Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Campaigning in Bukit Selambau By-Election/ 为武吉士南卯助选

Both by-elections campaign are in full swing. I was in the Bukit Selambau nomination on the 29th March. While is it difficult to gage the exact number of turnout by the PR and BN party members, I must say the days when opposition members with poor turnout on nomination days are over. I would say that the number of members who turn out for nomination is roughly about 5000 from each party. While most of the members who turn out for BN are local, those from PR, I am given to understand are from outside of the state of Kedah.

I attended a dinner on the 29th night where the turnout was about 1000 and I was quite surprised that 75% of the Chinese are Teochew speaking. Since I am Teochew, part of my speech was in Teochew dialect. While I can speak Teochew well, but giving speech in Teochew is difficult. It is a totally different cup of tea. One person who can deliver an excellent Teochew speech impeccably is Datuk Edward Khoo, the MCA Sabah Chief. I must admit I face the dilemma of what to speak that night.

While results of by-election will not alter the balance of political power in the state administration, it is nevertheless important that voters should use their votes wisely to choose their wakil rakyat that can deliver service and represent their interest in state assembly. This will directly affect the level of development at the local level since a hardworking wakil rakyat can make a lot of difference in solving local problems and improving infrastructure within the constituency.

This is a good opportunity to reject irresponsible candidates who after election has no guts to face his voters and then disappeared into the thin air. I urge the voters to reject any forms of violence during the campaign period. We want to see peaceful by-election since violence begets violence.

Chinese voters should also use this by-election to reject PAS. While the candidate is from PKR, it is obvious that the whole election machinery is run by PAS with a sprinkling of DAP supporters. I told the crowd that BN is not a perfect party and government. As a party in power for more than 52 years, while it has done a lot of goods in developing the country, uplifting the standards of education and living in the country, it also has its weaknesses and defects.

The BN government needs to be more fair and transparent in treating all races. Everyone should have equal economic and education opportunities and also to participate in nation building. In the same way, PR is also not perfect. It is in its one year existence as the party in control in the state administration in Kedah.

Its weaknesses are now clearly seen:

1) Till this day, PR in Kedah has never outlined any program or development for the development of Kedah other than:

a) Criticizing the previous administration for its failure or defect but at the same time did not come out with constructive plans for the state government to replace the failed policies. However, the PR state government has done a better job in doing public relation job.

2) Voters have to be critical, both of the BN and PR state government. Have the PR state government fulfilled its pledges contained in its manifesto? It is obvious that the PR state government has failed to fulfill some basic pledges in the state of Kedah:

a) Failure to improve the garbage disposal system;

b) Failure to review quick rent and house assessment as promised;

c) Failure to increase aids to the poor;

d) Failure to fulfill the pledges to state government officials that loan to state government officials will be interest free;

e) Failure to build any childcare centre in factories for the convenience of working mothers.

Have their policies been fair to all races? One glaring example is the 50% quota of bumiputra in all housing development, compared to the 30% previously by BN government. I also noticed that Chinese PR ADUN while attending function hardly gives peruntukan as how it is usual practiced among BN ADUN. Is it because the state government does not allow peruntukan to Chinese temple or just the PR ADUN themselves are not political savvy?

I also touched on local government’s administration and office. This is often the government agency that is nearest to the rakyat and often the weakest link in the government administration. Have their services improved, have they been prompt in attending to complaints, less of corruption and abuse of power?

Have they done anything to improve local traffic flow and the parking problem faced by the community or is it the same old story of inefficiency and indifference displayed by the local authority that was in existence in the previous local government?

Have the state government taken any step to initiate the election of local councilors as promised? The economic downturn is also a challenge to state government. Have concrete steps be taken, at least at state level to cushion the impact of this slowdown? I understand that the state government of Penang has put in place some program to counter this slowdown.

Finally, no one can deny that there is an attempt to implement and emphasized Islamic value and graduate Islamination on all levels of the state administration as practiced in Kelantan.

To say that the BN has not changed since the 308 political tsunami is not true. The fact that Pak Lah willingly gives up his Prime Ministership is an indication that he’s read the mind of the rakyat. Najib has promised that he will undertake reform and changes within UMNO and BN so as to fulfill the expectation of rakyat. The 2 stimulus packages announced by government have special peruntukan for Chinese schools. The first stimulus package is RM50million and in the second stimulus package, I am given to understand will be utilized to build 7 new schools and to relocate 13 schools that add up to a sum of RM100 million.

As for the corruption, the government has set up the Malaysia Anti Corruption Committee (MACC) and the Judiciary Appointment Commission (JAC). Hopefully over time, we will be able to see the effectiveness of the 2 Commissions. Hence, to say that there is no change since 308 is not fair.

I’ve also devoted part of my speech to the implication of PAS government to non-Muslim community. In short, it is a lie to say that Hudud and Islamic law only affect the Muslim. If implemented in the country, it affects the Muslim as well as the non-Muslims. A lot of non-Muslims have indifferences or what we call déjà-vu effect about the implication of Hudud law in our country.

Let’s hope that PAS would never really come to power at the central level. Karpal Singh’s outburst against PAS will not save the day.

After the ceramah, I conducted another ceramah organized by UMNO where there were a crowd of only about 200 people, largely of Malays. Like other UMNO ceramah, there were lots of other speakers, I left after my speech. By then, it was already 11.30p.m.

The next day, I left at 7.00a.m. to go to Simpang in Bukit Gantang to visit the wet market.







截至今天, 吉打民联政府始终没有提出任何具体和有利州内的发展计划。 民联政府的公共关系处理手法比国阵好,但除此以外,我们只看到州政府一味批评前朝政府的失败和不足之余,却没有提出替代方案取代旧政策。

a) 改善地方上的排污和垃圾清理问题
b) 没有检讨地税和门牌税
c) 无法增加扶贫援助
d) 无法履行为公务员提供免息贷款的承诺
e) 无法实行在工厂设立托儿所,为职业女性提供护儿便利







Kedah Teochew Association Annual Dinner in Sg. Petani, Kedah

On the 27th March, I chaired the Kedah MCA Government Policy Bureau meeting in Kedah. In Kedah, the chairman of the Government Policy Monitoring Bureau is Datuk Chong Itt Chew who was a former EXCO member. 

Basically, if we want to monitor government policy in PR states, we must learn how to play the role as an opposition member. Unfortunately, most MCA members don’t seem to know how to play the role as an opposition effectively.  

We need to learn how to oppose constructively and it is important for MCA members to monitor the performance of state government in terms of policy announcement and its implementation if we want to play our role well.

I must admit that after 308 election, a lot of active MCA leaders’ morale were badly dented. While some have recovered, some have not. The economic slowdown is not going to help as the morale booster.

That night, I attended the Kedah Teochew Association’s annual dinner. I was surprised that about 1000 people attended and it was a well-organized dinner with 2 MCs, one speaking in Mandarin and the other in Teochew.

There is a need for parents to speak to their children in dialect. Other than Cantonese, I am worried that most spoken Chinese dialect would slowly but surely suffer a gradual decline, leading to its ultimate ‘death’.

I have the advantage to stay with my parents and since my parents were from China and illiterate, they spoke to me in Teochew. While my children and grandchildren stay with me, we tend to converse in English, Mandarin and only sometime Teochew. I am trying my best to speak to my grandchildren in Teochew, otherwise all the dialects, except Cantonese would suffer from what we call disuse atrophy.

The existence of dialect-based associations face tremendous challenge on how to attract young people to join them and keep the spirit of the dialect group alive.

The next day, I attended the nomination for Bukit Selambau. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last AGM for Pak Lah as President of UMNO and PM of Malaysia/ 侧写拉伯

I attended the opening ceremony of the UMNO AGM. This will be the last AGM by Pak Lah as the President of UMNO and PM of Malaysia.

As the outgoing PM, the speech was short, which is about 45 minutes (his perennial cough was a distraction). It was a dignified farewell address with a lot of advises to UMNO members. UMNO as rightly said faces a life and death situation. It has to change or else it would be changed from the ruling party to the opposition. The same applied to all the Peninsular BN component parties of MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP.

Pak Lah rightly pointed out that UMNO must not practice discrimination to the extent than the non-Malays view it as a racist party. PAS in the name of Islam, can talk about Muslim rights and non-Muslim, without incurring such condemnnation. A lot of people seem to forget that all Malays are Muslim as stipulated in the Federal Constitution. One PR MP once said in Parliament that he is a Muslim first and a Malay second.

Pak Lah will be remembered as the PM that provided the space for open dissent. He is down to earth and it is difficult not to like his friendly disposition. As a patient man, he allows cabinet ministers the freedom to discuss and argue their papers. However, I noticed while he is firm, he is not decisive. A poor memory and bad time management does not help. Personally, I find him to be very patient and kind with a lot of fatherly advice.

When I resigned last year, I went back to see Pak Lah to request him to help me to honour all the pledges of peruntukan that I have announced as MP and Minister. I was worried then if I did not honour those allocations, then it would just became an empty promise. By then I have no allocation since I eased to be MP. Pak Lah kindly granted my requests and I am proud to note when I resigned; I have no outstanding debt to my voters in my constituency. To be frank, he was touched by my requests and sense of responsibility.

I will not be doing any posting for the next few days as I am travelling to Kedah and Perak for the by-election.








Thursday, March 26, 2009

UMNO election and Najib as the next Prime Minister

UMNO election has always spark interest to people outside the party. Traditionally, the UMNO President will become the PM of Malaysia. Most of those who are elected to senior position within UMNO often have position in the govenrnment. In short, UMNO party election do have an important bearing on the national political landscape.

Malaysia, whether the state or federal government is made up of ruling parties. It’s a zero sum game as far as government positions is concerned.

For the first time in party history, the top leadership of the 3 wings of UMNO – Wanita, Puteri and Youth and the parent body of UMNO except the President are seeing keen contest.

By Thursday night, Najib will be confirmed as the President of UMNO and the following week to be sworn in as the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Najib has waited patiently for more than 30 years to this day. Najib will bring to his office his wealth of experience, both at the state and federal, a good brain, a good listener and a friendly manner but yet firm. He will be facing immense challenges of trying to rebuild UMNO and BN. He has to face the economic slowdown and a likely economic recession that Malaysia faces. He needs all the wisdom and experience, luck and support to overcome these 2 immense challenges. It’s not going to be an easy job.

UMNO needs to undergo an overhaul of change from the quota system to qualify for party election to money politics and a small number of leaders afflicted with arrogance of power. Like all parties in power, for a substantial time, complacency sets in and there will be a lot of self-serving party officials. This is a general illness that afflicts all political parties.

From the time I became Wakil Rakyat in 1986 to my last election in 2004, I can see a significant change in the behaviour and work attitude of some UMNO leaders at branches, divisions and even at state level. Somehow, a lot of grassroots leaders have lost their fire in the belly or passion in their work. Generally, they are better educated and enjoy a higher standard of living compared to the 80s. I notice also that there are more concerns with the trapping of wealth and position. Some can ill-afford it but have to put up with the false front to maintain the gaya of life.

With a higher level of education and standard of living, some of the members have lost touch with the grassroots who remain very dedicated and committed to party struggle. Some have become aloof and believe that whatever they have, power, position and wealth will be in perpetuality.  However, I must admit that there are still a lot of UMNO leaders who are still loyal and dedicated who served and work without monetary consideration. If UMNO leadership can inspire a change among the grassroots leaders to work hard to win rakyat’s support, then UMNO can continue to enjoy the support of Malay masses.

Often, some UMNO wakil rakyat after election hardly visit the non-Malay constituencies. They often leave this in care of component parties of BN – MCA, MIC or Gerakan and this can be a fatal mistake when the component party leadership are weak at the local level. Often local wakil rakyat has to shoulder the blame and face the music. This may be one of the important reasons for the erosion of support for UMNO candidates within the constituency. Traditionally, mixed constituencies have been stronghold of BN until the 308 election where mixed constituencies became the Achilles heel for the defeat of BN. So, one of the significant change in BN wakil rakyat is that they must be able to reach out to all races, failing to do so will cost them dearly in the coming election.

Reaching to the young will be the greatest challenge for any political party in Malaysia. More than one third of Malaysia population is within 15 – 40 age group. While a greater percentage have access to higher education, more articulate and have better understanding of their rights and be more critical of the government of the day, they often show no interest for grassroots political activities. A lot become just armchair critics.

Often how to get them engage constructively would be the most difficult challenge to both the political divide. The image and perception game becomes important and this has worked. In general, UMNO and BN are viewed negatively by the younger generation.

The new media with a lot of bloggers have only served to aggravate the situation. I notice lots of bloggers are often arm-chaired critics and a lot of them do not seem to understand the political realities in this country. While it is good that the younger generation is fired with idealism, they should be more grounded with realities rather than make believe. Until and unless BN can engage these younger generations, I feel that we face a monumental task of changing their negative perception towards UMNO and BN.

Congratulations to Sharizat for winning the Wanita Chief, Khairy for winning the Youth Chief and Rosnah who became the new Puteri UMNO Chief.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MCA Integrity Watch Group/ 马华(选择性)监督小组

Ever since the MCA Integrity Watch Group (IWG) burst into the scene, it is obvious that this integrity watch group were set up to continuously attack me and my supporters. A better name would be MCA Selective Watch Group. I don’t have to be an Einstein scientist to know who is behind this watch group.

Since then, I face mounting pressure that another group should be set up to monitor another MCA leader. Granted that no leader is perfect, it is never difficult to find issues, which are also of public interest.

My response has always been that we should be above all this. There should not be any personality attack. Things should be more towards issue-centric. In the same way, loyalty and support should be to a cause and should not be personality driven. One should not forget that leaders come and go.

What will happen to MCA if there are more IWGs just to harass a particular leader? It will be a politic of self-destruction rather than politics of construction.

I love my party more that I love the politics. Till this day, I resist in setting up another parallel integrity watch group.

How long I could hold up is anybody’s guess.






Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vision School: Chinese Racialist? 文告:华社未排斥友族同胞

Much has been debated about the vision school and the real controversy is that the Malays including Mahathir do not really understand the reason why the majority of Chinese is against the implementation of vision schools.

All of us accept that mingling of 3 major races in primary schools is important. We cannot live in a multiracial country where major races are like aliens to each other. There must be some common grounds of interaction and understanding, mutual respect and tolerance in order to ensure racial harmony and peace.

This basic principle, I believe, is agreed by every Malaysian but how do we achieve it? Is vision school the only way to achieve this?

The answer is no.

There is always this thought that when major races share the same compound as proposed in vision school, then there is some interaction and hopefully understanding. However, the Malay schools will be dominant by virtue of fact of a bigger enrolment of pupils. Since the civil service is dominated by one particular race, there is this fear among Chinese educationists that the Chinese primary schools will ultimately change in character. Hence, it all boils down to trust of the Chinese community towards the government in its implementation of mother tongue education.

While citizens have the right to pursue mother tongue education, it has never been a hustle free freedom to pursue your mother tongue education.

When it comes to actual Chinese primary school development, there’s a host of problem and this has created suspicion and mistrust that is the biggest tumbling block to the acceptance of vision school. It is not that the Chinese are against interaction with other races. We value racial integration just like any other races.

In any community, there will always be people with a very tunnel vision regarding race, religion, education and culture. You can find that in all community, be in Chinese, Malay or Indian. Hence, it is dangerous to stereotype and make sweeping conclusions.

If leaders take recognition that there is lack of trust and confidence, then leaders should take positive steps and policy implementations to show that the government of the day is fair to all races as far as the educational opportunities and development are concerned. It is not just through pronouncement and lip service. Every community must see and feel that the government care and that every citizen’s right as enshrined in the constitution are given full protection.

After 308 election, I do see the change of heart among some Malay leaders as to mother tongue education. Some good examples is:

1) The 1st and 2nd stimulus package has given allocation to Chinese schools. This allocation is given directly to Chinese school board. To be fair, this was a decision made by the government before the 308 election. The result of the election could have hastened the implementation of this decision.

2) Relocation and building of new Chinese schools is to be bored by the government. 20 Chinese primary new schools of which 7 are new schools and 13 are relocated schools. This is a big change in the implementation of the construction and relocation of Chinese schools after the 308 election. Traditionally, this is borne by the Chinese community through contribution and partially only financed by the government.








Monday, March 23, 2009

Tiger Park in Georgetown/ 槟城建老虎公园?

I am one of those against the proposed Tiger Park in Georgetown. The 40-hectare allocation is too small an area for a big animal like the tiger. It will not be a “wow” factor in its attempt to keep the tourist dollars flowing. It is an ill-conceived eco-tourism development.

Penang has many tourist attractions: food, arts, multiracial culture, beaches, shopping and its World Herritage status.

When I was the chairman of the Johor Tourism Committee, I noticed at the international level, Penang or Georgetown has instant name recognition. It is not difficult to promote Penang.

Many Europeans, Middle East and China tourists like Penang that has the appeal of a tropical island. What is lack is continuous promotion and marketing upgrading of tourist facilities and good tourist package.

There is lack of cultural activities at night. There is no attempt to twin with other nearby island and to create convenient package like Bangkok and Saigon.

There are enough eco-tourism sites from Penang hill to Pulau Jerejak. More should be done to promote home stay programme in the suburb of the city, like in Balik Pulau with its fruit farms.

A Tiger Park of 40-hectare is too small to create any impact. Looking after big animal in a man-make setting is difficult. It will just become a zoo. There are already many zoos in our country.

If the state government is serious, then it should think of a night safari with other added attractions. Just depending on the tiger will not work. The tiger will only be at ease in its national habitat – the forest, not a man-made environment.








如果州政府认真发展旅游也,可考虑建立一个夜间动物园(night safari)。只有老虎的公园起不了作用,老虎最适合在大自然森林中生活,而不是受困在人造的园林。

Land Scam reported by MCA Integrity Watch Group/ 土地舞弊案

I read from the newspaper a report was lodged at the MACC Putrajaya by the MCA Integrity Watch Group against my former political secretary about a purported land scam.

The said land was acquired by Ministry of Health (MOH) for the purpose of constructing a health clinic in Johor Bahru. Every year, MOH acquired many pieces of land and the size of land acquired varies according to the type of health clinic to be constructed.

Acquisition of land by government agency is often a complicated process where the Minister and its staff is not involved. In the case of Ministry of Health, often the process start from the district health clinic which make the recommendation to the state and finally to the MOH headquarters.

At the Ministry, there is this committee, “Jawatankuasa Pembangunan Tanah” or the Land Development Committee, which is chaired by the Ketua Setiausaha (KSU). If there is a need and there is budget allocated, then the committee will evaluate the status of the land. Valuation of the land is then done by the Valuation Department. If the offer price of the land is way above the valuation as done by the Valuation Department, then often this is rejected by the said committee. Then there is the process of gazettement of land and the actual process of acquisition, which is done by the local land office.

In the whole process, the Minister and its staffs is not involved. Hence, in this reported case, I am more than willing to cooperate with the MACC so that any founded allegation can be rebutted.








Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bukit Selambau By-Election Crowd

I read that the Bukit Selambau by-election could be a 12-cornered fight judging by the number of people taking forms and those who have expressed their will to contest. If this comes true, it will be the most hotly contested seat in the history of state election in Malaysia. 

The motley crowded candidates, other than BN and PR candidates will probably be political lightweight and unknown. The independent candidates are probably attracted by the previous candidate Arumugan who contested as independent and won the seat.

They made simplistic assumption that they have a fighting chance. These independent candidates have forgotten that by-election is different than general election where the full forces of BN and PR will be utilized to ensure victory for its own candidate.

It is never easy to contest as an independent candidate in Malaysia politics unless the candidate is a well-known personality and be able to survive on his own. Face and name recognition is important in any election, more so in by-election.

An independent candidate does not have the support of party machinery and resources. Often they find that they require human and financial resources to carry out an election campaign. Without these 2, it is a no go situation.

Arumugan won in the last general election because of the wave of anti BN sentiment. Voters may be disappointed and disillusioned with the fact that Arumugan won and then joined PKR and later disappeared into the thin air.

I am given to understand that he provided hardly any service to his voters. Whether the same voters will vent their anger on PKR is anybody’s guess. 

I am given to understand that Datuk Seri Samy Velu has been campaigning very hard in the constitution, spending 3 days a week in Bukit Selambau meeting and hearing grouses and complaints from Indians within the constituency.

Apparently, this has not gone down well with other BN leaders who think that he is a liability rather than an asset in the campaign.

I’ve known Sam Velu to be a hardworking, determined and at time abrasive and a not to be easily brushed off BN leader. I am sure he’s working hard to ensure that MIC candidate wins in Bukit Selambau Then, it is an endorsement of MIC rebranding. He must have in his mind the MIC party election at the end of April.

However, in Bukit Selambau constitution, the Malays still constitute 50% of the voters. If the majority of Malay voters still supports MIC candidate, then there’s a possibility that the candidate will zoom to victory.

Support from Chinese is equally crucial to ensure victory since they made up nearly one quarter (19.25%) of the 35, 000 voters.

Since the counting of votes is according to polling station, then it is not difficult to make good calculated guess where the winning candidate derive his support. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Form 6 to be Phased Out?大学先修班将被淘汰?

Form 6 is one of the toughest phases in student’s life. Traditionally, the Form 6 examination will determine student’s entry into the Institute of Higher Learning. Many students find it difficult to deal with Form 6.

During the 60s, when it was my time, we have to take a common examination and only the qualified students are allowed to take Form 6. Hence, there are many first grader during my time who failed to make it into Lower 6 and for a lot of students, it often marks the end of their dream of entering universities. As the result, some went to teachers college, others went into private institution and many just dropped out after their Form 5.

In those days, you have to take General Paper (GP) and a lot of science students hated this paper, especially the essay writing per se. Often good science students may fail the paper. The general paper gave no avenue for memorizing or route learning and it was a test of creative thinking and general knowledge. Students who don’t read besides their textbook have difficulty in answering the GP.

With liberalization of education and the advancement in education facilities, a lot of students opt for pre-university and for bumiputras and very small number of non-bumiputra, matriculation classes.

One should not compare the students who go through matriculation and the 2-year system of Form 6. In the matriculation system, students are evaluated every semester rather than a one-off examination at the end of 2 years as in Form 6.

I can appreciate the difference between semester examination and the one off examination at the end of 2 years studies. That examination, to a certain extend, will determine your future since the acceptance into Institution of Higher Learning and the course you prefer will be determined by your result.

In short, it’s a challenging 2-year course. Doing away with the STPM so that all will be pre-university or matriculation would only serve to aggravate the falling education standard.

Maybe in addition to the final examination, the semester assessment should be taken into consideration. This will relieve tension and stress. It would also be a better platform to evaluate student’s performance. There should be greater emphasis on the quality of education to meet market demands rather than mass production of graduates.

The government should reduce intake of students for courses that are popular among students but its market demand is dropping. We are still sadly lacking in graduates in pure sciences and pure arts.

Today, in the market, we see mass production of graduates from the field of business studies, IT, lawyers and mass communication. There is a need to curb mass production of graduates in these fields.

Government and education sector should pay more attention to the connection between popular courses and the market demand. Otherwise this mismatch will get worse. Students should be exposed to career counseling so that they have more options to choose from.

It is hoped that in the future, there will be a better balance between the courses offered and market demands.


在60年代的求学时期,我们必须先通过一项考试,以获选进入先修班。当时有很多人被拒于先修班门外,而进入大学的梦想就此破灭。过后,有些人进入师范学院或到私立学院深造,有更多人中五毕业后就停学了。当时,普通试卷(General Paper)是先修班的必考科,让很多理科生很懊恼,尤其是写作部分,常有优秀的理科生在这项科目不及格。因为普通科试卷有别于其他科目,其内容包罗万象不能死背,主要是测验考生的创意思维及普通常识。如果学生没有阅读课本以外的书籍,一般上都无法作答。


其实,人们不应该把大学预科班及为期两年的大学先修班相提并论。前者每学期会进行评估考试,后者则完成两年课程后才进行总考。 我可以了解学期考考试及课程总考试的分别。考试,对学生未来的前途很重要,因为成绩将决定考生能否被大学录取,就读他们属意的科系。

简言之,大学先修班是充满挑战的两年制课程。取消大马高等教育文凭考试,而把大学先修班及预科班统一化的做法,只会将加剧教育水平滑落的问题。 或许,除了期末考试,当局也应该考虑学期评估试,因为定时评估有助纾解总考带来的紧张和压力,也不失为评估学生表现的好方式。与其大量“生产”毕业生,政府更应关注教育的品质,以使我国的教育水平能迎合市场需求和竞争。





Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Price Reduction Campaign – A Success?/ 削价运动成功了吗?

I’m quite amazed by the Minister of Trade and Consumer Affairs saying that the price reduction campaign has been a success. I wonder on what basis the Minister makes such a conclusion.

Any man in the street will tell you that the price of a lot of basic necessities and products in hawker stalls, restaurants and sundry shops remain the same. There may be a reduction in selective items or products, but generally, people will agree that prices have gone up for most goods.

When the price gone up dramatically last year, a lot of food outlet increases food price by 10 – 15%, citing the increase in oil price, electricity tariff and gas as justification for the increase in the prices. Since then, prices of oil have dropped equally dramatically. Anyone can tell you that prices in food outlet and all daily necessities have not gone down.

When I first came to Kuala Lumpur in 2004, the typical char kuey teow or prawn mee was only RM3.00. Today, it is RM3.80 – RM4.00. This means that there is an increase of 25 – 30 percent. For an average worker, one can safely assume that the income has not been able to cope up with the increase of food, not to even mention about the basic necessities and the comfort of life.

In time to come, hawker food will not be regarded as inexpensive. In view of the shortage of foreign workers and food outlets are very dependent on foreign workers, maybe we should practice what has been practiced in European cities. In Europe, the packed food for take away is even cheaper than eating within the premise. Maybe every food outlet should be looking at this alternative.

We should also relook at the calculation for inflation index in Malaysia. Food, transportation and house rental as basket of price should be reviewed. Otherwise, our inflation figure can be misleading.

The latest figure shows that inflation now is 3.9% last month compared to 9% in July last year.

This inflation figure does not reflect the reality on the ground. With savings interest in the bank at 2.5% and the inflation figure 3.9%, it is negative return if a person put his money in the bank. The worst hit are pensioners depending on savings since it will be negative return.



2004年我首次来吉隆坡, 当时一碟炒粿条或一碗虾面只卖3令吉;今天已涨至3令吉80仙至4令吉,平均涨幅25至30%。一名普通职员的收入已无法承担食品起价的速度,更庸说其他的生活必需品及开销。


我们也应该检讨马来西亚通货膨胀指数的估算方法,同时检讨食物、交通及屋租等一揽子物价。否则,我们的通膨指数或与实况有出入,甚至误导大家。最新数据显示,我国上个月的通膨率是3.9%,去年7月则是9%。这个数据根本无法反映实况。目前银行的储蓄利息是2.5%, 通膨指数为3.9%,把钱存入银行等于负数回酬。如此以来,那些依赖储蓄生活的退休人士将首当其冲。


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Religion Freedom Put To Test

It is welcomed news that the Penang Syariah Appeal Court finally allows Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah to revert to Buddhism. It has always been a contentious point and sensitive cases where when a non-Muslim convert to Muslim, it is difficult to revert back to its original faith.

Things become more complicated when one spouse become Muslim and this is followed by divorce. Rightfully, it is the civil court that has to decide since the marriage is according to civil law. However, often it is the Syariah court who feels that they have the jurisdiction over Muslim convert and thereby makes decision that leads to complications.

I think all of us accept Islam as official religion in Malaysia. All right thinking Malaysians also accept the fact that we have religious freedom that anyone of us is allowed to have the religion of our choice and this is enshrined in the constitution.

In the case of Muslim convert of Siti Fatimah, I must congratulate Justice Datuk Ibrahim Lembut for saying “We cannot impose its teachings on non-believers nor force people to embrace Islam”. The judge has taken into consideration that Siti Fatimah did not practice the religion after the conversion. This, I believe is very pertinent that in order for the court to be satisfied, they must really practice the religion.

I have said before in my previous posting that MCA stands with the people to uphold and respect religious freedom, and against the spirit of overzealousness and intentional discrimination based on religion. We recognized that profession of faith is primarily a personal choice and involves freedom of conscience. MCA therefore calls for every person to be allowed the freedom to choose his / her religion.

It is interesting to note that many non-Muslim seems to enter into marriage with Iranians without knowing what they will go thru. Personally, I know 2 other cases, of which the marriage lasted only 2 months. Maybe the Iranian is just practicing contract marriage without informing their partners and non-Muslim girls may be so gullible or unaware that it’s a marriage of problem and not happiness. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chit-Chat on 2nd Stimulus Package/ 第二刺激经济配套的回响

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend 3 night functions and the topic for chit-chat at the dining table was on the 2nd stimulus package.

Generally, people are relieved that the government is aware of the need to take drastic action to prevent recession, which may arrive in the first half of this year. It is comforting to find out that the leadership is not in denial. It is a good sign that the government is taking steps in confronting the economic slowdown. However, the rakyat are generally concerned about the budget deficit and this may in a way destabilizes the Ringgit currency against foreign currency.

For the Chinese community, they are generally happy that the 2 stimulus packages has special allocations for Chinese schools and this shows that the government has discarded the practice of giving allocations only during election to Chinese schools.

The double levy imposed on foreign workers has not gone down well with the industries, especially the service sector. It is hoped that the service sector which faces double levy should be implemented on new foreign workers rather than existing foreign workers who may be renewing their visa soon. This will reduce the financial burden of the service sector and at the same time be a deferent to engage new foreign workers.

Generally, people are not excited about the RM5000 discount on purchase of Proton and Perodua cars. With Puspakom having to certify the cars before the trade in and it must be 10 years old, it will not be a booster to automotive sector.

There is generally disappointment that there is no reduction in personal income tax or corporate tax. However, one must not forget that with these 2 stimulus packages, the federal government deficit will increase from 4.8% to 7.8% this year. This will lead to a fall of our credit rating at the international level.

The government needs to continue to make our Malaysia economy more competitive. As the service sector is identified as the next engine of growth, the liberalization of the economy is important if we want to invite more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A lot of condition laid by the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) needs to be revamped.

There should be a total review of the quota system of the Bumiputra. Competition for FDI will be intense among developing countries and if we are still talking about quota, then we may be left out as the preferred destination for FDI.










Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Anticipated 2nd Stimulus Package/ 第二刺激经济配套

The much-anticipated 2nd stimulus package or mini budget was finally unveiled by the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Finance Minister I.

I am surprised that the amount RM60billion over 2 years was much higher than anticipated. This is a good sign that the government is not in state of denial and Malaysia, like any country in the world will not be spared from the economic tsunami originating from America.

It is good that the government has readjusted the GDP growth this year from a predicted 3.5% when presenting the 1st stimulus package to 1 to -1% of GDP growth this year. The 2nd stimulus package is about 9% of GDP growth over 2 years. This will be financed from the domestic financial system. That will not burden the government with foreign debts, which may have an impact to the actual cause of borrowing because of currency fluctuation.

If we take into account that the yearly budget under RM9 is RM40 billion, the additional RM30 billion would mean a RM70 billion budget for 1 year. However, the actual government spending under the 2nd stimulus package is only RM15 billion since the rest is in the form of government guaranteed bank loan.

With the private sector reducing their investment and spending, the government needs to balance the economy through direct spending to prevent a steep downturn.

If the 1st and 2nd stimulus package can reach its target, we will be spared a severe economy contraction as experienced by other countries

It is good that the 1st thrust of the stimulus package is to reduce unemployment and increase employment opportunities. RM700 million is allocated to create 163, 000 job opportunities in public and private sector. The double levy imposed on foreign workers except from plantation, construction and domestic sectors hopefully will reduce the number of foreign workers.

The service sector will feel the pinch since doubling the levy for foreign workers means that the new levy is RM3600 per year per worker.

Reducing the cost in doing business is crucial with turnover down and a margin squeeze. Hence, a lot of people are disappointed that there are no reduction in corporate tax. However, incentives are still given to business which is up to a maximum RM100, 000 for loses incurred this year to be offset against last year’s tax period. For example, if you make a lost of RM200, 000 this year and made a profit of RM300, 000 last year, you are able to claim RM100, 000 loses last year.

Besides that, the double tax reduction on worker’s salary for companies that employ retrenched workers is a welcome move by the private sector. However, the salary should not be more than RM10, 000 a month.

There is also reduction in certain sectors and levy to the human resources fund. The working capital guarantee scheme would help SMI to obtain loans from the financial institutions.

To reduce the burden of the common rakyat of the financial burden, the RM674 million in subsidy to avoid increase in price of bread, rice and wheat and no increase in toll rate will be welcomed by most consumers. House buyers will be given tax relief for interest up to RM10, 000 per year for three years and hopefully this will provide a booster for housing developers.

A lot of industries are disappointed that there is no reduction in electricity tariff and the price for industrial gas remain high.

During an economic downturn, many graduates may opt for post-graduate studies since a total of 500 phd and 10, 000 Masters degree are offered in local universities. Tuition fees and research grants will be given. It is hoped that students will take up these offers rather than be unemployed.

The government becomes more generous to Chinese, Tamil and Mission schools. I am glad to note that the government has allocated RM300million to the Chinese, Tamil and Mission schools. This is in addition to RMM200million announced in the 1st stimulus package. This is important to show that the government does not give goodies only during election and the government must demonstrate its commitment in education regardless of race and religion.

I am glad to note that all government procurement will be held through open tender. The concept of design and build will not be allowed except highly technical development. This will make construction projects more transparent and people will get project without any political connection and patronage.

To ensure that there is no cost overrun, the government should beef up its standard and cost committee so that all costs of any government projects would be subjected to scrutiny.

However, the committee needs to be staffed by people who are technically competent and that they are there as facilitators for private sector development and not to frustrate private sector.

All in all, it was a good 2nd stimulus package. No stimulus package will satisfy everybody. It is heartening to note that the government is not in denial and is aware if steps are not taken, this impending slowdown may be a long one. To achieve its target, implementation should not be delayed and this may require constant monitoring by various agencies.

















Wednesday, March 11, 2009

1 Year After 308 General Election/ 政治海啸一周年

We celebrated 1 year after 308 general election 2 days ago. However, there is still intense politicking and political temperature is unlikely to subside with 3 coming by-elections. There will be more politics and more political drama while we face the economic tsunami manufactured in the USA.

Post 308, ethnic relationship is under stress. Economic downturn will aggravate any social disorder, since we will be facing growing number of jobless people. The retrenchment rate will go up and social security will be a problem.

Against the backdrop, people will be definitely be sick of the politicians from both the political divide. Already we can sense people are getting frustrated and fed up with politicians.
It is obvious that political stability and the politic of development will not please the rakyat. The voters’ expectations are high.

Talk about past glory and achievement do not ring a bell among the younger generation. They want to see politicians to be able to deliver for the present and the future. They want hope, confidence and leadership at this crucial time, not political drama.

UMNO must compete for the Malay votes. UMNO cannot claim to be synonymous with the Malays. They have to compete against PAS and Keadilan.

The Non-Malay votes became crucial. BN component parties, besides UMNO have its internal problem and image problem. It is not going to be easy to shake off this image of playing second fiddle to big brother UMNO.

How to reach out to the non-Malay voters becomes more and more difficult as they become disenchanted to BN and UMNO. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

I must admit a lot of MCA leaders like to sing this old song of independence granting of citizen peace, stability and development since independence.

I am equally guilty of singing this old tune at time.

Najib will inherent a country full of political and economic challenges. He has the advantage of wealth of experience, energetic, intelligent, a good listener and a caring personality. But this is difficult and there is the need to be bold and pushy to implement a host of new initiaves to give hope to rakyat about BN. It is not going to be easy.

There is urgent need to improve the public delivery system. With the economic downturn, the cost of doing business become crucial and time delayed is additional cost. Suddenly the Selangor State Government becomes generous with the State civil servants by granting 90 days for maternity leave, plus public holidays and weekend and leave entitlement.

A public servant in Selangor may just work 150 out of 365 days. We need a superwoman to catch up with work productivity if she works only virtually on estimated days.

Cheaper cost of living is another issue the government needs to tackle. The electricity, water bills and tolls and fuel and essential basic needs should be maintained at its lowest possible cost.

With reduced incomes and raising inflation, a lot of family is finding hard to survive.
We hope to see a more interactive, a caring leadership under Najib. It should not be leaders know best. Rule by consensus, not by top down. Some BN leaders do have swollen head and behave like medieval rulers! With the attitude that I don’t have to tell the world my decision, how to be people’ friendly?

To be fair, Pak Lah gives a lot of room for social and political freedom. Freedom should be enjoyed with responsibility especially the print and electronic media.

There may be gutter politics, lets hope there is no gutter media.

Rakyat wants to see greater transparency and accountability and fairness in government policy, decision and its implementation system. With a very top down system, the public service and the politicians have t walk the extra mile to achieve this. There is a need to beef the government communication machinery. Just the radio, TV and press releases will not suffice.

Every Ministry should have a more concerted effort to talk to media more properly. Be more open and frank. If there is a mistake, just admit it. The rakyat appreciates honesty from the government.

I hope the PR government after 1 year should not be behaving like opposition in their own states. They should roll out more long term plans for their state economy and development. Blaming the previous administration is not governing. It will only kick start the blame game.

The economic crisis should be our focus. The health of the nation economy cannot be good.

Almost every sector is affected. We need politicians who can dialogue and treat.
BN government have led the nation through difficult economic times in 1985/86, 1997/1998 and now 2009, all “Bull yes” BN government have the experience to handle economic crisis. If BN handles this crisis well, then it will generate a lot of goodwill. It may also be the Archilles’ heel of the government, if not done well.

Najib will try to consolidate his power while Anwar will do all he can to topple him. Najib should not be distracted by his political enemy but be focused to discharge his responsibility.





















Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaching of Science and Maths in English/ 英文教数理的争议

There has been endless polemic since the government introduced the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.

In 2002, I remembered clearly how MCA was deeply involved in objecting to this policy change. The party stand was firm.

MCA feels that with Maths and Science in English, then Mandarin, as the medium of instruction in Chinese primary schools will be severely curtailed since it would be used only for Moral studies and Bahasa Mandarin only.

We felt there are better ways to learn English rather than through 2 rather technical subjects.

There is also the argument that children learn faster and are more competent in learning by using their own mother tongue.

The government strikes a compromise by allowing students the alternative of using English or the mother tongue in learning Maths and Science.

It was obviously a political decision. Now that Tun Dr. Mahathir is not around to push this policy, we are hearing more and more dissenting voices.

Some from the “Gerakan Mansuh PPSMI” again said that the move of teaching Maths and Science is English has challenged the status of Bahasa Melayu as the national language as stated in the constitution.

It is surprising they are singing this tune strongly only 6 years after implementation of the policy. Some speculated that some Pakatan politicians have a hand in it including the demonstration on Saturday, 7th March 2009. Some even suggested that if Dr. Mahathir was still the Prime Minister, then they would have not dare to take the matter to the street.

Some well-known Malay literary figures were involved in the demonstration. They fear the decline of the status and standard of BM in the Malay community with the continuous implementation of PPSMI.

It must be a surprise to a lot of us, that some of the most outstanding Malay literatures were written during the 50, 60 and 70s, when English was the Lingua Franca in the country then.

Since the compulsory implementation of BM as the medium of instruction after May 13th, there is hardly any outstanding modern Malay Literature.

After BM becomes the Lingua Franca from the 80s, there is a lack of efficiency and command of English to an extend where graduates are unable to string a proper sentence in English – what we call Rojak English.

The education system is highly politicized by both the political divide. We talk of scoring points and winning the emotional support of the rakyat. We forget we are talking about education of our children.

While we continue to argue, the standard of education in this country continues to decline. Any senior HR manager and civil servant will share with you the story about the low standard of communication skills and general knowledge that they have encountered with our graduates.

As a Malaysian, we have to equip ourselves minimal with skills in BM, Mandarin and English.

I pick up my Mandarin and BM after I become a Wakil Rakyat in 1986. I am still on the learning curve. Anyway, we never stop learning if we have an inquisitive mind.

English and Mandarin will become equally important, especially with IT revolution and China becoming a global economic power. Mandarin becomes the most popular and fastest growing foreign language in a lot of developed and developing countries.

A lot of business studies undergraduate from European and American universities have exposure of at least 1 semester in China to understand Chinese culture, Chinese language and the dos and don’ts when dealing with China. This has definitely boosts the importance of Mandarin.

When I was visiting the Suzhou Education Centre, I met quite a number of foreign students and lecturers, mostly business studies undergraduate and MBA students, studying in Suzhou for the “Mandarin and Chinese experience”.

Universities from Malaysia should be looking into this. We should depoliticize the learning of English and Mandarin in this country.

The bigger picture is about education for the rakyat. Language, in order to survive the test of time must have commercial value.


















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As a concerned MCA member, I am trying my best to help in the process of rebuilding and repositioning of the party.

Therefore, I welcome party members and members of public to post your constructive suggestions and opinions on my blog on how to rebuild and reform the party, eventually enabling MCA to regain support from all party members and the community.

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