MCA had no room to say ‘no’, down but not out: HSR cancellation should have followed due process


 

In the driver’s seat: Dr Wee is widely seen to be the next to helm the party. — ONG SOON HIN/The Star

HIS office is a small room with a great view of the capital city’s central business district. Within its four corners, MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong is racing against time to plan the road ahead for the embattled party.

He is now MCA’s sole Member of Parliament after winning the Ayer Hitam seat in Johor.

The party also won the Titi Tinggi and Cheka state seats.

MCA contested 39 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats in the May 9 polls. The defeat has been bruising and Dr Wee has spent the last three weeks charting the road ahead for the 69-year-old party.

“Changing government is not a nightmare, not an impossible thing and can be done overnight,” says 50-year-old Dr Wee in his first media interview after the polls.

He adds that all is not lost following the party’s worst outing, and said MCA is ready to pick up from where it fell, and evolve as a completely reformed and independent entity.

“Our party is now our priority and not the coalition like before.

“There is no more political baggage. In the past there was no room to say ‘no’ or you would be deemed as going against the coalition’s whip.

From his office on the 9th floor of the MCA headquarters in Wisma MCA, Dr Wee says his major task is to put up a team that can move forward to rebuild the party.

“I have been encouraged by people to take up the challenge to provide the leadership, and I am duty-bound to do so,” he said during an interview.

Party president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced that he would not seek re-election at the party polls this November, and Dr Wee as his deputy and sole survivor of GE14 is widely seen as his successor.

Dr Wee, a civil engineer who joined MCA in 1992, rose to become the party’s Youth chief in 2008 and deputy president in 2013.

MCA is the second largest component party of Barisan Nasional which lost its hold on the government for the first time since Independence in 1957 following the crushing defeat in GE14.

As one of three MCA ministers in the last four years, the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department explains that the party, bound by the Barisan Nasional spirit, seldom spoke openly on what transpired in the Cabinet.

This, unfortunately, was perceived by people that MCA had not been able to speak up for them or do anything for them.

Dr Wee said the perception had been compounded by negative statements on MCA and the Chinese community made by other Barisan component party leaders.

Statements which openly ridiculed the Chinese community and renowned figures like Robert Kuok and even MCA as a party in the run-up to the polls were certainly damaging.

The damage control also did not help at all.

“Saying that such issues had been voiced out or dealt with in the Cabinet were grossly insufficient.

“Some justice needs to be done and seen to be done.”

Dr Wee conceded that the Barisan spirit had also turned into a form of constraint on MCA and a baggage most of the time in a modern society where people demand openness and action against issues deemed unfair to the community.

At times, he adds, this “behind closed doors diplomacy” was done with the intention of not wanting to prolong an ugly episode and also to preserve harmony in a multiracial society.

“But obviously, this did not augur well for us.”

Going forward, Dr Wee says the role of the party is how to be an effective Opposition and provide the check and balance in the new regime.

He says he believes this is what the people want from the party and what the party can do for them now that it is in the Opposition.

Dr Wee says he will also be going to the ground to identify the party’s weaknesses and drawbacks that contributed to the defeat of the party.

He points out that these constitute important feedback in the party’s bid to reform itself and move forward.

The MCA central committee – the party’s highest decision-making body – has appointed him to helm the party’s reform committee following the GE14 defeat.

Dr Wee envisages a team of young and talented MCA leaders that can take on the new role of an effective Opposition in a new set-up.

The party, he adds, can provide a platform for them.

He says universal values, public policies and the party’s core struggle will remain the foundation.

Dr Wee also says the party will be rebuilt on all levels.

For instance, he says the party will be preparing for local elections (councillors) as the Pakatan Harapan Government has been pushing for it prior to GE14.

On Chinese education and Chinese new villages, of which MCA has been the guardian since its inception in 1949, Dr Wee says he hopes the new Government can do a better job in taking care of the two institutions close to the hearts of the Chinese.

He is willing and ready to provide help and cooperate with the new Government in the two areas upon their request.

“We (MCA) do what is best for the people. We exist because of the people.”

On the scrapping of two mega projects like the High Speed Rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore (HSR) and MRT 3 announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad just 22 days after Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya, Dr Wee feels the decisions needed in-depth study.

On the merits of HSR, he notes that Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are the two busiest Asean cities, and boosting their connectivity would be a step in the right direction and for mutual economic growth and benefits.

He points out that there are more than 30,000 flights between the two cities a year.

The HSR was scheduled to be completed in 2026, and it would have been just a 90-minute ride between the two cities.

The 350km track, which was to start in Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and end in Jurong East, Singapore, would have passed through stations in Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri.

On the MRT 3, Dr Wee said the people are enjoying the convenience of MRT 1 and looking forward to MRT 2 which is under construction.

Like any other big city in the world, Dr Wee said, MRTs are the desired mode of transportation.

He hopes the Pakatan Harapan Government can reconsider the scrapping of MRT 3 for the sake of the eight million Kuala Lumpur folk and the development of the capital city.

By Foong Pek Yee The Star

MCA think-tank: HSR cancellation should have followed due process – Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet)


 

CENBET – Centre For A Better Tomorrow  says the cancellation of the Kuala
Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail should have been announced after the
cabinet’s approval in accordance to due process. – The Malaysian Insight
pic by Najjua Zulkefli, June 1, 2018.

THE cancellation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project should have been made by the cabinet prior to its announcement as a matter of good governance, said the Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet).


The think tank said while it supported the new government’s efforts to review potentially wasteful projects and lopsided deals, such decisions should have followed due process.

“If decision on a RM110 billion mega-project can be made without stringent due process, we are worried that this may set a bad precedent in deciding other government projects.

“Such decision undermines institutional integrity which should have never been compromised for political expediency,” said Cennbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu in a statement today.

Based on news reports, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s May 28 announcement to call off the project was made after chairing his party’s supreme council meeting and not in his capacity as prime minister announcing a Cabinet decision.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke was also reportedly said that the matter was not discussed in a cabinet meeting prior to the Prime Minister’s May 28 announcement that the project would be shelved.

“Rightfully, cancelling a project of such magnitude, involving transnational interests, ought to have gone through a more structured decision-making process. This includes preparing a cabinet paper and getting feedback from all relevant agencies and state governments,” explained Gan.

He pointed out that the federal constitution was clear that the cabinet is the highest executive body and the manner in which the announcement was made contradicted the spirit of accountability and transparency pledged by the new federal government.

“The eventual May 30 cabinet decision can be perceived as an afterthought and clearly without going through sufficient consultation,” said Gan.

He added that institutional decision-making process was an integral part of good governance, which Cenbet promotes.

“All major national decisions must be made by the cabinet after due process and consultation to prevent abuse of power and leakages,” he added. – Bernama, June 1, 2018.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

Related post:

Chinese projects in Malaysia may stay intact

Newly-elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has decided to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore Rail

Related:

‘Cancellation of HSR should have followed due process’ – Nation 

Co-president Gan Ping Sieu –CENBET – Centre For A Better Tomorrow   MCA Think Tank

MEDIA STATEMENTS
Co-President Gan Ping Sieu on the Cancellation of the HSR Project

Friday, June 01, 2018

The cancellation of the High Speed Rail project should have been made by the Cabinet prior to its announcement, as a matter of good governance. While we support the new government’s efforts to review potentially wasteful projects and lop-sided deals, such decisions should have followed due process.  >> read more


Related posts:

 Malaysia scraps MRT3 project, reviews HSR, ECRL mega projects to reduce borrowings

 

Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia, Robert Kuok Memoirs

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Malaysia scraps MRT3 project, reviews HSR, ECRL mega projects to reduce borrowings


PUTRAJAYA: The Klang Valley mass rapid transit line 3 (MRT 3 or Circle Line) project, reported to cost between RM40bil and RM45bil, will not proceed, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The MRT3 or MRT Circle Line was planned as the third MRT line for the Greater Klang Valley area.

While the MRT1 connects Sungai Buloh and Kajang, the MRT2, which is now under construction, will run from Sungai Buloh to Serdang and Putrajaya.

MRT3 was planned as a loop line to integrate the lines, with most of its stations underground.

He also said the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) was still being studied, while a review was being done on the East Cost Rail Link (ECRL).

He said Malaysia was open to re-considering its decision on the HSR if Singapore could convince Malaysia to proceed with it.

He said the Cabinet had agreed for the rail project to be scrapped, but it would also depend on discussions with Singapore.

“We want to do this as it has high financial implications. But we will listen to them (if Singapore wants to proceed). They are our good partners,” he told the media after chairing the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

He explained that Malaysia needed to reduce its borrowings, hence the decision to scrap HSR and review other mega projects that cost billions of ringgit.

“We have borrowed too much money. If this country is to avoid bankruptcy, we must learn how to manage our big debts by doing away with projects that are not beneficial to the country,” he added.

Later, at a buka puasa event at Putrajaya International Convention Centre, he said the money spent on the HSR project did not justify the number of jobs it could generate.

“If you are going to spend RM60bil to RM100bil so that thousands of people can work, that’s not very efficient,” he said in response to a Facebook post by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who defended the HSR.

Najib, who asked the Government not to make “an emotional decision” to scrap the project, said the HSR was projected to create RM650bil in gross national income and 110,000 job opportunities, which could expand to 442,000 jobs by 2069.

On the fate of the ECRL, Dr Mahathir said the project has not been called off and a detailed review was being conducted.

“We haven’t cancelled ECRL. We have spent a lot of money on it and need to look at ways to handle this matter,” he said.

According to recent reports, the actual cost of the ECRL could be more than RM55bil.

Dr Mahathir also said the 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review would be tabled in Parliament in November along with Budget 2019.

“The review will take into consideration the progress of projects carried out from 2016 to 2018, and the Government’s way forward for the remaining period of between this year and 2020,” he added.

Parliament is expected to start its meeting next month, but Dr Mahathir said the dates had yet to be fixed since the appointment of ministers had not been completed.

On whether the Cabinet had decided on the fate of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), he said the matter was still being studied.

The Prime Minister also said no decision had been made on whether the Department of Islamic Develop­ment (Jakim) would be closed.

 

Related post:

SST implementation date among key decisions made by Cabinet

 https://www.thestar.com.my/~/media/online/2018/05/16/04/35/1mdba.ashx/?w=620&h=413&crop=1&hash=ECE23B276AA140BA80725A657A4FE4303340DA4A

Penang new Chief Minister taking Penang to the next level


 

 

 

Man with a plan: Chow elaborating on his vision for Penang during an interview with The Star at Komtar in George Town.

Man with a plan: Chow elaborating on his vision for Penang during an interview with The Star at Komtar in George Town.

 

New CM Chow has a clear vision of how to develop the state into the next five years

 

“Economic growth with environmental sustainability would be an ideal situation rather than sacrificing the envoronment for the sake of development – Chow Kon Yeow”

 

GEORGE TOWN: It’s easy to understand why Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow is such a popular figure in Penang despite hailing from Kuala Lumpur.

Holding the exco portfolio of Local Government, Traffic Manage­ment and Flood Mitigation for the last two terms here was not an easy task, but Chow’s simple, frugal and austere ways won over the people and even his harshest critics.

Now he is in the hot seat as the chief executive. Here, he shares his thoughts on his plans to move Penang up another notch over the next five years, as well as personal and party matters. Below is an excerpt from the Q&A:

How are you keeping after more than two weeks into the top post in Penang?

It’s a continuation of where I left off for 10 years as a state executive councillor in 2008. At the Chief Minister’s office, I deal with a wider range of issues than my portfolios under Local Govern­ment, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation, which were more focused.

As Chief Minister, I also have to look into investment and economic issues, besides being chairman of Penang Development Corporation, PBA Holdings Bhd and other state statutory bodies.

Which plans do you intend to see through in your first term?

Upon taking office on May 14, I took up the Transport portfolio because I intend to see to the implementation of at least some of the projects under the Penang Trans­port Master Plan (PTMP). It is too ambitious to say that we will implement all the projects, but they will be a priority.

On the projects by Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) comprising the RM6.43bil undersea tunnel and three paired roads, we will likely begin construction for one of the three major roads.

As for SRS Consortium, the project delivery partner of PTMP, we will start the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. Since it is tied to Penang South Reclamation (PSR) in the southern coast of Penang island, the reclamation of three man-made islands will have to start as well to finance the LRT project.

(The PSR is a massive plan to reclaim three islands totalling 1,800ha off the southern coast of Penang island. The success of PTMP, the state government’s multi-billion ringgit public transport project involving LRT, monorail, cable cars and water taxis, depends on funding from property development on the islands.)

One important element here is that people see the reclamation as solely financing the infrastructure projects, which is true in a sense. The man-made islands will not only finance the infrastructure projects, but the lands made available will help meet the development needs of Penang for the next 30 years.

It is near to the Bayan Lepas industrial electronic and electrical cluster. Taking it away from the cluster will not produce the synergy effect.

And preferably, the expansion of our industrial zone into the future must also be near to the cluster and Penang International Airport facilities.

So we can safely say that the three man-made islands are a sure thing?So we can safely say that the three man-made islands are a sure thing? /b>

It is subject to review by the Federal Government. We need approval from the Federal Govern­ment for any large-scale project and the reclamation is one of them. It has to be approved by the National Physical Planning Council. If we can get all the necessary reports to support our application, it will be tabled at the National Physical Planning Council for approval.

You said the LRT component of PTMP is your priority. When can we expect to see it materialise?

We have made a submission to the Land Public Transport Commis­sion (SPAD) since March 2016 for a railway scheme.

Besides the LRT line from Komtar to Bayan Lepas, we have also submitted the other alignment as a full package, as our depot will be built on one of the man-made islands that has yet to be reclaimed. We are still waiting for the environment impact assessment approval.

I believe our application is still active. Hopefully, it will be brought before the Transport Ministry for deliberation and approval.

Previously, it was either an undersea tunnel or a third bridge to link Bagan Ajam and Gurney Drive. What will it be now?

It is still too early to say. We can always make changes because of the cost factor. There is no firm decision on this. CZC will have to complete the feasibility studies first, which are now at 96%.

There is no hurry because even if we were to build the undersea tunnel, it would only take off in 2023.

Right now, CZC’s priority is to start building the 5.7km paired roads starting from Jalan Kampung Pisang in Ayer Itam and connecting with the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Express­way in Gelugor. It is one of the three major roads undertaken by CZC.


What are your thoughts on the claims that CZC paid RM22mil to cover up anti-graft investigations on the mega project comprising the undersea tunnel and three paired roads?

It is entirely up to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate, as it has nothing to do with the state government. We are not the approving authorities.

The concession companies ap­pointed by us are responsible for getting all the approval. What CZC told us was that it was basically political extortion. They were under great duress and had no choice but to believe that the other party could help smooth the process of getting the necessary approval.

This had nothing to do with the state government and we had no prior knowledge of it until it was reported in the media.

Penangites have been plagued by floods on some occasions. What are your plans to resolve this?

The first phase of Sungai Pinang Flood Mitigation project was completed in the late ‘90s and it never went beyond that. This project has been delayed for 18 years.

We need about RM600mil to resolve the problem. The money can be used to build a barrage along the river near the People’s Housing Project in Sungai Pinang. If there is a barrage, backflow from the sea during high tide would not flow inland.

Other components include the construction of pump houses, retention ponds, collector drains along the river, deepening of rivers and the raising of bunds. All these measures are expected to be completed in three and a half years.

We believe these measures will help mitigate floods. All designs can only cater to a certain capacity, so we cannot say that there will be no floods after this.

It is important to secure approval and funding from the Federal Gov­ernment. The Sungai Pinang Flood Mitigation project is vital because it has impact upstream, as there are six tributaries linked to Sungai Pinang.


Many hillslope developments have taken shape, especially in the Tanjung Bungah area, which has drawn concern from environmental activists. What is your take on this?

The current state government will not change the tight guideline of restricting development 76m or 250ft above sea level, although the national guideline can go up to 500ft. The guideline is very restrictive as it will prevent a lot of hill lands from being developed.

This guideline only came into place under the Penang Structure Plan approved in 2007. Before that, approval had already been given to certain developments we can’t stop abruptly. Under this category, there are many projects approved that went beyond the restriction.

I will get the Penang Island City Council to brief me on how much land is still left that is restricted by the guideline. If there is not much land left, we will consider that the guideline will prohibit hillside deve­lopment in the future.

If the guideline is still in place, the people of Penang must confront the fact that there won’t be any development beyond this guideline. Land will become expensive. If there is no reclamation, what will the future hold for Penang island?

Gentrification is an issue in George Town, with foreigners snapping up properties within the Heritage zone. What do you think of this?

Prior to interest in our heritage buildings and before the inscription of the Unesco World Heritage Site, there were a few hundred houses in need of refurbishment. Some houses collapsed during storms.

If you look at the heritage site today, there are few dilapidated houses left due to the interest in heritage properties. The owners have greater appreciation of their value.

My personal stance is to save the house first. If there are buyers, we should save the buildings and negotiate on their use later.

The Opposition in Penang is down to only three representatives – two from Umno and one from PAS. Will they be given any allocation?

They will be given allocation, although the figure may not be the same as the Government’s assemblymen. They rejected it last time, thinking that we were setting a trap on them.

Previously we offered them RM40,000 in annual allocation, but it will be more this time. The funds can be used to support the community, as well as assist organisations in their work and in getting facilities such as fax machines. The funds are meant for the people.

The Opposition is weak in the state assembly. How do you view this matter?

In a healthy Western democracy, when there is a weak Opposition, backbenchers play a more active role in scrutinising government policy. It is a working mechanism. A new check-and-balance in the ruling coalition can emerge to play this role of checking the executives and government on the use of public funds and policy.

Regarding tourism, is there any new programme that your administration would like to introduce to attract visitors within the next five years?

We should be more selective not only in terms of quantity matters, but in terms of quality as well. We need to have niche tourism markets to get high spenders.

At the moment, we cannot be choosy as we need them to fill up our hotel rooms and patronise our local businesses. But there will come a time when it will negatively impact the local environment.

We should move up a notch by focusing on higher spending and business travellers rather than the usual travellers.

In your own opinion, what should an ideal Penang look like?

Economic growth with environmental sustainability would be an ideal situation rather than sacrificing the environment for the sake of development.

Development has to be balanced not only geographically, but also in the strata of society, meaning that the B40 class (households earning RM3,900 a month or less) must be able to benefit from the economic development.

There must be job opportunities and stable income for them. They must not be sidelined or living in poverty without jobs. If jobs can be made available to foreign workers, why can’t it be the same for locals?

You won the Pengkalan Kota state seat in 1990, but lost it in 1995. What was it like having to start from square one?

I was back to full-time party work in 1998 to lead the party after the “Knock Out Kit Siang” internal party strife. After 1999, I was picked as state DAP chairman to continue the party’s struggle in Penang.

What was it like being a DAP-elected representative before and after 2008?

Very different. The government representatives have more resources to serve the people better. But we keep instilling the idealism of our party struggle and the long-term vision to win Federal power into our representatives so that they see a bigger vision for the party and themselves.

Many Penang DAP leaders are now in their 60s. Has the state party leadership identified the next echelon of leaders?

The party made a bold decision by fielding many new candidates in the 14th General Election. They have potential for future development in the Government and party. This is a rejuvenation process to prepare them for the future.

Source: The Star by alex tengtan sin chow

Related:

 

CM: Transport plan components will be fully funded – Metro … 

 

Rude awakening for storm victims – Metro News – Penang fresh flood again

 

All riled up over slow response – Metro News 

 

Huge landslide in Tg Bungah hill

To Malaysia with love, from the world

BTN up in the Air, the writing is on the wall for BTN


Video:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/29/the-writing-is-on-btns-wall-controversial-agency-has-a-good-chance-of-being-shut-down/

In the 44 years since it began, the National Civics Bureau has evolved into a racial and propaganda machine of sorts. The Biro Tatanegara may
be in its last days as the Government plans to review its relevance in multiracial Malaysia.

 The writing is on the wall for BTN

PETALING JAYA: The days of the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN) seem numbered with the Government to look into whether it should keep or abolish the controversial agency.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said BTN and several other government bodies had been turned into political tools by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

“All this will be studied, we may maintain or abolish it. We found that there are many agencies which have been set up not (to benefit) the government but Barisan; but they use government money to pay salaries,” Dr Mahathir told a media conference after chairing the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council meeting.

Dr Mahathir, who is Pribumi chairman, was responding to a question on the fate of BTN following the Government’s move to abolish several other taxpayer-supported bodies, namely the National Council of Professors and the Special Affairs Department (Jasa).
Set up in 1974 to promote patriotism, BTN has come under fire over the years after numerous complaints about it promoting racial hatred.

The Pakatan Harapan Government in its election manifesto has pledged to dissolve the agency which it said had become a political agent for Umno.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said the abuse of BTN by the previous government was possible grounds to shut it down.

“How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require? BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging,” she said.

The bureau’s director-general Datuk Ibrahim Saad could not be reached for comment.

BTN, which is under the Prime Minister’s Department, conducts courses for civil servants, government scholarship holders and selected students from colleges and universities.

According to DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, the budgets for BTN multiplied 10-fold in the 1990s (RM200mil) compared to the 1980s (RM20mil), and continued to increase.

From 2010 to 2015, the allocation for BTN totalled some RM365mil.

Veteran journalist Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said it would not be surprising for the bureau to be shuttered.

“If BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa, then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate,” said Kadir.

The Pakatan election manifesto stated that Umno and Barisan had abused government programmes to spread narrow ethno-religious politics to influence youths.

“The Pakatan Harapan Government will dissolve the bureau, which over the years had become a cheap political agent for Umno,” it said.

PKR Youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who has called for a shutdown of BTN, recounted his own experience with it.

He was a student when he attended one of the BTN camps back in 2003.

“I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were) racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly.

“BTN was formed for political purposes. It is outdated. Schools, hospitals and universities need money, so let’s prioritise,” he said.

MCA publicity spokesman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said a thorough review of BTN should be conducted before a decision is made.

“There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas,” he said.

Ti said a number of institutions started out well but was hijacked along the way by the political masters.

“A lot of this happened during Dr Mahathir’s time, so it is good for him to remedy these issues,” he said.

Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the Government could do what it wished with the bureau.

“My view is very simple; they have the mandate, they are free to do it,” said Annuar.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Tan Sri James Masing said the functions of BTN needed to be reviewed in order to reflect Malaysian society.

“The multiracial nature of our society must be strengthened and reflected in every nook and corner of our nation. No one race can claim ownership of this nation,” he said.

Sarawak United People’s Party Youth chief Michael Tiang said any agency that promoted racism and intolerance should be reviewed or even abolished. “Racism and intolerance are never part of the Malaysian spirit,” he said.
Souces : The Star by razak ahmad, sharon ling, hemananthani sivanandam, rashvinjeet s. bedi, hanis zainal, n. trisha

BTN course was a nightmare, says participant

PETALING JAYA: She penned down her experiences attending a team-building course with Biro Tatanegara (BTN) in her diary. And it was not pleasant.
Sahana, as she wanted to be known, recounted how one of the lecturers had picked on her physical appearance.
During one session, the lecturer even poked fun at some of the participants as a way of engaging the class.
“He would say things like ‘ah yang pendek tu, bangun (you, the short one, stand up).”
“I as seated next to an Indian girl when he pointed at my direction. When
I turned to the girl next to me, he said ‘ awak lah, yang hitam, besar tu’ (you, the dark and big sized one) to indicate that he was directing the question to me,” said Sahana, who is now a communication executive.
Sahana, 36, was a first year college student then. Her college had informed the
students that they had to attend a series of lectures and team building
exercises at a camp in Johor.
“We were looking forward to it because we were there with our peers and it was a
long trip away from home. For some of us, it was our first excursion out
of state so we were excited,” she said.
However, the excitement did not last long. The lecturer’s comments embarrassed
Sahana, who cried in class but others including the lecturer just
laughed at her.
“I already had this complex about being a plus size, so naturally, when remarks like that were made, it really hurt me.
“It was a big hit to my self-confidence,” she said, adding that she felt that being dark skinned and large was a big sin.
Sahana wondered why physical appearance and skin colour were highlighted at
the camp that was actually meant to teach participants values and instil
patriotism.
Sahana also found insensitivity when it came to food being served as beef was given to them.
“Not that I am complaining but it made me wonder back then; how a Hindu,
Buddhist or vegetarian would survive when beef was the main dish
served?” she asked.
A parent wrote to The Star to complain that her son was “hounded” for being Indian.
“Throughout the five-day course, he and other Indian participants were constantly
hounded about the actions of the Hindraf movement.
“His friends and him are not supporters nor sympathisers of the group. Yet,
they felt disappointed at the way the instructors kept harping on the
issue at every turn and opportunity,” the mother wrote.
Another parent echoed the sentiment, saying that participants were repeatedly
reminded of the “social contact” in the formation of the country.
“Throughout the five days of the course, participants are repeatedly told not to
question Malay rights and so on,” said the parent, adding that even
Malay friends of the family were upset by the programme’s content.
There, however, were praises for the programme.
“I must say that there were many great people there, especially the
facilitator in my group. I have heard many unpleasant things about it
and I don’t understand why.
“During my stint, I learnt many things from my facilitator, not only of a better
understanding of Malaysia but also the spirit of a Malaysian.
“We, the non-Malays, really appreciated him as our facilitator. We never
felt aggrieved or hurt. Through him, we learnt unity, not disunity,”
wrote a participant.
Another participant wrote of learning more about Malaysia at the programme.
“I learnt more of our own country while having a great time throughout the
activities and group-learning sessions filled with good values,” the
participant said.
How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require… BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging. – Nurul Izzah, PKR vice-president

If the BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa (Special  Affairs Department), then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate. – Datuk A. Kadir
Jasin, veteran journalist

I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were)
racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly. –
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, PKR Youth leader
There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure that they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas. – Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, MCA publicity spokesman

‘Move to shut down BTN unreasonable’

PETALING JAYA: While the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN)
has drawn flak over the years, there was an effort to improve the body.Umno member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who was involved in BTN, said complaints against the bureau had prompted the Government to set up a panel about three years ago to seek improvements.Lokman, who was on the panel, said new modules were then drawn up for BTN.He hit out at the current Government, which he claimed was out to shut
down all agencies perceived to have strengthened the position of Barisan
Nasional.“I am sure that their next target will include Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), Mara, Tekun (Entrepreneur Development Centre), Mara Junior Science Colleges, Universiti Teknologi Mara and others,” said Lokman.

Former Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw, who was also on the panel to rebrand
BTN, said the bureau needed to represent the country’s plural society.“This is 2018 and yet there are Malays, Chinese and Indians whosay racial things. So I told the panel – let’s try to reduce this.“Let’s emphasise tatanegara, which means the discipline of a nation. Let’s make this whole thing non-racial.”He said he was not sure whether his suggestions were subsequentlytaken up, adding that other panellists also gave some good ideas.Dr Tan said BTN should only be closed if efforts to change it failed.

“If we are to shut down everything we don’t like, then why not close ministries and everything else?

“If it is impossible to revive the BTN, then it is reasonable to shut it down. But this is not a question that it cannot be revived but of getting the policy right,” said Dr Tan.

 

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The notorious National Civics Bureau – Biro Tatanegara (BTN)


Controversial: The BTN has been accused of
promoting racism, bigotry, disunity and intolerance in the name of
instilling patriotism through its activities, like this in the National
Transformation Training Programme.

National Civics Bureau – Biro Tatanegara

Pretty hate machine

Biro Tatanegaran has not only survived, but festered in a multinational country.

Its review is long overdue!

IF there’s one government agency which needs a complete overhaul by the new federal government, it must be the notorious National Civics Bureau, better known to Malaysians as Biro Tatanegara.

Over RM1.1bil of taxpayers’ money has been outrageously spent to promote racism, bigotry, disunity and intolerance in the name of instilling patriotism.

The BTN was set up in the 1970s as a Youth Research Unit under the Youth Ministry. But by the 1980s, the obscure agency had evolved into the BTN we know, and placed under the Prime Minister’s office.

Its objective is to nurture the spirit of patriotism among Malaysians, and train them into future leaders who are “well-rounded intellectually, emotionally and spiritually” to support national development efforts.

This monstrous machine was wellfed, not just during the Najib administration, but during the reign of the Mahathir administration as well. And certainly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, too, used it as a political tool.

But that’s in the past. Malaysia has rebirthed. And as the perfect paradox, only Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as the new prime minister, can set things right again.

Anwar would surely support any move to review, if not, bury the BTN, because he ended up the bogeyman in its lectures in later years while he was in the political wilderness.

The BTN has been fraught by controversy for over three decades, with allegations of racism and political propaganda mainstays.

It is inconceivable that good taxpayers’ resources are poured into such an organisation, which many participants have said, blatantly drums up race and hate politics.

BTN’s brickbats come from either side of the political divide, yet the uproar seems to have fallen on deaf ears, presumably shackled by the lack of political will, or worse, tacit political support from the top.

In 1999, PKR leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad claimed that the BTN camp he attended was “racial and political in nature,” with trainers impressing on attendees that Malays required affirmative action. It even criticised PAS as “deviationist.”

Another party leader, Amirudin Shari, said “participants are indoctrinated with propaganda about ketuanan Melayu” or Malay dominance.

Another alumnus alleged she was told “the Malays were the most supreme race in the world, we were God’s chosen few, that the others were insignificant. We were warned about certain elements in our society and abroad, determined to undermine Malay excellence.”

In 2009, then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz ticked off BTN, squashing excuses raised in a Parliament debate that allegations of racist teachings might have come from mere “minor slip-ups” by BTN lecturers.

“Don’t think that people outside do not know about the syllabus based on patriotism for Malays. They know what the syllabus is all about, so who are we to say that it did not happen? You want to lie? You make people laugh.

“I mean, there are people who attended the courses who came out very angry. There were many instances of the use of words like Ketuanan Melayu. It is ridiculous. Do they want to say that Malaysia belongs only to the Malays and the government is only a Malay government? Should only the Malays be given the spirit of patriotism? Other races are not patriotic about their country?”

As Dr Mahathir settles in and combs through the list of government agencies, this is surely one Malaysians would want scrutinised as part of the process of trimming the fat.

In a piece in Malaysiakini, the writer aptly said, “the BTN is an anathema to the need to nurture critical and creative thinking among Malaysians.”

While it began as a youth research unit in 1974, under the Youth Ministry, it was reinvented as the BTN in the PM’s Department under Dr Mahathir.

BTN was run by many supporters of Anwar, himself a regular speaker at these courses, though he would come to regret the things he said then.

It has turned into an ethnic hate machine, as one writer put it, and has metamorphosed into an out of control monster.

Surely, Dr Mahathir wouldn’t have imagined what it has become. Even if he allowed it to evolve into a political tool to indoctrinate civil servants and scholarship holders, especially Malays, it is time for him to sort this out.

BTN may have been set up with the noble intention of “nurturing the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence among Malaysians, and train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts”.

But that’s not what has happened. It has, instead, from all accounts, attempted to instil hate and prejudice among Malaysians, aspiring to produce leaders and future leaders with a jaundiced view.

Malaysians would remember that in September 2010, BTN deputy director Hamim Husin was reported for referring to the Chinese as “si mata sepet” (the slit-eyed) and Indians as “si botol” (the drinkers) during a Puteri Umno closed-door function.

Despite the outcry and media revelations, BTN was allowed to continue as it is, and with huge allocations streamed into these indoctrination camps.

According to Lim Kit Siang, the budgets for BTN multiplied tenfold in the 1990s (RM200mil) compared to the 1980s (RM20mil), and continued to increase. It more than doubled to over RM550mil in the first decade of the 21st century. From 2010 to 2015, the allocation for BTN totalled some RM365mil.

Now that the DAP is part of the government, it should be able to push for the right course of action, given its consistently strong stand against the organisation.

This is the most opportune time to can BTN. Malaysians believe the new federal government won’t be angling to allocate more funds to keep this monster alive.

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

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

The writing is on the wall for BTN – Nation

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5790576186001

 

Syed Saddiq backs abolition of BTN 

Review the position of political appointees individually 

Image result for National Civics Bureau - Biro Tatanegara (BTN) images
National Civics Bureau | HAKAM

This Week in Asia

Where will it end? Najib’s 1MDB chickens come home to roost

 

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak after being questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Photo: AFP
This Week in Asia

Where will it end? Najib’s 1MDB chickens come home to roost
27 May, 2018 – 08:43 am
The
1MDB scandal had haunted the administration of Najib Razak after first
coming to light in 2015. Now there is a new sheriff in town, the public
is on the edge of its seat as it watches the wheels of justice begin to
turn.

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Malaysia’s RM1.09 trillion debt, 80.3% of GDP demystified


Analysts say new government needs to quickly introduce measures to reduce the country’s liabilities

ASSUMING the government repays its debt by RM1mil a day, it would take Malaysia 2,979 years to pay off its debts.

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed on May 21 that the country’s debt level has breached the RM1 trillion mark during his first address to civil servants.

The statement, which was nothing less than alarming, has since raised concerns among Malaysians on the country’s fiscal sustainability. Bursa Malaysia was hammered for four consecutive days, as investors frantically sold off their stakes.

The benchmark FBM KLCI saw the biggest year-to-date decline on May 23, tumbling by 40.78 points or 2.21% to 1,804.25 points.

Total gains made by the index this year were all wiped out in just four days following Dr Mahathir’s announcement.

The ringgit, which has weakened since early April, continues to decline as concerns on public debt loom.

Big impact: The benchmark FBM KLCI saw the biggest year-to-date decline on May 23, tumbling by 40.78 points or 2.21 to 1,804.25 points.
An economist tells StarBizWeek that Dr Mahathir’s public announcement on the high debt figure is “not helping”, as anxiety intensifies among Malaysians and in the market.

For context, Malaysia’s real gross domestic product (GDP), an indicator of the size of economy, was RM1.35 trillion as at end-2017 – close to the said RM1 trillion debt amount.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s revenue this year is projected at RM239.9bil as per Budget 2018.

Several critics, including Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Azwan Harun, claim that Dr Mahathir’s statement on the federal government debt was exaggerated and far-fetched.

AmBank Group chief economist Anthony Dass says that although the current scenario shows some signs of similarities to the 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis, he would not conclude that the current fiscal condition is somewhat similar to the downturn 20 years ago.

At a glance, the “RM1 trillion debt” remark stands in sharp contrast to Bank Negara’s debt tally of RM686.8bil as at end-2017, putting the federal government’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 50.8% – lower than the 55% self-imposed debt limit.

Dr Mahathir refutes this, saying that the national debt-to-GDP ratio has shot up to 65.4%. A day after his announcement, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng put the ratio at 80.3% of GDP, or about RM1.09 trillion in debt as at end-2017.

Why is there such an obvious difference in the debt amount now that a new government is in place?

Here is where “creative accounting” comes into play.

The lower official debt figures released under the previous Barisan Nasional government had excluded the contingent liabilities and several other major “hidden” debts from the direct liabilities, which amounted to RM686.8bil as at end-2017.

Contingent liabilities, which were released separately prior to this, basically refer to government-guaranteed debt and do not appear on the country’s balance sheet. Examples of contingent liabilities are the loans under the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN) and certain debt of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

As at end-2017, Malaysia’s contingent liabilities stood at RM238bil.

Funding for several government mega-projects such as the mass rapid transit (MRT) projects was also categorised as contingent liabilities. The MRT lines were funded by DanaInfra Nasional Bhd, the government’s special funding vehicle for infrastructure projects.

DanaInfra raises money from the market through sukuk, which are, in turn, guaranteed by the government. The guaranteed amount is classified as a contingent liability.

In the event of less-than-expected revenue collection from the MRT lines moving forward, the government will have to intervene to repay the sukuk holders.

The current ruling government believes that RM199.1bil out of the RM238bil contingent liabilities deserves attention to ensure proper debt repayment.

The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil.

High figure: The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil. — Reuters
High figure: The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil. — Reuters 

On the remaining government guarantees, the Finance Ministry says they have been provided by “entities which are able to service their debts such as Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd and MIDF”.

Apart from contingent liabilities, there are several major “hidden” debts, which do not fall under both direct liabilities and contingent liabilities.

An economist with a leading investment bank in Malaysia calls the debts “off-off-balance sheet” government debt.

These are the future commitments of the federal government to make lease payments for public-private partnership projects such as schools, roads and hospitals.

Examples of such debt would include the debt of Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd, a company owned by the Finance Ministry. Pembinaan PFI was established in 2006 under the previous Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration to source financing to undertake government construction projects.

According to its latest available financial statement for 2014, Pembinaan PFI held a total debt of RM28.75bil.

Interestingly, at end-2012, the company’s debt was the third highest among all government-owned entities, just behind Petronas (RM152bil) and Khazanah Nasional (RM69bil).

With no independently generated revenue, the interest payments on Pembinaan PFI’s debts would eventually come from the federal government’s coffers.

The Finance Ministry puts the debt under this third category at RM201.4bil.

All together, Malaysia’s debt and liabilities are said to amount to a total of RM1.09 trillion.

Actually, for those in the loop, the different debt categories and total liabilities are not something new.

Lawmakers from Pakatan Harapan, particularly current Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, have alerted the authorities about the debt figures over that past few years.

Ong is also currently the special officer to the Finance Minister. The layman might ask, what was the former government’s relevance of classifying these debts into separate off-balance sheet items?

The motive is to make sure the national balance sheet looks healthy and lean.

Economists’ take

Many have questioned the new government’s move to lump contingent liabilities and debt obligations with the direct liabilities. It should be noted that as per the standard procedure of credit rating agencies, only the direct liabilities are taken into the calculation of the debt-to-GDP ratio.

In a StarBiz report this year, Moody’s Investors Service sovereign risk group assistant vice-president Anushka Shah said that by carving out certain expenditures off its budget, the government would be able to optimise its expenditure profile and minimise the associated impacts from its spending.

However, she pointed out that Malaysia’s federal government debt burden remains elevated at 51%, relatively higher than the median of other A-rated sovereign states at 41%.

On the country’s contingent liabilities, Anushka described them as “low-risk” at the current level, and added that the government has been prudent and careful in managing the guaranteed debts.

“We find that the government has adopted rigorous selection criteria when it grants the guarantees to the respective entities.

“The companies which have received guarantees from the government are relatively healthy and have strong balance sheet positions,” she said.

Ever since Dr Mahathir shocked the market with the “RM1 trillion debt” remark, the focus among Malaysians has largely centred on the nominal value of the debt.

A greater emphasis should instead be given on “debt sustainability”, which basically refers to the growth of debt against the growth of the economy.

Economists who spoke to StarBizWeek have mixed opinions on the level of seriousness of Malaysia’s public debt problem.

Suhaimi: Malaysia’s debt has risen faster than economic growth.
Suhaimi: Malaysia’s debt has risen faster

than economic growth.

According to Maybank group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias, Malaysia’s debt has risen faster than economic growth over the last 10 years.
“In the past decade, officially published government debt and government-guaranteed debt have risen by 10% and 14.5% per annum, respectively, faster than the nominal GDP growth of 7% per annum, which raises valid sustainability risk.“On the government’s debt service costs relative to the operating expenditure, the ratio was 12.7% as at end-2017 and based on Budget 2018 is projected to rise to 13.2%. It has been rising steadily from 9.5% in 2012.

“There is a 15% cap on this under the administrative fiscal rule, while the 11th Malaysia Plan target is to lower the ratio to 9.8% in 2020. The government is looking at the debt issue from this sustainability perspective in our opinion,” he says.

 

Lee: Malaysia’s rising public debt level warrants close monitoring.
Lee: Malaysia’s rising public debt level

warrants close monitoring.

Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC) executive director Lee Heng Guie says that various indicators of debt burden suggest that Malaysia’s rising public debt level warrants close monitoring to contain the long-term risks of fiscal and debt sustainability.

“High levels of government debt over a sustained period will have economic and financial ramifications over the longer term. Rising public debt could crowd out private capital formation and, therefore, productivity growth.

“This occurs through the competition for domestic liquidity, higher interest rates, a shifting of resources away from the private sector or investment in low-impact projects. This situation is made worse if the government wastes borrowed money on unnecessary projects,” he tells StarBizWeek.

In contrast to Suhaimi and Lee, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain points out that Malaysia’s debt sustainability scenario is yet to be a cause for concern.

 

Manokaran: Debt sustainability scenario is yet to be a cause for concern.
Manokaran: Debt sustainability scenario is

yet to be a cause for concern.

This is because debt repayments are made on an annual basis as opposed to a colossal one-off payment of RM1 trillion.

“Malaysia’s economic growth of above 5% is sufficient to cover government debt. As long as the economy is growing while the government is able to service the debt charges, it is not really that alarming.

“Even in the United States, the government debt-to-GDP level exceeds 100% at US$21 trillion against the real GDP of US$18.57 trillion,” he says.

Manokaran adds that while total government debt has risen over the years, Malaysia’s annual debt growth rate has been growing slower in recent years.

Deleveraging Malaysia

The government must now move fast to introduce measures to reduce and manage the country’s debt levels. This is highly crucial in assuring creditors and investors that the country’s fiscal health remains uncompromised.

Given the fact that the world is currently at the tail-end of the 10-year economic cycle, it is timely for the government to focus on its ability to fulfil its debt obligations.

In the event of an economic turmoil, a heavily-indebted country would be adversely affected.

Lim has emphasised the federal government’s commitment to honour all of the country’s debts.

“This new government puts the interest of the people first, and hence, it is necessary to bite the bullet now, work hard to solve our problems, rather than let it explode in our faces at a later date,” he said in a statement earlier.

Economists believe that the government must strictly embark on reforming the national expenditure in carrying out debt consolidation.

This includes cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, plugging leakages in the federal government’s finances and containing public-sector wage bills.

Lee has recommended an overhaul the current pension system, considering the unsustainable current trend.

“On revenue reform, the design of tax policy should be fair and equitable in order to be sustainable.

“The push for a wide and investment-friendly reform to boost potential growth should be expedited, as strong investment and economic growth has a huge effect on enhancing revenue growth and reducing public debt.

“On budget planning and development, an oversight body needs to be set up to ensure better fiscal rules, budgetary processes and closer fiscal monitoring to ensure fiscal discipline,” says Lee.

Manokaran says the new government should consider expenditure cuts through the privatisation and reformation of the numerous government-linked corporations, as well as the reduction in size and budget allocation of the Prime Minister’s Office.

On the national mega-infrastructure projects, Manokaran and Suhaimi say that the renegotiation and review of such projects will be vital in managing future debt growth.

Time will tell whether the government can live up to its promise of reducing the public debt dilemma. Pakatan must now balance its “populist” electoral promises and stellar fiscal management policies.

As for now, the government deserves to be complimented for calling a spade a spade, acknowledging the problem at hand.

By ganeshwaran kana The Star

Related stories:

Robert Quok, Richest Malaysian Back Home


All ears: Bai Tian listening to Kuok during their meeting

 

PETALING JAYA: The return of billionaire Robert Kuok to Malaysia sends an important message that the Government is getting advice from highly-respected experts, a move that could instil confidence and optimism among the business community and the public, say economists.

Prof Dr Yeah Kim Leng said it was reassuring that the Government is listening to the views of a tycoon who has a thorough understanding of the history, as well as the economic and business landscapes of Malaysia and the region.

“We now know that whatever new policies or changes introduced would have been passed through or reviewed by Kuok and the panel of experts.

“We are in safe hands. We are able to secure the best advice. It is comforting and reassuring,” the Sunway University Business School economics professor said.

Kuok, 94, was named as a member of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help shape policies and programmes to achieve Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day promises.

Headed by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, the CEP also includes former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican and renowned economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Kuok, who resides in Hong Kong, returned to Malaysia to attend his first CEP meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters later, he urged Malaysians to trust the council.

Yesterday, a video of Kuok meeting Dr Mahathir was uploaded on Kelab Che Det’s Facebook page.

He was seen saluting Dr Mahathir, saying: “I salute you. You saved the country.”

Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said Kuok and the other eminent persons conveyed a message that the Government was bent on making Malaysia better, more competitive and credible.

“Kuok is a prominent and respected entrepreneur. We can tap into his vast experiences in the corporate world. This will benefit Malaysia,” he said.

Lee expected Kuok to give his fair advice to the Government on how to ensure foreign investors would pour in to place Malaysia in the top of the list for investments.

Meanwhile, on the Government’s decision to review projects approved by the previous government – of which a substantial number of projects involved Chinese private and government-linked entities – Dr Yeah said Kuok could serve as the bridge between both countries.

“Some of the mega projects will likely see a need for a third party to intervene. Kuok will be an excellent intermediary.

“Investors will be more comforted if we have a intermediary that is able to facilitate discussion or smoothen out frictions if there is any,” he said, adding that this was to ensure the ties remained strong and not derailed should there be any hard decisions that needed to be taken.

Separately, China’s ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian met with Kuok yesterday.

In an official statement, Bai spoke highly of the 94-year-old billionaire’s contributions to the development of Malaysia and the progress of China-Malaysia relations.

“He expects that Kuok would continue to contribute to the future development of China-Malaysia cooperation,” the statement said.

During the meeting, both of them agreed that friendly cooperation between China and Malaysia is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people.

“They believe that, as an important country along the 21st century maritime silk road under the Belt and Road Initiative, Malaysia could further benefit from mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation with China.

“They recall the sound development of bilateral relations during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s last service as Prime Minister, and are both confident that during the term of the new government, China-Malaysia relations will achieve greater progress,” it added. – The Star

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Robert Kuok to arrive in Malaysia next week

Robert Kuok to arrive in Malaysia next week

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