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Monday, August 29, 2011

Now Masterskill sues Jeyakumar

It’s been a tough few weeks for Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj.

First, he was arrested on 25 June 2011 and kept in solitary confinement. He was released a week later – only to be re-arrested under the Emergency Ordinance and kept in solitary confinement for another month. Then he was released again only to be slapped with charges under the ISA and the Societies Act for which he has to appear in court in October 2011.

That’s not all: along with eight of the 30 PSM activists to be tried in October under similar charges, Kumar was called to have his statement recorded under investigations for alleged sedition.

Now, in an unrelated development, he has been slapped with a writ of summons by a private nursing college, Masterskill (M) Sdn Bhd, over comments that appeared in a couple of newspapers and a blog which the college claimed had damaged its reputation. The Sungai Siput MP had earlier lodged a police report against the college.

Masterskill (M) Sdn Bhd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Masterskill Education Group Bhd, which last year (2010) made a group-level profit before tax of RM118m. But The Edge reports that CIMB Equities Research has downgraded Masterskill Education Group Bhd (MEGB) from Outperform to Neutral, reducing its target price and also slashing its earnings per share (EPS) forecast.

It said on Monday, Aug 29 Masterskill’s annualised 1H11 core net profit was a letdown, coming in at 43% below its forecast and 40% below consensus because of poor student numbers and a 10.8 percentage points shortfall in EBITDA margin due to surprisingly high operating costs.

“The 44% year-on-year plunge in net student intake was a negative surprise and should be equally weak in 2H. In the medium term, student intake prospects are unexciting and margins will be under pressure,” it said.

Some background info about Masterskill Education Group Bhd: the Group CEO is Edmund Santhara (who along with his spouse are major shareholders); the chairman of Masterskill University College of Health Sciences’ (Much) Governing Council is Mohamed Nazim Abdul Razak (brother of PM Najib Razak); and the University Chancellor is Raja Azureen, daughter of the Sultan of Perak.

Major shareholders also include Masterskill Holding Ltd (direct stake of 22 per cent) and Sami Ali A Sindi (indirect stake of 24 per cent).

The lawsuit against Jeyakumar is the latest in a string of libel/defamation-type suits that have come to light in recent weeks.

Tajudin Ramli is suing Malaysian Insider, its editor, and young journalist Shazwan Mustafa Kamal for RM200m.

A Japanese multinational firm based in Malaysia has come to an out-of-court settlement over a lawsuit it brought against human rights lawyer Charles Hector regarding complaints made by 31 Burmese workers which he had highlighted on his blog. Hector will have to pay RM1 in costs and the same amount in damages to the company and publish a half-page apology in the Malaysian daily newspapers The Star and Nanyang Siang Pau. He is now trying to raise funds to cover the cost of those advertisements. See details on the Aliran website.

And the Shah Alam High Court has ruled in favour of Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek in a defamation suit against The Edge over an article entitled “Ascot given preference due to its experience, says MOF”. A court registrar will assess damages, though The Edge is expected to appeal. Awang Adek had claimed RM10m in a letter of demand.

In a report, The Edge said the article in question was based completely on a Ministry of Finance written reply to Parliament in July last year with no editorial opinion attached. But the article had erroneously attributed the written reply to Awang Adek, the deputy finance minister, instead of the Ministry. The Edge Communication had then promptly corrected the report on 9 July 2010 and issued a personal apology to Awang Adek as “a gesture of good faith”.

-anilnetto

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