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Jarmaluddin Jarjis Did Not Give A Satisfactory Reply To My Series of Questions On “Why The Saladin Project Took 6 Years To Produce A 6- Minute Trailer?”

Press Statement
by Teresa Kok

(Parliament, Wednesday): I am not satisfied with the reply given by YB Dato’ Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation on my queries over why it took 6 years for Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC)  to produce a 6- minute trailer  ( ?

Jamaluddin Jarjis gave me a short reply due to the limitation of time in the Dewan Rakyat, and he said the trailer of Saladin only costs RM400,000  only and not RM20 million as pointed by me.

My reply to him was, the RM20 million that I mentioned in my speech earlier include:  

  • The RM 5.2 million state-of-the-art Creative Application Development Centre (CAD-C) opened in 2004;
  • Overheads of Creative Application Development Centre (CAD-C) since its inception;
  • An alleged payment of US $ 1 million (RM 3.8 million then) to a Hollywood script writer for pre-production script that industry insiders claimed should cost less than the amount;
  • Multiply trips to United States by MDeC officials since 2000;
  • A number of outsourcing jobs with expensive price tag were awarded. No result was produced and no project audit was ever conducted. 

My argument is, Saladin is not a personal project of a philanthropist, but it is entirely a government investment and therefore the Dewan Rakyat needs to be informed how the money has being spent in the past 6 years.

Background of Saladin Project

Saladin was initially planned as a feature film when it was first announced in 2000. It is now planned as a 13-part series. The series is based on the epic story of the 12th century Kurdish warrior, Saladin (1137 or 11381193), who founded the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria and fought against the Crusaders. It is not uncommon for modern Muslim rulers seeking to capitalize on the reputation of Saladin.

To produce Saladin has become the core duty of MDeC’s Creative Application Development Centre (CAD-C) with the ultimate aim of launching Malaysia into the lucrative international animation industry.

One of CAD-C’s objectives is to create and increase the pool of local talent in the animation industry and increase their expertise to that of world-class standards.  The strategy is as such: the government will be the sole investor in the production of Saladin and in the course of so doing, build capacity in the local participants.

At one point, it was also planned as MDeC’s tribute to the former Prime Minister and MSC’s mentor Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at his retirement. Two and half years since we have a new Prime Minister, Saladin is no where to be seen except in the form of a six-minute trailer. Even then, the trailer is outsourced to two companies, i.e. Silver Ant Sdn Bhd and Imaginex Sdn Bhd.

My questions are as follow:

  1. Why outsource?

MDeC constructed its RM 5.2 million CAD-C under the pretext of using this advanced and expensive facility to produce Saladin, which is in turn touted as the platform to launch Malaysia into the lucrative industry.

But the actual production of the six-minute trailer after six years of “planning” was outsourced to Silver Ant Sdn. Bhd. and Imaginex Studios Sdn. Bhd. The Edge (17/4/2006) reported that “Silver Ant spent three months creating the animation while Imaginex spent two weeks creating the sound effects.” According to the producer of Saladin, Silver Ant Sdn. Bhd. was given “three pages of script to work with to come up with the trailer.”

In fact, judged by the Request for Proposal to produce the Saladin series, all production will be done outside MDeC’s innovation centre. This raises question as to why the CAD-C was built in the first place.

  1. Why Hire Hollywood Scriptwriter

It was openly claimed by MDeC officers that MDeC has commissioned a Hollywood script writer to work on the project. If so, why can’t MDeC commission a local writer to work on the project if the project was indeed used as a pioneer project to spearhead local creative content industry?

Also, claims were made that the said writer was paid US$ 1 million for the work, is that true? According to producers in the know, US$ 1 million is considered astronomical, can someone justify the expenditure? What was the selection process and why was he selected? Why didn’t we have local writers understudy the Hollywood writer?

Further, as the pre-production script was written for the originally proposed feature film, how much is it applicable to the now 13-part series?

  1. Why Foreign Film Director?

CAD-C hires a foreign director with monthly salary of RM25,000 to direct the Saladin TV series. What happened to the original intent of  MDeC to build capacity and to groom local talent?

4.Why Should MDeC Involve in Saladin Project?   

MDeC is a one-stop agency tasked to promote the development of ICT sector in Malaysia. It must explain why by directly sinking money into making a film or series is a decision from the top than to groom private firms through the right kind of sector-wide incentives and policy framework.

MDeC and CAD-C supposed to be a catalyst of growth or a government agency that encourage local talents to involve in film and multimedia industry, it should not have got involved into it by designing the films and invested money into it. These are the jobs of the contractors and not MDeC. 

I urge the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and the ACA to investigate whether there is any misconduct in the Saladin project since its conception in year 2000 and to prevent greater wastage and abuses.


*  Teresa Kok, MP For Seputeh

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