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  • Some Multimedia Super Corridor Panel Members Taken Off List
  • December 7, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) -- Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor project continues to attract controversy after high-profile members of an international advisory panel to the project were removed from a list available on the Internet.
    Three prominent technology icons were recently removed from the 45-member list. They are Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed Talal Al-Saud, chairman of Kingdom Holding Co.; John Doerr, a founding partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Inc.; and Robert Metcalfe, vice president of technology at International Data Group.

    An official U.S.-based mirror Web site of the Multimedia Development Corp. (MDC) containing the three names was (at press time) still available at http://mdc.cinenet.net/msc/advisory/index.html. The revised list is located at MDC's Malaysian Web site at http://www.mdc.com.my/msc/advisory/index.html. MDC is the agency responsible for the development of the MSC project.

    An MDC spokesman said that the three were included on the official list despite their "non-confirmation."

    "I am surprised and alarmed that you think I am a member of the IAP of the MSC project in Malaysia and that I might resign," Metcalfe said.

    Metcalfe told Asia BizTech that he was repeatedly invited to join the MSC panel and "declined repeatedly by email and in person."

    "I am a journalist and don't join things about which I might write or comment," he added.

    Doerr and Prince Al-Waleed could not be contacted.

    The MSC advisory panel is a "who's who" of global technology players including Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, IBM Corp. chairman Louis Gerstner, and Intel Corp. CEO Craig Barrett.

    The panel was set up in 1996 to directly advise Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the project's strategic direction and policies. The establishment of the panel was influential in lending credibility to the project and drawing investors.

    Metcalfe said that he did not know enough about the situation in Malaysia to comment on the viability of the project.

    "The key to technology success, I think, is to allow freedom of choice among competing alternatives," Metcalfe said.

    Metcalfe's comments come in the wake of provocative statements by U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who told delegates at the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Kuala Lumpur: "Any government that suppresses information, suppresses the economic potential of the Information Age."

    Gore's statement was widely seen as a veiled reference to efforts by authorities to monitor a flurry of pro-democratic Web sites.

    Meanwhile, MDC executive chairman Othman Yeop Abdullah said that the next advisory panel meeting has been postponed until July, from the scheduled date in February.

    He said the meeting would be timed to coincide with the expected completion of several large-scale MSC infrastructure projects, which were delayed because of the financial crisis.

    The government and MDC have failed to act on a key suggestion by MSC panel members in February that legislation similar to that of U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection laws be implemented as a safety net for MSC-status companies that fail.

    So far, MDC has given 189 companies "MSC status," which qualifies them for tax breaks, unlimited import of foreign personnel and 100 percent foreign equity in the companies.

    Related story: Malaysia's High-Tech Future Appears Imperiled

    (Julian Matthews, Asia BizTech Correspondent)

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    Updated: Fri Dec 4 15:55:38 1998 PDT