Archive for November 2014

The Yong Peng Tamil School Saga

November 26, 2014

The Yong Peng Tamil School Saga

The Indian community in Yong Peng is very upset with the 12 year delay in completing the construction of SRJK (T) Yong Peng building. After 12 years they still do not know when the school will be completed. Construction work was stopped around 10 months ago and still no sign of commencing building work.

When I first went to the school site around 2011 end, there was no building but the swampy land was filled with hardened earth. With a few concerned parents and Tamil school supporters, we highlighted the delay and the inaction of the school building committee. The school building committee, PIBG and the local MIC leaders are the same people. The local MIC leaders with the support of state MIC leaders appointed their own contractor and started building work and promised parents that the school will be completed for the 2013 January intake.

By end 2012 with about 70% work completed, the construction work stopped. We again with the support of parents and local supporters voiced our concern and unhappiness over the delay and the unfulfilled promises of MIC leaders. Then work on the school commenced and stopped around February march 2013. Even though the school building is completed but wiring and electrical fittings, roadwork within the compound, playing field for students, tables and chairs and interior work is not done. MIC Johor claims that 90/95% of school completed.

MIC Johor state leader Datuk S.Balakrishnan in a Yong Peng temple function in April 2014 claimed that by June 2014 work will commence with allocation from Menteri Besar office and school will be completed shortly. But it is November 2014 now and no work has commenced and the school will again miss the 2015 January intake. The building committee has no money to complete and they still owe the contractor around 1 million ringgit.

The SRJK (Chinese) Yong Peng School building which is beside the Tamil school location was also allocated land at the same time with Tamil school by SimeDarby Plantation about 12 years ago. This school was 100% funded by government allocations under the leadership of the Member of Parliament for Air Itam Datuk Wee Ka Siong when he was the deputy education minister then. They had their first enrollment in January 2013 and functioning well. But the construction of Tamil school was taken by the Yong Peng and Johor state MIC leaders and yet to see the completion.

Had the local MIC leaders given the responsibility back to the government to complete the Tamil school building along with the Chinese school, the building would have been ready by January 2013. Unfortunately MIC with no financial resources took on the responsibility to complete and the then deputy education minister Datuk Wee Ka siong conveniently agreed and the school is now nobody’s responsibility. The estimated cost to complete Tamil school was 4 million. Federal government gave 2 million, state government gave 300,000 and MIC which is also the building committee raised 20,000. Now the whole building is standstill. They may need another 2 million to complete.

When I blamed MIC for the unnecessary delay and the sole cause for the incompletion of SRJK(T) Yong Peng, the MIC Strategic director Mr Vel Paari took me to task for not knowing the fact that MIC is the guardian and without MIC there will be no Tamil Schools. He accused me of not knowing and ignorant of the facts.

Tamil schools are set up long before MIC/Umno/BN came into existence. Tamil education in Malaysia started when first Tamil primary school was established in Penang in 1816. As the rubber estates grew up in numbers by the end of the nineteenth century, the estate managements and the British government opened more Tamil primary schools. In addition, Christian missionaries in Malaya set up schools as a mean to proselytizing Christianity. By 1905, there were 13 government and Christian mission Tamil schools in Malaya. After World War II, the government started to give serious attention to vernacular education by enforcing Education Ordinance 1946. The law emphasized on free mother tongue education and increased the grant provision to Tamil schools. This move paved the way to the increase of students in Tamil schools and setting up of more Tamil Schools. Under MIC, more Tamil schools were closed then opening new Schools.

He also claimed that if not for MIC, I and the Indian community would not be citizens of Malaysia. Citizenship law was first implemented in several Malaysian states before the country achieved independence and sovereignty. The Naturalization Act of 1867 stated that any person, whilst actually residing in the Colony, may present a memorial to the Governor in Council, praying that the privileges of naturalisation may be conferred upon him. It also provided that such memorial shall state to the best of the knowledge and belief of the memorialist, his age, place of birth, place of residence, profession, trade or occupation, the length of time during which he has resided within the Colony, that he is permanently settled in the Colony, or is residing within the same, with attempt to settle therein.

The present day citizenship acts and rights are derived from the above said enactments. That’s how we still have our rights embedded in the act. If left to MIC, we would have lost out rights long time ago. Our rights are now slowly eroded by Umno with complicity of MIC. That’s why after 2007 hindraf rally MIC lost all legitimacy and support from the community. They still exist because Umno want them to be around and not because Indian community needs them.

Vel Paari should come forward and say when the Yong Peng Tamil School will be completed. Due to the long delay many Indian children are registering in the nearby Chinese and national schools. The Tamil school from Yong Peng B division SimeDarby plantation will be closed and moved to the under construction school. Vel Paari should ensure that the new school licence under construction is a fully aided school and not partially aided of the Yong Peng B division school. Can Vel Paari give more information these above two issues? If opposition parties did not raise Yong Peng Tamil to public knowledge, only hardened earth will still be on the site.

Malaysia is truly not asia

November 26, 2014

Tourism in Malaysia is recognised as one of the major industries that provide foreign exchange earnings and generate employment for the rakyat.

Over the last 30 years, the growing number of tourism agencies, tourist destinations and foreign tourists visiting Malaysia has geometrically promoted tourism into becoming a major industry.

This sector grows about 7-8% every year and in 2009 contributed about RM53 billion.

The Malaysian Tourism Board statistics (2008) showed that Malaysia had recorded a total of 12,891,202 tourist arrivals from January to July 2008 compared to 12,404,377 tourist arrivals for the same period in 2007.

Malaysia targets to receive 36 million tourists and bring in RM168 billion in revenue from the tourism industry in 2020. But does the Malaysian government want this sector to grow further?

The recent move by the Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry to bar the serving of non-halal food at the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia (FF1M) 2014 has angered major tourist promoters.

On the one hand they are spending millions promoting tourism from China, India, Far East, Middle East and Europe with the message that Malaysia is truly Asia, but on the other hand they insist that only halal food be served. Such contradictions can only take place in Malaysia.

Oktoberfest 2014 is celebrated all over the world merrily and with festivity. In Malaysia, one extreme Muslim group protested till the authorities had to permit only indoor Oktoberfest celebrations. Rock music concerts, Ultraman (a Japanese children’s show character) shows and musical shows by Western artistes have been banned due to pressure from extremist groups.

The growing narrow-minded religious fervour in Malaysia is a threat to the growing tourist industry.  Some smart elites are thinking of focusing on Islamic tourism in Malaysia.

It is common knowledge that even in Jordan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Dubai and the like, bacon and sausages are served for breakfast. They serve it in hotels where there are NO halal signs. It says PORK.

“If Muslims must be guided by the word ‘halal’ so that they don’t eat pork by accident, what more can I say?” asked a fellow Malaysian.

Furthermore, to impose it on the tourism promotion of a multi-cultural country says a lot about our own arrogance, stupidity and ignorance. Malaysia’s neighbours are aggressively promoting their country as a tourist destination. Here, the Malaysian government is messing up and losing its competitive edge.

The Kelantan government is now competing with UMNO to scare away tourists by talking about cruel punishments, and this goes on while the educated and developed world is becoming more conscious of human rights and doing away with death penalty and caning. More Middle East tourists go to Thailand than Malaysia.

Extremists and fundamentalists seem to be setting the agenda for tourism.

Which extremist country has succeeded in promoting tourism?

Malaysia has lost two aeroplanes. The tragedies have resulted in fewer tourists coming here. While the nation is slowly recovering from the negative publicity arising from the episodes, the tourism authorities are adding more negativity and misery to the already affected industry.

Somehow, the Malaysian government never seems to learn from its own or others’ mistakes. These extremist groups are small yet they seem to instill fear in the ruling government’s thinking.

Crying wolf all the time

November 26, 2014

Umno’s stooge, Isma, blames Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim for “emboldening non-Muslims in Malaysia”. Isma’s president, Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, laments that Anwar’s struggle for liberalism, pluralism, freedom and equality is empowering Chinese, Christians and the DAP. But he concealed the fact that students from local universities are also empowered.

Isma’s president is too narrow-minded and short-sighted to notice that the educated Malaysians of all races and religions also value and cherish liberalism, pluralism, freedom and equality. Does Isma want the Malays to remain backward while the whole world is moving forward?

About a week ago, another Umno stooge, Perkasa, warned Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali that efforts to return the seized Malay and Iban Bibles to the Christians are a threat to Islam and would cause unhappiness among Muslims in the state. Only in Malaysia do we hear that returning the bibles to Christians threatens Islam and causes unhappiness among Muslims.

Even though we have laws and courts to preserve and protect the rights of all races and religions, little Napoleons from Isma and Perkasa take the law into their own hands and pass judgment, and this is detrimental to a plural society like Malaysia’s.

Umno sponsors and outsources its racial slurs and religious bigotry to these extremist groups to blackmail ordinary citizens into submission. In the past 57 years of Umno rule, governance has deteriorated and corruption has increased. The country’s debt has breached the 55% of GDP threshold and household debt has risen from 57% in 2002 to 87% in 2013.

Additionally, the quality of education has deteriorated, and the continuing brain drain is a strain on the nation. To top it off, national unity is threatened and undermined by the likes of Isma and Perkasa. To divert attention from malaise and scandals, Umno hardliners constantly raise race and religious issues.

After spewing racial and religious slurs, these extremists move around as if they have done a great service to the country and Malays. Are ordinary poor Malays in any way enriched or enlightened by the acts of these extremist groups? Over the years, the country has lost and is losing billions of ringgit because of corrupt practices.

But these extremist groups will look the other way just because they are UMNO cronies.

But when the corrupt practices of a few Umno cronies are highlighted, the likes of Isma and Perkasa go on the rampage and claim the whole Malay community is being threatened. In actual fact, they are stifling the progress of the Malay community.

Under Umno rule, these extremists will never be charged under the Sedition Act.

However, any well-meaning individual who exposes and questions the scandals and plundering of Umno will be charged under the Act. No one has yet been charged for the RM300-million National Feedlot Corp scandal in 2007 involving a Wanita Umno leader. Umno has been covering up the scandals and pilferage exposed by the annual Audit reports.

Umno’s patronage, involving highway concessions and privatization of government services, has enriched only Umno’s cronies but impoverished ordinary Malays in kampongs and rural areas.

Malay university students have realized the duplicity of Umno in enriching itself while beating its chest about helping the Malay community.

High-priced areas in the Federal Territory are quietly sold to Umno leaders at cheaper prices. Unfortunately, Isma and Perkasa refuse to see this side of the story. They cry ‘wolf’ all the time.

Bank Bumiputra was set up in 1965 to encourage the Malay community to participate in trade and commerce. The bank was bankrupted by Umno leaders and had to be merged with other banks to survive.

Has Umno helped the Malays? In the name of the Malay community, Umno leaders are enriching themselves and their cronies. To the poor Malays in kampongs, Umno uses race and religion to rally their support. As the adage goes, “Some people can be cheated some of the time but not all the people all the time.” Are Umno’s days numbered?

 

 

Malaysian Transport system going nowhere

November 5, 2014

According to a press release issued on 16 April, 2014 by market research agency Nielsen, Malaysia has the third-highest rate of car ownership in the world, with 93% of households owning a car. That is to say, only 7% of Malaysian households do not own cars.

This finding seems a paradox, considering the government’s own statistics of 80% of Malaysian households earning less than RM3,000 per month and entitled to BR1M.

The country with the highest car ownership – 744 cars per 1,000 people – is not well known but is wealthy, a principality called Liechtenstein, located between Austria and Switzerland. Coming in at second place is yet another tiny but wealthy principality, Monaco, with 729 cars. The countries with the highest rate of car ownership are typically small but wealthy and with a small population.

Clearly, with 93% household car ownership, the government has to build more highways and more and more fuel will be burned every year. But our fuel subsidy is set to increase! People have to take loans to purchase highly- priced private cars and having to maintain them will increase their financial burden.

This has resulted in household debts in Malaysia being one of the highest in the world. Banks provide car loans. And insurance companies, Malaysian car manufacturers and car accessories suppliers have all taken advantage of this vicious system that makes Malaysians poor. But wage earners are stuck in this system that makes them depend on credit facilities and BR1M.

And, unfortunately, public bus transportation and the Malaysian railways are in the doldrums. Public buses are virtually non-existent in many small towns. The MRT is available only in KL and not in other major towns.

Commuter trains serve limited areas. The government did not develop an alternative transport system all this while. In many countries, including the one down south, commuters do not need to own cars. In Europe, even Parliamentarians take the commuter trains to attend parliamentary meetings. There are countries where people use cable cars, light rail systems and buses. In places like Bangkok, ferries are used as a means of transport.

Alas, in Malaysia it is all about producing more Proton and Perodua cars. And to protect them, we have increased the taxes on foreign cars. The government builds more highways with tolls via crony companies and gives loans and subsidies to them. Financial institutions provide easy loans to purchase cars and the government gives out more taxi licences.

When the government was saddled with KTM and didn’t know what to do with it, it privatised KTM for its cronies. They went on to strip and sell the assets and made a profit.

In Penang, the once-famous ferry service has been neglected. In fact, ferry services can be introduced to transport people around the island, and using terminals built at many popular spots. Instead, the Transport Ministry has proposed the construction of more roads and bridges to transport cars.

Malaysia’s skewed transport policy is financially and environmentally not sustainable and is destined to fail. Budget 2015 failed to address these anomalies in the key priorities of the national transportation policy. Will the government act with urgency and take steps to create an environmentally and financially sustainable transportation system? Without addressing any of these concerns, a mere reducing of the subsidies is a double whammy.

Therefore, the three-tier subsidy rationalisation mechanism is still a long way off from solving the fiscal deficit and the financial strain of Malaysians. But the final solution is simple. Reducing the number of cars on the roads will also reduce a dependence on subsidies.

Mere gates cannot hold back change

November 4, 2014

Two days ago, student activists from Universiti Malaya (UM) along with supporters of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim managed to storm into the university’s campus and successfully conduct the ’40 years: from University of Malaya to Prison’ public rally just outside Dewan Tunku Canselor.

The way student leaders from Universiti Malaya, with the moral support of other public and private universities and student bodies, withstood the threat and pressure of the university’s management is revealing of the underlying changes taking place among educated youths.

Anwar, an alumnus of UM, had been refused permission to speak. This refusal by the university authorities was interpreted as a restriction and denial of academic freedom by the student bodies.

They stood their ground firmly to prove their case. Umno must have been taken aback by this firm and united stand by the students.

The student leaders involved in organising the event were threatened with expulsion, suspension and a fine. But this only emboldened them further and they were more determined to go ahead with the rally.

The UM authorities had underestimated the resolve and political awareness of university students.

They refused to be treated as kids but demanded the authorities treat them as adults who know their rights.

The university management’s bluff of electrical improvement and repair work did not deter the students. Are students revolting against Umno’s repressive rules and silencing of dissenting voice?

Like the UM students who resolved not to bow down to an unjust law and to unethical practices, social activist Ali Abd Jalil too made a stand. He then had to flee to Sweden to seek political asylum.

He was reported to have said that he would only return to Malaysia when Umno collapsed and the government in Malaysia changed.

Ali had also said that the police, gangsters, Perkasa and other Umno groups were all looking for him and some of them had even threatened to beat him and kill him.

The fact that a brave and courageous Malay youth who thought differently and questioned the excesses and abuse of power has been charged with sedition, imprisonment and is continually under threat is telling on the government’s attempts to silence and prosecute thinking Malaysians.

This shows that educated Malays are losing hope and faith in UMNO and they want political change. Instead of clamping down on Islamic radicalism and right-wings groups like Perkasa and Isma, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the BN government are silencing student bodies and liberal and progressive individuals.

Umno, now increasingly unpopular, has become dependent on the support of right-wing parties in threatening minorities and liberal Malays. UMNO wants Malays to be submissive and not question it. Umno hardliners use race and religion to blackmail and intimidate non-Muslims and non-Malays.

Malaysians can see the double standards being applied when enforcing the law in relation to those in the opposition and those who favour the establishment.

While Umno cronies become richer, the ordinary Malay kampong folks get poorer and are made to live on government handouts.

Putrajaya’s subsidy cuts and GST may lead to a higher incidence of poverty among Malays, with the urban poor expected to be the hardest hit, disclosed a study by UM’s Centre for Poverty and Development Studies (CPDS).

To control and suppress this restlessness among poor Malays and their advocates, Umno uses the Sedition Act to silence and keep them down. University students are getting to know these facts. Furthermore, the continuous inaction against wastage and leakage year after year makes Malay youths oppose Umno and call for political change.

Umno, the oldest ruling political party, is no pushover, but it is becoming weaker by the day.

 

Misplaced Nambikai of Finance Minister

November 4, 2014

Malaysia is known as a moderate and model multi-racial country internationally, but within the country its citizens are labelled under race and religious categories for every government-policy decision.

In announcing the 2015 budget, the finance minister highlighted some of the race-based allocations, giving the impression that the government cares and provides for all races fairly and without any discrimination.

One such mention is the RM30 million allocations for micro-credit loan facilities for Indian women, and meant for small enterprises. This money is handed over to Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) to administer, process and disburse loans to Indian women who are petty traders.

But Indian petty traders who have taken part in this scheme are lamenting and complaining that officers in AIM make unilateral decisions to reject loans or to reduce the amount approved.

If applicants question the officers, the loans can be delayed or denied. They are constantly reminded that the funds loaned out must be utilised for halal  business and not for non-Islamic religious purposes.  There is no transparency and established credit policies in giving out loans. The officers can deny the granting of loans for the most irrelevant of reasons.

In Batu Pahat, Johor many Indians got so fed up with these officers’ unreasonable delays and requests that they dropped out of these AIM micro-credit schemes. There are no non-Malay members of staff in these offices. MIC-supported Indian NGO ONEMIND was appointed as a coordinator on behalf of the Indian community.

The people in this NGO do not know what is happening on the ground and keep repeating policies that are inclusive of Indians in the scheme. Allocating the money is only one part of the problem. The other is that the proper disbursement and ensuring of the target being achieved is not carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) clusters these petty traders into groups of 5 to help each other. They are to guide or mentor each other to remove any business impediments and solve problems.

Malaysian society has been racially segregated for far too long. The result is that each community is a stranger to the other. These petty traders are constantly reminded by Malay members of staff and participants that these funds are for Malays only.

Many small traders feel so unwelcome that they drop out of the Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia scheme altogether. Such misunderstandings can be avoided by employing Malaysians of all races.

The Indian women petty traders are told to bring in more Malay women petty traders to form their group. Failure results in delays and even rejection of loans.

The Prime Minister’s office and the Indian-based parties in BN must disclose how much funds were distributed to such Indian women traders by Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia. As usual, BN will blame the Indian women traders for not meeting the borrowing requirement.

Indian woman traders who have repaid their earlier obligations are denied credit because they are unable to bring in more Malay women traders. Malay women traders get support and assistance from many agencies. Therefore, imposing such a requirement is unreasonable and a lame excuse for rejecting these loan applicants.

Indian women are a marginalized group caught in the cycle of poverty. Indian women who are single parents bear the brunt of government-policy segregation and denial of opportunities based on race.

Help for this group is crucial and urgent if we want to prevent Indian youths from becoming gangsters and thugs. The Prime Minister needs to follow through with the proper implementation of budget proposals and not merely make announcements on allocations.

Malaysia is not short of policies but fails miserably in their implementation. The Prime Minister appealed for Nambikai (trust) from the Indian community before the general election but now, to even get a micro-credit loan for petty traders seems to be a big challenge. What is in store for the next generation if this is the attitude of such agencies?

The government agencies should care for their citizens without looking at race and religion. This simple attitude and openness will make citizens, in turn, care for the nation. A nation’s strength ultimately consists of what it can do for its citizens. May the festival of lights bring about new thinking to foster unity and remove bigotry.