Sandra Rajoo brings 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.”

Election manifesto: one Indian, one Ringgit?

Are Malaysian Indians nothing more than a “fixed deposit” to the federal government? No less than PM Najib himself attributed this fiscal trait to the Indians. In the recent 66th MIC AGM, he claims that his “fixed deposit” would be voting for BN now that he has raised the “interest rates”.

The term is rather ironic, considering the many social and economic problems faced by this community. They are the “new underclass with relatively high levels of hardcore poverty” and have “less than 1.6% of the country’s wealth”, according to Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Added to that is the dreadful reality that many are still without citizenship, more than fifty years after independence. The protest that took place outside the National Registration Department (NRD) on 12 December to highlight the plight of “stateless” Indians is a reflection of the NRD not upholding its duty and an indication of the tragedy that has befallen the Indians in Malaysia.

Which brings up the question – how can Indian ‘non-citizens’ become BN ‘fixed deposits’? Being reduced to a mere monetary item can’t be good for the morale. When politicians reduce your value as a person to nothing more than a guarantee for winning elections, they are implying your existence is inconsequential and not worth validating.

Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.

– Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man

What’s in a name?

Stateless Indians are not the only ones who have been short-changed by the NRD. A number of Christian Sabahans were ‘converted’ into Islam in their MyKad by the very fact that they have a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in their names. These two terms are not indicative of the Muslim religion in Sabah and Sarawak. Getting the NRD to rectify the mistake is a monumental task, much like trying to move Mount Kinabalu. NRD wants the affected people to change their religious status at the Syariah High Court, and this is almost impossible to do. In the first place these people are not Muslims. Also, the courts require the presence of NRD and Islamic authorities at the hearings and getting these officials to turn up is next to impossible.

Why is the NRD not able to solve the matter? Surely this is not rocket science? If the mistake is theirs, it is only logical that it should rectify it. Why pass the buck, and give people the run-around? Either the department lacks competent officers or it is awash with apathy.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet had to give NRD the green light to rectify the mistakes it had made. It is laughable and absurd that NRD has to wait for directives from the top in order to do the right thing. If every government department requires the PM’s involvement before it acts, the country will be at a standstill. The PM has better things to do, surely.

The real story behind all those A’s

Malaysians students score straight A’s by the thousands in our national exams every year. This would be a reassuring development if not for the fact that these same Malaysian students performed dismally in the global 2011 Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS).

Our students’ scores in TIMMS have been dropping consistently over the years. From 20th position in 2007 for Math, we have now sunk to a much lower 26th position. Science fared even worse, dropping from 21st place in 2007 to a miserable 32nd currently. Our country was “the worse performer among all countries between 1999 to 2011” with students achieving low percentage points in basic Math and Science questions. Obviously, Malaysia is nowhere near other Asian countries like Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taipei and Japan which have topped the list. Our neighbour, Singapore achieved the largest percentage (40%) of students reaching the Advance International Benchmark for Science.

Pakatan Rakyat – rightly or wrongly – has blamed the BN federal government, especially the ministers of education – past and present – for this sad state of affairs. Nonetheless there’s no denying the reality of what we are facing, and that is, our education system is in a mess.

It seems that everyone in the country is aware of and worried about our deteriorating education standards, except the people tasked with the job of arresting the decline. If Malaysia is to become a high income nation soon, shouldn’t we be successfully educating our children to meet its challenges?

Waste not, want not

The temporary operating license (TOL) issued to Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) comes with a vital condition, i.e. all residual waste must be shipped out of the country. The Cabinet has issued a statement reiterating this important proviso. However, Lynas’ executive chairman, Nicholas Curtis, is under the impression that this is not necessary. He argues that, legally, Lynas is not required to do so, and has plans to develop a permanent disposal facility (PDF) in the country.

Uncertainty in Lynas’ fate has caused its share price to plunge by more than 60 %, and trading has been halted four times in one month. Curtis has certainly been feeling the heat of the rare earths back-and-forth muddle ever since LAMP came into existence and got mired in controversy. Manoeuvring his way out of this ‘bog’ will be a colossal task and Curtis must now be cursing the day he agreed to take on the job.


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!

[Pic credit:]

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...