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By Anita Devasahayam

November 24, 2000

Award controversy brews in Malaysia

Popular is as popular gets. So say the organizers of the recent @MY 2000 Internet Awards who have defended their decision to allow sponsors to take part in the competition.

KUALA LUMPUR - Mimos Berhad, organizers of the recent @MY 2000 Internet Awards, stood by their decision to allow co-sponsors to participate in the "most popular local site" category, after an irate losing finalist pointed possible conflicts in the selection process. Three other finalists and the eventual winner - The Star news site -- turned out to be co-sponsors of the annual event.

Mimos Berhad chief operating officer Dr Mohamed Awang Lah told ZDNetAsia that the most popular site has been selected based on "actual scientific measurement of page views by an independent third party."

"There was no subjective selection process on the part of the organizers. It would be unfair for the organizers to disregard these actual measurements. If the site that belonged to the organizer is not recognized, @MY would do injustice to the nation and the nomination process by selecting a site that is not truly the most-popular to be the winner," he said.

The category in question was polled electronically based on page views tracked by an independent third-party system provided by e-Asia, a local online services company. The websites were nominated by members of the public.

"We don't want to have an artificial winner due to technicalities. The fact that the site happens to belong to one of the sponsors or organizer was a mere coincidence," he said.

The controversy came to light after one of the four finalists - Azlanar's Webtenet - a popular chat site run by Azlan Arshad Muhammad, questioned the validity of the results. In several letters to the organizers and media, the one-man web programmer Azlan accused organizers of "breaking their own rules".

"I wrote to the organizers two weeks ago but did not receive any response. Instead I was shunted from one person to another before someone tried to explain the judging criterion. I am not questioning the judging style. I just want to know why sponsors were allowed to take part when the regulations stated otherwise," he said.

The other three finalists were The Star, Utusan Online and Jaring. Local dailies The Star and Utusan were co-sponsors for the event while Jaring is a portal owned and managed by Mimos.

Azlan, who works at a local telecommunications company, set up the web-based chat site in 1997.

He pointed out under rules and regulations specifically pertaining to eligibility, it was clearly stated that "the @MY '2000 Internet Awards website, and the core sites of organisers and sponsors, will not be entrants in any category."

Azlan added that he found the entire affair "hilarious". "What a cartoon - first you get the co-sponsors taking part and then you find that they have won," he said, adding there were numerous other local websites that were worthy of contest and were not considered.

Dr Mohamed countered that participants should take into account the "actual spirit of the awards". "We made a conscious decision to select the 'real' most popular site and we should respect that reality on the ground," he said.

A total of 1,430 contestants took part in the competition that was divided into seven categories. They are Most Creative Web Design, Best Community Development Website, Best Internet Application Website, Internet Company of The Year, Best Netpreneur, Best National Language Website and Most Popular Local Website.

Only 22 operators allowed their sites to be tracked under the most popular website category. Among the other top 10 in the running were Amboi Net, Ironman, TicketExpress and

The @my2000 Malaysia Internet Awards was introduced a year ago and is aimed at recognizing the contribution, value and creativity of enterprising Malaysians to foray into the borderless world. The event's entries has nearly tripled from 500 a year ago.

Published in ZDNet
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