Saturday, December 31, 2011

KLIA 2: Delay and More Delays?

When will KLIA2 - the new "low-cost terminal" actually get completed?

1. September 2011

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, who also attended the press conference, said the tender for the construction of the new LCCT will be called as soon as the design is completed. The new LCCT is expected to be completed by September 2011. The terminal, estimated to cost RM2 billion, will be built about 2km away from KLIA. ~ 30/10/2009 Business Times

The building of a new Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) will be completed by the end of 2011 although its construction faced some delay, said Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri. "The project's progress should be 15.5 per cent but right now it is 13.5 per cent. Based on the current status the delay is two per cent or 18 days," he said.

~ 17/11/2009 Bernama

2. Early 2012

The new low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) is expected to be ready by late 2011 or early 2012, said Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd’s (MAHB) managing director, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad. Earlier, it was expected to be ready by September 2011. ~ 1/9/2010 Bernama

3. April 2012

Kumpulan UEM Bhd. dan Bina Puri Holdings Bhd , yang bertindak sebagai kontraktor utama bagi terminal baru itu memberi jaminan projek itu akan disiapkan tepat pada masanya … ''Kami berupaya menepati tempoh pembinaan yang ditetapkan dan penyerahan KLIA2 akan dibuat pada akhir tempoh 20 bulan (April 2012) seperti yang ditetapkan kerana kami memiliki sumber, kepakaran dan pengalaman,'' janji Pengarah Urusan Kumpulan UEM, Datuk Izzaddin Idris. ~ 1/9/2010 Utusan Malaysia

4. October 2012

Semua syarikat penerbangan tambang murah akan berpindah ke terminal penerbangan tambang murah tetap baru, KLIA2, yang dijadualkan siap pada bulan Oktober 2012, kata Menteri Pengangkutan, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha. ~ 25/1/2011 Kosmo

5. April 2013

SEPANG: The new low-cost carrier terminal, expected to be operational by April 2013, will cost Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) between RM3.6 billion and RM3.9 billion, and it will come with aerobridges. ~30/11/2011 Business Times

Will that be the last and final delay?

KLIA 2: Low Cost or High Cost Airport?

This is the design of the new KLIA2 "Low-Cost Terminal"

This is the "luxurious" interior of the new KLIA2 "low-cost terminal"

And another view of the "luxurious" interior of KLIA2 "low-cost terminal"

And here's the history of KLIA2 cost overrun from RM1.7 billion to RM3.9 billion:

1. 2007 – RM1.7 billion

22/7/ 2007 Terminal baru syarikat penerbangan tambang murah (LCCT) serba canggih dan selesa bernilai RM1.7 bilion akan dibina di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa KL (KLIA) bagi menggantikan LCCT sedia ada yang semakin sesak. (Berita Harian)

2. 2009 - RM2.0 billion

10/3/2009 – Ong said the new LCCT would be ready by 2011 and the total cost was estimated at RM2.0 billion. (The Star)

3. 2010 - RM2.5 billion

30/10/2010 – Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB)… its board of directors had mandated a sum of RM2.5 billion for the overall construction cost of KLIA 2. (Business Times)

4. 2011 - RM3.9 billion

29/11/2011 – The new low-cost terminal (LCCT), KLIA2, with world class facilities to handle about 45 million passengers yearly, is expected to cost between RM3.6 billion and RM3.9 billion… (Bernama)

Existing LCCT

For comparison purposes, the cost of existing LCCT is RM108 million plus a subsequent upgrade costing RM124 million for the total cost of RM232 million.  The existing LCCT doesn't have to add the cost of new aprons (where planes taxi and park) and runways, but the sheer gulf in cost difference tells you how MAHB has been spending its money.  As a result of the new KLIA2, MAHB had to raise RM2.5 billion in sukuk loans in 2010.

We Will Meet Zahid

The Defence Minister, Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi has said yesterday that he was willing to meet up with me to explain and clarify the purchase of the six second generation patrol vessels or “littoral combatant ships (frigate class)” (LCS). The issue surfaced again since the price tag for the war ships has increased from RM6 billion announced on 5 February this year, but has since increased 50% to RM9 billion this month.

Boustead Holdings Bhd has announced on Bursa Malaysia that its subsidiary Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd has received the “letter of award to undertake the construction of the ships” from Ministry of Defence Malaysia “to design, construct, equip, install, commission, integrate, test and trials, and deliver six LCS” for the new ceiling price of RM 9.0 billion

We have asked for the Defence Minister to explain the drastic increase, especially since even the initial RM6 billion price tag had already attracted controversy and required Dato’ Seri Zahid to provide an explanation in parliament.

In defending the RM6 billion deal in parliament, the Minister had claimed that these patrol vessels were no ordinary ships but were advanced warships known as "littoral combatant ships" (LCS).

Datuk Seri Zahid had in March claimed that the LCS is "bigger and faster" and "it is also equipped with three-dimensional warfare equipment like cannons, missiles and torpedoes” which are able to take on jets, ships and submarines respectively.

He argued that "with the rapid development of technology, the RMN would need an LCS with state-of-the-art equipment like the sonar system for submarine detection and anti-submarine torpedoes, which would help in the operation of the two RMN submarines to safeguard the sovereignty of national maritime areas."

Since the RM6 billion price tag has already come with all the above “advanced” technologies to fight jets, ships and submarines, what else has the Ministry of Defence ordered to justify the additional allocation of RM3 billion? The price-tag of RM1.5 billion will certainly make our patrol vessels among the most expensive in the world.

Instead of providing in open explanation, Dato’ Seri Zahid had mocked me yesterday asking “Where does he get his figures? From Kua Kia Soong, the former DAP MP?” If he has bothered reading my statements, I’ve stated clearly that the figures came from the announcements made by Boustead as well as “authoritative” answers made by himself in the Parliament. The Minister will perhaps do well to stop relying on Papagomo as his chief intelligence advisor, who has to date provided the former with only half-truths and fictitious data.

Pakatan Rakyat MPs, including Nurul Izzah Anwar and Dr Dzulkefli Ahmad are more than willing to take up the offer from the Minister to seek his clarification. However, he should not only provide clarifications for the above purchase involving RM9 billion but also the other mega-acquisition of 257 armoured personnel vehicles (APVs) costing RM7.55 billion this year. In his parliamentary reply to me on the APVs, he had claimed “no knowledge” over the details of the cost.

The Minister must also answer, given his assurance that his Ministry is “open to transparency”, why the Government is unwilling to set up a Parliament Oversight Committee to review and monitor defence expenditure. If the Ministry is not even willing to subject himself to oversight by the Parliament, the country’s highest legislative body, then Dato Seri Zahid Hamidi has no right to talk about “transparency”.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 Walk Out

The "Walk-Out" - was it right or was it wrong?

I've received plenty of emails, tweets and questions during meetings asking about the Pakatan Rakyat "walk-out" during the passing of the Peaceful Assemblly Bill 2011 debate in parliament earlier in December.

Without going into the merits of the walkout, perhaps its better for me to explain what happened that day and the parliamentary process. This will at the very least clarify some of the misinformation doing its rounds and give you a clearer picture of what actually happened.

1. Pakatan Rakyat was given only 3 speakers to speak. Hence only 1 rep from each party. The top leaders spoke - about 20 min each - Anwar, Kit Siang and Hadi. So we all spoke and all the points the civil society and the Bar Council raised were all raised in parliament. You can check the speeches in the Hansard which can be downloaded from the website. No more speakers were allowed and the Speaker dictates the order in parliament.

2. There is no room for amendments at all. Full stop. BN had no intent on incorporating any of the proposals by Pakatan or others into the Act. For everyone's information, it has never happened in the history of Malaysian parliament where any single amendment proposals or motions by the opposition were adopted. The parliament will and can pass any law tabled by the BN govt with sheer brute majority. The only exception is that the constitution can only be amended with 2/3 majority which we have denied. For the 1st time in recent history, there were no constitutional amendments proposed during the current term.

Hence aside from the above, the Parliament is a "rubber stamp" due to BN majority and the exercise of the Whip who controls all their MPs votes.

3. Hence the only difference was the "voting" being carried out in our presence or absence. The outcome is already a forgone conclusion. It makes absolutely no practical purpose to stay and vote because the BN MPs are out in force to ensure the bill's passage.

Finally, again without judging whether we should have walked out or not - we walked out only after we have exhausted all practical channels to reject or amend the bill, and after it was made absolutely clear from BN's side that they have no intent to make any changes to the bill. We walked out to protest the "tyranny of majority" by BN in parliament and their refusal to accede to the voice of the people, especially to set up a parliamentary select committee on PAB. It made a mockery of the parliamentary institution which we were not willing to take part in.

Hope the above makes it clearer on the situation.

But as I've mentioned many times during Q&A sessions during townhalls and forums, the public backlash as a result of the walkout, whether justified or otherwise will certainly make Pakatan MPs think twice about such moves in the future. This is because perception of the walkout, regardless of whether it is misinformed or actual, is what matters most at the very end of the day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Purchase of 6 Naval Vessels up from RM6 billion to RM9 billion

On February 5th this year, Defence Minister Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi announced that the Government has approved RM6 billion for the Royal Malaysian Navy to acquire 6 second generation patrol vessels to be built by Boustead Naval Shipyards.

In defending the RM6 billion deal in parliament, the Minister had claimed that these patrol vessels were no ordinary ships but were advanced warships known as "littoral combatant ships" (LCS).

Datuk Seri Zahid had in March claimed that the LCS is "bigger and faster" and "it is also equipped with three-dimensional warfare equipment like cannons, missiles and torpedoes” which are able to take on jets, ships and submarines respectively.

He argued that "with the rapid development of technology, the RMN would need an LCS with state-of-the-art equipment like the sonar system for submarine detection and anti-submarine torpedoes, which would help in the operation of the two RMN submarines to safeguard the sovereignty of national maritime areas."

The LCS is indeed a technologically advanced patrol vessel currently only acquired and deployed by the United States (US) in the world. The US owns 2 of these ships - USS Independence and USS Freedom while Malaysia is seeking to acquire 6 of these LCS.

While the price of the ships was not "final" in February, it has come as a shock when Boustead announced on Bursa Malaysia that the contract which was just signed last week is now valued at RM9 billion or 50% higher that what was approved earlier this year by the Government.

The Minister must explain why has the price for each ship increased by RM500 million or RM3 billion in total for the 6 ships suddenly, well above the original approved budget. For example, has the specification for the ships been "improved" further since Dato' Seri Zahid's reply in Parliament - which was then already the most technologically advanced patrol vessel - which justified the whopping increase in price?

Boustead Naval Shipyard, previously known as PSC Naval Dockyards which delivered the previous 6 naval patrol vessels at RM6.75 billion or 26.2% above the original contract price of RM5.35 billion. The ships were also delivered only after a 2 year delay and hundreds of defects.

In the 2006 Auditor-General Report, the Ministry of Defence was faulted for the dubious award of contract to an obviously unqualified contractor, the failure of technical and financial management, hefty illegitimate contract price increases, undocumented and overpayment, unjustifiable waiver of penalties, and a complete failure of ministry oversight. The Defence Ministry was then headed by Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Such a track record does not give Malaysians any amount of confidence that history will not repeat itself. With such a rapid increase in budget by RM3 billion before even the start of construction of these ships, can the current Defence Minister assure Malaysians that these ships will not suffer the same disgraceful fate as the earlier ships?

As Defence expenditure in Malaysia remains highly opaque, with Malaysia ranked "medium to low" in transparency by Transparency International, we continue to call for a Parliamentary Oversight Committee to review and approve defence expenditure as practiced in all developed countries. The expenditure involved billions of ringgit in acquisitions annually, hence the sheer lack of transparency leads only to poor accountability, and more often than not, massive leakages and over-spending. These leakages must be plugged to ensure that the country doesn't become bankrupt by 2019 as speculated by Minister in Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Idris Jala.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Was KLIA2 Moved to A More Expensive Site?

Why was KLIA2 moved to a soft soil site?
Aidila Razak
11:41AM Dec 14, 2011

Why was a new masterplan drawn up in 2008 for the expansion of the low-cost carrier airport (KLIA2), resulting in the airport being built on soft soil, when an earlier plan circumvented this problem?

This question lies at the heart of the current outcry over the ballooning cost of the airport from an estimated RM1.7 billion to up to RM3.6 billion today.

Referring to the KL International Airport Masterplan 1992, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (left) said today the move also remained the main cause of the construction deadline for KLIA2 to be extended from September 2011 to April 2013.

“The transport minister and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd must answer why they made a hard-to-fathom move to the new site. This is the reason the cost went up by more than RM2 billion,” Pua said.

According to the 1992 plan, the current construction site of KLIA2 “mainly comprises saturated marine clay with an overlay of peat material, which varies in thickness from two to three metres”.

"It has poor load bearing qualities and is not suitable for airport construction without undertaking significant engineering measures... which include improved drainage, removal of the peat layer and the introduction of fill material with good load bearing qualities (a minimum of three metres deep)," Pua said, quoting from the report.

The earthworks required to make the site suitable, he said, cost an estimated RM1.2 billion. This could have been saved if the 1992 masterplan, drawn up by Anglo-Japanese Airport Corporation Bhd, had been followed and the KLIA2 had been built on the original hard land area marked out.

The area marked out in the 1992 plan is a hilly area, which had already been prepared during the construction of the main terminal (KLIA) at the time.

Double watch towers and extra runway

The 2008 plan, drawn up by Netherlands Airport Consultants BV and KLIA Consultancy Services, led to further consequences on costs:

A third runway, estimated to cost RM270 million, has to be constructed as the new site would not allow KLIA and KLIA2 to share two runways. However, the third runway will also need to be built on soft soil, raising questions as to when it will be ready.
“Airlines would not want to move to KLIA2 if they have to taxi longer in order to use KLIA’s runways,” Pua said.

A second control tower, estimated to cost RM500 million, needs to be constructed as KLIA’s tower would not be able to see some parts of the third runway. The 1992 plan had both terminals sharing the same tower.
“This would make it the first modern airport, built after the 1960s, with two control towers within two kilometres of each other,” Pua said.

While conceding that he was not an expert in the field, Pua said an engineering expert who was consulted had said the deadline of April 2013 was “iffy” at best, mainly due to the poor soil.

In comparison, he said, the current low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) had cost RM232 million and had taken about 15 months to construct, including upgrades.

“Of course it’s not fair as (KLIA2) would have a third runway, etc, but it gives a comparison of contrast in cost from the new airport and the current terminal. The current one was built in budget fashion, the new one is as good as a premium terminal.

“We are not disputing the need to move to a bigger terminal as the LCCT is close to capacity. Nor do we mind shifting the location, but not at such a ballooning cost,” Pua said.

LCCT currently caters to 15.4 million passengers, 400,000 more than its capacity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stop the Impossible Task of regulating the Impossible

From a university dropout, William Henry Gates III turning lines of codes into the Windows Operating System first released back in 1985, to a Harvard social misfit, Mark Zuckerberg creating the world most successful social media site –, the industry is one that is fertilised by impulse and innovation, perpetually morphing and forever intruding into every aspect of our lives.

The industry is so pervasive that hardly any product escapes its reach. Computer programming is required today to build your car, produce movies and animations, set up manufacturing plants and to develop an efficient order management system to deliver pizzas. IT is the industry of making what was "impossible", possible.

The draft Computer Professionals Bill 2011 however, is an ill-conceived impossible attempt by the Government to regulate the “impossible”. The proposed bill fails because the limits and scope of the law cannot be strictly defined as the industry changes by the minute.

“Computing services” for example, will include today, website designers, setting up blogs or anyone producing an animated Flash-game for your Facebook. In fact, with seamless integration of a simple word processor, such as Microsoft Word with the Internet, a desk clerk now effectively becomes a provider of “computing services”.

The definition of “critical national information infrastructure” will be equally impossible define as it would and could encompass any industry from the government sector to financial services to the telecommunication communications or even the airline or transportation industry. Surely a failure in any of these industries would have a “devastating impact on national economic strength”.

Putting the two indefinable terms together will result in absurd outcomes. An advertising agency offering web design services for a bank will have to become a “Registered Computing Services Provider”, or a technician providing maintenance services of computer hardware in a government office would have to be registered as a “Registered Computing Professional” or a “Registered Computing Practitioner”, whichever applicable.

What is unimaginable would be for Microsoft to have all its computer programmers in the United States registered with the Board of Computing Professionals in Malaysia, before the company could sell its software to entities providing “critical national information infrastructure” in the country! If Microsoft or Hewlett Packard or any other product developer or manufacturer involving “computer services” from overseas could be exempted from being “registered”, then why should Malaysians be penalised for being unregistered?

The Bill and the bureaucracy to be created with its implementation will become an utter waste or resources for both the Government and the industry. Registration of practitioners or professionals does not guarantee quality and will not lift industry standards. If other countries from the United States to South Korea, from to Singapore to Germany and from India to South Africa do not require such a Bill to design, develop and produce top quality computing and related products, what makes the Government think that such a Bill will miraculously make Malaysia a top computing nation?

In fact, the implementation of such a Bill will only lead to an exodus of talent in Malaysia because they will find the environment substantially more conducive in other countries to pursue their computing dreams.

Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and hundreds of others did not succeed because they registered with a “Board of Computing Professionals” in the United States or elsewhere in the world. On the contrary, their success is based precisely on an environment which encouraged unrestrained creativity, breeding innovation without the leash.

The Malaysian Government will do well to admit the mistake that is the Computing Professionals Bill, and withdraw the thought of ever tabling the bill in the Parliament.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Computing Professionals Bill 2011: An Orwellian "Big Brother"

The draft Computing Professionals Bill 2011 (CPB2011) which is currently being circulated for "consultation" is an attempt by MOSTI to regulate all "computing services" provided to entities or persons related to the "critical national information infrastructure" (CNII).

"Computing services" is defined as any services provided to "plan, architect, design, create, develop, implement, use and manage information technology systems". Based on this definition, the scope of such services would cover anything from designing websites to the setting up of computer servers to the design and development of any computer products - whether software or hardware. In fact, one would easily classify the setting up of blogs and news portals, or even use of Facebook and Twitter accounts as being covered under "computing services".

"CNII" on the other hand, is defined as "those assets, systems and functions that are vital to the nation that their incapacity or destruction would have a devastating impact on National economic strength or National image or National defense and security or Government capability to function or Public health and safety".

CNII could hence cover any entity in the Government, financial institutions and government linked companies. What is absolutely frightening is the definition would also cover all the way to any website, portal or information technology application which could have a detrimental impact on the "National image" or deemed to hurt the "Government's capability to function".

Any ambiguity in the law shall be determined by the 15 imember "Board of Computing Professionals" appointed at the sole discretion of the Minister, and subjected only to the Minister's approval.

Contrary to the clarification statement made by MOSTI, which claimed that the bill does not restrict the practise of "computing services" and is only limited to CNII, the bill has pervasive and damaging consequences not only on the information technology industry, but also infringes on key Goverment commitments under the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

The Bill of Guarantees have promised "unrestricted employment of knowledge workers" and "no censorship of the Internet". However the CPB 2011 will clearly restrict the hiring of knowledge workers by necessitating registration. Similarly, the CPB 2011 as it is currently defined could be used to register, regulate and restrict the activities of individuals or corporations to publish news reports or those who use Facebook, Twitter or other similar applications with the excuse of protecting the "National image".

It is clear that the flimsily drafted CPB has the Orwellian "big brother" fingerprints all over it.

The information technology and computing industry has been operating without controversy, issues or impediment for the past decades. There is absolutely no bureaucratic requirement to restrict and control the industry, which will only bring adverse outcomes without any corresponding tangible benefit.

I will personally attend the CPB 2011 Open Day organised by MOSTI tomorrow to hear the Ministry's clarifications on the bill, and to submit the relevant points of objection.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zahid Hamidi and Papagomo: What's the Link?

The presence of blogger Papagomo on board KD Tun Razak Scorpene submarine proved that Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi is an incorrigible liar, for he had promised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that Papagomo will not be on board the submarine.

Zahid had even told reporters that no bloggers were on board claiming that "If we allowed any blogger to go, others would ask, too".

However Papagomo's blogpost with pictures has proven beyond doubt that Zahid is not only untrustworthy, Papagomo is the numero uno Umno blogger, hatchetman and special advisor to the Defence Minister, or the latter would not have been allowed on board the high security submarine.

The Defence Minister hasn't only lied to Lim Guan Eng about Papagomo's presence, he had earlier promise the Penang Chief Minister that he would accompany the latter for the ride, but reneged on the promise last minute.

Zahid had also earlier this year made unbelievable and scurrilous allegations againts me when he alleged that I was previously arrested and charged in Singapore which disqualified me from becoming a Member of Parliament in the city state. He had further claimed that it was due to my connections with the Singapore authorities that I was released and returned to Malaysia to become an elected representative here.

Such fantastic stories can only originate from an Umno blogger extraordinaire, who had also started the despicable and fictitious allegations that Lim Guan Eng's son was forced to transfer school due to sexual assault and Lim Guan Eng had paid money to cover up the case. It was later proven beyond doubt that Papagomo and his cohorts had made up the allegations when the alleged victim was a foreigner never to have stepped onto the shores of Penang.

The fact that Papagomo possesses such exclusive privilege with the Defence Minister who is also the most senior Umno Vice-President confirms his position as the latter's inner-circle confidante.

Papagomo 's privilege is a clear cut case of abuse of power and the Defence Minister must answer to all Malaysians for his lies and his intimate association with one of the most despicable of Umno bloggers.

Zahid has singled me out for criticism for not having gone on the submarine sojourn. I was overseas for the past week and was unable to make the trip to Langkawi. However, as pointed out by Lim Guan Eng, going on the dive will only prove the dedication and professionalism of the Malaysian Navy, which was never in doubt. It will give people like Papagomo the bragging rights but does not at all answer our questions over the seemingly exhorbitant billions of ringgit paid, as well as the hundreds of millions of "commissions" made to interested parties.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Najib Hypocritical Over Civil Service

The Prime Minister has the cheek to inflame racial sentiments among the Malays by accusing the opposition of wanting to trim the civil service when it is the BN Government who will chop 29,000 civil servants starting next year

The Prime Minister had in his speech a Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Pekida) gathering 3 days ago accused and berated the opposition of wanting to “halve the civil service” which is majority Malay.

Firstly, there was never any proposal from Pakatan Rakyat to “halve the civil service”. I had suggested in reply to questions from an audience in a forum that we could consider early optional retirement and the removal of those who had breached discipline and regulations, such as those who purchased RM1,940 binoculars for RM56,350. I had even emphasized that drastic measures are out of the question because we would need the cooperation of the civil service to govern effectively should Pakatan Rakyat take power in the next general elections.

But secondly and more importantly, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has proven himself to be a hypocrite of the highest degree when two days after his speech, the Public Service Department (JPA) under the Prime Minister’s office announced 29,000 redundancies in the civil service.

Under the new civil service scheme “Saraan Baru Perkhidmatan Awam (SBPA)”, not only did the Barisan Nasional government made redundant thousands of civil servants, JPA also announced that those who were assessed with 70 marks or less for their performance will be given warnings. And if their performance does not improve in 6 months, then they will be removed from the service automatically via an “exit policy”.

The Director-General of JPA, Tan Sri Abu Bakar Abdullah had also emphasized during the announcement that the new exit policy will affect all 1.4 million civil servants in the country.

The above civil service downsizing attempts by the BN administration is consistent with Najib’s Government Transformation Programme (GTP) which said “the Government will move towards a new model of smaller government” (page 240). Similarly, Najib’s cornerstone New Economic Model (NEM) Part II had called for a “reduced government role” which will involve “downsizing and re-focussing” (page 55).

Hence the above proved that the Prime Minister and his fellow UMNO leaders were just mere political opportunists in portraying Pakatan Rakyat as anti-civil service by inflaming racial sentiments using racist arguments.

It is UMNO who is culling the civil service today and yet they had the cheek to claim that Pakatan Rakyat and myself are racists. Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has taken an extreme racial position in this matter, and together with other aspects of his speech which pits Malays against non-Malays, he is fighting to retain power at all costs, even if it means spreading vicious lies and even signing the death warrant for his 1Malaysia policy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Call for Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence

The Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi yesterday dismissed the need for a bi-partisan parliamentary oversight committee over defence expenditure, claiming that he “is confident in the ability and transparency of the evaluation committee of the three branches of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM)”.

Such contemptuous arrogance towards parliamentary oversight over defence expenditure which amounts to tens of billions of ringgit annually has proven Transparency International (TI) right by scoring Malaysia at only 4.5 points out of a maximum of 12, or only 37.5%, well below the failure mark. This was the score given in the inaugural “Transparency of Defence Budgets Report” launched on 19 November 2011.

Director of the International Defence and Security Program for TI in United Kingdom, Mark Pyman, who launched the report in Subang Jaya said “Malaysia ranked far below other countries (for this), where the budget lacked details and no audits were undertaken of the secret programmes.”

Malaysia is ranked alongside Afghanistan, Rwanda, Georgia and Azerbaijan in the report, well below other countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The results of the research indicate that approximately 14 per cent of the countries under review in this study scored high and these are primarily developed countries with strong democratic systems in place.

The Minister’s disdain towards transparency and accountability is best epitomised in his reply to the question which I had posed in the recently concluded parliamentary sitting. I had asked for the Minister to explain the gap between the RM7.55 billion paid for 257 armoured personnel carriers to Deftech Sdn Bhd, and what latter will be paying to FNSS Defences Systems, a Turkish defence manufacturer – RM1.7 billion for the same items. Deftech is a subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd based in Pekan, a company controlled by Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Syed Bokhari.

The Minister had acknowledged the above transactions, but had the gall to claim “no knowledge” of the details of the Deftech-FNSS transactions and hence was not able to explain what makes the difference in the 2 contracts. The Minister was also not forthcoming in explaining other sizeable transactions such as the RM6 billion purchase of 6 Second Generation Patrol Vessels as well as the RM2.3 billion acquisition of 12 Eurocopter EC725 helicopters.

The answer most often given by the Minister and defence officials to justify the much higher pricing had been that the military equipment were “customised to our specific needs”. Mark Pyman had stated that it is in the best interests of the government that customisation is kept at a bare minimum as it disproportionately drives costs up. He said that “it doubles the base price before you can say good morning. It’s not value for money, difficult and dangerous”.

However the best justification for a Parliamentary Oversight committee is the annual litany of scandals and transgressions reported in the Auditor-General Report on the Defence Ministry.

We call upon the Government to honour the Prime Minister’s Government Transformation Plan (GTP) which pledged for transparency and accountability by setting up the Parliament Select Committee on Defence, modelled after the United States House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations which looks after defence policies as well as the US Defense Budget Appropriation Committees which review and approve detailed defence expenditure.

Otherwise, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s contemptuous attitude towards transparency and accountability marks the lack of honesty and sincerity by the Prime Minister to honour his GTP pledges.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Health Minister Confirms E.Coli in 1Malaysia Fresh Milk

The developments over the past few days, including the dialogue between the Health Ministry with the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar and myself have proven that there are serious concerns over the food safety of 1Malaysia products.

The Health Minister, Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai has finally confirmed the presence of e.coli bacteria in the 1Malaysia fresh milk yesterday. However, he had attempted to downplay the incident by claiming that most of the other 13 products were withdrawn over “labelling” issues and not over food safety concerns. The list of products included all the products which we have raised which had quality issues or failed to comply with Food Regulations 1985 – fresh milk, ice-cream, evaporated milk, sweetened creamer, ghee, fruit jam, oyster sauce, tinned sardines and curry chicken.

He was quoted in The Star as saying “the products were removed due to non-compliance with food regulations such as incomplete labelling, he said, stressing that it was not due to food safety matters.” In fact, most shockingly The Star had made absolutely no mention of the e.coli find.

Various strains of the E.coli or Escherichia coli bacteria produce potentially lethal toxins which causes common food-related illness such as diarrhoea, and at its worst, even deaths have been recorded.

Instead of giving a severe warning or even taking punitive action against the supplier of the harmful food products – where under the Food Act 1983 the supplier is subjected to a “fine not exceeding RM100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years”, the Minister chose to go on a rant against me for exposing the 1Malaysia food products scandal.

The Minister must realise that it is his responsibility to enforce the food safety and quality standards of products sold in our stores and not the role of the opposition members of parliament. The fact that the stores were selling all of the above products over the past 6 months proved that the Minister had failed in his role, most likely because these products were sold under the “1Malaysia” brand which was heavily promoted by the Prime Minister and the Government.

Had it not been due to the exposé by the Pakatan Rakyat MPs and the subsequent public pressure, no action would have been taken. Hence Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai must not try to downplay the incident or deflect responsibility by trying to put the blame on us instead.

On the other hand, we would call upon the Minister to make the public announcement to be printed in ALL mainstream newspapers for all consumers who have purchased the products to return the items to Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia stores for a full refund. That is the very least the Minister could do for the ordinary Malaysians, if he has decided not to take further action against the supplier(s) of the offending products.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Low Cost KLIA2 Turned High Cost

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAB) had confirmed fears that the cost of KLIA2 has effectively doubled from less than RM2 billion to a massive RM3.9 billion and will only be completed at the earliest in April 2012, a delay of more than 8 months.

MAHB admitted increases in scope in practically all elements of the airport were increased significantly causing the cost of building the airport to balloon. The KLIA2 airport terminal for example, for increased from the original 2 storeys to the new 9 storey’s building, costing an additional RM420 million. At the same time, the footprint of the airport increased by 130.7% which caused a whopping RM670 million extra. In addition, there was an increase of RM530 million just for the construction of buildings of government agencies.

The biggest question must be, were all these major expansion of scope justified? Underlying MAHB Managing Director, Tan Sri Bahsir Ahmad Abdul Majid’s basis for the cost increase was for the new airport terminal to cater to 45 million passengers, as opposed to the original 30 million. Hence the increase in cost for the airport is just a case of “bring forward the capex”.

The Ministry of Transport must justify the approval for such a massive increase in capacity which involved MAHB raising RM2.5 billion in debt in 2010 when the current passenger traffic at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) is only 15.4 million. What’s more, even the current main KLIA terminal which has a capacity for 25 million passengers received 18.7 million passengers or 74.8% of the capacity. As a gauge, the Dubai airport, which is one of the busiest hub in the world today, served 47 million passengers while Changi Airport served 42 million in 2010.

Essentially, what MAHB is building is a terminal 80% larger than the current main terminal! In addition, the provision for super-scale A380 operations, walkalators, fully automated baggage handing system, substantially larger commercial space including a public shopping mall, provision for 4 hotels excluding an Airside Transit Hotel and a premium lounge gives the impression that KLIA2 is a “replacement” for the KLIA Main Terminal today, instead of being a new Low-cost carrier terminal!

The Ministry of Transport and MAHB appears to have gotten the concept of a “low-cost” terminal completely wrong and have obviously not been able to adapt and cater to the new business model despite demands from the low-cost carriers. Their penchant to spend big money for grandeur has resulted in Malaysia missing a true and rare opportunity to bring about a game-changing transformation for the Malaysian aviation sector.

What is more, shareholders of MAHB, including Khazanah and the Government must question MAHB’s reckless expenditure – for if the passenger tax will not be increased as a result of the massive expansion of cost as asserted by Tan Sri Ahmad Bashir, then effectively, the returns to MAHB would have reduced by nearly half as a result of the doubling of costs. One could also argue that had MAHB not overspent on KLIA2, then there would have been no need for the recent 28% increase in airport taxes from RM25 to RM32 at LCCT and RM41 to RM65 at the main airport terminal, which resulted in lower competitiveness for Malaysia.

What is more important for MAHB is to improve the efficiency, service and other intangible qualities of our airport in the region instead of being obsessed with everything “big”. It is unfortunately that Malaysia today serves fewer passengers today than most of our regional competitors – Indonesia (44 million), Singapore (42 million), Bangkok (43 million) and Hong Kong (50 million) – compared to KLIA’s (Main Terminal and LCCT combined) 34 million.

The Ministry of Transport must give an assurance that there will be no further cost increases and no further delays in the construction and operations of KLIA2 which will further jeopardise our leadership in the increasingly competitive low-cost carrier industry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Did the Cost of KLIA2 Double?

It was reported on the front page of The Edge Financial Daily yesterday that the cost of KLIA2, or the new low-cost terminal has ballooned to more than RM4 billion or more than double its original budget.

The severe cost overrun is shocking and shows that the Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha has failed in his responsibilities to keep the cost of its projects. MCA Ministers of Transport has a history of failing miserably in managing project costs which has resulted in the rakyat having to bear the burden of billions of ringgit in cost overruns such as the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone, the RM5.8 billion Ipoh-Rawang double-tracking railway and the purchase of substandard train systems for KTM Bhd at inflated prices.

Now it appears that the KLIA2 project will be added to the list of MCA Transport Minister’s incompetence. The consequences of such extravagance will be enormous as the higher cost will either be translated into higher airport taxes and charges – hurting both domestic consumers and international passengers, and ultimately our tourism industry. Or if the charges are kept at currently levels, then the cost burden will be shifted to the Government which has to unnecessarily subsidise the airport via soft loans, grants or drastically reduced financial returns from the project owner, Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAB).

It is worthwhile to note that in early 2009, Sime Darby, in partnership with AirAsia had proposed to build a new KLIA low-cost airport in Labu at the cost of only RM1.6 billion without costing the Government a single sen. However, the plan was scrapped by the Government, partly because MAB had promised to build a new terminal at KLIA at the cost of less than RM2 billion by June 2011.

Therefore the Minister of Transport must provide full clarification and justification as to why he has failed to manage and control the cost of the new airport. He must also explain why the project has been delayed to April 2012 as announced by the MAB Managing Director, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad in August this year, and whether there will be any further costly delays to the project.

If Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha does not respond to parliament in a transparent and accountable manner, I will be formally requesting the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor-General’s office to investigate the project to find out the real reasons for the massive RM4 billion KLIA2 scandal.

1MDB Got Sg Besi Land for a Steal

Did the Government subsidise 1MDB by more than RM3 billion by “selling” the 495 acres of prime land in Sg Besi to 1MDB for only RM1.6 billion?

We would like to call upon the Government to confirm that the 495 acres of land in Sg Besi, or the existing RMAF Sungai Besi airfield has been sold in June this year to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) for RM1.6 billion or only RM74.20 per square feet.

If true, then this prime land is sold without any tender to 1MDB at a ridiculously low price at the expense of the Government tax payers.

Recently, the Penang state government has conducted an open tender for 101 acres of land, of which 65% of the area still needs to be reclaimed. The winner of the bid offered RM1.07 billion or RM240 per sq ft.

There can be no doubt that the land in Sg Besi surrounded by developed infrastructure will be worth well in excess of the market price of land in Penang, given its unbeatable location in Kuala Lumpur. At RM240 per sq ft, the Sg Besi land should already be worth a whopping RM5.2 billion. Despite its high potential valuation, the Government has chosen to transfer the land to 1MDB for only RM1.6 billion or RM3.6 billion less.

It would not be a far from the truth to say that the land could be worth a lot more given its development potential compared to other pieces of land in Kuala Lumpur which are valued at in excess of RM500 per sq ft.

The sale of land to 1MDB at such subsidised and preferential prices will only lead to the loss of revenue to the government for additional investments and programmes for the people. In addition, any profits generated by 1MDB as a result of development on Sg Besi will be inflated as it was handed the land at bargain basement prices.

The Prime Minister has clearly failed to meet his own promise of “open tenders” and maximising income from undeveloped land. Just before he took over the premiership, he was reported in The Star (5 Nov 2008) to have said:

Open tenders to ensure transparency and value for money as well as to generate more income will be the way forward for the Government. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government would ensure that a large portion of government procurement would be via open and restricted tenders... Najib said that the Government planned to maximise income on all its existing assets, including on parcels of land that have not been developed, via open tender.

On the contrary, it is the Pakatan Rakyat Penang state government which has walked the talk by practising its policy of “Competency, Accountability and Transparency” by implementing open tenders which have maximised revenue for the state government on its assets. This in turns allow the state to implement additional development and welfare programmes to help the man on the street.

We call upon the Government to disclose in full the terms of the agreement on all land sale to 1MDB and explain why 1MDB has been given such unfair preferential treatment, which will in turn only crowd out investments from the private sector.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ismail Sabri and KR1M Victimises the Poor

Pakatan Rakyat MPs are the real heroes fighting for the interest of Malays and poor Malaysians by exposing the substandard and illegal products being peddled by BN Ministers as “cheap” and “quality” products comparable to branded goods

Pakatan Rakyat members of parliament have over the past 2 weeks exposed the fact that many of the goods sold in Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) were not only substandard, illegal and unhealthy, many of these products were also not cheaper than products sold in existing hypermarkets.

We were criticised by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister, Dato’ Ismail Sabri as being unfair by not comparing “apple to apple”, that is we should not be comparing 1Malaysia products with house-branded products from Tesco, Giant or Carrefour.

However, we have proven that the comparison was indeed not “apple to apple” for products such as the “oyster sauce” because the sauce from Tesco contained real oyster extracts, the 1Malaysia product had only flavouring and no oysters.

At the same time, the comparison of 1Malaysia milk powder with that of Nestlé’s Nespray 1+ demonstrated not only a far inferior product but also the fact that the latter was 24% cheaper than the former. The 1Malaysia milk powder was short of at least 15 legally required vitamins and minerals, deficient in calcium and iron and provided a 802% overdose of Vitamin A, putting at real risk our very young children.

Instead of facing up to the problems, Dato’ Ismail Sabri has chosen to go on an inflammatory rant calling Pakatan Rakyat MPs, DAP and myself racists for allegedly being anti-Malay in our exposés.

Dato’ Ismail Sabri said on his Facebook ( and Twitter on Tuesday 15th November 2011 that

“tony phua DAP ni masih tk habis2 menfitnah KRIM. kini dgn tuduhan tdk berkualiti. semlm isu ini tlh dijwb oleh Mydin & pembekal IKS. jelas agenda DAP yg ingin menguburkan KRIM yg rata2 supplier nya terdiri dari IKS bumiputra. Rata2 pembeli nya terdiri dari gol berpendapatan rendah bumiputra. Mydin pun bumiputra. malangnya ada bumiputra spt nurul izah & zulkifli 'menyalak' bagi pihak DAP..”

The racist accusations made by the Minister is not only completely baseless, it is the complete opposite of what the Pakatan Rakyat MPs are trying to achieve. By exposing the list of poor quality and illegal products which do not meet the minimum legal standards set out in the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985, it is Pakatan Rakyat that is truly fighting for the interest of the mostly Malay consumers at KR1M as well as other poor Malaysians.

If not for our exposés, many Malays and other poor Malaysians will still be consuming poor quality oyster sauce, evaporated millk, ice-cream, sardines and fruit jam sold at KR1M. What is worse, if not for Pakatan Rakyat highlighting the shocking deficiencies of the 1Malaysia children’s milk powder which resulted in the product’s withdrawal yesterday, a whole generation of Malay and poor Malaysian children might end up suffering from malnutrition, disease and poor physical development.

It is the BN Ministers like Dato’ Ismail Sabri who are more than willing to sacrifice the interest of ordinary Malays and Malaysians by giving unsubstantiated “guarantees” on the quality of KR1M products and pander to the monetary and vested interest of certain businessmen.

The fact that Dato’ Ismail Sabri’s ministry is going to subsidize the KR1M stores to the tune of RM40 million in 2012 to sell some of these products to ordinary Malaysians without first ensuring strict quality control over the products shows that BN Ministers are only keep to score political goals with KR1M. They are not at all interested in the welfare of Malaysians, especially the Malays, who will suffer the most.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1Malaysia Growing Up Milk: Legal or Safe?


A. Completely missing key nutrients from 1Malaysia Growing Up Milk Powder per Food Regulations 1985 based on "follow-up formula" for infants 6 months and above to 3 years old:

  1. Essential fatty acids – e.g., Omega 3, Omega 6 etc.
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Vitamin C
  4. Vitamin B1
  5. Vitamin B2
  6. Nicotinamide
  7. Vitamin B6
  8. Folic Acid
  9. Pantothenic Acid
  10. Vitamin B12
  11. Vitamin K1
  12. Vitamin H
  13. Vitamin E
  14. Iodine
  15. Zinc

B. Grossly inadequate quantity of certain key nutrients

  1. Calcium – only 4.1mg per 100kcal or 4.5% of regulatory minimum requirement
  2. Iron – only 0.1mg per 100kcal or 7.4% of regulatory minimum requirement

C. Grossly excessive quantity of Vitamin A

  1. Vitamin A – 6012 I.U. per 100kcal or 802% above maximum regulatory limit (750 I.U.)
  2. May contribute to Hypervitaminosis A. Effects may include liver problems, reduced bone mineral density, coarse bone growths, skin discoloration, hair loss

D. KR1M is more expensive than Nespray 1+

Although there are differences in packing sizes (small packs are usually relatively more expensive) but a per gram calculation of a 300g pack of KR1M milk powder versus a 1kg pack of Nespray 1+ showed a remarkable price difference of 23.8%, that is, Nespray 1+ is cheaper.

E. Contradictory ingredients between English and Bahasa Malaysia Version

On the ingredients labelling, the Bahasa Malaysia version says “pepejal susu rendah lemak” but the English version says “instant wholemilk powder”. So is it “susu rendah” or “wholemilk”?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

KR1M Product Quality Issues

Click for a larger image (or open image in new window) to read

Food Act 1983 Offences

Offence: Clause 13 - Food containing substances injurious to health
Penalty: Fine not exceeding RM100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years

Offence: Clause 13B(2)(e) - “Adulterated food” – non-compliance with the standard or specification prescribed by any regulations made under this Act.
Penalty: Fine not exceeding RM20,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years

Offence: Clause 14 - Prohibition against sale of food not of the nature, substance or quality demanded.
Penalty: Unspecified fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years

Offence: Clause 15 - Labelling etc., not complying with standard of food
Penalty: Unspecified fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years

Offence: Clause 16 - False labelling
Penalty: Unspecified fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years

Thursday, November 10, 2011

KR1M v Carrefour: A Comparison

Below is a sample basket comparison between products from Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) and Carrefour. So who's "cheaper"? Can you see the supposed 30% to 50% savings from RM40 million subsidized KR1M?  You be the judge:

Click image for a larger view.

Read also write up on the above here.

Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia - Not Cheap At All

Barisan Nasional leaders should stop propagating misleading claims and making false advertisements promoting how cheap Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) products are when they are not.
"Items at Kedai Rakyat are markedly cheaper than those in supermarkets and hypermarkets and helps families cut down on their expenses without losing out on quality." The first Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia was opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in June offering goods at 30 to 50 per cent lower than the market prices of similar products. (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, New Straits Times 27/8/2011)

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched the first of many 1Malaysia shops in the country, designed to help bring down the prices of goods and ease the burden of the common man… Najib said the shop retailed 250 grocery items under the brand name “Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia” at prices 30% to 40% lower than market prices… He said it would also allow the Government to get basic necessities at the cheapest prices from Mydin whenever there were disasters like flood. (The Star 23 June 2011)

Semua kedai koperasi sekolah dan kedai runcit koperasi disaran menjual produk 'Coop 1Malaysia' (Coop 1M) bagi membantu kerajaan mengekang masalah kenaikan harga barang. Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob berkata, melalui langkah itu, warga sekolah dan ibu bapa mempunyai satu lagi alternatif untuk mendapatkan barangan keperluan dengan harga berpatutan. (Utusan Malaysia 3 November 2011)
Sample product advertisements on KR1M website:

A shopping trip to a local hypermarket such as Carrefour buying products ranging from condensed creamer to canned sardines to dishwashing liquid will immediately show that the truth is far from the outrageous claims made by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister and the Prime Minister.

While some products are indeed cheaper in the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), the price differential is far less than the claims of 30% to 50% for most products. For example, KR1M claim to sell a 425gm can of sardines for RM2.99 “saving” the consumer a whopping 51%. However, a check in Carrefour showed that a 425gm of sardines (Double Swallow brand) sells for RM2.49 or 20% cheaper than in KR1M!

For a 1 litre bottle of 1Malaysia bleach, KR1M will charge you RM1.90, claiming huge savings of 36%. However, one can easily purchase 1 litre of Carrefour or Tesco branded bleach for only RM1.29 or a massive 47% cheaper than in KR1M!

Even when the 1Malaysia products are indeed cheaper, they are nowhere the claimed “savings”. For example, for a 400gm packet of frozen minced beef, it would cost RM4.89 in KR1M. In Carrefour, the Ramly branded packet will cost RM5.29 or only 8% more, instead of the claimed 18% “savings”.

Based on a basket of 23 common daily household goods and food items compiled per the attachment, it showed that if the same items are bought in Carrefour, a consumer will actually save 8%, paying RM120.53 instead of RM130.49 in KR1M. See full product list here.

The manner which KR1M and the Barisan Nasional cabinet ministers have been going to town telling the rakyat how ridiculously cheap the products sold in KR1M is completely irresponsible and misleading. In fact, the Ministers and KR1M should be investigated for breaching the Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice (MCAP). For example, the code says that

“Advertisements should not contain any statements or visual presentation which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, or exaggerated claim, is likely to mislead the consumer about the product advertised, the advertiser, or about any other product or advertiser, in particular with regard to… value or total price actually to be paid.”
In fact it is the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry which is responsible for regulating the industry and ensuring that consumers are not cheated by misleading claims under the Consumer Protection Act 1999. However, when the Ministry itself is guilty of such offences as a result of the Barisan Nasional government’s vested interest in KR1M, then it becomes a gross breach of its responsibility to the rakyat.

We call upon the Ministers and KR1M to stop misleading the rakyat with false advertising and make claims which can only be substantiated with comparisons with products of equivalent quality.

We are very happy if the Government can promote quality products which are cheaper to the rakyat but such promotions should apply to any company capable of delivering cheaper prices and not completely biased support towards 1 company who may or may not offer cheaper prices.

In fact we note with trepidation that the Government is taking the opportunity to force various government-related agencies to take and offer KR1M products – such as the announcement on Coop 1Malaysia in schools and the setup of Kedai Rakyat Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (MAIWP). We fear that the measures will end up only profiting certain business entities instead of offering real quality products at the cheapest possible prices to the man on the street.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

UMNO Hypocrites Over Civil Service

The racist reactions by Umno politicians to proposals to improve the efficiency of our civil service and government expenditure prove that the Party prioritises only its bigoted political interests and marginalises the needs of the nation

I am almost amused by the “shock and fury” expressed by Umno politicians, the far-right Perkasa and Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia on a straightforward comment which I had made in a forum in Johor Bahru on 30th October 2011, in response to a question posed by a member of the audience.

I had presented at the Budget 2012 forum the rising Government operating expenditure and the fact that the largest and fastest rising component of the expenditure is the allocation for “Emoluments, Pensions and Gratuities”. I had shown the chart below which clearly highlights the rise of the Government’s total wage bill:

 The chart shows that our total civil service wage bill has increased from RM20.9 billion in 10 years ago in 2001 to RM30.2 billion 5 years ago in 2006 to a massive RM64.1 billion expected next year in 2012.

The member of the audience had asked, what could be done to resolve the issue. I said that this matter will be one which is highly sensitive and a very difficult issue to deal with. I had specifically emphasized that the civil service cannot be reduced overnight and any rationalisation of the civil service has to be conducted over the long term. I had offered certain suggestions such as the termination of civil servants who have failed to perform their responsibilities as well as offering optional early retirement programmes for those who are interested.

However, the reaction from the UMNO chauvinists clearly showed that they are not interested in solving the problem but are more interested in inflaming racial sentiments and making irresponsible wild allegations with the sole purpose of creating racial hatred.

It was perhaps most disappointing to hear the widely respected and normally rational, MP for Johor Bahru, Datuk Shahrir Samad stooping so low as to turn a healthy discussion on the size of the civil service into a racial issue. He has said that “Motif mereka hanyalah mahu menaikkan sentiment rasis dan bukannya berasaskan ekonomi.”

The reaction by the Johor Bahru MP, other Umno politicians and Perkasa is completely hypocritical for it was the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself who has proposed a new civil service scheme for the government workforce.

In his Budget 2012 speech, the Prime Minister himself had proposed that “a flexible remuneration system will be introduced to retain or terminate civil servants based on performance. Civil servants must accept this challenge and be prepared to change. Hence, the Government will introduce the New Civil Service Remuneration Scheme or SBPA [will] introduce an exit policy for underperforming civil servants and for those who opt to leave the service”.

Why is it that these very critics and race-champions have not raised a single note of objection to the Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s proposal but when the same issue is raised by an opposition politician, then all hell breaks loose.

In fact, even the Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Sidek Hassan has said the same when questioned by reports the day after the Budget speech where “…he insisted that the “exit policy” announced in Budget 2012 would be strictly enforced.”

“If you want to go out, we will allow you to go out. When we think that it is better off for you for a civil servant to be outside the public service, then we will allow them to go out. When they misbehave, and we think they should go out, we’ll ask them to go out,” he said.

Therefore Datuk Shahrir and all other shameless critics should focus on the task at hand as put forth by the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary themselves and stop playing racial politics with the sole purpose of inciting racial hatred among Malaysians for the purposes of shoring up declining support for an UMNO that is bankrupt of ideas.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

UUCA Appeal Defies "Political Transformation Programme"

The decision by the Cabinet to allow the appeal of the Court of Appeal judgement that Section 15.(5)(a) of the University and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) is unconstitutional flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s “political transformation programme”

After a series of calls for the Government to not appeal the Court of Appeal judgement that Section 15.(5)(a) of the UUCA is made by top politicians from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, hopes were high that the Cabinet will abide by and accept the Court’s decision.

The UMNO Youth Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin, Deputy Higher Education Minister, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah and MCA Youth Chief, Datuk Wee Ka Siong have made a show of openly supported the Court’s position that the relevant section of the UUCA is unconstitutional and the UUCA should be amended accordingly.

In the “spirit” of the political transformation programme launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the eve of Malaysia Day where he announced the proposed repeal and amendment of various draconian Acts such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Printing Press and Publications Act (PPPA), Malaysians were expecting an enlightened decision by the Cabinet to finally remove the shackles of academic freedom at our institutions of higher learning.

However, the BN government has instead chosen to abdicate its responsibility to the Attorney General, purportedly to make a study of the “points of law”. The excuse could not be more lame as regardless of the Court decision, the Cabinet could have taken opportunity to announce a proposed amendment of the UUCA, particularly the controversial Section 15.

In fact, the Cabinet should have taken the bold decision not only to amend Section 15.(5)(a), but the entire Section 15 of the Act which severely restricts the freedom of academics and students in our local universities.

Section 15.(1) states that students of the University, even if they are of voting age or PhD students, cannot be members of any political party, or any other organisation as determined by the Minister of Higher Education.

Section 15.(2) states that no University students’ body shall have any association with any political party, or any organisation as determined by the Minister of Higher Education.

Section 15.(6)(a) states that students and academics will only have the “freedom” to make statements on their areas of study and research while 15.(6)(b) prohibits their participation in any seminar, symposium or event organised by any political party, even if it is within their area of expertise.

The above sections of the Act are obviously unreasonable and unconstitutional on so many grounds – such as the Article 8 which states that “all persons are equal before the law” forbidding discrimination against students and academics; and Article 10 which guarantees the “freedom of speech and expression” as well as “the right to form associations”.

I have filed the proposed amendments to the above Sections of the Act during the sub-committee debate on the UUCA Amendment Bill in December 2008 arguing on its unconstitutionality. However, the motion was defeated unanimously by the BN members of Parliament.

We call upon the Cabinet not to make the same mistake twice, at the expense of not only the Prime Minister’s “political transformation programme”, but also the reputation and credibility of our institutions of higher learning. Without academic freedom, our universities will never be able to achieve our goals of becoming “world-class” institutions. Regardless of the final decision by the Attorney-General, Datuk Seri Najib Razak must retake the initiative and commence the process of removing all unconstitutional and unreasonable elements from the UUCA.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Forum: Malaysia's Economy - Where To?

Date: 7 November 2011 (Monday)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Hotel Sri Petaling,30 Jalan Radin Anum, Bandar Baru Sri Petaling (Google Map)

  • Teh Chi-Chang, Executive Director of REFSA on "The 2012 Malaysian Budget and its Shadow"
  • Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara on “Economic Transformation: For Better or Worse?


  • Teresa Kok, Senior Exco Member of the Selangor State Government and Member of Parliament for Seputeh

Organised by Teresa Kok’s office

For any enquiries, please contact 03-7983 6768, 012-2929839

Friday, November 04, 2011

Another Bailout for Puncak Niaga

The Government of Malaysia has continued to place the interest of UMNO cronies above that of ordinary Malaysians as it continues to bail out privatized water companies by taking over their debts and granting them additional loans.

Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd has announced on 1st November 2011 that the Government, via the wholly owned subsidiary of Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) – Acqua SPV Bhd, has agreed to acquire all Redeemable Unsecured Notes (RUNs) with an outstanding value of RM328.12 million. The RUNs are essentially debt instruments issued by Puncak Niaga in 2001.

As part of the bailout exercise, Puncak Niaga gets to defer its annual installment repayment by 5 years to the debtors, now the Government of Malaysia, from the original date of 18 November 2011. There is no other private company in Malaysia, except for known cronies of Barisan Nasional (BN), which can enjoy such preferential treatment.

This is on top of a 20-year RM110 million loan recently granted by the Federal Government to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Bhd (SYABAS) on 17th October. SYABAS is a 70% subsidiary of Puncak Niaga and the loan is meant for a pipe replacement project which is supposed to be within the scope of SYABAS’s concession agreement. In the SYABAS loan agreement, the company is not only given a preferential 3% interest, it is only required to commence repayment of the principal installments in the 3rd year of the loan. On top of that the interest accrued on the loan shall only be payable in 10 equal installments commencing 2022 or 10 years after the loan is granted!

The above loan is on top of the “back-loaded interest free unsecured RM320.8 million loan” granted by the Federal Government to SYABAS less than 2 years ago in December 2009. For this loan, SYABAS is only required to commence repayment with amounts less than RM5 million until 2025, with the overwhelming remainder payable only from 2026 onwards! And as the statement implies, the loan is completely interest-free and requires absolutely no collateral from Syabas.

That’s not all – Acqua SPV Bhd had acquired all bonds issued by the Selangor state water concessionaires for the amount of RM6.5 billion in May this year. According to the Financial Daily, a market source had confirmed that “in terms of price, the buying back is at 94.49 against mark to market value of only 54.54 at the end of last month”. It is bad enough that the Federal Government has decided to bail out the Selangor water concessionaires, but for it to pay a whopping 73.2% higher than the market value of these bonds borders on being outrageous and an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

The persistent need to bailout the privatised water companies in Selangor proved the unmitigating disaster of BN’s privatisation exercise which only served to profit its cronies and impoverish the rakyat. When these companies were profitable, none of their dividends were accrued to the Government, but when they are unable to repay their mountain of debt it is the BN Federal Government who will come to their rescue with tax-payers’ money.

What is worse is the fact that the Selangor State Government had offered both the Federal Government and the water concessionaires a way out with its restructuring proposal where the ownership of the latter returns to the state government in exchange for a resolution of their debt burden. Instead the Federal Government had chosen to back its cronies in the privatised water industry by bailing out these companies without any commitment at all from the latter for a restructuring exercise in the spirit of the Water Services Industry Act 2006.

Now that these companies have been granted reprieve from their debt obligations, there will be no urgency on their part to resolve the restructuring imbroglio. As a result the losers will be the rakyat who will not only suffer from the risk of higher water tariffs in the future from these private water companies, but also having to bear the burden of paying for the very expensive bailout of the very same companies.

The reckless abuse of tax-payers’ funds must stop or the risk of Malaysia’s “bankruptcy” as warned by Datuk Idris Jala as a result of unsustainable debt and deficit will only become a certainty.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Pemandu Should Support "Financial Accountability Commission"

Pemandu must support the set up of a Financial Accountability Commission (FAC) to ensure that the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) is not completely derailed

Among the chief targets of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) launched in December 2009 by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PEMANDU is to fight corruption, particularly in “Government procurement”.

The GTP wrote that “We will reduce leakages of funds allocated for national development and operational expenditure and ensure transparency in the award of contracts. Currently the public perceives that there is a lack of transparency in our procurement processes.”

According to the GTP, “to prevent a repeat of incidences like those reported by the Auditor-General”, the Government will “gradually reduce” the use of “support letters” and require the disclosure of details of government procurement contracts. In addition, the GTP also called for “stiffer punishment” because fo cases which are not prosecuted (and many aren’t), “departmental disciplinary actions taken are usually light e.g., the issuance of warnings.

However, as per the results published by the Auditor-General for 2010, the result of the GTP is scarce and scores of cases of leakages, abuse of power, mismanagement and incompetence were still in place.

The Marine Parks Department for example, took the leading role by purchasing binoculars worth not more than RM1,940 was purchased at RM56,350, more than 28 times the market price. It was of course not the only offending item – the Department purchased RM192,694 worth of products including common items such as laptops, printers, LCD TV, DVD Player when their total value should not exceed RM20,193.

What proved the futility of the GTP was the presence of many repeat offenders who obviously had little regard of the measures put in place by PEMANDU. The Ministry of Education is a persistent offender with a litany of lapses recorded by the Auditor-General on a yearly basis, such as a RM160.7 million project in Sabah to equip 300 schools by 2008. However, as at the end of 2010, only 2 computer laboratories were completed.

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), an agency tasked to uplift the welfare of bumiputeras is again chastised for making high-priced purchases such as an oven worth RM419 for RM1,200, folding beds worth RM100 for RM500 among other things despite having taken the limelight in the previous year for paying RM42,320 for each notebook computer.

The reasons for the failure of the GTP measures were multifold – they were either ineffective such as a voluntary disclosure of procurement contracts or there was little political will by the Government, particularly from the Cabinet to enforce stronger disciplinary measures against the relevant offenders. The result is naturally the continued abuse of finances in Government procurement and project management as proven in the latest Auditor-General’s report.

Therefore, we’d like to call upon PEMANDU to support our call to set up an independent Financial Accountability Commission (FAC) answerable to the Parliament and empower to mete out punitive actions against Government officers found guilty of misconduct, corruption, negligence or sheer incompetence. The FAC should not be staffed with any civil servant to avoid conflicts of interest, but instead by headed by leading professionals in the field of audit and integrity such as the Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) and Transparency International (TI) Malaysia.

Only then, there is hope that “real” actions will be taken against offending officers, lending teeth to the GTP’s fight against corruption in government procurement processes and ensuring substantial deterrence to continued abuse in the management of government finances.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Defence Ministry Yet to Resolve Last Year's Scandals

Site visit with Johor Bahru DAP Members to
Skudai 7th Brigade Army Camp

The Minister of Defence should not be mischievous in asking the Federal Opposition to stop objecting to defence procurement but instead answer for the complete lack of action against irregularities raised by the Auditor-General in its annual reports

Bernama has reported that the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi has stated that the Royal Malaysian Air Force will buy new aviation ground support vehicles (AGSV) next year as the existing fleet was becoming too costly to maintain. He said that “The majority of AGSV are old and need to be replaced. The Auditor-General’s Report clearly shows the critical need for the new assets.”

He urged further for the federal opposition not to question his ministry’s need to spend on new assets during times of peace, saying the Auditor-General’s report should “open their eyes” to reality.

Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi should not be so mischievous as to blame the federal opposition for objecting to defence procurement such as to purchase new equipment to replace items which are no longer usable or safe to use.

We have never protested against the Ministry of Defence from purchasing new equipment or vehicles. What we have protested strongly is the complete lack of transparency in the manner where these items are purchased, which appear to cost substantially higher that the necessary spend.

Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi for example, in his reply to my question in parliament, has refused to clarify what makes the difference between the RM7.55 billion procurement of 257 armoured personnel carriers from Deftech Sdn Bhd and the price which the latter paid to acquire these vehicles from FNSS Defence Systems, a Turkish defense manufacturer for RM1.7 billion. The Minister had claimed ignorance over the RM5.9 billion difference, despite the fact that he witness the signing of the agreement between the 2 companies in Turkey earlier this year.

What is more important is the fact that while Datuk Seri Zahid was quick to state his intent to acquire new AGSVs, he has failed to explain or take action against all various discrepancies and potential abuse cited in the Auditor-General’s report. In the report for 2010 for example, the Auditor-General found that the maintenance contracts for the aged AGSVs did not have the necessary expertise to repair the vehicles and late penalties were not meted out to these contractors when they failed to repair the vehicles within the necessary time frame.

The Auditor-General had also criticised the “improper payments” of allowance to the Territorial Reserve Army personnel who according to the records, did not attend the relevant training. He had even recommended that the relevant officers be punished via “surcharge” as permitted under Section 18(b) of the Akta Tatacara Kewangan 1957.

While the Ministry of Defence may need time to “sort out” the problems highlighted by the Auditor-General in the current report, the Minister has no such excuse for not having dealt with the problems raised in the 2009 report. One of the scandals arising from the previous year’s report is the construction of a new RM256 million Skudai 7th Brigade Army Camp which was awarded in 1997 but has only achieved 18.3% completion.

I’ve personally visited the site (see photos) yesterday and found the construction site to be still in deplorable conditions, with massive soil erosion causing major mud floods in neighbouring residential areas and abandoned “ruins and relics” peppering the site. And yet, despite the massive delay, and recommendations by the Auditor-General to do so, the contract with the developer Kausar Corporation Sdn Bhd has yet to be terminated.

The Grand Canyon of Malaysia (1)

The Grand Canyon of Malaysia (2)

The Ancient Ruins of Skudai (1)

The Ancient Ruins of Skudai (2)

The Ancient Ruins of Skudai (3)

What is worse is the fact that Kausar Corporation has collected their construction fees in full via a land swap deal where the company was already given the ownership of a 153 hectares piece of land. Kausar was able to pledge this piece of land to a bank for the amount of RM465 million showing that the land which could be worth as much as RM800 million is well above the cost of construction of the camp.

It is the Army and the tax payers who have to suffer as the Ministry of Defence has already (over)paid for the construction works in full, and yet after more than 15 years, the Army is still awaiting its “new” camp to be completed. Despite the above, no action to date has been taken against the developer, including terminating the contract, charging late penalties or reclaiming the land which has been awarded to them.

The Minister of Defence, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi must answer for all of these major scandals instead of just putting his priority gleefully to procure new vehicles, and blaming the federal opposition for taking him to task.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let Schools Decide over PPSMI

The DAP wishes to state our position in support of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) in schools where a determined majority of parents have expressed a preference for it. This is especially in urban schools where the level of competency in English is substantially higher than the rural districts.

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang had 2 years ago called upon the Cabinet to endorse "the call of Parents Action Group for Education (Page) that schools should be given the option to teach science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia or English or in one’s mother tongue" and maintain "the use of English as medium of instruction for mathematics and science in secondary schools".

The key reasons why the PPSMI policy was withdrawn by the Government are the inadequacy of the teachers as well as the inability of students, particularly from rural background to cope with the use of English at such a young age.

Therefore the reversal of the 10 year old PPSMI policy should not be a complete one - one that throws out the baby with the bath water - but one which takes into account the advantages and disadvantages learnt over the past 2 decades. The new policy must incorporate the flexibility where PPSMI remains an option for schools in the country where parents express support for it.

We reject the excuse given by Deputy Prime Minister who argued that giving the option to schools will create havoc "kacau-bilau" to our education system. Firstly, these schools have already been conducting their lessons for Mathematics and Science in English over the past 10 years, hence there will be no extra effort incurred to retain PPSMI in these schools. Instead more effort will be required to withdraw PPSMI.

Secondly, and more importantly, every effort should be made to ensure that our schools are able to produce the best human capital for Malaysia as we seek to be part of the knowledge economy, to become a high income nation.

The important principle that the Ministry of Education must adopt is that advanced students should not be held back because of students who lagged behind academically. If parents prefer English as the medium of instruction and the students are more than able to cope, then every effort should be made to allow such schools to continue with PPSMI.

Therefore the argument of administrative hassle as a result of providing the option to parents and students is completely unacceptable as the quality of education our students receive is of paramount importance.

We call upon the Ministry of Education to review its decision to withdraw its decision to withdraw PPSMI completely and to allow room for certain schools to proceed subject to meeting certain requirements such as parental approval and students' performance.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rahim Noor and Perkasa Starts Facism Movement

It comes as a complete shock that one of the country’s former Inspector General of Police (IGP) had the nerve to “liken the rise of the human rights movement in Malaysia to communism”.

Disgraced Tan Sri Rahim Noor who gave Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the infamous “black eye”, had referred to the human rights movement as a new “religion”. He warned that civil liberties activists saw the US and UK as their spiritual home and drew parallels to how the Comintern had engineered the global spread of communism from its Moscow base.

If human rights can be akin to communism, then surely what Tan Sri Rahim Noor is attempting to do during his speech at the 2nd Perkasa General Assembly is to seed and grow the fascism movement in Malaysia. “Fascism” is described in the Oxford English dictionary to include “a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach”.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 had emphasized among other things, the fact that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, that “all are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”, that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” and that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage”.

Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s speech and reception at the right-wing Perkasa assembly marks the second time the movement is attempting to derail “reforms” put forth by the Prime Minister, since the latter’s inauguration in 2009.

In the first instance, Perkasa was able to force the Prime Minister to reverse his landmark “New Economic Model” (NEM) which sought to reform the country’s race-based affirmative action system. The NEM when launched in March 2010, had called for an “affirmative action approach based on “transparent and market-friendly affirmative action programmes”, which “will mean greater support for the Bumiputera, a greater support based on needs, not race”. It is as opposed to the previous New Economic Policy (NEP) of “imposing conditions to meet specific quotas or targets”.

However, within 3 months from the launch of the NEP, the affirmative action policy reform was reversed when the 10th Malaysia Plan re-incorporated the race-based agenda and quota system. Even at the earlier Malay Consultative Council (MPM) lead by Perkasa in May 2010, the Prime Minister had already referred to the NEM as a only a “trial balloon”, a clear reversal from the bold reforms announced.

The latest attacks against the human rights movement deemed as subversive is clearly an attempt to reverse Najib’s capitulation to civil society movements such as Bersih. Such movements have recently led to the setup of a Parliamentary Select Committee for Electoral Reforms as well as the proposed abolishment and amendment of several draconian such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Printing, Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). These measures are opposed by Perkasa, comprising of many hardliners within UMNO.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak must immediately put a stop to this fascism movement and openly condemn the former IGP and Perkasa’s attempt to allude the human rights movement to communism. He must also openly declare his full support for the human rights objectives, as enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, if he is sincere about his “political transformation programme”.

Otherwise, the latest hype surrounding the “political transformation programme” will just become a “trial balloon” like the NEM, where the promised reforms will be severely curtailed or worse, equally draconian laws will be adopted to replace existing ones such as the ISA.