Thursday, May 29, 2008

Urgent Motion Denied, Denied, Denied

Victim of police bashing at Bandar Mahkota Cheras (Malaysiakini)

Saudari Teo Nie Ching of SERDANG filed for an urgent motion 2 days ago, due for a hearing by the Speaker today on whether it could be debated in the House. Almost as expected, the motion was denied.

There are probably some 10 or so urgent motions which has been denied the chance to see the light of day in the House. So far the most frequently use reason for rejection is "not urgent" - be it urgent medical treatments on ISA detainees (not urgent), death to National Service detainees (not urgent) or death under police custody (only very few such cases).

So far, the only motion allowed for debate was on the issue of the sharp increase in the price of rice and its possible shortage.

Today, the Deputy Speaker once again rejected SERDANG's motion, that is to debate the police action and inaction over the Bandar Mahkota Cheras - Grand Saga toll controversy, which has resulted in individuals being hurt by thugs in full police presence and another being beaten up by some 20 police officers. This issue has hit the headlines over the past 3 days or so.

The Speaker ruled that the motion is not urgent, and that since the matter is under court action, the House is not permitted to discuss the issue as it would then be sub-judice.

Both SERDANG and myself stood up to point out to the speaker that the issue that is being discussed here in police inaction and brutality and not the case due for hearing in the courts. Hence there is nothing sub judice about the case.

The Speaker would have none of it, despite more members from the opposition bench speaking in support of the motion, of course with the BN backbenchers at the same time vocally opposing our cause for the Malaysian victims.

SHAH ALAM (Khalid Abdul Samad / PAS) stood to ask the speaker to explain to the house, if death and being beaten up by authorities isn't sufficiently "urgent", then what is the criteria the Speaker use to define "urgent"?

Well, obviously the question didn't require an urgent answer, and I don't expect to hear it any time soon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Teachers' Pay

I was fortunately enough to have another question scheduled at No. 4 which was responded to orally by the Deputy Minister of Education II, Dato' Razali bin Ismail on Monday. This specific question relates to one of DAP's manifesto items, that is to call for a special class of teachers' civil service pay in order to attract the best talents to the education service sector.
[PETALING JAYA UTARA] minta Menteri Pelajaran menyatakan, apakah 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.
You can read the full answer from the Deputy Minister here in the Hansard on page 10.

In brief, the Ministry has put in place some policies which are meant to raise the quality of teachers including better teacher selection system, better training, better teaching environment, better incentives and allowances as well as better promotion prospects.

He also noted that a new teacher with degree qualifications start off with RM1,695.85 with cap pay of RM4,645.85 per month, which doesn't yet include other incentives.

Basically, he didn't really comment on the need to raise the starting pay as well as pay scale of teachers, as a key policy decision to attract better talent to the force. Hence my subsequent supplementary question pressed the Deputy Minister on this point.
Terima kasih Tuan Yang di-Pertua, terima kasih Timbalan Menteri. Adakah Yang Berhormat Timbalan Menteri sedar di Singapura gaji permulaan bagi seorang siswazah... [Dewan riuh]

Sedarkah, hendak tahu Timbalan Menteri sedar soalan ini... [Dewan riuh]

Adakah Timbalan Menteri sedar bahawa di Singapura gaji permulaan adalah daripada 2,800 Dolar Singapura dan sekarang di Malaysia RM1,700 sahaja. Kalau bakal yang berbakat perguruan tidak ditarik masuk dalam bidang perguruan macam mana kualiti perguruan akan dipertingkatkan supaya pelajar-pelajar kita mendapat kualiti pelajaran yang lebih baik.

Saya harap Timbalan Menteri akan memberi pertimbangan kepada cadangan supaya gaji guru diberi kelas yang special, eksklusif supaya wang Petronas yang banyak pendapatan ini dapat kita gunakan dengan lebih berkesan. Terima kasih.
To this, the Deputy Minister responded
Kata orang lain padang lain belalangnya. Lain suasana, lain negara lain pula kaedah-kaedah perkiraannya itu... [Tepuk]
He continued with a repeat of the fact that teachers who performed well are given fast track treatment.

I was of course disappointed with the above answer for to say that policies in Singapore, which is a proven centre for educational excellence from primary to university levels should not be used as an example to emulate in one form or another in Malaysia.

The Ministry of Education must adopt the open minded attitude that while Singapore's clearly our competition, we should pick up what they have done right to achieve what they have today, in order to make ourselves better able to compete with them and the rest of the world.

While starting pay isn't the sole factor affecting the quality of teachers, it is certainly a very important starting point to attract the best talents to the force. The impact of quality education cannot be underestimated for it will make the difference as to whether our human capital is able to lift themselves to the next level, in the face of competition and globalisation, as opposed to stagnation, and continual decline relative to our neighbours and competitors.

Hence, it has always been argued here and in my Education blog, no expense must be spared, particularly in utilising temporal and extraordinary profits from our oil and gas industry to ensure that our productivity will increase sufficiently to replace the loss of income anticipated from the depletion of oil reserves in the years to come.

Parliament's First Vote

Whoa! The first case of voting in parliament for a long time. Parliament has been extended by 2 days to Thursday 29th and we are now in the midst of debating supplementary budget allocations.

Basically, supplementary budget allocation is debated in parliament to retrospectively approve allocations which has already been over-spent by the Government.

One of the line items is additional allocation of RM16 billion to statutory bodies. Amongst the mini-line items include additional RM9 million to sponsor Le Tour d'Langkawi, Champion's Youth Cup (CYC) Football Tournament and the liquidation of SUKOM Bhd.

After the debate on the issue, a vote by voice is usually called for, and typically, BN will just win hands down. But this time round, it was noted that there appears to be less BN members in the House compared to opposition members (the "Setuju" sounded weaker than the "Tidak Setuju") and straight away, there was a suggestion that a vote by ballot be called.

The Speaker after some contemplation agreed, and the bell was rung to bring in the House members. Suddenly you find all the BN representatives including many ministers streaming in, some belatedly. Even the Prime Minister, who is rarely seen in the House came in. The House was in a light and jovial mood though as the respective party whips went around registering votes around the House.

Well, the results was only to be expected. There was 92 votes from BN while 60 for the opposition, and it appears that the 1 independent candidate abstained.

I voted "NO" to the supplementary budget allocation because I disagreed with the manner in which the budget had been prepared and executed for supplementary budgets in this country is a mere retrospective technical approval, which in actuality makes a mockery of the previous budget approval.

In addition, there were clearly many items in the supplementary budget such as the controversial CYC as well as the neverending SUKOM accounts which are not transparent which just seems to be a sponge for more funds.

Well, for what it's worth, I registered my first physical vote in Parliament today ;-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's Wrong With Our Ministers?

The House ruptured into disorder again this morning, all within the live TV coverage as well, this morning in Parliament.

Yesterday, we had the Deputy Minister of Health, Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad creating a smaller storm by saying that doctors have the "license to kill", in describing the fact that doctors may cause fatalities via human failures. While the deputy minister in all probability didn't mean it in the literal sense, his lack of tact and respect for the medical profession caused a furore amongst many doctors sitting on the opposition bench including KEPONG, KUALA KRAI, TITIWANGSA as well as PERMATANG PAUH.

Despite the controversy and despite initial instructions from the Speaker to retract his statement, the deputy minister refused causing the proceeding to be further delayed by demands from parliamentarians who were rightly offended by the Deputy Minister. It was also not helped by the Speaker who was swung between decisions on whether to enforce the retraction or just secure a promise that the phrase will not be used again.

At the end, the Deputy Minister stood to retract his remarks, but stated that he will not apologise for the remarks made.

Today, we have the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Idris Harun, creating another unnecessary ruckus by using a obscene Tamil swear word when responding to a valid question raised by Nasir Zakaria [PAS/PADANG TERAP]. Most of us were oblivious to the term used, but M Kulasegaran [IPOH BARAT] and N Gobalakrishnan [PADANG SERAI] caught the use of the term loud and clear and demanded, rightly so, that the Deputy Minister retract and apologise for his use of the word.

The Deputy Minister gave the most thuggish of replies, despite leading the Higher Education Ministry, shouting and challenging PADANG SERAI to "repeat the word" that he allegedly used. The Speaker clearly lost control of the House then he'll always qualify his response with the excuse that he does not know the meaning of the word expressed and hence the House should move forward while he obtain the understanding of the word utilised before making a ruling subsequently.

The situation was really quite a disgrace. Unfortunately, BAGAN SERAI took matters into his own hands and chose to walk towards the Speaker to whisper the explanation of the word to him. It was unfortunate because it then created a total diversion from the unparliamentary act by the Deputy Minister, allowing the BN backbenchers to create another ruckus demanding that BAGAN SERAI be punished for breaking all decorum and showed disrespect towards the Speaker.

The party whip for PKR, Azmin Ali [GOMBAK] took the most honourable and admirable stand that BAGAN SERAI will apologise for his action to the House, which the latter did accordingly. Much less could be said for the integrity of the BN whip and parliamentarians who chose not to chastise their own colleague for bringing disrepute to the House.

As the Question time proceedings restarted, the disgraceful Deputy Higher Education Minister got away scot free, without even a need to retract his use of the word.

Are these the only people Barisan Nasional or the Prime Minister could find, who are competent enough to shoulder our Government ministries? And I'm not even referring to the quality of answers, which deserves another post altogether.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blogs in Vogue

What's the biggest difference this recent election made? In my opinion, it has to be the Government's 180% turn with regards to its attitude towards blogs.

Datuk Abdul Ghapur Hj Salleh of KALABAKAN asked the Minister of Information on 21st May 2008 that
...ternyata media generasi baru khususnya 'blog' membawa pengaruh yang besar ke atas trend pengundian pada pilihan raya yang lalu. Apakah Kementerian merancang untuk menyertai media generasi baru yang teramat berkesan ini.
And the short reply from the Minister was:
Kerajaan melihat perkembangan penyampaian maklumat dan pandangan rakyat melaluik blog sebagai satu perkara positif sejajar dengan kepesatan teknologi informasi. Semua pandangan yang dikemukakan melalui blog juga dilihat sebagai pandangan rakyat yang perlu diberi perhatian oleh Kerajaan.

Pihak Kerajaan sentiasa memantau laman-laman blog yang ada namun tidak bercadang untuk mengawal dan menapis laman-laman web dan blog berkenaan.
This wasn't the first time the question has been asked in this Parliament sitting, and what's more, they have mainly been asked by Barisan Nasional parliamentarians.

The previous Minister of Information, the infamous Zainuddin Maidin was defeated in Sungai Petani, and obviously the current one, Ahmad Shabery Cheek doesn't want to meet the same fate as his predecessor. ;-)

Taking a short walk down memory lane, let's recall how this same administration was just pooh-poohing blogs and of course, bloggers ;-)
  • Aug 23, 2006 - "Pengendali Laman Blog ibarat penembak curi", then deputy Minister of Energy, Water & Communication.

  • March 13, 2007 - MALAYSIA'S tourism minister has sparked a controversy among the local Internet community by reportedly describing bloggers as 'liars' and 'mostly jobless women'. The Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh quoted Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor as saying last week: 'All bloggers are liars. They cheat people using all kinds of methods. 'From my understanding, out of 10,000 unemployed bloggers, 8,000 are women.'

  • March 20, 2007 - Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin today asked newspapers not to quote from blog websites when writing news stories as the source of the information cannot be considered authoritative. He hoped newspapers would be more responsible by quoting only authoritative sources as many bloggers were relying on newspapers for credibility.

  • April 5, 2007 - BLOGGERS using locally hosted websites may be asked to register with the authorities, Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor said. He said registration was one of the measures the Government was considering to prevent the spread of negative or malicious content on the Internet.

  • April 6, 2007 - Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin Friday lent his weight to a proposal to register blog sites, especially those which are politically-motivated. He said the mainstream media were subjected to registration, monitoring and specific laws, and as such, there was no reason why the same should not apply to blog operators.

  • May 05, 2007 - Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin said today Malaysia has to classify web bloggers as professionals and non-professionals as a mechanism to prevent misuse of blog sites.

  • July 28, 2007 - "There are no laws in the cyberworld except for the law of the jungle. As such, action must be taken so that the "monkeys" behave," [Khairy Jamaluddin] told reporters after opening the Papar, Kimanis and Sipitang Umno Youth annual delegates conference.

  • July 29, 2007 - The people must wise up to "goblok" (political bloggers) because some of them were willing to become tools of others to destroy the nation, said Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin. He said these bloggers belonged to groups with limited knowledge and had evil intentions.
Now while the above probably doesn't list everything, they certainly brought back 'fond' memories ;-) What a difference a year makes!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remember the Controversial 'APs'?

I have received a formal reply from the Minster of International Trade & Industry (MITI) on my parliamentary question with regards to "approved permits" for import of vehicles into the country.

My question was:
  1. ...jumlah "Approved Permit (AP)" kereta impot yang dikeluarkan pada 2007 berbanding dengan tahun-tahun yang lalu; dan

  2. apakah anggaran jumlah AP yang akan dikeluarkan pada tahun ini dan adakah MITI bercadang melelong AP supaya hasil yang dikutip Kerajaan dapat ditingkatkan.
The reply from the Minister was as follows:
Bagi tahun 2006, jumlah AP yang dikeluarkan ialah 38,545 unit berbanding sebanyak 57,267 unit pada tahun 2005. Manakala bagi tahun 2007, sebanyak 27,838 unit AP kenderaan telah dikeluarkan.

Untuk tahun 2008, berdasarkan jumlah pengeluaran kenderaan tempatan pada tahun 2007, anggaran jumlah AP 2008 ialah 44,168 unit iaitu berdasarkan had bumbung peruntukan AP kenderaan 10% daripada jumlah pengeluaran tempatan bagi tahun sebelumnya.

Buat masa ini, Kerajaan tidak bercadang untuk melaksanakan kaedah lelongan atau tender terbuka Permit Impot (AP) kenderaan. Ini adalah kerana antara matlamat pemberian AP adalah bertujuan untuk menggalakkan dan memberi peluang kepada usahawan Bumiputera bergiat dalam sektor automotif tempatan. Sekiranya kaedah lelongan atau tender terbuka dilaksanakan, hanya sebilangan kecil usahawan Bumiputera yang mampu membida harga lelongan tertinggi. Ini akan menjejaskan peluang pelaburan sedia ada seperti bilik pameran dan tenaga kerja.
It is disappointing that the government has not decided to make the award of APs a more transparent process which is fair and equitable, while at the same time denying valuable funds which can be raised via auction for the national coffers to help the poor and needy. Based on a conservative market valuation of each AP at RM25,000, an open auction will raise more than RM1.1 billion for the country.

The Minister's excuse that a tender system will not benefit the bumiputera businessman and will only benefit those who are already wealthy is totally unacceptable. Based on past records, APs were largely issued to 4 prominent businessmen popularly known as the "AP Kings". In 2005, it was announced that 80% of the APs went to 20% of the companies, many of which were inter-related.

It can hence be argued that the current opaque policy of awarding APs is subject to abuse and is more likely to create an inequitable distribution of APs. Assuming that the AP is limited to bumiputeras, an open tender by qualified bumiputera companies will provide better opportunities for them to compete and grow. To say that only the richest will succeed in the bidding is also wrong because, bidding too high will not be profitable for the businessmen. Hence it's about bidding smart and not bidding high.

It is important that in our pursuit to raise the number of successful bumiputera entrepreneurs, that they are not created via handouts. The AP system should hence be reformed to encourage the competitive spirit amongst bumiputera entrepreneurs, and not instead serve as a barrier to competition.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sg Kayu Ara

Amazing sight of squatter colonies, illegal makeshift steel bridges, untreated sewarage,
rubbish deposits, retained waters... it's like a different world

Construction debris, uncompleted embankments choking the river

All choked up...
(Pics courtesy of The Star)

I took The Star reporter on a tour of the Sungai Kayu Ara right at the border of my Petaling Jaya Utara constituency with the Subang parliamentary constituency 2 weeks back. Many of those staying in PJ probably don't know much about the river, unless you actually stay right next to it, but having been taken on tours on various parts of the the river by residents, it is a river which brings crime, health, flooding and other environmental problems to the city as a whole.

Have a read at the Star report here (excerpts below), and I'll try to upload more photos later.
River silting has become a major concern as it leads to flash floods and other social, environment and health problems. StarMetro visits Sg Kayu Ara in search of the real issues behind the siltation.

THE Sg Kayu Ara river in Petaling Jaya meanders through the city passing through residential districts and wellknown commercial landmarks.
Not complete: The embankments are either half complete or inadequate.

Yet what should be a seamless flow is blocked; heaps of rubbish piled up on the surface with construction rubble and earth lining the riverbanks.

During a visit to four sites along the river together with Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, we witnessed more than just river silting. The greater concern was the social and environmental impact the condition posed.

Further upstream we came across a settlement made up of mainly foreigners who had built wooden houses along the riverbank.

The foreigners have also illegally built bridges over the river to be linked to another colony.

Pua said most of these foreigners might even claim to have land titles since they were bold enough to build the houses.


Moving on to the second site in Jalan Jenjarom Damansara Jaya, further shock greeted us in the form of another foreign settlement clinging onto a hill slope well hidden from the main view of the roads.

The hill slope was also treated as a dumpsite with rubbish everywhere.

“I'm shocked to see this. This place reminds me of the 1970s Vietnamese refugee camp in Sg Besi! It's shocking to learn that we still have problems like these in an upmarket city like Petaling Jaya,” said Pua.

At the third site near Kg Chempaka in Taman Mayang, res-taurant operator Loke Moon Hoong, who has been running his business there for the past 30 years, said the surrounding area had experienced floods three times in the last two months.

“The worst flood was as high as two metres,” said Loke.
More importantly, we are in discussions with MBPJ and the Police to form a task force to deal with the issues and problems which arises out of the alien ecosystem of Sg Kayu Ara.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bow and Scrape

Ah, I was the unpleasant centre of attention yesterday evening at about 9pm in Parliament, as reported here (partially) in The Star.

You'll get the long-winded version here. ;-)

I strode in with BAGAN at approximately 9pm while the Minister of Domestic and Consumer Affairs was giving his ministerial response in Parliament. I took up IPOH TIMUR's seat temporarily as I needed to have a short discussion with BAGAN.

Then, within about 5 minutes, all hell broke loose. PASIR SALAK, yes, the man I wrote about here, stood up and made some complaints to the Speaker that I was being disrespectful to the House for taking up IPOH TIMUR's seat. He then went on to hit out at BAGAN that even though he's the Chief Minister of Penang, he can't act as if this is the Penang State Assembly. (He repeated himself quite a few times here)

BAGAN then stood up to state that it is common practice even for Ministers in the front bench to move seats temporarily to have discussions, and what PASIR SALAK was raising was completely trivial and frivolous as we were not interrupting the proceedings in the Dewan.

BATU GAJAH also stood up to earlier the same day, another minister sat at the Deputy Prime Minister's seat to have a discussion with the Prime Minister as well. If the Speaker was going to make a ruling on this matter, then it must apply to all parties in the House.

The Speaker was a little confused at first, I believe due to the fact that he wasn't sure that I was a Member of the House, but in the midst of the altercation, after determining that I was not a stranger to the House, I believe that the Speaker had ruled that it was temporary and that he'll let the matter pass, and the proceedings should continue.

I then chose to make my way back to my seat at this point.

However, PASIR SALAK wasn't about to let go. He went on shouting in Parliament claiming we were disrepectful and went on to accuse that I did not bow to the Speaker before taking my seat earlier.

Initially, I was a little embarrassed, then I thought it was getting silly. But when I was accused directly by PASIR SALAK of being disrespectful, I couldn't let it go unchallenged in the parliament records. I gave PASIR SALAK a piece of my mind (yes, I raised my voice), first and most importantly, that I did bow to the speaker, he can go check the video records and second that he should stop wasting the time of the house with trivial issues.

PASIR SALAK went on to insist that he was watching intently and that I did not bow, to which I responded that he should not make false accusations in parliament faulting me of a "crime" I did not commit. BATU GAJAH adviced him that if he is tired, he should go back to rest instead of letting off steam here. PASIR SALAK just went ballistic throughout.

I have no clue how the whole thing blew up the way it did over such a non-issue. But I can understand now how sometimes things do blow up in Parliament because of some MPs having no better issues to raise in Parliament, and if they are not checked by restating facts, then the records will appear as if they are correct. It wasn't pleasant (A reporter sms'd me "Wa... U so fierce eh?"), but it was in my opinion absolutely necessary.

You can check the details in the Hansard probably tomorrow.

Donation Towards Relief Efforts in Burma and China

The DAP has designated this week for all its branches throughout the country to conduct fund raising exercises towards the disaster relief efforts in Burma and China.

DAP in Petaling Jaya started our efforts at the SS2 Pasar Malam on Monday, and will continue our presence, as far as possible at the various markets this week. RM4,945 was collected on Monday, while RM760 was collected on Tuesday at SS3.

We have also set up now an online mechanism for members of the public to donate here. You will be able to donate via credit card, Maybank2U and other payment methods. All funds collected will be announced on this blog, and it will all go towards organisations such as World Vision for disaster relief efforts in Burma and China.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Question Amended Again

I'm very miffed.

It looks like I need to review all my questions which has been submitted to the Parliament in advance to ensure that they remain the questions which I have asked the respective ministers to answer. My earlier question to the Minister of Home Affairs was "amended" such that the key answers requested weren't given.

Today, my question 'scheduled' to be answered at No. 64 was again 'amended', more seriously time such that I didn't at all obtain a satisfactory answer the Minister of Higher Education.

Here's my original question:
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?
And here's the version which the Ministry responded to:
[Tony Pua] minta Menteri Pengajian Tinggi menyatakan:-

(a) kriteria pelajar STPM dan Matrikulasi yang layak meneruskan pengajian di universiti awam; dan

(b) kuota universiti-universiti dan kursus tertentu bagi pelajar tersebut.
There are some key difference in the above amendments, which went beyond just "grammatical" corrections.
  1. "Dengan teliti" was left out

  2. The intended question in (b) to request the Minister to clarify exactly how students are allocated to the respective universities and specific courses went completely missing.

  3. I never mentioned or asked about "kuota"! How did that get into my question!
As a result, I got a reply that essentially a regurgitation of what we have heard before which didn't provide any useful information.
Untuk makluman Ahli Yang Berhormat, kriteria pemilihan bagi kemasukan ke universiti awam bagi pelajar lepasan STPM dan Matrikulasi adalah berdasarkan susunan merit, pilihan program pengajian, pilihan IPTA dan bilangan tempat yang disediakan bagi program pengajian berkaitan dengan berasaskan prinsip meritokrasi. Pemohon juga perlu memenuhi syarat am dan syarat khas program yang dipohon seperti yang telah ditetapkan oleh universiti.

Kejayaan calon untuk dipilih ke program pengajian yang dipohon adalah bergantung kepada kriteria yang disebutkan. Pemohon yang mempunyai merit yang rendah tetapi memilih program yang kompetitif, berkemungkinan sukar untuk mendapat tawaran ke IPTA.

Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi (KPT) sentiasa menyebarkan maklumat berkaitan kriteria pemilihan kemasukan ke IPTA. Guru Bimbingan dan Kaunseling / Kolej Matrikulasi dimaklumankan tentang kaedah penyediaan merit semasa Program Pendidikan KPT Bersama Rakyat di seluruh negara. Kementerian bersikap terbuka, telus dan adil dalam pemilihan pelajar ke IPTA bagi memastikan pelajar yang berkelayakan tidak diabaikan.

(b) Kursus-kursus yang ditawarkan di semua IPTA adalah terbuka kepada semua pelajar yang layak. Pelajar perlu merujuk kepada dasar dan syarat-syarat kemasukkan yang telah ditetapkan.
I'm not sure if you are satisfied with the above answer, I certainly wasn't.

Which unfortunately means that I have to ask this question again for the next sitting. Possibly I could ask about the lowest scores achieved in getting accepted into the specific course within a specific university.

Your advice will be most welcome in how I can rephrase the question such that there is no way the Minister can get away with such a general and meaningless response.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Economic Policy Rhetoric

I'm kinda late blogging this issue, as the matter was discussed and a ruckus was created in Parliament last Thursday morning in Parliament. You would have read all about it here (Malaysiakini) or here (The Sun).

The question from REMBAU was:
...adakah kerajaan bercadang untuk mengubah polisi yang telah digubal berlandaskan semangat Dasar Ekonomi Baru, terutamanya yang menolong kaum bumiputera sejajar dengan desakan pembangkang untuk menolak dasar ini.
The replies from the Government, which has been asked numerous times on this issue in this session, of which written replies has been provided has been standard and rhetorical and does not at all address the issues at hand. To quote some of the standard replies provided, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Senator Datuk Amirsham A Aziz stated that:
DEB telah digubal pada awal 1970-an dengan matlamat utama iaitu untuk mencapai perpaduan nasional dan pembentukan negara melalui strategi serampang dua mata.

Pertama, pembasmian kemiskinan tanpa mengira kumpulan etnik dan kedua, penyusunan semula masyarakat bagi menghapuskan pengenalan etnik mengikut fungsi ekonomi. Semangat DEB kemudiannya telah diterapkan dalam dasar-dasar ekonomi selepasnya iaitu Dasar Pembangunan Nasional, Dasar Wawasan Negara dan Misi Nasional di bawah Rancangan Malaysia Kesembilan bagi menangani masalah jurang sosial ekonomi antara dan di kalangan kumpulan etnik bandar dan luar bandar.
I won't quote the entire thing but you can read the rest of his "standard" reply here from the Hansard. The government has never responded to the issue that the problem and objection with the DEB doesn't really lie with the "noble" objectives but with its discriminatory practices and overzealous implementation.

Anyway, the whole episode got "politicised" when REMBAU asked in his supplementary question:
Ahli Yang Berhormat daripada bahagian yang juga Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang telah berikrar untuk menghapuskan Dasar Ekonomi Baru daripada pentadbiran Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang kerana DEB ini, “Breeds corruption, cronyism and systematic inefficiency”, dengan izin.

Saya hendak bertanya Yang Berhormat Menteri, adakah adil untuk Yang Berhormat
Bagan membuat rumusan umum seolah-olah rakyat yang mendapat faedah daripada DEB, yang miskin tidak kira kaum, berjuta-juta pelajar dan profesional bumiputera termasuk Yang Berhormat Menteri sendiri yang menjadi produk DEB, yang menjadi ketua pegawai eksekutif bank yang terbesar di Malaysia seolah-olah kita semua ini kroni dan kaki rasuah. Adakah ini kenyataan yang adil, Yang Berhormat Menteri? Adakah ini adil?
That was when the Minister started reading his 2-page prepared text which clearly demonstrated that the answer was prepared in advance, making a mockery of the parliamentary question time. There was obvious collusion between REMBAU and the Minister, to attack BAGAN on his statement to eliminate the corruption and cronyism associated with the New Economic Policy.

Datuk Amirsham started his reply with
...saya berpendapat kenyataan Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang itu tidak tepat dan langsung tidak memahami objektif DEB... Kalau itu kesimpulan beliau tentang DEB, maka sesiapa sahaja yang mendapat bantuan melalui DEB sama ada dalam bentuk pinjaman, peluang pekerjaan, peluang perniagaan, biasiswa dan lain-lain itu adalah kroni dan kaki rasuah...
An answer like that from a so-called technocrat and professional Minister certainly deserves, in my opinion, the heckling from the opposition members he received subsequently. IPOH TIMUR rightly asked, "Panjangnya jawapan tambahan, siapa sediakan?" You can watch the video here.

I had stood to ask an additional supplementary question, but the opportunity went to BATU KAWAN [Prof Ramasamy]. I had wanted to ask the Minister:
Bukankah satu dasar yang memberikan tumpuan khusus kepada membantu golongan miskin jauh lebih berkesan membantu kaum bumiputera yang kurang berkeupayaan berbanding dengan DEB yang memberikan tumpuan mengikut bangsa, kerana ramai yang diberikan bantuan kerajaan bukannya golongan miskin kaum bumiputera, tetapi kaum UMNOputera yang telah kaya-raya, dan yang menerima manfaat yang lumayan sekali?
It's a question I hope to get the opportunity to ask one day in Parliament, as I would really like to hear the answer from the Ministers involved.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Questions for Next Parliamentary Session

Well, now that you get the gist of how the Parliamentary Question & Answer session works, it's time for submission of the next set of questions, due on June 2nd, for the next session starting 23 June 2008. The current session ends on the 27th May 2008.

You can either submit your questions to me via email, or alternatively, just post it in the comments column here on this post.

As per usual, the questions should be limited to 40 words in Bahasa Malaysia (if possible), and should be specific in nature to extract answers from the Minister.

E.g., a question like "Will the government abolish the ISA?" while important, will in all probability extract just a standard expected response which really gives us no further information for our use.

While questions asking specifics on numbers e.g., "What is the density of students between urban national and vernacular schools vs rural schools?", and specific plans to tackle certain issues e.g., hillside developments, will provide greater insight onto the internal workings, which will then allow us to make further constructive critiques or suggestions to the Government.

The "politicking" bits, e.g., lift the ban on media freedom etc. can (and will) be raised during parliamentary debate sessions instead of Question Time.

Note also that some of the other questions raised earlier which I have not had the chance to ask, I will look into adding them this time round. I'll need to submit 15 questions for oral replies, and 5 for written.

Thanks in advance for your contribution! ;-)

Quality of Ministerial Replies

I asked a very specific question, which was scheduled to be answered in the Parliament today at No. 26 (i.e., won't get answered orally but will get written response). I asked the Home Affairs Minister:
...bagaimanakah nilai maklumat dan kedudukan projek mega "Sistem Imigresen 'Single Platform' (SIM). Adakah projek sensitif keselamatan dalam negeri ini diberi kepada sebuah syarikat yang kurang berpengalaman dalam bidan sistem imigresen, yang dimiliki oleh warganegara asing pada masa kontrak ditetapkan?
The reply by the Minister is as follows:
Untuk makluman Ahli Yang Berhormat, Sistem Imigresen Malaysia berasaskan 'Single Platform' (SIM) dibangunkan oleh Syarikat Multimedia Glory System Sdn Bhd adalah syarikat dimiliki warganegara dan mempunyai status syarikat MSC.

Adalah tidak benar syarikat ini tidak berpengalaman dalam pembangunan sistem kerana pada masa ini beberapa modul sistem telahpun siap dibangunkan dan sudahpun beroperasi seperti sistem kawalan pintu masuk di lokasi-lokasi pintu keluar/masuk imigresen seluruh negara, sistem keselamatan, sistem pas sempadan di semua pintu masuk Imigresen Imigresen sempadan Malaysia - Thai dan sistem kawalan depot Imigresen. Malah SIM telahpun menyalurkan maklumat statistik pelancongan kepada TDC secara 'online real-time' pada masa ini.
I'll make a few comments and you can judge for yourself, if the Minister has avoided my questions altogether. Of course, to ask the above questions, I'll have my little birds (more little birds welcome).
  1. The Minister completely ignored my question on the value of the project awarded. What I do understand is that the project is valued at 9 figures.

  2. The Minister evaded my question as to whether the sensitive project was awarded to a company belonging to foreigners at the time of award.

  3. The Minister did not state if the company had the necessary experience to carry out such a sizeable and specialised project at the time of award.

  4. And besides stating certain modules which were apparently implemented, the Minister did not state if there were significant delays to the project, and when it was meant to be completed, and of course, what the Government is doing about it.
From what I can see, the clear lack of transparency and honesty with the answers certainly give rise to greater cause that something isn't particularly right with the project, and more investigation is needed. It is one thing when the Minister is clueless about a particular topic, but another altogether when he is clearly evasive.

My "Maiden" Speech

Well, there certainly wasn't much glory or prestige about the "maiden" speech, because when I was finally given my turn to speak, I had only 5 minutes to do so. Jeff who sat next to me, gave up altogether 'cos by the time it reached him, it was 2 minutes. It's really frustrating, because to be called to speak, you have to keep standing whenever someone else completes his speech and hope that the Speaker will call your constituency. And I certainly found DAP MPs, on a general basis, to have received less opportunities to speak compared to the other opposition MPs.

And having prepared my speech fairly early on, I've been standing and sitting for practically 4-5 days. I can understand the fact that senior backbenchers and party leaders are often given preference, but it's really frustrating because, you will find MPs (both sides) who aren't in the Dewan very often, who didn't prepare their speech, gets called upon much earlier (when the time frame to speak was 15-20 minutes), when they happen to be in the Dewan.

Oh well, to get recorded into the Hansard, I just picked 3 sections from my speech below to read (literally) and it certainly wasn't pretty 'cos I was probably reading at Rocket speed. Hopefully, I'd get better luck and opportunity during the supplementary budget debate which is coming up in about a week's time.

Anyway, my original speech which I had intended to deliver is below for those interested, and the sections I squeezed into 5 minutes were on Manufacturing, Toll & Other Concession as well as Open Tenders.

Mengikut statistik kerajaan, ekonomi Malaysia berkembang sebanyak 6.3% pada tahun yang lalu. Sepatutnya, perkembangan 6.3% amat membanggakan.Akan tetapi ekonomi Malaysia mempunyai ciri-ciri istimewa, adakah perkembangan sebanyak 6.3% memberi gambaran yang benar mengenai ekonomi Malaysia?

Kini, ekonomi Malaysia amat bergantung kepada pendapatan yang dibawa oleh industri gas dan minyak mentah dan juga lain-lain komoditi seperti minyak kelapa sawit, getah dan lain-lain tanaman komersil. Oleh kerana harga minyak mentah dan juga komoditi ekspot Malaysia telah meningkat dengan dahsyat sekali pada tahun-tahun yang lalu, ianya telah mengakibatkan kenaikan hasil dan menjadi punca terutama perkembangan ekonomi.

Misalnya, industri gas dan minyak mentah membawa sebanyak 37% pendapatan kerajaan pada tahun lalu berbanding dengan hanya lebih kurang 25% pada tahun 2004. Hasil petroleum adalah macam keuntungan daripada belian nombor ekor 4D, dan kerajaan tidak boleh bergantung kepadanya kerana ianya akan kehabisan satu hari.

Apabila faktor kenaikan harga minyak mentah, komoditi ekspot dan juga produk industri berkaitan dikecualikan dari pengiraan perkembangan ekonomi, saya yakin perkembangan ekonomi tidak melebihi 3 atau 4%. Ini bermaksud, kebanyakan rakyat Malaysia yang bekerja di sektor-sektor lain yang lebih “labor-intensif”, tidak dapat menerima manfaat daripada perkembangan ekonomi pada masa ini.

Manufacturing Industry

Pada tahun 2006, industri pembuatan berkembang sebanyak 7.3%. Akan tetapi tahun lalu, ianya hanya berkembang 3.1%. Dalam belanjawan negara 2008, Perdana Menteri mengumumkan bahawa sektor pembuatan akan dijangka berkembang 3.8% tahun ini. Akan tetapi, gabenor Bank Negara baru sahaja mengumumkan bahawa sektor yang amat penting ini, hanya akan berkembang sebanyak 1.8%.

Ini adalah perkembangan yang amat merisaukan kerana sektor pembuatan adalah sektor yang sangat penting bagi Malaysia. Bukan sahaja sektor pembuatan menyumbangkan sekurang-kurangnya 31% kepada GDP negara kita, ia merupakan sektor yang membawa pekerjaan kepada 30% pekerja Malaysia. Jikalau ianya tidak berkembang, pandangan ekonomi masa depan kita memang kurang cerah./Mundur

Berbanding dengan Malaysia, walaupun Singapura kekurangan tanah dan sumber semulajadi, kos yang jauh lebih tinggi, sektor pembuatan berkembang sebanyak 7.3% pada tahun lalu, dan 13.2% pada penggal pertama tahun ini.

Walaupun kedua-dua negara menimpa keadaan ekonomi global yang kurang memuaskan, terutamanya disebabkan oleh dengan izin, liquidity cruch caused by subprime loan crisis, Singapura dapat terus maju dengan lancar, di mana Malaysia nampaknya ketinggalan.

Oleh sebab itu, kerajaan mestilah memberi tumpuan yang sepenuhnya untuk memulihkan kembali industri pembuatan di Malaysia. Antara langkah-langkah yang diperlukan termasuk memberikan insentif cukai yang lebih menarik kepada industri kecil dan serdehana (SMI) berbanding dengan negara-negara jiran seperti Hong Kong dan Singapura di mana cukai syarikat tidak melebihi 18%.

Selain daripada kerajaan menumpukan perhatian ke perlaksanaan koridor-koridor yang baru, yang sebenarnya merupakan projek hartanah, kerajaan perlu menumpukan perhatian ke aspek menarik pihak usahawan dalam dan luar negeri yang dapat membawa kilang yang membuat produk-produk berteknologi tinggi, yang kini tidak mencukupi di Malaysia. Jika Malaysia terus bergantung kepada industri pembuatan di mana “value-add” rendah, industri pembuatan kita tidak akan maju, dan perkembangan akan terus merosot.


Kerajaan juga selalu menitikberatkan bahawa kadar inflasi pada tahun lalu hanya 2% sahaja. Kami dapat memahami kekecewaan rakyat jelata kerana angka 2% tersebut tidak mencerminkan keadaan sebenar. Kadar tol melonjak sebanyak 60% pada tahun lalu, dan sebanyak 50% tahun ini. Harga petrol dan barangan berkaitan pun telah naik sebanyak 20 sehingga 30%. Mengikut siasatan media, harga makanan dan barangan kegunaan biasa telahpun meningkat sebanyak 15 sehingga 25%.

Yang paling utama, kerajaan perlu merombak pengiraan kadar inflasi yang tidak lagi selaras dengan keadaan sebenar, dan tidak mengambil kira kesengsaraan rakyat jelata. Perangkaan kadar inflasi masih mengambil kera harga barangan yang dikawal walaupun itanya tidak lagi dapat diperolehi di pasar awam. Pengiraan perlu mencerminkan keadaan sebenar supaya langkah-langkah yang tertentu dapat direkacipta dan dilaksanakan untuk mengurangkan beban masyarakat.

Kerajaan dialu-alukan supaya mengambil tingkah membebaskan pasaran, meningkatkan taraf persaingan supaya harga barangan dapat diturunkan serendah mungkin. Misalnya, kuasa mengimpot beras bagi konsumer dan kuasa mengimpot simen bagi pihak kontraktor hanya dipegang oleh 2-3 syarikat sahaja, dan dapatlah mereka menguasai harga pasaran di Malaysia.

Toll & Other Concessions

Apa lagi kerajaan memberi konsesi tol dan konsesi IPP kepada syarikat-syarikat kroni secara rundingan terus telah meyebabkan keuntungan yang tersangat lumayan kepada syarikat konsesi. Yang dibebankan adalah pembayar hasil kepada kerajaan dan sekali lagi, rakyat Malaysia jelata.

Apa lagi baru-baru ini, kita diberitahu bahawa konsesi yang ditawarkan kepada syarikat KLIA Express oleh kerajaan, memberi kuasa untuk syarikat tersebut mengutip “cukai” daripada setiap pelanggan penerbangan di KLIA, tidak kira sama ada pelanggan tersebut menggunakan perkhidmatan Express. Ini adalah perkembangan yang amat membimbangkan.

Dulu sekurang-kurangnya, hanya pengguna tol yang dikenakan “tax”, walaupun “tax” tersebut tidak saksama, kini, kita mendapati kerajaan memberi kuasa kepada syarikat untuk “tax” rakyat yang langsung tidak menggunakan perkhidmatan? Adakah polis akan menyiasat kes ini sebagai kes rompakan “daylight robbery”?

Saya harap dengan sesungguhnya, kerajaan akan mengambil kira beban yang ditanggung rakyat kita dan berunding semula kontrak-kontrak yang berat sebelah ini, dan jikalau syarikat berkaitan kurang ikhlas dalam rundingan tersebut, kerajaan perlu mempertimbangkan cadangan membeli konsesi tersebut mengikut kos pembinaan lebuhraya dan plan tenaga.


Saya berasa lega bahawa Menteri Dalam Negeri dan Hal-Ehwal Pengguna menyatakan Yang Berhormat akan merombak semula sistem kawalan harga dan juga sistem subsidi sekarang yang kurang memberikan manfaat kepada rakyat yang kurang keupayaan dari segi kewangan.

Akan tetapi, sebelum subsidi dikurangkan, kerajaan perlu mengambil 3 langkah yang penting sekali:

Pertama, seperti yang diulaskan, kerajaan perlu mengubahsuai kontrak-kontrak jenis “daylight robbery” supaya harga tol, elektrik dan lain-lain dapat direndahkan.

Kedua, sebelum harga petrol dinaiki, sistem pengangkutan awam perlulah dinaiktarafkan supaya bagi rakyat, terutamanya rakyat dikawasan bandar, ada cara perjalanan alternatif seperti sistem bas yang “reliable” dan sistem LRT yang berleluasa.

Ketiga, kesemua subsidi yang dijimatkan melalui potongan subsidi akan disalurkan secara terus kepada golongan masyarakat yang memerlukan wang tersebut. Cara yang boleh digunakan termasuklah melalui peruntukan ke akaun EPF bagi pekerja-pekerja bergaji rendah, yang akan pada masa yang sama mendekati hasrat MTUC untuk mendapatkan “fair wage”, ataupun gaji yang berpatutan.

Adalah dialu-alukan supaya kerajaan mempertimbangkan cadangan DAP untuk memperuntukkan grant sebanyak RM3,000 kepada individu yang layak dari segi pendapatan, apabila subsidi dikurangkan kerajaan untuk mengurangkan beban rakyat Malaysia.

Negara Singapura dan Hong Kong, dua-dua negara yang langsung tidak ada sumber semulajadi seperti minyak, gas, balak, tanah untuk tanaman komersil seperti minyak sawit, dapat mengendalikan polisi grant tunai kepada rakyat mereka yang kurang berupaya dari segi kewangan. Malaysia sebagai antara sebuah negara yang terkaya dengan sumber minyak di seluruh dunia, patut mengikut teladan yang baik dimana nasib rakyat diutamakan, apatah lagi minyak yang digali Petronas adalah minyak kepunyaan semua rakyat Malaysia.

Open Tenders

Pada masa awal pentadbiran Perdana Menteri, Yang Amat Berhormat berjanji dihadapan pihak peniaga bahawa “open tender” ataupun tender terbuka akan menjadi sistem perolehan terutama dalam pentadbiran Yang Amat Berhormat. Pada masa itu, tahun 2003-2004, saya amat menyokong Yang Amat Berhormat.

Akan tetapi, dan amat dikesali, perutusan Yang Amat Berhormat tidak dilaksanakan, malah, trend tender semakin tertutup dan rundingan terus menjadi sistem terutama.
Misalnya, Jambatan Pulau Pinang Kedua yang telahpun ditawarkan kepada syarikat UEM tanpa sebarang tender. Bukan sahaja kontrak membina jambatan diberi secara terus, kontrak ditawarkan sebelum harga pembinaan ditentukan!

Adakah seorang makcik yang membeli sayur di pasar membeli sayur sebelum tawar-menawar harga? Tidak! Adakah Yang Berhormat semua akan membeli sebuah kereta jika harga kereta tersebut naik serta-merta selepas tempahan diberikan? Bolehjadi makcik-makcik dapat memberikan kursus dan taklimat kepada pihak kerajaan mengenai cara rundingan harga yang berkesan.

Akan tetapi, nampaknya cara perolehan kerajaan menunjukkan ciri-ciri “Malaysia Boleh”. Semasa kontrak ditawarkan kepada syarikat UEM pada tahun 2005, YAB Perdana Menteri mengumumkan bahawa kos membina jambatan dianggarkan RM2.5 bilion. Akan tetapi, pada akhir tahun 2006, rakyat diberitahu kos pembinaan telah naik ke RM3.5 bilion.

Tapi sekarang, sebelum projek dimulakan, rakyat diberitahu bahawa kos telah naik sekali lagi ke RM4.3 bilion, ataupun 72% daripada harga asal. Akan tetapi, lagi – pihak media telahpun mendapat angin bahawa UEM sekarang meminta kos dinaikkan setinggi RM4.8 billion! Sampai Bila nak henti?

Jikalau UEM tidak lagi memulakan pekerjaan, ataupun meminta kenaikan harga yang melampau, kita harap kerajaan akan membubarkan kontrak pembinaan tersebut, dan membuka semula pilihan pembinaan jambatan dengan secara terbuka, kompetitif dan juga transparen.

Hanya dengan cara ini, rakyat Malaysia boleh menikmati kos pembinaan yang berpatutan, tol penggunaan jambatan yang rendah dan pada masa yang sama, pihak pembina dan pembangun dapat meningkatkan taraf persaingan mereka dan tidak lagi bergantung kepada “handout” kerajaan.

Higher Education

Jika mengambil kira jangka masa yang panjang, ekonomi Malaysia tidak akan maju tanpa mutu pendidikan, terutamanya pengajian tinggi dipertingkatkan secara dengan izin “quantum leap”.

Walaupun di Malaysia, nisbah jumlah universiti berbanding dengan bilangan penduduk, jika dibandingkan dengan pulau yang kecil di selatan Selat Johor adalah lebih daripada dua kali ganda, mutu institusi pengajian tinggi amat mengecewakan.

40 lebih universiti, tiada satu dapat memasuki kedudukan “Top 200”. Ini perkara yang amat memalukan. Singapura hanya ada 3 buah universiti tempatan, akan tetapi ia mempunayai 2 buah universiti dalam 50 buah universiti yang terunggul. Kenapa?

Sebabnya ternyata kepada semua orang, kecuali kerajaan nampaknya. Tanpa pihak akademik ataupun pensyarah yang bertaraf dunia, kita tidak akan mencapai matlamat mempertingkatkan mutu universiti. Apa gunanya kerajaan tidak melaksanakan sistem yang lebih kompetitif, sebaliknya melindungi akademik yang kurang berkualiti, jikalau yang rugi besar sekali adalah penuntut-penuntut di institusi pengajian kita.

Bila kualiti akademik rendah, mutu pendidikan pun kurang sempurna, dan tentulah siswazah setelah habis pengajian, kurang berupaya mendapatkan pekerjaan, siapa yang salah?

Apa lagi, sistem IPTA yang sedia ada sekarang, untuk mencapai matlamat DEB memang bertujuan meningkatkan taraf pendidikan kaum bumiputera. Saya sokong. Akan tetapi, apabila, sistem masuk universiti tidak kompetitif, tambah lagi mutu akademik yang tidak mencukup, yang rugi ialah kaum yang kerajaan ingin menolong.

Oleh itu, saya bercadang dengan iklas, supaya universiti-universiti di Malaysia diberikan kebebasan untuk melantik naib-canselor yang bertaraf dunia tidak kira bangsa, agama dan juga kewarganegaraan.

Sekarang zaman globalisasi, kalaulah, kita dapat belajar dengan “sifu” ataupun guru yang berarif, patutlah kita berbuat demikian demi masa hadapan belia Malaysia. Bagilah peluang kepada naib-canselor ini untuk merombak semula sistem pentadbiran and pengajaran di universiti kita demi mencegah qualiti universiti terus merosot.

Lower Education

Pada masa yang sama, kalau pelajar yang dilatih oleh sistem pendidikan kebangsaan tidak mempunyai kualiti yang mencukupi. Kementerian telahpun membuat pengajian lebih kurang tiap-tiap penggal parlimen dan membuat cadangan-cadangan merombak semula sukatan pelajaran dan sistem peperiksaan.

Akan tetapi, kerajaan boleh merombak semula sukatan pelajaran dan melaksanakan jenis-jenis sistem peperiksaan, kalaulah kualiti pendidik dan guru-guru tidak mencukupi, apa sistem pendidikan ataupun peperiksaan juga tidak akan berkesan menaik taraf kualiti pelajar di sekolah-sekolah menengah dan rendah di Malaysia.

Saya berpendirian bahawa pendapatan guru-guru di Malaysia terlalu rendah, dan langsung tidak menarik bagi bakal-bakal guru yang berkualiti. Di Singapura, seorang siswazah berperingkat “Honours”, gaji permulaan adalah sebanyak S$2,822, akan tetapi, bagi peringkat yang sama di Malaysia tidak melebihi RM1,500.

Saya bercadang supaya kerajaan mengaji semula skala gaji perguruan di Malaysia, dan mengadakan kelas dan skala gaji yang ekslusif bagi bidang pekerjaan pendidikan kerajaan. Pendidikan adalah satu sector yang amat penting untuk mengekalkan masa depan belia dan membina “human capital”, dengan izin, yang akan menjadi enjin pembangunan negara yang terutama sekali. Oleh itu, kelas yang ekslusif ini adalah amat diperlukan dan berpatutan untuk menarik bakal perguruan yang terunggul di Malaysia.


Ramai Yang Berhormat telahpun membahas menenai kes jenayah sekian meningkat dan amat serius. Selepas memenangi pilihanraya kawasan PJU, lebih kurang 40% aduan kepada saya adalah mengenai kes jenayah di kawasan saya dan juga di sekeliling.

Sewaktu rakyat Malaysia menunggu lebih ramai lagi rekrut polis baru dilatih untuk melawan jenayah, kita semua berharap Kementerian Dalam Negeri dan juga pihak Polis Diraja Malaysia akan serta-merta mengubahsuai struktur tanggungjawab anggota-anggota polis supaya lebih ramai lagi diberi tanggungjawab melawan jenayah, dan bukan membuat kerja pentadbiran (administrative) ataupun kerja bahagian khas.

Saya harap dengan sesungguhnya, kritik-kritik yang dibawa ke dewan yang mulia ini dan juga cadangan-cadangan yang diumumkan dapat diberikan pertimbangan yang sepenuhnya oleh kerajaan, selepas mengalami tsunami politik pilihanraya besar ke-12.

Sekian, terima kasih.

Police Recruitment & Organisation

My question on state of recruitment for new police officers as well as its organisation got answered yesterday. I'll provide the question and answer verbatim here before providing my comments. I asked the Minister of Home Affairs to state:
...kedudukan pengrekrutan anggota polis yang amat diperlukan untuk mengurangkan kes jenayah yang amat serius dan apakah jumlah anggota polis terkini mengikut pecahan tanggungjawab mereka.
The reply was as follows:
Untuk makluman Ahli Yang Berhormat, pada tahun 2007, PDRM telah melantik seramai 4070 anggota berpangkat Inspektor dan Konstabel. Daripada jumlah tersebut, seramai 1,030 anggota berpangkat Inspektor (753 lelaki, 277 wanita) dan seramai 3,040 anggota berpangkat Konstabel (2,169 lelaki, 871 wanita).

Bagi tahun 2008, PDRM telah merancang untuk melantik 10,000 anggota polis berpangkat Inspektor dan Konstabel. Daripada jumlah tersebut, seramai 1,000 anggota berpangkat Inspektor (850 lelaki, 150 wanita) dijangka akan dilantik pada bulan Jun dan September ini.

PDRM juga telah merancang untuk melantik seramai 9,000 anggota polis berpangkat Konstabel yang terdiri daripada anggota lelaki dan wanita. Bagi fasa pertama iaitu seramai 768 anggota lelaki telahpun dilantik pada 16 Februari 2008 dan kini ditempatkan di PULAPOL Muar (515 anggota) dan PULAPL Kota Kinabalu (253 anggota).

Bagi fasa kedua, seramai 1,590 anggota lelaki dan wanita akan dilantik iaitu pada 15 Mei 2008 (850 anggota lelaki) dan pada 1 Jun 2008 (740 anggota wanita). Anggota-anggota berkenaan akan ditempatkan di PULAPOL Kuching dan PULAPOL Ayer Hitam.

Jumlah keanggotaan polis mengikut pecahan tanggungjawab jabatan-jabatan di bawah PDRM berakhir 31 Mac 2008 ialah seramai 96,406 orang iaitu Jabatan Pengurusan (35,662) Jabatan Keselamatan Dalam Negeri dan Ketenteraman Awam (31,635), Jabatan Logistik (10,793), Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah (8,673), Cawangan Khas (4,923), Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Narkotik (3,357), Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Komersial (1,141 dan Jawatan Kader (222).
For the year of 2007, PDRM has recruited a total of 4,070 officers as with the rank Inspectors and Constables. This forms part of the objective of the PDRM to recruit some 60,000 new officers to meet the challenges of the rapid rise in crime in Malaysia.

This recruitment to date is clearly short of what is required to meet the needs of the country. Hence, what is needed as an immediate short term measure is to restructure the police force and redeploy more police officers to be patrolling the streets as recommended by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police (Royal Police Commission).

However, based on the information provided by the Minister, clearly no such actions to restructure the police force have been undertaken.

As of 31 March 2008, the allocation responsibilities remain largely unchanged from the previous years as follows:
Administration & Management 35,662 37.0%
Internal Security & Public Order 31,635 32.8%
Logistics 10,793 11.2%
Criminal Investigations 8,673 9.0%
Special Branch 4,923 5.1%
Narcotics Investigations 3,357 3.5%
Commercial Crimes 1,141 1.2%
Cadet 222 0.2%
Clearly from the figures presented, the Police Force remains heavily lobsided in terms of structure with a overstaffed administration and management as well as logistics department (48.2%) as opposed to the criminal investigations department (9%). Combining the internal security and public order department with the Special branch will add to another 37.9% of the entire force.

The crime index in Malaysia rose by a record 45% between 2003 and 2007 with violent crimes increasing by 119% and initial figures provided by the Government shows that the upward trend is continuing unabated in 2008.

Is it not of utmost urgency that the Royal Malaysian Police immediately reallocate and restructure at least 30% of the police force, currently within the administration & management, internal security & public order, logistics as well as special branch to the understaffed Criminal Investigations Department and their related units to ensure that the unprecendented escalation of crime is stopped on its tracks.

If no action is taken to restructure the police force, while waiting for new recruits to be gradually hired and trained, then clearly the Barisan Nasional government has failed to learn its lessons from the elections of March 8th, and is not serious about its so-called “All-out War Against Crime” announced by the Prime Minister a year ago.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Diminishing Oil Revenue

I had an oral question on diminishing oil revenue slated at No.19 today (it'll never reach that number ;-)) which I've just received the written reply, which I'll post below.

My question to the Finance Minister was:
...apakah strategi dan langkah-langkah Kerajaan untuk menghadapi masalah kekurangan hasil daripada pendapatan industri minyak apabila Malaysia menjadi sebuah negara pengimpot minyak dalam 2-3 tahun dan kehabisan rizab minyak dalam masa 19 tahun?
I wrote on this topic quite a while back here. The answer was fair long as follows:
Pada tahun 2007, rizab minyak negara terus bertambah kepada 5.35 bilion tong atau mempunyai jangka hayat selama 22 tahun berikutan penemuan beberapa telaga minyak laut dalam di pesisiran luar Sabah, termasuk Kikeh.

Walau bagaimanapun, berdasarkan kepada tahap pengeluaran semasa dan jangkaan permintaan yang meningkat, Malaysia dijangka akan menjadi negara pengimpot bersih (net importer) petroleum terutamanya minyak petrol dan diesel pada tahun 2011 di mana permintaan domestik dijangka melebihi pengeluaran.

Pada tahun 2007, hasil Kerajaan berasaskan petroleum telah meningkat kepada RM51,114 juta berikutan dengan harga minyak yang tinggi, secara purata USD78.40 setong. Hasil minyak negara menyumbang 36.5% kepada jumlah hasil keseluruhan iaitu RM139,885 juta.

Kerajaan sedar akan pandangan umum bahawa dengan harga minyak yang semakin tinggi, keuntungan PETRONAS juga semakin bertambah dan keuntungan tersebut boleh digunakan untuk membiayai subsidi.

(Note: I've never asked this part of the question, answer above was "extra")

Walau bagaimanapun, petroleum merupakan sumber asli yang semakin berkurangan. Sebagai sebuah Kerajaan yang bertanggungjawab, kita sentiasa mengambil langkah berhemat dalam membelanjakan hasil petroluem untuk memberikan manfaat yang semaksimum mungkin bukan sahaja kepada generasi sekarang malah generasi akan datang (inter-generational equity). Antara langkah yang diambil untuk faedah generasi akan datang termasuklah sumbangan tahunan sebanyak RM100 juta kepada Kumpulan Wang Amanah Negara (KWAN).

Kita juga perlu menggunakan sumberminyak dengan sebaik mungkin dan mengurangkan pembazirannya. Sebagai contoh, penggunaan pengangkutan awan adalah digalakkan kerana ia bukan sahaja dapat menjimatkan petrol tetapi juga mengurangkan pencemaran udara. Subsidi bahan petroleum kini berjumlah RM45 bilion. Kerajaan sedang mengkaji semula mekanisme pemperian subsidi bagi mengelakkan ketirisan dan memastikan ianya memberi manfaat kepada golongan sasaran.

Hasil berkaitan petroleum akan terus dibelanjakan dengan bijak bagi meningkatkan potensi pertumbuhan jangka panjang ekonomi negara. Kita akan terus mengembangkan bina-upaya (capacity building) negara melalui pelaburan dalam infrastruktur fizikal dan meningkatkan lagi pembangunan modal insan dengan penekanan diberikan kepada peningkatan soft-skill. Sumber pertumbuhan baru juga diperkembangkan termasuklah dalam sektor perkhidmatan terutamanya perbankan Islam, hab halal dan out sourcing. Sekto pertanian akan terus dimodenkan melalui kegiatan meningkatkan pengeluaran, menambah nilai dan penggunaan teknologi terkini. Sementara itu, pembangunan Wilayah-Wilayah Ekonomi Koridor Johor Selatan, Utara, Pantai Timur serta Sabah dan Sarawak akan dipergiatkan.

Untuk memastikan hasil yang berterusan dan stabil, PETRONAS akan mempergiatkan lagi pengeluaran dan aktiviti cari gali minyak dan gas dalam negeri dan juga luar negara. Pelaburan akan terus dijalankan untuk menaik taraf dan membaik pulih kemudahan sedia ada dan membina kemudahan baru untuk mengekalkan tahap pengeluaran minyak negara. Di samping itu, PETRONAS akan terus menyalurkan pelaburan dalam aktiviti logistik dan maritim sera perniagaan separti petrokimia, minyak, gas dan harta tanah.
The reply certainly contained several interesting facts (figures) but overall, didn't present anything new as to how we should deal with the problem of over-reliance on oil revenue. Will discuss this more in other blog posts.

My First Supplementary Question!

(updated 5.56pm)

Hey, I got my chance for the first time to post a supplementary question during the Question hour! ;-)

I was actually quite surprised that there were very few interested parties on this issue, but shouldn't complain. I've been standing up and down for the past 2 weeks trying to get the speakers' attention, so I should just be grateful ;-).

The original question was asked by TENOM [Raimee Bin Unggi] asking the Minister of Finance to state:
...sejauh mana keupayaan Kerajaan dalam meningkatkan penggunaan swasta yang kini berada pada kadar 14 peratus berjaya mengimbangi pergantungan negara kepada ekspot.
Frankly speaking, the Deputy Minister of Finance who was deputising, Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah gave an answer that I barely understood, or rather was neither really here nor there. Will extract from the Hansard tomorrowm, but I managed to ask my supplementary question ;-)
Ekonomi Malaysia sekarang amat bergantung kepada penggunaan kerajaan ataupun "public sector spending", berbanding dengan negara-negara di Asia. Mengikut perangkaan daripada Merrill Lynch, sumbangan penggunaan keraajaan di Malaysia adalah sebanyak 24 peratus, berbanding dengan Taiwan 15%, Singapura 14%, Thailand 12% dan Hong Kong 10%. Pergantungan ekonomi Malaysia kepada sumbangan kerajaan adalah tidak sihat dan apakah langkah-langkah yang akan diambil oleh kerajaan supaya sumbangan penggunaan yang lain dapat ditingkatkan?

(More or less what I asked, as I did it off the cuff)
If only I could put up the slide on the chart as well in Parliament ;-)

I'll provide the Hansard records of what the Deputy Minister answered, but I can assure you that he didn't know what he was talking about, and hence didn't answer the question. Sigh.

(update) Got the transcribed version of his answers:
Apabila kita melihat dari segi GNP, kita melihat dari 2 sudut. Satu dari sudut output ataupun pengeluaran yang ini sumbangan dari sektor-sektor industri dan sektor-sekto industri sebagaimana kita maklum sektor perkhidmatan telah meningkat tinggi. Ini bermakna faktor key yang utama dalam pembangunan negara kita. Dari segi rancangan Malaysia, sektor perkhidmatan sekarang yang menymbang lebih kurang 53% kepada KDNK telah meningkat 59% pada tahun 2020 itu target negara kita.

Kemudian kita melihat dari sudut GNP dari sudut perbelanjaan. Perbelanjaan seperti mana yang saya nyatakan tadi, perbelanjaan swasta dari segi konsumer begitu tinggi iaitu pembelian dan pelaburan. Buat masa ini kita masih bergantung kepada kerajaan kerana kita sebuah negara ekonomi yang sedang membangun jadi kita perlu input-input kerajaan sebagaimana yang saya nyatakan tadi dalam RMK ke-9, kita belanja lebih kurang dalam RM40 bilion pada tahun 2007 dan seterusnya dalam koridor raya nanti kita akan laksanakan perbelanjaan lagi. Ini kita nampak perbelanjaan oleh pihak swasta lebih banyak dan tinggi berbanding dengan pihak kerajaan.

Di samping itu, kos ke 3 iaitu dari segi ekspot dan impot negara kita. Pada tahun ini, net ekspot negara kita hanya 0.7% dan ini dijangka akan level pada tahun hadapan kerana sepertimana kita tahu terjadinya re-section di dunia dan ia jadi leveling.
Make of it what you will ;-)

Independent Anti-Corruption Agency?

Just as the response to local government elections as well as the IPCMC have been particularly disappointing, this morning, SERDANG (Teo Nie Ching/DAP) has her question on the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) addressed to the Prime Minister which received only a lukewarm response. Her question was:
...sama ada Kerajaan akan mengikut seruan rakyat untuk membebaskan Badan Pencegahan Rasuah daripada kawalan Jabatan Perdana Menteri dan diletakkan di bawah Parlimen. Jika tidak, mengapa.
The reply was given by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz was fairly standard, who said he'll be gentle with first time parliamentarian SERDANG, was unfortunately disappointing.

Despite initial euphoria when the Prime Minister first raised the possibility of a Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC) as part of the restructuring plan for ACA (i.e., "commission" instead of "agency"), we have been subsequently disappointed by the fact that this remains a half-hearted step towards reform as the "commission" remains under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.

When further asked by SERDANG as to why the powers of prosecution will not be granted to MCAC, the Minister responded that the Government needs to subscribe to the "principle of separation of duties" i.e., different bodies doing the investigation as opposed to prosecution and adjudication.

When pressed by IPOH TIMUR as to why such principles don't seem to apply when the MCAC is placed under the Prime Minister's office instead of the Parliament i.e., the separation of powers, with the specific example of the Prime Minister abusing his powers by "ordering" the Attorney-General (AG) to prosecute BUKIT GELUGOR for raising questions of legality with regards to the extent of powers of the royalty, the reply by the Minister with "gentle" but clearly evasive.

The Minister responded that anybody can request for the AG to charge anybody, including IPOH TIMUR, but it's still up to the AG to decide as to whether the charge should be carried out. (The fact that the Prime Minister is the AG's boss was of course irrelevant)

And the Minister added that even if MCAC is placed under the Parliament, its powers can be abused by Parliamentarians!

Isn't placing the MCAC under Parliamentary purview less likely to be abused then under the arbitrary powers of the Prime Minister? That's what the separation of powers between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary is all about isn't it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

No IPCMC In Sight

Some 40-50% of the complaints I receive via email are on matters with regards to the state of crime in Malaysia, and in particular, Petaling Jaya. The matter never fails to raise its ugly head whenever we have held dialogues with the residents. So what is the government doing about it?

On my part, it is impossible for the MP or ADUNs is unable to do much about the matter without the co-operation of the police. We have tried to see the OCPD of Petaling Jaya since the 4th of April, twice the appointment was set, and twice it was postponed by the OCPD at the last minute. I've finally got another response today to have the dialogue on this Wednesday 3pm. Hopefully, it won't be postponed at the last minute again.

However, on the national front, we are looking pressing the Barisan Nasional government to set up the originally promised but much delayed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in order to re-establish the credibility of the police force, as well as improving its efficiency and effectiveness.

IPOH TIMOR had on 7th May asked the Minister of Home Affairs:
...sama ada Kerajaan sekarang akan menubuhkan IPCMC untuk mengadakan satu perkhidmatan polis bertaraf dunia yang cekap, beramanah dan profesional demi mengurangkan jenayah, menghapuskan rasuah dan menghormati hak asasi manusia - mesej jelas "tsunami politik" 8 Mac 2008
And unfortunately, the reply was short and disappointing:
Kerajaan telah memutuskan untuk menarik semula Rang Undang-Undang Suruhanjaya Aduan Khas 2007 (Special Complaints Commission) yang telah dibaca untuk kali pertama di Dewan Rakyat pada 13 Disember 2007.
Which of course is totally and absolutely ignoring the question that IPOH TIMOR had asked. The Special Complaints Commission was nothing close to the IPCMC recommended by the Royal Commission on the Malaysian Police Force.

No Local Government Elections?

Holding local government elections was one of the key rallying points by nearly all of the opposition candidates during the last general elections, myself included, or more specifically, myself in particular.

And to reiterate, I will do my utmost to apply all necessary pressure on both the state governments led by DAP, PKR or PAS to hold local government elections, as well as of course, pressing the Barisan Nasional federal government to allow local council elections.

Quite a few questions have been raised by MPs in parliament as to whether the Federal Government intends to hold local government elections, one of which came from Liew Chin-Tong, MP for Bukit Bendera on 7th May:
Menteri Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan [diminta] Menteri Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan menayatakan hala tuju dan jangka masa pelaksanaan pilihanraya Kerajaan Tempatan bagi membuka sebuah babak baru dalam demokrasi di Malaysia.
The answer was short but not so sweet:
Untuk makluman Ahli Yang Berhormat, Kerajaan tidak bercadang untuk mengadakan pilihanraya Kerajaan Tempatan.
Well, it clearly demonstrates that the new Minister of Housing & Local Government, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, who took over from his brother, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, has no intention in respecting the wishes of the voters who clearly want local government elections to promote efficiency, transparency and good governance.

The Penang state government led by DAP has publicly pledged that they are committed towards local government elections to be held by or before the next general elections. There is an action team looking specifically into this issue, particularly on legal and administrative aspects of conducting local government elections in the state.

At the same time, we are awaiting the relevant policy announcements by the respective state governments in Perak and Selangor on its commitment to, and the time-frame for executing local government elections.

Let's push for concrete steps to be made towards local government elections, and let the Federal Government challenge the state government in the state of law, against the wishes of the population, should they so wish to do so.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mahkota Cheras - Selangor Government Must Act

The state of Mahkota Cheras controversy has deteriorated into a farce when the Federal Reserve Units (FRU), equipped with water cannons and all, were deployed by the Grand Saga Highway concessionaire to construct a barricade across a road which has been proven by the Hulu Langat Land Office in a letter dated April 22, 2008 as belonging to the state.

While it is comforting to note that the Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has acknowledged, as per the Star report yesterday that “the residents had the right to use the access road without having to pay toll”, it is disappointing that he had not taken a stronger stand on the issue, and in fact had not dealt with it much earlier when the FRU was first deployed, or even before that.

This has resulted in the situation clearly getting out of control, with a fracas between the residents and the FRU units in the wee hours of the morning 2 days ago (see video here), and a Member of Parliament lying in the hospital at this point of time, having been assaulted by the police.

It is critical that the new state government demonstrate political will and determination to stand for what is right and just, without fear or favour, instead of wavering in uncertainty or adopting a “we will look into it” or “we will have to discuss further” culture which is reminiscent of the previous Barisan Nasional government. It is of great concern that Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had qualified his statement on the “right of use” by saying that the state government must also take into consideration that the toll is the source of revenue for the company.

With the state ownership of the land no longer in dispute, the local government, in this case the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj), must take all necessary actions to prevent illegal structures from being constructed on state land.

If an enforcement officer does not hesitate to compound a car parked temporarily but illegally on a state road, why should MPKj decline to take action, via compounds and summons, against the parties who are erecting a permanent structure in the middle of the road? In fact, any party who persist in constructing illegal barriers, in the face of compounds issued, must be charged in the court of law.

As the old adage that we members of the opposition is so fond of using, “justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”. The rakyat will be understandably discontented if the government enforces the law against the man on the street, while allows room for negotiation and delay when commercial interests are involved.

It is hence critical that the Menteri Besar of Selangor demonstrate much greater urgency in the matter, without letting the situation deteriorate further than it already has via inertia. If the first night's deployment of the FRU against residents who wanted the law upheld has not injected such urgency, then we certainly hope that the second night's deployment would have.

The new state government is being given certain leeway to perform by the people of Selangor. However, it will quickly lose its goodwill if the people's interest are not given priority.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Raja Petra Bailed

OK, I must confess I did a little boo boo this morning ;-)

After 15 minutes of circling around, I finally found the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court where the Malaysia Today writer was scheduled to be freed on bail this morning.

I arrived early before 9 and was informed that Raja Petra will only arrive at 9.45 am. Happily, I wandered off with Wan Hamidi, who is rumoured (heh!) to have quit New Straits Times to join my boss in Penang in the coming months, for a cup of teh tarik.

Mana tahu, as I was happily strolling back to the sessions court at 9.40, I saw a group of supporters outside the court from a little distance, and Raja Petra was already being driven off!

Sigh, and I sheepishly joined the crowd, including the media who was present who all looked at me "knowingly" that I missed the "show". And now I need to go back and report to my boss that I umm..., "failed" to represent the Chief Minister of Penang to show his (and my own of course) moral support for the ordeal he is going through.

Readers may be reminded that Sdr Lim Guan Eng was also jailed for 2 years on sedition charges, which resulted in his disqualification as a Member of Parliament (and losing all benefits, including his pension and gratuity), plus the non-renewal of his accounting practice license from the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA). But this things some how have a way of coming around. ;-)

With regards to the sedition charge by the Government, which I've yet to "formally" register my position on my blog - my position is clear, and so is the Party's, that without going into the merits of Raja Petra's allegedly seditious article, the Government's use of the sedition act is a clear cut abuse of an oppressive law.

If the Deputy Prime Minister or his wife so find that the articles published were misleading or factually inaccurate, they should take the necessary civil suit route to resolve the matter, and not clearly using and abusing the state machinery.

DAP leader in Parliament, Sdr Lim Kit Siang made it the number 1 item on his agenda, "The Empire Strikes Back" in his first speech in the 12th parliament. See also the video of his speech here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Toll Review

I complained about the fact that none of my questions were scheduled to be heard in Parliament during question time because the highest for this period was at No. 20. However, it was much to my surprised yesterday evening, to find one of my questions scheduled to be answered at No. 6 today. ;-)

The question was to the Minister of Works:
[Berapakah] pendapatan, keuntungan kumulatif syarikat-syarikat konsesi tol dan adakah Kerajaan akan mengambil langkah tertentu untuk merunding semula ciri-ciri kontrak yang tidak seimbang dan membebankan orang ramai.
The official reply was:
Untuk makluman ahli yang berhormat sehingga Disember tahun 2007 terdapat 22 buah lebuhraya bertol yang sedang beroperasi di bawah pengawasn Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia.

Sehingga tahun 2007, jumlah keseluruhan pendapatan dan keuntungan kumulatif bagi syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuhraya berkenaan semenjak diswastakan sehingga kini adalah seperti berikut:
(i) Jumlah keseluruhan pendapatan kumulative ialah RM27.6 bilion
(ii) Jumlah keseluruhan keuntungan kumulatif RM3.5 bilion
Untuk makluman ahli yang berhormat, kerajaan sentiasa meneliti perjanjian-perjanjian konsesi lubuhraya sedia ada bagi memastikan perjanjian itu tidak berat sebelah serta tidak membebankan pengguna lebuhraya.
Unfortunately, when the answer was given orally, the numbers didn't "sink" in, but now on relooking at the numbers, it doesn't seem to make sense as PLUS on its own already made much more than the RM3.5 bilion above. So I'll have to recheck my own figures again.

However, the Minister did point out that a Toll Review Mechanism is being put in place, and he admitted that the contracts which provides abnormal profits to some of these concessions will be renegotiated - a first-time admission, I believe. He also announced plans to differentiate toll policies between those in urban areas, and those which were inter-state.

I also heard from the reporters that the Minister announced to the press that the study will be announced in 3 months.

While the numbers announced were a little suspect, it is encouraging that the Minister in appearance at least, seems to be more cognizant of the discontent amongst Malaysians with the rising toll rates, especially in the fact of inflationary pressures from all aspects, after the political tsunami of March 8th. Comparatively, the previous Minister would just wave away all complaints and suggestions.

I also posted a supplementary question, which I did so probably too nervously (first time in Parliament lah...) as follows:
Terima kasih ke atas jawaban yang diberi oleh Menteri Kerja Raya yang baru yang menggalakkan, yang kita semua harap akan membawa satu pentadbiran yang baru atau dengan izin, "paradigm shift" berbanding dengan institusi yang lama.

Adakah Kementerian Kerja Raya bercadang supaya PLUS, syarikat konsesi Lebuhraya Utara Selatan akan diberikan hak untuk meningkatkan kadar tol pada tahun ini ataupun tahun depan, selepas cadangannya untuk menaiki kadar tol ditangguh pada awal tahun ini.

Dan kalau terus ditangguh, berapakah jumlah gantirugi yang kerajaan perlu bayar kepada syarikat PLUS yang ternyata telah mendapat keuntungan yang lumayan sekali?
The Minister replied that the postponement was for 1 year, but as he went off-tangent on some other policies, he didn't answer the second part of my question (amount of compensation), and subsequent request was not heard by the Speaker. Well, will have to wait for the next opportunity then. ;-)

But it does appear, for now at least, that the BN government is slowing waking up from its slumber, and all the pressure applied by the opposition and the rakyat, may just bear some fruit. ;-)

See also the latest report posted in The Star, and here in Malaysiakini on the Minister's response.

Pasir Salak

Dato’ Haji Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, this is a dangerous man. He's a first time Member of Parliament for Pasir Salak, Perak.

If you think that KINABATANGAN, PARIT SULONG or some of the other (in)famous personalities were disruptive to the previous parliament, I would rate them nearly-harmless rabble-rousers in parliament who doesn't treat the Parliament seriously enough.

However, this Yang Berhormat from Pasir Salak, is an MP who preaches race supremacy, and he's certainly not apologetic about it. Let me quote from the Hansard, when he was interrupting a speech by BATU PAHAT on Monday, with reference to the outrage expressed over the controversial Tengku Mahkota Kelantan's speech on Malay rights:
Satu perkara yang saya tunggu-tunggu untuk mengambil kesempatan ini dan ingin bertanya kepada Yang Berhormat Batu Pahat, sama ada bersetuju dengan saya di atas apa yang telah dilakukan oleh wakil rakyat daripada Bukit Gelugor yang sanggup membuat aduan polis terhadap Tengku Mahkota Kelantan.

Atas apa? Kesalahan apa? Tuanku hanya mempersoalkan untuk mempertahankan hakhak orang Melayu,
ketuanan Melayu (emphasis mine), apakah Pakatan tidak memperjuangkan hak-hak orang Melayu? Ini ada di dalam perlembagaan, saya mendesak pihak Yang Berhormat daripada Batu Pahat supaya kita sama-sama bersetuju, bolehkah kita bersetuju meminta kerajaan untuk mengambil tindakan setegas-tegasnya kepada mereka yang membuat kenyataan atau mengambil tindakan yang mempertikaikan ketuanan Melayu dan hak-hak orang Melayu.

Saya ingin mencabar parti pembangkang, sama ada tuan-tuan menyokong atau tidak perjuangan kita daripada Barisan Nasional untuk mempertahankan hak dan keistimewaan orang-orang Melayu sebagaimana yang termaktub di dalam perlembagaan.
Thankfully, BATU PAHAT (BN) didn't fall for his bait by hinting (that's my understanding anyway) that those are some of that kind of thinking which requires "changing":
Tuan Yang di-Pertua, saya ingin beralih ke tajuk lain. Cuma saya ingin menyatakan di sini bahawa dalam sebuah negara demokrasi, masyarakat yang berbilang kaum saya rasa wajar kita sensitif dengan isu-isu yang kita perkatakan supaya tidak berulang apa yang dikatakan sebagai peristiwa 13 Mei itu.

Saya harap bahawa kita sebagai anggota Dewan pada zaman yang sebegini mencabar untuk mewujudkan sebuah negara yang bersatu padu dan maju, apa pun sama ada pembangkang ataupun kerajaan, kita harus lebih sensitif supaya tidak timbul perkara-perkara yang akan menyebabkan sebenarnya kita merosakkan perpaduan di negara kita dan membangkitkan perkara-perkara yang boleh menimbulkan ketegangan kaum.

Oleh sebab itulah saya berharap kita sendiri sebenarnya sebagai ahli-ahli politik yang dikatakan berwibawa ini harus berperanan.
But it wasn't about to end. PASIR SALAK continually disrupted the Dewan over the next few sessions with similar type remarks.

And just a couple of minutes ago, he was at it again. IPOH BARAT was raising his concern for the 150,000 stateless in Malaysia, of whom a large proportion are Indians and suggesting that the Government should quickly resolve this matter for the sake of these children and their future.

PASIR SALAK stood up and ask, shockingly, "Where are Indians from?" and continued to make disparaging comments which implied that since the non-Malay races are not from Malaysia, they do not deserve rights in this country. He even challenged IPOH BARAT, asking him why he refused to answer, when the latter ignored him.

My only comment is that PASIR SALAK, should count himself fortunate that he wasn't a victim of the political tsunami, but if he continues as he does, he may not be so lucky the next time round. Certainly, you can expect PASIR SALAK to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in the weeks or months to come.