Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Insult to the Handicap?

BUKIT GELUGOR (Karpal Singh) was making various points via "Points of Order" during the Question Time proceedings.

While I won't go into the merits of the standing orders debate (i.e., rules and regulations of parliament), which I'm still grappling with, Ibrahim Ali of PASIR MAS, the self-proclaimed independent MP who stood on the PAS ticket, raised his voice in the Dewan, and told Karpal to shut up for supposedly wasting time, and added that if he wanted to speak in the Dewan, he should "stand up".

I didn't hear it myself, but apparently, the infamous KINABATANGAN, supported PASIR MAS as well.

If the above wasn't an unparliamentary insult, in particular to the handicapped community in Malaysia, then I don't know what is.

However, despite being pressed by various DAP MPs in the Dewan, the Speaker refused to request that these MPs "tarik balik" or withdraw their comments. He just polite requested that MPs should not mention unparliamentary words in the Dewan. I thought it was clearly unacceptable, and sets a bad precendent for future debates.

Open Tenders

PERMATANG PAUH asked the prime minister to elaborate on the Government's commitment in implementing an open tender system as announced by the Prime Minister on achieving his 100 days in office as the Prime Minister; and the type and justification of projects which exceed RM10 million above which are still being negotiated through direct negotiation or close tender basis after surpassing the above days.

The Prime Minister responded by providing various reason why open tenders were not held and in many instances only local companies were qualified. I'll need to confirm the statistics again in the Hansard, when it gets updated, but he mentioned that 38% of Government projects above RM10m were concluded via direct negotiations. More details are probably needed as to whether this percentage is calculated by quantity or value of these projects.

The Prime Minister also gave the view that local companies need to be given protection and in certain instances, specific expertise was required, hence the "direct negotiations" approach.

I had my supplementary question prepared, but as expected, due to "seniority" didn't get my chance to ask (the only supplementary question allowed). My boss from BAGAN got the opportunity instead, and asked about the lack of open tenders and the impact on corruption.

Anyway, here was my supplementary question, had I had the opportunity:
Kenapa projek jambatan Pulau Pinang kedua diluluskan secara runding terus tanpa open tender walaupun saiz projek tersebut amat besar?

Dan yang lebih penting - kenapa projek tersebut diluluskan dan diberi kepada syarikat berkaitan SEBELUM harga kontrak dan hargan pembinaan ditetapkan dan ditentukan, yang menyebabkan kos jambatan kerap naik dari RM2.5b sehingga RM3.5b sehingga kini RM4.3b dan ada berita bahawa pihak kontraktor meminta sebanyak RM4.8b?

Supplementary Questions Disallowed!

For the first time in the history of Malaysia, the Speaker of the Parliament has refused Supplementary Questions!

It is an absolute disgrace!

After MUAR asked the first question of the day, directed at the Prime Minister, on the Government's "new approach and plans to continue improving the public's quality of life especially in strengthening purchasing power, public safety and racial integration", the Prime Minister then gave his 15 minutes response of prepared speech, fairly standard answers.

What was shocking after that was the Speaker then ruling that "in the interest of time", we will then proceed to the second question! Of course, it created an uproar in the Dewan.

To us, it was a clear attempt by the Speaker to "protect" the Prime Minster from taking on questions by the Dewan.

After a short period of objections by opposition parliamentarians and justifications by the Speaker, thankfully, the Prime Minister stood up to request the Speaker that he be allowed to take on 1-2 questions.

MARANG (Hadi Awang) had the opportunity to ask the first supplementary question, which he used to ask on the cabinet inflation committee.

Oh, and you can check out also Wong Chun Wai's take on "the disgrace at Dewan Rakyat". Ok, I'm halfway to being convinced that I should get my wife (who terminated subscription of The Star in disgust during the election campaign period - I woke up one morning groggily and found SinChew in front of me instead ;-)) to possibly give The Star a second chance... ;-) And note, this has nothing to do with the fact that The Star gave my picture front page coverage yesterday!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Visit to Parliament

I've received many requests on whether we can arrange for visits to Parliament and sit in the public gallery to observe the parliamentary proceedings ;-)

I've waited for the schedule of when questions submitted by MPs will be answered to see if there's any chance for any of my questions being answered during question time itself. Unfortunately, based on the initial schedule, the nearest to my question being answered is NO. 20 (out of ~70 a day), which means that it won't hear a verbal reply in Parliament during the 1.5 hours question time. Only the first 10-13 questions will see (hear) the light of day. (It'll still get responded to via a written reply)

Well, we are now scheduling a trip, organised by DAP Petaling Jaya for a visit to parliament.

Date: 13 May 2008 (Tue)
Time: 9.00am
Venue: Parliament Lobby

For those interested, please submit your details (Name and IC) to my assistant Erica ( ericahew (at) gmail (dot) com) by the 8th May 2008 for us to register your names.

See you then!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Caught Blogging in the Parliament

That's me taking my oath (pic taken off video feed)

Heh... we were finally sworn into the Parliament today ;-)

While waiting for time to pass, there were 222 members of Parliament taking their oaths individually, both Jeff who sits right next to me, and myself decided that we'll test out the systems here from right within the Dewan Rakyat ;-)

Yes, the power supply was good and the broadband access with the CAT5 cables were working fine too ;-) It's a 2MB line, could be better of course, but can't complain.

And then, Wong Chun Wai of the Star picked up Jeff's blog entry and decided to have us interviewed for blogging in Parliament. Heh, we'll see how it appears tomorrow ;-)

[update 29 Apr (Tue)]

The Star carried the story here with this picture on the front page(!) You can even watch a short clip here. ;-)

That's me sitting next to Jeff in Parliament (pic courtesy of The Star)

But, it'll certainly be interesting blogging from the Parliament from hence on ;-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


A few of the leaders at DAP Selangor, including yours truly here, has decided to form a 'Graftbusters' team to assist in the process of identifying and weeding out corruption. The team is currently led by the DAP MP for Segambut, Lim Lip Eng and comprises of Gobind Singh, MP for Puchong, Lau Weng San, ADUN for Kg Tunku as well as other DAP Selangor Legal Bureau lawyers.

As reported in Malaysiakini, we are looking for civic minded individuals to email us the various cases of graft, particularly of public officials from the previous and current governments, together with the relevant evidence to enable this new team to take the necessary actions.

Many cases of graft escapes attention, in a large part due to the lack of whistleblower protection. In this case, where required, the anonymity of the complainants are protect while the Member of Parliament or State Assemblymen will take the lead in advancing the investigations.

We are not looking to replace the newly proposed "independent" anti-corruption agency (ACA), but instead to help it establish its credibility by presenting the relevant cases to them for their immediate action. The complaints which are supported with sufficient evidence will be presented to ACA, the Police as well as the Prime Minister's office.

You can submit the relevant complaints to any of DAP service centres nationwide, or with the advancements of technology, you can of course email us @ We would certainly want to play a constructive role in taming the rampant corruption amongst public officials in Malaysia. ;-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Parliament's Question Time

In the light of the recent prominence given to MPs who for one reason or other did not submit questions on time to the Parliament for scheduling, I received a comment from a concerned citizen "Freer Parliament", which I thought was certainly worth publishing.

The 21-day notice for MPs to submit questions is archaic in this ICT era. The keying in and arrangement of questions can be done very quickly with a desktop or even a notebook and inserted in the Order Paper within minutes and copies printed equally fast with any high-speed printer.

In the age of the typewriter, 21 days is understandable and not an option. With computers, unless Parliament is without any, there is an option to shorten the notice period to even just days before the oral questions are asked.

In the House of Commons, the notice of questions is at least three days. The questions are then printed in the Commons Questions Book. The order in which the questions are asked is determined randomly by a computer.

An MP in Australia's Parliament may orally ask questions of a Minister without notice for immediate response.

A fundamental principle for Question Time is to empower the people, through their MPs, to question the government and hold it accountable for its action. For greater accountability to prevail, the government should always be kept on its toes. As such, Ministers are expected to know as much as possible and as wide as possible the ongoings in their respective Ministries. Ministers are essentially MPs elected by the people with the extra responsibility of ensuring that the government serves and operates to the satisfaction of the people.

So, when we have Ministers who do their work at all times, there should not be a need for longer-than-necessary notice for questions in Parliament. Lest they forget, many should recall that in their schooldays teachers would often hold surprise tests to determine if their students were actually studying. Or the spot check on hair guideline.

One clear message from the outcome of the general election is that the people want a stronger voice. A stronger voice to check the government and hold it accountable can be better realized if MPs can orally ask questions with the shortest notice period and demand an immediate response. Of course, Ministers should not quickly resort to "minta notis" to delay response.

The option to delay response by invoking "minta notis" should be subject to stricter conditions. It should not apply when a Minister who fails to keep a close watch on matters under his purview. After all, Ministries do send officers to Parliament and they are there to assist their Ministers. "Minta notis" is a triple frustration, first you don't get an immediate response, and then you get a prepared response as a written reply. Thirdly, written replies are quite often lost when they are not noticed by the media which tend to focus on today's questions and not last week's or even yesterday's.

One of the first tasks when Parliament convenes is to review the Standing Order to ensure the removal of any provision that may frustrate the will of the people for greater transparency, governance and accountability. The current 21-day notice will not serve this purpose and needs immediate review.

Today, every party is talking about change and reform. In this spirit, why not then table an emergency motion to immediately suspend the 21-day notice so that questions can be asked even as Parliament is in session. In the spirit of fulfilling the will of the people, such a motion should be allowed for debate because it meets the criteria of definite, urgent and of public importance.

Lastly, it is also time to redefine the definition of "definite, urgent and public importance" so as to empower Parliament to truly play its role as the People's Parliament. "Definite, urgent and public importance" can be better defined in the eyes of the people and not in the eyes of one person, the Speaker.

The people voted for a stronger voice in Parliament and now the MPs must respect this by freeing themselves from "restrictive" provisions of the Standing Order before they can champion a freer Malaysia.

Freer Parliament

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blood Donation Drive Update

A big thank you to all those who contributed blood to our blood donation drive held last week on Friday and Saturday.

As one of the donors commented, "it's clearly harder to get people to give their blood than to give their votes to you". ;-)

Despite giving out more than 1,000 leaflets, having the event listed in some of the Chinese press as well as sending out some 2,000 sms'es to residents, we barely managed to hit 25% of our original target of 300 bags of blood.

While there were clearly some shortcomings in the organisation and there are probably other avenues of publicity which we need to improve on (which we are already aware of), ideas of how to attract more donors are most welcome.

Maybe I should hold a ceramah in conjunction with a blood donation drive... ;-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Petaling Jaya Blood Donation Campaign

DAP Petaling Jaya is organising a blood donation campaign together with the National Blood Centre (Pusat Darah Negara) to replenish supplies to help save lives. The event will be held over 2 days and we hope to collect at least 300 bags of blood to help those in need.

We would like to strongly encourage all able-bodied Malaysians, particularly those working and staying in Petaling Jaya to contribute generously. (And seriously, it's next to painless ;-))

The details of the campaign are as follows:
  1. 18 April 2008 (Fri) - 10.00am - 4.00pm
  2. 19 April 2008 (Sat) - 9.00am - 3.00pm
SS2 Rukun Tetangga Hall,
Jalan SS2/63 (Opposite Maybank, next to Food Street, by the park)
The blood donation campaign will be launched by the Member of Parliament and State Assemblymen of Petaling Jaya Utara constituencies, Tony Pua, Cheah Wing Yin and Lau Weng San on 18th April 2008, 10.00 am.

Please help spread the message!

Sheer Arrogance

Arrogance amongst some UMNO and BN personalities continues despite having become opposition members in certain states. Sometimes it just defies belief.

Former deputy menteri besar (my apologies, should read chief minister) of Penang who was also in-charge of land matters, Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdullah had the gall to challenge the new government to come up with proof of impropriety with regards to land alienation exercises during the previous administration. He even lambasted...
...the new state government for not knowing how to run its administration and suggested that Lim “take lessons on land administration before making allegations about land discrepancies”.
Well, it looks like he may just get his wish with the impending disclosure of land with abnormal premium discounts given to certain quarters and state land alienated to big companies.

Steps are also taken to discover how some of the Penang Municipal councils are able to deplete their cash reserves at an unbelievable rates - such as Seberang Perai Municipal Council which saw their reserves dwindle from RM227m to RM25.6m within 7 years.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Iskandar Malaysia

The Prime Minister who is also holding the portfolio of Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had on 11th March announced the change of name of the "Iskandar Development Region (IDR)" to "Iskandar Malaysia". I wrote on IDR when it was first announced in early 2007.

It is worth noting that this is the 2nd time the name of the project has been changed since it was launched in July 2006, which was initially named "South Johor Development Corridor (SJER)". The frequency at which the name of the project has been changed reflects badly on our government and administrators for it serves to embed confusion amongst investors. In addition, it also reflects a leadership which is unable to make up its mind and stick with a decision, at least for a meaningful period, once it has been made. This reflection certainly does not bode well in breeding investor confidence for our projects.

At the same time, the Finance Minister has declared that Iskandar Malaysia is on target to reach its investment target of RM47 billion within the next 2 years as the project has already "secured" 70% of its investment target, or almost RM33 billion. If the figure announced reflects reality, then certainly, it is an impressive feat achieved by the Government.

Hence it is of utmost importance for the Finance Minister to announce the details of investments which have been committed to date for Iskandar Malaysia to establish the credibility of the Government. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must declare:
  1. Of the [RM14 billion] of investments "secured", what is the breakdown between contractually-bound investment agreements, e.g., those with penalty clauses for termination; and those which are based on "memorandums of understanding (MOUs)" not bound by contract?

  2. Of the "secured" investments, what is the breakdown between the Government of Malaysia, local Malaysian private investors and foreign direct investors?

  3. Of the "secured" investments, how much of the committed funds have been invested, in Iskandar Malaysia?
The people of Malaysia wishes Iskandar Malaysia to be an unqualified success, particularly in attracting renewed value-added foreign direct investment to the country. However, to do so, the Finance Minister must provide the necessary information for us to evaluate the status of the project and to come up with the necessary plans to ensure its success.

It is hoped that in the light of the results of the 12th General Elections, the Government will adopt a new culture of transparency to allow for greater contribution by parliamentarians and Malaysians in general.

(Check out Wikipedia for more info on Iskandar Malaysia)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Siem Reap

After a hectic 6 months of election preparatory work and election campaign, I've finally found some time to take the family out for a short holiday (before Parliament starts) at Siem Reap, Cambodia, the access to the world renown, Angkor Wat. This place has certainly changed a great deal from when I was last here with Ting Fong, back in 2001. ;-)

Will blog more soon after I return ;-)

(Can't get my phone to work the entire day... my SIM card is having roaming issues... Ting Fong is pretty happy about it...)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Famous Last Words

Thanks to TV Smith, I found this hilarious collection of famous last words (made before the 12th General Elections were held) ;-)

The one that I liked best was probably related to my party boss ;-)
“Do you think Penang people are stupid to support him (Guan Eng)? We Penangites are not stupid” - Pak Lah
Or maybe the one from the former MB of Selangor ;-)
"Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo yakin kekuatan jentera Pemuda, Wanita dan Puteri serta BN negeri ketika ini cukup bersedia untuk menjadikan Selangor negeri sifar pembangkang (zero opposition) pada pilihanraya umum akan datang."
Heh... ;-)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Questions for Parliament

To all readers who contributed comments and questions to be submitted for the next parliamentary session. The response was just amazing, and I had to take quite a bit of time going through the questions/comments.

Unfortunately, I can only submit 15 questions, 10 of which are meant to be responded to orally during Parliamentary Q & A sessions, while the remainder 5 will be given written responses. In addition, each question limited to 40 words.

Parliamentary Q & A sessions are held every morning from 10am for about 2hours (from 14 May) before they are adjourned to debate other issues such as new acts, laws or amendments.

Between 30th April and 13th May, parliamentarians will debate on the Royal Address which is scheduled to be given by Yang DiPertuan Agung on the 29th April.

Hence, for those who raised issues not covered by my list of questions here, be rest assured that there are plenty of other opportunities for me to raise some of them either as part of the debate of the royal address or on various bills being proposed by the government.

Well, here are my questions which are submitted to the Parliament office today ;-)

Pertanyaan Bagi Mesyaurat Pertama, Penggal Pertama, Parlimen Kedua Belas

Soalan Jawab Lisan

  1. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Pendidikan menjelaskan sama ada SRJK(C) Damansara yang lama akan dibuka semula; dan apakah cadangan kementerian untuk menubuhkan lebih SRJK(C) dan SRJK(T) dengan cara yang lebih tersusun mengikut permintaan rakyat Malaysia.

  2. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Dalam Negeri menyatakan kedudukan perekrutan anggota polis yang amat diperlukan untuk mengurangkan kes jenayah yang amat serius; dan apakah jumlah anggota polis terkini mengikut pecahan tanggungjawab mereka.

  3. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Pengajian Tinggi mengenai kedudukan kontrak naib-canselor Universiti Malaya. Adakah seorang naib-canselor baru akan dilantik, dan apakah cara pemilihan yang akan digunakan untuk mengenal pasti seorang akademik yang bertaraf “world class” untuk memulihkan mutu pengajian tinggi di Malaysia.

  4. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Pengajian Tinggi menjelaskan dengan teliti cara pelajar-pelajar STPM dan matrikulasi

    a. Berlayak meneruskan pengajian di universiti awam
    b. Diperuntukkan ke universiti-universiti dan kursus-kursus yang tertentu

    Apakah kriteria yang digunakan selain daripada pencapaian akademik mereka?

  5. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Pendidikan menjelaskan dengan teliti cara pengiraan mata aktiviti ko-kuriculum bagi pelajar-pelajar untuk tujuan permohonan universiti awam. Siapakah yang menentukan mata aktiviti ini, dan apakah langkah yang diambil kementerian untuk menjamin proses tersebut adil dan saksama.

  6. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Perindustrian (MITI) melaporkan jumlah “Approved Permit (AP)” kereta impot yang dikeluarkan pada 2007 berbanding dengan tahun-tahun yang lalu; apakah anggaran jumlah AP yang akan dikeluar pada tahun ini dan adakah MITI bercadang melelong AP supaya hasil dikutip kerajaan dapat ditingkatkan?

  7. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan mengulaskan strategi dan langkah-langkah kerajaan untuk menghadapi masalah kekurang hasil dari pendapatan industry minyak apabila Malaysia menjadi sebuah Negara pengimpot minyak dalam masa 2-3 tahun; dan kehabisan rizab minyak dalam masa 19 tahun.

  8. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kerja Raya melaporkan pendapatan, keuntungan kumulatif syarikat-syarikat konsesi tol; dan adakah kerajaan akan mengambil langkah tertentu untuk merunding semula ciri-ciri kontrak yang tidak menyimbang dan membebankan orang ramai?

  9. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Pendidikan mengulaskan strategi kerajaan untuk menarik graduan-graduan yang lebih bermutu untuk berkhidmat dalam bidang pengajaran supaya anak-anak Malaysia akan mendapat mutu pengajaran yang lebih tinggi. Adakah gaji guru-guru akan ditingkatkan untuk tujuan tersebut?

  10. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Dalam Negeri memberikan laporan nilai, matlumat dan kedudukan project mega “Sistem Immigresen ‘Single Platform’” (SIM). Adakah projek sensitif keselamatan dalam negeri ini diberi kepada sebuah syarikat yang kurang berpengalaman dalam bidang sistem immigresen, yang dimiliki oleh warganegara asing pada masa kontrak ditetapkan?

Soalan Jawab Bertulis

  1. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menjelaskan strategi kerajaan untuk meningkatkan daya menarik pelaburan apabila menghadapi persaingan dari negara jiran yang mempunyai sistem cukai lebih menarik seperti Singapura (18%), Hong Kong (17%), dan juga Negara Eropah seperti Ireland (12.5%), Poland dan Rep. Slovak (19%), Hungary (16%).

  2. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Kewangan menerangkan dengan teliti kaedah penggiraan kadar inflasi Negara, termasuklah jenis dan harga barang ataupun servis yang diliputi untuk mendapatkan kadar 2% bagi tahun 2007.

  3. Tony Pua meminta Perdana Menteri melaporkan statistik penerima biasiswa tempatan dan luar negeri Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awan mengikut kursus yang diuntukkan dan gred SPM ataupun STPM / Matrikulasi yang dicapai

  4. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Sumber Asli dan Alam Sekitar menjelaskan garis panduan untuk pembinaan dan pembangunan di sekitar cerun bukit yang curam, terutamanya di kawasan Bukit Gasing dan Bukit Damansara.

  5. Tony Pua meminta Menteri Belia dan Sukan melaporkan kedudukan siasatan pembelian alat-alat pelengkapan seperti pemutar skru, buku teknikal dan jek kereta dengan harga yang keterlaluan. Apakah tindakan yang diambil untuk menghukum pihak yang bertanggungjawab?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Parliament Commences Soon...

Yes, the newly elected Parliament will finally be starting soon.

There are now 82 opposition parliamentarians as opposed to 140 from Barisan Nasional. What is more interesting however, is that there are 67 front benchers (i.e., Ministers & Deputy Ministers), which leaves 73 backbenchers for the Government. That means that excluding the Ministers, who are often absent from Parliament, you may end up with opposition parliamentarians outnumbers those from Barisan Nasional. That should certainly be interesting ;-)

The first session of the 12th Parliament will officially commence on the 28th April (Monday) with the swearing in of the new MPs. The session will last for a month til 27th May.

The second session will be held over 23 Jun to 15 July, while the 3rd and last session for the year will be held between 18th August til 11 December.

My first task at hand is to submit 15 questions (10 for oral replies and 5 for written) to the Parliament secretary for replies by the relevant ministries by the 8th April (next Tuesday).

So for those with key questions of national interest which you'd like me to bring up in Parliament during the question and answer sessions. (Note that the questions should be fairly specific and directed at a particular ministry) ;-)