In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.
Sandra Rajoo 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.”
Silencing the voice of Suara Rakyat
Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) has been at the forefront of initiatives that led the French authorities to open an investigation into the multi-billion ringgit Scorpene submarine deal which involved hundreds of millions of ringgit of fishy payments to Malaysian politicians.
Now, it is at the forefront of the federal government’s fury. The government is using federal agencies to whack Suaram left, right and centre. Among many things, Suaram is accused of breaching the Companies Act and receiving foreign funds.
Suaram has been filing audited accounts every year, so what is CCM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) investigating? If there were discrepancies, shouldn’t CCM have discovered them much earlier? It appears CCM is far more guilty of gross inefficiency than Suaram.
There is nothing unusual in NGOs receiving foreign funds. In fact the Malaysian government itself provided financial support to anti-apartheid (anti-government at the time) movements in South Africa and pro-Palestine causes, according to the Centre for Independent Journalism. Thus, it is illogical for the government to paint Suaram in a bad light just because it received foreign funds.
It is heartening to note that 130 NGOs, which include Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Tenaganita and Sisters in Islam, have since rallied around Suaram, pledging their support.
Perpetrators will try to wheedle their way out of a wrongdoing and turn the tables on whistle-blowers by twisting the facts. Here’s a suggestion – the federal government should inject more funds into Suaram seeing that the group is helping the country stamp out fraud and bribery by weeding out corrupt officials. An award to show appreciation would be good too.
Blueprint on education has very grey areas
The much awaited education review blueprint was made public on Sept 11 by the PM. Eleven shifts to transform the education system over 13 years have been identified.
The usual suspects have heaped bucketfuls of praise on the document in an immediate response. MCA President Dr Chua Soi Lek gushed that the blueprint will produce “high quality and skilled human capital”, former deputy Education director-general Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim said “the shifts had hit the nail on the head” and mainstream media The Star proclaimed ‘A silver lining is seen, now for the bright future’.
On the other hand, providing an intellectual perspective to the blueprint are people like Datin Noor Azimah, Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman, who gave it the thumbs down, saying it was just a “rebranding exercise” and nothing very transformative.
Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president, Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam was also not very impressed. He professes that using literature to teach English in schools is “not new” and has not been very effective because of a lack of competent teachers.
Asli-Centre of Public Policy Studies pointed out that there were “major and serious gaps in the report”. The blueprint avoided addressing the provision of an “inclusive educational system” and did not provide specific recommendations to ensure proper implementation.
IDEAS chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan was disappointed by the lack of transparency as four reports from “the World Bank, UNESCO, a panel chaired by former Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Dzulkiflee Abdul Razzaq, and another by the blueprint’s Advisory Panel chaired by Tan Sri Wan Zahid Wan Noordin” were not disclosed, hence throwing the credibility of the blueprint into question.
The public is invited to give feedback over the next three months before the blueprint is finalised in December. Let’s scrutinise this plan more thoroughly before deciding if it’s transformative or just old wine in new bottles.
Lynas’ waste disposal – a handshake deal
Something is not right with the way Lynas was granted the temporary operating licence (TOL) by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB). There was nothing in ‘black and white’ regarding the disposal of waste.
AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz says a written agreement is not mandatory. It accepted Lynas’ word based on two letters of undertaking promising to “remove the residue out of Malaysia”. AELB claims it can initiate legal action if Lynas reneges on this commitment. We wonder what independent lawyers would have to say about this.
EPF support for an ailing FGVH
Felda Global Ventures Holding’s (FGVH) low yields, disappointing profits in the second quarter and low palm oil prices may have put many investors off, but not the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). The Fund has been confidently buying up the plantation’s shares, and has boosted its holdings by nearly 40% since July. EPF now holds a massive 7% of FGVH.
FGVH has been mired in controversy since its listing on Bursa Malaysia. Its business record has never been impressive and its profits come mainly from Felda’s contributions. EPF defended its investment move, claiming the “current market weakness and cyclical nature of plantation stocks” are good enough reasons for it to raise its stake in the stock.
However, given the importance of FGVH’s share price to the huge number of FELDA settlers and voters, and the rapid rate of buying by EPF, it is only reasonable to wonder if our retirement money is being used to prop up this politically-sensitive stock.
A Malaysian on Booker Prize shortlist
On a brighter note, Malaysian Tan Twan Eng is one of six authors shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ tells the story of a former Malaysian supreme court judge who returns to Cameron Highlands after retirement.
Tan’s nomination is certainly something to savour in our run-up to Malaysia Day celebrations this Sunday. Congratulations to this truly globally competitive Malaysian, who made it without pomp and fanfare.
Happy Malaysia Day!
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!