Declining performance of Malaysia’s civil service, World Bank report


KUALA LUMPUR: The performance of Malaysia’s civil service has been declining since 2014, according to a World Bank report, which also expressed concerns about the sustainability of the country’s public sector wage bill.

The report, which came about following the visit of World Bank vice-president for East Asia and Pacific Victoria Kwakwa to Malaysia last December during which she met the Prime Minister, also ranked Malaysia lowly in its indicators for accountability, impartiality as well as the transparency and openness of its public service.

The report – which is included in the World Bank’s six-monthly economic monitor on Malaysia – will be formally launched today.

World Bank lead public sector specialist Rajni Bajpai said that while Malaysia was doing better than others in South-East Asia, there was a very “big gap” in the performance of its civil servants with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

She said the report decided to compare Malaysia with the OECD countries as it was hoping to move from a middle-income status country to that of high-income.

“When you compare Malaysia with others in the region, Malaysia has been doing pretty well but we see that the performance has stagnated.

“If you look at the indicator for government effectiveness, Malaysia is still above in the region but in 2018, the performance is below that of between 1991 and 2014.

“If you take the average of that period between 1991 and 2014, it was higher than that in 2018, which means the performance is declining,” she said in an interview.

There were also some indicators in which Malaysia ranked even below the region, said Rajni, adding that this included accountability, impartiality and the openness of its public sector.

“There is a strong perception … that recruitment of the civil service is not fair and neutral (with) Malaysia scoring very poorly on the indicators for impartiality in the government.

“It’s the lowest ranked, even below the region and way below the OECD,” she said, adding that the government in its election manifesto had suggested setting up an Equal Opportunities Commis­sion meant to tackle discriminatory practices in both the public and private sector.

“Malaysia also scores very poorly on the openness indicators. Malaysia is not a very open economy in the sense that data sharing is a very big problem.

“The government does not share of a lot of data, even within its own departments or with the citizens.

“And citizens’ feedback and voices are not factored by the government into the design of programmes,” she said, adding that the report would suggest the setting up of an institutional and legal framework for open data sharing.

Another indicator that Malaysia performed “not very well”, according to Rajni, was in digitisation and technological advances, which the government had not been able to integrate into its system to provide services.

The report, said Rajni, also focused on another critical element in Malaysia’s civil service, in that the recruitment, which was carried out by the Public Services Department, was overcentralised.

Describing Malaysia as one of the “most overcentralised”, she pointed out that in many countries, this function had been devolved to other departments and even state governments.

“Overcentralisation does not allow for the people who actually need the public servants to do certain jobs … because they don’t have the right people or the recruitment takes a very long time,” she said.

OECD countries, said Rajni, had been using a competency framework for the recruitment of their civil service, which defined the kind of roles and skills needed in the public sector, rather than taking in people generally for everything.

Among the indicators that Malaysia performed very well were for the ease of doing business – for which Malaysia is ranked 15th – and the inclusion of women in its civil service.

“Women occupied almost 50% of the civil service although there are some issues with women in higher management,” said Rajni.

Other indicators that were highlighted in the report included political stability, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption.

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TNB to re-credit those overcharged


Unhappy lot: Some of the consumers making a report over their inaccurate electricity bill at the TNB counters. 

MELAKA: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has promised to re-credit the excess amount into the bills if consumers have been overcharged.

In a statement, the company said it viewed seriously the concerns of consumers over the drastic increase in their bills and was committed to resolving the issue.

It said it would ensure every complaint was investigated and follow-up action taken.

“This includes returning the excess amount if indeed they have been overcharged. It will be re-credited into the customers’ bills,” it said, adding that it would continue to cooperate with the Energy Commission.

TNB said a comprehensive effort was being carried out to thoroughly resolve the issue.

“This includes helping customers with high bills to personally address their grouses at the nearest TNB outlet or contact the TNB CareLine at 1-300-88-5454.

“We appreciate all the grouses, complaints and feedback and are focusing on finding ways to resolve these,” it said as it apologised to customers.

Meanwhile, yesterday, more than 300 people lodged complaints over their electricity bills in the first three hours of the TNB counters being opened at its headquarters in Jalan Banda Kaba here.

Some 30 counters were set up to take complaints from consumers, who lined up before the office opened.

On Tuesday, the counters, which were opened for 11 hours, took in 560 complaints.

The counters will remain open until tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said negligence and technical fault as well as billing for electricity usage for over 30 days, instead of the standard 30 days, had caused electricity bills to spike for certain consumers.

She also said the complaints were from nationwide and not just in Melaka, where it is among the pioneer states to adopt TNB’s smart meter project.

In another statement, TNB denied a viral message on social media that its board of directors had received a government directive to increase electricity tariffs by 30%.

It said it did not have among its staff the name of the person who had purportedly written the message.

It said electricity tariffs were decided by the commission.Source link
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Negligence, Technial among TNB faults


https://youtu.be/PDdFdvklQN0https://youtu.be/PDdFdvklQN0

Minister: Technical and billing issues also to blame for price spike

PUTRAJAYA: Negligence and technical fault on the part of Tenaga Nasional Bhd were two among three reasons why electricity bills spiked for certain consumers but the government is having none of it.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, who disclosed this, said TNB must be made accountable for what happened or risk facing legal action from consumers.

“They are not just going to get a slap on the wrist but must be accountable for this and resolve the matter with consumers. Fail to do so and they will face legal action,” she told a press conference at her ministry yesterday.

Also present was Energy Commission chairman Datuk Ahmad Fauzi Hasan.

The Commission had met TNB earlier yesterday over the uproar among consumers in Melaka, and other parts of the country who complained of higher than usual power bills.

Besides the two reasons, Yeo said the other given was that consumers were billed for electricity usage for over 30 days when the standard procedure required the utility firm to issue bills for 30 days.

Yeo said the complaints on surge in power charges was from consumers nationwide and not just Melaka households involved in the smart meter pilot project by TNB.

Many consumers had vented their frustration on social media.

In May alone, more than 300 complaints were lodged with the Commission. This was 10 times more than the complaints in the same month last year.

Yeo said the Commission would play its part by investigating the complaints and submit its findings.

Asked whether the affected consumers should settle their dues first, the minister said she would discuss the issue with TNB and believed the problem could be resolved before the payment deadline.

On the smart meter issue, Yeo said the Commission was also investigating to find out what had gone wrong.

Melaka is among the pioneer states to introduce the smart meter and to date, over 300,000 households have already been fitted with it.

Chief Minister Adly Zahari was quoted as saying that he wanted TNB to ensure the system was implemented properly and to resolve several problems, including that the reading shown on myTNB was not the same as that on the meter.

A TNB spokesman said grievances from consumers would be addressed on a case-by-case basis, adding: “Our role is to listen, understand and serve our customers while upholding the law.”

TNB also inviteed consumers in Melaka with grouses to attend its Customers Day at its office in Jalan Banda Kaba which will be held until Friday (8.30am to 4pm daily).

It said each case would be investigated based on the electricity use pattern over the last six months. The firm said it will also, upon investigation, credit any surcharge to the consumer’s account, in the event of overcharging or when excess reading had occurred.

Alternatively, customers can contact the TNB Careline at 1300-88-5454 or visit any TNB office in Alor Gajah, Bandar Jasin, Merlimau and Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) at Jalan Hang Tuah.

Meanwhile, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the Cabinet was the best avenue to discuss the issue of irregular electricity billing and the solution to it.

He believed Yeo would most likely be asked to explain the matter in today’s Cabinet meeting.

“I have received a lot of Whatsapp messages on this matter. The reaction we have received was nationwide,” Saifuddin said after chairing his ministry’s monthly assembly here yesterday.- The Star

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Pay to win the dubious vanity awards


BBB Tip: Vanity Awards

Allure of vanity awards hard to dismiss

Your organisation may deserve an award but be aware of vanity awards disguised as legitimate prizes.

A vanity award is less of an honour because the recipient essentially has to fork out money for it. An organisation is asked to purchase the award by paying a high entry fee, sponsorship or other charges.

It is a business model that transcends borders and industries with US non-profit organisation Better Business Bureau issuing warnings about such schemes in the United States and Canada since 2008.

Even government bodies have been known to pay for vanity awards.

In 2017, The Star reported the Penang Municipal Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council had revealed that they might have fallen for a vanity awards scheme by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) in 2013 and 2014. (See related posts below)

Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd said they won the EBA awards without assessment by any judges after paying a total of €7,800 (RM39,088) in entry fees.

The now retired Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail was awarded the Best Municipal Manager while the council was given the Best Municipality Award in 2013.

A year later, the Seberang Prai Municipal Council got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif was named the Best Municipal Manager.

Two European NGOs – the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) – exposed the EBA titles as a vanity awards scam.

The report states that such organisations sent solicitation letters to companies and government agencies in the world, telling them that they had been nominated for various awards.

“Anyone who replies, shows interest and agrees to pay gets an award. Most of the letters contain the ceremony programme generally held in an attractive European capital, pictures of the trophies and information about costs,” the report added.

In 2011, The Star highlighted the proliferation of dubious awards due to high demand for such prizes.

The report said some organisers were giving out less-than-credible awards and then asking the “winners” to sponsor or buy dinner tables at lavish presentation events.

The asking price for such sponsorships ranged from RM4,000 to RM30,000, with some companies admitting they paid up for fear of business rivals getting the awards instead.

The organisers also banked on these companies’ need for recognition to boost their business. These companies treated such sponsorship as investments.

The Star reported that when demand for such awards increased, the “supply” can be raised simply by creating new categories.

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Having to pay for a ‘win’ 

Legitimacy of money-making awards ceremonies questioned

 

‘Honours’ list: Adeva giving a speech at its awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. Screencap from APTTF’s Facebook page.
‘Honours’ list: Adeva giving a speech at its awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. Screencap from APTTF’s Facebook page.

Like most other people, leaders in the business world take pride in receiving recognition for their hard work and achievements. They also see value in being considered as among the best. These sentiments have helped spawn a lucrative mini industry built on award ceremonies that are more about earning money than honouring and encouraging excellence.

Businessmen have raised questions over the growing number of award programmes whose organisers demand payments from those who are supposedly nominated for prizes. The charges range from administrative fees to sponsorship.

Entrepreneur Jan Wong said he had been contacted by 10 different award organisers congratulating him on winning their awards but with one big condition.

“I was told that to qualify for the awards, I needed to pay for the nomination, a table (at the awards ceremony), marketing exposure or the trophy ,” said Wong, who was in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2017.

“If I don’t want to pay, I won’t win,” he added. He questioned the prestige of such awards.

There are similar concerns about a recent travel industry awards ceremony in Malaysia by a little-known organisation called the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Federation (APTTF).

Participants said they had doubts about the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Awards after the event turned disorderly. The Tourism Minister did not show up although the organiser said he would. Some winners received the wrong awards, while several others were not given their awards that day.

“The chief executive officer’s explanation as to why they did not present our awards was that they had misplaced a box of trophies in the office,” participant Melissa (not her real name) said.

“When he was closing the event on stage he even asked if he had missed out any awards. But we were too polite to speak up.”Melissa said many award categories had five winners each. There was one category with about 30 winners, she added.

She said the event was supposed to be a prestigious gala dinner but it turned out to be a low-budget conference-style luncheon.

Participants paid RM575 to RM755 per seat or RM4,500 per table to attend the April 11 ceremony in a Kuala Lumpur hotel. There were about 200 award recipients.

In its promotional materials and conversations with participants, the APTTF claimed that Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had endorsed and supported the awards ceremony.

However, both organisations have denied any such affiliation.

“Malaysia Airlines is not associated, has not endorsed nor has any involvement with the APTTF,” MAS told The Star.

Tourism Malaysia said it is not a member of the federation and that the APTTF Malaysian Chapter is not a recognised travel association.

“The APTTF Malaysian Chapter is not registered with the Registrar of Societies and is not found in the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s MYDATA portal,” said Tourism Malaysia, adding that it had declined the invitation to attend the awards ceremony.

Further checks by The Star revealed that the website photo of the APTTF chairman is a stock image (an image provided by an agency that can be used for a fee).

The website also has the text of a speech by the chairman addressing the award winners. He has a Japanese name that does not show up elsewhere in an Internet search.

According to former APTTF employees, the people behind the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Awards had also organised the Asia Lifestyle Tourism Awards (ALTA) through an organisation called Asian Sports Group.

“My job was to call hotels all over South-East Asia to convince them to join the APTTF as a member. The hotels had to pay a fee and an award would be given when they joined,” said Jeff (not his real name).

“We actively name-dropped tourism ministries to convince the hotels and tour operators to sign up,” he said, adding that the organiser also operated under the name ASG Management Group Sdn Bhd

.Sarah (not her real name) said she was tasked to organise ALTA 2018 which was supposed to be held in Shenzhen in September 2018. However, the event was cancelled although participants had purchased tickets to the event.

“The event didn’t happen because the company didn’t exist,” she said.

Thailand-based hotel operator Paisal Panchalad, who is among those affected by the cancellation of ALTA 2018, said the company did not reimburse the US$1,605 (RM6,638) he had paid despite multiple assurances from the CEO.

“CEO Adeva Sangkuni informed us that he would refund all money but he did not do that,” he said, adding that there were many others with the same complaint.

Sarah was not surprised that several winners of the KL awards ceremony last month did not receive their prizes. She said a similar thing happened in ALTA 2017, leading to a big hotel brand in Malaysia boycotting the organiser.

Sarah and Jeff said they suspected something was amiss with the company after discovering that many of the officials listed on the websites were fake.

The former employees claimed that the company did not pay their salaries during the one to two months that they worked there in mid-2018.

Last year, they lodged reports with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, Labour Department and the police against APTTF and ASG Management Group over the companies’ unregistered operations and the unpaid salaries

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Malaysia’s education policy must champion Meritocracy instead of Mediocrity system


Education system must champion meritocracy

THE country is facing yet another controversy of its own making – the matriculation programme for university entrance or matric, for short.

The matric programme was introduced 50 years ago to increase the enrolment of Malay students in the medical, dental, engineering and other science and technical studies at public universities. It was an interventionist policy to produce more Malay graduates for the professional occupations in government service as well as in the private sector, as part of the New Economic Policy to redress the racial educational and economic imbalances in the economy.

The programme was reserved exclusively for Malays but due to political pressure from other races , the government allowed a 5% quota and this was later increased to 10% for non-Malay students. Recently, with demands for more non-Malays to be given places in matric, the government increased the total number accepted into the programme from 25,000 to 40,000 while keeping the racial quota unchanged.

There are concerns that the large increase in the number of university intakes from the matric programme will reduce the places available for STPM students and affect the quality of education. There are already complaints from parents that even though their children who go through the two-year STPM are more educationally qualified than the one-year matric students, and have a stronger command of English, they cannot get a place in public universities because of the preference given to intakes from the shorter programme.

Fifty years on, this programme is still in place, despite the huge investments made by government through the Education Ministry to increase the access to STPM (Form VI) level education in both the arts and science streams in all parts of the country.

Malay students in rural areas today are no longer facing a disadvantage in  educational opportunities as there are many secondary schools with Form VI classes.

However, their parents prefer that they apply for the matriculation course as it is a faster and easier route to university.

As they are specially selected for the matriculation course, the students have a greater certainty that they will be given places in the medical , dental and engineering faculties. Another attraction is that there is very little competition with other races in the matriculation course.

There are suggestions that our universities should raise their entrance requirements so that they can get better qualified student intakes to facilitate higher quality teaching and learning and produce graduates with the right skills for the job market . This can be achieved by a policy decision that university entrance must be through the STPM stream only and that the matric programme will be scaled down to be eventually terminated as it is not a good alternative in preparing students for university education.

Matric has also become a source of continuing friction among the races as they feel that education is a human right and should not be subject to racial politics.

It is inevitable that there will be complaints from certain quarters against closing down the matric programme but the government must stand firm not to perpetuate a system that encourages mediocrity. If the country is to succeed in the digital  evolution, and make Malaysia a fully developed economy, the education system must shift direction towards competition and meritocracy. The abolition of the matriculation programme will show that Malaysia is serious in moving in that direction.

TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM

Another brick in the wall

https://youtu.be/YR5ApYxkU-U- a protest song against rigid schooling

 

Education is that realm where wrongs are set right and learning thrives, yet, right off the bat, the new matriculation intake has found itself in murky waters.

SOME leaders in our federal and state governments, now or then, seem to be guilty of this habit – announcing decisions before studying the implications of their policies.

So it was no surprise that after the Education Ministry announced the controversial changes to the matriculation programme, a row erupted, and soon, the Prime Minister had to weigh in on the debate.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would address the quota system issue of the pre-university matriculation programme intake.

When asked for his comments on whether the quota system would be abolished, he said: “We will study the problem.”

Once again, it looks like the 93-year-old leader must step in to clean up another mess before things start to stink.

The controversy exploded when the Cabinet decided to increase the number of students entering the matriculation programme from 25,000 to 40,000 while maintaining the 90% quota for bumiputra students.

The matriculation programme was originally aimed at encouraging bumiputra students to pursue studies in science.

The highly sought-after programme – due to its cost-effectiveness – is equivalent to a one- or two-year pre-university course, and enables students to pursue a degree upon successfuly completing the programme. Enrollees only need to pay a registration fee and the rest is borne by the government.

However, the concern now is that by doubling the matriculation intake, it will affect the seats available to those vying for places in public universities via the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) route.

During my time, in the 1980s, when I was sitting for the then Higher School Certificate (HSC), the matriculation programme had already been launched. At present, STPM and matriculation students number about 43,000 and 25,000 respectively.

No rational or fair person will begrudge aid provided to students who need a helping hand, let’s be clear.

But I am not sure if the ministry has given thought to the fact that we may have a surplus of matriculation students – about 60% – at the expense of their STPM counterparts.

Let’s give the ministry the benefit of doubt that they surely would have, given the many experienced experts there, but no narratives have been forthcoming to explain anything to parents and students, especially those preparing for their STPM exams this year.

If the government plans to double university intake, have backup plans been installed to accommodate the sudden surge in science students into our financially-strapped universities?

While non-scholarship students in public universities must pay their own fees, matriculation students not only get free education, but are given allowances, too.

Public universities are already cutting down on contract academic staff as fundraising programmes are being carried out.

Unemploy-ment is underscored by the huge number of jobless graduates, whose changing fortunes have found them unemployed in a soft market. In some cases, their weak language and social skills put them at a disadvantage.

As the intake increases, other relevant infrastructure, like hostels, laboratories and teaching staff, won’t multiply overnight, as MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong rightly pointed out.

“How will the ministry ensure quality in matriculation education? And the suggestion of getting teachers from teachers’ training colleges to teach in matriculation is illogical because their syllabus is totally different,” he said.

The new matriculation policy has also taken the race-based programme to another level and goes against the aspiration of being an inclusive New Malaysia.

DAP leader Dr P. Ramasamy has rightly said the increased quota for bumiputra by the government was spurred by fears of a backlash from sections of the Malay-Muslim community. This is what happens when political expediency and interest come into play.

The former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political science lecturer said with the revised quota, the bumiputra allocation will increase the number of  students from 22,500 to 36,000.

He said, in comparison, the number of non-Malays will increase by only 1,500 students, beyond the current 2,500.

“I’m taken aback by the Cabinet’s decision. We have failed to move forward. It appears as though the Cabinet was not prepared to take a bold decision in increasing the intake of non-Malay students, particularly Indians.”

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, in defending the new policy, said all students deserve a “better opportunity” when they apply for matriculation placement, adding that “the bumiputras will still enjoy their 90% quota”.

Dr Maszlee reportedly said the increased intake for matriculation students was based on a Cabinet decision to get more students into tertiary education and to accord all races equal opportunity.

He also said the Cabinet had instructed his ministry to discuss with the Finance Ministry the government’s burden in bearing the cost of the increased number of matriculation places.

This looks like another case of putting the cart before the horse. Announce first and work out the maths later.

Instead of emphasising need-based programmes, the government has, instead, strengthened a race-based system.

As a student at university, I was often queried by my well-intentioned Malay varsity mates about which scholarship I had obtained. I jokingly told them it was FAMA – father and mother.

I’ve always been grateful for having secured a place in a local university, particularly since there were only five then – and certainly no private universities – and that gratitude has only grown since that degree helped change my life.

And that conveniently brings me to my point: Let’s not deny our children, regardless of their race, a place in our universities, which are funded by multi-ethnic tax payers.

If parents are financially sound, no prayers would be needed for students to earn slots in our public institutions of higher learning, it’s that simple.

Wong Chun WaiBy Wong Chun Wai

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 editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer.

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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Pakatan Harapan government plunges in popularity


 

 

The Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and goodwill from voters.

WHAT a difference a year makes. In a week, the Pakatan Harapan government will mark its first year in power but in stark contrast to the height of popularity it enjoyed then, support for the coalition has plunged.

A recent poll by the Merdeka Centre showed that the administration’s approval rating sank to 39% in March, a drastic drop from 79% recorded in May 31 last year.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s performance approval rating as Prime Minister declined too – from 71% in August 2018 to 46% last month.

The survey firm polled 1,204 registered voters in March to gauge their opinions on the country’s economy, leadership and current issues.

Pakatan’s descent in popularity was attributed to the state of the economy as felt by consumers, the perceived strength of the government, anxieties over Malay rights and privileges and the treatment of other races in the country.

According to the findings, public satisfaction in Pakatan’s administration of the economy fell from 60% to 40% with voters largely unhappy with the rise in the cost of living.

The majority of respondents also disagreed with policies such as the move to abolish the death penalty while many were also against the scrapping of exams for Primary 1 to 3 and the plan to impose taxes on sugary drinks. Only 34% of voters polled were of the view that the country was headed in the right direction, with Malay respondents weighing in lower at 24%.

The survey showed that the main concern of Malaysians was the economy at 63%, followed by race-related issues and the flip-flop on decisions such as the government’s decision to withdraw from ratifying the International Conven­tion on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

On the plus side, worries over corruption declined to 23% from 33% while 67% of respondents agreed that the government should be given more time to fulfil its election promises.

Its support rating may have dropped but to be fair, the Pakatan government has not done too badly since taking over, considering the state of the economy and the massive debts that it inherited from the previous disgraced administration.

Of course, there is much more to do, like addressing the cost of living, fulfilling housing needs and providing sustainable healthcare but the government has already fulfilled nearly a third of its pledges, im­p­roved its overall financial position and has made significant moves to tackle corruption in the civil service.

Ironically, the freer media landscape today is contributing to the perception that the Pakatan government is performing poorly or unable to handle issues raised by the opposition, especially those related to race and religion.

Malaysia has risen 22 places to rank 123 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It now tops countries in South-East Asia – above Indonesia (124), the Philippines (134), Thailand (136), Myanmar (138), Cambodia (143), Singapore (151), Brunei (152), Laos (171) and Vietnam (176).

Unlike in the past, opposition parties now get unfettered coverage in the media and the welcome change has led to the diffusion of a more diverse range of views.

However, the new government has been rather inept in conveying its message on a wide range of issues in the print, online and social media since taking over Putrajaya.

It is also guilty of being sluggish in countering negative reactions or stemming news designed to elicit racial or religious sentiments, as could be seen in the cases of ratification of the Icerd, the Rome Statute and the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots.

Opposition politicians and their supporters have been quick to exploit this weakness to manipulate opinion in the freer media environment.

A recent example is lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s briefings to the media in the ongoing trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over funds worth RM42mil from SRC International Sdn Bhd. It is clear that he is using the media to advocate the defence’s contention that Najib’s bank account was misused by people who were unauthorised, including Jho Low, as well as some rogue bankers.

In statements designed to strike a chord with those who may find it tedious to follow the proceedings, he claimed that the former PM would most likely turn out as a “victim” in the end.

As for getting away with untrue claims in the media, one such example was a supposedly secret “side agreement” for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to enable a trade-off of 4,500 acres of land to China Com­munications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC). It was based on a non-legally binding Memoran­dum of Understanding (MoU) under which the Malaysian Investment Develop­ment Authority (Mida) was supposed to assist local companies to cooperate with CCCC to create special purpose companies for development of the economic accelerator projects worth RM10bil over 10 years.

Instead of clarifying the matter immediately, the media handlers of the Transport Ministry and Mida left it to Dr Mahathir’s special envoy to China, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to respond instead.

Ineffective communication teams in the various ministries and the lack of media coordination among them are the main reasons why Pakatan appears to be losing control of its narratives on performance and service.

What Pakatan needs is expertise and a clear media strategy to re-establish political credibility and trust among the people, especially the now disillusioned voters who had pinned their hopes on a better “New Malaysia”. Instead of just leaving the ministries to handle their own issues, the approach should be on keeping to the same page, through synchronisation of information and making better use of social media to enable agencies to engage directly with citizens.

With Malaysians having higher expectations and lower levels of patience, the Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and improve on its public relations.

Veera PandiyanAlong the Watchtower by M.Veera Pandiyan

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by George Bernard Shaw: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
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New Malaysia should push for meritocracy

The Meritocracy Paradox Pakatan Harapan’s unexpected win in the
recent 14th General Elections sent a signal that it is time for the
cou…

Move away from a culture of mediocrity! Who does Malaysia belong to?


Mediocre future? If selection at the matriculation level is not based on meritocracy, the quality of our
tertiary institutions will be diluted and they will produce only mediocre graduates eventually.
— Filepic

Affirmative action should be based entirely on need because a poor Malay student needs a scholarship just as badly as a poor Indian or Chinese student.

THE debate over the intake of students into matriculation colleges in the country is an annual one, just like the offer of government scholarships. I have been a keen follower of this subject for many years and there has never been a year without complaints being made about the selection process.

It is always about top scoring non-Malay students in the SPM examination not being offered places while others with lower grades walk into colleges. This is nothing new in Malaysia, actually.

So why the intense debate now, with leaders from both sides of the political divide openly defending or criticising the quota system applied to the selection?

For those who may not know, the 90:10 (bumiputra:non-bumiputra) quota has been in existence since 2005, according to records. There have been “political adjustments” in the past when more non-Malay students were offered seats, but these were one off actions presumably during election years to woo votes.

One of the reasons for the deluge of criticisms now – some from leaders in the Pakatan Harapan coalition itself – could be due to the new kind of democracy that we expect under the new government.

There have been unverified reports of heated arguments in the Cabinet among ministers, with some defending the policy and others against a quota system that appears to be extremely unfair to Malaysians as they are being deprived of one of their rights in their motherland. Yes, Malaysia is the motherland for most of us and not India or China or Indonesia.

Maybe our government leaders should see the extent of hatred in the social media clips and hate messages that have been circulating expressing the anger, fear and frustrations of non-Malays.

And, of course, some unfairly blame Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, seeing him as the man who started this quota system previously and who is now perpetuating it.

What I gather from media reports and social media is that people feel Pakatan has moved away from its election promise of building a more equitable society that will not deprive any community of fair and equal access to tertiary education.

Hearing this promise, among others, Malaysians placed much hope on Pakatan building a new society for all races. When they see it is not happening, or becoming worse in some instances, they react.

I don’t think it is wrong for every top performing student from the B40 (lower income) category to feel devastated if he or she is deprived of a seat while lower-performing schoolmates are offered places. It makes me wonder if the selection committee has some ulterior motive to create this situation to benefit the opposition.

The matriculation programme, an affirmative action policy, started as a system that was based on wonderful ideals, so most Malaysians did not question its implementation initially. But for some reason, it has come to be regarded as pernicious now, as it appears to benefit only one community.

I believe that this practice has led – whether consciously or not – to excellence being suppressed to the point of creating a culture of mediocrity in many aspects of life. This is not going to change even if another government comes into power as long as the policy is not tweaked to meet the changing world.

OK, the government decided to add another 15,000 seats to the 25,000 given out in an attempt to quell the current outcry. Based on the quota, an additional 1,500 non-bumiputra students will now be given college places. At the same time, there will be another 13,500 bumiputra students added, which means there is a high possibility of the need to take in weak students just to meet the quota.

If this practice goes on, it will continue to dilute the quality of our tertiary institutions, producing only mediocre graduates eventually.

As a result, striving for excellence has become secondary, with some Malaysians feeling it is their right to be given university or college seats, or positions and promotions later, because they belong to one race. This is widely in existence and is being perpetuated despite the new government’s promises.

Winning votes at any cost has become as addiction with our politicians, it seems. Are we going to let their thirst for power destroy our nation?

I do agree that most Malaysians are not ready for an absolute meritocratic society because, as some critics say, it will create reverse discrimination where the majority will lose out to a minority.

But I believe, slowly but surely, the balance has to change for non-bumiputra citizens. After all, we are not asking for what is not ours, only what we deserve.

There is no discrimination when we pay our taxes and our only home is Malaysia. And I am sure the first two lines of our national anthem run deep in our hearts: “Negaraku, tanah tumpanya darahku (My country, for whom I will shed my blood)” are words that most of us carry in our hearts, and we are indeed ready to take up arms to defend the nation from any threat, as shown in the past.

We are in the 21st century now when affirmative action should not be based on a citizen’s skin colour or creed. Affirmative action should be based on one’s need because a poor Malay student needs a scholarship just as badly as a poor Indian or Chinese student.

There are many Malaysians who think that we’ve arrived at a time when affirmative action needs to be dismantled slowly, with a specified time frame given.

But this is a highly contentious issue and the government must tread carefully, as any sudden deprivation will have a strong social reaction.

We should create a belief that a love of learning will gain Malay-sians far more than any affirmative action laws we might pass.

But this change should come from within, as no quota or law can make us realise this. If Malaysians are not willing to work hard and earn their places or positions and instead wait for hand-outs all their lives, we will fail as a nation eventually.

kparkaranLet’s stop breaking the hearts of Malaysians when it comes to education. All students need a helping hand, irrespective of who they are, as we march onwards towards becoming a respected First World nation.

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We can soar with a meritocratic system – Letters

 

Who does Malaysia belong to?

 

Great responsibility: To move forward, we Malaysians have to take responsibility for the destiny of the nation on our own shoulders.

The Federal Constitution does not confer any rights to ‘ownership of the nation based on ethnicity or religion.

TO whom does Malaysia belong to may sound like a hilarious question, but do not overestimate the capacity to which the human mind is used.

Experience and observation will tell you that many of us (sometimes me included), often make a choice of not thinking about things based on facts. Instead, we form conclusions based on conjectures and other people’s uninformed opinions.

So who does Malaysia belong to?

There are many ways of approaching this question. As I often tell the audience in my talks about “thinking”, we have to understand the question first before we can even attempt to seek an answer.

For example, if we think of Malaysia as a politico-legal entity – a “nation” – then it becomes obvious that the question relates to an examination of the legal structure of the nation.

Seeking the answer may lead to further questions. It is no longer a “kedai kopi” kind of discussion where everyone wants to have a say simply because they can make sounds with their mouths. That can be a tiring experience, at least for me.

So when then did the politico-legal entity called “Malaysia” come into being’?

Malaysia was legally born on Sept 16, 1963, when the Federation of Malaya (West Malaysia), Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak formed the larger Federation of Malaysia. About two years later, the Malaysian Parliament passed a Bill to separate Singapore from the Federation. Hence, from 1965, Malaysia is legally made up of what is know today as West and East Malaysia.

Obviously, we do not think that the Federation of Malaysia had come about as a result of some casual social chat between the leaders of the respective states over teh tarik.

There were meetings and discussions back and forth between the parties and they came up with an agreement to join together as the Federation of Malaysia vide the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Whenever there is an agreement, there are terms and conditions for the parties to abide by. The agreement, however, is not the subject of this article.

When you see Malaysia as a legal entity, you will immediately ask a few other questions: How is Malaysia managed as a nation and who manages it? What are the rights, duties, obligations, and privileges of the “members” of this Federation of Malaysia? What about “non-members” who are present in the Federation?

These kind of questions have to be asked and thought about. We can understand that the “members” refer to the states that make up Malaysia and most of the human beings who live here.

The human beings make up the citizens and the non-citizens and well, some illegal immigrants. Each of these human beings have different legal status in our country.

When we speak of “belong”, we think in terms of ownership, management, rights and privileges. How is it possible to say something belongs to you if you do not own it, or do not have the right to manage it?

Legally, the nation is “owned” by the citizens of the country because they are authorised to “manage” the country and to determine its destiny. The citizens can either bring the nation to a high level of civilisation or bring it down to a failed state.

The basic framework of the rights of the citizens and how the nation is to be managed is provided for in the Federal Constitution, correctly termed by the constitutional law expert Professor Emeritus Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi as the “document of destiny”.

How we interpret the Constitution and if at all we give “life” to the provisions in the Constitution will shape the destiny of the nation. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and it is an extremely important document that every citizen should know.

It is important to note that the Constitution does not confer any rights to “ownership” of the nation based on ethnicity or religion.

Every citizen is equal before the law save for particular laws relevant to particular groups of citizens due to the diverse nature of our citizenry. The Constitution clearly spells out the fundamental liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy in Part II, and the manner in which the Federation of Malaysia is to be managed in Part IV and VI.

There are also provisions regarding the civil service (Part X), the judiciary (Part IX) and elections (Part VIII), to name a few.

In this regard, therefore, any claims to ownership of the country in terms of religion or ethnicity is therefore not supported by the reality of the law.

It is also a divisive and bigoted perspective which will harm the nation in the long run. In layperson terms, Malaysia legally belongs to all Malaysians and they have equal rights and duties to develop Malaysia and to live in it peacefully.

Do not behave as if the country belongs only to the politicians in power. We should have learnt this lesson by now. Ownership does not come without an effort. You have to protect the nation as how you protect your home or property in accordance with the laws.

If you really think this country belongs to you, then you should not simply be subservient to unjust laws, if any.

You have to challenge it and ensure that it is consistent with the provisions in the Constitution and move your parliamentary representatives to pass just laws that will protect you and develop the nation wholesomely. Ownership comes with real responsibility and not with mere slogans, rhetoric or political speeches.

It is most unfortunate that despite having achieved independence for more than 60 years, there are still many citizens who are ignorant of the Constitution.

This I believe, is largely due to their own apathy and also due to the unfortunate Malaysian culture of taking the politicians to be their teachers.

Hence, political narratives that affront common intelligence are mistaken to be the law by the feeble minded amongst us. We have to move forward and take responsibility for the destiny of the nation on our own shoulders.

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