COMMENT I was on my way back from Malaysiakini’s new building on July, 17 after a site visit with our general manager K Manohar, when I turned to him and said, “I am leaving for London on MAS.”
He pressed his lips together and did not say a word and we drove on silently, troubled by the painful memory of the unresolved mysteries of MH370.
At 3am the next day, I woke up abruptly with a horrible dread in my heart. My phone had been buzzing incessantly and I knew something was terribly wrong.
The phone was flooded with emails. “Crash, plane, MH17, MAS...” was all my brain could digest. With my heart hammering fiercely, I got out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee. I said to myself, “This cannot be... not so soon.”
After calming my nerves, I went online to check my emails. It was 3.54am.
Some of my colleagues were already in the office, gathering information, making calls, double-checking facts.
Chief editor Fathi Aris Omar and four others had rushed to the office at 12 midnight on hearing the tragedy. Three journalists - Nigel Aw, Radzi Razak and KiniTV 's Zikri Kamarulzaman - as well as photographer Lim Huey Ting hurried over to KLIA, where a press conference was to be held.
For the second time in four months, the Malaysiakini team came together to cover yet another plane crash involving our national carrier. A team bound by the forces of yet another tragic mishap and the inexorable spirit to provide Malaysians the latest on the tragedy.
Bricks safe and sound
As I walked into the office later that day, I stopped and stared at the 140 boxes packed carefully with 1,040 bricks from our supporters.
All 1,040 bricks was treated with the utmost care. I have honoured every single request to the best of my ability. Names were placed together. Both Chinese and Tamil characters were given due consideration. Last-minute changes of names were made. We checked again - over five days - to make sure there will not be a single mistake to this wall.
While talking to one of my colleagues, I expressed my hidden fear, "My greatest nightmare would be if someone points out a misspelt brick, or worse still, 'Where is my brick?'"
She said, "The good thing about worrying is that, most of it never happens."
We had a good laugh.
It occurs to me frequently in this organisation that "support" is the driving force in Malaysiakini .
Without us having great bosses to support us, we would not be able to perform our duties with passion.
Without our colleagues to support the visions of the bosses, the centre would not hold. Without the support of our subscribers and readers, Malaysiakini would not have continued.
We are saving the building of our supporter’s wall for last. The wall will be erected in late September.
Lee, our kindred contractor, has completed the line drawings at @Kini - the name of Malaysiakini’s new home in Petaling Jaya - a month ago. The renovations seem to be moving on schedule.
As of last week, all the beams on the ground floor of the four-storey building have been constructed. The walls for various meetings rooms and spaces for the rest of the floor are up too. While there is an underlying nervousness that something could go wrong, we are holding out with optimism.
The public support has been great - we have a company which gave us an excellent quote for our office furniture, another is considering supplying us with four fridges, and another is furnishing all our bathrooms with vanities for a song.
We had people come in to quote prices for built-ins, people who want to supply marble for certain parts of the building, an activist who wants to run a cafe in our building to keep us all well-fed, and several other companies helping us with other odds and ends.
A story worth telling would be that of Mudah.my CEO Omar Giri, who contacted us to inform us that he is refurbishing his office and had quite solid furnitures to give away.
As he took us around his office, he enlightened us on the various mistakes we could avoid making and cost-effective measures we could take for the interior design of our building.
We were quite taken aback by his candor and generosity. Mudah.my is one of our competitors for online advertising. To get the support of a competitor in itself says a lot.
Still want to support @Kini?
While we may no longer be asking directly for support for this project as we collectively feel that raising RM1.66 million was a feat we could not have imagined achieving, Malaysiakini is about to launch a second fund-raising drive.
But the real purpose for this follow-up project is our keen desire to meet and mingle with our subscribers and readers and also, to give a chance to those who still want to support the building fund in some other way.
The idea of hosting a treasure hunt took root when a new colleague offered to drive the campaign. Only two-and-a-half months in the organisation with us, our marketing director has convinced us that this “meet and greet” project would add soul to Malaysiakini .
While we are still stringing together details of the treasure hunt and are aggressively looking for sponsors, we encourage those who may be interested in this event - to be held on Oct 11 - to keep checking our micro site for additional information.
This treasure hunt will see participants driving from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Lofty, aye? We want this to be both memorable and a celebration of independent media.
As of today, we have 50 people who have registered their interest, and we are targeting 400 participants.
I am back on Earth, faced with hundreds of emails regarding the MH17 tragedy. Among them is an email from editor-in-chief Steven Gan cheering the troops to soldier on, and that makes me smile.
It’s always such a great pleasure to have a boss who trusts his team. It’s always such a great pleasure to work with a bunch of people who know exactly when to come together and perform above and beyond expectations.
It’s going to be exciting times ahead for Malaysiakini . We are moving to a new location in a few months’ time. We need to upgrade our skills and our technology, and to achieve this on a shoestring budget.
We are trying to accommodate changes to our system that would maximise efficiency, but at the same time, we are determined to retain the values we hold dear and sustain the feeling of home and family within the organisation.
While we have been told that this may not be possible in the long run, we are fiercely fighting for an environment that will put people first, for we hope this is how our country should be run.
For inquiries on Malaysiakini’s fundraising campaign please email: [email protected]
LYNN D’CRUZ is Malaysiakini ’s project manager. She will be visiting London in September.