New allegations on 1MDB scandal: More clarity still needed


Story behind the story: Wright and his ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ co-author Hope have published new allegations on 1MDB but the anonymity of their sources could compromise their credibility.

Nothing should be assumed too easily about even an established scandal like 1MDB, certainly not guilt or culpability, if sound investigations and public confidence are not to be prejudiced.


JUST when everyone seemed inured to shocking details about 1MDB, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporters appeared to have come up with more.

Investigative reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, who covered 1MDB issues before, made additional claims last Monday that would be shocking if proven true.

They say that upon the initiative of Malaysian authorities, China offered to bail out 1MDB’s debts or losses in exchange for Malaysia’s support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

These projects were further said to have come at inflated costs, were acknowledged as unprofitable, and lacked transparency in their implications.

Wright and Hope say their information came from the minutes of “secret meetings” between Malaysian and Chinese officials and the personal testimony of some Malaysian officials past and present.

The authors could have been more transparent about their sources and on the content of their revelations, but apparently not.

Countries do sometimes engage in such intrigue, but nonetheless it is always easier to allege than to verify. Serious allegations such as these require equally serious substantiation.

The gist of the claims had been troubling thoughtful Malaysians, yet few expected it to take such form. Not without reason, doubts linger about the details and accuracy of these claims among all parties.

Even when current government officials could have made political capital by weighing in, making the former government’s alleged actions seem nastier, they refrained from it.

Formal meetings between government officials of two countries are routinely confidential and therefore “secret”, so there is nothing particularly sinister about their unreported nature.

There is also doubt about the minutes of meetings containing compromising information. Some meetings were said to be in China where Malaysian officials visited, yet the hosts freely permitted the visitors to go home with the recorded minutes of potentially explosive discussions.

The WSJ’s story has present and former Malaysian officials informing it about a supposedly secretive pact between Malaysia and China, yet senior Malaysian officials both past and present know nothing about it. Both sets of Malaysian officials are genuinely concerned and seriously want to know. Yet it is said that some Malaysian officials already knew, had known for more than half a year since last May, and who preferred to tell all to the WSJ only now rather than to their colleagues or the media earlier.

The media at the time also did not know, neither Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report, nor any other that was actively covering the issues, despite a freer news environment after last May’s election that encouraged whistleblowing and exposés.

For the kinds of sources said to have been used for the WSJ story – minutes of several meetings, and the testimonies of officials – the substantiation has been rather lean.

In its January 7 report of just 1,703 words, only two dates (June 28 and September 22, 2016) have been mentioned for the meetings. Two Chinese officials had been named at the meetings but not any Malaysian.

Xiao Yaqing, Chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, is quoted as stressing the importance of one particular meeting but nothing else.

Sun Lijun, “head of China’s domestic security force,” is cited as mentioning his agency’s capacity in conducting surveillance on parties inimical to Malaysia’s previous government, but nothing about what Malaysia is supposed to do in return.

Each of the two named persons had only part of a story to tell, with nothing to substantiate the larger claims made by the WSJ’s reporters. There is nothing definitive like a “smoking gun” to back those claims.

No Malaysian official at any of the meetings has been named or quoted, not even in reported speech. For many observers that seems odd, particularly where deals were supposedly agreed between two sides.

Malaysia is also supposed to have agreed to BRI projects only when China offered to bail out 1MDB. That presumption seems somewhat stilted.

Later in the story, former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is said in reported speech to have voiced support for “China’s position in the South China Sea during a regional summit in Laos.”

Najib’s Government may have been quiet on China’s sweeping maritime territorial claims, it was certainly less vocal than Vietnam or the Philippines on the dispute, but nowhere can it be said that it supported China’s position in the South China Sea.

And an Asean summit would have been the last place such a thing could have happened, even if it ever did. The WSJ story also claims that China had offered Malaysia its influence in stopping US investigations into 1MDB and Malaysian leaders at the time.

Given the highly competitive China-US relationship, particularly in third countries, what possible “influence” could China really have on the US in stopping investigations into allegedly shady deals involving China?

For many observers, the US would have had every incentive to proceed with such investigations, the more so when China appeared to be apprehensive about them.

It would be utterly foolish for any Chinese official to think there is such influence, and totally naïve for any Malaysian official to believe it. The same seems to apply to readers of the WSJ story.

The story behind the story is that the documents such as the minutes of meetings had been discovered in official files left behind by the previous Government after it had vacated official premises following its election defeat.

Again, many would doubt that the ousted officials had taken all possibly incriminating material with them as they left, except for these highly revealing documents.

The new Pakatan Harapan leaders had also been slow in taking office, first with the delayed swearing-in ceremony of the new Prime Minister and then in the phased nature of ministerial appointments.

Yet despite these delays, it is said that the departing Barisan Nasional leaders still did not retrieve the documents that could be used against them.

The WSJ sources rest on the what (documented minutes) and even more on the who (Malaysian officials who provided the minutes, and those who testified to it).

All of these officials are persons unknown or unnamed. Anonymity sometimes accords legitimate protection, but not now when it only compromises their credibility.

When serious allegations are levelled against one party or another, in this case against both Chinese and former Malaysian officials, some vested political interests of someone somewhere could be served.

It has also been implied that other “secret talks” had led to Malaysia’s readiness for Chinese naval vessels to dock in Malaysian ports.

But to a non-aligned country, the docking of vessels from friendly nations for supplies and refuelling should not be an issue – certainly not an issue requiring the seal of approval from secret negotiations.

Sarawak Report, which initially gave 1MDB information to several newspapers including WSJ, has since complained about some of its methods.

The WSJ has done very good work on 1MDB investigations and similar stories before, and it will most certainly do so again.

Najib and Jho Low have meanwhile rejected the latest WSJ story as expected, but others also have their doubts.

To get to the truth behind hazy intrigues, both clarity and credibility are essential at every stage. That has yet to happen consistently with 1MDB coverage.

Behind The Headlines by Bunn Nagara The Star

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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UEC recognition, unequal wealth distribution between ethic groups, TAR UC funding


 UEC recognition: Malays’ feelings must be respected,  PM. Mahathir says while it is very easy for the governmentSee more: http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1826751

MCA and DAP voice concerns over Dr M’s UEC remarks

MCA and DAP have voiced strong concerns over Tun Dr
Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Unified Examination Certification
(UEC) recognition.

MCA vice-president Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said the issue must take into account the feelings of the Chinese community too as their sentiments about the recognition of the certification appeared to be ignored.

“The people who supported (Dr Mahathir) include Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups.

“UEC is not just a Chinese but a national issue, but the government only takes into account the feelings of the Malays and not the Chinese,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Tan questioned why the feelings of the Chinese were not considered in the issue.

“Is it because he considers the Chinese second-class citizens in Malaysia?” he asked.

Selangor DAP secretary and Sungai Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu said he read Dr Mahathir’s remarks “with concern” and expressed his disappointment.

“Excuse me but recognising the UEC was part of the Pakatan Harapan pledge. This was a promise made to the voters.

“You can’t just turn around after the election and say you can’t fulfil your promises because you are concerned about how some people might feel about it.

“I’m very disappointed with this and I hope Pakatan leaders will speak up about the importance of keeping promises,” he said.

Dr Mahathir in an interview with Sin Chew Daily said the government needs to address the unequal wealth distribution between ethnic groups before  recognising the UEC. http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1826751

“Recognising UEC is easy, just sign. But we need time to bring two to three racial groups, including natives in Sabah and Sarawak, onto the same position of economic development.

“They (Malays) feel that they are getting lesser, and this kind of imbalance is getting bigger,” he said. – The Star

Why TAR UC should still receive government funding?

Helping TAR UC will heal the nation – Letters | The Star Online

Private universities have no political interference because their owners are private citizens. TAR UC is an entity created by a political party and in that sense, I see no difference between it and UiTM. The huge elephant in the room is that TAR UC was gracious enough to allow my niece, daughter and my friend Salahuddin to study at an affordable price while the other allows in only one race.

Helping TAR UC will heal the nation – Letters | The Star Online

By Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

I read with sadness that this year, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) will not be getting some of the financial assistance it received over the past 50 years.

The Pakatan Harapan government, on Dec 6, said in Parliament that the government would only provide TAR UC with a development fund of RM5.5 million, not the RM30 million matching grant it had been getting under the previous Barisan Nasional government.

The reason for this retraction of funding was that TAR UC has political ties with MCA. My utmost respect to the principle behind the reason given, as well as to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng who has foiled critics who would like us to think that he favours one race.

But I would like to go on record to say I believe the funding for TAR UC should be continued. My reasons are as follows.

Firstly, TAR UC has never indulged in any extremist activities that would destroy our nation-building efforts to create a harmonious society.

I have read that Universiti Teknologi Malaysia once held a seminar attacking the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, while Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) held a conference attacking our fellow Christian citizens. Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia also held a forum on the conditions to kill Malaysian citizens who are considered, under Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman’s classification, “kafir harbi”.

These three shameful acts of bigotry and extremism have no place in a Malaysia where tolerance and respect for diversity form its two main anchors of co-existence. I do not remember TAR UC acting in this shameful manner, which is a testament to its commitment to producing level-headed Malaysians devoid of a sense of bigotry or racial and religious extremism.

Secondly, TAR UC has been providing high quality education at a most affordable fee that has put hundreds of thousands of young Malaysians into the job market and created a good and tolerant society.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub is one such character. A man of strong Islamic faith and commitment, he follows the true path of Islam, not the brand touted by his former party, PAS, which supports leaders who have been tainted with massive corruption and hurtful messages of extremism.

I, too, sent my niece and daughter to TAR at one time. My niece was studying for a certificate in fashion design and my daughter took a diploma in Mass Communications. Both have turned out to be well-rounded citizens. My niece once worked in the office of former Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau while my daughter became a journalist with BFM and is now a full-time lecturer at First City University College, having obtained a masters degree from Monash University.

Neither of them ever said a word to me about being discriminated against while they were there. Both enjoyed studying there and have no qualms about recommending TAR to other Malay families.

For that, I wish to credit MCA for being a party that has put the interest of the country above any racial ideology, although the party is one which supports a race-based philosophy.

I would like to go on record again to say that I am against any race-based or religious party and would not hesitate to support a law that disallows any political party to be based on religious or ethnic grounds. I would not hesitate to sign a memorandum outlawing the existence of parties like Umno, MCA, MIC, PPBM and PAS.

Although each of these political parties, except for the new PPBM, has made great contributions to its members and the country, we must move on and disregard these entities as we enter a new future. Having said that clearly and in no uncertain terms, I praise MCA for being a moderate party which contributed greatly to nation-building during Malaya’s formative years, and for its sacrifice in setting up and sustaining TAR UC until now.

With respect to Lim’s principle that TAR UC can be given funding if it severs ties with MCA, I would say that while the minister’s principle is most admirable and idealistic, non-political interference in some universities in Malaysia is impractical.

As long as UiTM exists, there will always be political interference. As long as public universities have 80% funding and not 50%, there will be interference simply because these entities belong to the people of Malaysia.

Private universities have no political interference because their owners are private citizens. TAR UC is an entity created by a political party and in that sense, I see no difference between it and UiTM. The huge elephant in the room is that TAR UC was gracious enough to allow my niece, daughter and my friend Salahuddin to study at an affordable price while the other allows in only one race.

I therefore have no problem with TAR UC being “politically connected” to MCA. Has MCA ever raised a sword in the halls of TAR UC, shouting slogans of abuse against Malays and Islam? Have its vice-chancellors spoken to derail our nation-building efforts by uttering statements that would jeopardise national harmony? I seem to recall one vice-chancellor of UiTM indulging in racial statements that, to me, were totally unbecoming of a civil servant of the nation.

Finally, if for nothing else, I wholeheartedly believe that TAR UC’s funding should be continued in memory of the father of our nation, the humble and easy-going but hardworking Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku was a unique individual who did not indulge in building mega projects such as the Petronas Twin Towers, the Penang Bridge or a whole city called Putrajaya. His simple sense of tolerance, compassion and balanced political experience brought him the trust of all communities. There were other leaders during his time but they were too “ultra-Malay” to gain the trust of the whole nation of diverse faiths, cultures, languages and expectations.

The simple concrete building of TAR UC boasts no special architectural characteristics. The landscaping of the campus boasts no requirement of maintenance like Putrajaya. The students drive Kancils and Myvis as opposed to the Vios and Civics seen at other private universities. The whole atmosphere of the campus is compact, full of simple life and gurgling with enthusiasm for study towards an assured future.

The Tunku promised that we would live a life of calmness, dignity and happiness in a moderate existence of financial stability, social respectability and political honesty. TAR UC, in my opinion, speaks volumes of the legacy of the Tunku.

Let us all continue to support TAR UC as a manifestation of the true spirit of Malaysia. – Malaysia Today

 

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Ministers and leaders who benefited from UTAR & TAR UC, removed matching grants to varsity 

Politicising education hurts the Chinese 

 WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community. The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC.

Landslide nation, Malaysia ranks highly for landslides


We’re a country with the 10th highest number of landslides in the world. Heavy rainfall and rugged topography are the reasons – but these are secondary. The main cause is man-made.

 

Malaysia among countries especially prone to landslides

Malaysia sits among the top 10 countries that had a high number of landslides over the past decade.

According to data from the US National Aeronautics Space Administration (Nasa), Malaysia had 171 landslides between 2007 and March 2016, making the country ranked the 10th highest in frequency of landslides.

Ranked first is the United States (2,992), followed by India (1,265) and China (426).

Titled the Global Landslide Catalog (GLC), the one-of-its-kind dataset was compiled based on online and media reports, and scientific journals since 2007.

The Star analysed the dataset and found that the number of landslides have been increasing in Malaysia, almost with each year, reaching a peak of 33 occurrences in 2014.

On average, in the past 10 years, Malaysia experienced 18.5 landslides annually.

The high number of landslides means that Malaysia ranked 5th for landslides per square kilometre among countries that have a land area greater than 100,000sq km.

Nepal is the country with the highest number of landslides per square kilometre, followed by the Philippines, Britain and Guate­mala.

Most of Malaysia’s landslides occur between October and January, which coincides with the months with the highest rainfall. This is according to data on average monthly rainfall between 1991 and 2015 from the World Bank.

Sabah leads with the most number of landslides (42), followed by Kuala Lumpur (26), Sarawak (25), Selangor (22) and Penang (14).

Latitude and longitude data point towards certain areas that landslides commonly occur. These include Ranau in Sabah, Ringlet in Cameron Highlands, Bukit Antarabangsa in Selangor and Tanjung Bungah in Penang.

Nasa’s satellite view showed that most landslide occurrences in Malaysia are packed around the peninsula’s west coast, and Sabah and Sarawak.

Hardly any red dots could be seen in the Kalimantan region, south of Sabah and Sara­wak, which could indicate that the landslides are caused by over-development.

Based on Nasa’s GLC website, since 2007, it has recorded some 10,000 landslides around the world, leading to more than 20,000 deaths, mostly in South-East Asia.

Data on Malaysia showed that most landslide fatalities are in Kuala Lumpur (18), followed by Pahang (17) and Selangor (eight).

The GLC project, first published in 2010, was to provide scientists with a dataset to analyse how, why and where landslides are likely to occur.

It remains the largest publicly available repository of global landslides.

According to the Meteorological Department, the country will be experiencing the northeast monsoon until the end of March, with heavy rains forecast along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, eastern Johor and Pahang.

A higher than average rainfall level of between 250mm and 350mm is also forecast for certain places in Sabah such as Kudat and Sandakan. In Sarawak, Kuching, Samarahan, Bintulu and Kapit are forecast to receive an average rainfall level that exceeds 500mm.

‘Main cause is man-made’

Malay­sia’s rugged topography and high rainfall coupled with human activities are behind the country being among the top 10 countries with the most number of landslides.

Institute of Geology spokesman Ng Chak Soon said Nasa’s data was correct.

“This is due to a combination of natural factors and human activities. Natural factors comprise periods of high rainfall and rugged topography while human activities relate to the cutting of slopes,” he said in an interview.

Asked if the high frequency could also be due to the type of soil in Malaysia, Ng said this was true only for Sabah such as in Ranau.

“Sabahan soil seems to have a high percentage of expandable clay which absorbs more water and expands more when wet. It shrinks when dry,” he said, adding that earthquakes were also a new factor in the state.

Not a country with typhoon or volcanic eruptions, Ng said the country’s only threat came from landslides.

“And, this is mostly man-made.

“Practically every major landslide in this country is linked to engineering works where slopes have been cut or built or filled with material,” he said.

To a question whether Malaysia had to change its type of development work such as slope cutting to reduce landslides, Ng said: “Apart from the coastal plains, most of our country is hilly.

“That means slope cutting is inevitable.”

He said there was a lack of in-depth understanding of the underlying factors behind landslides among “experts” in the country.

Whenever a slope failed as part of engineering works, he said it was engineers who looked into the causes of failures or what could have been overlooked, overestimated or underestimated in their calculations.

“It is unfortunate that most of these reports (into landslides) are not freely available for public scrutiny,” said Ng, adding that this made it difficult to identify the causes and to prevent similar mistakes from recurring.

He also claimed there was a lack of appropriate geological input in the study into the causes of landslides.

In many countries landslides come under the ambit of their geological survey departments.

“Malaysia is the exception where the Geoscience and Minerals Department is not playing this key role and there is a very good reason for this,” said Ng. “Landslide as a geological phenomenon is a topic under engineering geology which is itself a branch of geology.

“Landslides began to be considered a problem only after the collapse of the Highland Towers in 1993.

“So, it is relatively new in Malaysia.

“To really have a better understanding of why slopes fail, we have to get the geologists involved,” he said.

Penang Apartment dwellers live in fear

 

Cause for concern: A view of the construction site where the paired road project is being built in Paya Terubong.

GEORGE TOWN: For the first time in the 10 years that he has stayed in his apartment near the Bukit Kukus paired road project, 62-year-old S. Santhara is worried.

That was where nine people died due to a landslide last month.

The retired fireman never had to worry about landslides because the hills behind his apartment in Paya Terubong were covered with trees.

“We knew the hills facing our block would not crumble as the trees held down the soil,” he said.

That was before the hills were cleared for the construction of the paired road project.

“As they started to clear the hills near my home last year, I worried about the stability of the slopes and whether there would be a landslide.

“Then, the Tanjung Bungah landslide occurred in October 2017 and I fear this place could be next,” he said.

On Oct 19, the landslide at the construction site for the paired road hit 12 containers that housed construction workers.

Besides the foreign workers who were killed after being buried alive, four others were injured.

The Tanjung Bungah landslide that struck the site of an affordable housing project in Lengkok Lembah Permai killed 11 workers, including a Malaysian.

A special committee, set up by the Penang state government, will begin investigations into the cause of the Nov 8 landslide at the Bukit Kukus project site in Paya Terubong.

Inquiry into the Tanjung Bungah landslide has yet to be completed.

The Bukit Kukus landslide, said Santhara, had taken place right behind the hill facing his apartment block.

Now, he said it was worrying whenever it rained.

“Anything can happen at any time. If I have the opportunity, I will move out,” he said at his home.

Already, he said, there was landslip on parts of the hill after the trees were cleared.

“There was erosion. It (the hill) has now been covered with sheets but we still worry when it rains.

“During rainfall, a lot of mud water wash down and drains overflow, spilling onto the road,” he said.

On the day of the landslide, K. Kalaiselvan, 43, who lives on the 18th floor of an apartment in the vicinity, heard a loud crash.

“It sounded like rocks and sand falling. Later, I realised it was a landslide.

“I am worried we could be next,” he said, adding that the slopes were bare and threatening.

“I run a coffee shop and have lived here for the past 15 years. This is my home.

“As I live on a really high floor, it is worrying whenever it rains,” he said.

Engineers: Put plan for a centralised agency into motion

PETALING JAYA: Set up a centra­lised national agency to really control slope safety, suggests the Institution of Engineers.

Its president David Lai (pic) said IEM had proposed the setting up of such a body years earlier and hoped that the government would look into this urgently.

“We had actually put in a position paper in 2002 on the classification of slopes into four categories according to the height and angle of the slope.

“We also had an update on the policy in 2009,” he said in an interview, adding that the two papers were conveyed to the Housing and Local Government Ministry that looked into building by-laws.

“We are still actively pursuing this matter,” said Lai.

He said there should also be a slope information management system put in place to identify risky zones.

“The government must take the lead in coming up with such a system. We can give recommendations but the government is the statutory body,” said Lai.

He was responding to Nasa data that put Malaysia among the top 10 countries with the most frequent landslides in the world between 2007 and 2016.

Lai said Malaysia should learn from Hong Kong which had to deal with several landslides in the 1980s until it set up a geo office.

“From then, they started to repair the old slopes and impose new guidelines. Now, they have managed to control slope failure,” he said.

He said IEM, which had some 48,000 members, had put in a recommendation that for development on critical slopes between 25° and more than 35° angle, there should not only be a submissions engineer but also a geo-technical specialist to check on the design.

Asked if there was a need for engineers to change their designs such as cutting or fortifying the slopes, Lai said: “We actually don’t need to change.

“We just need to make sure to put in place the required safety procedures.

“We just need to get the correct people and whether all these procedures have been implemented.”

He added that enforcement was a necessity.

He said with more hillside development, there was a need now for specialised geo-technical engineers, who knew soil conditions and behaviour, and incorporate this into slope design.

PWD working to keep landslides down

The Public Works Department (PWD) has been carrying out landslide prevention works on slopes along federal and state roads beginning this year.

The works, undertaken by its Slope Engineering Branch, will go on until 2020.

Among the measures being undertaken include evaluation, danger and risk mappings, and setting up of an early warning, real-time system for landslides.

Its director Zulkifly A. Ghani said the prevention works also included fortifying high-risk slopes along federal roads.

“For slopes along federal reserve and state roads, monitoring is being carried out by the district PWD via the visual method, such as site visits and inspections,” he said in an interview.

Zulkifly was responding to a question on the action taken by the department to monitor the slopes, particularly during the rainy season.

Last year, former works minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said 946 of the 16,454 slopes along federal roads in Peninsular Malaysia were classified as “very high hazard” while 1,551 others were “high hazard”.

Zulkifly concluded this with the latest technology of Light Detection and Ranging and drones.

“The Early Warning System is being developed,” he said.

Zulkifly said the EWS was being developed using monitoring techniques such as rain gauge, robotic total stations as well as the Global Navigation Satellite System.

“The equipment will continuously monitor any slope movement and the data transmitted to a server for analysis and displayed on a special website.

“Should the movement reach the danger limit, it will send a message to the officer via SMS. The officer will then decide what to do,” he said.

Forty-eight rain gauges had been installed at risky slopes.

“The real time warning limit is displayed on a special early warning website for landslides, which however is still being developed and improved on by the branch,” he said.

Source: The Star by Sim Leoi Leoi, Adrian Chan, and N. Trisha

Related:

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Penang bald Hillslopes a “time bomb”

IJM hill clearing & Trehaus construction damaged nearby houses since 2014 must be mitigated quickly!

Politicising education hurts the Chinese


As Malaysia tackles a RM1 trillion national debt, it may be wise for Lim Guan Eng to focus on revitalising the economy than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant

WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community.

The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC. The fuming Chinese community is now taking up the issue as TAR UC, along with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), another institution of higher learning linked to MCA, has provided affordable education to many Chinese students over the past 50 years.

The removal of the matching grant to TAR UC – an annual amount given by the Barisan Nasional government to the university college previously to match the funds it raised – will negatively impact its continued survival.

Hence, emotive comments against Lim have been dominating the vernacular media since the grant issue emerged.

A petition against the Finance Ministry has also been launched.

Notably, though they are two non-profit institutions set up by MCA – TAR UC in 1969 and UTAR in 2001 – they are now seen as part and parcel of the Chinese community, which has been supporting their operation and expansion with billions in cash donations and land.

The late philanthropist of Penang, Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, told me in an interview in 1991 that he had contributed land and cash to TAR UC. Other Chinese tycoons, too, have privately shared such information with me.

Together with the matching grants from the government totalling RM1.353bil over the last 50 years, MCA was able to expand the reach of the university college, from Setapak to Penang, Sabah and Pahang.

In the last 17 years, MCA also built UTAR campuses in Sungai Long (Selangor) and Kampar (Perak).

In the five decades since TAR UC started, children from poor Chinese families and other ethnic groups, regardless of political leanings, have benefitted from the education offered by it due to its affordable fees.

In fact, TAR UC and UTAR are two of MCA’s best non-political projects which have contributed tremendously to the Chinese society, to compensate for its past failure to safeguard Chinese rights in the Umno-dominated Barisan regime.

Putting into historical context, TAR UC – which started as TAR College before being upgraded to university college status in 2013 – was a product of political compromise when non-­bumiputra student intake into the five public universities then was limited by the introduction of the bumiputra quota. The one-to-one matching grant enabled TAR UC to provide an avenue for higher education for those from the lower-income group as well as performing students denied entry into public universities by the quota system.

Hence on Sept 15, 1972, Datuk Hussein Onn, the then-Education Minister, handed over the Instrument of Government to the institution.

A 77ha plot in Setapak was allocated for the construction of TAR College’s main campus.

Later, UTAR was set up and officially launched on Aug 13, 2002, by then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad after higher education in the private sector was liberalised.

According to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, some 200,000 students have graduated from TAR UC/UTAR over the past 50 years.

Currently, the student population in the two institutions totals 28,000. Employees stand at 1,500 (60% Chinese, 40% non-Chinese).

These figures show that not just the Chinese have benefitted from the existence of UTAR and TAR UC but the Malays and Indians as well. Among the Pakatan Harapan leaders who were beneficiaries of the TAR affordable education are Cabinet ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as well as Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and exco member Chong Eng.

As these two institutions have become integral to the Chinese community, it is natural that vernacular newspapers are following closely the developments in this issue.

From the writing in the Chinese media, it can be seen that this issue is threatening to become a “Chinese community vs LGE/DAP” confrontation. This may not augur well for Lim.

While there are people who agree with Lim’s argument to separate education from politics, and that MCA must cut its links with these institutions, they form a miserable minority.

In a strongly worded comment piece “Play-killing UTAR”, Sin Chew Daily deputy editor-in-chief Tay Tian Yan points out that in speaking up on the grant issue, it is not meant to support MCA, but to show concern for the future generations of the Chinese community, particularly those from the poorer classes.

In response to Lim’s warning to MCA that the two institutions cannot raise tuition fees, Tay concludes: “UTAR will die an eventual death if it cannot raise fees and is not given a grant. What will be the future of our Chinese youth?”

Generally, Lim is seen as abusing his power to punish his political rivals and in the process undermine the interest of his very own community. Such political gimmicks should be stopped when dealing with taxpayers’ money, given that 80% of the country’s revenue is contributed by Chinese businesses and individuals in the form of taxes.

For many people, it is particularly repugnant when Lim threatened to “take action” against MCA if the institutions raise tuition fees.

In a China Press editorial yesterday, Lim was reminded that last year when he was Penang Chief Minister, he had said education allocations to schools should be given regardless of political backgrounds. And he acted fairly.

“But after LGE became Finance Minister, his statement last year on equality dissipated. Shouldn’t the former Penang CM give a big scolding to the current Finance Minister?” asks the writer mockingly.

The Pakatan government has also been reminded that 95% of Chinese voted them in to oust the previous administration in the May 9 general election. Their support should not be taken for granted and forgotten.

In short, TAR UC and UTAR should not be penalised just because of their parental link with MCA.

Looking at national development, these two institutions have nurtured much talent to serve the country, particularly in the field of accountancy.

File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
File photo of UTAR’s Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.

In fact, from my own observations, these institutions are more professionally run than many other private colleges and universities.

For this reason, and for their affordable fees, my husband and I sent our daughter to study in UTAR. She graduated last June.

As the country is confronted with a slowing economy and has to tackle a national debt of over RM1 trillion, it may be wiser for Lim to focus on revitalising the economy and other bigger national issues than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant.

By  Ho Wah Foon, The Star

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Ministers and leaders who benefited from UTAR & TAR UC, removed matching grants to varsity

https://youtu.be/AiIUc3spw-Y Varsity grads: Chew says he is disappointed with Lim for removing the matching grants when some lead..

 

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Ministers and leaders who benefited from UTAR UC & UTAR, removed matching grants to varsity


Varsity grads: Chew says he is disappointed with Lim for removing the matching grants when some leaders like (from left) Kok, Salahuddin and Saifuddin were products of the MCA-linked
institut
ions.

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA has pointed out that several Pakatan Harapan leaders were beneficiaries of MCA-linked institutions of higher learning.

MCA central committee member Datuk Chew Kok Woh named ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the beneficiaries.

He said even Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and state executive councillor Chong Eng were products of Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, then known as KTAR, and now TAR UC.

Chew expressed disappointment that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had removed matching grants to TAR UC.

He said although TAR UC and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman were set up by MCA, they were never used for political reasons, saying all the graduates could verify TAR UC and UTAR were apolitical.

He said these institutions were professionally run, adding Lim’s decision spoke volumes about his “politics of vindictiveness”.

In fact, he said, the decision was a timely reminder that DAP had done nothing for education except to criticise.

“What has DAP done for Chinese education? Name us one,” he said in a statement.

He said DAP should not punish parents and students by depriving them of affordable education because of political reasons.

Chew feared that Lim’s action would lead to higher tuition fees at these institutions.

He said many parents, who could not afford private colleges and universities, depended on TAR UC and UTAR.

Chew said the two institutions had produced more than 180,000 graduates of high calibre since its inception in 1969, while UTAR has 56,000 graduates since 2005.

“We need to put aside politics to help Malaysians, especially those from the lower-income background,” he said.

Chew said TAR UC and UTAR graduates, including these Pakatan leaders, could vouch that these two institutions were not “MCA indoctrination centres”.

It was recently announced by Lim that the government would only allocate a RM5.5mil development fund for UTAR and TAR UC, instead of a RM30mil matching grant for TAR UC.

Lim insisted that both education institutes break off ties with MCA before the government provides more allocation for the two institutions.

In the Dewan Rakyat, Ayer Hitam MP and MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong debated with Lim, stating that the matching grants were vital to help ensure lower student fees for the two institutions.

On Facebook, Dr Wee expressed his disappointment in the Finance Minister’s reply, adding that TAR UC was wholly owned by the TARC Education Foundation and should not be seen as part of MCA’s assets, and that the university college also submitted audited accounts to the Education Ministry every year.

Dr Wee also told reporters in Parliament House that TAR UC might have to increase its fees to cover operational costs.

Founded in February 1969 as KTAR, the institute was upgraded to university college status in May 2013 and renamed TAR UC.- The Star

Related News

 

Politicising education hurts the Chinese

 WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community. The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC.
File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
UTAR’s Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.

 

ICERD: An universal pact against racial discrimination, to ratify or not to ratify no longer the question


Just look at the world today.:

MYANMAR, South Sudan, North Korea, Vanuatu… What do these countries have in common with Malaysia?

Yes, they all have not signed or ratified the United Nation’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Malaysia is currently one of 14 countries in the world that have not recognised or signed the UN treaty.

The other countries in this exclusive club include the Cook Islands, the federated states of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Niue and Tuvalu.

Out of 197 countries, 179 countries have ratified or acceded to the ICERD. Four countries – Angola, Bhutan, Nauru and Palau – have signed the ICERD but not ratified it.

The treaty was first mooted in the early 1960s in response to the growing racial discrimination and religious intolerance in the world.

In 1965, the ICERD was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly, with one abstention. The Convention came into force in 1969.

Malaysia and Brunei are the only Islamic-majority countries that have not signed ICERD. All 22 states of the Arab League, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Indonesia, among others, have signed and ratified the treaty.

However, many countries only agreed to be bound by ICERD with certain reservations.

Reservations to parts of ICERD are allowed as long as they are not “incompatible with the object and purpose” of the treaty. Even the US has made a reservation: it does not accept any part of the Convention that would oblige it to criminalise hate speech.

Many – including China, India and Thailand – do not accept a provision that allows national ICERD disputes to be referred to the International Court of Justice. Singapore, which only ratified ICERD in November 2017, reserves the right to apply its own policies on foreign workers, “with a view to promoting integration and maintaining cohesion within its racially diverse society”.

Most of the Islamic states that have ratified ICERD state that they will not recognise or establish relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia is the sole Islamic state that has a reservation that it will only implement the ICERD provisions that do not conflict with the Islamic Syariah.

Tonga and Fiji reserve the right on indigenous citizens’ land. In fact, many countries that have ratified the ICERD have affirmative action policies to ensure marginalised and indigenous groups are given some privileges to help them move up the social and economic ladder.

This is clearly stated in the treaty: state parties are allowed, “when the circumstances so warrant”… to use “positive discrimination policies” for specific racial groups to guarantee “the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

And while the treaty obliges signatories to “pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms”, some have questioned its effectiveness in eliminating racism and hate crime.

To ratify or not to ratify no longer the question

But the ICERD remains a tempest in a political teapot, and so the discussion on the UN Convention must continue in Malaysia, a nation at the crossroads

.

 

A NUMBER of individuals and groups denounced the proposal to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on the ground that it will destroy Malay rights, weaken the position of Islam and erode the power of the Malay Rulers.

Most of the criticisms have no legal basis. However, as hate and fear are potent weapons in politics, the perpetrators have succeeded in polarising society and raising the spectre of violence. The Prime Minister has, therefore, strategically retracted the proposal to ratify.

The debate on this UN Convention will, however, continue and this necessitates a brief discussion of the Federal Constitution and the ICERD.

Equality

The Constitution in Articles 5-13 protects many human rights and these are available irrespective of race. Article 8(1) declares that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law. Article 8(2) states that except as expressly authorised, there shall be no discrimination on the ground of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender.

Many other Articles explicitly forbid racial discrimination. Among them are Article 12(1) relating to education and Article 136 regarding impartial treatment of federal employees.

Citizenship (Articles 14-22); the electoral process; membership of Parliament; and positions in the Cabinet, public services, judiciary and the constitutional commissions are all free of racial differentiation.

Permissible exceptions: To the general rule of racial equality, a number of exceptions are explicitly provided. Foremost are protection for the aborigines (Article 8), Malay Regiment (Article 8), Malay Reserves (Article 89) and special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak (Article 153). These preferential provisions are not based on the idea of racial superiority or exclusiveness but on a mixture of historical realities and the impulses of affirmative action. Their primary purpose is to engineer society through the law and to ensure that those left behind in socioeconomic development are able to catch up with the others.

Article 153’s provisions have much in common with India’s special provisions for the Scheduled Castes. Like in India, Article 153 provisions are hedged in by clear limits. For example, Article 153’s quotas do not apply across the board but only in four areas: positions in the public service; scholarships and educational and training facilities; licences and permits; and post-secondary education.

It is also notable that Article 153 enjoins the King to safeguard the “legitimate interests of other communities”.

Likewise, Article 89(2) requires that where land is reserved for Malays, an equal area shall be made available for general alienation.

ICERD

This piece of international law takes a strong stand against apartheid, segregation, discrimination and racial superiority. However, it recognises the need for affirmative action. It acknowledges the need to rectify historical injustices and to enrich formal equality with functional and substantive equality. Articles 1(4) and 2(2) of ICERD permit “special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection”.

This is quite in line with Articles 89 and 153 of Malaysia’s Constitution. However, the ICERD seeks to set limits on the duration for affirmative action. The measures “shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved”.

This has riled up the ICERD critics because Articles 153 and 89 contain no time limits. It is submitted that for all practical purposes the differences between Article 153 and ICERD are insignificant. ICERD opposes “eternity clauses” but imposes no time limit. Article 153 imposes no time limit but is capable of amendment subject to the special procedures of Articles 159(5) and 38(4) – two-thirds majority plus the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the Governors of Sabah and Sarawak.

ICERD in Article 20 allows nations to ratify it with reservations. For example, the United States adopted ICERD but objected to any provision in the Convention that breached the US Constitution. Malaysia can do the same and indeed has done so in a number of situations.

We adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 in section 4(4) of our Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 but subjected it to our Federal Constitution. We adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) but subjected it to our Constitution’s Article 8(5) which exempts personal laws from the Constitution’s gilt-edged provisions for gender equality.

ICERD and Islam

To bolster their opposition to the ICERD, its critics are claiming, amazingly, that ICERD will weaken the position of Islam. To give this claim any credibility requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The ICERD is against racial discrimination and does not address itself to official religions or secularism or theocracy. In any case, Islam promotes racial equality. The ICERD has been ratified by 179 nations, of which 48 are Muslim nations. Out of 50 Muslim countries, only Malaysia and Brunei are non-signatories.

ICERD and Malay Rulers

The ICERD is not anti-monarchial and in no way affects the honours and dignities of the 27 monarchies existing in the world today, six of whom are absolute monarchies.

International law is not law

Even if ratified by the executive, ICERD cannot displace Article 3 (Islam), Article 153 (special position of the Malays and natives) and Article 181 (prerogatives of Malay Rulers). This is due to the legal fact that our concept of “law” is defined narrowly in ArticIe 160(2) and does not include international law.

The constitutional position on the ICERD is, therefore, this: Even if the ICERD is ratified by the executive, it is not law unless incorporated into a parliamentary Act. Even if so legislated, it is subject to the supreme Constitution’s Articles 3, 153 and 181. Unless these Articles are amended by a special two-thirds majority and the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the Governors of Sabah and Sarawak, the existing constitutional provisions remain in operation.

The ICERD is not a law but only a pole star for action. Its ideals cannot invalidate national laws. The agitation against it is contrived for political purposes and perceptive Malaysians must not allow themselves to be exploited by politicians.

By Shad Saleem Faruqi

Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi is a holder of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair at Universiti Malaya.

 

Bigger thriller in Manila: Asean point man to deal with China


Point man: Asean has designated Manila its ‘leader’ in dealings with China, but can the moody Duterte, here shown bonding with Xi on a visit to Beijing in 2016, clinch a an agreement from China for the regional association? — AP

NOW that the quartet of Asean-related summits is over for the year, so should the niggling criticisms. At least they should – more important matters are at hand.

Over the week Singapore hosted the 2nd RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) Summit, the 13th East Asia Summit, the 21st Asean Plus Three Summit, and – not least – the 33rd Asean Summit.

These summits were held because it was time they were, and Singapore hosted them because it was its turn. But criticisms were not far behind.

US President Donald Trump was a no-show, and so was Chinese President Xi Jinping. Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended instead.

Trump was criticised for his absence, which allegedly “left the region wide open” for Xi’s China to make further inroads here. That complaint was limited only by Xi’s own absence.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was also criticised for not attending an “informal breakfast summit” between Asean and Australian leaders.

His said it was only an informal event, and it was over breakfast which he did not eat.

A casual observer may be forgiven for sensing that there must be more important developments than these scheduled rounds of handshakes and photo opportunities. There are.

One of these begins in two days: Xi’s state visit to the Philippines, following the scheduled 30th Apec Summit in Papua New Guinea.

Duterte had made three visits to China as President, inviting Xi to visit Manila each time. This will be Xi’s first state visit, coming upon the third invitation to him.

There will be handshakes and photo opportunities too, but the substance and symbolism now may be more than the recent multiple summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines has been vocal about rival claims to territory in the South China Sea. The previous The region is generally unsettled by China’s recent occupation and construction of islands, with Vietnam remaining most disturbed. Duterte’s critics have also blamed him for being soft on Beijing.

However, Xi’s visit is expected to be smooth with an emphasis on the positives. These include mutual interests deemed to be larger than interminable disputes over distant rocks and islets.

Last year Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang visited Manila for four days amid more audible protests over territory such as Benham Rise. Yet the visit proceeded unhindered.

This time it is President Xi himself, for a state visit of only two days, with no particular complaint against China outstanding. It will also be after one full year of China having become the Philippines’ main trading partner.

For both sides the focus will be quite intense on specific projects backed by Chinese assistance. Duterte left the merrymaking in Papua New Guinea early to return home to prepare for Xi’s arrival.

For China, it would demonstrate to the region how it can cooperate with even a country locked in dispute with it to mutual benefit. This gains added significance when it is the Philippines, historically a US ally.

For the Philippines, there is a host of projects and programmes on Duterte’s wish list requiring Chinese aid. They span his ambitious 9-trillion peso (RM717bil) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan covering all three regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These come under the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) signed last year with China as a framework for the Philippines’ “Golden Age of Infrastructure.” It is to be Duterte’s legacy for his country.

The 75 projects include a water pump and irrigation scheme, a dam, a north-south railway, a highway, bridges, a park and a rehabilitated power plant. Economic growth is projected to outpace debt.

Duterte is clear-minded enough to know that only China is able and willing to provide the assistance needed. No other country or combination of countries is in a position to do so.

There are also plans for more Chinese business investments, as well as a framework agreement for joint oil and gas explorations at sea. The latter are understood to cover some disputed areas, with China agreeing to only a 40% share of recoverable deposits.

Countries in dispute over territory and the reserves found therein tend to shy from joint exploration, as legally this may imply recognition of the other disputing party’s claim.

But since this condition applies equally to both parties, the Philippines may be confident that China would also be obliged to acknowledge the Philippine claim. Can there be a lesson here for other Asean countries with claims to the South China Sea?

To ensure the success of Xi’s visit, there had been a positive build-up of Philippines-China relations in recent months. Xi’s state visit in turn is envisaged to lead to even better bilateral relations.

Last August, joint simulated naval exercises were held in Singapore among Asean countries and China without US participation. Manila defended that decision by saying that the “tabletop” drill was meant only for neighbouring countries in the region.

Now as Xi prepares for his visit, the US Pacific Fleet is reportedly readying a series of naval operations as a “show of force” in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. In response to China’s stated concern, the Philippines said it will have no part in those operations.Xi’s visit is important not just for the Philippines but also Asean, which had designated Manila the “point man” in dealings with China. Can Duterte clinch an agreement from China for Asean?

Manila had said that a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea was on the agenda, but Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it may take another three years.

If China really wants to prove its goodwill in Manila, Xi could suggest it may happen considerably sooner.

The last Chinese President to make a state visit to the Philippines was Hu Jintao in 2005. That occasion also marked the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations, which is as auspicious a time as any.

This Tuesday’s visit by Xi will be the first Chinese state visit in 13 years. That is an auspicious number in Chinese, but not so in Western culture.

Will it be auspicious for the Philippines, the only Christian-majority country in the region once colonised by Spain and then the US? Duterte’s original style of leadership may yet make the difference.

Bunn Nagara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

 

 

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