Malaysian Phil CEO fires marketing director over negative review

Malaysian Phil CEO fires marketing director over negative review


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2017

The unsettled orchestra, which is under an international musicians’ boycott for sacking players without reason, has now dismissed an executive in arbitrary fashion.

Here’s what happened.

The orchestra, together with board members and some of its staff, gave a charity concert in December.

Someone posted a negative Facebook comment (below) about the piano paying of CEO Nor Raina Yeong Abdullah.



She ordered the marketing director, Carl Selvarajah, to remove it. When he failed to do so, she fired him.

An everyday story at the Malaysian Phil.

The review:

I have attended this so-called charity concert for the past two years. It is nice that DFP MPO does this kind of charity, but is that the real motivation behind the concert? In reality it appears to be an exercise in self aggrandisement by the CEO Nor Raina Yeong Abdullah. Nor Raina inserts herself into as many acts on the concert as possible. I’ve heard that she created this concert just so that she can perform on the DFP stage, and she uses this platform to get access to Tun Dr Mahathir and Tun Siti Hasmah. (I’ve seen her after this and other events and Nor Raina loves to show off her self-importance by letting everyone know that she is with the Tuns. In the 2015 charity concert she made a big show of holding Tun Siti Hasmah’s hand.)

But the shameful fact is Nor Raina’s piano playing is very mediocre at best. In fact, the most enjoyable pieces were those on which she was not playing! It is heartwarming to watch Tun Siti Hasmah play the violin at her age. (I should point out that Tun’s violin performance was marred by obvious wrong entrances and wrong notes played by Nor Raina!) On the 2015 concert Nor Raina even fancied herself to be able to play the Erhu, a feat she proudly told friends she mastered in 2 weeks! In saying this, she mocks the centuries old tradition of Erhu playing. And it was blatantly obvious when watching Nor Raina “playing” the Erhu that she was faking everything!

The Dyslexia Children’s Dance Group and the students in Winnie Cheah’s Symphonia Fantasia were sweet and unpretentious. Puan Juniwati Rahmat Hussin’s “Mr Bean” routine provided nice comic relief, and the staff Gamelan ensemble’s playing was commendable, with the accompanying dancing quite impressive. Appearances by Roy and Salamiah Hassan gave some credibility to the concert, and a closing highlight was Tun Dr Mahathir and Tun Siti Hasmah singing together. (This would have been better without the terrible guitarist – Eizaz Azhar? – who was out of tune and played all kinds of wrong chords). 

In short, bravo to the the DFP MPO staff for giving their time and talents to this charity concert. And 5 stars to the Tuns. But 0 stars to CEO Nor Raina Yeong Abdullah. She should be ashamed of herself for such flagrant abuse of power.


  • Ex Musician says:

    Let’s not forget how she refuses to let orchestra musicians play outreach concerts at certain schools where she has had personal conflicts with about eight or nine years ago. Perhaps her kid(s) did not get into those specific private schools. Who knows. Thanks so much, Raina. You inspire classical musicians to leave MPO.

  • Concerned says:

    This is true, she is a horrible pianist and a totally incompetent musician. I have heard her play at two of these so called fundraisers. What needs to be emphasized is what a cold and heartless woman she is. If you are too skilled she will fire you. The education department she formed is a totally travesty.

    She is one of the worst leaders in Malaysia.

  • Concerned 2 says:

    She must be frustrated that she can’t fire you for this article, Norman.

    Only musicians in the orchestra would care to disclose these unethical details of MPO on slippedisc in hope of rescuing the organization. There is much more to be discovered and discussed, but I’m sure in no time, Raina will step down, and taking those against her down along with her. Dissolution of MPO is only a matter of time.

    Get out or get fired!

  • Nick says:

    I have no reason to believe the above comments are anything but accurate. The CEO may be a lousy pianist and her participation in these concerts is certainly questionable on an artistic level. She may also be a lousy executive – and certainly seems to be given her actions in other areas. But all that has nothing to do with the subject of this thread. An orchestra’s website is the responsibility of its marketing department and should be a vital tool in conveying, amongst others, the orchestra’s image and vital importance in local society. If the Marketing Director failed to do as directed by the CEO by taking down a negative comment copied from a Facebook site, then he could be expected to receive a severe reprimand. If he continued to disobey instructions, then sadly he leaves himself open to be fired. That has nothing to do with the dreadful playing ability of the CEO. It is about a chain of command and responding to superiors – even if she is also a dreadful CEO!

    • Concerned 3 says:

      You make a good point, but if a professional CEO exercised his/her right to fire everyone who did not follow such petty little internet comment deleting order, shouldn’t one be alarmed or question his/her massive insecurity and lack of focus of the well being of the organization? I highly doubt she has an equally skilled marketing director on standby immediately after this fire. Good luck finding someone who is willing to work with MPO.

  • Nick says:

    Sorry Concerned 3, I find your comment “petty”. You clearly don’t like the woman and I’m sure – knowing a bit about the orchestra and its chequered history – you are mostly correct. But having been the CEO of an orchestra and other arts organisations, I would never permit negative comments like those mentioned above to appear on the official site of any organisation of which I was in charge, Make no mistake – it’s not a patty comment. It’s a slamming indictment. Deserved, perhaps, and worthy of inclusion in blogs like this one. But on the orchestra’s official site? Definitely not!

    • Concerned 3 says:

      I completely agree with you that an official website of an organization should not allow for such negative comments. The distinction I am making is that this review was posted on Facebook and not taken from the website. I personally think that any type of comment is permitted on sites such as Facebook or Youtube, especially if you open up for comments.

      What if, instead of deleting a comment or firing a key role in the management, Nor Raina Yeong Abdullah or the ex marketing director posted a response to that post to acknowledge the reviewer’s disappointment and thank the reviewer for being a supporter of these two concerts? It doesn’t take one to be a CEO of an Arts organization to know how to be the bigger person or ignore any disillusioned commenters, unless there is some truth to it.

      I understand that there is an image any organization should uphold, but in the case of MPO, they’re far beyond just deleting one negative comment regarding the CEO’s level of playing to fix it.

      Also, note that the MPO Facebook page does have a Review section. It’s not the first time a negative review has been posted and taken down. Little do they know, the negative review can still be viewed on other pages. See below:

      reviewed Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) — 1 star
      September 5, 2016 ·

      GM Tim Tsukamoto and CEO Raina Yeong Abdullah are a joke. Since 2012 a steady decline of professionalism and a general increase of attitude from these two “leaders”. And I use that term as loosely as possible. The people that work in your organization are just that. People, humans, with families and feelings. Not paperwork or contracts. September 26 the industrial courts will hopefully bring justice to the country one small step at a time as the appeal against the orchestra and its “Hitler Scare Tactics” will be revealed. GITM – Get it together Malaysia

      • Nick says:

        My apologies! If the review merely appeared on a third party’s Facebook page and was not repeated on the official page/website of the orchestra or that of the Marketing Manager or another employee of the MPO, then my comments do not apply. If the Marketing Manager was fired because of not getting a third party to take down that review, then I hope the Marketing Manager takes whatever action he can to sue or whatever is possible in Malaysia. Not much, I believe!

      • MPOSAGE says:

        The review on Facebook from September 5, 2016 mentioned above was written by Anthony Wise, another MPO musician (trombone) who was fired last year by CEO Raina Yeong Abdullah for allegedly practicing at the concert hall during Friday Muslim prayer time! He repeatedly requested to talk with the CEO to discuss the situation, but she refused to meet him.

      • MPOBAY says:

        MPO firing people without justice is an understatement. They keep the terrible people in the organization on all levels, and to remain in the job, you must become evil like them or you risk getting fired. They say: the English Horn player was fired because the orchestra wanted to save money and would prefer to hire subs instead. This is all a big lie but the orchestra musicians spread this false news because this is the only way to feel safe and not endanger their own lives there. The orchestra has already invited auditionees and given trials. What lies. Sheesh!

  • Brian says:

    The appeal in High Court regarding non-renewal of musicians is going ahead: March 14th, just a few weeks away – much sooner than September, as someone mentioned. Given the state of politics, the fact that it involves Petronas vs. foreign musicians, and legal ‘inconsistencies’ in the country, not many musicians are holding their breath on the outcome, but the fight is not over yet. 😉 Stay tuned !