Archive for May, 2014


No electoral reforms and no will to bring change, says Bersih

In our continuing series to mark the anniversary of the most heated general election in recent memory, we speak to electoral reform activists on their struggle for clean and fair elections.

Despite the repeated calls and public cries for electoral reforms following the 13th general election last year, which was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities, electoral reform activists are convinced not much has changed.

Maria Chin Abdullah, chair of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0, and her predecessor, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, told The Malaysian Insider that the Election Commission (EC) has not bothered to make any changes to the electoral process, which has come under heavy criticism since last year.

“In terms of our demands, there has been no change at all,” noted Maria.

Ambiga said: “The EC is incapable of improving. Their aim is not to improve or to provide clean and fair elections. Their objective is to keep the ruling party in power.”

The lawyer and former Bar Council chief was critical of the EC, saying it did not have any “genuine intention” to improve or make the changes that the people were asking for.

“We have not achieved anything of great significance,” she added.

Maria agreed, adding that the EC’s present leadership will only act for Barisan Nasional.

“I don’t see it moving in any other direction. Their non-action with regard to the violence, vote-buying and other incidents in GE13 tells us a lot. That was very disappointing,” she added.

“Of course there were reforms that were put in place but they turned out to be a disadvantage because they were implemented dishonestly,” Ambiga said.

She cited the indelible ink fiasco as an example, adding: “Yes, it was something that we wanted but we know how that turned out.”

Maria Chin Abdullah expressed disappointment over the Election Commission’s handling of the general election. – The Malaysian Insider pic, May 4, 2014.Maria said she was perplexed over the usage of the indelible ink, as it worked perfectly during the by-elections after GE13.

“There were so many complaints about the ink during GE13, but after that it worked well. Why couldn’t the EC do their job properly?”

The indelible ink, which was used for the first time in the elections last year, was adopted as a security measure to ensure that voters only voted once and to assure Malaysians that the polls were fair.

The ink was meant to stay on for a few days but voters found out that it could be washed off almost immediately, prompting widespread protest from the opposition and the public.

The Election Commission admitted last November that the indelible ink had its flaws; among others, it was washable and took longer to dry and because of that, it left stains on ballot papers.

However, the commission had insisted that the indelible ink would still be used in the next general election.

“Of course, they introduced overseas voting but that, too, had so many problems,” Ambiga said.

No electoral reforms and no will to bring change, says Bersih
May 04, 2014 – TMI


Hit and miss in RM350mil varsity research grant

RM353.20 million and seven years later, the government’s Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) meant to boost research in universities has been a hit and miss affair.

The 2013 Auditor General’s Report found that projects funded under the programme from 2010 and 2011 had yet to be completed while targets had not been met.

And yet the FRGS scheme is set to continue, with the programme being one of five research programmes allocated a total of RM1 billion under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

The report said this is because of poor monitoring by the Higher Education Excellence Planning Division of the Education Ministry.

“This division receives project performance reports twice a year from public tertiary institutions in February and August, but no follow-up is done even if the projects are not completed in time…

“Researchers also do not make the effort to provide progress reports or adhere to project deadlines. As such, the ministry’s hopes of strengthening the research industry is not met,” it added.

Based on its audit on Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), only 61 percent of projects started in 2010 are completed, while a dismal 19 percent of projects started in 2011 are done.

The projects are to be completed within two to three years of the grant award, although some may be awarded an extra one-year extension.

The audit found that the programme has seen the number of PhD students jump from 3,711 when FRGS was launched in 2006 to 11,507 in 2012.

The number of journal articles published also increased from 3,711 in 2006 to 11,507 in 2012, while local varsities attracted 91,670 foreign students in 2011 compared to 47,928 in 2007.

However, the auditors found that this is insufficient as it does not meet the target of developing more researchers.

Blacklisted from future grants

The report said that of the sample 29 projects audited, 34.5 percent did not meet the objective of training at least one Masters student.

Apr 10, 2014 – Malaysiakini
Hit and miss in RM350mil varsity research grant


Wasted millions must be measured in stolen futures – AG’s Report


THE true cost of the millions of ringgit in public funds that are reported as lost in the Auditor-General’s Report 2013 must be tabulated in order to drive home the importance of stemming this endless haemorrhage.

Two prominent cases highlighted in the first of the three-part AG’s Report released last week, illustrate the unconscionable wastage of money that leaves a black mark on the civil service.

The first case involves the RM342.55 million Paya Peda Dam in Terengganu, which the Report said, was marred by the inexperience and lack of expertise of the contractors JAKS Resources Bhd and Pembinaan Sujaman Sdn Bhd.

The troubling question is why the contract was awarded by direct negotiation when an open tender would have easily identified a competent contractor for the job.

The AG found that not only did the contractors lack the experience needed for the construction of a dam with a hydro-mechanical gate system, they had also flouted international guidelines, failed to submit preliminary drawings resulting in an incomplete submission for the project and made wrong calculations on components of the project.

This scandalous litany of flaws warrants an independent investigation into the gaps in accountability that allow such a state of affairs to exist.

The Report notes that the project’s shortcomings resulted in a flood two years ago, and affected the targeted increase in paddy yields in the Besut district.

Moreover, flood damage carries many direct and indirect costs, ranging from destruction of property to loss of income and even lives, and to loss in property value and reduced investor confidence.

The other glaring case involves the Kuantan court complex, the construction of which was delayed by 560 days, resulting in a cost increase of some RM19.56 million, according to the Report.

The reasons given for the delay were poor planning in the design and scope of construction work. Among other things, the terms of the contract were disregarded and there were differences between the As-Built drawings and actual construction, the Report said.

Some 158 weeks after the scheduled completion date and almost RM20 million in extra costs later, the complex was completed.

Considering that the extra millions in wasted funds could have gone towards social services and amenities for the underprivileged sectors of society, it is a grave crime against the less fortunate that the country’s wealth continues to be squandered in this way.

Being scrupulous about the use of public funds is not just a matter of financial accountability, it is a solemn duty for civil servants and society at large to ensure that the money saved reaches the most deserving people in our midst.

So, the wastage that the AG dutifully reports without fail every year is really a tally of the opportunities for a better life that are snatched from the people at the bottom of society.

Wasted millions must be measured in stolen futures
Apr 14, 2014 –


Fresh grads struggling to survive due to high cost of living

Fresh grads struggling to survive due to high cost of living, Jobstreet poll reveals

A majority of fresh graduates earning an average salary of RM2,500 a month are struggling to make ends meet, a recent poll by online recrutiment company,, revealed.

The poll, which was carried out last month, saw 2,062 fresh graduates from various industries being surveyed on their income and expenditure.

Jobstreet reported that 77% of respondents said their salary did not leave them with any savings after spending on essentials with 63% of respondents saying that the essentials included car and study loans, which were their major commitments.

Due to the rising fuel prices, many respondents said transportation costs were also among their top expenses.

Jobstreet reported 63% of respondents saying they spent an average of RM1,500 of their salary on these essential expenditures.

To save cost, nearly half of the fresh graduates surveyed said they lived with their parents, 30% rented out with their friends while the remaining 20% lived on their own, Jobstreet reported.

“Some 87% of respondents admitted that they did not have any other income besides their salary.

“This is why most fresh graduates asked for a higher than average salary during job interviews.”

The poll also revealed that 60% of respondents said they expected a salary of RM3,500 for their first job while 30% expected as much as RM6,500 for their starting pay.

However, 66% of employers told Jobstreet that they were only prepared to offer fresh graduates a starting salary of between RM2,500 and RM2,800, depending on their qualifications.

Hence, Jobstreet said it was no surprise that fresh graduates were always on the lookout for a new job with a higher salary.

“This creates the high turnover experienced by companies who hire fresh graduates, as they are trying to cope with the increasing cost of living,” Jobstreet said.

Following the 13th general election in May last year, Putrajaya announced several measures as part of a subsidy rationalisation exercise.

First came an increase in the price of fuel, which led to the cost of other goods and services rising.

Then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that Putrajaya would no longer be subsidising sugar, which led to further price increases.

Electricity tariffs were also increased and public anger was further raised when Putrajaya contemplated allowing toll rates to be increased.

Fresh grads struggling to survive due to high cost of living, Jobstreet poll reveals
April 14, 2014 – TMI


Are our teachers ready?

by Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim

CRACKS are beginning to appear in the implementation of Wave One of the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB).

The Parent Toolkit or Sarana Ibu Bapa, which was accorded a grand launch at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in February 2013 to formalise the involvement of parents in their children’s education, now seems to not have gone beyond the four walls of the convention centre.

Sarana, had it been properly activated at schools, would have provided a solid platform for parents, an important element of the equation but often conveniently forgotten, to provide invaluable and timely feedback to the education ministry on matters of concern.

When School-Based Assessment or Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS), which was introduced in 2011, began to falter in its implementation, the ministry, through Sarana, should have been more attentive and alert. Loopholes could have been plugged and intervention instituted. Instead, things were allowed to fester until they reached crisis levels years later, warranting an unscheduled review to address the deadlock.

Parents had foreseen glaring weaknesses. Teachers were biased in assessing students based on whether or not they “liked” them rather than on merit.

Students were unsure as to what was expected of them to attain a certain level. In one instance, to achieve the maximum band six for history, students had to appear in traditional attire on a particular school day. In another, to attain maximum marks for Pendidikan Islam, female students had to don a tudung or attend the neighbourhood religious school.

Where projects were handed up in CD form, students who tested the teachers by sending in blank copies were given top marks. In a submarine project where students had to show evidence that the object could submerge and surface, not all were tested, yet marks were given. Emotions were running high among the students and parents were at a loss.

While autonomy and decentralisation and therefore active parental participation is encouraged and even endorsed by the World Bank, the question is, are our teachers ready it?

Are our teachers ready?
Apr 26, 2014 –


The demonisation of democracy by Dr M

The demonisation of democracy by Dr Mahathir – Ravinder Singh

That’s what Dr Mahathir Mohamad did when he said Bersih’s demonstrations were an attempt to bring down Putrajaya.

Isn’t it the hallmark of a vibrant democracy for the opposition in any country to try and bring down the ruling government through the ballot box? Otherwise, how do governments change in a democratic system? And do governments never change in democracies, or must they never be changed?

How else do people in a democracy maintain a check and balance on their government?

Mahathir’s democracy, or if we may call it “Demokrasi cap Mahathir”, is a very vile democracy. It cares nothing for fair play. All dirty means are halal to grab power and cling on to it.

For example, the previous chairman of the Election Commission (a body in the PM’s Department and thus under the PM’s direct and firm control), Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, had boldly told Malaysians how the re-delineation exercises carried out during his time were calculated to ensure the “Malays would remain in power”.

Mahathir laments that “it was strange how even after fresh elections, when the elected government was agreed on by the majority, the minority still continues with street demonstrations”.

Did he fail mathematics in not knowing that the popular vote of 52% obtained by the opposition is the majority, although they obtained less seats due to fraud in delineating constituencies, with some BN strongholds having just a fraction, or even a small fraction, of the electorate in opposition strongholds?

Acknowledging that democracy is not perfect, and insisting that it is by far the best system of government that Malaysia could have, he philosophised, “If democracy is to survive and to serve the purpose for which it was devised, there must be some acceptance of the limits to the freedom which we consider democratic.”

So is gerrymandering a sacrifice Malaysians must accept for the continuance of “Demokrasi cap Mahathir”? And is Project IC of Sabah another such sacrifice? And there should be no other democracy in Malaysia except “Demokrasi cap Mahathir” for democracy to survive in Malaysia!

The demonisation of democracy by Dr Mahathir – Ravinder Singh
April 30, 2014 – TMI


MH370 – Asking for transparency and apology

Open letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak – K. S. Narendran

Honourable Prime Minister Mr Razak,

I write to you as a friend of the Malaysian people from a neighbouring country, and as the husband of one of the passengers of flight MH370.

It will be 2 months on May 7 since MH370 flew past radar screens and a fumbled response, and disappeared. Affected families feeding on hope have been starved of information, and those prepared to grieve and move on have been denied evidence that it is all over. The sense of loss has been compounded by anger and frustration at the lack of answers forthcoming to questions from families and media, both seeking to find clues and stitch together an acceptable explanation to the baffling saga of the plane’s disappearance. Perhaps the most serious casualty second only to the loss of the plane is the severely impaired credibility of your government and the airline’s handling of the crisis. The skimpy preliminary report released to the public this week, supposedly based on your guidelines, does little to enhance your government’s commitment to transparency, and therefore only adds fuel to doubts, suspicion and speculations.

I have heard you speak thrice now: the first time on March 15 when you referred, among other things, to the MH370’s “turn back” as a “deliberate action” by someone on the plane, then on March 24 when you delivered an unpalatable, cryptic message that MH370 had ended in the Indian Ocean, and a third time a little over a week ago – you conversed with Richard Quest and spoke of mistakes made. Each time, I experienced you as measured and sombre in a way that could be easily taken as sincere, and as a man with good intentions. You and perhaps your managers have ensured that you are statesman-like. The time has come now for you to actually be the part.

A good place to start is to go deeper into what was unprecedented and explain when the event entered unprecedented territory or proportions. This will help separate the misjudgments and negligence of your civil aviation and military establishments from very early in the MH370 saga: these we know from history have precedents and were avoidable. The rest that followed has confounded the best among experts. Therefore to invoke the lack of precedent and disclaim any direct responsibility all the way is being somewhat disingenuous.

While explanations on what happened may be necessary both for families that want answers, and for planners tasked with avoiding a recurrence, what may be necessary to consider for Malaysia’s sake and for the sake of the affected families is a sincere, heartfelt apology that things have come to such a pass. I would imagine that for the wounded Malaysian pride, it will serve as a point from which to refashion a new set of commitments unto itself and people at large. For the families of passengers, it might begin a healing process and a fresh start free of rancor, accusation and suspicion.

My hypothesis is that the lack of transparency that has come to define your government’s engagement with the rest of the world is because your government wants to hold on to a pretence of competence, to mask the guilt and shame of initial lapses and a fear of the scorn and contempt that may be heaped on it from round the world. The burden of this only grows. The burden of a heavy conscience will weigh on your people for a long time if you fail to own up.

A heartfelt apology to my mind is an admission of direct responsibility for a set of lapses that were entirely within the control of the government and the airline, taking responsibility for consequences of such responsibility, holding oneself publicly accountable for the conduct of the search and rescue/recovery, invoking humility to include or hand over to others who are competent in some or all parts of the investigation, and being facilitative of the families access to detailed information at every stage. No doubt there is a price to pay. It must be paid. However, an apology and an appeal for forgiveness would enhance Malaysia’s standing among nations and peoples in a way that no amount of protestations or grandstanding will.

Open letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak – K. S. Narendran
May 07, 2014 – TMI


Study: Large dams are uneconomical

A new research paper by Oxford University has suggested that mega-dams are uneconomical worldwide, despite policy makers often suggesting otherwise.

The paper – published in Volume 69 of Energy Policy, a journal by the university – suggested that large dams on average cost 96 percent more than initially estimated and take 44 percent longer to build than scheduled.

This study was based on a sample of 245 large hydropower dams in 65 countries built between 1935 and 2007.

“We find that even before accounting for negative impacts on human society and environment, the actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return,” reads the paper.

The findings have triggered the interest of Basel-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which pointed out that the authors had also probed Sarawak’s Bakun Dam.

“The Bakun Dam was meant to cost RM2.5 billion. While the official expenditure figures have risen to RM7.4 billion, the two scientists, Sovacool and Bulan, put the total cost of the Bakun Dam at RM15.325 billion,” it said in a statement.

“When construction work commenced in 1994, the dam was meant to be operational in 2003. It was actually completed in 2011 but, even today, not all eight turbines are operational.”

In essence, BMF said the Oxford University study shows that planners and policy makers often under-estimate the costs and time required to implement large dam projects.

BMF said that, based on its calculations, the time over-run for the Bakun Dam was almost 90 percent and cost over-run in the range of 200-500 percent.

“As the Bakun Dam was financed by the federal government – mainly through the Employees Provident Fund and the Pensions Fund – Malaysia’s citizens are having to pay the price for the over-optimistic forecasts of the Bakun Dam promoters,” it said.

With more similar projects coming in under the RM341 billion Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy project, BMF warned that taxpayers can expect to foot a large bill if there are cost over-runs.

BMF said the release of the paper was timely as Asean ministers are currently attending the Asean Renewable Energy Week 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.

“The ministers’ meeting in Kuala Lumpur ought to take these findings seriously,” it added.

“The time is ripe for turning the focus away from mega-projects that involve great financial risks and moving towards small-scale energy sources that incur lower environmental and social costs.”

Apr 22, 2014 – Malaysiakini
Study: Large dams are uneconomical


Zaid likens Najib to Chinese emperor

Compared to his successor, former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is real and true to his nature, according to Zaid Ibrahim.

The ex-law minister said that Abdullah was not a pretender but a kind and decent human being, which were important factors to be prime minister in this fragile new country.

“He is not a fighter, but during his time at the helm he was never afraid to say what he felt and he did not shy away from criticising those he thought had done wrong.

“His concern for the welfare of Malays and Muslims was real. His moral compass made him sensitive to the things that were important to the people’s feelings,” he wrote in his blog.

On the other hand, Zaid described Najib Abdul Razak as being the complete opposite.

He added that like the Chinese emperor of the Middle Kingdom, Najib’s thoughts remain veiled from the people, who were only expected to obey him.

“According to a recent issue of the Singapore Straits Times, our present prime minister is risk-averse.

“The justification for his silence and non-committal stance on so many important questions has always been that there are extremists in Umno ready to strangle him.

“I too believed he needed some breathing space before the 13th general election. But now I realise the truth: he simply does not care,” he said.

Deplorable conduct

The former law minister also questioned Najib’s view on the ban Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

“Why is this classic science book, one of the greatest written works on biology and natural science, taboo for Malays to read? Obviously he (Najib) does not care if Malays are interested in science or technology.

“Obviously he does not care if, as a result of the ban, Malays totally reject reason and scientific inquiry as a way of finding the truth.

“He is not ashamed that his own people have just become the only ethnic group in the world to be barred from reading a book of great scientific value. He is willfully oblivious to all these things as long as they vote for him,” he added.

Describing the prime minister’s conduct as deplorable, Zaid said his Malay ministers were in the same boat as well.

“I would have thought that this bunch of sycophants would have broken rank since they are all members of a political party that has sworn to fight for the Malay race.

“Why are they keeping mum when it will be the Malays who will bear the brunt of hudud laws should they ever be implemented? Do they not think that their own people will be the ones who will suffer the most, and may even lose their limbs?

“Do they not know that justice, regardless of its source, is susceptible to error, bribery and bigotry when it is overseen and implemented by humans? If there is a miscarriage of justice the loss of limbs would be irreversible, but do these Malay leaders care?” he added.

May 7, 2014 – Malaysiakini
Zaid likens Najib to Chinese emperor


‘Civil servants need only be loyal to king and country’

A constitutional expert has lambasted the labelling of civil servant who attended the anti-goods and services tax (GST) rally as traitors, saying the pledge of loyalty binding them was unconstitutional.

Abdul Aziz Bari (left) said public servants are not required to be loyal to the government of the day but instead, are only required to be implement government policies, “so long as these are within the law”.

He was referring to the warning issued by Congress of Union of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) president Azih Muda on Thursday that civil servants who took part in the rally would be breaching the Akujanji (loyalty pledge) and Ikrar Perkhidmatan (code of conduct), and would be considered traitors unfit to hold government positions.

He said Azih was mistaken as the Akujanji “forced upon” civil servants by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration in 2000 went against the constitution.

“Under the constitution, civil servants, or public servants, as the constitution termed it under Article 132(1) of the federal constitution, which include the military and police personnel, they are only required to be loyal to the King and country,” he said.

Public servants, he said, should be able to participate in the rally, as long as it is outside their working hours.

He cited the recent Court of Appeal ruling that stated the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under federal constitution and hence,“cannot be criminalised”.

He further claimed that while the BN government expected government staff to abide by the Akujanji during such rallies, BN, however, “encouraged them” to disobey it when it comes to Pakatan Rakyat states.

May 3, 2014 – Malaysiakini
‘Civil servants need only be loyal to king and country’

Sabahans Unite!
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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?