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Malaysian Philharmonic players: management is stealing our mail, ignoring sexual harrassment claims

We have received a sheaf of evidence from one of the nine musicians presently suing the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra for unfair dismissal.

Here is a sample:

On 15 November 2010, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, Patron of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, and wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahatir Mohammed wrote a letter to the musicians of the MPO in response to our two “petition” letters. The letter says “Dengan Tangan” which means “By Hand”. It was never delivered to us. It was intercepted by persons unknown, and we were never told that our Patron had written to us.
Never mind the insult to us, this act was a shockingly disrespectful slap in the face of one of the most esteemed women in Malaysia. It was only three months later (in February 2011) that we received the letter from a concerned member of the office staff who managed to copy it surreptitiously and pass it to a member of the orchestra (probably at the risk of his or her job).
Claus Peter Flor is, of course, in the middle of all this. His last season as Music Director was to have been 2010-11. The decision not to renew his term after three years came from CEO Karina Ridzuan, after canvassing the orchestra for their views. The overwhelming majority of MPO members voted against renewing his contract. When he learned of this, he appears to have made a deal of some kind with Juniwati. She renewed his contract for three more years, despite his departure having been publicly announced. Now, he’s getting his revenge, by going after those who have been most outspoken against him. (If he were to go after everyone who voted against him, there would be almost no one left in the orchestra.)
Flor’s personnel file has a long list of well-documented allegations and accusations against him. They run the gamut from verbal and physical intimidation to sexual harassment. I have first hand experience of his inappropriate, unprofessional (redacted) conduct. I have written a formal letter to the management myself. I received no response, and as far as I know, nothing was done about my complaint. I am aware of several other such letters, none of which, to the best of my knowledge, was acted on.
Some are claiming that the firings are a “down-sizing” exercise, meant to save money and reduce the budget. Others are claiming that the management is trying to make space for more Malaysians to enter the orchestra. Both of these theories are demonstrably untrue.
For example, the percussion section (normally a section of five players) will be down to one player on 16 August 2012. Two of the percussionists were fired, and two more have resigned, effective 16 August. One of the players who resigned pleaded with management to allow a fired player to take over his contract. The CEO refused to consider that option, and is instead flying the one remaining percussionist to New York in September 2012 to hire new players for his section. The trombone section is already in the process of auditioning and recruiting two players (a bass trombone, and a second trombone), but rather than freezing a position (as they would do if they were genuinely downsizing), the CEO opted to fire the principal of the section instead. Now on 16 August there will also be only one player in the trombone section.
So they are faced with the expense of repatriating these players and their families, shipping all their household goods overseas, auditioning, trialling, and hiring new musicians, and then paying for all the new musicians’ families and households to come to Malaysia. The idea that they are firing these nine musicians to save money is laughable.
There is also no policy or initiative to hire Malaysians before other nationalities. The orchestra has always tried to hire the best players it could find, regardless of their nationalities, and that has not changed. They are currently advertising in The International Musician and organising auditions in Munich, and the General Manager has made it clear that the policy remains: hire the best players we can find, regardless of nationality.
This is just a small sample of the kind of management environment that we have been working under here in Malaysia since July 2010.
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  1. Apparently Petronas just implemented a whistle blower policy…
    If there is a genuine sexual harassment case please make a police report !

    Sadly the visionary leaders of the country and Petronas are gone. The people who took over are only interested in one vision: how to fill their own pockets.

    A couple of decades ago leaders like Tun Dr. Mahatir (former prime minister) or Tun Azizan Zainul Abidin (former chairman of Petronas) put Malaysia on the world map with their visionary development projects.

    But things have changed since. The people who are in power now are exactly what you would expect in a 3rd world country: Uneducated, uncultured and corrupt. Not necessarily in that order.

    For the country there might be hope. There is a general election coming up.

    For Petronas or the MPO?
    Unless there is a major change at the top levels of the company it is a safe bet that sooner or later the MPO will follow the fate of PPAG

    • JaschaHeifetz says:

      Yes agree Datuk.

      The current Petronas board are plain uncultured and uneducated.

      As for corruption, the Russian KGB are better than the Malaysian police.

  2. Granville Bantock says:

    Where to get new Malaysian members? The MPYO is even struggling to get members to turn up for their camps. Can you imagine the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain or even County youth orchestras suffering from this malaise(ia)? But who can blame them? If the sponsor of the only international symphony orchestra in Malaysia is to be followed by example then why give a stuff? Even with the country’s first conservatoire being near to agreement there is still division. Even members of senior staff at the MPO are trying to scupper it and divide provision for their own vested interests. Only when music is seen as intangible food for the soul and participation in it at both professional and amateur levels considered vital to be seen as one of the benchmarks of a civilised or developed nation (wawasan 2020) will the will, both political and social, kick in. Chicken and egg? Maybe dinosaur and egg…. And look what happened to them.

  3. JaschaHeifetz says:

    Welcome to Malaysia from a Russian here.

    Corruption for own personal vested (monetary) interest is the only main Malaysian policy.
    No other policy exists since about 32 years ago.

    An uneducated nation hoped to be great by 2020. Looks like now Malaysia will be going
    the way of Greece – thanks to “vested interests”.

  4. JaschaHeifetz says:

    Honestly its no point building up a MPO. They might as well call it Malaysian Chamber Players.

    FJ Haydn had the right idea on his Farewell Symphony (probably performed twice at DFP by the MPO
    - once by Bakels and once by Flor). We will eventually have 2 violinists left here only – thanks to the
    Petronas board & management.

    No point playing Johann Matthais Sperger’s (1750-1812) Sinfonia in F (“Arrival Symphony”). Johann Matthias Sperger regarded Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony as so original that he wrote a counterpart to it. In his ‘Arrival’ Symphony a violin duo initially sits on the stage, and the other musicians gradually join these two until the whole orchestra has gathered.

    Unless we get rid of silly Petronas management, we will not hear Sperger’s symphony. Instead, just keep playing the last bit of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony – permanently!

  5. Gustav Mahler says:

    From last week’s concert, we are about just there. I alone want to do something to keep the MPO going and going strong. I long for the MPO of yesteryears. We had the Bersih 3.0 Rally for a just and clean board of leadership in this country but there is nothing in sight for a clean and just board of leadership for the MPO. We need visionaries that can lead the MPO to greater hights, we were almost there once when all concerts were a sell out. We as supporters and patrons have to make sure that the Phoenix rises from the ash.

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