Philosophy Politics Economics

Posted by : Unknown | Sabtu, 22 Januari 2011 | Published in

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Philosophy Politics Economics

Malaysia's TI Corruptiion Perception Index Dips to Record Low

Posted: 22 Jan 2011 06:03 AM PST

With absolutely nothing to show after more than 15 months after announcing the KPI for the Corruption NKRA, its time for Najib to exercise his promise to wield his whip

In the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) calculations, Malaysia's corruption index score declined to its record lowest levels from 4.5 last year to 4.4 out of 10. At the same time, Malaysia's ranking still remains the same as last year, at 56 out of 178 countries, the worst in our history after falling from 47th in 2008 and our recent best of 33rd in 2002. This puts us on par with countries like Namibia and Turkey.

What is perhaps most scathing was the remarks in the report where TI believes that the Najib Administration still lacks the political will to stem out corruption and stressed that steps must be taken to tackle problems with implementation.

This is despite the fact that Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has made the fight against Corruption one of the 6 key "National Key Result Areas" (NKRAs) of his administration. More than 15 months ago, he appointed Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz as the "lead minister" for the Corruption NKRA who will be in-charge to ensure the achievement of the set "key performance indicators" (KPI), with the Prime Minister himself assuming the overall reponsibility for the NKRA objectives and attainment of the KPIs.

The Prime Minister promised that he "will be personally and directly involved in reviewing the performance of all the ministers every six months... Should any performance not meet the standard, I, the relevant minister and public officials concerned will remove any obstacle that is impeding their performance."

The TI CPI is one of the key KPIs of the Corruption NKRA and it is now shown clearly that Najib has failed to instil confidence that his administration is serious against corruption, and has failed to take concrete actions to the damage over the past decade.

The Najib administration has failed to a large extent due to its lack of willingness to prosecute the "big fishes" involved mega-scandals such as the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal, where despite the hype which was created where more than a handful of "big names" were expected to be charged following the arrest of Tun Ling Liong Sik in July this year, no one else has been hauled up.

What's more, the administrations unwillingness to fully endorse the recommendations by the "Government Transformation Programme" (GTP) for the Corruption NKRA has exposed the hollowness of Najib's attempted fight against corruption.

For example, the call by the GTP to ban "letters of support" for procurement contracts have been resisted by none other than the Minister in-charge of the Corruption NKRA himself, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. There's the half-hearted implementation of the emphasis on open, competitive and transparent tenders for government projects with Najib himself openly reserving some of the largest Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) projects for selected private consortiums such as the MRT for Gamuda-MMC, and the high-speed rail link for YTL.

In addition, the half-hearted attempt at publishing incomplete and sometimes inaccurate data on the MyProcurement Portal only shows up the lack of commitment by the various Ministries to take up the call for transparency and the fight against corruption. For example, despite having a procurement budget of nearly RM3 billion, only 8 contracts worth RM15.3 million have been published. And worse, these contracts have been published since April with the portal was launched, there has been no additional updates since!

It is time for Najib to wield his whip to ensure that the NKRA for Corruption will not become his first and biggest failure in his 18-month administration to date. Without the necessary political will in fighting corruption, there will be little confidence in similar political will to execute all the other necessary reforms to ensure that all the other NKRAs, NEM and ETP goals will be met.

A Vote for BN is a Vote for Cronies

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 04:37 AM PST

BN has been in power but remains powerless to fight crony interests, at the expense of the interests of the rakyat

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Barisan Nasional (BN) needs to be in power to enable the people's interests to come first, not for the coalition's interests.
He argued that it is only BN that can bring progress for the country and therefore the people should put only capable people in the right places.

Najib must be finding it more and more difficult to sing the same BN song over the past 50 years as the fact that BN has failed to protect the interest of the people and had instead increasingly favoured it's the interest of its cronies over the past half-a-century. The past two decades have been littered with examples of BN policies which have enriched a few while increasing the burden of the people at the same time.

The highway toll concessions provide the clearest example of the BN government guaranteeing billions of profits annually to companies which are cosy with BN while ensuring at the same time that the people will have to pay exorbitant toll rates daily for decades. The North-South Expressway (PLUS) for instance, makes profits in excess of RM1.5 billion and yet the Government still pays compensation of more than RM800 million annually. At the same time PLUS enjoys tax free status while being allowed to raise toll rates by 10% every 3 years.

However with the rise of Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general elections, our state governments, despite their limited powers and opposition from the Federal Government have shown a completely different philosophy where we fought crony interest and unfair contracts to ensure that the people's rights and welfare are prioritised.

The Selangor state government for instance, fought the Federal Government to prevent SYABAS, a private concessionaire, from unfairly increasing water tariff rates in 2009 by 37%. Not only did we stop the tariff hike, the state government has provided 20m3 of free subsidized water to each household ever since taking power costing RM120 million a year, derived from expenditure savings as a result of good governance practices.

On the other hand, the Johor BN government colluded with the private concessionaire, Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) to increase water rates by as much as 63% in November 2010, substantially increasing the burden of more than 3.2 million Johoreans.

The recent rounds of creeping subsidy cuts where food and fuel subsidies to the man-in-the-street are reduced but the RM6-8 billion of gas subsidies extended to independent power producers (IPPs) which are owned by powerful BN cronies which also makes billions in profits annually are ignored.

Pakatan Rakyat states have also proven the competence in running state administrations better than their previous BN counterparts as shown in Penang where for the first time in history, the tiny state topped the country's performance in terms of attracting capital investments amounting to RM12.2 billion, or more than 26% of total capital investment in Malaysia for 2010.

Najib who warned that "if incapable people who only knew how to make empty promises were chosen as leaders, the country would collapse" cannot be more true, for if the rakyat continue to give support to BN, then we will be feeding the insatiable appetites of its cronies while impoverishing the ordinary citizens.

Another BN Land Swap Scam

Posted: 19 Jan 2011 05:22 AM PST

BN once again failed to protect the interest of the rakyat by ensuring most "value for money" for government assets and contracts by awarding a RM600 million contract without open tender

In a mirror image of the RM682 million contract to construct Malaysia's largest exhibition and convention centre via direct negotiations by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in November 2009, the Ministry of Health has awarded a RM600 to 700 million contract to Sentosa Jitra Sdn Bhd, a 50% associate of SP Setia Bhd to build 1National Institute of Health (1NIH).

In both cases, the Government is footing the bill via land swap deals. The Matrade International Convention & Exhibition Centre is paid with a 62.5 acres piece of prime land near Mont Kiara to Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd while the 1NIH project is paid with a 40.22 acres piece of prime land along Jalan Bangsar.

In both cases, the estimated value of the land far exceeds the value of the construction contract. Professional valuers have estimated the Naza TTDI land to be worth between RM350 and RM500 per square feet (psf) i.e., a total value between RM970 million to RM1.5 billion. The proposed project on the land is expected to achieve RM10 billion in gross development value (GDV).

Maybank Investment Bank has also estimated the value of land obtained by SP Setia to be worth RM646 to RM1,050 psf based on recently transacted prices in the area, giving a total land value of up to RM1.8 billion. ECM Libra also estimated a GDV of around RM8 billion.

The nature of these contracts only prove that the lack of transparency and good governance practices continue despite all the talk of reform through the hyped up transformation programmes such as the GTP, ETP and NEM.

Why did the Government choose not to tender the respective construction projects without any tenders, open or restricted to ensure that it gets to build the Matrade Centre or the 1NIH at the lowest possible cost?

Why was there no open auction on the Government land which was bestowed upon these private developers to ensure that the Government maximises the value of its assets?

Government losses from these two deals of up to RM1.28 billion combined would have more than offset the "savings" generated from the most recent round of subsidy cuts on essential goods.
In direct contrast to the award of the 1NIH project, the Pakatan Rakyat Penang state government has also recently awarded a contract via open tender to SP Setia to build the RM300 million subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (sPICE) where the developer will only be paid a total of RM50 million. SP Setia has to recoup its investments from managing and operating sPICE during the 30-year concession.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has promised to stamp out "rent-seeking and patronage" under his "New Economic Model" to ensure value-for-money for government expenditure. He has even promised under the "Economic Transformation Programme" to carry out open tenders for big projects. However, the deals which have been awarded by the Government to date fails to live up to Najib's lofty promises. These deals continue to heavily benefit the big businesses at the expense of the Government, and ultimately the rakyat.

We call upon Datuk Seri Najib to cancel the above transaction and instead call for an open tender to build the proposed 1NIH and conduct an open auction for the 40.22 acres of prime land in Bangsar to not only ensure that the rakyat's interest is prioritised, but prevent the GTP, ETP and NEM from becoming for all intents and purposes, dead and buried.

Double Standards in Azan Row

Posted: 18 Jan 2011 06:13 AM PST

Double standards in azan row, says Pua
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

The DAP national publicity secretary questioned if BN would have been forgiving if the controversy had involved a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politician.

Yesterday, MCA lawyer Ng Kian Nam apologised for complaining about the volume of the "azan" from a mosque in Kampung Kerinchi here, and described the matter as a "misunderstanding'.

"I think the apology should be accepted. I don't think the matter should be exploited or made into a big deal.

"The issue that Pakatan Rakyat has is not so much about the apology but the double stand that Umno politicians have. When it is an MCA rep, let's close the case quickly and make sure the issue should not prolong," Pua told reporters during a press conference here.

Ng said he had mistaken the pre-dawn sermon for the "azan", which led him to send a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on December 20 last year.

In the letter, the MCA Youth leader had suggested the authorities set specific guidelines to control the volume of the loudspeakers at mosques, saying that the "azan" often disturbed his sleep in the mornings.

This led to a protest by two Malay NGOs last Friday.

The issue was resolved yesterday when Ng met Lembah Pantai Umno division chief Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin as well as representatives from the NGOs which had protested against the lawyer.

However, Pua pointed out that the "azan" row would have made headlines in Umno-owned newspapers, especially Utusan Malaysia, if it had involved PR.

He said PR would have been attacked for religious insensitiveness and called a racist.

Click here for full article.

KTMB RM85m Contract to Company Without Track Record?

Posted: 18 Jan 2011 05:26 AM PST

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha must explain why the RM85 million Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system is awarded to a company without the necessary track record

It has been confirmed by both the Transport Minister as well as KTMB officials that KTMB is facing investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over irregularities over the award of the RM85 million "Design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of automatic fare collection (AFC) system for KTMB's Commuter Stations".

KTMB is being investigated for alleged fraud in rigging the tender evaluation process to award the contract to Hopetech Sdn Bhd, despite being 18% more expensive than 2 other bidders.
Instead of suspending the project pending investigations, the Transport Minister, who is also the MCA Secretary-General, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha had immediately decreed that the project must proceed with the awarded contractor without delay.

In the interest of transparency and public accountability, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha needs to explain the reasons why the project was awarded to a company with no track record of delivering AFC systems and why no site visits to installed locations or manufacturing facilities conducted by the tender evaluation team to determine the competence of the respective tenderers. It is critical for Datuk Seri Kong to respond since the KTMB chairman, Dato' Sri Mohd Zin Mohamed, has denied any role in the award process as it was decided by the Ministry of Transport and KTMB will just be the end-user of the system.

What is perhaps more worrying and requires further investigation is the fact that the CEO and Executive Director, Mohamed Zafril bin Mohamed Zabdin and the Managing Director, Hairul Ridza Hayata bin Hayata Elias are both directors of other companies which are either facing winding up petitions or have been wound up on orders by the court.

I have been provided with financial search results which showed that Mohamed Zafril and Hairul Ridza were directors of The Royal Mint of Malaysia Sdn Bhd which was wound up by Mayban Trustees Bhd in February 2009. Hairul Ridza is also director of Southvakes Systems Sdn Bhd which was facing an on-going winding up petition as at the end of 2010.

Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha must not shirk his ministerial responsibility to ensure that the tender processes in the Ministry of Transport and KTMB are conducted in a transparent, fair and professional manner. Continued leakages and award of contracts without value-for-money will only worsen the financial position of KTMB which has accumulated losses of RM1.45 billion as at 2008.

In addition, by choosing to proceed with the project amidst serious investigation for fraud, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha has also turned a blind eye on the Prime Minister's NKRA on fighting corruption. The Transport Minister's care-less attitude is not only the height of ministerial irresponsibility, but will also cement the perception that the Barisan Nasional government is not at all serious about fighting rampant corruption. The increasingly negative perception has reduced Malaysia's Transparency International's Global Corruption rankings to a record low of 56th place in 2009 from 33rd in 2003.

Kong Cho Ha's Height of Ministerial Irresponsibility

Posted: 14 Jan 2011 05:29 AM PST

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha is demonstrating utmost ministerial irresponsibility for decreeing that KTMB ticketing system project continues despite investigation of irregularities by MACC

It has been confirmed by both the Transport Minister as well as KTMB officials that KTMB is facing investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over irregularities over the award of the RM85 million "Design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of automatic fare collection (AFC) system for KTMB's Commuter Stations".

KTMB is being investigated for alleged fraud in rigging the tender evaluation process to ensure award to the "designated" company, despite being 18% more expensive than 2 other bidders.
It is hence shocking that the Transport Minister, who is also the MCA Secretary-General, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha chose to ignore the major implications and ramifications of such an investigations, and immediately decreed that the project must proceed with the awarded contractor without delay.

By proceeding with the project with a potentially "underqualified" company at a significantly higher cost means that the project may not achieve its goals, and KTMB will be spending more money than absolutely necessary. Given KTMB's precarious financial position of cumulative net losses of RM1.45 billion as at 2008, the entity could ill-afford to be extravagant with its expenditure. What's more, KTMB has been unable to service even its soft loans amounting to RM880 million from the Federal Government which have fully matured as of July 2010.

By choosing to proceed with the project amidst serious investigation for fraud, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha has also turned a blind eye on the Prime Minister's NKRA on fighting corruption. The Transport Minister's care-less attitude is not only the height of ministerial irresponsibility, but will also cement the perception that the Barisan Nasional government is not at all serious about fighting rampant corruption. The increasingly negative perception has reduced Malaysia's Transparency International's Global Corruption rankings to a record low of 56th place in 2009 from 33rd in 2003.

What is worse, KTMB has demonstrated incorrigible behaviour over the past decade with a whole laundry list of poor governance and suspicious deals signed over the past decade, including the purchase of 38 EMU 6-coach units from China worth RM1.9 billion, 8 second-hand diesel multiple-units (DMU) worth RM64 million and the disposal of land which does not belong to KTMB.

I call upon Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha to declare his position with regards to the award of the AFC contract, as to whether he is completely satisfied with the evaluation process and that the company awarded is the most competent of the shortlisted companies to deliver the project. If he has doubts or is unable to unequivocally declare his position, then he should then immediately suspend the award of the project to ensure that only the company with the best track record at the best price will receive the award of the project.

How much is Gamuda-MMC paid to be MRT's PDP?

Posted: 03 Jan 2011 05:31 AM PST

SPAD must lead the way in the Government Transformation Plan's (GTP) call to ensure "Performance Now" through transparency and accountability

The speedy response by the Land Public Transportation Commission (SPAD) to questions and criticisms with regards to the proposed RM47 billion MRT project on the 23 Dec last month is indeed praise-worthy and should be emulated by all other government agencies and departments which typically oblivious, intentionally or otherwise, to criticisms.

In the press conference, SPAD CEO, Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal stressed that the project delivery partner (PDP), MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd, would bear any cost over-runs to deflect concerns that the Government may be forced to bail out the contractors in the event of project failure.

On criticisms that the Government is commencing the MRT project before the Klang Valley Urban Public Transport Plan is ready, he argued that "the Bus Rapid Transit (system) is not practical as the main (transport) solution here in the city," pointing out that the BRT required multiple-lane highways. He added that "we put out this rail plan first because rail is the backbone."

The response by SPAD however, raises more questions than answers on Malaysia's largest ever infrastructure project, and possibly the riskiest ever due to its sheer size and scale.

Firstly, it is interesting to note that while MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture's is limited as the "project delivery partner", it has to bear all cost over-runs of the contractors to be appointed by the Government for the RM36 billion project. To say that it is a heavy burden placed on the PDP would perhaps be a severe understatement. We call upon SPAD to disclose in full the terms of the arrangement with the PDP, including the fees being paid to MMC-Gamuda as the PDP.

Malaysians cannot be blamed for doubting the credibility of the Malaysian government as history has shown the complete lack of political will for the Government to take action against failing contractors despite clear legal provisions. For example, the government bore the cost to complete the MATRADE building where the cost of construction increased from RM167 million to RM287 million after nearly 10 years of delay in 2006. At the same time, the Government had to bear RM70 million of repair costs to the RM238 million Middle-Ring Road 2, while the contractors got away scot free.

Secondly, SPAD has indeed put the cart before the horse by proceeding with MRT project before the Urban Public Transport Plan is ready in September this year. While Nur Ismal claimed that the use of buses will be insufficient and ineffective is at best an intelligent guess for clearly a detailed study on routes, population density and growth, most efficient public transport mix has not been done or completed. I welcome SPAD to prove me wrong by publishing the full public transport requirement study which has taken into account the above, other than the MRT proposal submitted by the Gamuda-MMC joint venture.
Finally, SPAD has altogether avoided the question which I had posed earlier on how the RM47 billion MRT system will be made available at an affordable basis – what is the proposed fare structure? - without at the same time, become a long-term unsustainable burden for the tax-payers. For example, last year's audit report on Prasarana showed that the current average LRT fare of RM1.60 has to be increased to nearly RM9 for the LRT infrastructural costs to be fully recouped within the next 20 years despite the LRTs costing the Federal Government less than RM8 billion, nearly 6 times less than the proposed MRT system. Are we going to take two centuries to pay for the RM47 billion MRT project?

As of today, Prasarana is already heavily indebted with RM8.5 billion in bonds which it is unable even to service its interest. This has been heavily criticised by the Auditor-General's report in 2009 for making accumulated losses of RM840 million as of December 2007, in part due to suspicious activities and mismanagement. In the 2011 budget, the Government had to allocate RM2.5 billion of funds to bailout Prasarana-issued bonds which are due in November 2011.

We call upon SPAD to be completely transparent with the entire plan, design and financial impact of the MRT project to convince the rakyat that the MRT routes are optimised based on maximum public benefit, but also that it will not become an unsustainable project which will leave our future tax-payers with billions in debt.

Tenang - Majority Counts

Posted: 26 Dec 2010 06:19 AM PST

In Tenang, size of win indicates faith in Najib
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal December 26, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 – The upcoming Tenang by-election is shaping up to be a test for voter confidence in Datuk Seri Najib Razak as Prime Minister, and whether he can lead the country under the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, says his political foes.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders have admitted that winning the state seat in the BN stronghold Johor would be "realistically" tough, but they claimed that reducing BN's majority will affect Najib's (picture) popularity as PM.

A recent survey by Merdeka Center showed Najib's approval rating remains high among voters in peninsular Malaysia, dipping only slightly from 72 per cent in May to 69 per cent this month.

The poll showed that 74 per cent of Malays, 54 per cent of Chinese and 85 per cent of Indians were satisfied with the prime minister's performance, in a major boost for Najib as he mulls an early general election next year.

"To be perfectly honest, winning this seat will tough. Realistically speaking, if we can function as a coalition and make enough inroads in Tenang to deny BN a majority win by say 1,000 votes, it would reflect on Najib's leadership.

"You have to bear in mind that this is a BN stronghold, so if Najib does not win big here he is in trouble," said Tony Pua, the DAP's national publicity secretary.

Pua told The Malaysian Insider that the Tenang seat was "crucial" in ensuring that PR made inroads in Johor, a tradionally Umno area.

Another DAP MP, Anthony Loke said that PR should not be entirely focused on winning Tenang, as the "bigger picture" should be about getting across to voters there.

"If we can win, yes it will be an upset. But what we need to achieve there is to shake the confidence of BN, as well as Najib. Johor remains the only fixed deposit for BN in Peninsular Malaysia," the party's Youth Chief (Dapsy) told The Malaysian Insider.

For the full article, click here.

Pemandu says Teh Tarik Price Up by 1 sen

Posted: 23 Dec 2010 05:35 AM PST

The proposed 20 sen increase in beverage prices by the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Coffee Shop Association in 2011 debunks the Prime Minister's claim that the Government's cut in subsidies will have "minimal impact" on households in Malaysia

In July, the Government launched a surprise "5-in-1" price hike programme, raising the prices of RON95 and RON97 petrol, diesel, white sugar and liquified petroluem gas (LPG) including cooking gas cyclinders by at least 2.8% and as much as 15.2%.

Then on 3 December 2010, less than 5 months later, another series of hikes is announced - the price of RON95 will increase by five sen to RM1.90 per litre, diesel by five sen per litre to RM1.80 and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by five sen to RM1.90 per kg. Sugar will also cost 20 sen more at RM2.10 per kg.

In fact for white sugar prices, inclusive of a 20 sen hike in January on top of the 25 sen and 20 sen hike in July and December, prices have increased by more than 55% this year alone.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had in July claimed that the price increases will have "minimal impact" on households in Malaysia. This is further reiterated by the Minister in Prime Minister's Department and CEO of Pemandu, Datuk Seri Idris Jala more recently on 4 December via its Subsidy Rationalisation Factsheet that the 2nd round of price hikes "will result in minimal impact to consumers".

In July, Pemandu "demonstrated" that the new teh tarik price taking into the impact of subsidy reduction of fuel and upward price adjustment would be around RM1.0155, or an increase of less than 2 sen in full page advertisements across all major mainstream newspapers.

After the December hikes, the new Subsidy Rationalisation Factsheet rationalised that a glass of "teh tarik" and "kopi susu" costing RM1.20 is expected to increase in price by 0.8 sen and hence will not cost more than RM1.21 or a tiny 0.83% hike in prices. (The fact sheet actually says 0.6% increase for "teh tarik" and 0.5% for "kopi susu" – somebody in Pemandu failed their mathematics).

Firstly, there is a clear contradiction in "teh tarik" prices between the fact sheet issued in July which was only RM1.00 as compared to the new base price of RM1.20 in the December fact sheet. The 20% "mysterious" 20% increase in the base price between July and December remains unexplained.

Secondly, and more importantly, Barisan Nasional and Pemandu lives in a parallel imaginary universe of price hikes involving increases of 1.55 sen or even 1 sen. I had issued a statement in July arguing that Pemandu should be "commended" for the audacity to publish such numbers which are at best applicable only in a fictitious and theoretical universe, and at worse, showing the complete lack of understanding of real world market dynamics on the price of goods and services.

And to prove my point, it was reported yesterday in all major Chinese newspapers that the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Coffee Shop Association has announced the proposal to increase all beverage prices by 20 sen starting 1st January 2011. "Kopi susu" and "teh susu" prices will be increased from RM1.20 to RM1.40 translating to a massive 16.7% increase in prices!

Even the price of everyone's coffee shop favourite "herbal tea" will be increased from RM1.10 to RM1.30 or a hike of more than 18%. And Pemandu had the audacity to claim that "herbal tea" prices will only increase from RM1.00 to RM1.012 or just a 1.2% increase!

In fact, out of the 70 everyday food and drink items listed on the Subsidy Rationalisation fact sheet, no item is expected to increase by more than 1.9% after the most recent round of price hikes!

The Star has also reported on 20th December that evaporated milk and sweetened creamer is also expected to increase by 30 sen next year, after a 5 sen and 10 sen increase in April and October this year, marking an overall increase of up to 20% within a year.

What is perhaps most embarrassing is for the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Deputy Minister, Datuk Tan Lian Hoe to argue that a 10 sen increase in beverage prices "will be more reasonable". A 10 sen increase will still result in a 8.3% increase for the price of "teh tarik" and "kopi susu", 10 times higher than the 0.83% increase claimed by Pemandu. If the BN government even believes in its own policies, Datuk Tan Lian Hoe should openly insist that only a 1 sen increase is justifiable.

The government should instead stop spewing these ridiculous and out-of-these-world hypothetical data which demonstrate at best its sheer incompetence and irrelevance, or worst, its blatant attempts at misleading the rakyat with preposterous falsehoods in order to justify the continued price increases. We are disappointed that the BN government has prioritise its "subsidy rationalisation" efforts on items which will worsen the living conditions for the man-on-the-street, but has not lifted a finger to "rationalise" the more substantial RM8 – 10 billion of subsidies given to independent power producers who are already making billions of ringgit in profits annually despite repeated promises to do so.

The above makes a complete mockery of the Prime Minister's slogan of "people first", for it demonstrates that the people's interest don't come first under the BN government, but instead the people's subsidies get cut first.

Utusan Loses the Plot

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 05:41 AM PST

Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia has completely lost the plot with its daily extensive attacks against DAP and is the single largest hindrance to national unity

Never before in history has the DAP, a party Utusan Malaysia has previously regarded as irrelevant, become the object of obsession to the Umno-owned newspaper. In the last 3 of 4 days, the DAP made the front page of Utusan Malaysia with headlines like "Muslihat DAP", "Guan Eng dikecam" and "Umat Islam perlu tolak DAP" on the 18, 20 and 21 December respectively.

Not only did the DAP and its leaders consistently make the frontpage, Utusan dedicated dozens of columns to DAP with titles such as "DAP perkudakan Anwar", "DAP alat politik negara asing", "DAP salur matlumat kepada Kuan Yew?", "DAP gentar dengan 1Malaysia", "DAP tiru strategi PAP", "DAP yang sebenarnya memperalatkan 3R", "DAP amal politik ala aparteid", "Kebiadapan Guan Eng", "Guan Eng semakin bersikap perkauman", "Guan Eng perlu cermin diri" and more.

The above hasn't taken into account the fact that for the past year, Utusan has often granted DAP leaders exclusive frontpage coverage to Karpal Singh, Teo Nie Ching and even myself, for daring to suggest that the housing discount for the wealthy bumiputeras be channelled towards helping the bumiputera poor.

In fact, if one were to conduct a search of "DAP" in Utusan on Google based on the year of publication, 2007 will return 291 results, 2008 - 876 results, 2009 - 12,400 results and 2010 will give a record 29,800 results to date.

It is most laughable when Utusan had to plead to its readers not to boycott the paper due to "political sentiments" ("Pembaca akhbar tidak boleh terikut-ikut tindakan memboikot Utusan Malaysia kerana sentimen politik...") and blame Pakatan Rakyat for its affected business. Circulation for Utusan has plummeted drastically in recent years from 256,247 in 2004 to 213,445 in 2006 and 169,548 in 2009 or a 33.8% drop in 5 years. Profit before tax for the newspaper group has also plunged from RM21 million to RM7 million over the past 4 years.

It appears that Utusan is attempting to rationalise its loss of readership due to external factors instead of looking inwards at their incessant racial posturing, outright lies and inflammatory headlines such as "Bangkitlah Melayu" as being the main causes. In fact, based on the statistics above, there is a correlation between the rapidly increasing attacks against the DAP and the rapidly declining circulation of the newspaper.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Hata Wahari, who himself is a Utusan journalist had demanded that Utusan Malaysia abolish editorial policies which go against "journalistic ethics" in order to tackle a severe drop in its readership circulation. He claimed that the Malay daily's reporting was "biased" in nature, saying that positive coverage revolved around Barisan Nasional (BN) while negative reports were specifically reserved for Pakatan Rakyat (PR). He added that Utusan also does not give an opportunity for an accused to answer certain allegations by choosing not to publish it.

Even the Minister in the Prime Minister's department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had accused Utusan of becoming "racist" in its reporting in September this year.

In fact, Utusan is a proven liar with leading opposition figures, MP for Pokok Sena, Mahfuz Omar and Tenaganita Director, Irene Fernandez, awarded RM120,000 and RM200,000 in damages respectively in defamation suits against the paper. Dozens of other defamation suits are still waiting to be disposed in the courts.

The relentless attacks on the DAP only serves to prove that DAP and Pakatan Rakyat are making major inroads in proving to the people that we are not only competent in governance, we have proven that despite having a DAP chief minister in Penang, Malays and Muslims enjoy greater rights and benefits than under a BN administration. This is due to a more caring government, which is able to fund its welfare policies through more effective and efficient administration, as well as reducing wastage and corruption through open tenders for all government projects.

I had on 1 November 2010 challenged Utusan Malaysia to an open debate on its many allegations against the "racist" DAP. Unfortunately, the editors chose not to defend their allegations with facts and figures in the open but continued to throw baseless, wild and wicked accusations against the DAP. This proves that Utusan's cowardly agenda is to flood its readers with lies and half-truths against the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat for it has no ability or courage to withstand impartial public scrutiny.

The Prime Minister, despite his call for "moderation" in reporting, has failed to reign in his party's newspaper and his 1Malaysia policy will only fail as a result of Utusan's extremist and racist reporting.

How will the MRT be funded?

Posted: 20 Dec 2010 05:44 AM PST

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak must disclose how the MRT will be financed and why the project is expected to commence before even the urban public transportation plan is ready

We welcome the Prime Minister's announcement on Saturday which announced that Malaysia's largest ever infrastructure project, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, will be tendered openly via 9 project parcels. This is after strong criticisms against the Prime Minister's initial proposals and admission in October that "there are some contracts that you just cannot tender out".

The announcement also indicated that the Government will own and finance the project in its entirety. However this raises further questions on how the Government, via Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd will be able to bear the entire cost of the project, estimated at RM36 billion before taking into account land costs of an additional RM10 billion.

As of today, Prasarana is already heavily indebted with RM8.5 billion in bonds which it is unable even to service its interest. This has been heavily criticised by the Auditor-General's report in 2009 for making accumulated losses of RM840 million as of December 2007, in part due to suspicious activities and mismanagement. In the 2011 budget, the Government had to allocate RM2.5 billion of funds to bailout Prasarana-issued bonds which are due in November 2011.

The Prime Minister must come clean with the entire funding process as it will not only affect the Government's financial position, it will also affect finally the fees to be charged for the MRT commuters when it is ready for use. While Malaysians, particularly those who reside in the Klang Valley look forward to better public transport facilities, they must be made available at an affordable basis without at the same time, become an unsustainable burden for the tax-payers.

For example, last year's audit report on Prasarana showed that the current average LRT fare of RM1.60 has to be increased to nearly RM9 for the LRT infrastructural costs to be fully recouped within the next 20 years despite the LRTs costing the Federal Government less than RM8 billion, nearly 5 times less than the proposed MRT system.

What is perhaps most worrying is the fact that the Government is rushing headlong into the project without the newly minted Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) first coming out with the 20-year urban public transport plan for Klang Valley, which is only expected in September next year. The Cabinet has however decided to award the relevant contracts and commence construction works for the MRT in July 2011, even before the holistic public transport plan, which will include buses and other rail systems is finalised!

In fact, SPAD is still unable to declare, as of today, backed by a thorough and professional study that the MRT is the best option for the Klang Valley in the near future, as opposed to cheaper alternatives like buses or even trams based on travel patterns and population statistics.

It is highly misleading for the Prime Minister to espouse the viability of the project by claiming that it will generate gross national income of up to RM4 billion per annum when the interest servicing cost for the project at completion may in itself come up to more than RM2 billion each year.

We call upon the Government to be completely transparent with the entire plan, design and financial impact of the MRT project to convince the rakyat that the MRT routes are optimised based on maximum public benefit, but also that it will not become an unsustainable project which will leave our future tax-payers with billions in debt.

PKFZ: Were OSK Trustees Cheated?

Posted: 10 Nov 2010 05:47 AM PST

Did the Attorney-General office charge the 3 accused in the PKFZ scandal of cheating OSK Trustees without first establishing that OSK Trustees were cheated?

In December 2009, Engineer Law Jenn Dong, 52, architect Bernard Tan Seng Swee, 49, and Kuala Dimensi chief operating officer Stephen Abok, 52 were accused with dozens of charges of cheating the Port Klang Authority (PKA) by by misleading the authority into believing that the 33kv system to Precinct 2 and Precinct 8, as well as other electrical infrastructure works for the PKFZ had been completed when they knew otherwise, thus deceiving PKA into paying up to RM122.267 milllion to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).

Two days ago, they were offered 24 alternative charges by the prosecution for all their original charges by the Deputy Public Prosecutor. In these alternative charges, they were accused of "deceiving OSK Trustees" instead of cheating PKA, into believing that various 33KV electrical infrastructure works for the PKFZ had been completed in order to collect payment, despite knowing that it was not. These offences were allegedly committed at the OSK Trustees office, Plaza OSK in Ampang, between June 30, 2006 and June 20, 2008. The amount in the payments from OSK Trustees ranged between RM583,000 and RM16.73 million, totalling to RM116.85 million.

However, in a shocking response yesterday, as published in the Financial Daily today, OSK Trustees were "taken by surprise" at these new charges and have denied knowledge that it was "cheated" into releasing millions of ringgits in payments for the PKFZ project. According to the report, "OSK Trustees is said to have been caught unawares given that it had not filed any official complaint with the authorities that it had been "cheated".

The above raises the key question of whether the Attorney-General's office has done all the necessary investigations and due diligence on the case before initiating these charges. One can only imagine during the trial when an OSK Trustees representative takes the witness stand and when asked if they were cheated, they then declare that they do not think or believe that they were "cheated". Would not the entire prosecution case collapse?!

Additionally, the prosecution charges of OSK Trustees being "cheated", and the denial by OSK Trustees of being unaware of being "cheated" has raised the question as to whether the Trustees can now continue to legally make payments to the bondholders. The OSK Trustees have written to reassure bondholders that the funds due this month for principal and coupon redemptions "would be duly paid out on the due dates".

Given that there is now the real possibility that at least part of these funds received by OSK Trustees were derived from the process of "cheating", then can the cheated funds be legally utilised to make further payments? And if OSK Trustees proceed to make payments despite now knowing of the seriousness of the potential implications, would they be abetting or become party to the conspiracy by disbursing these funds?

What's more, if the Attorney-General's office is certain that these monies paid to OSK Trustees were derived from cheating, then would it not be proper for the prosecution to apply for the monies to be frozen to ensure recoverability upon a successful prosecution?

As highlighted in the debate on the Attorney-General's pay cut in Parliament yesterday where Pakatan Rakyat leaders have expressed grave concerns over the quality of prosecution which have resulted in multiple corruption charges against junior officials such as former Ampang Municipal Council enforcement director Abdul Kudus Ahmad, as well as against high-profile VIP cases against former Land and Development Minister, Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam and Perwaja CEO, Tan Sri Eric Chia collapsing into acquitals for all the accused.

We call upon the Attorney-General's office to utilise its best resources to prosecute those deemed guilty of bring the Government into disrepute, especially in this PKFZ "mother of all scandals" which has brought not only billions of losses to Malaysians but is also the epitome of shame and embarrassment in our fight against corruption.

Government Prepares Multi-Billion Ringgit Water Companies Bailout?

Posted: 08 Nov 2010 05:49 AM PST

The fact that the Federal Government is contemplating a multi-billion ringgit bail out of the privatised water industry in Selangor is repulsive and a sheer abuse of tax-payers' funds

In a November 4 report by the Malaysian Insider, the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Seri Peter disclosed that "the federal government may come to the rescue of Selangor water bondholders by undertaking a bond swap if no headway is made soon in stalled water consolidation talks". He revealed that "swapping existing bonds with triple-A government-backed ones was one option on the table to buy stakeholders more time as state and federal governments try to break the current impasse."

The multi-billion ringgit move to bail out the Selangor water companies, Puncak Niaga (PNSB) and its subsidiary Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor (SPLASH) and Konsortium Abass is shocking and repulsive for the Federal Government is once again attempting to use tax-payers' money to rescue its Barisan Nasional cronies who have profited tremendously from the Government's privatisation exercise.

As of today, PNSB, SYABAS, SPLASH and ABASS have net debts of RM1.3 billion, RM2.9 billion, RM1.6 billion and RM640 million respectively, translating into a combined net debt of RM6.4 billion. The move, if carried out will become the clearest example yet of a Barisan Nasional government who will privatise profits to its favourite businessmen, and when the latter face dificulties, socialize their losses to the rakyat.

It should be noted that most of these private water companies, despite their huge liabilities, have been rewarding their shareholders most lucratively by prioritising the payment of dividends over the repayment of their debts. PNSB in 2008 alone made dividend payments of RM500 million while SPLASH paid out a whopping RM578.6 million to their shareholders.

And now, after paying out their substantial cash holdings to enrich the shareholders, much of which were raised from the debt markets, they now want the want the Government to bail them out of their debt and liabilities. What is worse is that the Government is appearing more than willing to participate in this scheme to victimise the man-on-the-street.

Instead, the Government should utilise this opportunity to tell the recalcitrant water concessionaires like PNSB and Syabas who are holding the Selangor water industry to ransom by refusing to cooperate over the industry's consolidation exercise under the state government, in no uncertain terms that there will be no bail out and that they need to play ball in the industry's restructuring exercise.

In addition, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has powers under the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) 2006 Sections 113 and 114 to intervene when a licensee is facing financial difficulty. SPAN has to date refused to intervene particularly in Syabas who has threatened to stop the maintenance of water pipes in the state due to the lack of funds.

And should these companies refuse to "play ball", then let the bondholders declare an event of default and take over the assets and management of these companies as provided for under the bond agreements.

The Federal Government's admission on the likelihood of a bailout of the water concessionaires smacks of a collusion with BN which clearly prioritises the interest of its cronies over that of the rakyat. Datuk Seri Peter Chin must declare in no uncertain terms that there will be no bail outs of the financially troubled water companies and instead direct them to reach a settlement with the state government over the water industry restructuring exercise.

Should the Federal Government proceed with the mega-bailout at the end of the year by undertaking the existing bonds with triple-A government-backed ones without first resolving the restructuring issue, Pakatan Rakyat will immediately organise a nationwide roadshow to protest against the action and let the rakyat know how the government privatises all the profits, but socialises all the liabilities and losses.

MCA vs Racists: All Talk No Action

Posted: 07 Nov 2010 05:53 AM PST

MCA's futile attempts in its call for action against school principals and teachers for racist, insensitive and inappropriate behaviour highlights its complete irrelevance in the Barisan Nasional Government

We would like to commend MCA for being quick to the draw to demand for action and punishment against the recent cases of racist, insensitive and inappropriate behaviour by some of our school principals and teachers.

In August 2010, Datuk Chor Chee Heung who himself is the Minister of Housing and Local Government had called for the school principal in Bukit Selambau who used racist remarks against some non-Muslim students to be "punished to set an example to everyone".

MCA's spokesperson and deputy publicity chief, Loh Seng Kok has publicly called for the school principal of Kulai's SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Siti Inshah Mansor to be "severely disciplined" for making derogatory and racist remarks against Indian and Chinese students just before the Bukit Selambau case.

Similarly, at the end of September, Loh had asked the Public Service Department to take action against the Deputy Director of the National Civic Bureau (BTN), Hamim Husin claiming that "shameful for a public servant employed to train upcoming civil servants to use derogatory, stereotypical terms that offended the Chinese and Indian communities... If necessary, the police should also charge Hamim under the Sedition Act. It is time to put a halt to the arrogance and intolerance of bigots."

However, despite their concerns raised since August on the racist principals issues in Kulai and Bukit Selambau as well as the BTN Deputy Director, no definitive action appears to have been taken by the Barisan Nasional government. The Minister of Education himself Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin abdicated from his responsibility to take action by delegating it to the Public Service Department, claiming that he is "powerless".

The Speaker of Parliament had rejected a motion by Lim Kit Siang to debate the issue on the issue nearly a month ago claiming that action has already been taken by the Government against the principals.

Until today, Malaysians have not been given a straight answer on the actions taken and punishment meted out to these culprits who are not only poisoning the minds of our young Malaysians, but are among the root cause of national disunity and racial intolerance in the country.

Even last month when the Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister announced at the UMNO Annual General Meeting on implementing the compulsory pass policy for History at SPM level, Loh had expressed concern that "distrust can be bred if History textbook contents are incomprehensive but emphasise racial superiority while negating the contributions of other races, or downplaying other worldwide civilisations."

Hence when Loh Seng Kok once again called yesterday for the Education Ministry to act against a Sarawak primary school for enforcing a halal food policy, it proves that MCA is now officially reduced to trying to meekly voice its views from the outside because it is completely ineffective and marginalised on the inside of the Government.

One could almost be forgiven for forgetting that the MCA is actually the 2nd largest component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional Government. What is perhaps most damaging is the fact Loh seems to have himself forgotten the fact that MCA Youth Chief, Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong holds the position of a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Education.

MCA should perhaps stop whining like a kitten which lost its mom and start acting on the above critical issues like it is part of the Government. Instead MCA must answer to the Malaysian public at large as to why it has been rendered completely ineffective and irrelevant in ensuring that proper actions be taken against public servants guilty of creating unrest through racist and insensitive behaviours.

Pemandu Defends Government's Anti-Corruption Track Record

Posted: 02 Nov 2010 06:53 AM PDT

Pemandu must stop digging a deeper hole for itself in defending the Government's poor performance against corruption

It is sad and almost comical for the current administration's leading agency to be tripping over itself repeatedly to demonstrate, however insignificantly, that the Government is delivering improvements in its fight against corruption.

In the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) calculations, Malaysia's corruption index score declined to its record lowest levels from 4.5 last year to 4.4 out of 10. At the same time, Malaysia's ranking still remains the same as last year, at 56 out of 178 countries, the worst in our history after falling from 47th in 2008 and our recent best of 33rd in 2002.

However, in response, Pemandu has responded with an official statement yesterday which essentially stated that while Tl's Index had shown "a slight reduction", the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook showed an improvement in index from 5.2 in 2009 to 6.3 in 2010. In addition, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy's (PERC) Asian Intelligence Newsletter showed in improvement in index from 3.6 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010 while the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report indicated an improvement in index from 4.5 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010.

The statement issued by Director of Communications of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) of Pemandu, Alexander Iskandar Liew added that "if we take an average score of the four surveys, it is clear that Malaysia's index has improved from 4.45 in 2009 to 4.975 in 2010. It is in the context of the above that we in Pemandu are saying that the NKRA's efforts in addressing corruption are on the right track...However, if one were to look at the outcome of the other three surveys on corruption in Malaysia by (those) reputable organisations, then the score clearly shows that there are improvements."

I almost feel sorry for Pemandu for having come up with such a statement. Firstly, it is a case of picking and choosing only surveys which are favourable towards themselves to highlight.

But more importantly, these surveys have already been taken into consideration by TI's CPI. For Malaysia's index scores, the results from 9 different surveys including the IMD, PERC and WEF's reports have been imputed. Attempting to paint a fake positive picture by averaging the TI score and the 3 other surveys is an obvious case of double counting the favourable surveys.

Hence, Pemandu is either trying to pull a fast one on the rakyat, or perhaps, they should have a refresher course on mathematics and statistics to avoid such embarrassing schoolboy errors in the future.

Pemandu needs to face up to the reality that things have not changed much over the past year despite many superficial attempts to improve transparency and accountability.

Despite the call for public disclosure over the government's privatisation projects in the GTP, such information has not been forthcoming, for example the RM628 million MATRADE Centre project which was awarded without any open tender. Many government-related projects under the ETP are expected to be awarded without any competitive bids, such as the MRT and the high-speed rail projects.

The half-hearted attempts at government procurement transparency via the "MyProcurement Portal" shows up its ineffectiveness. For example, despite having a procurement budget of nearly RM3 billion, only 8 contracts worth RM15.3 million have been published for the Ministry of Rural & Regional Development. Worse, these contracts have been published since April when the portal was launched, without additional updates since!

TI's statement on Malaysia's "achievements" is telling.
Although positive steps have been taken, there have been problems with implementation and lack of confidence-building improvements, indicating insufficient political will to eradicate corruption. For example, there are glaring items of grave concern, such as generally no "big fish" being brought to book, poor progress in identifying and prosecuting culpable persons in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco, No Further Action by the Attorney-General against those implicated in judicial appointment tampering ("Lingam tapes") despite the Royal Commission's findings and recommendations, the continuing and snowballing practice of awarding mega projects and contracts without open tenders or competitive bidding, and no IPs implemented to date.
It's time for Pemandu to stop attempting to paint a brighter picture on the fight against corruption that it actually is. Instead, it should receive Transparency International's report with an open heart and figure out more effective ways to prevent corruption and help the Government find its political will to fight and punish corruption.

A Challenge for Utusan to Debate

Posted: 01 Nov 2010 06:58 AM PDT

DAP mencabar "Awang Selamat" untuk mengadakan pembahasan terbuka mengenai isu "DAP dan Melayu"

Sekali lagi pihak penyunting dan pemilik Utusan Malaysia menggunakan kolum "Awang Selamat" untuk melontar pelbagai fitnah, pembohongan dan tuduhan liar terhadap parti DAP. Ruang beliau dalam Mingguan Malaysia yang diterbitkan semalam mendesak bahawa

Sesungguhnya DAP adalah parti paling rasis di dunia. Pada Awang, ancaman DAP adalah jauh lebih berbahaya daripada apa-apa ancaman sekalipun yang pernah dihadapi dalam sejarah tanah air. Cuma bentuk penjajahan mereka lebih halus, berselindung atas slogan demokrasi dan tanpa menggunakan senjata. Tetapi implikasinya amat besar. Perlembagaan termasuk kedudukan Islam dan institusi beraja menjadi taruhan, yang akhirnya membawa Malaysia menuju negara republik. Apakah itu yang kita mahu?

Penyerangan Utusan yang dimiliki oleh Umno terhadap DAP kian lama kian ekstrim dan keterlaluan. Penyerangan mereka termasuklah penyerangan terhadap kerajaan Pulau Pinang atas dasar kebajikan, pengambil-alihan tanah untuk membina hub pendidikan, isu penjaja-penjaja dan lain-lain perkara di mana kami dituduh menghalau orang Melayu dari Pulau Pinang. Utusan Malaysia juga telah menyerang bertubi-tubi terhadap pemimpin DAP yang lain termasuklah Ahli Parlimen Serdang, Teo Nie Ching yang difitnah memberikan takzirah dalam surau, dan juga saya sendiri yang dikatakan berniat untuk menghapuskan hak diskaun beli rumah bumiputera.

Demi mengemukakan kebenaran dan keadilan, saya ingin mencabar "Awang Selamat", yang boleh diwakili oleh sesiapa daripada Utusan Malaysia untuk mengambil bahagian dalam satu perbahasan terbuka mengenai desakan-desakan Utusan dan Umno mengenai "DAP dan Melayu".

Penyunting dan pemilik Utusan Malaysia tidak sepatutnya menyembunyikan diri mereka yang sebenar di belakang nama pena dan meluahkan pelbagai tuduhan tanpa berasas seperti penembak curi. Kami ingin memberikan peluang terbuka kepada pihak Utusan Malaysia untuk membela pendirian mereka seperti hulubalang kaum yang tulen, dan bukannya bertindak sebagai pengecut apabila menghadapi cabaran.

Kami dari DAP ingin membuktikan bukan sahaja bahawa kami tidak bertindak rasis, kami telah bersama dengan rakan seperjuangan kami di Pakatan Rakyat, menambah baikkan nasib orang Melayu bukan sahaja di Pulau Pinang tetapi juga di negeri lain di mana DAP merupakan sebahagian daripada kerajaan negeri.

Kami ingin membongkarkan bukti-bukti yang kukuh yang menunjukkan sesungguhnya Utusan Malaysia merupakan suratkhabar yang paling rasis di seluruh dunia ancaman Utusan adalah jauh lebih berbahaya daripada apa-apa ancaman sekalipun yang pernah dihadapi dalam sejarah tanah air.

Kami berani kerana benar dan kami berharap supaya pihak Utusan mempunyai keberanian yang mencukupi untuk menghadapi pihak DAP yang dikatakan sebagai musuh utama mereka. Penolakan peluang untuk pembahasan terbuka ini hanya akan menunjukkan bahawa pihak Utusan tidak berintegriti, dan tidak mampu mempertahankan pendirian mereka yang bersifat fitnah dan rasis.

Pembahasan ini boleh dianjurkan oleh mana-mana pihak bebas termasuk Kesatuan Wartawan Nasional (NUJ) ataupun TV3 dan format pembahasan boleh dipersetujui sebelum acara tersebut. Kami sedia menunggu berita baik daripada pihak Utusan Malaysia.

"Some Contracts Just Cannot Tender Out"

Posted: 26 Oct 2010 07:05 AM PDT

The Prime Minister fails to grasp the concept of "open tenders" and contradicts himself with exceptions without basis

We welcome the call by the Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak who said yesterday that the Government would ensure "big projects" be conducted in an "open and transparent way".

What was however shocking was the fact that when he was later asked about the biggest project under the ETP, the construction of a RM46 billion MRT system, he immediately contradicted himself claiming "there are some contracts that you just cannot tender out."

The Prime Minister added that while "some projects" could not be tendered out, it did not mean that projects awarded to a major consortium would see "everything else" down the line skipping the open tender process. The Prime Minister completely misses the point of the Government open tenders! The point is to ensure that the Government gets maximum value at the lowest possible cost. But directly awarding a mega-project to a private consortium which subsequently tenders out the respective works maximizes the profits for the consortium, not the Government.

The question we would like to ask is, while the private consortiums are maximising profits for their shareholders, why isn't the Government maximising value and returns for the Malaysian tax-payers?

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala subsequently tarnished his own reputation by defending his boss, claiming that "direct negotiations can lower down prices if you know what you're doing."

Datuk Seri Idris Jala should perhaps read the scores of scathing comments by Malaysians expressing their disappointment with him on the story in Malaysiakini yesterday. Firstly, it is probably in the rarest of circumstances when non-competitive awards of projects can be at a cheaper cost than competitive awards. Secondly, negotiations can always be carried out after the best bid has been selected from a competitive tender. And thirdly, in Malaysia, the experience is direct negotiations often resulted in higher prices not lower! One only has to refer to the new palace project in Jalan Duta where after direct negotiations, the contract size was increased from RM400 million to RM650 million, which was subsequently incurred additional variation orders raising the overall cost to RM811 million.

Datuk Idris Jala's claim that public goods projects like the MRT could not be brought to tender as they were too exorbitant tobe funded by private companies, citing similar experiences in other countries does not make any sense and isn't at all true.

It is exactly because government funding is required for "public goods projects" like the MRT that open tenders should be held to ensure transparency, accountability and best value for the tax-payers money.

In addition, I do not know which countries Datuk Idris Jala was referring to, but both Singapore and Hong Kong with world class MRT systems competitively tendered out the construction of the projects in 1982 and 1975.

In fact, prior to the commencement of works in 1982, the Singapore government engaged 2 independent transport and urban planning specialists teams to conduct independent studies as part of the Comprehensive Traffic Study in 1981. While in Hong Kong, transportation consultants Freeman, Fox, Wilbur Smith & Associates were appointed to study the transportation system in the city-state in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, we have chosen to "outsource" independent traffic studies to contractors such as Gamuda-MMC who clearly have a vested interest in securing and execution of the project.

Despite the multiple failures of our mega-privatisation projects in the 1990s especially in the transportation such as the Putra and Star LRT lines, the Monorail system and the attempted conslidation of bus companies, the Government has clearly not learnt their lessons. In the MRT's case, the Gamuda-MMC consortium will be awarded the MRT project not because they possess the best technologies, or because they have the cheapest price, or because they can deliver the highest quality services, but because they were first to present their proposal to the Prime Minister and were able to lead Pemandu by the nose on the entire project from conception to the full project details as outlined in the ETP Book.

History to be Compulsory Pass?

Posted: 25 Oct 2010 07:09 AM PDT

The Deputy Prime Minister's call to make History a compulsory subject for a SPM pass reek of attempts at revisionism and indoctrination of our young Malaysian students

According to Bernama, history will be a must-pass subject in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination from 2013 along with the Bahasa Malaysia subject, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said. He also said the education ministry would also make improvement to the subject, with emphasis on enhancing the understanding of the Constitution so as to enlighten students about the country's nation-building process.

The call to make History a compulsory subject came totally out of the blue, and stands in stark contast against the country's past policies to focus on science and mathematics to promote industry as well as to ensure employability.

While we have no objections in principle to making the subject a compulsory pass, we are extremely concerned with the proposal on two aspects.

Firstly, the underlying rationale behind the move appears to be to "teach" students about the constitution, and given the announcement of the measure at a Umno national convention, the focus will naturally be on the Article 153 and other related articles with regards to Malay "rights". Malaysian students should however, but taught on all aspects of the constitution including the Reid Commission report which was the basis of our constitution when it was drafted.

Will there for example, be an equal emphasis on say, the Article 8 which states that "All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law" and "Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment"?

Hence, we fear this new measure is a blatant attempt to indoctrinate our students with a narrow and biased interpretation of our Federal Constitution and our country's founding history. We call upon the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to first convene a independent advisory and review body comprising of representatives from the Bar Council, eminent retired judges as well as renown academics on the History of Malaya.

To quote veteran journalist Zainon Ahmad who wrote last year "the history textbooks for schools should no longer be left to individual authors to decide what to include or emphasise and what to be left out. They must be supervised by a multi-racial panel of experts which must include educationists and historians."

Secondly, the current teaching of the subject "History" for the various examinations leaves much to be desired. The focus is currently almost entirely based on memorisation and regurgitation of "facts" during examinations and does not at all involve critical thinking, analysis and interpretation.

In the light of the fact that the Ministry intends to improve our student's learning and thinking abilities, the approach used to teach history must first be overhauled before the subject can be made compulsory. Otherwise, "history" will just become a meaningless subject just like the subject "moral studies" today where students just memorises answers word for word to comply with a rigid marking scheme which punishes analytical variants and interpretations. It will only make Malaysian students even more incapable of independent thought.

Hence we call upon the Ministry to resolve these 2 critical issues first and not put the cart before the horse by making the subject compulsory without the necessary critical reforms.

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