Wall and awning collapsed in house near construction site

Brought down: A view of the fallen backyard wall and awning of the house.


Penang MCA: Guan Eng must explain cause of incident in house near construction site

GEORGE TOWN: Penang MCA is seeking an explanation from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on the collapse of a perimeter wall and an awning of a house in Jalan Bagan Baru 1, Butterworth.

Its organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the house owner believed the collapse could be due to nearby construction carried out by Penang Development Corpora-tion (PDC), of which Lim is the chairman.

The area is also under the Bagan parliamentary seat which Lim is the MP.

Dr Tan said the house owner had earlier complained to PDC after seeing cracks on the wall at his backyard about one year ago.

He said PDC was carrying out piling works then for its two affordable housing projects.

“Luckily, nobody was hurt in the incident but the authorities came forward only after the wall fell,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“That is against their ‘competency, accountability and transparency’ policy.”

Dr Tan urged the state to conduct a safety review on the projects.

When contacted, Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh said the awning and wall collapsed due to soil movement during the construction of a drain at the projects.

He said that after being told of the incident, he went for a site inspection with Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Rozali Mohamud, representatives from PDC and the contractor.

“I told the house owner that the state would take full responsibility.He will be fully compensated and repairs will be done soon.”

He added that the council issued a stop-work order for the drain construction pending investigation.

“Our geo-technical expert will do a soil test while PDC and council safety officers will investigate the incident,” he said.

Source: The Star  by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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Dismayed over the exorbitant engineering consultancy fees, 4 times higher !

GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional leaders have criticised the Penang Government for allegedly over-paying, by four times, the detailed design fees of three road projects.

“Construction is not a new industry. Many people are puzzled by the exorbitant consultancy fees,” said Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng in a press statement yesterday.

He said the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) devised a standardised gazetted scale of fees for professional engineering consultancy in accordance with Section 4(1)(d) of the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 (Act 138), and it was highly irregular to deviate from it.

Yesterday, it was reported that Barisan’s strategic communication team sought the professional opinion of BEM on the costing of the three paired roads.

The board was said to have replied that the RM177mil in detailed design costs was four times higher than the maximum allowed under the gazetted scale of fees, which the board calculated to be RM41mil.

The three roads are from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah, Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Gurney Drive to the expressway. They are meant to be a traffic dispersal system for the proposed Penang Undersea Tunnel.

Penang MCA Youth chief Datuk Michael Lee Beng Seng also issued a statement, pointing out that the alleged overpaid amount of RM136mil was more than the reported RM100mil the state spent on flood mitigation in the last eight years.

“We are shocked that the Penang government has put the well-being and safety of the rakyat behind the interests of consultants and contractors.”

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau highlighted that affordable housing, flash floods and landslides were issues that concerned Penangites.

On Tuesday, Barisan strategic communications director Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan announced that he was giving the Penang Government a week to explain BEM’s findings, failing which the matter would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

When asked to comment, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng replied: “Another day.” – The Star

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Penang Chief Minister may have too much on his plate, be fair when sharing power


CM may have too much on his plate

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has questioned the efficiency of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as the chairman of numerous state-linked agencies and departments.

Its publicity bureau chief Ooi Zhi Yi said that besides being the chief minister, the Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman chairs 11 agencies and departments.

“He was recently also appointed chairman of the Penang Stadium Corporation And Open Spaces at the state assembly sitting,” he said.

Ooi asked what had happened to the DAP’s decentralisation of administration and power-sharing policy which it claimed to advocate?

“Is Lim able to handle various responsibilities in different agencies and departments simultaneously?

“Why can’t the state government identify any state executive councillor or assemblyman to hold some of the posts?” he further asked at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters yesterday

The 11 state agencies and departments which Lim heads are the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) and its unit Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the Penang State Museum, investPenang and two subsidiaries under PDC namely the BPO Premier Sdn Bhd and Premier Horizon Ventures Snd Bhd.

When contacted yesterday, Wong Hon Wai, who is Lim’s political secretary, said it is a customary process for a state leader to hold important positions in all the government statutory bodies.

“It is similar to how the Prime Minister and Mentri Besar chair important government bodies,” he explained. – Tbe Star

‘Be fair when sharing power’‘

GEORGE TOWN: The MCA wants the Penang government to create a check-and-balance to counter the Chief Minister’s influence in 19-state linked agencies, statutory bodies and government subsidiaries which he helms.

Penang MCA organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the mechanism must include NGOs such as the Penang Forum, Consumers Association of Penang and Penang Heritage Trust.

He said the NGOs should have the right to oppose and express their views whenever needed.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had in a written reply to Sungai Dua assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor at the recent state legislative assembly sitting revealed that he was the chairman of 19 bodies.

“This is not only shocking but also contradicts the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency which the DAP-led state claims to practise.

“Where is a person’s credibility if he holds all positions which are closely associated with his position as chief minister. And what about the power-sharing principle advocated by the state government?” Tan asked.

He said since Lim ‘monopolised’ most of the chairman positions, state exco members such as Chow Kon Yeow, Danny Law and Jagdeep Singh seemed to be given merely supplementary roles to play.

Among the bodies helmed by Lim are the Penang Development Corp (PDC), Penang Global Tourism, PICEB Sdn Bhd, PGC Strategies Sdn Bhd, Penang Water Supply Corp Bhd (PBAPP), PBA Holdings Bhd, Penang Hill Corp, Invest Penang and the state museum board.

He gets an annual RM10,000 allowance as PDC chairman, RM3,000 monthly allowance as PBAPP chairman and RM500 monthly allowance as PBA Holdings Bhd chairman.

Lim also gets allowances which range from RM250 to RM500 per meeting that he attends in some of the statutory bodies and subsidiaries that he helms. – The Star

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Let there be a better year ahead

It’s not been a year to shout about with a litany of woes plaguing the country and much of the world. But as 2015 comes to an end, it’s time to count of blessings and hope for better times ahead.

IT feels like only days ago that we were wishing everyone a Happy New Year and suddenly it’s time for Merry Christmas. But between Happy and Merry, there has been little joy, has there?

It’s not been a year to look back upon with much fondness.

The ringgit is down, oil prices are down, the economy is down, and many of the people are feeling down, too. And it’s not just in Malaysia. Throughout much of Asia and many countries around the world, it has not been good news.

For us, there was the GST, an all-encompassing tax that has had many people grumbling.

But it brought a hitherto little-known Customs officer to fame. Datuk Subromaniam Tholasy was the face of the tax as the GST director and the man truly believes that this value-added tax is the way to go for the country.

Thus, he worked very hard for it despite the many brickbats. But it was not without its problems. There was the on-off-and-on again prepaid phone card tax problems.

The latest to make the rounds is the supposed GST on tolls. It has been clarified that GST will be charged on the 50sen service charge on Touch ‘N Go top-ups. So, it’s now 53 sen.

Tolls rates may go up soon. And the electricity tariff, too. It’s not going to get lighter on the pocket anytime soon.

Politically, it’s been a problematic year. Almost all parties are in turmoil. The 1MDB controversy and a RM2.6bil donation haunted Umno and saw the Deputy Prime Minister being ousted, only the second time that this has happened in the country. The first deputy prime minister to be ousted was also in the news – he has been sent to jail.

The man who first ousted a deputy, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is also in the news. He wants to oust the current Prime Minister who ousted his deputy. It’s a merry-go-round that’s not so merry. This intense bickering is something that will go down in history.

Talking of history, Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee has been left out of the history books. This man was a true leader. I remember meeting him as a boy when he was the first Chief Minister of Penang. He came over to where the children were, patted them on their heads and told them all to study hard – and he spoke in Tamil! The man was a linguist and one who truly cared for all.

Great man: Wong was the first chief minister of Penang.

The first chief minister of Penang and a member of the Cobbold Commission that first drew up a working Constitution has been ignored in our history books. The reason? They didn’t want too many figures from the peninsula in the books, and wanted to balance the numbers with those in Sabah and Sarawak.

It makes no sense to me. History is history, it’s not a Maths lesson on the law of probabilities. MCA and MIC leaders were there at the birth of the nation and deserve to be recognised. The MCA is now fighting hard to have Wong, who made the declaration of Independence in Penang, recognised as one of the leaders involved in the early years of the nation.

The MIC is also, well … fighting. Why they are fighting is hard to figure out as there are two factions, each claiming to be the rightful leadership.

It’s not just the Barisan Nasional. Things are even stranger on the other side. PKR is working with PAS to ensure the Selangor government is not rocked although PAS leaders are getting friendlier and friendlier with PKR’s arch-enemy Umno. DAP is at loggerheaders with PAS but works with PKR, again to ensure the Selangor government is not shaken.

In Penang, DAP has no time for PAS and PKR leaders are not happy with DAP. It’s a bit confusing. The ongoing rapid development is not helping things either.

Penangites love the island as it is, with as little change as possible. After all, the people are the living heritage of the place. I should know – I am a Penangite myself.

Elsewhere, too, there has been much misery. The two great Penangite sporting Datuks – Nicol David and Lee Chong Wei – have had a forgettable year.

Nicol is no longer the invincible girl she once was and has dropped out of the world No 1 ranking while Chong Wei was embroiled in a doping scandal, and spent the early half of the year serving out a suspension.

His return wasn’t remarkable and after some spectacular flops, he is finally picking himself up and could bring us all good news next year.

And never rule Nicol out. That lass has it in her to come back fighting every time she falls.

So, while much of the major news has been bad, it is the little people who have delivered the good news – those who continued feeding the poor even when the authorities wanted to ban them and throw the homeless into “reservations”, those who continue to teach the needy in the streets and in their homes and those who reach out to help regardless of age, race and religion.

And the year also saw the advent of G25, a moderate movement to stem the tide of extremism. Racial ties have not been at their best with some loud-mouthed leaders but the common folk are the ones rallying together.

The education system has again been called into question with several flip-flop decisions on English and the deaths of five orang asli children in Pos Tohoi. But even out of that came heroes who cared for the rural folk, the poor and the indigenous.

These are the people who we can depend on to keep the country intact – the way it was intended to be by our founding fathers.

Let’s hope the new year brings up better tidings, even if it is the common man who has to deliver them.

Why not?  By Dorairaj Nadason  – The writer, who can be reached at raj@thestar.com.my, wishes all readers Salam Maulidur Rasul, Merry Christmas and, yes, a Happy New Year once again.

Barking up the wrong tree !!

Malaysia’s problem isn’t Bahasa Malaysia but English, and it is incredible that so many of us have refused to acknowledge this or even want to address it.

Barking at wrong tree_EducationTHERE have been so many silly remarks and statements by some Malaysian politicians and one-man show non-governmental organisations that it is becoming impossible to keep track of their comedy acts.

There is a saying: “There are people who are only good at making the news but cannot make a difference to the wellbeing of society.”

Well, in Malaysia, there are certainly many of them.

Last week, Johor state assemblyman Datuk Dr Shahruddin Salleh suggested that students who fail to master the national language be stripped of their citizen­ship. Yes, revoke, lucut, tarik balik, batal!

The Barisan Nasional representative for Jorak alleged that many students were not able to master the language, and this was even prevalent among the Malays. He didn’t say how many. Like one, 10, 20, hundreds or thousands, but was quoted as saying “many”.

“Even my own neighbour, whose father and mother are Malays, but because their child goes to international school, the child is unable to converse in Malay,” he said, adding that students were now more interested in mastering English and do not take the learning of Malay seriously.

The situation was prevalent in the vernacular schools, he added, because the use of Mandarin and Tamil made the students weak in the Malay language, which was further compounded by the fact that many of the teachers there are also not well-versed in Malay.

We’d like to think that Dr Shahruddin has a sense of humour but, seriously, what does he really mean when he said students who do not master the Malay language should be stripped of their citizenship?

How does one define mastery at the school level? Is it by the grades they score at the public examinations, like the UPSR, PMR or SPM? We know that these are just examination grades. A student can score a distinction or even fail miserably, but that in itself does not reflect his language proficiency in the real world.

To take an extreme example, some foreign workers who are in the country for just a few months can speak like a Malay, but do you think they will be able to pass the BM paper at SPM level? Or that they should therefore be accorded citizenship because they have mastered our national language?

We are not sure if Dr Shahruddin is having a bad patch with his neighbours because I do not think that his neighbours, who would have read his remarks by now, would be amused.

The reality is that there are many Malay households where English is prominently used because of a variety of reasons.

The children of diplomats, for example, because they are schooled in international schools, will definitely be more comfortable in English.

What about the children of politicians, especially those who send their children for better education overseas and then make a lot of noise about our local education system?

The assemblyman may want to project his nationalistic credentials ahead of his party general assembly, and he has conveniently used his whip at English and, of course, vernacular schools, the current flavour of the month.

There are enough statistics to show that many of our students and teachers are struggling with English in schools, especially those in the rural areas. Just Google.

The Malaysian Employers Federation secretary Datuk Shamsudin Bardan reportedly said that a survey a few years ago among its members found that 60% of them identified low English proficiency as the main problem with young recruits.

A similar survey in September last year by online recruitment agency

JobStreet.com found that 55% of senior managers and companies considered poor command of the English language among graduates to be the main reason for their difficulty in finding employment.

Sabah Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said that 70% of Malaysian graduates are having a hard time finding jobs in the private sector due to poor command of English.

Citing his past work experience with a multinational company in peninsular Malaysia, Masidi said 70% of those interviewed did not make it through to the second round as they could not converse well in English.

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh had said that about two-thirds of English Language teachers in the country have been classified as “incapable” or “unfit” to teach the subject in schools. These teachers, he said, have been sent for courses to improve their proficiency in the language.

It has also been reported that about 70% of the 60,000 English Language teachers who sat for the English Language Cambridge Placement Test performed poorly.

Granted that there are students who fare badly in Bahasa Malaysia, but we do not think the numbers are big. Instead of making such a generalisation, we expect the Jorak assemblyman to back up his claim with more substantial findings and figures.

Neither has he been able to support this pathetic claim that “the use of Mandarin and Tamil by teachers in vernacular schools is another reason for students being weak in Malay, adding that the teachers are also not well-versed in Malay.”

Our real problem isn’t Bahasa Malaysia but English. It is incredible that so many of us have refused to acknowledge this problem or even want to address it, lacking the political will, unfortunately.

There is no point in deceiving ourselves by allowing our children to easily pass the English tests in schools and in public examinations.

There may be a huge number of students scoring distinctions in English at the SPM level but their real ability is revealed when they enter tertiary education and, later, the working world.

The MEF’s Shamsudin told a news portal in April that there are those with As and Bs in English at the SPM level who cannot even hold a conversation in English.

“Which is why we were excited when the government decided to teach Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI), as we felt this could boost their command of English. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after seven years when we should have allowed it to continue for 14 to 15 years to see the results.

“The inability to converse and understand English (among young school-leavers) is a constant complaint among our members,” said Shamsudin. The MEF has 4,800 direct members and 21 affiliated trade associations.

In the end, it will be the rural students who will suffer the most. These are the very people that our elected representatives claim to represent and fight for their rights and interests.

Do we need to check how many of our Honourable Members are sending their children to private and international schools even as they wax eloquence about the importance of the national schools?

Actually, we should all be concerned about proficiency in English, an issue that has also been recently taken up by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who can see the value of the English language without undermining the stature of the national language.

As Dr Mahathir rightly pointed out, the rich go to private schools while the poor go to national schools at home, adding that “I must confess that although my children all went to national schools, my grandchildren all go to private schools in the country and abroad. They do speak the national language but their kind of schooling widens the gap between races as well as between the rich and the poor.”

Well, it looks like the only thing that we have fared consistently well in is the comic relief provided by some of our politicians. And we can be sure the curtains will never come down on these comedians as they continue to seek out non-issues to put themselves in the spotlight.

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat focus

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

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


Malaysian Chinese National-type Schools

Bark-Up-The-Wrong-Tree_Bad relationship

DON’T bark up the wrong tree. That is the message many would like to convey to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim who has opposed the approval for building new Chinese national-type schools (SJKC).

The deputy minister was quoted as saying, “As long as approval is given, the relationship between the different races shall be further deteriorate, and shall be like throwing a spanner into the works of nurturing national harmony.”

This is clearly a statement made without having researched the functions of SJKCs in fostering mutual understanding between the races. For the record, Chinese national-type primary schools (SRJK) have more non-Chinese students than boarding schools and religious schools have non-Malay students.

There are at present approximately 80,000 Malay students in the so-called “unity-harming” SJKCs. Thus, I humbly ask Datuk Razali if the opinions of parents of these Malay students have been sought.

These parents appear to be sending their children to Chinese national-type schools not to “de-Malaysian-ise” them but to Malaysian-ise them.

In Malaysia, it common knowledge that most Malays are fluent in just two languages, namely English and Bahasa Malaysia while, most Chinese and Indians know at least three languages. Knowing one more language certainly gives children a cutting edge.

There is also, at present, growing pessimism over the way education in national schools is handled. Teaching science and mathematics in English which reverted to the teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia as well as the ever-changing format of national level examinations are just a few areas of concern.

There is also the perception that certain races are favoured by the national school system. It is due to this perception that many, who want a level-playing field, choose the Chinese national-type school system.

Furthermore, perhaps China’s emergence as a world political and economic power has persuaded pragmatic Malay and Indian parents to try to get their children to learn Mandarin, the second most widely spoken language in the world after English.

How exactly do Chinese national-type schools affect national unity?

Children in Chinese schools still sing Negaraku. Bahasa Malaysia is still being taught there. There is no difference in syllabus taught in national schools. In fact, all children in Chinese schools are taught to love and respect Malaysia.

So Datuk Razali, I humbly ask just what are the problems which affect national unity?

SJKCs schools have been around for decades, so why is the question of unity being brought up?

In my opinion, educators who use words like “pendatang” and tell students to “balik Cina” and “balik India’ are the real threats racial harmony.

I believe that racial harmony has actually been disrupted due to political figures who’ve made use of race as propaganda to score political points and win votes. The exaggeration of petty issues and the manipulation of these issues via social media have made these politicians heroes in the eyes of supporters. However, what it has really done is instil hatred among the races.

If, and it’s a big if, Chinese national-type schools do contribute to disharmony, the better option would be for the Education Ministry to form a special taskforce, and conduct periodic audits of the schools and their syllabuses. That would be better than denying parents an option with regard where they wish to educate their children.

Eye of the Tiger by by mike chong yew chuan

Mike Chong Yew Chuan is Press Secretary to Minister in the Prime
Minister’s Department YB Datuk Dr. Ir. Wee Ka Siong. He is also
currently MCA National Youth BN Youth Affairs Bureau Deputy Chairman.

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

Chinese vernacular schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related post:

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

MCA Youth chief laments missed scholarship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– The Star/Asia News Network

 Umno logoUmno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umno logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:  mysinchew.com/malaysia-chronicle.com

Show times: confused of Ibrahims; satay in Kajang, who will be MB Selangor Malaysia?

DS Anwar Ibrahim dan satay kajang di dun kajangYouTube

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Lately, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, we have been seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim.

THERE is something odd going on lately in Malaysia. For some seriously strange reasons, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, Malaysians are seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim. So let us go through the current hot list.

Anwar Ibrahim

He sure knows how to confuse us. We all thought he wanted to be Prime Minister. Then he said he would retire from politics and take up a teaching career if Pakatan Rakyat failed to capture Putrajaya in the general election.

Well, many of us, being the confused lot that we are, actually believe him, or at least believe in the many things that he has been saying, anyway.

Then, following the decision of the Kajang state assemblyman to vacate the seat, Anwar confused us further by saying he would not be contesting the seat. But he finally announced, after much charade, that he would be contesting after all.

Now, he says that even if he wins the seat, he does not aim to be the Mentri Besar of Selangor. Well, the whole world seems to think otherwise.

He has already confused us enough with his answers on why he is forcing a by-election in Kajang. Until now, no one, including his diehard supporters, can give us a convincing explanation.

Seriously, all of us should really ask him what it is he really wants. This man has to be the master of surprises. No one can beat him at that.

No one can remember him having a liking for football. Horses and jet ski, yes. Suddenly he has donned the colours of the Selangor football team.

If Penang plays against Selangor, we are not sure if he will be wearing anything, given that he is an MP from Penang, which is also a Pakatan-controlled state. That’s pretty confusing.

Well, for sure, he has really given us a few good lessons in politics!

Khalid Ibrahim

This is one sorry Ibrahim. His hair has become more dishevelled lately. He murmurs to himself most of the time and he is doing this even more.

Who can blame him? He has to be careful who he talks to now with his party boss wanting to take over his job. His fellow ADUNs – who all claim they are in politics for the sake of the people – must be having a tough time deciding who they should stand behind now to further their political ambitions.

They have to decide which horse they should back – this mumbling corporate figure or the real political animal, Anwar Ibrahim, who has the magic of getting people to believe what he wants them to believe.

If it’s me, it’s me. If he says it isn’t him, all will nod in agreement, as if under a spell, and repeat that it isn’t him. It’s just a lookalike of me, a body double, a Siamese twin.

Poor Khalid. The only one he can trust is himself. He can only talk to himself.

We all hope he will just hang in there because he is actually a likeable bloke. What you see is what you get from this Ibrahim.

Zaid Ibrahim

Now, this one is tricky. We are just as confused because he has either joined or formed almost every political party in town. And we, being the terribly naïve Malaysians, thought that this sort of thing only happens to Sabahan politicians.

No one is quite sure why he is declaring his candidacy for the Kajang by-election. It can’t be his love for the satay there, for sure. We are not even sure if he knows his way around Kajang or if he even has friends there.

But this Ibrahim can be assured that he will get his 15 minutes of fame every night on prime time TV. Our advice is he should not attempt to sound too philosophical or intellectual during his campaign rounds in Kajang.

That’s because we are already confused. We are not sure if he is seeking the support of Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat supporters. We are not too sure there are enough fence sitters like him. But we are sure he will confuse us during the entire campaign period.

Ibrahim Ali

We can assume that he will be there. He and his gang of merry men never let us down when it comes to providing the comic relief. But he has been saying that he is actually the one who has been delivering the Malay votes for Umno and that without him, Umno would have been in serious trouble.

But the best line from him recently is that there are many troublemakers impersonating Perkasa members! Fuyoh!

Now, that’s interesting! And we, being the confused Malaysians, thought that Malaysian politicians have confused us sufficiently and endlessly but this is the ultimate confusion! Imitation Perkasa members, wow.

Haris Ibrahim

He has been unusually quiet since being initially denied entry into Australia last September. The outspoken activist and lawyer shows up everywhere. He is a permanent fixture in all protests and demonstra­tions. A specialist in this sort of things, we may say. We are not sure if he will add some colour and excitement in Kajang. But he’s definitely another Ibrahim that we can welcome to the Kajang polls, to confuse many of us further.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh

He may not be a household name in Malaysia but he would probably get a recognition from the Malaysia Book of Records for being involved in the most number of non-­government organisations. This Ibrahim is involved in every NGO – from Bersih to Gabungan Mansuh ISA to Pemantau to Independent Monitoring Election Commission.

He has served notice that he will be in Kajang in his capacity as chief of the Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel). Are there any hats he is not wearing? Hasn’t he been confused himself before?
We won’t be surprised if he will soon head a Gabungan Cinta Satay Kajang or Stick It Up for Kajang Voters movements.

Rahim Thamby Chik

Well, not quite Ibrahim but close enough. This veteran politician can’t stand the sight of Anwar Ibrahim. Or for that matter anything about Anwar Ibrahim. He is his sworn enemy. Well, Enemy Forever. Not BFF, for sure.

We are not sure whether he will turn up in Kajang with Ummi Hafilda, another sworn enemy of Anwar. She seems to have gone into political oblivion since her marriage to a Pakistani doctor. It seems to be like an extended honeymoon, perhaps to make up for lost time. But we hope to hear from her soon. Looks like she has discovered that there’s more to life than her obsession – Anwar Ibrahim. It’s never too late. All these players hate one another but they can’t stay away from one another either. Isn’t that confusing?

Ibrahim Ahmad Badawi

Brahim LSG Skychef Sdn Bhd, formerly known as MAS Catering, belongs to Datuk Ibrahim Haji Ahmad Badawi, the younger brother of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. This company has been in the news lately.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to travel on business class on MAS will find the airline’s satay simply irresistible. Having lost the nasi lemak fight, we hope MAS will now redeem its image and go to Kajang for a satay war soon.

No one would have thought that there is such a thing as a “very naked” nasi lemak! Chef Wan Ismail took a picture of the very bare nasi lemak that was served in economy class on the route to Bangkok.

To the horror of this melodramatic chef, he claimed there were no nuts! Chef Wan may seem lembut (soft) at times but no one messes around with his food.

He was terribly pissed off. He whipped out his smart phone and took pictures of the nasi lemak missing the nuts. Err, sorry, I meant groundnuts.

And for Chef Wan, that’s a helluva of a telanjang (naked)! The essential ikan bilis or fried anchovies were not there either.

Well, following a full investigation, just short of a Royal Commission, it was finally revealed that the nuts had to be removed because they had gone stale. Blame the supplier who had gone on Chinese New Year break. Well, someone has to be the scapegoat in the great Malaysian tradition.

Poor Ibrahim, we never thought this would become an issue. This whole thing may seem a little nutty but the moral of the lesson here is, please don’t take economy class passengers for granted. We are not any ikan bilis, okay? We can strip anyone, Datuk or no Datuk, naked.

Well, things are going to get more interesting because the nomination and campaigning for Kajang have not even started yet!

And we still say the Election Commission should extend the campaigning period.

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

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

Quandary over who will be MB

Political drama: (clockwise from right) Khalid is refusing to resign even as Anwar campaigns in Kajang to be the next Mentri Besar; Rafizi has been unable to justify the Kajang Move while Azmin is in Mecca to perform the umrah.

Selangorians are getting mixed signals. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is acting like he is the next Mentri Besar of Selangor while MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is behaving like he is here to stay.

TAN Sri Khalid Ibrahim has looked rather well groomed of late. The Selangor Mentri Besar has been keeping his hair neatly combed and was even seen sporting an Elvis-like pompadour on a few occasions.

Khalid can be rather moody when he is over-worked or if things are not going well, and reporters covering him have learnt to use his hair as a “mood meter”.

If his naturally wavy hair is nicely groomed, it means he is in a good mood and everything is under control. But if his hair is all over the place, it is best to keep the questions short and sweet and not try to be funny with him.

But hair and “mood meter” aside, Khalid has been in an upbeat mood.

He has granted press interviews to one publication after another, talking about a variety of issues from the state water situation to the upcoming Kajang by-election.

It is evident that something big is looming on the water front. Khalid has been dropping hints of a solution over the long-standing water restructuring saga in Selangor.Earlier last week, he made headlines when he said that if the water restructuring exercise were successful, there could be free water not only in Selangor but also for those residing in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

And all this was happening even as PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was busy positioning himself to be the next Mentri Besar via the Kajang by-election.

Khalid’s demeanour and action over the last couple of weeks are not that of a man who is preparing to bow out. All the signs are that Khalid is here to stay and earlier last week, he confirmed that he is not resigning as Mentri Besar while side-stepping questions of whether Anwar will take over.

Khalid’s upbeat mood seems to be premised on two factors. The first factor is the unequivocal support he is getting from PAS in Selangor and the young Turks in the party’s Youth wing who have been critical of the Kajang Move.

Selangor PAS is standing by him and in the event that he is pushed out by his own party, PAS will nominate someone from their own party as the Mentri Besar.

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang put it a little more diplomatically: PAS will help Anwar win in Kajang, but the Mentri Besar post will be discussed after the by-election.

A PAS politician in Selangor indicated that PAS will welcome Khalid into the party if PKR decides to sack him. That is how far PAS in Selangor is prepared to go for Khalid.

The second reason for Khalid’s buoyant mood is believed to have come about after his weekly audience with the Sultan of Selangor two Wednesdays ago. He got the assurance that the Palace will not interfere in the political situation. The Palace will adhere strictly to its constitutional role and will follow the letter of the law.

A huge load was lifted from his shoulders and he left the royal audience walking on air.

Neutrality on the part of the Palace is crucial to Khalid because he is aware that Anwar and his backers have been trying to establish communications with the Palace.

There was talk that they had attempted to get through to the Palace via a Selangor princess.

For instance, Pakatan Rakyat supporters were shocked when Anwar said that former Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib would be able to advise him on the state’s rural development. They could not understand why Pakatan wanted to be linked with Umno’s “Gold Coast sensation” whom they used to mock as “me no speaking English”.

Mat Taib, as he is known, was briefly married to the Sultan’s younger sister Tengku Zahariah and some claimed that Anwar’s advisors were hoping to capitalise on that.

Unfortunately, Mat Taib has been persona non grata to the Palace ever since the day he eloped with the Princess known as Ku Yah and with whom he has a son who is now grown up with movie star looks to boot.

About a week ago, the PKR newsletter Suara Keadilan splashed a picture of Anwar alongside an uncle of the Sultan on its front page. Inside was another photograph of Anwar seated at the same dining table as Tengku Sulaiman Jalil Shah. The pair were guests at the wedding reception of the son of a Terengganu-based PAS politician.

The Palace wasted no time in clearing the air. On Wednesday, the Sultan’s private secretary Datuk Mohamad Munir Bani issued a statement on behalf of Tuanku advising political parties and politicians not to associate the Selangor Palace with their campaign in the Kajang by-election.

The statement also advised members of the Selangor royalty against being involved or allowing their name to be used by political parties in the by-election.

It is understood that the Sultan’s uncle had never met Anwar until the wedding event. Sources said he was seated at the VIP table when Anwar appeared at his side and joined him. Suddenly, three photographers appeared and started taking pictures of them.

It is learnt that Anwar’s group had also approached a family friend of the Sultan but he told them that as a member of the Royal Selangor Council, he couldn’t be associated with any political party.

The clumsy and amateurish attempts to get through to the Palace do not speak well of whoever is advising Anwar.

It is no secret that the Palace is comfortable with Khalid but, basically, the Palace wants to keep a clear distance from the big time politics taking place out there.

Several days ago, Rafizi Ramli, the man credited with the Kajang Move, said that a party survey showed that only 17% of Kajang voters were critical of the reason for the by-election compared to 25% who approved of it.

He dismissed the critical group as mainly Barisan Nasional supporters.

“This means that only a small number of Kajang voters are against the by-election,” Rafizi Ramli said at a press conference earlier last week.

Of the remaining group, 21% wanted to know more before deciding, 26% could not care less while 10% pleaded ignorance. Those who wished to know more and those who did not care added up to 47% and they are the undecided voters. It is an unusually big number of undecided voters for a highly-urbanised seat but it also means that candidates have a good chance to canvass for support.

Everyone tells Anwar he will win but he is not taking anything for granted. He has kept a punishing schedule in Kajang. He tried his hand at Chinese calligraphy at a Chinese new village dinner, he went to a church where he received a standing ovation and he attended a futsal game to touch base with the youth. By polling day, he would have covered every housing estate at least twice over.

The Penang born and bred Anwar wants to present himself as somebody who cares for Selangor.

In fact, he had kicked off his campaign by attending a Selangor Football Association event wearing the yellow and red jersey of the state. A witty commentator labelled him “pemain import baru (latest imported player)” for Selangor.

The internal dynamics in PKR has almost eclipsed the by-election as well as the other candidates in the race, namely Barisan’s Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun and independent Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

Chew Mei Fun is MCA 2014 Kajang By-election candidate – YouTube

The tight and loyal circle around Khalid claimed that their boss has the numbers to survive. Rafizi, on his part, has said that the Mentri Besar issue will not be put to the vote in the State Legislative Assembly.

“Khalid knows that no one can really do anything if he refuses to resign,” said a political insider.
Rafizi has been talking about an Umno plot to topple Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak but the real plot is within PKR to topple Khalid.

The Anwar for MB camp had been bending over backwards for Khalid because they needed him to go without making a scene. They even gave in to his demand to be made the director of election over the party’s deputy president Azmin Ali.

By-elections are normally led by the deputy president of a party and Azmin, who is also the Selangor chief, is a seasoned organiser with a good grasp of the Selangor ground. But he was pressured to back off for Khalid. Azmin has since left for Mecca to perform the umrah.

It is evident by now that Khalid is not interested in any move by Anwar’s advisors to have him sign a post-dated letter of resignation. That was the original plan for a smooth transition.

Khalid was supposed to resign effective March 23 and Anwar, fresh from victory, would be nominated and sworn in as the new Mentri Besar. In hindsight, it was wishful thinking on their part and yet more proof of the lack of experience among Anwar’s advisors.

Anwar is now trapped in a situation where the man he is trying to dislodge refuses to go and is in charge of his election campaign.

There is no denying it – the Kajang Move has become a hot mess.

Some are expecting the Pakatan Rakyat convention on March 8 to involve some kind of call for Anwar to lead in Selangor. It will be tricky but who would object if it is presented as the road to Putrajaya?

The Anwar side sees Anwar, with his charisma and oratory skills, as the catalyst for the Putrajaya dream.

But the Khalid side says that the best advertisement for the Putrajaya dream is the Selangor model under Khalid’s leadership.

In the meantime, they have to tackle the road to Kajang.

Contributed by Joceline Tan
> Joceline Tan can be reached at joceline@thestar.com.my

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