(This post was first published at Open Malaysia on 5th September 2007, reproduced on Monsterblog with permission.)

OOXML is not (yet) an ISO standard, as Malaysia votes “No” … or did we?
by Yusseri Yusoff

After what seemed like an insane period of frenetic lobbying, with accusations of vote-buying, back pedalling, last minute changes, ekcetera, voting for the ratification of OOXML as ISO/IEC 29500 ended on Sunday, 02 September 2007. Two days later, it seemed that OOXML failed to garner enough “Yes” votes and has not been approved. For now. There’ll be a Ballot Resolution Meeting in February 2008, where apparently Microsoft Ecma will work towards resolving the comments raised by both the “No with comments” and “Yes with comments” votes. According to Brian Jones, there are only about 10,000 comments of which some are duplicated. So, roughly 6 months is enough to fix them, I suppose.

(By the way, what would “No with comments” really mean, exactly? I take it to be, “We don’t approve of this draft, and it should be fixed so that it might one day be agreeable to us.” As for “Yes with comments”, I take it to be, “We approve of this draft, but if you feel like it, can you make some changes? No, you won’t? Okay then.”)

Anyhow, as a Malaysian, I’m rather interested in how Malaysia as a P country voted. This is because we didn’t have any dramas in our Industry Standards Committee on Information Technology, Telecommunication and Multimedia, ISC-G (equivalent to the US’ INCITS) such as having some dude voting twice (beady eyes on you, Sweden), or have the committee so divided that the body decided to abstain (a hello to our neighbours, Indonesia), or having 2/3rds of the committee voting “Yes with comments” despite the strong and valid objections made (down the Causeway — yes, you Singapore), or running out of chairs for Sun and IBM (wahey, everyone say hi to Portugal).

Our committee, the ISC-G, voted “No with comments”. Unequivocably. Score was ten-nil (10-0), if I’m not mistaken. Or near enough, anyway. Whitewash. Walkover. Not because they didn’t like Microsoft. Not because ISC-G members thought that Microsoft was the devil incarnate. It was because there were obvious problems with the draft proposal for ISO/IEC 29500. Reasons for the “No” was laced with comments. The contradictions raised during the enquiry stage of the draft wasn’t even fixed, so it wasn’t like the committee had to take too much time to make the comments, to be honest. Recycle the earlier contradictions, add a few more found later.

As such, looking at that, I am proud to see that we have done our duty as a responsible nation in voting … “No with comments” … at … the … JTC1 … because … aaaah …. Wha…?

According to this document, Malaysia have decided to “Abstain“. When did that happen? Just as importantly, how did that happen? The Prime Minister of Malaysia endorsed it, is it? While he was launching some Halal Food thingy, was it?

To Microsoft Malaysia, I salute you, I really do. You managed to subvert due process in evaluating a technical specification for approval as an ISO standard into a circus. There were valid reasons for voting “No” at this point in time, and you know it. But you did it, anyway. The letters, the meetings, the phone calls … the cabinet. It is appalling, how deliberation on a file format can turn out this way.

I am ashamed. It doesn’t matter now that OOXML did not pass this round. I can no longer snicker at Sweden, shake my head at Indonesia or wiggle my finger at Singapore. Never mind buying some chairs for Portugal.

I am ashamed.