Friday, 9 November 2012

When speeches go missing

Late last week, I received a telephone call from an old schoolmate asking me whether I could help him cover an event in Penang. "We are rather short-handed here in Kuala Lumpur," he explained to me. So could I help by representing his publishing company at the opening of the Philips Lumileds second plant in Bayan Lepas?

I must say that I had to hesitate a while before answering because while I was keen to help him out, it has been quite a long while since I last did this sort of thing. Too long, actually. But eventually, I told him, "yes, I'd do it."

The seventh of November rolled by and I made my way to the Philips Lumileds facility. A spanking new 300,000 square foot facility. Just to turn into the road leading to this plant was daunting. I was stopped at the junction, which was some 100 metres away from the gate, by some security people and asked what business I had over there. My invitation wasn't even on an invitation card; it just an email message from a media company in Kuala Lumpur. But I was let through easily enough.

I have to admit that I knew nobody at the function except for a very familiar face, an ex-colleague from my JobStreet days, who is now a key staff at the Penang government. He was the only person I knew but he wasn't exactly there to enjoy himself. I could see that he was tense although I couldn't put a finger on why. But I let it pass. I had my own job to do and after registering at the Media Representative counter, I went into their makeshift hall and sat at one of the seats in the media section. There were three rows of reserved seats and I occupied the end corner of the middle row. I reckoned it would be easier for me to move around, especially as I needed to take some photographs too.

Eventually the function started. The VIPs - Nor Mohamed Yakcop from the Federal government and Mansor Othman from the Penang government - strolled down the corridor followed by the Philips Lumileds bigwigs and many others. Except for Nor Yakcop and Mansor, I didn't recognise anybody else among the invited guests. It was then that I sensed how daunting this assignment was going to turn out. I looked at the other media representatives. Sorry, I didn't know who they were too. Strangers to me, just like I was a stranger to them. A lone ranger who sat by himself in a corner.

The Managing Director of Philips Lumileds Malaysia, Chooi Chin Leong, was the first to speak and he was then followed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Philips Electronics, Frans van Houten. As they spoke, I followed their speeches on the handouts, just in case there were deviations. Of course, there had to be.

They were followed by Mansor who, as the Deputy Chief Minister I of Penang, was representing the Chief Minister who had to accompany the Penang Governor to the Rulers' Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Mansor read out the Chief Minister's speech. I riffled through the media handouts. I couldn't find a copy of the speech. Missing. Was the media file given to me complete? Never mind, I would check with the media company later.

Then it was the turn of Nor Yakcop, a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. The Prime Minister was supposed to be here too but like the Chief Minister, he had to remain in Kuala Lumpur to accompany the Agong at the Rulers' Conference. As I couldn't find a copy of the Prime Minister's speech either, I texted the media company's representative immediately and requested for a copy.

Someone duly came to find me. Sorry, she said as the handout was thrusted into my hands, the Prime Minister's speech was distributed late and unfortunately, nobody recognised me as a media representative when they gave out the copies. What about the Chief Minister's speech then, I enquired. Can I have a copy of that too? Sorry again, this lady said. They don't have a copy for distribution. In fact, nobody at the function has one. Very peculiar, I thought to myself. But never mind, if anybody would have a copy, I would know how to get it later.

But you know what? There was a very small incident at the start of Mansor's delivery. It was too fleeting and quiet for anyone to barely notice. That I happened to be aware of it was by coincidence, I think. And at first, I didn't pay any attention to it. Not initially. As Mansor walked to the stage, I overheard someone briefly telling a media person seated two chairs away from me, "This one no need." I mean, this short comment could mean almost anything. But instinctively, I turned and looked around. I saw the back of a person moving away but like I mentioned earlier, he was nobody I knew.

Much later when I mulled over the incident, I started wondering whether someone was telling the media representatives to ignore the speech by the Chief Minister's representative? Was it because of that interference that the Chief Minister's speech wasn't made available to the media representatives? It was so strange that despite everything having been arranged to the minutest detail, only three of the speeches were given out to the Press. Don't tell me that the Chief Minister's Office had not wanted the speech to be available to all? It would seem weird.

But never mind, just in case anyone wants to know what Mansor read out last Wednesday afternoon, here it is. I did manage to get a copy of it eventually. After all, I am not without resources of my own:

The Chief Minister sends his regrets of not being able to join you here on this memorable occasion and I wish to convey the state government’s message to all of you today. 
Penang has a longstanding history for its involvement in the LED Industry since the early 70s. When Hewlett Packard started its first operation in Penang in 1972, the company was involved in the assembly of core memories for its mini computers as well as various LED display units.
Since then, Penang has been successful in attracting three of the world’s top LED manufacturers in the world. There are also other foreign and locally owned LED companies that support and produce for the global market. The last 2 years, Penang has emerged #1 in investments. In 2010, Penang topped investment in Malaysia with inflows of RM 12.2 billion and repeated that feat in 2011 with a total of RM9.1 billion, contributing 28 per cent of Malaysia’s foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2010 to 2011.
A McKinsey’s 2012 Global Lighting Market Model predicts the LED share in general lighting at 45 percent in 2016 and almost 70 percent in 2020. The growth in market share will be contributed by LED penetration in many segments – office, retail, hospitality.
Because of these bullish trends, many LED manufacturers in the world have undergone aggressive capacity expansion in 2012. Today’s opening of this Plant 2 of Philips Lumileds Lighting facility marks the commitment that has been made by Philips Lumileds Lighting to increase and expand their capacity in Penang.
Lumileds made its entry into Penang in year 2000 as Lumileds Lighting Sdn Bhd and was bought over by Philips to create Philips Lumileds Sdn Bhd in 2004.  Since then, Philips Lumileds has grown its competencies in Penang. Today marks an important event for the LED Industry in Penang. Philips Lumileds does not only carry out standard assembly production but also manufactures and develops phosphor for the conversion of blue LEDS to white LEDs.  Philip Lumileds has also launched its research and development activities in Penang, focusing on its highly successful range of mobile phone camera flash products, i.e. the LUXEON Flash.
I am proud to note that this new facility also includes:
  • a new facility dedicated for phosphor and new product research and development centre as well as a design centre; 
  • a new facility for Philips Lumileds Global Customer Quality Team and Finance Team;
  • and a clean room manufacturing facility for the production of high-brightness power LEDs, LED modules and assemblies. 
And what an exciting site it has turned out to be - modern, innovative and a real state of the art, having completed only within a year or so. What makes me a Penangite proud to note is this expansion will contribute to increased output of LEDs from Penang, thus putting Penang on the world map as a major producer of LEDs. 
Another key area to note is that greater employment opportunities have been and will be created, especially for the knowledge-based workers in Penang. This is in line with Philips Lumileds who has pledged to invest significantly in the development of skilled engineering talents in Penang and Malaysia and will also grow its workforce over time.
What is exciting for all of us is, this facility is the first factory in Malaysia designed with 100 percent LED lighting, both interior and exterior, to lower energy consumption, to reduce carbon footprint and to support the State’s campaign for a Cleaner Greener Penang. 
Last but not least, I wish to thank Mr. Frans van Houten and his team at Philips Lumileds Lighting for choosing Penang to be your partner for success.

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