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 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.

 

Golden opportunity for DAP leaders to practise what they preached


In May this year, we voted for a change of government at both state and federal levels after 61 years of suffering under the yoke of Umno and its partners. We voted for hope and change.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties went from being in the opposition to becoming the government of the day. When they were opposition politicians they could only voice their objections and concerns. But today they are in power to carry out what they hoped and fought for. Are they carrying out the trust that we placed in them?

Let us examine this in relation to the biggest project confronting the people of Penang (also one of the largest mega projects in Malaysia): the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), and more immediately, phase 1 of this plan – the proposed Penang Island Link 1 (PIL 1) and the LRT project. The PIL 1 is an extension of the aborted Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR).

What did our present Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow say when he was the opposition MP in 2002? “If the findings of the Halcrow Report are true, Dr Koh would be irresponsible in pushing the PORR through as this will not be a long-term solution to the traffic congestion on the island…”

There were two other minor reasons why Chow opposed the PORR: because it was a tolled road and no open tender was used to award the project. But these cannot be the main reasons for opposing it.

And what did Lim Kit Siang say on May 28, 2002?

“The nightmare of the Penang traffic congestion is likely to be back to square one, not in eight years but probably less than five years, after the completion of PORR.

“What Penang needs is an efficient public transport system based on sustainable transport policy, as PORR is not a medium-term let alone long-term solution to the traffic congestion nightmare on the island.”

Since these two DAP leaders could not be clearer on why they opposed construction of the PORR as it would not solve traffic problems, how does Chow now justify the PIL 1?

According to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the PIL 1, the consultants reported that by 2030 (between five and seven years after completion of PIL 1), traffic volume will reach up to 8,000 pcu/hour (passenger car unit) during evening peak hours.

Translated into layman’s terms, we would be back to square one in terms of traffic congestion. This was exactly what the transport report of 1998 by international consultant Halcrow said of PORR. Back then, Chow asked Koh Tsu Koon (then Penang’s chief minister) to disprove Halcrow’s findings. Today we ask Chow the same question.

Public policy must be based on scientific study, analysis and evidence, not on whims and fancies. (That is why the Penang state government funds the Penang Institute to provide sound policy analysis and advice.) If the EIA’s conclusion is that the PIL 1 will not solve traffic congestion in the medium and long term, then the chief minister must justify to the people of Penang on what other grounds he based his decision to spend RM8 billion on one highway that will not solve Penang’s traffic congestion and is fraught with safety risks, on top of financial, environmental, social and health costs. How should he explain his volte-face?

Lim Kit Siang made it clear that the only alternative is to have an efficient public transport system. This is a golden opportunity for these leaders to implement what they preached. The chief minister said at a town hall meeting on Sept 20 that the state is proposing a balanced approach to solving the transport problem: building roads and public transport.

Let us examine the actual facts.

1. Penang island presently has 2.8 times more highways on a per capita basis than Singapore (84m per 1,000 persons in Penang versus 30m per 1,000 persons in Singapore).

2. The state government under the PTMP is planning to build another 70km of highways, many of them elevated, marring the city landscape and thereby doubling our highway per capita to 4.5 times that of Singapore.

3. Presently Penang’s public modal share of transport is dismal at 5%, i.e., only 5% of people who travel use public transport, compared to 67% in Singapore.

From the above, it is clear that Penang’s transport situation today is totally tilted towards roads and against public transport. Hence a balanced approach must mean prioritising improvement of public transport and not the construction of more highways that encourage more private road use.

The primary objective of the PTMP is to raise public modal transport share to 40% by 2030. But spending RM15 billion on building highways in the first phase of the PTMP (RM8 billion on PIL 1 plus RM6.5 billion on the three paired roads and tunnel under the Zenith package) and RM8 billion on one LRT line is NOT a balanced approach.

In fact, under the Halcrow PTMP, an integrated public transport network consisting of trams, bus rapid transit, commuter rail and a new cross-channel ferry service was estimated to cost RM10 billion. But all these are shelved or relegated to future dates while priority is given to building highways. The chief minister must explain to the people of Penang why such an unbalanced approach is adopted. Is the policy based on scientific evidence or on other types of interests that we are unaware of?

The saying that “justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done” aptly applies in this case. The people of Penang must have clear and credible answers to dispel any possible misgivings.

I respect and have worked with Chow for the last 10 years on the Penang transport issue.

I recall what he told Koh: that if the findings of the EIA report are true then Koh would be irresponsible in pushing the PORR.

Now, in the case of PIL 1, the arguments are even stronger that this will not be a long-term solution to the traffic congestion on the island.

Source: FMT by Lim Mah Hui

Lim Mah Hui is a former professor, international banker and Penang Island city councillor.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Umno is swimming against the tide


 

Empires are built, destroyed and rebuilt. If Umno wishes to witness the final part of that life cycle, it must navigate out of choppy waters by making right calls.

IF there’s one thing the Umno leadership needs to accept – no matter how painful – is that it’s now in the opposition. They got kicked out, and that’s life.

So, for God’s sake, please start acting and thinking like an opposition party. It may be hard after 60 years being at the helm, since the party has enjoyed the privileges of power, which can be intoxicating.

Suddenly, the motorcades are gone, invitations to events have trickled, telephones are not going off the hook, and the formal suits have stayed in the closet.

Umno leaders should forget about “doing deals”. That was precisely what got the party into trouble – those dubious deals.

Some Umno leaders find it hard to be “out of power”. They need to be in power – even if it means playing second fiddle, or even placing third or fourth in the pecking order. But here’s the bad news – Pakatan Harapan doesn’t need Umno.

They need to stop leveraging on the spin that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad needs them to keep Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at bay. It sounds good for them, but the danger is that Umno MPs may start believing in their inflated sense of self-worth.

The PH government has the numbers. They have formed government and are running the country.

Governments in other countries, such as the Kuomintang party, which founded Taiwan, is now in the opposition but was the ruling party for decades, amassing huge assets. And like Umno, it also got embroiled in corruption.

The KMT maybe be broken now, but it still has plenty of assets. When the party fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the communists in 1949, it took millions in gold, bonds and antiques, all of which became part of the foundations of the party’s fortunes.

It also inherited assets left by the Japanese during their 50 years ruling Taiwan, but the KMT has come under investigation for public and private assets it seized after arriving in the country.

With its assets recently frozen, it had to cut staff from 800 to under 400 personnel because of insufficient funds. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Then, there is the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, and which ruled India for 60 years, yet today, is in the opposition and struggling to remain relevant.

In Britain, the Conservative and Labour parties have been voted in and out of government. Amazingly, in all circumstances, even when alliances were made with smaller parties, the loser ended up accepting the people’s verdict and simply worked towards getting re-elected.

So, it is terribly embarrassing to see how Umno leaders crawled to Dr Mahathir, seeking advice on how to keep his former party alive. I mean, why would he even want to see Umno remain intact?

If that’s not enough, Umno had to use its usual trump cards of race and religion as reasons for the formation of a unity government, comprising mainly Malays and Muslims, to safeguard the interests of the community – after billions of ringgit vanished!

It’s also incomprehensible to be telling Umno leaders in Kelantan and Terengganu, who have fought against PAS since Umno’s formation, that they now must work with the Islamist party.

And in the same breath, try to persuade what’s left of the Barisan Nasional component parties that it is merely trying to reach an understanding with the fellow opposition party.

Umno and PAS are supposed to represent different things. Umno is Malay and Muslim, but is supposed to be moderate, inclusive and has shared power with the MCA and MIC, even in Malay-dominated constituencies.

Of course, these Barisan component parties don’t understand what’s going on because Umno members themselves are clueless about this purported deal with PAS.

And why should PAS want to share power with Umno? It has control of two states. It has exuberantly introduced whipping and gender segregation at public events again, making the two states look like some extremist Middle East country.

The party is happy to equate liberalism with open sex, hedonism, LGBT and everything else it deems sins. And can we be blamed if we feel that Umno is happily singing the same tune and sharing the same ignorance of what liberalism means? And now, we even have a new term – super liberalism. Go figure.

And why shouldn’t non-Muslims feel resentment for PAS when its president questioned Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for attending gatherings involving other faiths, or for the PKR president-elect to contest in a multi-racial constituency?

If Umno chooses to work with a party like PAS, then it’s heading down a slippery slope, if it’s purely about retaining or winning the Malay votes, because the party is bound to be grilled for what it stands for. Surely, it can’t be the same as PAS.

The DAP and PKR had been in the opposition for years, even decades, with their leaders paying a heavy price for their political convictions, but they continued with their struggles. We don’t have to agree with their politics and what they stand for, but credit where it’s due for their convictions.

And here we are – Umno suffers one defeat, and it’s running around like a headless chicken, which is how the party is being described now.

If it wants to get its house back in order, Umno first needs to reform itself. It is a flawed product, but not entirely a rejected or expired item.

It must appear an alternative. The voters are testing the PH government to see if it’s any good. Why not? After all, they gave the Alliance and Barisan a good 60 years, and they became arrogant and corrupt.

The voters are basically the customers, but Umno forgot that detail and expected the customers to be grateful, which is ironic. But that was exactly how Umno treated its customers.

Malaysians would like to see Umno leaders stop acting like big shots (which they no longer are), admit their mistakes and excesses of the past and, step down from their pedestal and be ordinary Malaysians.

Surely, we want leaders who can speak the languages of the people, understand their needs and sentiments, and just be one of us.

They ought to know that we are tired of having to address them by their titles and being expected to line up to kiss their hands. And for some bizarre reason, we wonder, too, why their identity cards need to carry their fathers’ titles!

So, we now have Tan Sri Awang Ibrahim bin Tan Sri Osman Tengah. If you don’t believe me, check the Mykads of most Umno members.

That’s how ridiculously far we have allowed this scheme of grandiosity to go with our obsession with titles. Now, it’s refreshing to see Cabinet ministers with no fancy titles.

We are watching all these newbies, so, don’t try to con us with pictures of them flying economy class, especially during the first year, and then subsequently, and quietly, enjoying the perks of power.

It’s obvious that the corrupt show their greedy selves in the second term of office.

But all is not lost for Umno. It has 49 MPs and that’s a substantial number. It must come across as an opposition worthy of being voted back into power, or it can continue to use the faces of political minnows, with their aggressive and irrational behaviour that is incongruous with the New Malaysia. It looks like Umno hasn’t learnt yet.

If the leaders can’t think well, then, it has to set up a really good think-tank capable of drafting the best papers and sound bites for Barisan leaders, and even produce policy papers that will put the party in good light.

Unlike the other component parties, Umno is still able to retain some very good youth leaders who can articulate their thoughts well, and with good command of Bahasa Malaysia and English. These fresh faces must surely be in the forefront.

If the warlords who run the divisions continue to have their way – now that the easily available funds are drying up quickly – then the demise of Umno will be near, and if they are still looking for deals, then it will be even closer.

Wong Chun Wai

On the beat by 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 the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

DAP’s ‘king vs king’ strategy will rob the community of the worthy talents


GE14 will be about race, warn analysts |

‘The outcome of such a strategy will deprive the Chinese community of some good politicians’ – Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah

Leaders against rocking the boat

This Saturday’s nomination day, DAP is facing increa­sing pressure from Chinese so­­cie­ty to drop its strategy to jiao mie (wipe out) outstanding Chinese lea­ders within the Barisan Nasional.

In the past two weeks, several Chinese guilds – which claim to be apolitical – have come out openly to oppose this DAP stunt which will see the DAP fielding its strong candidates against leading Chinese po­­liticians from Barisan’s MCA and Gerakan.

Many commentators within the community have also published their views in Chinese media ­ar­­guing against the DAP plan.

Most Chinese newspapers have also voiced their stand against this strategy.

In essence, many see this “king versus king” plan advocated by DAP as wiping out the limited number of outstanding political talents within the community.

Whoever wins or loses in the election, the Chinese community will lose a talent and the ultimate loser is the community, they argue.

The decision by DAP to transfer its political strategist Liew Chin Tong from Kluang to the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat to collide head-on with MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Seong has not been well received from the start.

Neither is the move to send Perak DAP chief Nga Kor Ming from Taiping to Teluk Intan to rock the parliamentary seat held by Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

Among the Chinese associations that have made their opposing stand known are the Federation of Chinese Guilds in Malaysia (Hua Zong), the normally low-profile Federation of Kwang Xi clans and the Federation of Heng Hua clans.

Hua Zong’s president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah tells The Star: “We cannot interfere with DAP politics, but as a community leader I hope DAP can consider our views to change this election strategy.

“The outcome of such a strategy will deprive the Chinese community of some good politicians – ­whe­ther they are from Barisan or Opposition, and this is a loss to the community.”

Last Monday, Pheng issued a media statement to this effect. But in response, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng alleged that Hua Zong was an “external organisation” of MCA.

Lim, in justifying the DAP strategy, said it would help the Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to win more parliament seats so as to take over Putrajaya to rule the country.

It appears that DAP is unlikely to change this unpopular strategy.

While Lim can ignore Pheng and the other Chinese community lea­ders who are not voters in Ayer Hitam and Teluk Intan, he should listen to the voices on the ground.

A professional in Ayer Hitam, who was my high school classmate in Batu Pahat, told me in my recent trip down south: “I normally support the Opposition, but this time I am going to vote for Wee Ka Siong.

“He is a good minister and has done so much work for the people. Everybody here can see.”

His feelings are shared by my other former Batu Pahat high school friends.

Prominent commentator Tang Ah Chai, who is normally more pro-Opposition in his analysis, has warned DAP to handle the discontent from Chinese society with caution to avoid backlash in the coming election.

“The Chinese community is worried that if there is little or no re­pre­sentation in government, their aspirations and voice cannot be effectively channelled to the top and their interest will be undermined. They experienced this when MCA did not join the Cabinet,” Tang commented last Friday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has warned that there will be a cut in the number of Chinese ministers, in the event Barisan wins the election, if Chinese support for MCA and Gerakan dwindles.

While Pheng does not expect Lim to change DAP’s strategy, which has also been employed in Sarawak, other leaders hope Lim can turn a page on DAP history.

“Look at what happened in 1982 when Seremban sent a strong ­message that voters wanted MCA leader to stay on,” said one.

In the 1982 general election, in response to a taunt by DAP to contest in a Chinese-majority area, the then MCA president Tan Sri Lee San Choon contested in Seremban to face DAP chairman Dr Chen Man Hin, who had held that parliamentary seat since 1969.

Not only did Lee win in the battle, MCA scored a landslide victory – winning 24 out of 28 parliamentary seats and 55 out of 62 state seats it contested.

DAP was nearly wiped out in that general election.

One of Lee’s projects that have benefited many Chinese is TAR College to expand tertiary education opportunities for the Chinese at the time.

While the 1982 election has come to pass, the sentiment of Chinese against “king versus king” is still present.

by Ho Wah Foo The Star

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Penang’s eight transport plans unfulfilled, Not even one commenced work, says Teng


https://youtu.be/GL2DRy_6PpU

 

Hard questions: Teng holding up leaflets highlighting ‘51 Empty Promises’ of the state government.

GEORGE TOWN: From a monorail over Penang Bridge to the undersea tunnel project, the state has not delivered any of them, said Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow.

“Between 2008 and 2016, there were public transport proposals from a tram, a monorail, Penang Sky Cab, aerobus between the island and mainland, light railway transit, cable car and underground subway to underground mass rapid transit.

“Eight promises made but until today, not even one has commenced work,” Teng told a press conference yesterday.

In November 2008, a few months after helming the state, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state was considering adding a hanging monorail along Penang Bridge, among other transport projects.

Teng brought up these unfulfilled transport projects yesterday.

He also maintained that the state could cancel the Penang undersea tunnel project because there was no clause in the agreement to pay compensation for cancellation.

“I am shocked that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said I should pay compensation if the project is cancelled.

“The question is why the state government still refuses to cancel the contract.

“With so many missed deadlines and no construction after five years and the tunnel feasibility studies not completed, we wonder why the state government still refuses to cancel the project.”

Teng was responding to Lim who said on Wednesday that when a signed contract was cancelled, there must be some sort of compensation – The Star

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Malay & bumiputra rural voters will determine the winners or losers of coming Malaysia’s GE14


Down the wire with the Malays

– With urbanites caught up in social media debates, it will be the quiet rural folks who determine the winners (and losers) of GE14

IF you haven’t already heard this one before, it will be the Malay and bumiputra voters, mainly in rural areas, who will determine what the next government looks like.

Despite the racket from urbanites, be it in private discussions or from the many irate postings on social media, it will come down to the relatively quiet rural folks who make up the decisive voices.

Out of the 222 parliamentary seats, there are now 117 rural Malay seats in Peninsular Malaysia, following the delineation exercise – up from the previous 114 Malay majority seats in the previous general election. There are 19 seats each in Sabah and Sarawak, with predominantly bumiputra voters.

These 117 seats include the 52 constituencies in Felda settlements regarded the heartland of the Malays, where the primary concerns are racial and religious in nature.

Another election monitoring group, Tindak Malaysia, reportedly estimated the Malay majority seats at 115 – up one seat from the previous 114, before the delineation.

To form the government, all that’s needed is a simple majority of 112 seats. Prior to the dissolution of Parliament, the Barisan Nasional had 130.

Donald Trump won the United States presidency firmly backed by the rural areas, and not from that of New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC. In fact, he lost the popular vote by a bigger margin than any other US president in history, but he won, via the country’s electoral system, which saw each state assigned several votes that go to the candidate who wins the public vote in that state.

His Republican party won in what is regarded as swing states, such as North Carolina and Ohio, with huge rural votes. In fact, he won 67% of the rural American votes.

In Malaysia, our voting system is much simpler with its “first past the post” format, based after the British electoral system. Again, popular votes don’t count. But like in the United States, it will be the rural folks who will be the determinants. In Malaysia, it won’t be the traditionally anti-establishment Chinese voters in cities.

In the 2013 elections, there were 30 Chinese majority seats or 13.5% of the parliamentary seats, according to a recent news report, quoting social media analytics firm Politweet.

“The proportion of ethnic Chinese voters in these seats ranged from 52.27% (Beruas) to as high as 90.94% in Bandar Kuching.

“These seats can be found in Penang (7), Perak (5), Kuala Lumpur (5), Selangor (1), Melaka (1), Johor (3), Sarawak (6) and Sabah (2),” it said. From the 30 Chinese majority seats, the DAP won 29 and PKR one.

But Tindak Malaysia has claimed that the number of Chinese majority seats has dropped to 24. There is also another stark fact; even without the delineation exercise, the number of Chinese voters has continued to shrink sharply.

According to Malay Mail Online, despite blaming Chinese voters for the decline in votes for Barisan, they, in fact, only formed about four million of the total 13.3 million registered voters. It quoted Politweet founder Ahmed Kamal Nava as saying that the Chinese vote “is going to become less relevant to both Barisan/Pakatan Harapan over time because the Chinese majority seats are going to become mixed seats and eventually, Malay majority seats”.

The report also said that a comparison between the GE13 electoral roll and the electoral roll for 2017’s first quarter showed that the Chinese voters’ projection has already fallen by over one percentage point in seven states and in 79 of the 165 seats in the peninsula.

Going by current trends, the projection is that the number of non-Malays will continue to drop further, with some saying that by 2050, there could be 80% bumiputras and just 15% Chinese and about 5% Indians.

In 2014, 75.5% from the live birth total were bumiputras, followed by Chinese, at only 14% with Indians 4.5%, and others 6%.

Based on calculations, the Chinese birth rate at 1.4 babies per family in 2015 from 7.4% in 1957 means that their position in Malaysia will fall from 24.6% in 2010, 21.4% in 2015 to 18.4% or less in 2040.

In the 2013 elections, realising that it is the majority Malay votes that will tip the scale, the DAP readily tied up with PAS, hoping they would be able to capture Putrajaya. The DAP aggressively pushed the Chinese to vote for PAS, and many did willingly, but the pact failed to materialise. PAS paid a heavy price for sleeping with the enemy, because the rural Malays simply couldn’t accept the Rocket.

A random survey on PAS’ core voter base – rural Malays – by online portal FMT, found that many viewed its alliance with the “kafir” party DAP suspiciously.

PAS emerged a major loser in the 13th general election, managing to grab only 21 of the 73 parliamentary seats it contested. It even lost Kedah. In the 2008 polls, it secured 23 parliamentary seats.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang must have found his dabbling with danger a painful one. It didn’t help that the relationship between the DAP and PAS had soured following the elections.

Fast forward to 2018. The DAP, again, is explicitly aware the Chinese cannot hope to dump Umno without the Malays, so a new pact with PKR, Parti Pribumi Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara has been forged.

It is even prepared to drop its iconic Rocket symbol, its organising secretary Anthony Loke admitting the Malays are wary of it.

The test now is whether the Malays in the rural areas will accept the idea of having Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim Kit Siang, whom the former had demonised the past 30 years of his political life, as emblems of a party taking care of their interest.

If no Malay tsunami materialises, and if the Chinese, again, place their chips on the Opposition – which seems to be the sentiment currently in urban areas – then, it will be the third consecutive elections in which the Chinese would have bet on the losing side.

The implications will be far-reaching for the community, especially if the Chinese representation in the government is weakened or non-existent when it involves legislation with religious overtones. It will also mean the possibility of being cut off from the mainstream involvement in crucial policy making and areas of development.

More so with whispers of a tie up between Umno and PAS, in some form, after the general election.

If the Barisan continues to get the mandate, as expected, DAP could end up occupying the biggest seats on the opposition bench since the rest of the Malay parties are generally untested, with PKR the exception.

Not many city folk, with the rising political temperature, want to hear or accept that this is simply a fight in the rural Malay heartland. Reality check: it will be the Malays and bumiputras who will have our fate in their hands.


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

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