Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MCA Divisional Annual General Meeting

I have read in the papers that Datuk Chua Jui Meng was shocked and sad over a purported allegation by me in my blog that in the general election, there was sabotage in Bakri constituency by Datuk Chua Jui Meng. I hope Jui Meng read what I posted in my blog on 23rd June and I re-quote: The general feeling is when the incumbent in Bakri was replaced after having served 5 terms, some of the MCA members and supporters were not happy. This is the problem that BN faces when a long serving candidate is replaced with a new face. The incumbents always feel that they have many more years to go before they retire. Hence, in a lot of constituencies, when a long serving incumbent is replaced, there is non-cooperation and what is worst sabotage”. Anyone reading this will know that this is a general statement and that the meaning of it should not be twisted.

I have also read in the papers that in the Bakri AGM, out of 392 divisional delegates, only 150 of them attended the AGM. I hope that the division and other divisions with poor turnout of delegates in their AGMs could take this opportunity to re-evaluate the cause or the root of the problem within their divisions. Blaming and pointing fingers at others will not resolve any problem. It will only cause more damage to the division and to the party.

Apart from that, in one newspaper, Jui Meng claimed that the BN lost of Bakri and Bentayan seats was because Dr. Chua had influenced party members to go against him. I find this hard to believe, as we should now be strategizing on how to win back all lost seats and regain rakyat’s confidence. By just blaming others will not help at all. It will only provoke more emotions. Do not think that those who disagree with you have a personal agenda. I have said many times that MCA must show unity and do not treat party members as enemies, otherwise we will be wiped away come the next general election. Having said that, I wish to rest my case. I have no intention to engage in a media war with anyone.










Monday, June 29, 2009

No Indonesian Domestic Maids

Finally, the Indonesia government reacted by banning Indonesian maids to work in Malaysia. Individually, Indonesians can on their own apply to Malaysian employer on a direct basis to work in Malaysia. Hence, how effective this government ban will be, only time will tell. Many unemployed Indonesian ladies would work to circumvent this official ban. After all, there are many illegal Indonesians working in Malaysia. In fact, illegal Indonesians constitute the largest group of illegal workers in this country. The ban may only be good on paper.

With the Indonesia government facing an election year trying to be popular, decision made can puzzle the outsiders. This ban on Indonesian maids to work in Malaysia is one classical example. All right thinking Malaysians condemns employers who abused their maid. The abusive employer is to be found in every part of the world, not just among Malaysians. The ban would only serve Indonesian maids finding its way to work in Malaysia illegally. Then, when the employer becomes abusive, the illegal maid will be at the mercy of the abusive employer. The maid will then have to choose to report to the police and at the same time having its status of being an illegal worker be exposed. In short, the abusive employer may go scot-free since the employer is aware that the illegal maid may not seek legal recourse.

Indonesia media enjoy Malaysia bashing. Apparently, this is popular among the rakyat in Indonesia. On the other hand, the Malaysia media have been rather professional in their reporting of the countless crime committed by Indonesian workers in this country. It is the Malaysia media who should be doing Indonesia bashing considering the countless suffering inflicted on Malaysians by Indonesian criminals in Malaysia.

Any rational Malaysian would want to see a cordial relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia subscribes to the concept of prosper-thy-neighbour. When our neighbours are doing well, we gain by investments, by trade and by the inflow of tourists. When they have problem, we inherit part of the problem. The annual haze that we are subjected to because of the open burning in Indonesia is a classical example. It is the same with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants coming from Indonesia because of the poor employment prospect in their own country. In general, no Malaysians look down on the Indonesian workers. In fact, most Malaysians have a lot of sympathy and understanding of Indonesians working in our country. It is a few bad Indonesian apples and a small group of abusive Malaysian employers that served to strain an otherwise cordial relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Malaysian employers may have to look to other alternative sources for their household maids. Maybe the government should introduce minimum wage for Malaysian maids working in Malaysia. This may partially solve the problem of homegrown domestic maids.








Friday, June 26, 2009

Second Coordinating Meeting in Sg. Petani, Kedah

I was in Sg. Petani, Kedah on Wednesday to officiate 3 MCA AGM meetings as well as to chair the second BN coordinating meeting. About 40 members consisting of UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP’s division leaders from Sg. Petani attended the coordination meeting that was held at 4p.m.

A series of issues were discussed during the meeting, including how BN should position itself as an effective opposition party in Kedah. In Kedah, BN lost the Parliamentary seat of Sg. Petani and all the 3 state seats within the Parliamentary seat during the 308 general election last year. In the Parliamentary seat of Sg. Petani, BN lost by a majority of more than 9000 votes. However, within the 3 state seats, if we tally the losses, BN lost by majority of 5300 votes. In other words, there are people who voted for BN at the state seat but rejected BN in the Parliamentary seat. At the meeting, I was told an important factor was that the BN candidate was a parachute candidate. Hence, there was a lot of dissatisfaction among the local community.

BN members have failed to play the role of an opposition effectively in all the PR states. They cannot keep thinking that they are still the government in power and acted like one. They must take action on issues that concerns the interest of the rakyat. During the meeting, we were told by many members of the committee that most PR assemblyman in Kedah do not go down to the ground nor hold any dialogues with the rakyat. Therefore, this is the chance for BN to regain rakyat’s confidence through its continuous service. If PR assemblymen do not want to do their part, we BN will do it for them.

I noted that most Kedah BN members are very enthusiastic in their work and I must thank them for their commitment. They raised several questions on the local and federal policies. They mentioned that they cannot only depend on BN to change, but they themselves must start the ball rolling. They cannot just sit down and wait for orders from the federal. They must act proactively. In the same way, the state BN must also share information with the division BN on national issues so that the divisions are able to monitor PR’s movement. State BN must also take note of local problems through local council and divisions.  

I told members of the BN committee that they have to move as a team at all times and not only during the election. They have to carry out activities together, hold meetings regularly, and when it comes to application to government for grants, it should be done in a very fair and transparent manner. Every rakyat is entitled to benefit from this grant and the grant should not be given only to its own supporters to strengthen the position of the divisional leader. When it comes to activities, it should not be confined only to members of the party. They should open up and welcome participation by the local community. BN leaders have to be more people’s friendly and go down to the ground.

During the meeting, I also told the members that all BN coordinators must unite and work well with members from other BN component parties if they want to regain the confidence and the support of the rakyat come the next general election. Only through hard work and good performance will we stand a chance to regain seats lost to PR.

Although it seems to some people that BN can do no right and PR can do no wrong, it is of utmost importance that BN members in PR seats stay focus, continue to serve and also to monitor PR state government’s performance. We must have a short, medium and long term plan to counter PR’s strategy. I believe that together with the cooperation from the state and local BN and the changed attitude by BN leaders BN, we hope to reclaim the lost seats in the coming general election.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maid One Day Off: Knee-jerk Reaction

I first wrote briefly about this issue on last Thursday, 18th June but since it continues to attract a lot of media attention, I thought I should elaborate on this matter.

Ever since the Minister of Human Resource suggested giving maids a one-day off, there has been an ongoing debate about the merits and the demerits of giving the maids a one-day off a week. In principle, it sounds good. As an employee, they are entitled to one-day off per week. However, the suggestion raises more questions than answers. Hence, it looks as if it is a knee jerk reaction from the Ministry of Human Resource.

While we have to safe guard the interest of the employee, we should not forget that the interest of the employers should also be protected. There are 2 sides of the coin. Employers will have horror stories to tell you about their domestic maid.

There are about 250,000 to 300,000 maids in our country. Most of the maids are from Indonesia with a small number from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Philippines. Any Indonesian maid can easily blend into our society because of the similarities in language, food and facial look. Last year, I am given to understand that more than 10,000 maids ran away from their employers for various reasons and they cannot be traced. Cases of maid been abused numbered about 50 last year. While no maid should be abused, it is obvious that the number of maids that are abused are small in numbers, but because of the adverse publicity generated, it gives the impression that Malaysian employers are not humane. The press doesn’t highlight the 10,000 domestic helpers who just disappeared into the thin air. Hence, we have to have a balance picture of the domestic maids in this country.

If the one-day off is really implemented, who is to enforce this? It will have to involve many Ministries, from Human Resource to the Immigration and the Police just to enforce this bearing in mind that there are many maids who are illegal. The risk of maids absconding will definitely go up. Then there is this question that the maid on the day off will definitely need to go out. Their outside friends will be a cause of worry to the employers. I am one of those victims where my maid’s boyfriend having gained access to my house, stole whatever they can lay their hands on while we were away.

Malaysians should not overreact to cases of abused maid. The sick employer will have to face the full forces of the law. Hence, any legislation should also take into consideration the interest of the employers. It should look into the question of enforcement. Without enforcement, the legislation will just be good on paper. Maid agency can play a more prominent role in helping to monitor the domestic maid. They are the one who are the first line of contact with the domestic maid.

As usual, Indonesia has threatened not to send maid to our country. If I’ve not forgotten, this is not the first and definitely not going to be the last that Indonesia has threatened Malaysia. A lot of Indonesians find Malaysia an ideal place to stay, either legally or illegally.

Indonesia faces double-digit unemployment figure. Foreign remittance by its citizens working overseas constitutes a substantial portion of the country’s direct revenue. Hence, Indonesia’s statement is more like political posturing, which is unlikely to happen.








Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First BN Coordinating Meeting in Muar and Bakri

As the Chief BN Coordinator, I have been tasked to look at Parliament and DUN seats that we lost to PR in the last general election. Since this is a new post, there is no precedent and no track record whereby I can seek guidance. I can only learn as I move along.

In order to coordinate effectively, it is obvious that I need the cooperation from all the component parties in BN. There is suspicion and also this perception that BN lost in some of the seats because of internal sabotage. This often come about when a long entrenched incumbent is replaced or you have parachute candidates that are not welcomed at the local level. So, candidate do matter in general election.

I choose to start my first meeting in Bakri since I am familiar with the local BN component party leadership. Muar BN was also invited since there is no clear separation in terms of voting by Muarians. Hence, a Muarian may be staying within the constituency in Bakri but he may be voting in Muar and it can be vice versa. Hence, cooperation between the BN of Muar and Bakri is important to ensure victory.

In the 308 election, BN lost the Parliamentary seat of Bakri and retained the seat of Muar. Within these two parliamentary seats, there are seven constituencies and BN lost three, one to DAP, and two to PAS. The Parliamentary seat of Bakri has always been a BN stronghold until 2008 election. The general feeling is when the incumbent in Bakri was replaced after having served 5 terms, some of the MCA members and supporters were not happy. This is the problem that BN faces when a long serving candidate is replaced with a new face. The incumbents always feel that they have many more years to go before they retire. Hence, in a lot of constituencies, when a long serving incumbent is replaced, there is non-cooperation and what is worst sabotage. Anyway, the incumbent for one of the Parliamentary seats who was replaced did not turn out for the meeting although he is still head of the division.

The meeting proceeded well with input from all the component parties. The consensus was that BN needs to move as a team. The YBs should serve their constituencies well, irrespective of race and religion. They should go down to the ground in order to understand the rakyat better. In the same way, grant should be given to all irrespective of race. BN at the local level should hold meeting at least once in three months and activities should be conducted in the name of BN. A lot of local issues were raised, some of which require state or federal intervention. I promised that once I receive all the details, I would try to contact the relevant ministries in order that some of the long-standing problems can be resolved.

Some of the leaders complained that they still run their service centre as if they are still the YBs. Of course funding is a problem since you need funds to run the service centre. Most of the voters even in the opposition-controlled state or Parliamentary seats still come to their service centre for help. Some of the local leaders felt that this was unfair. My response was to serve and to let the rakyat decide who is serving and who is not.







Monday, June 22, 2009

Busy Weekend

Over the weekend, from Thursday right up to Sunday, I was kept busy travelling to Kelantan, Johor and Malacca. In Kelantan, I officiated MCA AGM in five divisions. In Johor, I launched a Youth program in Muar. In the same day, I held the first BN coordinating meeting in Muar. On my way back to KL, I officiated another MCA AGM in Malacca. On Sunday night, I was back again in Johor Bahru to officiate another MCA AGM.

In Kelantan, MCA only has a state seat and we lost in the 308 general election. However, in most of the division AGM meeting that I have attended, I noticed that attendance in the AGM is satisfactory considering there are not many Chinese and MCA members in Kelantan. The Chinese make up about 4-5% of the total population in Kelantan, which are about 30,000 to 40,000 people. I suspect the younger generations are mostly working outside Kelantan.

Travelling through Kelantan, I notice that there is not much change in term of development and economic activities. In Kota Bharu, I noticed that are some new shop houses and shopping centre. On Friday, there was traffic congestion during lunchtime because of the Muslim’s Friday prayer. Otherwise, it’s the same old Kota Bharu. I was wondering why Lee Kuan Yew in his visit to Kelantan did not make any observation about the development in Kelantan and other states. In Penang, he commented that George Town have not seen much changes compared to Ipoh and Seremban. This was enough to trigger a verbal war between Koh Tsu Koon and Lim Guan Eng. Maybe Kuan Yew being a ‘political animal’ did not want to offend PAS.

PAS has a formidable party organization and has the most number of members compared to DAP and Keadilan. Hence, it is not surprising that the PAS President Hadi Awang and his supporters have been very vocal in stating their claim to be the Prime Minister if they come into power. Of course this has not gone down well with Anwar and Keadilan members. I am wondering what is DAP’s stand. I suspect DAP will go along with Keadilan rather than PAS.

What Kelantan has achieved under PAS in the last 19 years is not very encouraging. If PR comes into power at the federal level with PAS taking the lead, then a lot of us may not be so enthusiastic about the future of this country. The fundamentalist in PAS would over emphasize religion over economic development.

Kelantan today has the highest rate of poverty in peninsular Malaysia. It also has the highest unemployment rate as creation of new jobs is lacking. It has hardly any foreign direct investment. However, it has one of the highest incidents of the HIV and drug addicts. I was also told that it has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. Maybe, it has low crime rate. If this is the record that we have, then I shudder at the thought that PAS’ leadership like this can be in the pilot’s seat at federal level.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day Off for Maids

While it is a laudable act for the government to make it compulsory for the employers to give their maid one day off in a week, I am more worried about the implementation and the impact of it.

There are a total of 300, 000 foreign maids in Malaysia. If all of them are given a day off on Sunday, imagine what will happen to popular places like tourist spots, shopping malls and parks. A good example will be the crowd in Puduraya. If you go to Puduraya on Sunday, you will think that you’re in Indonesia or in Bangladesh because all foreign construction workers are given the day off on that day and they crowded near Puduraya area, making the place not only very congested but also very unMalaysian in its crowd.

Apart from that, how is the government going to enforce this new ruling? Does the government have sufficient officers to carry out checks from door-to door on families who have maids at home? If only random checks are conducted, how would the government know whether the employers adhere to the ruling? Therefore, there must be a proper system and guideline given to both employers and maids in ensuring that they follow the rules, or else this will be another piece of legislation looking good on paper.

We recognize the importance of the role of maids in a family where without them, a lot of women are unable to work since they have to stay home to take care of the children and do house chores. The government also has to ensure that the maids will not abuse the day off given to them. There are many maids who have gone missing after their day off because they befriended other foreign men and ran away. Some even conspired with their boyfriends to steal valuable items from the employer’s home and causing possible endangerment to the employer's life. We have heard of this many times already, but do we have a system to monitor this issue?

With more than 300, 000 foreign maids in this country, the government should seriously consider and review the plan before implementing it. The Ministry of Human resource should follow the example of Tan Sri Muhyiddin and obtain feedback from the public before implementing the ruling.

As I will be travelling to Kelantan, Johor and Melaka from today onwards till next week, I will not have time to blog. Sorry, my dear readers.







Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Compulsory Pass in English for full SPM certificate

Ever since Tan Sri Muhyiddin proposed that it is time that a pass in English is compulsory in SPM, there has been much debate. I’ve also written in my blog on this subject. It is a good sign to allow the public to give feedback to the government. This is what we call decision made with the participation of the rakyat. It will make our democracy a more vibrant one and decision of the government not top down. However, like all discussion and feedback, hopefully a final and a wise decision be made. After that, there should be no flip-flop. It is an educational issue; hence, one should not be emotional and politicize it.

We are told that if English is made compulsory, around 30% of the SPM candidate will fail to make the grade in the exam. We are also told that in 2006, of the 21% who failed to get a certificate, 90% failed in Bahasa Malaysia. Both are not heart-warming piece of information. It just demonstrates the continuing deterioration of the standard of education in this country. If we make a pass in English and Bahasa compulsory before they qualify for a full SPM certificate, then maybe 40-50% of the students will fail to get a full certificate. In other words, the quality of SPM graduates is suspect. The standards of SPM must be so low that we have thousands of SPM students who scores strings of As in the exam. In the recent SPM examination, more than 6500 students scored As in all their subjects. We should not be obsessed with the number of students passing SPM. We should be more concern with the quality of the students we churn out. Mass production should be one of bygone era. The time has come to raise the standards. We just have to do it provided the various educational infrastructures are in place.

In general, the quality of teachers and teaching has deteriorated simultaneously. Teaching is now not a profession of choice. Often, we hear of people who opted for teaching after they have failed to get into courses of their 1st preference. We also observed that there are more female teachers. Often, it has been asked, where have all the men gone to? I have nothing against female teachers. A lot of them are very dedicated. Teaching is no more the most respectable profession as it used to be. Often, when a public exam results are published, I have yet to read of a top scholar who wants to be a teacher. Often, they want to do medicine, engineering or law. There are also less and less Chinese teachers. This may be due to a combination of factors from lack of interest, the purported discrimination by JPA. Promotion for the teachers has always been a contentious issue. Hence, you see senior teaching staffs coming from one particular ethnic group. There should be a better career path for teachers who excel in their job. The super teachers are few in numbers and there is a need to increase them. It will make a lot of difference to the morale of the teaching profession if more posts are created for the so-called super teachers and promotion based on merits. The teacher’s job is to teach and not to be bogged down by administrative work.

Every time we have a new Education Minister, there seems to be a change in educational policy with the Ministers giving emphasis to different educational issues. Education Ministers should not juggle with educational policies without giving deep thoughts to it. They should not change for the sake of changing. At least, Tan Sri Muhyiddin before initiating any changes has provided adequate time for the public to give him feedback. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1)

Finally, WHO has declared an Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic. It is obvious that it is difficult to contain a virus that spread through droplet infection and close contact. Now that it has affected more than 30,000 people in more than 75 countries, it is inevitable that the WHO has to announce a pandemic. Now the whole world is on the alert.

It is obvious that the Influenza A H1N1 has been very mild. We hope that it will not mutate into a more virulent virus. We should not panic and overreact since the common influenza affects millions of people every year with more death than the H1N1. Having said that, it does not mean that we should let our guards down. The necessary precaution still needs to be taken. H1N1 causes more morbidity and fear rather than mortality.

In Malaysia, all cases are now imported. There is yet any confirmed case of human-to-human transmission within the local community. Hence, stringent measures should be undertaken at all entry points. Students returning from overseas, especially from Australia, USA and UK should be advised to postpone their trip home if they have flu-like symptoms. At the entry point, these countries, which are regarded as the epicentre of the H1N1 virus should be targeted for more stringent screening before entering the country. There is no fullproof screening since there is often an incubation period where at the early stages, there is no symptoms at all. If they develop H1N1 at a later stage and if they are not isolated early, then the likelihood of a local transmission is increased. Hence, people should be exercising more self-responsibility by seeking treatment early for any flu-like symptoms. Healthcare providers should be on high alert. Doctors should always keep in mind that any patient with flu-like symptoms and coming into contact with people who have travelled to any of the 75 affected countries could be an H1N1 patient.

In a disease where close contact is the mode of transmission, personal cleanliness and avoiding crowded and congested place will be the best form of precaution. Hence, it is wise to avoid the cinema, crowded restaurants and shopping centres. Travelling should be on the need basis. It is not a good time to go oversea for family holiday.

When I was in Beijing, I discovered that all big international gatherings have been postponed. This action can be regarded as quite drastic. Probably China has the SARS phobia and has been extremely stringent at its point of entry. When we arrived in Beijing, we were not allowed to disembark and health personnel came on board to do a quick temperature screening. If there are people with fever on board, then all the passengers may be quarantined until a diagnosis is made of the suspect. This is to prevent the problem of contact tracing after the disembarkation in the event that one of the passengers with fever is diagnosed with H1N1.

Since the disease is mild, doctors should be more conservative in the usage of Tamiflu. If Tamiflu is used routinely to treat all H1N1 cases, the danger is that they may develop resistant to Tamiflu. If a patient is down with H1N1 and also has underlying disease, at the same time, the patient’s H1N1 is resistant to Tamiflu, then it is likely that the patient will succumb to the illness.

Meanwhile, Malaysians should relax and do not panic. It is personal hygiene and common sense that will prevent us from being infected.








Thursday, June 11, 2009

A response to comments made by Association of Graduates from Universities and Colleges of China, Malaysia

I am given to understand that the chairman of the Association of Graduates from Universities and Colleges of China, Malaysia has commented over my blog posting. One should not be too emotional over this issue and regard it as a Chinese issue. It is an education issue that involves 2 countries, Malaysia and China.

When I was the Minister of health, I persuaded the Cabinet to recognize Nanjing University, Beijing University and Shanghai University’s courses in traditional Chinese medicine. This is to ensure that Malaysian Chinese who are trained in these 3 universities can then practice alongside western trained medical practitioner. This is important to give recognition to a lot of Chinese traditional practitioners in this country and would lay the groundwork if we develop an integrated hospital combining western and traditional Chinese medicine. Today, I am proud that there are traditional Chinese medicine unit in Putrajaya hospital and Kepala Batas hospital.

It was also during the time of Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting and myself as Minister of Health that we persuaded the Cabinet to recognize Chinese language degree from Beijing University and Tsing Hua University.

Whether or not the government recognizes the degree from Chinese universities, Malaysia students will continue to go to China to pursue their education. If the university is well known, students don’t have to worry about their recognition. They can work anywhere and be accepted. There are a lot of Malaysian Chinese having degree from China doing very well in Malaysia and other parts of the world. Do not turn an educational issue of recognition into a racial issue.

Meanwhile, leading universities in China is unlikely to set up branch campus in Malaysia because I understand that the Chinese government does not allow it. In China, there are also restrictions in the number of student intake into leading universities.

Currently, I’m helping two private institutions to set up two branch campus from China in collaboration with local universities. Accusing me that I do not think from the perspective of the Chinese community, I leave it to the Chinese to judge me. Whatever it is, I am not emotional in looking at problems from a narrow racial angle.











Compulsory pass in English for SPM Certificate

A compulsory pass in English was a pre-requisite before getting a full certificate in SPM. In my school days, you must get a credit in English before you can get Grade 1. When you fail your English, you fail your senior Cambridge ‘O’ level exam. There is no argument and you have no choice. In those days, we have to study English grammar.

When Bahasa Melayu was made Bahasa Malaysia and it became the official language of the country, the pendulum swung to the other end where English was neglected. You are viewed with suspicion if you speak English. The focus was on Bahasa Malaysia to the total neglect of the English language. By the late 80s, the standard of English dropped dramatically. The ultra-nationalists make it fashionable that a true Malaysian need only know how to speak Bahasa Malaysia and mother tongue. English suddenly became a foreign language. Today, even a university graduate cannot string a proper sentence in English. Hence, we say they speak England and not English.

English is an international language. It is a language of Law, Commerce, IT, Science and Technology. Hence, studying English can help rather than hinder a person’s competitiveness. Even in China and Japan, the focus by the government is the study of the English language. Malaysians cannot be a monolingual race whereby the Malays speak Bahasa Melayu, Chinese in Mandarin and Indians speak Tamil while we are poor in other languages. As a trading nation that is very dependent on export market, this will be a disaster. Language is a tool for communication and interaction. It is through this tool that we establish a better understanding and relationship.

Having a pass in English for the SPM certificate is an excellent idea. Of course there are problems in its implementation. There is this urban and rural divide problem, the lack of English teachers and the lack of relevant English teaching materials. However, we have to make a start somewhere. If we let this problem hinder us from making a decision, then we will be too late. Progress in the world like time and tide waits for no man including Malaysians. We can spend our time arguing while the world progresses.

Implement it and resolve the bottleneck as we progress along. In the early stages, we do not raise the standards of the English since we are aware of the many bottlenecks and handicaps confronting the students. After 3-5 years of implementation, we gradually raise the standards of English so that we are at par with Singapore as the benchmark. We don’t want Malaysia graduates to speak Tarzan English. Often, because of poor language command, a young graduate or young professional become reclusive and shy away from interaction and expressing their opinion. This will not do the nation proud if we want to be competitive. Personally, I will convey this idea of implementing a pass in English for SPM to Tan Sri Muhyiddin and gradually increasing the standards of English so that those handicapped by the lack of teachers and the teaching infrastructure will not be penalized.





Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PAS’ Party Election

In the recently concluded PAS’ party election, it was obvious that the more liberal and pro-Anwar group lost out badly to the more conservative group, led by its own President Hadi Awang and his faithful deputy Datuk Nasaruddin. Even before the party election, Hadi Awang and his faithful followers have been openly talking about unity government and also muzakarah or what we call dialogue between PAS and UMNO. It evoked a strong response from Nik Aziz, the MB of Kelantan who thought it was a stupid idea and mere rubbish.

Of the 3 parties in PR, PAS is the most well organized with the most number of members. It is also the only party with considerable experience running a state in Kelantan. Till this day, Keadilan and DAP do not have much of a party organization to speak of and virtually no experience in running a state government. Hence, strictly speaking, PAS is the ‘taiko’ in PR. Its state EXCOs do function as the party in power in the 4 states. As for DAP and Keadilan, most of the EXCOs behave as if they are still in the opposition.

When PAS leader talk about unity government and muzakarah between UMNO and PAS, it is obvious that DAP and Keadilan feels very uncomfortable having suddenly been notified that PAS have been talking about Malay and Muslim agenda with UMNO. This have not gone down well with DAP and Keadilan since both claimed to champion policies that go beyond the racial line. 

On Sunday night, while officiating a function in Muar, I was asked about the proposed dialogue between UMNO and PAS. My response was that the time has come that parties from both the political divide should reduce politicking and that it is a good idea to sit down to have a dialogue for the bigger picture of national interest and the interest of the rakyat. Confrontational politics will not do the nation, its people and the political parties any good. However, I felt that if PAS and UMNO only talk about Malay and Muslim interests, then it will be unfair to the Non-Muslims and the Non-Malays. There are many common denominators that political parties can talk about. That can form the basis of any form of dialogue and need not necessarily confined to a particular race and religion. Irrespective of race and religion, all Malaysians are confronted with a lot of common issues. This may be a good starting point for a mutually beneficial dialogue so that either party will have a better understanding of each other. We seek common values and objectives to work on rather than be confrontational.

Imagine a situation where UMNO and PAS decides to form the government, then the role of the non-Malays and the non-Muslims will just be observer or opposition. This will not be healthy for the nation in the long run. Maybe PAS by talking about having dialogue with UMNO and posturing itself as a non-racial party, hopes to get votes from the Malays and the non-Malays.  On the other hand, UMNO felt that by doing so, it acts as the big brother who always champions the Malays and the Muslims. If UMNO is accused of doing things without consulting its component parties, then it is obvious from the paper that PAS has not bothered to consult Keadilan or DAP in its proposal to have dialogue with UMNO.

Meanwhile, PAS’ general assembly has generated some rather controversial resolutions. One of its resolutions was to call for the banning of the Sisters in Islam (SIS) purportedly its teaching is against Islam. I had the opportunity to listen to talk given by one of the leaders of SIS and I left impressed by their enlightened views of Islam and other religions. I was thinking that if all Muslim leaders behave or have thoughts or attitude like leaders in SIS, then it will definitely foster greater religious harmony between the non-Muslims and the Muslims. The conservative in PAS who won big in the election must have felt uncomfortable with the liberal views of the SIS. The non-Muslims should not forget the long-term political agenda of the conservative leaders in PAS. I have said this many times in my blog and I will not repeat myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

China’s no frills government events

I had the opportunity to attend many government functions in China in the last 5 years. What strike me most as compared to Malaysia is:

1)   The functions usually start very punctually. The guest of honour arrives right on the dot. Their arrival is without much fun fare. However, there is often tight security and this can cause a lot of inconvenience.

2)   Speeches are often short. The salutation is equally short.

3)   Even if there is a tea break, there is no sumptuous food served for tea break. It’s either mineral water, Chinese tea or one or two pieces of cakes and some fruits or often nothing at all.

4)   For night function, it usually starts at 6.00p.m. and ends at 8.00p.m. Even when we are the host, we are for warned not to prolong the function beyond 8.30p.m. Cultural shows are often limited to 3 or 4 events. If Chinese food are served, often it is not more than 6 dishes.

5)   For international conference, there is hardly any door gift or even souvenirs.

6)   There is no fanciful backdrop and big banners.

In short, China’s functions can be very clean cut with no time and money wasted. Malaysia needs to learn from China on how to prevent wastage when we host functions. No wonder in a matter of 20 years, China have accumulated enough wealth that today, if China decides to pull out its American Treasury Bill, not only America, but the whole world’s economy will be in trouble.  What is certain is that China will gradually diversified its foreign reserve rather than putting all its wealth in the same American treasury basket. Do not underestimate China’s determination to try to internationalize the Chinese yuan.

The recent America financial meltdown is a wake up call to the Americans that they are not the ‘masters’ or the ‘know-all’ about financial matters. The Americans believe that they have the best financial model and let the market forces regulate itself and that the government plays a minimum role. A lot of nations are used to their lecture that the America’s financial success is due to their conviction that the financial market knows best. In the recent American banking fiasco, the government virtually nationalizes all the major banking and insurance institution in America by being the major shareholders.  Some even said that capitalism in the America is dead. China and Malaysia have often been on the receiving end of these America’s lecture. 

Recently, a lot of economists feel that the Chinese government should be lecturing the American government of how to manage their financial system. America is a consumption economy where its national savings is virtually zero. Until the Americans start to learn how to save like the Chinese in China, America will continue to print paper money to oil its economy and the country continues to be in debt. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

China-Malaysia's 35 years relationship


Prime Minister Najib’s visit to China can be regarded as fruitful and augurs well for both the nations. For the Prime Minister, it was quite a sentimental trip since it was his late father Tun Razak who took the bold decision of recognizing China 35 years ago. The Prime Minister brought along his mother, his wife and family on this occassion.

One cannot not to be impressed with the Chinese government every time I visit Beijing. My last visit to Beijing was in 2007 when I presented the paper on food safety and another paper on the integration of traditional medicine and western medicine. Beijing is a bustling city with a dusty atmosphere but it is definitely much cleaner on the streets of Beijing if compared to other big cities. Its landscape is beautiful and despite the space constraint, there are provisions for the pedestrian and the cyclists. Many visitors to China salute the Chinese government for its town planning, especially landscaping and being people’s friendly by promoting cycling and walking.

Over the last 35 years, because of the cordial relationship between China and Malaysia, trade has been registering double-digit growth. Last year, the value of trade between the two nations touches US$50 billion (figures given by China). China is Malaysia’s 4th largest trading partner and it is an important export market for our commodities. There is also a significant growth in the tourism market. More and more students from China are in Malaysia pursuing further education.

China is today regarded as the economic powerhouse of Asia. It is estimated by next year China will overtake Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. This is a remarkable achievement achieved over a short span of 25 years. Its economic development model will be studied by endless people in the hope that these achievements can be duplicated in other countries.  Of course there are structural problem in China’s high speed economic growth.

In the next 10 years, what do Malaysia hope to benefit from our cordial relationship with China?

1)    More joint-venture companies between China and Malaysia private sector. Presently, there are joint ventures but mostly initiated by GLC.

2)   Hope to see a more diversified form of joint-venture development. We should move away from just undertaking property development. We hope to see more joint ventures related to railway, dam, hydroelectric power station and aluminum smelter plant of which China has world-renowned expertise. Hopefully through these joint ventures, there will be technology transfer from China to Malaysia.

3)   In the field of agriculture, we should learn about China’s effort on modernization of agriculture and biotechnology. China today supplies almost half of the world’s fresh vegetables.

4)   Tourism. This has great potential. Last year, we received more than 900, 000 Chinese tourists. In the same year, there are 40 million Chinese tourists. So, what Malaysia received is a very small insignificant numbers. To attract more tourists to Malaysia, we have to create more packages that involve several other countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos. These packages will make it more attractive to visit this part of the world.  Chinese tourists like to eat, shop and a fair significant number gambles.

5)   Education. The private institutions of higher learning have to play a more aggressive role in attracting Chinese students. There are 11, 000 Chinese students pursuing education at various levels. I understand that most of them are doing short courses.  There is a need for the private sector to upgrade their standards of education. Otherwise, it will be a hard battle attracting quality foreign students. There have always been calls by Malaysia Chinese educationists that the government should recognize more universities from China. Since most Malaysian Chinese have no interest to work in the civil service, I feel that recognition or non-recognition of universities in China is not of importance.

I took the opportunity to travel to a few shopping centres and it is good to discover from the taxi driver that the security has improved tremendously in Beijing in the last 5 years. Hence, taxis in Beijing do not have iron grills that separates the driver from the passengers. This used to be the usual features in taxis operating in Beijing.

The weather is hot and dry. I do my usual morning walk from 6.30a.m. to 7.30a.m. I must admit, it was quite a pleasant walk despite the bustling traffic since there is a pedestrian walkway and beautiful landscaping.  















2) 希望看到一个更多样化的合资企业发展。我们应该摆脱侧重于产业的发展导向。我们希望看到更多铁路、水坝、水力发电站和铝制炼厂项目的合作,中国在这些领域有很多优秀的专才。通过这些合作,有望将中国的技术转移到大马。











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