Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 DAP Internship Programme

The DAP "Know An MP" Youth Programme for the year 2011 is now open for application. The DAP Malaysia will be offering 10 places of attachment nationwide to various top national leaders, Member of Parliament and State Assemblymen (ADUN) in Malaysia.

What is this programme about?

Selected candidates will be matched based on compatibility to a Member of Parliament or State Assemblyman (ADUN). The candidate will attach on a full-time basis to the MP/ADUN and actively participate in their daily work.

During the programme, candidates will have the opportunity to:
  • Assist and contribute to the work of the MP/ADUN
  • Gain first-hand experience and insight of being a national leader
  • Attend parliamentary sessions or state assembly sessions
  • Organize and participate in press conferences, discussions, political events etc.
As part of the programme, candidates are required to:
  • Submit a 300-word essay documenting their experience and insight gained
  • Contribute a 1000-word proposal on how to improve the office of an MP/ADUN or the operation of DAP Malaysia; OR a research topic of choice on a current issue for MP/ADUN debate during parliamentary or state assembly session
  • Initiate and organize a community event to engage sociopolitical awareness

Selection Criteria:
  • Youths between age 18-30 (students, fresh grads or young working adults)
  • Full-time attachment, minimum period of 1 month
  • Selection based on assessment of academic results and experience

  • Closing date of application: 30th April 2011
  • Start date of programme: Anytime after 1st June 2011
  • Successful candidates will be informed via email

Application procedures:

Email resume / curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter expressing interest to daprocket(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Include in your application the following:
  • Preferred location (ie. which state/city in Malaysia)
  • Preferred duration of your attachment
  • MP/ADUN of preference
For enquiries, kindly email daprocket(at)rocketmail(dot)com

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Al-Kitab Row Not One-off

Alkitab row shows wider check on non-Muslims, says Pakatan
By Melissa Chi March 27, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Leaders from the Opposition have described the controversy surrounding Malay bibles and the use of “Allah” by Christians as just the tip of the iceberg in the erosion of non-Muslim rights.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua (picture) said the government did not seem to be picking specifically on Christians, but other religions other than Islam as well.

“I think that the government has the same treatment to all religions, it’s just that the Christians are speaking up today. If you look at the school system, government departments, you can see mild forms of preferences or restrictions of religions increasing over the years.

“It is already happening, it’s just that [followers of] other religions are not speaking up about it,” he said.

He said for example there was a limit on the number of temples that can be built, and that if it was in a Malay majority area, no other places of worship could be built in the vicinity.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) had issued a strongly worded statement yesterday accusing the government of riding roughshod over religions other than Islam when it imposed conditions for the release of 35,000 Malay bibles seized from Port Klang and Kuching.

In a series of news statements that started earlier this month, the Christian organisation denounced the government for defacing its holy books with the home ministry’s official seal, an act it said amounted to desecration.

About one in 10 Malaysians is Christian.

The MCCBCHST said the authorities seemed to want Malaysians to believe that the Alkitab conflict is solely a tussle between two creeds, Islam and Christianity; and affects only Muslims and Christians.

“After the Christians have been ‘fixed’, who next?” the council had questioned. Pua said, however, that he was anticipating the government would give “superficial forms of religious freedom”, ahead of the coming Sarawak elections.

But he remained convinced that the voters would not buy into the government’s ploy and that more Malaysians were waking up to the reality in terms of limited freedom of religion in the country.

“What they say is true. The question is whether or not it will find resonance among the communities,” he said, referring to the council’s suggestion.

When asked if the continuation of the current religious controversies might heighten the religious or racial tension in the country, he said it will have to depend on the ruling government.

“It depends on the wisdom of the ruling party or ruling elites, leaders, if they decide to uphold the constitution, then there will be no issue but if they take it upon themselves to uphold a particular belief in the expense of others, then it is hard to say,” he said.

Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution. Article 11 provides that every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion and is subject to applicable laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims.

Under Article 3, the Constitution also provides that Islam is the religion of the country but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony.


For the full article, click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rescind RM50 Credit Card Tax!

We call for the removal of the RM50 credit card tax since it has not only failed to reduce credit card debt as intended, but instead have added to the misery of debtors

The latest Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) report on the country credit card debt proves that the Government’s introduction of a RM50 tax for every principal card holder and a RM25 tax on a supplementary card holder has failed to reduce the population’s credit card debt in January 2010.

As shown in the statistics given by BNM (table below), after the introduction of the credit card tax, the number of credit cards in circulation has dropped by 19.4% from 10.8 million in December 2009 to 8.7 million in October 2010. The amount of credit extended has also reduced marginally from RM115.9 billion to RM113.8 billion over the same period.

However, despite the respective reductions in number of cards and the amount of credit extended, the current outstanding balance has increased by 10.4% from RM24.3 billion to RM26.8 billion. Worse, the outstanding balances which are more than 6 months overdue have increased by 12.9% from RM62.1 million to RM70.1 million.

When the 2010 Budget was debated in Parliament at the end of 2009, I had appealed to the Finance Ministry to reconsider the proposal to impose the credit card tax on cardholders as it will be completely ineffective in the Government’s battle to reduce credit card debt. Instead, all it will do is to add to the burden of those who are already laden with debt.

In addition, the introduction of the credit card tax will also result in value-destruction as financial institutions have spent tens of millions, if not more, to build their customer base. As a result of the tax, it is the cardholders who are not indebted that was able to terminate their cards, and this is proven with the statistics above, showing a steep decline in cardholders, but not the outstanding debt.

However my arguments in Parliament were dismissed by the Deputy Finance Minister then, Datuk Chor Chee Hueng.

What the Government should do instead is to introduce new measures to ensure that only those who are able to manage their finances are qualified to apply for credit cards. For example, the move to increase the minimum income level from RM1,800 per month to RM2,400 is a good start to reduce credit card delinquencies. In addition, BNM should set strict guidelines to banks to ensure that credit limits should not be easily increased for cardholders who are not disciplined in debt repayments. Measures could also be introduced to penalise banks for granting excessive credit limits to those who are not financially able to ensure that such abuse are kept to the minimum.

With this set of information proving that the RM50 tax is completely ineffective in the Government’s battle against credit card debt, we call upon the Finance Ministry to immediately reverse the tax in order to not add further to the burden on cardholders who are already in debt, and paying high interest rates for their outstanding balances. In addition, the removal of the tax will enable the financial institutions in the country to compete more freely in the provision of credit card services to those who are facing no difficulties in managing their personal finances.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Contribute to DAP Sarawak Election Campaign!

Dear fellow Malaysians,

The Sarawak general elections will be held soon on 16 April 2011.  NOW is the time for the brave people of Sarawak to make their voices heard. NOW is the time for the people of Sarawak to send a loud and clear message to the incompetent and corrupt BN state government. NOW is the time for the people of Sarawak to send a clear signal to the entire nation in preparation of the upcoming 13th Malaysia general election.

The DAP will be playing a major role to fight the Barisan Nasional hegemony in Sarawak, specially the end the autocratic rule of Malaysia's longest serving Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The DAP offers the promise of change to Sarawak by fighting the rampant abuse of power, cronysim and corruption by the BN leaders, who have enriched themselves at the expense of the rakyat, especially the poor and the marginalized, during their 50 years in power.

However, we need your help to make change happen. We need your financial contribution to print
leaflets, hold campaign rallies, run operating centres and access remote regions of Sarawak. We call upon you to donate generously to help our cause.

You can donate using credit card, internet-banking, MEPS @

Or you can also bank funds directly with TT, cash or cheque, details here.

All the monies donated now till the end of elections will be used for the Sarawak campaign.

For those who are keen to volunteer time for the campaign, please email us at

On behalf of the people of Sarawak, thank you so much for your support to make change possible.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zahid Unfit To Be Minister

Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s malicious lies and his refusal to apologise for spreading falsehood about me makes him unfit to be a Minister and proves UMNO’s rotten at its core

Last Friday, Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi accused me of having been previously arrested and charged in Singapore, and as a result was unable to become a Member of Parliament there. He further alleged that due to my good relations with certain authorities in Singapore, I was released and insinuated that the deal was for me to become a Singapore “agent” and infiltrate Malaysia.

I had immediately called for a retraction of the above baseless and malicious allegations, as well as a public apology within 24 hours. However, over the past 72 hours, I’ve heard only a pin-drop silence from the Minister, which not only makes him unfit to be a Minister but also proves that UMNO’s leadership is rotten at its very core.

Zahid Hamidi is unfit to be a Minister not only because of the complete lack of honesty and integrity, but also because it shows the failure of his Ministry’s military intelligence to be able to filter fact from fiction, hence raising concerns as to whether he will be able to fully protect our country from external threats.

Instead of answering to the rakyat on questions posed to him, the most senior ranking UMNO vice-president attempted to tarnish my reputation and insinuated repeatedly that I’m not loyal to this country and that I’m acting in the interest of another country. He even argued that if I should join the Territorial Reserve Army (Tentera Wataniah).

Let me just say that Zahid Hamidi has no right and is in no place to question my loyalty to Malaysia. If it were at all true that I had joined politics in Malaysia for personal interest or the interest of a foreign country, then surely it would have been easier for me to join a BN party like the MCA, which has a track record of producing top leaders charged for corruption and abuse of power. Instead, by joining an opposition party like the DAP, I’m only subjected to persistent threats and abuse, like the leaders before me who have been subjected to authoritarian punishments like the ISA.

Every person in this country demonstrates his or her loyalty differently, and not only through the Army. I’ve chosen this path to fight for the rights of the oppressed and the impoverished.

Is Zahid implying that all the BN Members of Parliament, nearly all of whom had not joined the Army less loyal to the country as well? That appears to be his thinking because he has said as much that the non-Malays of this country are less patriotic because they have not joined the Army. Despite the controversy over his slight on the minorities, he has refused to apologise.

As a result of the Minister’s refusal to apologise, I have instructed my lawyers today to proceed immediately to file a suit against Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for defamation and spreading malicious falsehood.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ubah v Taib

The campaign for Sarawak has begun! Ubah!

Let's Meet in Court!

Zahid and Pua cross swords again over defence deals

DEFENCE Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Tony Pua (DAP– PJ Utara) have crossed swords again over the procurement of vessels and armoured personnel carriers (APC) for the armed forces.

Both men said they would not hesitate to haul the other side to court over defamatory statements made over the procurement of the military hardware.

“If you want to bring me to court, I am willing to meet you there but I, too, am ready to take you to court over your wild allegations,” Zahid said when asked by Pua about the purchase of six patrol vessels valued at RM6bil.

He said Pua should not have made unsubstantiated claims on his blog or through media statements.

Earlier, their argument started when Zahid said he would not compromise on the country’s security by divulging details of the procurement.

On his part, Pua stressed that he was not touching on military secrets but was instead seeking details about the deal following an increase in the purchase amount by 26% from RM5.35bil to RM6.75bil.

“We want to ensure that this does not happen again,” Pua said, adding that he would not hesitate to take legal action against Zahid over any “wild allegations”.

Zahid said the higher purchase price was due to the cost of fitting the vessels with the appropriate systems, and not due to certain parties “pocketing sales commission” as alleged.

He said Pua had failed to present evidence of wrongdoings despite being requested to by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Both sides traded words again over a deal between DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd and FNSS Turkey over the purchase of APC that cost RM5.8bil.

Zahid said the deal was for the purchase of “baseline” APC which did not include the cost for the necessary weapons and communications sub-systems depending on their combat roles.

To a question by Salahuddin Ayub ((PAS–Kubang Kerian) on the difference between the defence budget of Malaysia and Singapore and neighbouring countries, Zahid said that it would correlate with the gross domestic product and defence needs of each country.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Zahid Must Apologise

I read with shock and horror the report in Utusan Malaysia today, quoting the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who said:
“Dia [Tony Pua] dulu ditangkap di Singapura, dibawa ke mahkamah, tetapi sebab hubungan dia mungkin baik dengan pejabat tertentu di sana, beliau dilepaskan (dan) tidak dapat jadi ahli Parlimen (di sana)”
I cannot believe that a senior ranking Minister and the highest ranking vice-president of Umno would stoop so low as to spin venomous lies beyond imagination against me and my character.

The above falsehoods is clearly an attempt to divert the public and the media’s attention away from the mega-procurement deals which the Defence Minister signed last month, amounting to RM13.55 billion.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has to date failed to provide clear and detailed explanation for the RM6 billion purchase of 6 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) from Boustead Holdings Bhd as well as the RM7.55 billion purchase of 257 8x8 armoured wheeled-vehicles (AWVs) from DRB Hicom Bhd, whether to the media or in Parliament.

I had at various times called the Minister to explain in detail what exactly are we purchasing, at prices seemingly much higher than other countries. What’s more, both of these contracts were awarded without any competitive tenders.

However, instead of being accountable to the rakyat, the Minister has chosen to spread malicious lies to tarnish my character and reputation as a diversionary tactic. In fact, his attempt to deflect the call for answers on the above military transactions with frivolous personal accusations leads me to believe that the Minister has something to hide from the people.

Let me make it clear in no uncertain terms that:
  1. I’ve never ever been arrested in Singapore, not even for jay-walking.
  2. I’ve never ever been charged in Singapore, for civil or criminal cases.
  3. I have no relationship whatsoever with the Government of Singapore
  4. I’ve never been interested in taking part in politics in Singapore, what’s more as a Member of Parliament in that country.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also claimed that I studied in Singapore from primary to tertiary level, which is factually wrong for I completed my primary school in SRK Montfort, Batu Pahat and for my Bachelor’s degree at Oxford University. I was only in Singapore for my secondary education at Raffles Institution as a recipient of the ASEAN scholarship.

What’s more I’ve never even taken up permanent residency in Singapore or any other country, unlike certain Barisan Nasional Ministers.

The insinuation by the Minister that I am now a “Singapore agent” due to a deal with Singapore authorities is downright evil. The story painted by the Defence Minister is so outrageous and incredible that perhaps he will make a better spy fiction writer like John Le Carre, than he is as the country’s defence minister.

I call on Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to retract his statement and make an unreserved public apology within 24 hours or I will instruct my lawyers to file a defamation suit against him next week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hishamuddin Must Apologise to Malaysians

DAP condemns the violation and defacement of the Al-Kitabs impounded by the Home Ministry in Port Klang and calls for the Home Minister to apologise to Malaysians nationwide on its complete lack of sensitivity

We read in horror in yesterday evening’s news in The Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini which reported that “Al-Kitab defaced” and “Port Klang’s BM Bibles ‘violated’”. The Bible Society of Malaysia has claimed that the 5,100 bibles which were seized two years ago have been stamped by the Home Minister with a serial number space and the text ‘“Al Kitab Berita Baik” ini untuk kegunaan penganut agama Kristian sahaja dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri’.

The action above has been done without any consultation or agreement from the importer or the Church.

We condemn the complete lack of sensitivity of the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein in the actions taken by the Ministry which had added salt to injury already suffered by the Christian community in Malaysia. Firstly, their bibles have been impounded for no valid reasons, restricting their freedom of religion and now, their holy book is being treated as anything but holy by the authorities.

In addition, the insistence on serial numbers to “control” the circulation of these bibles are as if they are subversive documents which are a threat to national security. The titular head of the Malacca-Johor diocese, Catholic bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing have denounced the condition as “crass forms of censorship redolent of the communist era”.

The actions by the Barisan Nasional Government to date proves that the call for “1Malaysia” which promotes a multi-racial and multi-religious inclusive society under our federal constitution which guarantees freedom of religion under Article 11 which provides that every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion and (subject to applicable laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims) to propagate it, is but an empty slogan.

We call upon the Home Minister to immediately apologise to all Malaysians for insulting the faith of the Christian community, and provide an unconditional guarantee that such incidences, including the arbitrary confiscation of Al-Kitabs will never again happen in the future.

Bung Mokhtar Escapes Unpunished

An enraging joke
Tarani Palani | March 16, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Tasteless and inane jokes are quite common in the Malaysian Parliament, but Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin might have gone too far in his attempt at comedy yesterday.
Tony Pua (DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara) was definitely not amused by Bung’s reference to him as a “Singapore agent”.

Pua told reporters today that he did not enjoy having his loyalty questioned.

Bung Mokhtar’s unfunny statement was a rejoinder to Arau MP Ismail Kassim’s complaint that foreigners were referring to rambutans as the Singapore lychee.

He interrupted Ismail, telling the latter to talk to Pua, the “Singapore agent”. And he laughed at his own joke.

Several opposition MPs were up in arms over the remark. Fong Po Kuan said it was a serious allegation and demanded a retraction.

Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee said the comment was made in jest and managed to restore calm to the house.

Pua, who was not in the house when the incident took place, tried to raise the matter this morning, but was greeted with laughter from the government backbenchers.

Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia said he could not overrule the decision made by his deputy.
Pua told reporters later that he was not amused, that to be accused of a serious crime was no laughing matter.

“If I am a real Singapore agent, then I am subjected to the death penalty,” he said.
He said Bung Mokhtar should have been subjected to some punishment. “When Anwar linked Umno to Apco, he was suspended,” he said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home Minister "Released" Bibles since June 2010

Pua reveals Hisham ordered BM bibles release in 2010
By Clara Chooi March 14, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — DAP MP Tony Pua unveiled documents today showing Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had issued orders last June for the release of 5,100 Malay-language bibles currently impounded at Port Klang.

The home minister had said over the weekend that the bibles had been impounded due to the ministry’s pending court appeal on the Catholic weekly The Herald’s use of the word “Allah” in its publications.

But the Petaling Jaya Utara MP revealed that Hishammuddin, in his written reply to Parliament on June 7 last year, had announced that a notice had already been issued to the books’ importers urging them retrieve their consignment.

“There are a total of 5,100 Al-Kitab Berita Baik books detained. Notice has already been sent to the importers to retrieve the consignment but until now, they have failed to do so.

“The publications are being stored in good condition in the Home Ministry’s Port Klang office although the deadline for the importers to retrieve them has expired,” was Hishammuddin’s written response to a question from Pua last year.

Pua charged that since the consignment in question is still being impounded in Port Klang, Hishammuddin had misled the House with his answer.

He added that this was further compounded by The Malaysian Insider’s publication yesterday of a ministry letter dating June 10, 2010, where a senior official wrote that the appeal by the book’s importer, Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) had been considered and the ministry had agreed to release the consignment.
“So it is a lie on two fronts,” Pua told a press conference in Parliament this afternoon.

He also referred to a response from Hishammuddin yesterday where the minister claimed that the Bibles had been impounded due to the ministry’s pending court appeal on the Catholic weekly The Herald’s use of the word “Allah” in its publications.

In his statement, Hishammuddin had also said that the ministry was presently awaiting advice from the Attorney-General to determine its next move in the controversy.

“So this is what is happening today. A lie on two fronts... the reply from the minister is a lie. And yet there is a letter proving that the notice was indeed sent.

“So you (BSM) can claim it back but until today, you still cannot claim it back? Now you (Hishammuddin) say you have to refer to the A-G but yet in Parliament earlier, you said the books were released.

“Is this because the minister is just misleading the Parliament to discourage any further questions?” said Pua.

He urged the ministry to take responsibility over the issue and clear any confusion by ordering the immediate release of the confiscated Bibles to the BSM.

This, he said, included the additional 30,000 Malay-language Bibles which are also presently held by the Home Ministry at the Kuching port.

“There should be freedom of religion in this country where Christians are allowed to practise in whatever language they please as long as these Bibles are not distributed to the Muslims,” said Pua.

DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen agreed and added that as the issue was of public interest, it would likely be highlighted by the opposition during its campaign in the Sarawak polls.

“This is definitely an issue that concerns the people and it is unfair of the Barisan Nasional (BN) so of course we will highlight it.

“The BN government is being oppressive to those of other religions,” he said.

Click here for the full article.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MRT: Failed Integration Test

The proposed MRT system fails the integration test and poses the question as to whether the Gamuda-MMC driven project and designed alignment serves the interest of the public transport users, or other hidden commercial interest
It has already been reported that the proposed site for the “KL Sentral MRT station” in front of the National Musuem will be a significant distance away from the current KL Sentral Transport Hub, which houses the KTM, KTM Komuter, KLIA Transit and Express as well as the Putra LRT services. The proposed location risks making the same mistake as the location of the KL Sentral Monorail station which is ludicrously disconnected from the Hub.

However, the KL Sentral MRT Station isn’t the only one which is sited at the baffling location. The Bandar Utama (BU) MRT Station is similarly placed more than a kilometre away from the existing bus terminal which is currently catering to shuttle, feeder, stagecoach and inter-city buses.

The BU MRT Station is expected to be the busiest station in the northern part of the alignment serving some 46,900 passengers daily, and is the 5th busiest of the 35 proposed stations. Only Pusat Bandar Damansara (60,700), Pasar Seni (73,800), Pasar Rakyat (67,300) and Plaza Phoenix (54,000) are expected to cope with more passengers.

Given the importance and high ridership expected at the station, why is the MRT station intentionally located approximately 1-kilometre’s walk away from the bus terminal? Instead, it is located along the LDP, right in front of Media Prima broadcast centre for TV3 etc.

The integration is particularly important since buses are expected to be the key dispersal mode of transport for such high passenger volume. What we will face otherwise, is that buses and private vehicles will crowd the roads leading to the MRT stations to pick up and drop passengers. It brings to question whether the consultants took into consideration the severe congestion along the LDP during peak hours when deciding on the location of the MRT stations. And based on the plans provided by SPAD, there is no expected major road infrastructure work to cope with the increase in traffic.

In addition, the ability of the station to achieve the 46,900 passenger target is also severely compromised by the fact that there is no public parking facilities with the exception of those in the 1 Utama shopping mall or the OneWorld Hotel.

What confounds us further is the fact that there is plenty of space to build an MRT station next to the bus terminal which is also supported by a fairly large open space car park at this point in time. In fact, from press reports, we are made to understand that an underground carpark can also be built underneath the existing Central Park next to the bus terminal. It doesn’t take a traffic consultant or an MRT specialist to conclude that the existing site for the Bandar Utama station is a very very bad idea.

Singapore, as the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) would agree, has one of the best public transport systems in the world. If one were to visit their MRT stations at key suburbs, it is highly integrated with a bus terminal within the town centre. In fact out of the 17 elevated stations outside of the Central Business District along the North-South Line, 10 are integrated with bus terminals.

In the northern and central township of Yishun and Ang Mo Kio for example, are served not only by the MRT but also a bus terminal which runs 22 and 18 trunk, feeder and intra-town services respectively. The townships have a population of 176,000 and 162,000 respectively. This is comparable to the population of Bandar Utama (120,000) and Damansara Utama (140,000) which are to be served by the BU MRT Station. In contrast, there are only 4 trunk services available at the BU bus terminal and SPAD has proposed 3 feeder services for the MRT station.

The BU MRT station plan is the perfect example of what is likely to go wrong when the country’s biggest public transport infrastructure investment is proposed and designed almost entirely by commercial parties with vested interest. SPAD, which is meant to be the regulator to protect the interest of the public transport user in this case, only play the bridesmaid’s role.

Instead of the land public transport masterplan which is due only in September this year to be the plan that dictates the public transport infrastructure development, the reverse is happening where the Gamuda-MMC proposed MRT plans are dictating how the public transport masterplan will be designed.

The outcome of such vendor-driven, “first-come-first-served” approach to building our key public transport infrastructure, is the proposed BU station where the interest of the commuters are made secondary to the interest of the commercial project developer.

We call upon SPAD to review the design, placement and overall public transport plans for the BU MRT station to ensure the interest of the local residents are prioritised. At the same time, the same review should be made on all the other stations to prevent negative or less desirable outcomes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

MITI Minister SHould Not Crow Too Early

Lebih baik Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri (MITI) jangan “berkokok” terlalu awal

Semasa sesi soaljawab Parlimen dua hari yang lalu, Menteri MITI Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed memberikan jawapan mengenai kemajuan pelaburan asing dengan begitu angkuh terhadap pemimpin Pakatan Rakyat.

Beliau menyatakan bahawa
“…angka terkini berkaitan pelaburan asing di negara kita menunjukkan aliran masuk sebanyak USD9 bilion pada seluruh tahun lalu berbanding cuma USD1.4 bilion pada tahun 2009 iaitu peningkatan lebih lima kali ganda. Secara khususnya 536 peratus itu peratusan peningkatan lima kali ganda.”
Dato’ Sri Mustapa mencabar YB Selayang, YB Permatang Pauh dan saya, yang tidak berada di dalam Dewan pada masa itu, “saya mahu tanya mereka apa respons mereka apabila angka terkini”.

Kami tidak membisu. Saya ingin memberikan respons, tetapi sebelum beri respons, saya perlukan data yang tepat, menyeluruh dan terperinci daripada MITI. Malangnya jawapan bertulis yang diberikan oleh Menteri kepada soalan saya terhadap permintaan tersebut lebih teruk daripada jawapan budak sekolah.

Saya meminta supaya MITI memberikan jumlah pelaburan asing yang diluluskan berbanding dengan jumlah sebenar yang dilaburkan. Perbezaan ini penting sebab pelaburan yang diluluskan mungkin tak terjadi atau tertangguh.

Misalnya, jumlah pelaburan asing yang diluluskan pada tahun 2009 adalah US$6.5 bilion (RM22.1b). Akan tetapi, pelaburan sebenar seperti yang dicatatkan dalam statistik UNCTAD adalah hanya US$1.4 bilion.

Mengikut statistik yang sedia ada dalam halaman internet MIDA, jumlah pelaburan asing yang diluluskan pada tahun 2010 adalah RM29.1 bilion. Ini bermaksud peningkatan jumlah pelaburan asing yang diluluskan oleh MITI hanya sebanyak 31.2%, jauh berbeza daripada “536%” yang diheboh-hebohkan oleh Menteri.

Oleh sebab itu, saya telah meminta MITI untuk membekalkan angka pelaburan sebenar sejak tahun 1996 untuk membuat perbandingan yang lebih tepat dan wajar. Malangnya, jawapan Menteri memberikan perbandingan antara pelaburan yang diluluskan untuk pelabur tempatan dengan pelabur asing!

Saya juga meminta Menteri untuk memberikan senarai 10 projek yang terbesar yang telah diluluskan tetapi belum lagi dilaburkan ataupun telah dibatalkan setiap tahun. Malangnya, Menteri menjawab hanya dengan jumlah nilai 10 projek yang terbesar sejak 1996, termasuk yang telah, tengah dan tidak dilaburkan.

Jika Menteri inginkan respons penuh daripada saya, saya harap MITI dapat membekalkan secara terperinci, angka-angka seperti yang dimintakan dan bukannya jawapan yang tidak berkaitan dengan soalan atau dengan angka yang terpilih sahaja.

Walau bagaimanapun, sama ada pelaburan asing meningkat hanya 31.2% ataupun 536% daripada detik terendah pelaburan asing di negara kita pada tahun 2009, Menteri tidak berlayak untuk bersifat angkuh. Apabila kita hanya mencapai 10 mata dalam peperiksaan sebelum ini, pencapaian 50 mata bukannya sesuatu yang amat membanggakan, terutamanya jika jiran-jiran kita mencapai keputusan dan trend yang jauh lebih baik daripada kita.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MRT: McKinsey for Value Management Study?

Hazlan Zakaria
Mar 9, 11 4:56pm

Fresh from churning out Pemandu reports, some of which proposed the building of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), consultancy firm McKinsey & Co has again been hired - this time to conduct a Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) study on the value management of such a project.

Basing his question on a report in The Star today that said Mckinsey would now helm the Spad study into the matter, DAP Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (right) questioned the impartiality of the arrangement.

"Will McKinsey do a fair analysis of the cost benefits of the MRT system, when it is part of the Pemandu project that, in the first place, proposed the MRT system? While there may be no direct conflict of interest, one has to wonder how fair and unbiased the report is going to be," Pua (right) told a press conference in the Parliament lobby today.

In light of this, he called for all studies carried out now, and in the future, to be done openly to make sure everything was above board

"This is no national security issue, so we must publish all studies to be done, and yet to be done, openly to see if they are done in a fair and transparent manner," he said.

Click here for the full article

MRT: Greater Transparency & Accountability Please

SPAD must institute transparency, competition, as well as public and market control to ensure that the MRT delivers its stated benefits and targets within a confined budget

Last week I have issued a statement citing a study on major infrastructure projects around the world by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg at Oxford University which found that rail projects not only suffered from an average of 44.3% cost overrun, actual passenger traffic is 51.4 per cent lower than forecast traffic on average. The study “Survival of the unfittest: why the worst infrastructure gets built—and what we can do about it” published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (2009) also noted that 9 out of 10 of suffered from cost overruns; 84 per cent of rail passenger forecasts are wrong by more than ±20 per cent; nine out of 10 rail projects have overestimated traffic.

Flyvbjerg had warned that the main reason for the ugly set of statistics is that “planners and promoters purposely spin scenarios of success and gloss over the potential for failure.” He also argued that “competition between projects and authorities creates political and organizational pressures that in turn create an incentive structure that makes it rational for project promoters to emphasize benefits and de-emphasize costs and risks. A project that looks highly beneficial on paper is more likely to get funded than one that does not.”

New estimates on the cost of the MRT project, RM50 billion and RM53 billion cited by The Star and CIMB Research respectively have far exceeded the original estimate of RM36.6 billion. This is despite the fact that the project has yet to take off on the ground and raises major concerns as to whether it will fall victim to similar failures cited in the Flyvbjerg study.

To prevent such excesses, Flyvbjerg has called for several measures to be implemented by Governments seeking to implement such infrastructure projects. The key measures which should be adopted by SPAD and Pemandu will include:

1. Forecasts and business cases should be made subject to independent peer review. Scientific and professional conferences should be organized where forecasters would present and defend their forecasts in the face of colleagues’ scrutiny and criticism.

2. For publicly funded projects, forecasts, peer reviews, and benchmarkings should be made available for public scrutiny, including by the media, as they are produced, including all relevant documentation.

3. Public hearings, citizen juries, and the like should be organized to allow stakeholders and civil society to voice criticism and support of forecasts. Knowledge generated in this way should be integrated in project management and decision-making.

4. Forecasters and their organizations must share financial responsibility for covering cost overruns and benefit shortfalls resulting from misrepresentation and bias in forecasting.

In fact, Flyvbjerg argued that projects with inflated benefit–cost ratios should be reconsidered and stopped if recalculated costs and benefits do not warrant implementation. Projects with realistic estimates of benefits and costs should be rewarded.

The implementation of the MRT to date by both Pemandu and SPAD has left much to be desired in terms of the transparency measures propagated in the above study. Besides the deluge of rhetorical statements that the MRT will improve public transport in the Klang Valley and that it will have a “catalytic” effect on the economy, the Government agencies have failed to provide detailed forecasts and business cases for peer review and public scrutiny.

While there is an on-going feedback process, the information provided for the route, station designs, traffic information as well as plans on integration to new and existing transport terminals are scarce or absent altogether. Worse, decisions on the MRT system are being made regardless of the public feedback outcome, with tenders for various parcels of the project commencing next month.

Hence just like the public feedback exercise carried out for the LRT extension project, it has become quite clear that the exercises are meant to “show” that feedback has been conducted, with no intention of ever having them “integrated in project management and decision-making” in any substantive manner.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Defence Ministry on a Shopping Spree

After the recent award of a RM6 billion contract to Boustead Naval Shipyard to build 6 offshore patrol vessels in early February, it was announced by DRB-Hicom Bhd on Bursa Malaysia yesterday that it has secured a RM7.55 billion contract from the Ministry of Defence to supply 257 units of 8x8 Armoured-Wheeled Vehicles (AWC) or Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).

The award which was made on 23 February is for Deftech Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd to “design, develop, manufacture, commission, supply and delivery” of the vehicles over a 7-year period at an average price of RM29.4 million for each unit.

I had first raised this issue in April last year, when the letter of intent was first given to Deftech Sdn Bhd for a proposed RM8 billion purchase. I had then given several comparisons on the cost of APCs which have been acquired by other countries recently which are at substantially lower costs.

The Portugese Army bought 353 Pandur II 8x8 armoured vehicles for the amount of EUR364 million (RM1.56 billion) or only RM4.4 million each. The latest version of Piranha III 8x8 armoured-wheeled vehicle developed by the Swiss MOWAG GmBH cost only US$1.2 million, or RM3.9 million.

And in 2009, the U.S. Army has awarded a USD$2.2 billion contract to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, one of the best military vehicle and equipment manufacturer in the world, for 724 Light Armored Vehicles (LAV) or equivalent of US$3.04 million or only RM9.9 million each, meant for Saudi Arabia!

Further research has revealed that DRB-Hicom will be acquiring the AWC technology from Turkish company – FNSS Defence Systems Inc which manufactures the Pars 8x8 AWV models. With this deal, Malaysia will be its first foreign customer for this vehicle. What is perhaps of greater alarm is the fact that FNSS has announced that they have sold 257 units of Pars 8x8 AWVs to Malaysia for approximately US$600 million or RM1.83 billion or only RM7.1 million per unit.

As reported by Defense Update (, a well-regarded online defense magazine, “the cost of the new vehicle seems excessively high - about US$9.8 million per unit. Malaysian defence officials explained that these figures represent the total life cycle cost of the program, including which usually includes design, development, logistical support and sustainment as well as non-recurring engineering costs and investments associated with the set-up of local production facilities in Malaysia to develop its armoured vehicle manufacturing. Yet, even when considering a 250% mark-up to cover such the price tag on the new Malaysian vehicle seem odd.”

The Minister of Defence must explain the glaring gap between the cost of the AWC vehicles and the price to be paid by the Malaysian Government, especially since the award to Deftech was made without any open tenders, just like the RM6 billion award to Boustead Naval Shipyard.

The trends towards mega-military acquisitions without the accompanying transparency and accountability as demanded by the Prime Minister’s own Government Transformation Programme makes a mockery of the call for “reform”. The escalating defence spending is also a direct affront to the Government’s attempt to reign in the ballooning budget deficit, which has resulted in various attempts to curb spending by cutting subsidies for the man-on the street.

Monday, March 07, 2011

MRT: Build At Whatever Cost?

Based on a report in the Star yesterday, the “MRT project cost [is] now estimated to reach RM50 billion”.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive officer Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal said that “the Government was doing all it could to drive down the cost… With land acquisition and rolling stock, it could come up to RM50bil, but it is too early to say… We will know the full picture later…”

In addition, a CIMB Research report highlighted that “based on the average RM353m/km for the line, the entire MRT project (150km) could be worth RM53bil compared with the current estimate of RM36bil,” after the outcome of Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd's contractors' briefing last week.

The dramatic escalation of cost estimates for the Klang Valley MRT project before even the expected commencement of works in July this year is both shocking and scary, and it raises big question marks as to whether the project can ever be completed on time, and within budget.

I have issued a statement earlier this week citing a study on major infrastructure projects around the world by Bent Flyvbjerg at Oxford University which found that rail projects not only suffered from an average of 44.3% cost overrun, actual passenger traffic is 51.4 per cent lower than forecast traffic on average. What’s more, 9 out of 10 of suffered from cost overruns; 84 per cent of rail passenger forecasts are wrong by more than ±20 per cent; nine out of 10 rail projects have overestimated traffic.

Flyvbjerg had warned that the main reason for the ugly set of statistics is that “planners and promoters purposely spin scenarios of success and gloss over the potential for failure.”

Flyvbjerg argued that “competition between projects and authorities creates political and organizational pressures that in turn create an incentive structure that makes it rational for project promoters to emphasize benefits and de-emphasize costs and risks. A project that looks highly beneficial on paper is more likely to get funded than one that does not.”

Now that the project has received the “go-ahead”, and the main “project delivery partner” (PDP) contract has been awarded despite the on-going public “feedback” process, it appears that the “cost” of the project are already beginning to see a significant increase.

It is also clear from SPAD CEO’s statement that there is no fixed budget for the project and the Government is adamant on proceeding with the project regardless of what the final bill will be. For example, will the Government continue with the project even if the cost were to escalate to RM60 or RM70 billion? This raises the major concern that the Government has not conducted a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine the point where the direct and indirect costs may outweigh the direct and indirect benefits of the immediate implementation of the MRT project.

It also makes a mockery of SPAD’s earlier claim that the PDP, Gamuda-MMC joint venture will bear all increases in costs. If the PDP has been awarded the contract based on their own estimates that the cost will be RM36.6 billion, then surely they must be bound by their estimates, and any increases must be borne by them and not by the Government. In fact, if the increase proves to be significant, as highlighted in both the Star and CIMB reports, then surely there needs to be a revaluation of the project on its continued viability and the risks involved.

We once again call upon SPAD to disclose the terms and conditions of the PDP contract with Gamuda-MMC, which it claims to “guarantee” against cost overruns. This is especially since Gamuda-MMC is essentially acting like the main contractor to the MRT project. SPAD must also disclose its detailed cost-benefits analysis of the MRT project for public scrutiny, checks and balances. Given the size of and the high risks involved with the project, “disasters” as described in the Flyvbjerg’s study can only be prevented with greater transparency and public accountability, particularly to prevent vested interest parties like the main contractors from taking both the Government and the public for a ride.

Friday, March 04, 2011

MRT Runaway Train?

Political-economic factors risk major cost-overruns and a failure to meet over-sized targets in the MRT rush-job

Based on available and non-available information since the MRT project was put up for public feedback, there have been strong concerns voiced over its viability and the cost and benefits. The public transport advocacy group, TRANSIT has questioned the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) forecast of 40,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) when the proposed 58 train sets to be purchased can only ferry a maximum capacity of 24,000 pphpd.

Concerns raised by residents at various proposed stations such as Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Kajang pointed towards poor design and planning of the stations to cope with managing traffic flow and volume. S. Piarapakaran, president of the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) found out from the EIA report that traffic studies have yet to be carried out on the respective stations.

Questions are also raised over the poorly integrated stations with other existing public transport networks such the LRTs and bus terminals. I have raised criticisms on the fact that the MRT system is being forged ahead without first reviewing the holistic public transport framework where bus services form the other critical public transport pillar.

Despite the fact that the project is only put up for feedback last month, SPAD, the regulatory body and Syarikat Prasarana Bhd, the project owner have already awarded the project to Gamuda-MMC joint venture as the “project delivery partner” and announced the fact that the tender for the various sub-contract works will commence in April and awarded by June 2011.

All of the above and more, points towards the fact that the RM46 billion MRT rush-job is a runaway train the Government has set in motion with brakes already disabled, regardless of the obstacles in its path.

A study by Bent Flyvbjerg “Survival of the unfittest: why the worst infrastructure gets built—and what we can do about it” published in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (2009) looked at 258 “mega-infrastructure projects” across 20 countries. He found that rail projects not only suffered from an average of 44.3% cost overrun, actual passenger traffic is 51.4 per cent lower than forecast traffic on average.

In fact, the other statistics found are no less encouraging - 9 out of 10 of suffered from cost overruns; 84 per cent of rail passenger forecasts are wrong by more than ±20 per cent; nine out of 10 rail projects have overestimated traffic.

He concluded that “cost overruns in the order of 50 per cent in real terms are common for major infrastructure, and overruns above 100 per cent are not uncommon. Demand and benefit forecasts that are wrong by 20–70 per cent compared with actual development are common.”

What’s perhaps more revealing and of greater relevance for our very own MRT rush-job is the underlying reason for such consistent outcome of major infrastructure projects. He claimed that “planners and promoters purposely spin scenarios of success and gloss over the potential for failure” as the key cause of the over-promise and under-delivery.

Flyvbjerg argued that “competition between projects and authorities creates political and organizational pressures that in turn create an incentive structure that makes it rational for project promoters to emphasize benefits and de-emphasize costs and risks. A project that looks highly beneficial on paper is more likely to get funded than one that does not.”
Flyvbjerg’s extensive study on a few transit projects in the UK and US support the view
that “promoters and forecasters intentionally use the following formula in order to secure approval and funding for their projects:

underestimated costs + overestimated benefits = funding

Using this formula, the outcome is “the survival of the unfittest” where “it is not the best projects that get implemented, but the projects that look best on paper. And the projects that look best on paper are the projects with the largest cost underestimates and benefit overestimates, other things being equal… Therefore the projects that have been made to look best on paper in this manner become the worst, or unfittest, projects in reality, in the sense that they are the very projects that will encounter most problems during construction and operations in terms of the largest cost overruns, benefit shortfalls, and risks of non-viability. They have been designed like that, as disasters waiting to happen.”

Malaysia have had its share of “disasters” in terms of public transport infrastructure privatisation projects, where the Government had to bail out the failed STAR LRT (RM3.3 billion), Putra LRT (RM4.5 billion), KL Monorail (RM882 million) as well as the privatised bus service operators (~RM200 million). This has resulted in Syarikat Prasarana Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ministry of Finance, holding debts in excess of RM9 billion which it is unable to service even the interest.

The Government must not let the MRT project be another “disaster waiting to happen” as a result of private sector promoters like Gamuda-MMC spinning “scenarios of success and gloss over the potential for failure” while our government agencies like SPAD, PEMANDU and Prasarana are swallowing them hook, line and sinker, rushing to ensure that the project gets funded and started in the shortest possible time, without proper independent checks, audit and competition.

About Bent Flyvbjerg:

Bent Flyvbjerg is the first British Telecom (BT) Professor and Chair of Major Programme Management at Oxford University. He is founding Director of Oxford’s BT Centre for Major Programme Management.

Before Oxford, Bent Flyvbjerg was Professor of Planning at the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is Doctor of Technology and Engineering (Dr.Techn.) and Doctor of Science (Dr. Scient.) from Aalborg University and holds the Ph.D. in Urban Geography and Planning from Aarhus University, Denmark.

He was twice a Visiting Fulbright Scholar to the USA, where he did research at the University of California at Los Angeles and Berkeley and at Harvard University.

Bent Flyvbjerg's most recent books in English are Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition (Cambridge University Press, 2003), Making Social Science Matter (Cambridge University Press, 2001), and Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice (The University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Bent Flyvbjerg has two decades of practical experience from working as a policy and planning adviser to more than 40 public and private organizations, including the EU Commission, the United Nations, national and local government, auditors general, banks, and private companies.