Archive for June, 2014

29
Jun
14

Malaysia’s petroleum – When principled men speak and frogs croak

When principled men speak and frogs croak

Honesty. Candour. Fearlessness.

These qualities are so refreshing about Petronas chief executive officer Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas. He speaks the language of a man who cares more deeply about doing the right thing by his company, and ultimately, by his country, than clinging to the coveted position as the boss of the national oil company.

He calls a spade a spade and not because sharp words are going to grab him a share of headlines, but because he knows that endemic rent-seeking is leading the country’s piggy-bank and financier of all our excesses to a bad place.

He has to wave the red flag, shout at the top of his voice and be the bearer of bad news because everyone else is in denial. Because Umno politicians and their supporters in Perkasa like Datuk Ibrahim Ali believe that the country’s one, constant source of revenue is theirs to pillage.

So it was expected that Shamsul’s candour in an interview with the Edge Weekly would provoke a response from the country’s instigator-in-chief, the purveyor of all nonsense and defender of the rent-seeking culture, Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

Among other things, Shamsul said that Petronas resources belonged to all Malaysians, and not just Malays. He was spot on saying that because the Petroleum Development Act 1974 does not mention Bumiputeras.

Shamsul lamented the fact that Petronas was under pressure to back inexperienced businesses, while he was more interested in stressing the importance of meritocracy.

“In 2010, we structured the whole organisation, including the composition of the board…I brought in new capable people. The talk was that I got rid of all the government servants, brought in the non-Malays, opened up Petronas, which belongs to the Malays, to the non-Malays.

“Are we not interested in competence? This is a predicament I am facing at this point of time…I am being pulled back by politics, by interested parties, by parties with vested interests, by agendas that are outdated…I am a Malay too. I am proud to be one. You think I don’t want to help my own people. Of course, I want to help them but in the proper way. Not through handouts and spoon-feeding, ” said in the interview published on June 21.

Ibrahim, who finds any discussion on meritocracy and competence offensive, has found much wrong with what Shamsul said and now is calling for his head.

Ibrahim represents all that is wrong with this blessed and resource-rich country. He claims he is fighting for Malays when he is in fact trying to perpetuate a system where a small group of Malays have benefited tremendously from government contracts, approved permits and the like.

He adores the current political patronage system because it provides the perfect eco-system for Perkasa, Isma and other right-wing groups to thrive.

…more
When principled men speak and frogs croak
COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
26 June 2014 – TMI

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27
Jun
14

Malaysia’s petroleum belongs to ALL Malaysians

Petronas President speaks out fearlessly amid rumours he is under pressure to leave

KUALA LUMPUR: Rumours are again rampant that Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas)’s president and CEO Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas will leave his post, but this man at the helm says he will continue to defend professionalism and independence fearlessly, reported the Edge Weekly in its latest June 23-29 issue.

In an exclusive interview with the Edge Weekly, Shamsul said he had to continue to fight for Petronas’ independence and guard the interest of the national oil company in the face of political pressure.

He will continue to adopt the open bidding method when dishing out oil and gas jobs to bring down cost for Petronas. He will not bow to political pressure to give jobs to unproven businessmen. He will not be held ransom by greedy well-connected contractors.

“It’s so difficult to do an honest day’s job. You spend a lot of time away from your true function (of running Petronas),” Shamsul lamented during the interview conducted last week.

“It’s not just people outside [who are making things difficult but] also people in the government — the bureaucrats. Bureaucratic interference makes things difficult,” he added.

In fact, things have been tough for Shamsul since he took the reins of Petronas from Tan Sri Hassan Marican in 2010, said the weekly financial paper of The Edge in its cover story on page 80-82.

Among the changes Shamul has made that has irked the government is to cap the dividend paid to the federal government at 30% of Petronas’ net profit from 2013 onwards. This has also angered many in UMNO, who feel that Petronas should cough up more.

But Shamsul argued: “We need money to grow. If we remain static and all our production is depleting…in 13 years’ time we might as well close shop”.

Most of Shamsul’s woes stem from well-connected business owners who have lost out on lucrative jobs after open bidding became the preferred mode, compared with fixed allocation for local firms done previously.

Companies under Petronas’ vendor development programme are no pushovers either as they are usually politically linked. They are unhappy that Shamsul had clamped down on their request to be allocated jobs. Some were loading up their costs by as much as 48%, making exceptionally big margins.

“I’m a Malay too, I’m proud to be one … you think I don’t want to help my own people? Of course I want to help them, but in the proper way –not through handouts and spoon-feeding,” Shamsul told the Edge Weekly.

In fact, the frustrations of Shamsul could be felt from the following quotes extracted from the Edge Weekly:

“Everybody can see that we at Petronas are under immense pressure … We take pride in telling the whole world, telling the whole of Malaysia, that we are a Fortune 500 company, but do we behave like one?”

“This is what the fighting is all about, trying to give ourselves some independence, so that at the end of the day, we are measured in terms of our performance, delivery and results, and not having anyone intervening and telling us what we have to do and that we have to give handouts to all.”

“The government wants us to be like an international oil company, comparable with the Shells and ExxonMobils of the world, so we try to be one. But Shell and ExxonMobil are not harassed by their governments.”

“In the Petroleum Development Act, it is very clear — oil and gas belong to all Malaysians. It doesn’t say oil and gas belong to the bumiputeras, it doesn’t say that … it says all Malaysians, so they can be in the government, they can be in the opposition, they can be wherever … and we are the custodians.”

“It is amanah … diamanahkan … the word amanahkan is very strong — as a Muslim, it would be a huge sin if I abused ‘amanah’.

“We are dealing with politicians; they say one thing but do another, so it’s difficult… it is frustrating.”

…more
June 26 2014 – theedgemalaysia.com
Petronas President speaks out fearlessly amid rumours he is under pressure to leave

26
Jun
14

Malaysian public varsities fail to make top 100 Asian universities ranking

The decline in global rankings of Malaysia’s public universities continues, this time in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014 released today where no local tertiary institution made it to the top 100.

Five countries were represented in the top 10 of the Asian university rankings – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and China. Even India made outstanding progress with 10 institutions in the top 100, compared with only three last year.

The Middle East was also well represented, with universities from Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey making the list.

Thailand made the grade too, “but there is no place for Malaysia”, Times Higher Education noted about the Southeast Asian nation where tertiary education has become a significant industry.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, which was ranked number 87 last year, did not feature in the ranking this year.

University Of Tokyo emerged top among Asian universities followed by the National University of Singapore.

University of Hong Kong, Seoul National University and China’s Peking University clinched the third, fourth and fifth spots respectively.

Thailand has two universities in this year’s ranking, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, which rose five places to joint 50th, and Mahidol University, which dropped 21 places to 82nd spot.

Singapore has two highly placed universities in the ranking, NUS at second spot and Nanyang Technological University at 11th position.

Hong Kong was named the star performer by THE, given its size, and the fact that it had six universities the top 50 of the ranking.

In April, Malaysian public universities were also left out of the this year’s ranking of the annual Times Higher Education Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.

Four Asian universities were ranked among the top 10 of the world’s young universities, including South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology which took the top spot, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) (third placing), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (5).

Malaysia failed to get on the list for the second year running. In the first rankings list in 2012, UKM was ranked 98th.

The country was also absent from the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings list released in March, losing out to other Southeast Asian countries.

…more
Malaysian public varsities fail to make top 100 Asian universities ranking
BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
19 June 2014 – TMI

25
Jun
14

MH370: Time for accountability, heads must roll, forum told

After more than 100 days since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, it is time for Putrajaya to be held accountable for the tragedy, a forum was told last night.

Veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang accused Putrajaya of dragging its feet in launching an inquiry to find out what actually caused the plane’s disappearance, adding that “heads should roll”.

“It’s been 101 days and time to demand accountability, heads should roll.

“And we must make it very clear that we cannot accept there will be no investigation until the plane is found,” he said at a forum to commemorate the plane’s disappearance after 100 days.

The forum, “The tragedy of MH370: Accident or human error”, was held at the Selangor Chinese Assembly hall here last night.

Lim said Putrajaya had said that any decision on whether to present a white paper to Parliament, set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) or a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), would only be made after the plane was found.

He said Putrajaya’s current position was unacceptable and called on the people to send a clear message that Malaysians expected greater accountability and a better system of governance.

Another panelist last night, constitutional law expert Tommy Thomas, made several references to local air traffic control officers and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), the first people who should have reacted when MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, went missing.

But instead of local aviation officials, he said, the real heroes in the first few hours after MH370 went missing were the Vietnam air traffic controllers, who asked about MH370 six times, he said.

Thomas said Ho Chi Minh had inquired about the flight at 1.38am on March 8, when it did not enter Vietnam airspace.

“So even if the guy at the KL air traffic control was asleep, which I think is probable, he would have been awakened by that enquiry and the penny should have dropped at that point of time,” he said.

He added that even after that point, the way the Malaysian air traffic controllers conducted themselves was “laughable”.

“The Vietnamese air officers were professional and concerned throughout the early hours and we have a sleepy bunch who got some information that the plane was headed to Cambodia.

“And even then, it was Ho Chi Minh who made the effort to ask Cambodia and they were told by Cambodia ‘we don’t know what you are talking about’,” he added.

These gaps, the issue of the stolen passports and whether it was just mangosteens in the cargo hold proved that the information released around the time of the crash and on May 1, when Putrajaya released a preliminary report, were untruthful, said the lawyer.

“What is clear is that there had been a terrible omission of information,” he said.


…more
MH370: Time for accountability, heads must roll, forum told
BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
Updated: 18 June 2014 – TMI

24
Jun
14

Defence of RMAF gaffe show Hisham ‘unclear’ about his job

Defence of RMAF gaffe show Hisham ‘unclear’

MH370 Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s excuse for not intercepting Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 shows that he has a poor understanding of his job, said constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas.

To the question why the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) did not intercept the aircraft after it deviated from its flight path and switched off its transponder, Hishammuddin had previously retorted, “If we are going to send it (jets) up, are you going to say we were going to shoot it down?”

“That tells you how wrong his grasp of his office is,” Tommy (right) said at a public forum last night, titled ‘The Tragedy of MH370: Accident or Human Error?’

“The purpose of intercepting, essentially what would happen is two air force planes will go (after the aircraft), one to the left-hand side and one to the right-hand side and try to establish communications with the pilot, and they will know what is happening,” he said.

He told the audience of over 100 persons that if MH370 refused to respond to the air force, at the very least RMAF would known where the aircraft had crashed because it would have witnessed it.

“That is the purpose of interception, not to shoot the wretched thing as a first option,” he said, adding that it would have been obvious to any intercepting RMAF pilot that it is a MAS aircraft and would not shoot it down.

MH370 had gone missing on March 8, after it had deviated from its original path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew towards the Indian Ocean.

With its transponder disabled, the aircraft would have appeared as an unidentified aircraft to radar operators.

The RMAF had been criticised for determining that it is friendly aircraft despite being unable to identify it at the time, and for failing to intercept it as it flew across Malaysian airspace.

Ongoing search efforts have failed to locate any trace of the aircraft so far, nor the 239 passengers and crew members on board.

DCA ‘lacks expertise’ to probe air accidents

While the RMAF has not disclosed its criteria for determining whether an aircraft is hostile, another speaker Lam Choong Wah said MH370 would have been treated as hostile and intercepted under the criteria set by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

He said there are three items in the criteria: If an aircraft enters an airspace without filing a flight plan beforehand; if its transponder is not working; if two-way radio communications could not be established.

“So in this scenario, MH370 fulfilled these three conditions. In the American case, they certainly will scramble their jets to intercept it, but in Malaysia we have a different case,” he said.


…more
Jun 18, 2014 – Malaysiakini
Defence of RMAF gaffe show Hisham ‘unclear’

23
Jun
14

Mahathir-era politics in Kedah’s new airport fling

(Kedah already has the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport near Alor Setar, which handled just 535,073 passengers last year, compared to Penang airport’s 5.5 million.)

Mahathir-era politics in Kedah’s new airport fling

by Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (June 18): One may remember the ripples of tension last year when Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir spoke about charging Penang for drawing water from the Muda River.

The claim was a complete non-starter; even though the river starts in Kedah, Penang draws water on its side of the border.

Now Muhkriz seems to have come up with another irritant. He revealed last week an idea to have an international airport in Kulim, right beside the border with Penang.

Inevitably, there are strong implications being felt from this. The big question is whether the plan would be to eventually downsize or even remove the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas on the island.

Kulim is just 25 minutes’ drive from the Penang Bridge, which connects the island to the mainland. And there is now also the Second Penang Bridge, christened Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, which opened in early March.

Politically, this issue is immensely charged.

The power and jurisdiction over airports come under the federal government which is ruled by Barisan Nasional (BN), and Kedah is now under BN-Umno rule while Penang is under Pakatan Rakyat.

There is also an intriguing historical layer in this affair.

Repeat of tensions from the 90s

For Kedah is the home state of Mukhriz’ father, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

And Kulim is where Mahathir incepted the Kulim Hi-Tech Park when he was prime minister in the 90s. The zone was formed to rival Penang and divert investments from the established industrial estates in Penang.

It was also during Mahathir’s reign that the idea was first mooted for an international airport in Kedah.

The then BN-led Penang government, helmed by Chief Minister (CM) Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon from Gerakan, had to spring a counter-idea to site the airport in Bertam (in northern Seberang Perai or mainland Penang) near the Kedah border.

However, the Kedah MB at that time, Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, stood firm that it should be in the state.

The Kedah government had made a very ambitious plan to have a large-scale reclamation of its western coastline, said to be the largest reclamation in the world then.

The airport was eyed to be located on that reclaimed area.

As Koh and Sanusi traded diplomatic exchanges through the media, Koh even came up with a statement that a bridge could be built between Gurney Drive in the northern part of Penang island and Butterworth on the mainland, to allow Penangites to reach the airport on the mainland in the quickest possible time.

As fate would have it, the new airport and reclamation plans were somehow dropped as the Asian financial crisis gripped the country in the late 90s.

Sleepy Kulim and sabotage of thriving Penang

Now, almost two decades later, the issue resurfaced.

Responding to Mukhriz, CM Lim Guan Eng has stated that Penang has no objection to the new airport in Kulim – which he said would cost “easily more than RM2 billion” – if the Penang airport can be upgraded.

The upgrading should include two runways, a fully-integrated air cargo facility and an aerospace hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).

As it is, Lim stressed, Penang has the most profitable air cargo hub in Malaysia.

The airport also carried 5.5 million passengers last year and is reaching the maximum capacity of 6.5 million, he added.

Penang is also the top location of choice for foreign direct investment in Malaysia with RM19.7 billion – or nearly 20% of Malaysia’s total FDI – from 2010 to August 2013, Lim emphasised.

The federal government should help retain these foreign investors by upgrading the airport.

With all these facts, people may be forgiven for wondering if a move to site an international airport in Kedah is very much a political strategy to hurt and even sabotage Penang.

In particular, there is the obvious question of practicality in building such an airport around the sleepy town of Kulim. Would the project not become a white elephant?

“Malacca’s RM250 million airport is good example of such a white elephant where it is now an empty and unused airport,” Lim pointed out.

(Kedah already has the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport near Alor Setar, which handled just 535,073 passengers last year, compared to Penang airport’s 5.5 million.) In fact, Lim stressed that the estimated cost for a new airport in Kulim is conservative and could be double the amount.

…more
Mahathir-era politics in Kedah’s new airport fling
Jun 18, 2014 – Fz.com

22
Jun
14

Politicans should keep out of education bodies, says Ku Li

The problems plaguing Malaysia’s education system can be remedied by having professionals, and not politicians, to run educational bodies, said veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

The former finance mninister said one of the reasons why Malaysia’s education showed poor performance was due to interference from politicians.

“The danger in this meddling is the tendency for an issue to be politicised and degenerated into controversies,” he said, citing the issue of using English in the teaching of mathematics and science.

“It is time that educational bodies were run by professionals.

“More importantly, these professionals must be allowed to offer policy options that are in the best interest of students and the nation without their having any fear of being browbeaten by petty-minded politicians,” he said in his keynote address to the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei)’s 3rd International Skills Conference, today.

Razaleigh, popularly knows as Ku Li, said Malaysia’s education system was dysfunctional and inconsistent with its ambitions to become a developed nation by 2020.

“No less than the World Bank in March 2014 underscored its anxiety at the low quality of Malaysia’s education system. And by international standards of comparison such as Pisa and TIMSS, the skill levels of our workforce are unfortunately in the lower third of such rankings,” he said, referring to recent international surveys which showed Malaysian students lagging behind those from other countries.

Ku Li also spoke of the low regard for the teaching profession in Malaysia.

“Teaching must be brought back to the pedestal it once occupied in this country. The service must be so packaged as to attract the best entrants to the job market,” he said, but added that student-teacher ratio also plays a part.

“The teacher will be hard pressed to give time to individual students, let alone offering quality attention to them. The time is perhaps right for us to correct this situation stabilising this ration at around, say, 20:1.”

…more
Politicans should keep out of education bodies, says Ku Li
BY ANISAH SHUKRY
17 June 2014 – TMI




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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?

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