Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

The Bill that Gates Jobs across the whole of Malaysia

While the Peaceful Assembly Bill still jangles the nerves of Malaysians – most recently with the Home Minister and the police contradicting each other on whether Christmas carollers need permits to be jolly this season – another Bill is jingling more alarm bells.

Cyber whizzes are crying foul at the proposed Computing Professional Bills (CPB) 2011. Under CPB 2011, only ‘qualified’ computing professionals and service providers can bid for Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) projects. And who decides who is qualified? A new Board of Computing Professionals will be in charge of ‘certification’.

REFSA considers the proposed CPB  2011 fundamentally flawed. Firstly, IT industry advances are largely forged by innovative, self-taught geeks.  The Board would necessarily have to rely on academic and vocational qualifications in its ‘certification’ process. The late Steve Jobs, immortalised as an icon to be emulated in our Prime Minister’s blog post, is famously a college drop-out. Would our new Board ‘certify’ him given his absence of paper credentials? This process would be the death-knell of innovation.

IT practitioners also challenge the ambiguity of the Bill. It’s hazy as to which industry will be affected. The drafters of CPB 2011 admitted that there is no agreed definition of CNII yet. Cyber Security Malaysia, however, states that any activity that “impacts on national economic strength, image, defence, public health and safety and the government’s ability to function” may be listed as sectors under CNII.

As the lawyers at LoyarBurok point out, whether it is AirAsia’s IT provider of its online booking or a self-taught genius who designs a successful multimillion application, they will both be subject to regulations under the Act if their programs are considered as ‘vital to the national economic strength and image’ of the nation. Hold on a minute. That self-taught genius probably would not even get a look in in the first place, because he wouldn’t have the qualifications to be certified!

Political leaders on both sides don’t like it either. MCA says it will raise the unemployment rate while DAP calls it “half-baked”.

MOSTI (the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information) said CPB 2011 is a means to “raise professional standards by developing and maintaining a code of conduct for computing professionals”.

REFSA disagrees and will be publishing our view on this matter. In the meantime, if you feel moved to take action, make yourself heard in the on-line petition against the bill.

Time to enforce some existing laws?

While computing professionals are busy combating unnecessary regulations, citizens elsewhere are desperately seeking enforcement of existing laws. 17 NGOs and activists from Malaysia, Europe and Australia are pressing for the arrest of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and 13 relatives for abuse of power. International environmental groups including Greenpeace and the Bruno Manser Fund accused Taib of “massive graft and plundering of Sarawak’s rich natural resources.”

Opacity blanketed the alleged cover-up. Reporters were taken aback when barred from entering Wisma Bapa Malaysia, where ministers in Taib’s state cabinet held their weekly meeting, prompting suspicion that there is a black-out of Taib-related news.

Who watches the ‘non-watchmen’?

While the long arm of law struggles to reach those sitting atop the political hierarchy, it is tightening its grip on ground level with more street patrols. More policing should mean good news to the rakyat; the only thing is it isn’t always the police who are doing it.

According to the Home Ministry, trained civil defence and RELA members who are among the 40,000-strong patrolling force will have the same powers as the police when on duty in their uniforms. While REFSA commend the voluntary spirit of the “citizen police”, we could not help but wonder – do these RELA officers receive the same stringent training as real policemen? Is it wise to hand so much power to people who do not have the same experience and expertise as trained law enforcers?

And why the need for the rakyat to take the baton? In our Aug 2011 focus paper, REFSA laid out ample evidence that Malaysia has enough policemen. The shortfall arises because 41 percent of them are in management or administration. This means that for every manager/administrator serving, less than two policemen are on active duty!  We need more active police officers, not more officers.

Bad press

It has not been a good week for Malaysia in the international media. Besides the pressure on the Sarawak CM mentioned earlier, UK paper The Guardian asserts that  “Malaysia’s democratic reputation will have been critically wounded” as Opposition Leader Anwar’s sodomy case draws to a close.

Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times ran a story on how Christians in Malaysia are being “used as political pawns to win support among Muslim voters”.

We were also mentioned by Internet giants! Google, Twitter, Yahoo! and eBay have asked the US Congress not to follow Malaysia’s footsteps in censoring the internet on the excuse of curbing online piracy.

Looks like Malaysia’s reputation needs a good scrubbing, again. Are we using the mighty ol’ muscle of political reforms this time, or will we be paying for the image-whitewashing prowess of public relations to make more headlines?


Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ’rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive...

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