NGO alleges abuse of power by MBPP councillors


GEORGE TOWN: A non-governmental organisation has lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against two Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillors for alleged abuse of power.

Persatuan Surplus Pulau Pinang chairman Sophian Mohd Zain urged the commission to probe the matter thoroughly.

He said the first case involved councillor Sharuddin Shariff who lives in a public housing unit in Sungai Pinang despite receiving a monthly allowance of RM4,000 from the council.

“This is not right at all,” he said before lodging the report accompanied by former MBPP councillor Syazwani Mohd Amin.

Sophian also lodged another report against councillor Azrizal Tahir whom he alleged held two state-appointed posts.

He said Azrizal as a councillor should not have held the Village and Security Development Committee (JKKK) post and receive allowances from both positions.

When contacted, Azrizal urged the complainant not to trouble the MACC by asking them to probe cases with no basis.

He said those who lodge such reports should do their homework first.

“A press conference will be arranged to explain the matter soon,” he said briefly.

Source: Edmund Lee newsdesk@thesundaily.com


MACC reports filed against PKR duo

GEORGE TOWN: Two PKR’s Penang Island city councillors have denied any wrongdoings as alleged by two non-governmental organisations which lodged reports with the state anti-graft body.

One of them, a four-term councillor, said there were no rules or regulations to prevent a councillor from becoming a village development and security committee (JKKK) chairman.

“But under a state policy which was enforced last year, we were advised not to hold the two positions at the same time.

“I have since let go of my JKKK post. I urge the complainants to check with the district office first and not to hurl baseless allegations against us,” he said when contacted.

Earlier, two NGOs – Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus Pulau Pinang and Kota – lodged reports with the Penang MACC over the alleged wrongdoings of the two councillors in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah yesterday.

Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus chairman Sophian Mohd Zain claimed one councillor was the JKKK chairman of Permatang Damar Laut.

“A councillor receives allowance from the local government while a JKKK post is appointed by the state government. This is a conflict of interest.

“We hope the state government will clear the air in the name of CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency),” he said.

Also present was former councillor Noor Syazwani Md Amin, who was terminated from her post in April.

Sophian also claimed that a first-term councillor still had a People’s Housing Programme (PPR) flat in Sungai Pinang despite having an allowance of RM4,000.

The maximum eligible household monthly income for a PPR applicant is RM2,500.

A councillor is entitled up to RM1,200 in allowances for attending meetings and a RM300 mobile phone subsidy.

“How could he still be holding the key to a PPR flat for a RM100 monthly rental? The PPR flats are meant for the poor.

“The councillors are the policy makers in the local government while the PPR flats are under the purview of the council.

“I don’t think the council staff would dare to act against the councillors,” he added.

Sophian hoped the MACC would investigate the matter.

The said councillor could not be reached for comment.

Source: by Tan Sin Chow he Star

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Home locked by Penang City Council over RM468 paltry arrears of assessment


Hard lesson: After settling his assessment arrears, Chua Yung Lin, 37, finally receives the key (inside envelope) to unlock the chain used to seal up his unit at Taman Seri Hijau in Van Praagh Road, Penang. (Above) A closeup of the notice from the council pasted on the grille gate. — CHARLES MARI ASOOSAY/The Star

A SALESMAN is furious that his apartment unit was padlocked by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) because he failed to pay two years of assessment arrears amounting to RM468.86.

A council official, however, defended the action, saying that MBPP was empowered to do so under the Local Government Act 1976 if a ratepayer failed to pay a year’s assessment.

Chua Yung Lin, 37, got the keys to the padlock when he paid up the arrears as well as the RM111.86 second half assessment for this year and a RM20 penalty in Komtar on Wednesday after a neighbour informed him a day earlier that the MBPP had sealed the unit.

But he is adamant in not unlocking the padlock himself, saying that the council should do so as its officials were the ones who locked up the unit.

“They gave me all the keys to the padlock and when I asked them if I needed to return the chain and padlock, they told me I could keep them,” Chua told reporters outside the unit at Taman Seri Hijau in Van Praagh Road, Penang, yesterday.

He lodged a police report on Wednesday to inform the police that he had settled the arrears and for his safety should he decide to unlock the place himself.

Chua, who has been renting out the unit for the past three years, said it was dangerous for MBPP to padlock the unit as there could be someone inside who would not be able to escape should there be an emergency.

“Thankfully, there was no one in the apartment as I think my tenants have gone out of town,” he added.

He claimed to have forgotten to pay the assessment because his tenants did not inform him of the bills.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Lee Boon Ten said MBPP had acted prematurely and could be charged with criminal negligence for sealing the gate of an occupied home.

“He only owed them a nominal amount. If someone was inside the apartment when they locked it, it would have been false imprisonment,” said Lee who was also present.

MBPP treasury revenue unit head Suhaida Kamalul Ariffin said Section 148(3) of the Local Government Act 1976 empowered the council to seal premises whose owners defaulted in a year’s assessment payment but the council usually only did so after the arrears were accumulated for two years.

“We can actually break down the door and seize the belongings inside. If we don’t do that to avoid destroying the door, we will seal the premises as an indication to the owner. This is however only carried out after we have checked to see if anyone is inside.

“Only after we are sure it is unoccupied, do we seal the premises,” she said when contacted yesterday.

Suhaida also said the council pasted a notice demanding the owner to settle the arrears on the unit’s grille gate in May.

“There was no response, leading us to seal the apartment. Once payment is made, we usually give the owner the keys to the lock as it is standard procedure to let them unlock it themselves,” she said.

Source: The Star

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Malaysian Public varsities, companies, GLC execs also recipients of EBA fake awards


Checks on local news reports show EBA bestowed ‘awards’ not just to Penang councils but also other Malaysian institutions.

GEORGE TOWN: Before the dust could settle on a shock expose that Penang municipal councils received “excellence” awards from a questionable outfit exposed by a UK newspaper, checks show that other Malaysian companies, universities and GLC execs were also recipients.

Checks by FMT show Malaysian companies, public universities and top executives of Malaysian government-linked companies had won awards from the dubious Europe Business Assembly (EBA) before.

UK’s The Times had alleged that EBA, run by Ukrainian businessmen, made use of the renowned Oxford University’s name and reputation to hand out awards to those who paid a sum.

According to EBA’s website, this year, seven Malaysian companies and their bosses were listed as award recipients.

Among them is a public-listed utilities company and an education provider.

Based on Malaysian news reports, past winners of EBA’s awards include three Malaysian public universities — namely Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia (UTeM) and Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP).

USIM, UTeM and UniMAP received the “Best Regional University” award from EBA in 2013, according to a report by Utusan Malaysia on Dec 25, 2013.

Their vice-chancellors were reported in local Malaysian dailies to have won “Best Manager of The Year” in the same year as well.

One of the vice-chancellors was reported to have won “Best Scientist” separately from EBA’s “Oxford Summit of Leaders Science & Education”.

Another VC was reported to have won “The Name in Science” award, too.

EBA’s ‘International Socrates Award’

According to EBA’s website, the group is “an international corporation of social partnership” established in Oxford, UK, in 2000.

It lists developing and promoting social and economic links between companies, investors, education establishments, cities and countries worldwide as its main objectives.

The Times had reported that EBA advertises itself as an Oxford institution to sell “made-up prizes” such as “The International Socrates Award” and “The Queen Victoria Commemorative Award” for a price of up to £9,300 (RM52,000).

The report claimed the EBA outfit was run by Ukrainian businessmen, targeting areas where people had the financial power to buy such accolades.

A former employee told The Times that the outfit was told to focus on customers from the Middle East, eastern Europe and Russia “where the idea that money buys you credentials is still there”.

EBA was also revealed to have used images of Oxford colleges and even the same typefaces in its publicity materials.

It also claimed “exclusive” access to special lectures from Oxford, the report said.

However, the University of Oxford told the daily it has no relations with EBA.

“On the face of it, the guests gathered that evening did not have much to unite them.

Representatives from a Nigerian maritime security company rubbed shoulders with the vice-president of a Bulgarian mine.

“The founder of an international school in Malaysia mixed with the director of an Indian private medical institute,” The Times report read, in explaining the holding of an elaborate awards presentation ceremony.

Source: Free Malaysia Today (FMT)

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Fake Awards Scam for Penang Island City Council, Seberang Perai Municipal Council !


Dubious honours: (Above) Former Penang Island City Council mayor Patahiyah Ismail with the trophy and certificate for Best Municipal Manager awards in 2013 while her Seberang Prai counterpart Maimunah (pictured here with the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his aide Wong Hon Wai) received the same latter award in 2014

Penang local councils ‘fell for vanity awards scam’

GEORGE TOWN: Two European NGOs have exposed the European Business Assembly (EBA) which piled honours on Penang’s local councils as a vanity awards scam.

It is on a list of 10 organisations in Europe and China that hold elaborate ceremonies and create beautiful trophies to go with hundreds of awards.

“In many cases, those awards are bogus, sold by unscrupulous organisations that prey on hu­­man vanity,” the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) researchers wrote in a 2014 report.

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.

CINS was founded in 2007 by the Independent Journalists’ As­­so­­ciation of Serbia to support investigative journalism.

OCCRP comprises investigative reporters throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The two local councils in Penang were left red-faced for getting EBA awards in 2013 and 2014.

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, Seberang Prai Municipal Council got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif won the Best Municipal Manager award.

On Monday, it was reported that EBA was generating millions of pounds by selling fake Uni­ver­­sity of Oxford awards and cer­ti­ficates.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Da­­tuk Muhammad Farid Saad said he found many articles on­­line exposing EBA as a vanity awards organisation.

“Did they spend ratepayers’ money to get those honours? It’s like buying fake academic degrees,” he said in a statement.

Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng said the state government should explain to the people whether it had purchased the awards to enhance its reputation.

In a statement, MBPP said it regretted that the awards were suspected of being false and had applied to the organiser to reaffirm the recognitions.

State Local Government Com­­mit­­tee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he hoped both councils would be more discerning and careful in future.

Source: The Star/ANN by Tan Sin Chow

Councils: We won EBA awards after paying entry fees

Mayor: I apologise if accolade not genuine

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GEORGE TOWN: Two councils in Penang have admitted that they won the awards given by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) without any assessment after paying a total of 7,800 euros (RM39,088) in entry fees.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said EBA did not send any auditor or judge to review the performances of the then Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) and Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP).

“We received letters via email from EBA that we were nominated for the awards. We then corresponded on the matter.

“EBA stated their judging criteria in the letters which they would be basing their assessment on.

“As far as I know, they did not come and talk to us but assessed us (themselves),” Maimunah told reporters yesterday, adding that the MPPP and MPSP had paid £4,400 (RM20,680) and £3,400 (RM18,408.10) for the entry fees.

Maimunah, who just returned from a conference in Manila, was commenting on the EBA controversy which was reported as a vanity awards scam.

It was reported that in 2014, the Centre for Investigative Reporting of Serbia and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project researchers had exposed the EBA for giving out the awards.

“If it is true that the award is not genuine, then I apologise. I wish to stress that the local councils do not have any intention to spend taxpayers’ money to buy any award or recognition from any group,” said Maimunah.

She said at that time, both MPPP and MPSP had considered the awards as a prestigious recognition based on the assessment criteria, which included economic environment, educational infrastructure, public services and transport, recreation and entertainment.

“The entry fee is a package inclusive of the participation cost for the conference. Both of us (Patahiyah and herself) went alone and we flew economy class although we were both entitled to business class.

“We did check on the awards but we did not receive any information which would have raised suspicions.

“There are other Malaysian local authorities, agencies, universities and individuals who have received the EBA awards before us.

“As such, the councils were of the opinion that the awards ceremony were worth joining,” she said.

Both councils, she said, were still waiting for a reply from EBA to clarify the matter.

Source: The Star by Chong Kah Yuan

MPSP to participate in awards despite ‘vanity awards’ controversy

BUKIT MERTAJAM: The Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) will continue to participate in international awards despite the controversy on so-called ‘vanity awards’ received by the council from the Europe Business Assembly (EBA).

The council’s newly appointed president Datuk Rozali Mohamud said they would continue to take part in international awards, but would heed the advice of state Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation exco Chow Kon Yeow to be more cautious.

“Up to this moment, we have decided to take part in the Wego (World e-Governments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments).

“The awards are held annually, and it is free. We do not have to pay any entry fee,” he told reporters at a press conference.

On July 24, it was reported that the EBA was generating millions of pounds by selling fake University of Oxford awards and certificates.

Researchers from two NGOs wrote in a 2014 report 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,” the report stated.

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

A year later, MPSP got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif won the Best Municipal Manager award. Maimunah is now MBPP mayor.

 

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To elect or not elect mayors of City Councils of local government?


THERE are three levels of government in most countries – a federal government, state government and local authorities.

Although Malaysia is generally seen as a democratic country, only the federal government and the state governments are elected.

In other words, members of parliament are elected and they elect the prime minister. State assemblymen are also elected and they in turn elect the mentris besar or chief ministers.

However, the local authorities are not elected. The mayors or presidents and councillors are appointed by the state government.

It is time to bring back elected local governments.

There were elected local governments in the past. As early as 1951, when Malaya was a colony of England, elections were held to elect councillors in George Town.

For example, Goh Guan Hoe, more popularly known as G. H. Goh, a lawyer and an MCA leader, was chosen as the president of George Town in 1956. Although he was often addressed as “mayor”, technically, he was the president of the municipality.

George Town was declared a city by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan 1, 1957. By that time, the Labour Party was in control of the municipality and D. S. Ramanathan, a leader of the Labour Party, was elected as the first mayor of George Town.

Since then, local government in Penang Island has gone through considerable changes. Local government elections were suspended in the 1960s. The reason given by the federal government was Indonesia’s declaration of “Ganyang Malaysia”.

The City Council of George Town was amalgamated with the rest of the island to form a municipality of Penang Island. The local authority of the island became a municipality.

Since then, the president and councillors have been appointed by the state government. It is fair to believe that the appointments were the prerogative of the chief minister of Penang.

There has been a tendency to appoint government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. For example, the mayor and president of Penang Island and Seberang Perai were government officers.

There are good reasons for appointing senior government officers largely because they have the experience and expertise in the working of the local authorities.

On the other hand, this practice is not ideal. Senior government officers have been trained to abide by the General Orders and are expected to look to the chief minister or mentri besar as their superior.

Hence they tend to implement what their superior officers want. Since they have been appointed by the chief minister or mentri besar, it is difficult for them to ignore his preferences.

There were days when presidents of local councils were appointed from among the politicians of the ruling party. For example, the president of Penang Island Municipal Council, Tan Gim Hua, was a leader of Gerakan.

Unfortunately, there have been no books written about the days of Penang Island Municipal Council when Tan was the president of the Penang Island Municipality.

It is not necessary to appoint only government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. Hopefully, in the near future, chief ministers or mentris besar will take the trouble to appoint other prominent personalities to be local council presidents or mayors.

Better still, the federal government should review the Local Government Act. It has been long overdue to bring back local government elections.

Meanwhile, it may be interesting if the Penang state government appoints non-government officers to be the heads of local councils.

For instance, Dr Lim Mah Hui is a good example. He has just announced that he would resign as a councillor of the Penang Island City Council. He is a suitable person to be appointed a mayor of Penang Island.

He is familiar with Penang Island as he was a lecturer in Universiti Sains Malaysia and was a local councillor in Penang Island for six years. He spent a considerable amount of time in the disbursement of funds at international level.

Although he is rich enough to buy an expensive car to go around Penang Island, he has made good use of a bicycle as a mode of transport.

Being vocal and full of ideas, it will be interesting and good for the residents of the city to appoint Dr Lim as the mayor of the island.

By Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee who is interested in urban planning, housing and urban governance. He is also a friend of Dr Lim. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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International Anti-Corruption Day, Work with MACC to fight corruption, Malaysians urged


United against corruption for development, peace and security

Aerial group photo of staff in Geneva simulating the Sustainable Development Goals logo on United Nations Staff Day. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.  “On International Anti-corruption Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the deceit and dishonesty that threaten the 2030 Agenda and our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune. This year UNODC and UNDP have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.

The 2016 joint international campaign focuses on corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

what you can do?

Work with MACC to curb graft, Malaysians urged

Raising awareness: Dzulkifli (second from left) handing out caps, posters and leaflets to members of the public at the KLCC LRT station during MACC’s walkabout session held in conjunction with International Anti-Corruption Day.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has urged the public to work with the agency to curb graft and make the country a corruption-free nation within three years.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said efforts to combat corruption and abuse of power did not lie exclusively with MACC and should be supported by the society at large.

“Firstly, we must hate corruption. Secondly, we must reject corruption and thirdly, the people must cooperate with MACC to fight corruption and abuse of power,” he told pressmen yesterday during a MACC walkabout session held in conjunction with International Anti-Corruption Day.

Dzulkifli said he appreciated the support given by people regardless of age, race and religion because “corruption is detrimental to all layers of society”.

The MACC team and NGO volunteers distributed leaflets to RapidKL LRT passengers at 15 stations during the walkabout.

Among others, the leaflets stated that corrupt practices also included those who offered bribes to officials or made false claims for work or services done.

“If one does not report a corrupt practice, one is passively encouraging corruption and allowing the corrupt to walk free,” it said.

“Tax money and resources that are meant to build the country are being wasted or siphoned for personal gain, and the quality of goods and services provided would be poor.”

In Kota Baru, Bernama reported that at least three high-profile cases with losses worth millions of ringgit were being probed by Kelantan MACC.

State director Datuk Moh Samsudin Yusof said investigations were still in the early stages involving organisations, individuals and senior government officials.

“The cases are related to tampering with government revenue, hindering revenue collection, incurring government losses and carrying out development project without following the rules,” he told reporters after opening the state-level International Anti-Corruption Day celebration yesterday.

A total of 31 investigation papers have been opened in relation to complaints of corruption in the state this year.

By Loh Foon Fong The Star/ANN

MACC: Fight corruption with us

Commission urges public to be proactive

PUTRAJAYA: Drawing parallel to the Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is calling upon the public to play a proactive role and work closely with them to nip all forms of corruption in the bud.

In saying that the fight against corruption was a never ending task, MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) said the anti-graft body would continue to carry out its duties in accordance with the three key pillars – free, transparent and professional.

<< MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil.

“Let me put on record that as long as there is a report, we will probe the alleged wrongdoer, and this includes politicians.

“We don’t need to refer to others or wait for the green light to start an investigation.

“As far as we are concerned, we will go after any shark or small fry in the public or private sector, regardless of their background, position or social status.

“Our target over the next three years is to clean up the public sector, particularly those involving enforcement authorities, local councils and government-linked companies,” he said in an interview in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day today.

Shamshun Baharin said while it was impossible to totally eradicate corruption, the MACC would do all it could to cut down such unhealthy practices.

“Frankly, there is not a single country in the world with zero corruption.

“But our continuous anti-graft efforts have started to bear fruit and get strong public support.

“We have also received international recognition. Some countries have requested to sign MoUs to share our expertise,” he said, citing Bhutan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia.

Shamshun Baharin said battling public perception was still its biggest challenge, and that the MACC was also trying hard to convince people to give information and lodge reports.

“Whistleblowers are worried about personal safety and that of their family members, so they choose to remain quiet.

“But this will permit wrongdoers to continue with their wicked ways for personal gain,” he said, adding that the Witness Protection Act 2009 and the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 could be used to protect the identity of informers and keep them safe.

Shamshun Baharin said public expectation was high and that the people were scrutinising all cases, especially those involving big names and seizures, and alleging that the MACC was being selective.

“But they fail to realise that we only have investigative powers.

“Prosecution is solely in the hands of the Attorney-General while the courts decide on the verdict,” he said.

By Simon Khoo The Star/ANN

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Ageing together: it takes a nation, family; more children if you can afford to


Chew mei funTHE Government cannot face the challenges of an ageing nation alone, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun says.The problem requires a joint effort involving the Government, local councils, developers, insurance companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals, she says.

“Everybody must be responsible and do their part,” she insists.

Giving an example, she says developers should plan townships for senior citizens to grow old within the community “like one big family”.

She says local councils also play a very important role in ensuring that the roads and buildings are accessible to the elderly.

To encourage collaborations between the NGOs, the Government gives incentives to corporations to run corporate social responsibility projects, she says.

She says individuals have to plan for old age by keeping healthy and active and saving for their future needs.

On plans to build more homes to accommodate the growing number of seniors, she says the ministry hopes to de-institutionalise homes because a family environment is always better.

However, legislation forcing grown children to care for their parents, is “not the way”, she stressed.

She says cultivating values like filial piety by stressing on the importance of family bonds through education, is preferable.

“We have nine (registered) old folks homes nationwide with a total of 1,590 residents.

“And, there are an additional two homes housing more than 200 bedridden residents, 70% of whom are above age 60.

“If we accept residents too easily, some will just send them to us because it’s convenient,” she says, adding that five activity centres for seniors will be built in addition to the existing 45 nationwide. The number will be increased steadily.

She says ‘caring complexes’ housing both seniors and orphans are in the pipeline.

“The idea is for kids to cheer up the seniors while learning from their elders,” she says.

She says better health services have led to Malaysians living longer with couples now having to care for their children, parents and grandparents.

Acknowledging that it’s a huge financial burden, she says the ministry is trying to educate young couples on how to better plan for their family.

Explaining that family planning isn’t just about birth control, she says it entails managing family finances.

“We’re not asking couples to give birth blindly but if you can afford to, you should have more children,” she says.

On June 14, Sunday Star front paged how urban parents can expect to pay as much as the combined price of a luxury car and a semi-detached house to raise a child up to degree level. The report followed a remark by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim urging Malaysians to have more kids to address the projected shrinking population.

National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations Malaysia president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh is “very disappointed” that the country’s seniors were left out of both the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plan, lamenting that the elderly are a neglected lot.

“There is no social security for the old,” he points out.

Calling for a national forum to be held fast, he cautions that the country may reach aged nation status even before 2030.

“Everyone will grow old. The only question is when.

“We must tackle these challenges together but the Government has to spearhead the solution with a detailed development plan.”

While supportive of the Government’s call for couples to have more kids, he feels that it won’t solve the problem.

Suggesting a private pension fund be set up, he says it will ease the financial burden on families caring for their old parents while giving the seniors a sense of independence.

Seniors who are poor and without family must be cared for by the Government, he insists.

“There aren’t enough government old folk homes nationwide,” he says.

“We need at least 90 but we don’t even have one per state.”

Those who can afford private nursing homes are also suffering, he says.

He estimates there are some 4,000 private centres nationwide but only slightly more than 200 are regulated.

“Some pay between RM500 and RM600 to live in very poor conditions where seniors are hosed down instead of getting a proper bath.

“These unlicensed homes are stinky and the living conditions very undignified,” he says.

He feels that country’s healthcare system also needs to be improved.

“The waiting time is too long and there are not many geriatric doctors.

“The seniors will be dead by the time they get treatment,” he says, only half-in-jest.

But, he stresses, the seniors themselves must grow old with dignity by keeping active.

Soon’s deputy, Susan Suah, says there’s a need for aged-friendly housing.

The interior designer is working to come up with building guidelines. Some problems in current housing include the lack of bathrooms on the ground floor, switches that are too high up and poor lighting, she says.

“We have rooms for maids but not for old parents?,”she says adding that aged-friendly homes must be made mandatory.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (School of Social Sciences) associate professor Dr Saidatulakmal Mohd notes that while some supermarkets and shopping centres have started becoming aged-friendly, none of the new housing developments are.It’s worse when residential houses are converted into nursing homes for the elderly as it has been proven to be non-conducive to their wellbeing.

“We don’t need to wait until Malaysia becomes an aged society. Many of the elderly are already being abandoned and abused, she says.

“While it’s easy to point to the Government for a solution, it’s important to note that welfare aid for seniors has risen over the years.”

To cover rising public healthcare costs, she anticipates higher taxes for the future generation.

But unlike their parents, youngsters today don’t expect their children to care for them in their old age.

“This is because they are facing financial hardship providing for their family while supporting their aged parents and don’t want their children to go through the same thing,” she explains.

She calls on the Ministry of Women, Family and Community to bring back the ‘elderly in the community’ initiative to promote active ageing.

To be a developed nation by 2020, we need active seniors who can contribute to the nation but this is only possible if aged-friendly infrastructure is ready and the elderly are financially supported.

“In the UK, I saw seniors shopping for groceries, paying their own bills and eating out – which is rare here.

“In Malaysia, seniors are seen as ‘abandoned’ if they do these things themselves.

“The perception needs to change.” – The Star/Asian News Network

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Not ready to age

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