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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.”

A dam a dozen

Original pix: Mohamad Shoox | Source:

Sarawak will be dammed, if Chief Minister Taib has his way. 12 mega dams are in the works, in addition to the existing Bakun Dam, which is as big as Singapore.

Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers), a coalition of indigenous people and NGOs, are working to stop the deluge. In Baram, where a dam half the size of Singapore is planned, the indigenous people, naturally, are angry that their “ancestral lands, homes and farms” are threatened. But the state government is apparently unrelenting – it has commenced with surveys for building access roads.

What is even more worrying about Sarawak’s dams is the charge by an Australian project director of three dam projects in East Malaysia that “safety and environmental compliance are not given … much importance”. Recall the construction of Bakun Dam which rendered homeless 9000 families in Sarawak and flooded 700 sq km of rainforest. The contractor, Sinohydro, admitted to cutting corners during the construction process by “adding excessive water to cement”.

‘People first’ takes on a whole new meaning should shoddy construction lead to dams collapsing. How many people will die first, while the rich and connected sit pretty?

Foreigners turn local tour guides

Over in Sabah a ‘dam’ is built to keep local tour guides in, whilst a free rein is given to foreigners to be tour guides. It won’t be long before we see Koreans and Russians guiding tour groups around Sabah. The ministry has begun “to license foreign tour guides”, according to an indignant Eric Majimbun, MP for Sepangar.

Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen says this decision is due to the shortage of foreign language-speaking guides. The local guides are outraged that their “rice bowl” has been encroached upon.

REFSA believes in market forces, but it also believes that, if indeed, there were a shortage, the Tourism Ministry should help develop such skills among locals. Otherwise, tourism is creating jobs for foreigners, not locals!

Culture of debating policies is non-existent

Selangor MB Datuk Khalid is not keen to debate the Talam issue with MCA Chua Tee Yong. The reason? He feels that a country’s leaders should be debating policy matters like “tax, education, health, defence” etc.

Khalid has raised a very pertinent point. Public debates on policies by political leaders are practically non-existent in Malaysia. Politicking is more their cup of tea. Perhaps this is because leaders of calibre are hard to come by? Malaysia wants to achieve developed status but does not seem to know what it entails. Debating policy matters is what leaders in developed countries do. Is that too much to ask?

But, the truth is, Chua Tee Yong is also not that eager to debate the issue – he turned away the MB’s representatives who came to clarify the matter at a specially organised MCA function. He seems to be more interested in gunning for Khalid despite independent auditors KPMG exonerating the Selangor government. MB Khalid, on the other hand, is seeking an apology from Chua for making baseless allegations.

EC’s deceit and subterfuge

NGO MyOverseasVote believes the Election Commission (EC) is not willing to facilitate the process of “overseas postal voting” for the next general election. After 13 months of ‘inaction‘, it is obvious the EC has no intention of making it easy for people overseas to vote. In fact both its chairman and deputy have been singing the same tune – very few residents overseas have registered – in an attempt to deceive the public.

The truth, according to the NGO, is that it is impossible for those who are not government servants or students to register. In fact, an officer at the Malaysian Embassy in Singapore says that “only civil servants, full time students and their spouse (sic)” are allowed to vote. The EC’s actions clearly contradict the “recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform” which have been endorsed by the Dewan Rakyat. EC should step up its game if it wants to show any semblance of credibility.

Suaram’s police report against Ismail Sabri

In an ironical twist, Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob found himself accused of “pre-empting and usurping the powers of the Attorney-General” when he said that Suaram (Sura Rakyat Malaysia) would be indicted. Suaram lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said the minister’s statement amounted to “criminal defamation” and a report had been lodged against him.

Days earlier, Ismail Sabri went all out to get six government agencies to investigate Suaram. These included the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM), Registrar of Societies (ROS), Bank Negara, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commissions (MCMC). What is interesting is that CCM’s investigation papers were returned by the A-G. CCM will obviously have to dig deeper.

The outcome of these convoluted investigations and continuous harassment is anybody’s guess. But Suaram is clearly not going down without a fight. And 138 NGOs, including REFSA, stand in solidarity with Suaram against this misdirection of government apparatus. 56 regional and international NGOs have also come out to “strongly condemn the Malaysian government’s attempts to discredit” Suaram.

Surely there are real and egregious transgressions to investigate. Like dodgy LRT tenders, the perpetrators in government who tampered with the Petaling Jaya master plan and what supposed cow farmers are doing with luxury condominiums in Singapore?


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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(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Gary Brown, source:

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...