Sunday, May 31, 2009

PKFZ: Hold Your Horses?

I've been awoken from my blogging slumber over the past week after reading Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat's latest statements on PKFZ. Apologies to loyal readers for the lack of updates but an MP's work during the day, and a daddy's work rocking the newborn to sleep at night doesn't give me plenty of incentive to write too much, even though there's much to be written. ;-)

I have commented in the earlier post to say that Ong Tee Keat and BN must be completely blind not to even consider the obvious that the giga-financial-scandal-Port-Klang-Free-Zone should be shut down to cut losses, which are likely to balloon to RM12.5 billion, and require additional RM8.6 billion funding by the Government.

He said:
"I am disappointed to learn that some opposition members have proposed that the Government cut losses and close down PKFZ. This is a premature statement by politicians who think they can make well-informed financial decisions based on a few hours of looking through the PKFZ report."
I say, no wonder MCA and BN are suffering because they can't even see and act on the stark obvious reality even after being presented to them on a silver platter by the PriceWaterhouse Coopers audit report. No wonder also, there's mismanagement galore in all BN-run "commercial" entities like PKFZ, Pempena, Proton, MAS, UEM etc etc. in this country.

It's funny when he said further that:
"I am also surprised at the opposition's obvious lack of understanding of the financials involved.

It is clear from the report that the RM12.5 billion figure only arises when the debt is staggered over a longer period as a result from the projected inability to service the loan installment between 2012 to 2041. The projected cumulative cost will only determine in the year 2051. Many of us may not be around by then.

The claim that the cost of the project has ‘mushroomed to to an astronomical RM12.5 b scandal under my watch' is akin to heaping debts due in 2051 on me now for malicious political reasons."
Firstly, I wonder who has the lack of financial understanding on the financial implications of the project. We had financial experts and chartered accountants with us to decipher the more complicated elements of the report and to confirm our views of the matter. Hence our position is certainly no rhetoric.

Secondly, he said that the RM12.5b is only a hypothetical figure assuming cashflow deficit til 2042. Datuk Seri, the Port Klang Authority has given these figures to the PwC, who translated them into the obvious. RM12.5 is needed to keep the project alive based on estimates given by PKA! And that's if PKA and PKFZ meets its targets, which with all due respect, is highly doubtful i.e., it will cost even more!

And yes, indeed many of us may be around by 2051, which means that we are loading up debt for this highly suspect project for our children and grandchildren to pay!

Thirdly, this project has mushroomed to RM12.5b under Ong Tee Keat's watch is because over the past 15 months, despite promises of fast, bold actions, what with his motto "courage to change, creating new values", absolutely nothing in the PKA cashflow projections on the financial viability of PKFZ demonstrate that the project will ever be a success! Instead, it will continue to burden the "rakyat" for decades to come!

Ong Tee Keat may say that we have had only a couple of hours to look through the concise and too the point report by PwC (don't know why you'd need too much longer), but the Transport Minister has had 15 months, and yet he has come up with absolutely no solution to resolve the matter!

And now he says "We need now to seriously act on the findings of the report to make sure that the interest of the people are fully protected and that this Government walks the talk" but he can tell us that shutting down PKFZ to cut losses and salvage assets is not an option to be considered.

To be frank, Ong Tee Keat is definitely in my list of more respectable Ministers in the cabinet among the many 'half-past-six' ones. However, we definitely need to see less talk, and more actions from both the Minister, and his government for him to redeem his credibility from this episode.

PKFZ: Should It Be Kept Alive?

I've made a statement a few days back that the Government should seriously consider cutting losses and shut down the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project with cost potentially ballooning to RM12.5 billion, based on optimistic estimates by the Port Klang Authority (PKA) itself.

The Ministry of Finance has already extended a RM4.6 billion soft loan at 4% interest rate to PKA to salvage the project in 2007, and now it appears that they will have to extend an additional RM3.56 billion loan to cover the cashflow deficit over the next 20 years! As projected by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC), this restructured financing will cost an additional RM5 billion in interest costs over the next 42 years!

Hence the total commitment required to keep this project alive by the Government is a whopping RM8.6 billion, on top of whatever funds that has already been extended!

The obvious question is, should we throw good money after bad? Will there ever be a businessman (or even government) in the world, who will invest in a commercial project which is projecting cumulative cashflow deficit (note: we are not even talking about profits here!) after 33 years (2042)!!

And that in itself is an optimistic projection! Current occupancy at PKFZ is only 14%, but it's projected to reach 20% in 2010, and full occupancy by 2018 (or was it 2014?).

And what did the Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat say to this?
"I am disappointed to learn that some opposition members have proposed that the Government cut losses and close down PKFZ. This is a premature statement by politicians who think they can make well-informed financial decisions based on a few hours of looking through the PKFZ report."
"Premature statement"? You'll really need to be blind like MCA and BN leaders to not see something as obvious as this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Police Should Stop Attending Vigils!

The Royal Malaysian Police to stop attending candlelight vigils and focus on fighting rampant crime!

Last night when 11 persons, including DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary and MP for Serdang, Teo Nie Ching, and state assemblywoman for Teratai, Selangor, Jenice Lee Ying Ha was arrested for holding a candlelight vigil serves only to remind the public how obtuse the Royal Malaysian Police have become.

It was a low-key candlelight vigil mourning the death of democracy in Perak attended by less than 20 party members and supporters on private property below the office of MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok. And yet in a remarkable show of force, a nearly 100-strong Police team swooped the gathering complete with helicopter support before any speeches were even made!

While we fully appreciate the effort by the Police to grant some of our low profile activities instantaneous nationwide publicity by arresting innocent unarmed and peaceful civilians, we strongly condemn Police intimidation and oppression who acts on behalf of Barisan Nasional to stifle dissent and suppress the truth.

The Royal Malaysian Police should instead focus on its job at hand to fight rampant crime across the country which in the past 3 weeks have reached an incredulous state when victims have included MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and political secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister himself, Syahrin Jamaluddin. The police force has even suffered its greatest ignominy in recent years when the Johor Bahru OCPD, ACP Zainuddin Yaakob was tied up and robbed at knife point in his very own house in Johore Baru.

We deplore the high-handed and completely unnecessary actions of the police in detaining harmless concerned citizens. We call upon the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan to apologise to the detainees and all Malaysians for wrongful detention and for acting against the Prime Minister's call for "One Malaysia".

In addition, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak must carry out his promise of "People First, Performance Now" by finally fulfilling Barisan Nasional's promise to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as proposed by the Royal Police Commission nearly 4 years ago.

Friday, May 15, 2009

JPA Scholarship Scheme: Seeking A Fair & Equitable Policy

Read about all the renewed controversy over the JPA scholarships recently?

Well, in the light of the neverending controversy over the award of government scholarships by Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) of the Prime Minister's Department, DAP will be holding a forum/dialogue session to obtain feedback from:
  • aggrieved students
  • current and former local and overseas scholars
  • academics
  • the general public
The forum/dialogue will be held as follows:
JPA Scholarships – Seeking A Fair & Equitable Policy
Venue: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
Date: 19th May 2009 (Tuesday)
Time: 8.00 pm
The panelists will include:
  • Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader and MP for Ipoh Timor,
  • Anthony Loke Siew Fook, MP for Rasah and DAPSY Chief,
  • Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara,
  • Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, PAS Research Centre Director and MP for Kuala Selangor
  • Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Selangor ADUN for Seri Setia
Dr Goh Cheng Teik, eminent academic, former deputy minister and interviewer for Harvard University admission programme in Malaysia will also be a special guest for the evening.

In addition, for students and scholars who are not able to make it for the forum (e.g., if you are overseas or if you live outstation, you are welcome to submit written submissions to the panel. Please write to: dapscholarship (at) rocketmail (dot) com.

Please forward details of the above forum to all parties concerned, especially those who have failed to secure scholarships despite outstanding results. We will be making a compilation of the complaints, appeals and suggestions made during the evening.


I learnt a new word today - "opprobrium", after reading a Straits Times article on The Malaysian Insider entitled "Call for fresh Perak elections hard to ignore".
... There is also the question of personal pride. Najib personally led the campaign to wrest power in Perak in early February, just weeks before being installed as premier.

To back down now could be interpreted as political weakness by his followers in his embattled party.

But as the crisis worsens, many analysts and senior politicians say that his government's determination to cling on to power amid growing public opprobrium will only enhance the franchise of the opposition coalition.
According to, opprobrium isn't an element of the Periodic Table we learnt during chemistry classes:
op⋅pro⋅bri⋅um  [uh-proh-bree-uhm]
  1. the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy.

  2. a cause or object of such disgrace or reproach.
1650–60; < L: reproach, equiv. to op- op- + probr(um) infamy, disgrace + -ium -ium
Well, we learn something new everyday ;-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gandhi, Mandela or Megalomaniac?

Picture courtesy of The Malaysian Insider

meg·a·lo·ma·ni·a [měg'ə-lō-mā'nē-ə, -mān'yə]
  1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
  2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.
meg'a·lo·ma'ni·ac' n.,
meg'a·lo·man'ic [-mān'ĭk] adj.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Zambry Rendered Me Speechless

I've really got nothing to add after reading Zambry's blog post today. Yes, he compared himself to Mandela and Gandhi, as a truth and freedom fighter. I must thank The Star for highlighting this noble story.
[...] Bagaimanapun saya dan rakan-rakan akan meneruskan perjuangan kami menegakkan keadilan dan membela rakyat. Ini adalah tradisi dan intipati perjuangan Barisan Nasional.

Menegakkan kebenaran bukanlah satu tanggungjawab yang mudah. Ia memerlukan pengorbanan dan kegigihan.

Nelson Mandela misalnya mengorbankan kebebasannya selama 27 tahun demi membebaskan rakyat Afrika Selatan dari cengkaman “apartheid”.

Mahatma Ghandi pula mengorbankan nyawanya untuk memastikan kemerdekaan India serta rakyatnya dapat hidup aman tanpa sempadan kasta dan agama.

Perjuangan menegakkan keberanian ini memerlukan “keberanian”. Mandela pernah berkata : “Saya mempelajari bahawa keberanian bukanlah bermakna tidak punya perasaan takut, tetapi Berjaya mengatasinya. Mereka yang berani bukanlah mereka yang tidak punya perasaan takut tetapi mereka yang mampu menakluki rasa takut itu. (I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. )
Pinch me please.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 13 to 1Malaysia - The Future of Malaysian Nation Building

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of May-13 incident, there will be a public forum entitled “From May 13 to 1Malaysia – The Future of Malaysian Nation Building”.
Date: 13th May 2009 (Wednesday), 8.00pm
Venue: Civic Hall, MBPJ, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Bearing in mind the nation’s difficult past, the objective of this forum is to enable a group of Malaysians from different background and of different era to explore together a Malaysian future that will become our common destiny.

Speakers include:
  • Lim Kit Siang (DAP MP for Ipoh Timur)
  • N H Chan (Retired Judge of Court Of Appeal)
  • Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad (Former MP & Political Secretary to Tun Abd Razak)
  • Nizar Jamaluddin (PAS MP for Bukit Gantang)
  • Khalid Abd. Samad (PAS MP for Shah Alam)
  • K. Ragunath (Chairman of Malaysian Bar Council)
  • Dr Azmi bin Sharom (Associate Professor of UM Faculty of Law)
  • Tricia Yeoh Su-Wern (Research Analyst)
Light refreshment will be prepared. All are welcomed to attend this forum. This forum is organised by the office of Lau Weng San, state assemblyman for Kg Tunku, Selangor.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Shakespearean Play in Progress III

Here are some choice quotes from our favourite Barisan Nasional politicians today.

From Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the Minister of Home Affairs, yes, the one charge of the fashion police in Perak, as reported in The Malaysian Insider:
“It was my responsibility to ensure there were no chaos on the streets which could threaten public safety. So in this context, I am happy with the action taken,” he told reporters here today.
And again here:
“What happened in the assembly was a mockery of the Malaysian democratic system,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Putrajaya.
And from UMNO Youth Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin as reported in The Nutgraph:
Terming the entire episode as a "tragedy for democracy", Khairy said he was disappointed that "jungle culture" had been brought into the state assembly today.
Are they from a different world from ordinary Malaysians? Expect the sequel, Tsunami II come the next general elections.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Shakespearean Play In Progress II

Shakespeare couldn't have written this! (Well, Malaysiakini reported it)
9.15am: The police have moved in to arrest people gathered at the restaurant, including people having their breakfast. Many people have been arrested. Exact number of those arrested is uncertain.

The police first allowed those having their breakfast to do so but then soon changed their mind and started arresting them as well.

One man who was having tea lashed out at the police for their actions. He was allowed to have his tea and then was arrested.

The restaurant has decided to close its shutters for the day.

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak certainly does it better than Tun Abdullah Badawi ;-)

Shakespearean Play In Progress

Here's what The Star (mStar) says:

8.50 pagi: Ahli Parlimen Ampang dari PKR, Zuraida Kamaruddin dan ADUN Teratai dari DAP, Jenice Lee adalah antara 11 individu yang ditahan polis kerana menimbulkan kekecohan menjelang perasmian sidang DUN Perak.

Here's what Malaysiakini says:

8.50am: More arrests by the police. This time four people, including a Pakatan elected representative from Negeri Sembilan and Teratai state representative Jenice Lee (centre in photo), were arrested while having breakfast in a mamak stall.

Who do you trust? Who do you believe? Embrace Change (BN Style).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

1BLACKMalaysia: Wong Chin Huat Arrested

What media freedom? What tolerance? What reforms??!

Wong Chin Huat has been arrested for launching the 1BLACKMalaysia campaign on behalf of BERSiH this morning, asking all to wear black to mark the Thursday, 7th May when the illegal ursurper of the Perak Menteri Besar attempts to legitimise the Barisan Nasional government with an improper state assembly sitting.


Monday, May 04, 2009

“Know An MP” Youth Attachment Programme

Summer holidays just around the corner, not sure about what to do?

Well, we're calling all young Malaysian university students on vacation, fresh graduates and young working adults to take part in our "Know An MP" Youth Attachment Programme.

For those of you who aspire to gain first-hand experience of being a Member of Parliament or a state assemblyman, here’s an opportunity not to be missed. DAP Malaysia is now offering 10 places of attachment to various top national leaders, MPs and State Assemblymen (ADUN) in Malaysia, during which you will be “adopted” by an MP/ADUN, and brought along to work on a daily basis for. This will be a great chance for you to understand the work of an MP/ADUN, and their role in governing our country.

Who is this for?
  • Youths of age 18-30
  • First, second or final year students enjoying semester breaks, have no idea what to do with all the free time, and would like to have a new and exciting experience
  • Fresh graduates who are on the lookout for a job experience
  • Young working adults who would like a refreshing change to your career or working environment
What will you be doing?
  • Depending on the MP/ADUN that you are assigned to, you will be attached to him/her on a daily basis, and work closely with him/her
  • You may have the chance to be involved in parliamentary sessions, press conferences, events etc. all of which will enhance your knowledge and experience in being a budding future leader
How is the programme run?
  • The programme runs for at least 1 month, either full time or part time, with the starting date and duration depending on the schedules of both the applicant and the MP/ADUN
Why should you join this programme?
  • Experience the work and life of an MP/ADUN on a daily basis and understand how they keep our country running.
  • Get to know top Malaysian leaders
  • Recognise the contributions and responsibilities of being a leader
  • And most importantly, this will be a highlight on your resume
Applicants can email their curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter expressing interest to us at daprocket (at) rocketmail (dot) com. Please submit your applications by 21st May 2009.

Please include your preferred location (ie. which state/city in Malaysia), starting date and duration of the attachment in your application.

Selection will be based on academic and curriculum track record, as well as an interview. Successful candidates will be endorsed with a monthly allowance and will be informed via email.

Dogs In Need of Rescue

About 300 stray dogs were rounded up by Pulau Ketam residents and deported to an isolated island to fend for themselves.

Over half of them are already dead and the remaining ones may not live long. A rescue
mission is being mounted and your help is needed.

Please read the full story here. Updates here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Toll Discounts For Those Travelling Further?

The new Works Minister, Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor who suggested that “motorists who incur a heavy toll bill from shuttling between their workplace and home may get to enjoy a special discounted rate” as reported in The Star on May 1st, is not only insufficient and unacceptable, but also impractical.

The Minister had argued that it is not the choice for commuters to be staying far away and hence should not be penalised for having to pay for high toll rates. However, should commuters who travel short distances be penalised instead for just getting out of their houses? It defies logic that communters who use very short stretches of the highway be paying more than, and subsidising for those who use longer stretches?

The idea is also clearly impractical as its will be an administrative and enforcement nightmare for the toll concessionaire or the government to manage such an impossible system.

Most importantly, such token and piecemeal measures does not resolve the fact that many of these highways have been given overwhelmingly lucrative concessions which results in excessively high toll rates which burdens the people all over the country. For example, the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) has net profit margin of 48.7% in 2008, while PLUS Expressways made even higher net profit margins of 57.3% for its financial year ending 2007. These astronomical margins are clearly unacceptable in a regulated infrastructure industry.

Datuk Shaziman also appears to be making excuses already to preparing the masses for disappointment by hinting that “we must also consider the Government’s financial ability...the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) would have to evaluate the Govenment’s financial ability in absorbing the cost of retaining the toll rates.”

The DAP Ops Restore team has already showed via our memorandum earlier to the previous Works Minister that the government has more than sufficient financial resources to expropriate some of the highways on terms specified very clearly in the contract, which have of course, been agreed to willingly by all parties.

In fact, it is far cheaper for the government and the people to expropriate some of these highways than to continue to pay them compensation. For LDP, the Government has already paid more than RM630 million to date, despite the fact that it was built at the cost of only RM1.33 billion including capitalised interest, and there's still more than 20 years to go to the expiry of its concession. Based on the concession agreement, it will only cost the Government not more than RM1.4 billion to exercise the expropriation clause.

Therefore we hope that the new Works Minister will refrain from using the same tired old excuse previously used ad nauseam by Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, who had insisted that the Government cannot afford to buy back the highways despite the fact that hundreds of millions in compensation were paid to these toll concessionaires annually.

We hope that the new Works Minister will ensure that the interest of the people comes first above all else, and not those of the concessionaires. He will also need to take subtantive measures immediately to live up to the mantra promised by the new Prime Minsiter, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, “people first, performance now”.

As a footnote, I must say I'm a little disappointed that Mohd Zin has been dropped from his position at the Works Ministry. For whatever his other faults which I'm not aware of, he has certainly been easy to deal with and he has ensured replies to all specific questions in the Parliament, unlike many other ministers.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Civil Service Needs Overhaul, Not New Steering Wheel

While Sdr Lim Kit Siang focused on meritocracy when he ripped into the new Prime Minister's announcement on "multi-level entry system" into the civil service to "attract" private sector talent, I focused pretty much on endemic and entrench structural problems facing the civil sector. It will require a whole lot more than just attracting a handful of "private sector talents" to turn the civil service on its head.

A few days ago, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak proposed structural changes to the Malaysian civil service, which he called “multi-level admission system” where key positions in the government are opened up to talent from the private sector and government-linked companies (GLCs) in an attempt to modernise the civil service.

While we will always welcome top talents joining the civil service and serving the country, the above piecemeal measure will not be anywhere near sufficient to reform the ailing government sector.

Najib has himself admitted that there was a need for the government to justify the high expenses of RM41 billion to maintain the civil service in 2008. This represented a 60.2% increase from emolument expenses just 3 years earlier in 2005 which amounted to RM25.6 billion. What is worse is, the entire government operational and development budget combined in the 1990s never even exceeded RM48 billion, but 10 years on, the amount is barely enough to sustain our bloated civil service.

The civil service has been expanding rapidly since the 1990s, and the growth accelerated under the current prime minister. In 1990, the Federal Government had 773,997 employees; by the year 2000, there were 894,788 on the payroll, a significant increase of 15.6%. However, since then, the civil service employment has accelerated by more than 210,000 personnel in 2006, marking a 23.5% increase over the 6 years alone.

In fact, studies by Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development have ascertained that we have the highest ratio of civil servants to the population in the Asia-Pacific at 4.68%, while our regional neighbours have less than half our ratio, like Indonesia (1.79%), Philippines (1.81%), Korea (1.85%) and Thailand (2.06%). This clearly indicates the low level of productivity of our civil service.

The bloated civil service problem has been further exacerbated by the Governments policy of making our the service a dumping ground for unemployed graduates over the past few years. For example, in July 2006, as the then Deputy Prime Minister, Najib had instructed the Public Services Department (PSD) to speed up the recruitment of graduates to fill some 30,000 vacancies in the civil service to “overcome the problem of unemployed graduates.”

As part of the above initiative, the Government had actually created 2,000 positions in the Ministry of Domestic & Consumer Affairs in 2007 to employ unemployed graduates as “price monitors” just to “keep watch on the price of goods at 96 locations that included wet markets, supermarkets and grocery stores” with little or no value-added functions.

And even in the latest 2nd Economic Stimulus Plan announced by Najib who is also the Finance Minister in March this year, Najib said “the government would recruit 63,000 staff to fill vacancies, including 13,000 jobs for contract officers.”

Hence, while Najib has rightly recognised the problem of needing to “justify” the RM41 billion spent on maintaining the unwieldy civil service, he is now also contributing to the problem by adding massively to the staff force. It has also to be noted that while it's easy to add new staff, shedding them is nearly impossible and it will only lead to deeper structural problems for our beleaguered civil service.

To overhaul the civil service sector, we must first stop treating the sector as an employer of the last resort. By absorbing these graduates who were not able to obtain gainful employment in the private sector, it results not only in a poor quality workforce within the civil service, it also increases the Government's financial obligations. Persisting with these policies will only serve to negate any positive impact from the “multi-level admission system” which Najib is trying to implement to attract talents into the service.