Hong Kong students at risk of anti-China scheming by outsiders; Chinese abroad blast protests


The Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong has lasted more than three weeks. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Tuesday held talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students. But given a lack of positivity on the part of the latter during the talks, it remains unknown when the Occupy movement will end.

The external political situation concerning Occupy Central is increasingly clear-cut. Western public opinion has given it full support. Besides, a mix of traditional forces that are confronting the current Chinese regime, including Tibetan, Xinjiang and Taiwan separatists, Falun Gong devotees, and pro-democracy activists, have beaten the drums for the Hong Kong protests like cheerleaders.

The Occupy Central activists and their adherents must wake up. They shouldn’t act as a puppet of those hostile external forces.

With the Hong Kong radical forces becoming a new member, the anti-China camp seems to be expanding. If this is the case, it will yield terrible results.

Hong Kong, the Asian financial hub and a role model for the rule of law, will be held hostage by those hostile external forces, transforming into a battlefield between them and the rising China.

We suggest the Occupy Central activists not take on such a perilous role. Being already embroiled in the political competition in the Asia-Pacific region, they may have been pushed further than they originally intended.

The young Hong Kong students who have participated in Occupy Central should know that China, which is developing rapidly, is their home country and Hong Kong is a part of China’s rise. They therefore enjoy more opportunities than their counterparts from a smaller country. Meanwhile, they have to accordingly take responsibility to safeguard China’s security as it rises.

If the Occupy Central forces keep advancing, this will attract more international anti-China forces. The longer the protests last, the harder it will be for the Occupy Central forces to back down.

Incredible role reversals have often occurred throughout history. A marginal part or even central part of a camp could be converted into the enemies of that camp. We strongly hope the Occupy Central activities won’t do so.

The West-supported external forces will continue cheering for Occupy Central. Exiles will take the Occupy movement as their chance.

Their aim is to strike a heavy blow against China and take it down, but is this the goal of the young student participants of Occupy Central? If not, they should withdraw from the protests as soon as possible.

And for a small number of hostile elements to China, the country knows how to deal with them.

- Global Times

Chinese community leaders in London blast HK protests

Leaders of the Chinese community in Britain on Monday called on protesters in Hong Kong to stop the Occupy Central movement and let things return to normal.

According to a statement issued by the London Chinatown Chinese Association, the Occupy Central movement has disrupted Hong Kong long enough and needs to be wrapped up soon.

The statement called for stability through the “one country, two systems” policy and continued successful economic development for the international financial capital.

Under Hong Kong’s basic law and its top legislature’s decisions, more than 5 million Hong Kong voters have a say in who will become the chief executive in 2017 through the “one man, one vote” electoral system, said Chu Ting Tang, chairman of the London Chinatown Chinese Association, at a forum on the Hong Kong situation in London’s Chinatown.

Residents of Hong Kong, under the “one country, two systems” rule, enjoy freedom of speech, religion, education and employment, Tang said, adding that “residents can demonstrate in the streets, criticize the government, media and members of the legislative body and monitor the government without restriction”.

Tang believes that Hong Kong residents have been enjoying prosperity from a thriving economy and that their standard of living has been improving year by year.

“Since rejoining the Chinese mainland in 1997, Hong Kong’s status as an international center for commerce and trade has been strengthened. The employment rate has also reached an all-time high,” Tang said.

Shan Sheng, president of the UK Chinese Association for the Promotion of National Reunification, noted that the Occupy Central movement has had a serious impact on the residents of Hong Kong by obstructing administrative operations.

The students among the protesters are young, some even not yet in their 20s, Shan said. Their understanding of politics is rather shallow.

Since being implemented in 1997, the policy of “one country, two systems” has been progressing smoothly in Hong Kong, Shan said, adding that real estate and the economy of Hong Kong have thrived.

The current protest movement is negatively influencing that development and the everyday livelihood of Hong Kong residents, Shan added.

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters, most of them students, joined the Occupy Central movement to express their discontent over the process set by the top legislature for electing the region’s next leader through universal suffrage.

China’s Hong Kong government on Tuesday held its first formal talks with students who have been participating in the Occupy Central movement since Sept 28.

- China Daily/Asia News Network

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GST will push up home prices by 2.6%, said Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia


GST_Home price upBut it says still too early to determine exact increase

PETALING JAYA: Home prices will rise by about 2.6% once the goods and services tax (GST) comes into play, said the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda).

The chairman of the association’s task force on accounting and taxation, Datuk Ng Seing Liong, said that the calculation was based on its consultations with industry experts and member developers.

REHDA_GST prices upReal Estate and Housing Developers’ Association of Malaysia (Rehda) says the GST is likely to raise property prices.

Rehda’s 2.6% estimate differs from that of the Customs Department, which expects the GST to have an impact of between 0.5% and 2% on house prices, assuming there’s no change in supply and demand conditions.

Ng said the association was in full support of the GST and concurred with Customs GST director Datuk Subromaniam Tholasy, who had said that land did not incur the 6% GST rate.

However, he said land was by no means the largest cost component in property development.

“As our calculation clearly spells out, the construction cost, which constitutes 46% of the total development, is not only the largest component but also the component which will attract the GST of 6%,” he said in a letter to StarBiz.

He said the GST on this component would inevitably lead to an increase in house prices.

Appending calculations for a housing unit originally priced at RM400,000, Ng said the price post-GST would be around RM410,560.

Under the 46% construction component, costs were broken down into non-service taxable and service taxable segments, representing 44%, or RM176,000, and 2%, or RM8,000, respectively.

Under the non-service taxable segment comes items such as cement/concrete, steel, bricks and sand, while the service taxable segment includes tiles and fittings/sanitary. Under the existing sales and service tax, no tax is imposed on the non-service taxable category, while the service taxable category has a tax of up to 10% imposed on it.

Post-GST, Rehda’s calculations showed that the non-service taxable cost had gone up to RM186,560, while the service taxable cost remained at RM8,000.

It maintained the same cost estimates for other items, including land (15% or RM60,000), infrastructure and pre-development works (10% or RM40,000), professional fees and marketing costs (6% or RM24,000), finance costs (6% or RM24,000) and profit (17% or RM68,000).

Ng said Rehda also disagreed with Subromaniam, who had said that developers could easily absorb cost increases as their margins were around 30%.

He said it was currently impossible for developers to earn up to a 30% profit, as most development costs were on the rise, along with various capital contributions and charges imposed on developers.

“On average, as tabulated in the calculation, developers, most of which are public-listed companies, are only making around 17% at best,” he said.

However, Ng said it was still too early to determine the actual house price increases post-GST, as Rehda was still in discussions with the Government and there appeared to be many more issues to be ironed out.

By Isabelle Lai The Star/Asia News Network


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More Malaysians are being declared bankrupt!


JOHOR BARU: Young Malaysians are being declared bankrupt because they spend more than they earn, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri (pic).

This trend was worrying because most of them had just started working but already had debt problems, she added.

“This younger generation are supposed to be the next leaders. Instead, we have those who are already facing financial difficulties at a very young age,’’ she told a press conference after opening an information programme for young people at the Home Ministry complex at Setia Tropika here yesterday.

Quoting figures from the Insolvency Department, she said there was an increase in the number of young Malaysians being declared bankrupts in the past five years.

She said there were nearly 22,000 cases last year, an increase from about 13,200 in 2007.

Within the first six months of this year, more than 12,300 young Malaysians had been declared bankrupt. They include 3,680 women.

“On the average, 70.22% of the cases are men,” said Nancy, adding that most of them have outstanding debts of RM30,000 or more and could not afford to settle their dues.

She said the high bankruptcy rate among Malaysians at a young age mainly resulted from defaulting on instalment payments on car, housing and personal loans.

Nancy said there had been celebrities who were also declared bankrupt but most of them declined to seek assistance from the Insolvency Department.

She added that aside from the department, those who have problems managing their finances could seek advice from the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency.

The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysian homes more unaffordable than Singapore, Japan and the US; Budget 2015 brings little joy


Home affordability_ Dem

File picture shows houses under construction in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has a ‘severely unaffordable’ residential homes market, according to researcher Demographia.— AFP

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Malaysia has a “severely unaffordable” residential homes market, with housing even more out of reach for its residents than in Singapore, Japan and the United States, according to US-based urban development researcher Demographia.

Demographia’s report was cited today in a report in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper to highlight how many Malaysians continue to be locked out of the residential housing market despite the federal government’s attempt at helping first-time house buyers.

According to the ST report, Demographia rates housing as severely unaffordable if it is 5.1 times median annual income. Malaysia clocks in at 5.5x, higher than Singapore’s 5.1x, while housing in the United States and Japan is “moderately unaffordable”.

Government data cited by the ST report shows that since 2012 median monthly household income has risen eight per cent annually to RM4,258, slower than the average housing price increase of 10 per cent to RM280,886.

The country’s consumer price index has risen by an average of 3.3 per cent this year and Putrajaya had warned it may spike by 5 per cent next year, tripling the 2013 average.

In presenting Budget 2015 last Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak introduced a Youth Housing Scheme that will waive down-payments and subsidise ownership by up to RM10,000 for 20,000 married couples under 40.

Najib also said the government would provide another 80,000 new homes priced at RM100,000 to RM400,000 under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA).

Both schemes, including the existing My First Home (MFH) scheme are only for households with a combined monthly income of less than RM10,000.

According to Bank Negara only a third of My First Home applicants received loans in the first year, as banks refused to take risks.

And PR1MA has seen just 761 buyers for the 160,000 units launched since 2013.

“We earn just over that but it’s not enough for savings. We can convert rent into loan repayments but we can’t pay the 10 per cent deposit,” lawyer Puteri Mohamad told the Straits Times in commenting on the Budget proposal to help households earning less than RM10,000 monthly to buy homes.

Office administrator Mimie Azriene Mohd Zin, 32, has no children but she and her technician husband have applied for a PR1MA home.

But she told the Straits Times they have not figured out how to afford the down payment on their combined income of under RM4,000 a month that leaves them with little savings living in expensive Kuala Lumpur.

“We might not even be able to afford the repayment but we have to try before prices go up further,” she told the daily.

Source:  http://www.themalaymailonline.com/

Malaysia’s budget aid brings little joy to house hunters

Despite being a partner in a law firm just outside Kuala Lumpur, Ms. Puteri Mohamad, and her fiance, can only watch as apartments in the area where she lives spiral above 500,000 ringgit (US$153,334).

When the government proposed measures in its 2015 Budget — released on Friday — to help households earning less than 10,000 ringgit (US$3,067) monthly to buy homes, she was not at all elated.

“We earn just over that but it’s not enough for savings. We can convert rent into loan repayments but we can’t pay the 10 percent deposit,” said Puteri, 33, who lives in a rented flat in Petaling Jaya.

Many Malaysians like her find themselves locked out by a combination of what U.S.-based urban development researcher Demographia rates as a “severely unaffordable” residential market and accelerating inflation.

Malaysia’s consumer price index — which includes many subsidized goods — has risen by an average of 3.3 percent so far this year and the government warns it may spike by 5 percent next year, nearly triple the 2013 average.

Government data shows that since 2012 median monthly household income has risen 8 percent annually to 4,258 ringgit, slower than the average housing price increase of 10 percent to 280,886 ringgit.

Demographia rates housing as severely unaffordable if it is 5.1 times median annual income.

Malaysia clocks in at 5.5x, higher than Singapore’s 5.1x, while housing in the United States and Japan is “moderately unaffordable.”

Prime minister Najib Razak said in his budget speech the government would provide another 80,000 affordable homes (priced at 100,000 ringgit to 400,000 ringgit) under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA) and introduce the Youth Housing Scheme that will waive downpayments and subsidize ownership by up to 10,000 ringgit for 20,000 married couples under the age of 40.

Both schemes, as well as the existing downpayment waiver under the My First Home scheme, are only for households with a combined monthly income of less than 10,000 ringgit.

The National Housebuyers Association lauded the moves to help aspiring homeowners in financing but criticized the lack of new measures to cool rising prices that are the root of the problem.

Its secretary-general, Chang Kim Loong, said speculators have taken advantage of the low entry cost of buying a property at the expense of genuine buyers.

Office administrator Mimie Azriene Mohd Zin, 32, has no children but she and her technician husband have been unable to even think of home ownership until these schemes came along.

They applied for a PR1MA home, which the government says is priced 20 percent lower than comparable units, worth about 200,000 ringgit three months ago.

But they have not figured out how to afford the downpayment on their combined income of under 4,000 ringgit a month that leaves them with little savings living in expensive Kuala Lumpur.

“We might not even be able to afford the repayment but we have to try before prices go up further,” she said.

That is, if she can get a loan in the first place. The central bank reported that only a third of My First Home applicants in the first year received loans as banks refused to take the risk.

Tellingly, even PR1MA saw just 761 buyers for the 160,000 units launched since 2013.

BY By Shannon Teoh, The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Annual DhiDemographia International Housing Affordability Affordability Survey: 2014

PDF]10th Annual D hi Demographia International Housing

http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf

MIEA disappointed with Budget 2015

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Ma’sian immigration blacklists: PTPTN loan defaulters among 1.14 mil barred from travels


Immigration entrydenied_star

PUTRAJAYA: A wide net has been cast on those barred from leaving the country by the Immigration Department.

And it is not just tax offenders and those with criminal records who face a rude shock at border checkpoints or at the airport.

The latest figures show some 85,000 National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) beneficiaries who did not repay their loans on the department’s travel blacklist.

They are among 1.14 million people on the list which includes 701,266 Malaysians.

The department has advised Malaysians to check their Immigration status prior to making holiday plans overseas to avoid problems.

“It is the responsibility of the traveller to first check if they are cleared to leave the country.

“It doesn’t matter if you are planning to leave by flight, road, rail or sea.

“As long as you are on the blacklist, you will not be allowed to pass the Immigration checkpoint, even if you have a valid flight ticket,” Immigration security and passport division director Ibrahim Abdullah told The Star.

As of Sept 3, the department’s overseas travel restriction orders included those who have been declared with outstanding debt issues. There were 277,693 such Malaysians named by the Insolvency Department.

Malaysians who have violated a foreign country’s immigration laws, such as by overstaying or abusing their travel visas, are also not spared.

Ibrahim said the countries concerned may bar the defaulters from re-entering the country and this information would be shared with the local Immigration department, such as Malaysia’s, which would then put the defaulter on a watchlist.

A total of 32,516 Malaysians were in this category for having overstayed in another country, alongside 115,803 foreigners who have similarly overstayed in Malaysia and are now barred from leaving the country.

“If any Malaysians on the watchlist try to leave the country, they will be stopped and taken in for an interrogation until it is satisfied that they will not commit the same act in another country again,” said Ibrahim.

Stubborn tax defaulters make up a sizeable group on the travel blacklist, with 135,111 persons named by the Inland Revenue Board.

The Star has reported on Aug 26 that defaulters will not be allowed to travel abroad until they have settled their tax obligations.

The treatment will be the same for those with outstanding issues with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), such as those who failed to file their EPF contributions. There were 10,219 Malaysians and 532 foreigners listed under this category.

Another 133,314 non-citizens have been barred from leaving the country for having their citizenship revoked or application rejected by the National Registration Depart­ment.

This is on top of 88,830 foreigners who had entered the country illegally and have been classified under the Immigration’s Kes Tanpa Izin.

An unusual cluster of 210 Malaysians were also placed under this category which, according to Ibrahim, had referred to those who have been identified by the Home Ministry as having been involved in activities involving illegal foreign workers.

Several other categories were criminally-linked, including those under police observation (15,699 cases) and for drug-related charges (7,673 cases) or crime (5,090 cases).

There were also 4,953 Malaysians barred from overseas travel for violating Customs regulations.

To find out if you are barred from travelling abroad, one needs only to enter the MyKad number on the department’s travel status check portal at http://sspi2.imi.gov.my/

“If they have been barred, they must be present in person at the nearest Immigration passport and security division, where they will be told why they are not allowed to leave.

“This is to avoid identity abuse by a third party as we do not want private information to be divulged to an impostor,” Ibrahim said.
Immigration entrydenied
Almost 85,000 PTPTN study loan defaulters barred from leaving Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Almost 85,000 National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) recipients have been barred from leaving the country to date.

PTPTN chief executive officer Agos Cholan said the corporation had to resort to barring the defaulters from leaving because they had been ignoring repeated reminders to repay their loans.

He said the corporation would send borrowers a reminder to begin repaying their loans six months after graduation.

“If there is no payment after two months, the first notice would be sent,” he said.

This, he added, is followed subsequently by a second and third notice if there was still no repayment.

Agos said after this, the corporation would send a legal notice and subsequently blacklist the borrowers.

To lift the travel ban, Agos said they would need to make some payment immediately, depending on their income.

“They would also need to sign papers committing to pay monthly instalments and arrange for a bank’s standing instruction or salary deductions. Restructuring is allowed if they wish to vary instalment amount,” he said.

Agos said the number had reduced from some 130,000 in 2007 who were barred.

Since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement that borrowers could expect a 20% discount if they repay their loans in full by March 31 next year, Agos said there had been a few enquiries on the dates.

Najib, when tabling Budget 2015 last Friday, said borrowers who were unable to do so could still get a 10% off their loans if they made continuous payments for 12 months until Dec 31, 2015.

Borrowers were given similar discounts under the Budget 2013.

The travel ban is also imposed on 277,693 Malaysians listed under the Insolvency Department for failing to settle their debts.

Tax defaulters are also on the blacklist, with 135,111 persons named by the Inland Revenue Board.

Another 32,516 Malaysians who have violated laws in foreign countries, including overstaying, have also been barred from leaving the country.

Also blacklisted are 115,803 foreigners who have overstayed in Malaysia.

Immigration’s security and passport division director Ibrahim Abdullah told The Star that as long as a person was on the blacklist, they would not be allowed to pass the Immigration checkpoint, even if they have a valid flight ticket.

“It doesn’t matter if you are planning to leave by flight, rail, road or sea,” he told The Star.

The report added that the travel ban will also be imposed on those with outstanding Employees Provident Fund issues, including those who had failed to file their EPF contributions. A total of 10,219 Malaysians and 532 foreigners are listed under this category.

Meanwhile, The Star also reported PTPTN chief executive officer Agos Cholan as saying that they had to resort to barring the study loan defaulters from leaving the country as they had ignored repeated reminders to repay their loans.

Agos had also reportedly said that to lift the travel ban, defaulters would need to make some payment immediately, with the amount determined by their income. – October 14, 2014.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

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Home, sweet home for young couples will lead to housing industry boon in M’sia


A NEW Youth Housing Scheme has been set up by the Government to help young couples, whose household income does not exceed RM10,000, buy their first home.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the maximum 35-year loan offered a funding limit not exceeding RM500,000 for married youth, aged between 25 and 40 years old.

“The Government will provide monthly financial assistance of RM200 to borrowers for the first two years to reduce the burden of monthly instalments,” he said.

Najib described the scheme as a smart partnership between the Government, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Cagamas.

The Government will also give a 50% stamp duty exemption on the instrument of transfer and loan agreements, as well as 10% loan guarantee to enable borrowers to obtain full financing, including cost of insurance.

Borrowers can also withdraw from their EPF Account 2 to top up their monthly instalment and other related costs.

“I urge the youth to grab this opportunity which is offered on first-come-first-served basis for 20,000 units only,” he said.

To address the issue of home ow­­nership at affordable prices, RM1.3bil will be allocated to build 80,000 units under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA).

To enable more people to own houses, under the scheme, the cei­ling of household income has been raised from RM8,000 to RM10,000.

“In addition, a Rent-To-Own Scheme will be introduced specifically for individuals who are unable to obtain bank financing,” he said.

RM644mil will be allocated to the National Housing Department (JPN) to build 26,000 units under the People’s Housing Programme (PPR).

He said Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB) would build 12,000 units of Rumah Mesra Rakyat, 5,000 units of Rumah Idaman Rakyat and 20,000 units of Rumah Aspirasi Rakyat on privately-owned land.

For first-time house buyers, the Government has agreed to extend the 50% stamp duty exemption and increase the purchase limit from RM400,000 to RM500,000.

Exemption will be given until Dec 31, 2016.

The minimum eligibility for hou­sing loans will be increased from RM80,000 to RM120,000 while the maximum eligibility limit will be increased from RM450,000 to RM600,000.

The RM100 application processing fee for housing loan will be abo­lished.

The Government will improve the1Malaysia Civil Servants’ Housing (PPA1M) by reducing the minimum price of houses currently at RM150,000 to RM90,000 per unit.

He added that the qualifying requirement of household income for this would be increased from RM8,000 to RM10,000 per month.

Housing industry boon

PETALING JAYA: Measures under Budget 2015 will positively impact the housing industry, especially in promoting home ownership among the lower and middle income group, said the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda).

The association supported the Government’s effort to raise the ceiling of household income from RM8,000 to RM10,000 for PR1MA homes and the Rent-To-Own scheme to help those unable to obtain financing, said Rehda president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar.

He said Rehda also lauded the new Youth Housing Scheme which would “certainly benefit young couples who wish to own a home.”

He said the 10% loan guarantee to enable borrowers to obtain full financing and the RM200 monthly financial aid would help reduce the burden of borrowers.

HBA secretary-general Chang Kim Loong also said the housing scheme for young married couples was commendable.

However Chang said providing the RM200 subsidy, in the first two-years, may send a wrong message.

He said borrowers may start to spend beyond their means and might end up in financial difficulty after the subsidy ends.

Chang said the Government must also ensure eligible first time house buyers actually stay in these units and not rent it out.

Chang said HBA supported the move to build more affordable housing but wanted these homes to reach the right target market. “These homes must be built at the right place and reasonable prices of between RM150,000 to RM300,000; and not more than RM400,000 in prime locations,” he said.

By Neville Spykerman The Star/Asia News Network

‘First-time house-buyers will spur property market’

GEORGE TOWN: First-time housebuyers are sure to spur the property market following the introduction of the Youth Housing Scheme.

International Real Estate Federation Malaysia vice-president Michael Geh said the scheme announced under Budget 2015 will help them to own property costing less than RM500,000.

He said the property market had been “cool” for the past six months since the developers interest-bearing scheme was abolished, resulting in many first-time buyers unable to obtain bank loans.

“The scheme shows our Government is well aware of the plight faced by this group.

“It will certainly spur the property market,” he said.

The scheme, a smart partnership between the Government, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Employees Provident Fund and Cagamas, is offered on a first-come first-served basis for 20,000 units only.

It offers a funding limit for a first home not exceeding RM500,000 for married couples between 25 and 40 years old with a household income not exceeding RM10,000. The maximum loan period is 35 years.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter said that the RM89bil from tourism targeted under Budget 2015 was an ambitious figure.

Its chairman Khoo Boo Lim said the RM316mil allocation for various programmes under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture should be used wisely to ensure good returns.

By Tan Sin Chow AND Chong Kah Yuan The Star/Asia News Network

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Chinese language advantage and education in M’sia; Don’t turn it into a political tool!


Chinese vernacular schools

It is bewildering that vernacular schools should be made the scapegoat for race relation issues in this country when our greatest asset is our multi-racial society, which puts us above our Asean neighbours in competing for the economic pie.

MY father sent me and my two elder brothers to study at the St Xavier’s Institution in Penang because he felt we all needed a good education in an English-medium school.

My eldest brother studied at a Chinese school and did not fare well. It was enough for my dad to be convinced that we should all be in a missionary school.

My father Wong Soon Cheong spoke fluent Malay with a thick northern accent and had taught himself to read and write English while he improved his command of Chinese.

Like many Chinese in his time, and even now, they knew that the key to success was education, and the best education facilities were found in the English-medium schools.

When I entered Year 1 in 1968, England was still the economic powerhouse of Europe, and mastering the Queen’s English would be the passport to a brighter future.

Fast forward to 2014 – the economic balance has shifted. China has become a superpower and besides being the biggest producer of just about anything, it is also the biggest market for anyone from anywhere wanting to sell anything.

My biggest regret now is that because I am a product of the English-medium system, I am unable to speak or write in Chinese. The dialects I am able to use, the smattering of Hokkien and Cantonese, is of little value in mainland China.

Anyone who wants to do business in China needs to speak Mandarin. It’s as simple as that, and this writer will be shoved out of the door if he cannot go beyond the initial greetings.

Even in Kuala Lumpur, I would never be employed in any company that has business dealings with China. This is not discrimination as, in the business world, my linguistic handicap cannot be ignored.

By the time my daughter had to be enrolled in a primary school, the scenario had changed. There were no more English-medium schools and the national schools were no longer the first choice for many Chinese parents. They were not only concerned about the quality of education but everyone also knew by then – that was in 1998 – that China would be the country to watch.

This, of course, led to many households being rather mixed up as the English-speaking parents had to grapple with their children being schooled in Chinese.

But it was a simple economic decision, nothing more than that. Most of us had no relatives in China and certainly no political sentiments whatsoever towards China.

As someone who spent all his years in the then English-medium school, I had no affiliation for many things Chinese. I am what many would call a “yellow banana” – a yellow-skinned Chinese but one who is white-hearted. But the global future of China was there for all to see.

When my daughter went to England to do her A-Levels, her school had a full class of students from different nationalities wanting to sit for the Chinese language examination. The school appointed the best teacher to teach the class. Such was the importance it placed on its students acquiring the language skills.

My daughter left for England before the SPM but she returned to Kuala Lumpur to sit for the examination. We wanted to make sure that she cleared this examination and also get a credit in Bahasa Malaysia, which is necessary if she wants to be a lawyer in Malaysia.

Her school in the United Kingdom frowned on her taking leave of absence to take the SPM. After all, how she fared in the BM paper (she got a distinction) would have no bearing on her ongoing studies for the A-Levels.

The Chinese can be described as being very practical people, and we needed to cover all our bases.

The fact is that 90% of Chinese parents today send their children to Chinese primary schools in Malaysia, and that 15% of students studying at the nearly 1,300 Chinese primary schools in the country are non-Chinese.

Even my personal driver, an Indian, sent his daughter to a Chinese primary school. It must have been tough for the parents but she speaks Mandarin fluently, besides Bahasa Malaysia, English and Tamil. It will certainly benefit her in the long run.

Schools in the UK, the bastion of Anglo-Saxon culture, know the global economic value of Chinese. They are making plans to ensure that their children study Chinese so that they won’t be left out.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has been quoted as saying that all students in the UK should study Chinese.

Johnson, who is studying Chinese himself, reportedly suggested that Britons should be learning as much as possible about China, as the East Asian giant continues to expand its global influence.

He said the children would grow up naturally knowing about China’s importance. When quizzed on whether they should also learn Chinese as a standard subject in schools, he told the Press Association: “Why not? Absolutely. My kids are learning it, so why not? Definitely, definitely.”

The mayor told the press he was learning Chinese “from the beginning” as he showed the journalists a folder on which he had written the words “Middle Kingdom” or “China” in the language. He told university students in Beijing that his 16-year-old daughter was learning Chinese and was due to visit China.

Singapore is often used as an example of a nation, despite its Chinese majority population, not having Chinese primary schools. The fact is that every Singaporean has to be schooled in English, and then it is compulsory for them to be schooled in their mother tongue. With special permission, they can also take up an extra subject in one another’s mother tongue languages.

Chinese is therefore a compulsory subject for Chinese students in Singapore while the non-Chinese can choose Malay or Tamil as options. English is a compulsory subject to pass over there.

Now we come to the point I am leading to – why is there a need for anyone to suggest that Chinese and Tamil schools be closed down, supposedly because they are the source of disunity in this country?

It is bewildering that vernacular schools should be made the scapegoat for race relation issues in this country.

I do not think anyone would be so naïve and simplistic, especially politicians, as to actually believe that by abolishing these schools, all the problems will disappear.

Many mono-ethnic countries are highly divisive even though they have the same language, religion or culture, particularly in Eastern Europe and parts of Africa.

Our biggest problem is not whether we are using Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, English or Tamil to teach – we should be worried over the falling quality of education in our schools and in universities.

We should be losing sleep that 70% of our teachers teaching English actually failed in the competency tests.

And why isn’t anyone worried that our public universities have still not made it into the top-ranked universities in the world?

Or why our students, despite their string of distinctions, are now not getting into Ivy League universities in the United States.

Mandarin, in fact, isn’t enough. We should all be able to speak Arabic because the richest countries are in the Middle East. With so many Arab tourists visiting Malaysia, are there enough Arab-speaking tour guides?

Malaysia’s greatest asset is its multi-racial society, which puts us above our Asean neighbours in competing for the economic pie.

The Mandarin speakers can penetrate markets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Malay speakers can look after Indonesia, the biggest market in the Asean region, and the Malaysian Indians can make their mark in India. When we work together, we can become very powerful. We should make full use of our combined strength.

Languages are assets, not liabilities. I understand that there are those who believe that only a single-stream school system would unite our young.

Those who called for the closure of Chinese schools should talk to the parents of non-Malay students who study in such schools. Can our politicians just listen and not talk for just a moment, so perhaps they can learn something?

Walk around these schools, see the facilities, check out how discipline is instilled or why parents are called up by the school authorities when their children do not do well.

Certainly, the history of Communist China is not taught there. Neither is anyone brainwashed into voting for the DAP if that’s what the suspicions are all about. The national schools in predominantly Malay Kelantan and Terengganu are the same elsewhere and yet, many of the parents and school leavers have always voted strongly for PAS. Would these schools be regarded as a source of disunity and anti-establishment?

The English-medium schools in my time were regarded as neutral ground, where children of all races came together. But that’s history and our country’s standard of English has taken a free fall since then.

And for the record, before I am accused of being a racist, I wish to emphasise that I voluntarily studied Malay Literature and Islamic History in Sixth Form. When I went to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, I signed up for courses at the Malay Letters Department.

The Islamic Civilization course at UKM is compulsory and I have written many times that fears expressed by some non-Muslim politicians about this course, which they wrongly claimed as a religious indoctrination course, are unwarranted and silly.

We must never be afraid of quality education and the study of multiple languages. How many of our elite politicians send their children to private or international schools in Malaysia or even to the UK or Australia? Some even pack them off to study at the secondary school level overseas, despite telling ordinary Malaysians to study in our schools.

This debate on vernacular schools should not go any further. We have bigger problems ahead to worry about, like the cost of living, the inflationary hike and the weak market sentiments. We are all in the same boat together.

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat The Star/Asia News Network

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Malaysian education: UPSR Exam leaks, okay to cheat our kids !

MCA Youth chief laments missed scholarship

KUALA LUMPUR: In an emotional personal account, MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon (pic) shared how he was denied a scholarship despite getting all A’s in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), but he did not give up.

He said he joined MCA and Bari­san Nasional, which he believed defended the rights of all races.

Chong, who was born in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, told delegates at the 50th MCA Youth annual general assembly that he had many Malay and Indian friends at school and they would skip classes and go to the waterfall together.

However, despite getting straight A’s in the SPM, Chong said he was not given any scholarship and had to pursue Form 6 studies.

“There was no other choice since I didn’t come from a rich family.

MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon<< MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon

“When I discovered my Malay friends received Mara scholarships or places at matriculation programmes due to the quota system at that time, my life changed.

“Am I not a Malaysian too? I, too, studied hard. But I didn’t give up and went to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia to study economics.

“I joined the MCA as I believe in the Barisan formula, which is to defend all communities in Malay­sia. This is a party that cares for all,” he said to applause from the audience.

Chong, a senator, received a standing ovation from delegates for his impassioned speech which touched on matters such as vernacular schools, race relations and the spirit of the Barisan coalition.

He stressed that the existence of Chinese and Tamil schools was not an obstacle to national unity.

“Nobody should challenge the rights of the Chinese and Indian communities to learn their mother tongue at vernacular schools.

“If we view the matter objectively, Chinese education is no longer solely about the Chinese community alone. Non-Chinese students studying in SJK (C) schools nationwide now comprise 12% of the total number of students,” he said.

Chong also called for Barisan to return to its founding principles, which was nationalism for all races.

“When MCA founder Tun Tan Cheng Lock talked about nationalism, it was for a Malayan nationalism; not for a Chinese type of nationalism. It was never about nationalism for one race. I believe that if Barisan goes back to the foundation laid by our founders, the rakyat will return to support us,” he said.

Chong also thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for allocating RM50mil for Chinese primary schools and RM25mil for conforming schools in the Budget 2015.

“When we sang the Barisan Nasional party song earlier in the assembly, a line in the lyrics says Barisan is for all races and that touched me,” he said.

He lamented that every now and then, there seemed to be comments made by others that hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Indians by labelling them as pendatang (foreigners), penumpang (passengers) and even kaum penceroboh (trespassers).

“Wasn’t independence achieved 57 years ago as a result of all the main races in the country?

“Wasn’t the first thing that Tunku Abdul Rahman did upon returning to the country after dealing with the British was to meet with MCA president Tun Tan Cheng Lock?

“Didn’t MCA give its support to the Government in cracking down on the communists who disturbed the country’s peace in the 1960s?” Chong asked.

- The Star/Asia News Network

 Umno logoUmno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

PETALING JAYA: An MCA leader has cautioned a divisional Umno official against “crossing the line” in suggesting that next month’s Umno annual general assembly should discuss ending the Chinese vernacular school system.

MCA religious harmony bureau chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker said that Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad should accept with an open heart the reminder that he gave him as it was in good faith.

“It is in my interest to caution politicians like Azli who are out to score political brownie points by picking on Chinese education, Chinese culture and who want to use the community as a ‘punching bag’,” he said.

“I did not overreact or become too emotional and I had merely cautioned a fellow comrade in Barisan Nasional not to cross the line,” Ti said, referring to a statement by Azli yesterday in which he denied that his suggestion was seditious.

Azli had said Ti lacked an understanding of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution on the position of the Malay language as well as other vernacular languages.

He said Ti and his colleagues should confront Pakatan Rakyat which had abused vernacular schools by using it as a political platform to brainwash the young to hate the Government.

Ti said that Azli could have expressed his misgivings in a constructive manner.

“The way he chose to react is not going to take the nation anywhere but is going to destroy the very foundation of our religious and racial harmony.”

“Our forefathers have already established the foundation of religious and cultural harmony in Malaysia and there are certain lines that we should not cross,” he said.

Ti said Azli had also wrongly accused him of lodging a police report on the matter.

It was MCA Youth, said Ti, that had lodged a report because they felt that Azli’s comment had breached Section 505 of the Penal Code which criminalises statements inciting communal ill-will.

Ti said Azli should stop being a “loose cannon” and urged him to focus on bigger issues that required their joint effort and attention. – The Star/Asia News Network

Umno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

PETALING JAYA: An MCA leader has cautioned a divisional Umno official against “crossing the line” in suggesting that next month’s Umno annual general assembly should discuss ending the Chinese vernacular school system.

MCA religious harmony bureau chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker said that Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad should accept with an open heart the reminder that he gave him as it was in good faith.

“It is in my interest to caution politicians like Azli who are out to score political brownie points by picking on Chinese education, Chinese culture and who want to use the community as a ‘punching bag’,” he said.

“I did not overreact or become too emotional and I had merely cautioned a fellow comrade in Barisan Nasional not to cross the line,” Ti said, referring to a statement by Azli yesterday in which he denied that his suggestion was seditious.

Azli had said Ti lacked an understanding of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution on the position of the Malay language as well as other vernacular languages.

He said Ti and his colleagues should confront Pakatan Rakyat which had abused vernacular schools by using it as a political platform to brainwash the young to hate the Government.

Ti said that Azli could have expressed his misgivings in a constructive manner.

“The way he chose to react is not going to take the nation anywhere but is going to destroy the very foundation of our religious and racial harmony.”

“Our forefathers have already established the foundation of religious and cultural harmony in Malaysia and there are certain lines that we should not cross,” he said.

Ti said Azli had also wrongly accused him of lodging a police report on the matter.

It was MCA Youth, said Ti, that had lodged a report because they felt that Azli’s comment had breached Section 505 of the Penal Code which criminalises statements inciting communal ill-will.

Ti said Azli should stop being a “loose cannon” and urged him to focus on bigger issues that required their joint effort and attention. – The Star/Asia News Network

HOW ELSE CAN UMNO SURIVIVE? Don’t turn Chinese schools into political tool !

Umno logo

Umno Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy head Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad accused Chinese primary schools of becoming hotbed for the opposition to spread racial and anti-government sentiments and thus, suggested that the Umno general assembly next month should discuss closing down Chinese primary schools.

Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Al Habshee reiterated the call to abolish Chinese vernacular schools, claiming that the multi-stream education system was a breeding ground for racial discord.

Although the remarks are absurd, they are still supported by the Peninsular Malay Students Federation (GPMS) and Malay rights group Perkasa, reflecting the arrogant attitude and narrow thinking of some Umno members.

It is not uncommon to see politicians manipulate Chinese education issues to gain political capital.

However, remarks unfavourable to Chinese education have become increasingly intense in recent years.

From former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah’s suggestion of including Chinese education into the national school curriculum which teaches all languages to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim’s remarks calling for no more request to build Chinese primary schools and now, Azli’s remarks to abolish Chinese primary schools. Apparently, they are not isolated cases.

Singularism has been lingering in Umno and it is harmful to Umno, as well as Barisan Nasional.

It could even destroy national unity. Worse, advanced and more competitive countries have encouraged their people to master multiple languages in this era of globalisation, but our politicians are still embracing extreme singularism.

It is worrisome whether Malaysia can really turn into a developed country.

Chinese primary schools are an important part of the national education system.

Their teachers, syllabuses and teaching materials are all in line with the Education Ministry’s curriculum. Just like national primary schools, the syllabuses of Chinese primary schools promote racial harmony and instilling loyalty, as well as patriotism.

It is shameful for politicians to make accusations out of nothing and frame Chinese primary schools as a hotbed of anti-government sentiments, just to gain political capital.

Article 152(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution clearly stated that ‘”no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language”.

Moreover, among the current 600,000 Chinese primary school pupils, 15%, or 80,000 are non-Chinese.

The figure shows that Chinese primary schools are not a stumbling block to national unity, but schools cultivating national talents and attracting pupils of various races.

It is always the time for raising sensitive issues before the annual Umno general assembly is convened.

Some people try to act like a hero while some people make trouble, with different intentions.

But the acts of stirring racial issues have always gotten on the nerves of Chinese community. This time, its grassroots leaders made Chinese primary schools their target.

Apparently, there are other motives behind it, reflecting the internal power struggles in Umno and the approaching storm.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his blog not long ago, declaring withdrawal of his support to Najib.

The move was like sending a clear message to Umno grassroots that they may openly challenge Najib during the general assembly in November.

Although he has stepped down, Dr Mahathir remains influential. The intention of pressuring Najib is obvious when his minions raise the “abolish Chinese primary schools” issue now.

The remarks made by Umno grassroots leaders, of course, cannot represent the government’s stand.
However, the “abolish Chinese primary schools” issue has touched on the sensitivities of the Chinese community, triggering resentment and indignation.

Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, must not remain silent.

Instead, they should defend the status of Chinese primary schools to prevent the issue from getting out of hand. In addition, the authorities should also charge Azli and others who make such remarks with sedition, to set an example and eliminate extremist racial remarks.

Source:  mysinchew.com/malaysia-chronicle.com

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