dislodging her bra . . . and in the process and exposing her . . . (Damn those lucky patrons at Bar Luna in Jalan Kia Peng). With Geraldine counter-claiming Fazura had hit her with a shoe. Manohlo Blahniks or Princess? Hmmm.

But then I started doing the math and it began to trouble me. I contacted a friend - let's call him AD - a veteran in Malaysia's A & R and concert promotion business.

OK, Incubus and John Legend costs at the very least something like US350,000.00 a pop. I say very least because that was the figure reported in an interview with Razlan Ahmad Razali
(Mr. Sharmine Farouk), the elder brother and honcho numero uno of Pineapple. So that's US700,000.00. (Razlan claims Pineapple paid US500,000.00 to bring in Lionel Ritchie for the F1 weekend concert last year --but don't ask how much they had to pay him to come to dinner at Mokhzani Mahathir's house (Zulhasnan Rafique and glamorous Mrs. in attendance) or George Benson and Al Jarreau to play at Pak Lah's private function in Putrajaya.

Then add Ahmir's ?uestlove's "The Roots", George Clinton, UK's Incognito and Raul Midon into the mix --not forgetting Indo supergroup Gigi featuring Dewa Budjana and Armand Maulana, and singer Tompi --and you can bet the whole artists' tab would be closer to 2 million US or perhaps more. 2 million US works out to be at least 6.6 million RM's, no?

So where's the problem?

The problem lies, my esteemed voters, is how in the hell are the promoters going to make money?

Well, my inside source says, at RM200.00 a ticket and assuming 10,000 people show up, that works out to only RM 2,000,000.00. OK-
lah, let's be generous and assume 20,000 - that's 4 million - you're still short of the 2 million to break even. Don't forget, ToTo too is playing across town that very same night!

So if you were the organizer, would you go to such lengths to lose money?

Of course not.

Then my inside source, AD, whispered, "
Abang, the event is already paid for laa . . . by the government, but don't quote me. The organizers only organize but take no risks . . . [the money is] from the budget to promote Malaysia. . . flower festival, Tourism Malaysia and all that --taxpayer's money lah!"

The budget, according to AD, is reputedly to be around RM80 million a year for these "promotional purposes".

Actually promoting Malaysia is a good thing, but to finance a BN victory celebration?

And coming out of the people's pocket?

Adds AD, "B
ang, the best part is they [the organizers] make their money anyway because the government pays them up front so they can already do their mark up. . . logistics, event fees, etcetera".

And here comes the killer.
"Ada lagi best ni 'Bang . . .they also get to keep the gate receipts!".

"So the monies from the sales of the tickets they also sapu?" I asked. Stupid question, of course.


As much as a lover of music and a concert fanatic (I paid close to a thousand singies to watch Sting & Co play with the reunited Police at Singapore's Indoor Stadium
last month), this bloody "Sunburst" thing stinks to the fourth floor!

I seethed, "This is outrageous, man! A sheer waste of public funds!
Let me get this straight, you mean to tell me that not only are my tax dollars being used for BN's victory celebrations BUT also making some young punk rich in the process?" I also meant to add, so they can go gallivanting with all these cun-cun artistes? But that last sentence was just the vain, jealous Mat Salo speaking.


Bloody hell, this must be a good business, eh? BN wins, artiste wins , the promoter wins but the poor rakyat loses.

No wonder Datuk Siti Nurhaliza is campaigning hard for Khairy.

The concert is a done deal. They can't back out. My advice is, boycott the damn thing, Ahmir ?uestlove or no Ahmir ?uestlove. Better yet, go to Putrajaya and see ToTo. Or you can go south
on polling day to L-KY Jelly's Repubic and catch Lee Ritenuor and Friends - Patrice Rushen(keyboards), Yellowjackets' Will Kennedy (drums) and Melvin Davis (bass) . Seriously.

Also, how the hell can they cook something like this at the last minute? Is there some fourth-floorer who goes, "Hey, we still got 10, 20 mill left in the peruntukan, can you guys organize a mega concert? This will be after the election. . . sure to make money and good for the country's image lah."

So that's how it is in Malaysia. The outcome is a done deal.

The rakyat, sadly, will continue to pay for the next five years.