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Social media impact can be merciless

Posted: 26 Jul 2013 02:56 PM PDT

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan meeting parents and teachers at Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh on Wednesday.

THE wild world of social media is not discriminating and its impact can be merciless. As users, we have benefited a lot from it in much of everything we do today.

Nuraina Samad, NST

There are the pluses and minuses, but what is clear is that the impact it has on intended or unwitting victims in content that go viral can be devastating.

Take the furore over reports last week of non-Muslim pupils of Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh being made to have their meals in what was initially alleged to be a toilet. (It turned out that it was the school's changing room).

We see the real-time explosion of the story and picture of the pupils in social media and immediate responses that you believe to be doing something good. You know people care for the kids.

The problem is that this kind of thing can get out of hand because the spread is unstoppable and because not everyone is sincere in expressing their concern. Even though clarifications have been made.

When I read about these kids having their meals during recess in a toilet during Ramadan, I was naturally appalled. But I wanted to know more, whether it was true or exaggerated.

The picture had obviously been uploaded by someone from the school or a parent. Still, it showed what it was meant to show.

The responses from people showed utter dismay, anger and shock and directed at, who else, school headmaster Mohd Nasir Mohd Noor. And rightly so especially when that was all they knew -- children eating in the toilet during Ramadan.

It was a story you could not miss. Dozens of your friends on Facebook uploaded the image and so many of your twitter friends re-tweeted the story.

You just could not turn the other way. And you would not want to. It is about school kids and mistreatment during Ramadan, for heaven's sake.

The media descended on the school. So did Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan who wanted to see the situation for himself.

But that was not before the 57-year-old headmaster issued an apology and a clarification in social media that it was not a toilet but a clean changing room that had no toilet cubicles inside but sinks for the children and changing cubicles.

The headmaster said the canteen was closed as it was under repair and that the room had been in use for meals not only by non-Muslim pupils but Muslim pupils as well as the staff and teachers. It had been used as a "sub-canteen" since March.

He also said the school had about 1,300 pupils but the canteen could only accommodate 500 pupils.

You may choose to believe him or not. But you see, it is not true that the children had been having their recess in the toilet. No matter what some people want to believe, it is not a toilet. It is a changing room.

Ask the deputy minister and the media. Kamalanathan understood the situation and was convinced that Nasir had the children's wellbeing at heart although he felt that using the changing room was a "misguided decision".

So the story that originated from social media with some wrong facts got mainstream media treatment to set the record straight. Still, it got the school and the headmaster some unwarranted attention.

In social media, the responses seem endless with some going overboard, bringing in race, religion and naturally, politics.

By then, you would have thought that people would have ignored the initial misleading report. But no, they were still crucifying him and calling for his sacking.

Some people were still dissatisfied with Nasir's explanation saying that using the changing room which is next to a toilet, for the children to have meals was unacceptable.

In my humble opinion, it is acceptable if no other decent space is available and I believe Nasir, the school and the parent-teacher association had good intentions.

Unfortunately, that unwarranted attention has sparked some unpleasantness -- a group of very angry people hurled abuses at Nasir and the school. Also, Nasir reported that he received a death threat. So did the parent who uploaded the picture.

The Seri Pristana story may have provoked some unpleasant responses but it highlighted the fact that the school needed a bigger canteen to better serve the pupils.

Stories such as this will continue to be circulated by netizens and we will continue to have this love-hate relationship with this wild and crazy social media. Devastating effects or not, it is here to stay. And the good thing is that we have learned to live with and revel in it.


MCA gears up for another battle

Posted: 26 Jul 2013 02:51 PM PDT

DATUK Seri Liow Tiong Lai could not contain his emotions when asked about his party's fate following its dismal performance in the May national polls.

Zubaidah Abu Bakar, NST

The deputy MCA chief turned away from the reporters waiting for his comments, but they could see tears well up in his eyes when he turned around minutes later.

Liow had earlier admitted that MCA's losses were a big blow to the 64-year-old party, and that it would be a big challenge to regain the support of the Chinese community.

"I pray the party can overcome the challenge. I believe we can go through the challenge...I really hope we can be united," he said, his voice choking, and then turned his back.

This incident happened two days after the polls, after Liow and Barisan Nasional members of parliament had a special meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Parliament.

MCA only won seven parliamentary seats out of 37 and 11 state seats out of 90 it contested. They fared worse than in 2008, where it won 15 parliamentary seats out of 40 and 32 state seats out of 90 it contested.

Now Liow is asking party members for a chance to lead MCA and regain the support of the Chinese community, offering himself as MCA's new president at the December party polls.

He is said to have the support of current and past leaders, as well as some party divisions. The most recent on Wednesday came from MCA divisions in Selayang, Kuala Selangor, Subang and Serdang.

"What is important is that party grassroots support and welcome Liow's candidacy. There is now some light at the end of the tunnel for MCA," says a party divisional leader from Ipoh who requested anonymity.

Altough Liow is thus far alone in declaring his intention at the party polls, the contest for MCA's presidency is shaping up to be a multi-cornered one.

"Many people think nobody wants the presidency but in fact, many want to be the MCA president because MCA as a business has assets worth several billions" says Monash University political scientist Prof James Chin, who is also Senior Visiting Research Fellow of Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).

And although MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has said he is not defending his post, party insiders and MCA watchers do not expect him to support the candidacy of his second-in-command Liow.

"I believe Dr Chua may decide to go for another term; he still has the support of some 90 per cent of the voting delegates," says an insider who claims the party president is unhappy with the manner Liow was campaigning for the position.

Liow had said that he decided to contest the president's post after interacting with grassroots members during a nationwide tour intended to get feedback on MCA's transformation.

Grassroots members had attacked the MCA leadership at some of these meetings, and the story goes that a very unhappy Dr Chua blurted out against his deputy after a function in Kuala Lumpur.

"I appointed Liow to head the MCA Transformation Taskforce. His duty is to hold nationwide roadshows and listen to grassroots...and not to make it a platform for leaders to kill each other," he was reported as saying.

The grapevine has it that Dr Chua is still interested to keep his post and is looking for a running mate. Another possibility, should he not defend his post, is a proxy fight via a young candidate without much baggage and enemies within the party nominated to challenge Liow.

Dr Chua is a seasoned politician and strategist. In the 2010 MCA elections, he was the first challenger to win against both incumbent and former party presidents in a three-cornered contest.

Dr Chua had polled 901 votes ahead of former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting who polled 833 votes and then president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat to become MCA's 10th president.

Speaking of running mate, who will Liow's be? Some members say it's a toss between party youth chief Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and central committee member Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.

Others also think Tee Keat might make a comeback since he still enjoys the support of members who look up to him as a leader who is brave to speak out in defence of the community.

Does Liow command support of the 2,500 delegates to the December assembly? It's hard to say, but the guest list at the wedding reception of former deputy president Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy's son in Kuala Lumpur recently has been the talk of the town as a show of Liow's strength.

Some big names in MCA -- Dr Chua and Tee Keat, among them -- were reportedly not invited to the event.

Party elections are months away, but in politics even a single day is considered very long. Expect to see more developments in the days ahead.

Spike in electricity tariff justified?

Posted: 26 Jul 2013 11:04 AM PDT 

Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

In my recent title "Damned Dams & Noxious Nukes: Questioning Malaysia's Energy Policy" (SUARAM 2013, p.2), I had warned that the government would surely raise electricity tariffs after the 13th general election. Right on cue, TNB has just announced that there will be an upward review of the electricity tariff. They are justifying this increase by claiming that domestic consumers have been subsidised long enough. Yet who have been the main beneficiaries of the government subsidies?

Subsidising domestic consumers or private businesses?

The energy industry in Malaysia has become mega business and the government has been subsidizing private businesses handsomely for at
least two decades even as it announces attempts to remove subsidies for domestic consumers.

In the mid-Nineties when the IPPs first came into the energy production scene, the industrial sector was Tenaga's largest consumer with 60 per cent of electricity consumption but it was paying the lowest rates averaging 15.98 sen per kilowatt hour. On the other hand, the domestic and commercial sectors were paying 21.5 sen per unit and 23.3 sen per unit respectively. (NST 17.1.96)

But any privatization exercise can only be called a success if the businessmen who bid for the projects succeed in raising financing from the banks through their own credentials. What is evident in the privatization contracts in the energy industry of Malaysia is that many of the crony capitalists (who are strictly speaking, failed businessmen) rely on the Malaysian workers' pension funds, the EPF, through their links with the government. Thus, the Energy Minister Datuk Seri Samy Vellu justified the EPF as the single biggest source of financing for the Bakun Dam project: "Bakun, you see, they need some government help…They need government help to borrow money. About RM15 billion to generate 2,400MW of electricity, which means Ekran needs to borrow from the EPF." (Business Times 23.2.95)

Well-Connected IPPs

TNB used to be the sole electricity provider in the country but after the blackouts and brownouts in 1992, Independent Power Producers (IPPs) were allowed into the industry. They were politically well-connected but devoid of any electric power engineering or generating experience, and the power purchase agreements they signed with TNB allowed them highly favourable terms with take-or-pay arrangements for power generation, i.e. if there was no uptake, the IPPs were paid a capacity charge to offset this. Furthermore, they could pass their cost increases such as any fuel price increase to TNB. But TNB itself does not enjoy such a cost-pass-through formula to help it recover any increases in costs.

In 1995, a single IPP made RM800 million in profits – about half of what Tenaga made with all its national plants! Furthermore, the IPPs do not have to invest in transmission or distribution - the expensive parts of the business. (Sunday Star 1.9.96)

If we compare the generation costs of TNB and the IPPs we will have an idea of TNB's problems. In 1997, Tenaga was paying between 11.8 sen and 15.5 sen per unit of electricity to the five IPPs while Tenaga's cost of generating electricity was less than 10 sen per unit. (Star

To solve these contradictions, TNB saw the only way out was to raise electricity tariffs and to urge consumers to use more electricity, including drying their clothes with electrical appliances! Either way, Malaysian consumers lost out and the need for energy conservation was put off once again despite the pious declarations at the Rio conference.

Apart from the dice being loaded in favour of the IPPs, the latter also built power stations at sites of their own choice, not where they were needed. Thus, YTL built a station at Paka, Terengganu (where the gas supply comes in) although electric power was desperately needed in
the north and central regions.

The admission of the IPPs into the energy industry and subsequent flip-flopping policies reflect the total lack of planning and well-thought out energy policy.

The Costs of Excess Capacity

Tenaga has been keeping a reserve margin in excess of 30 per cent over the nation's total demand. In fact, this reserve margin was boosted to 42 per cent after the commissioning of two new power plants in 2003. With rising operational costs, including that of excess capacity
maintenance, Tenaga was forced to cut its reserve margin to just below 25 per cent. This move was estimated to save the corporation RM1
billion in maintenance cost a year:

"Tenaga has to bear the cost of managing excess capacity on its own. It pays independent power producers about RM500,000 for every megawatt a year and normally draws less than four-fifths of that power…Imagine how much Tenaga spends to manage about 1,500MW of excess capacity from the IPPs!" (NST 30.8.2003)

There is thus no justification for the Bakun dam which harnesses 2400 MW electricity when the demand for energy in the whole of Sarawak
state was only around 400 MW in 1997.  The original intention was for the electricity produced to be transmitted 665 km to the West coast of
Sarawak and a further 670 km to Peninsula Malaysia through high-voltage undersea cables which have never been tested through this distance anywhere in the world!

The current total energy demand in the whole of Sarawak is only 1000MW so the government has been trying to attract the biggest energy
guzzlers such as aluminium smelters which happen to be the most toxic as well. These environmentally polluting industries are then touted as
part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). In fact, hydro-electric power dams and toxic aluminium smelters are all industries rejected by developed countries. None of these countries, especially Australia, wants to have toxic industries in their own
backyard. Lynas is but the most recent example.

But the Sarawak State Government is willing to have these mega projects for rather dubious purposes. The desperate chase for investments to take up the excess Bakun energy AFTER the dam has been built shows a total lack of economic feasibility studies which should have been done long before the dam was built. Is it surprising therefore that many SCORE contracts have been given to companies owned by members of Chief Minister Taib's family?

As long as the full eight turbine capacity of the Bakun dam is not being fully utilized, it will not be economical as the same amount of water is required to run one or all the turbines. It is comical to see the same vacillating suggestion being made every time the government is faced with this conundrum, namely, to resurrect the submarine cables to transmit the surplus power to the peninsula! The recent blackout throughout Sarawak has been attributed to a glitch at the Bakun dam which triggered the state-wide blackout. Has the cost of the blackout been worked out yet?

The Bakun dam project cost has ballooned to well over RM8 billion. At the end of the day, the project will be a yoke around Malaysian consumers' necks and we will have to pay high tariffs to cover the losses incurred by the developer and/or TNB.

More Mega Dams for us to subsidise
But the monstrous Bakun dam is not all that has been dreamed up by the Sarawak state government. The 944 MW Murum dam is soon to be
impounded. Like Bakun, this latter dam project is in violation of international standards on indigenous rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), of which Malaysia is a signatory. As with the Bakun dam, none of the studies
related to the projects have been transparent. The affected Penan and Kenyah have stated that they have never been asked for their consent,
as demanded by the UNDRIP. The project developer, Sarawak's state-owned electricity generating company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) has not provided indigenous communities with an opportunity to grant or withhold their "free, prior and informed consent" for the project as required by UNDRIP. Even in cases where there was agreement, the resettlement plan was not made known to the indigenous peoples PRIOR to the start of the construction, and they were not INFORMED by access to information about the project's impacts.

The social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) for the Murum project is seriously flawed.  International standards—including the
World Bank IFC Performance Standards—universally require that the SEIA must be completed during the design phase, before the government approves the project and before construction begins. This was not the case with the Murum Dam Project. The SEIA process only began after construction on the project was already underway.

When the 944MW Murum Dam costing RM3.5 billion comes on stream, the total installed capacity of the two dams will be 3,344MW. The combined cost of the two dams is RM10.8 billion. There are also plans to build more dams - 1,400MW in Balleh, 1,000MW in Baram, 150MW in Limbang and 300MW in Metjawah, among others.

Sarawak's existing capacity to generate electricity (viz. 1,300MW) without the Bakun dam already exceeds the peak demand of 1,100MW.
Electricity generated cannot be stored. Unused power will be wasted. The government hopes that energy guzzling industries such as aluminium smelters will come and take up this surplus of energy…

In such a state of affairs, who is subsidising whom? Don't even mention building noxious nukes!

Chinese better off after Merdeka

Posted: 26 Jul 2013 10:54 AM PDT

The Constitution does not preclude the Chinese from being prime minister but it must be with the support of the majority of the people. DAP, by undermining MCA is what causes the Chinese representation in the government to be weak.  Without DAP, MCA is likely to garner more seats in Parliament and in the government.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, NST

WIN-WIN DEAL: Accusations that the Chinese are sidelined politically ignore the fact that it is power sharing that has made this country prosper.

AS more young Chinese grow up without the experience of British rule, they are not able to appreciate their gains upon independence.

They were, therefore, easily influenced by DAP's argument that the Chinese had gained nothing from independence.

They did not see any benefit from the role of the coalition of Chinese, Malays and others upon independence. The believe in the merit of meritocracy, in the ablest and the most qualified taking all.

But under the British, the Chinese were not allowed to go beyond becoming petty traders and shopkeepers in towns and rural areas.

All the big businesses were monopolised by British firms. Companies, such as Mansfield, Sime Darby, Scott and English, London Tin, Straits Steamship Co, giant plantation companies, importers, exporters and trading houses were all British. As for government procurement, all had to be through the crown agents.

Banks, especially those carrying government accounts were all British. Only OCBC and Ban Hin Lee Bank (a small bank) were Chinese owned. They did not do much business with the government.

Upon independence, however, no limits were placed on Chinese business expansion. True, some of the European firms and businesses were acquired by the government, but the rest were either acquired by the Chinese or new Chinese companies replaced the British firms in all areas of business. Chinese companies grew by leaps and bounds.

Agencies and dealerships of imported goods accrued to Chinese firms largely. Banking licences were given to the Chinese. Most government contracts for constructions and services also went to Chinese firms.

Construction and development of housing estates and business premises were dominated by Chinese companies. Independence has clearly benefited the Chinese much.

Towns and cities grew because of the dynamism of the Chinese. Even when government contracts went to Bumiputeras under the New Economic Policy, sub-contracts and supplies went to Chinese enterprises.

So successful were the Chinese under the Barisan Nasional "kongsi" government that they can now venture abroad, buying foreign companies, setting up businesses and undertaking contracts all over the world, especially after Malaysia became better known internationally.

Chinese Malaysians became millionaires and billionaires after making their first million in Malaysia.

The Chinese are not well-represented in the government administration. This is simply because the Chinese see limited opportunities as salaried workers. Even when they join government service, they tend to leave early to go into business. There is a distinct dislike for the uniformed services.

The average income of the Chinese after Merdeka is far higher than the average national income. The poverty rate is also lower than the national rate.

The Chinese have their own colleges and universities. Many of the private educational institutions at all levels are Chinese-owned and this includes private universities. Most of the students in these private institutions are Chinese.

To say that the Chinese have gained nothing from independence and the "kongsi" government in which MCA is the second most senior partner is to deny the reality in Malaysia. We are not practising meritocracy simply because it will create great disparities between the rich and the poor as well as between the different races.

DAP ignores all these and keeps on painting MCA as the lackeys of the Malays. This is racist in the extreme. In the cabinet, MCA leaders sit on the right side of the prime minister. The prime minister is a Malay simply because the Malay party, Umno, is the biggest party in the coalition.

The Constitution does not preclude the Chinese from being prime minister but it must be with the support of the majority of the people. DAP, by undermining MCA is what causes the Chinese representation in the government to be weak.  Without DAP, MCA is likely to garner more seats in Parliament and in the government.

Whatever, the "kongsi" government has benefited Malaysia greatly. It has brought peace and stability without which economic growth and development would not be possible. It is unthinkable for any race, Chinese or Malay, to take everything for themselves, to dominate the economy as well as the politics of Malaysia.

But, nevertheless, DAP believes and strives to make a Singapore out of Malaysia where the Chinese wield political as well as economic power.

Battered, accused of being lackeys of Umno, MCA has gradually lost the support of the Chinese. It is now but a shadow of its former self. And with its weakening, the idea of sharing with the Malays political and economic power has become insupportable.

For more than half a century of independence, the Chinese have shared wealth and power with the Malays. The idea of a Singapore-like Malaysia seems tempting and Penang has shown the way.  

The dilemma for the Chinese is whether to make a grab for political power while dominating economic power or to adhere to the principle of sharing which has made this country what it is today. That is the Chinese dilemma.


The Chinese dilemma

Posted: 26 Jul 2013 10:51 AM PDT

Realising the political advantage of cooperating with each other, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Sir Cheng-Lock Tan and senior leaders of MCA and Umno decided to formalise their cooperation by setting up the Alliance, a coalition of MCA and Umno. 

Despite the fact that the Barisan Nasional supported Chinese education and the use of the Chinese language, the DAP convinced many Chinese that the Chinese, their culture and language are not given proper treatment by the Barisan Nasional coalition. 

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, NST

'KONGSI' CONCEPT: Each side has to sacrifice something so that the other can gain something

IN response to the emergence of a Malay political party,  Umno and its success in rejecting the British inspired Malayan Union, the Chinese community of the 1940s saw the need for a political party of their own to present their views to the British government.

Thus was the MCA conceived and born, led by Malacca's Sir Cheng-Lock Tan. Although it was intended to counter the influence of Umno and protect the interests of the Chinese community, events changed the strategy and role of the MCA.

In 1952 the Kuala Lumpur Umno leaders and the Kuala Lumpur MCA branch leaders decided that in the Kuala Lumpur municipal elections, they should not contest against each other, but instead should support each other's candidates in their respective constituencies.

The results startled them as they defeated almost all the non-racial parties. Realising the political advantage of cooperating with each other the Tunku (Abdul Rahman) and Sir Cheng-Lock Tan, and senior leaders of the MCA and Umno decided to formalise their cooperation by setting up the Alliance, a coalition of MCA and Umno.

The basis of this coalition was the idea of supporting each other and sharing the power gained. Buoyed by the success of the Alliance party in the 1955 elections, in which the MIC had joined, the Tunku looked more kindly at the proposal of Sir Cheng-Lock that citizenship should be based on jus soli (citizenship by being born in the country) and not jus saguinis (citizenship based on the Malaysian citizenship of the father or mother, i.e. citizenship based on blood relation).

The Tunku did not quite agree but he nevertheless decided to give one million citizenships to unqualified Chinese and Indians.

With that the confrontation between the Chinese and the Malays changed into positive cooperation.

It was a classic kongsi that was set up. The essence is an undertaking to share. Sharing involves a give and take arrangement, in which each side has to sacrifice something so that the other can gain something.

As the Malays made up the majority of the citizens they naturally led the Alliance. But the Chinese and Indians were not without adequate power. In any case Malay political power would be mitigated by Chinese and Indians' voting and economic power.

The Tunku saw immediate benefit from the "kongsi" as he believed Malays only wanted to be government employees and the Chinese wanted to be in business. There would be no conflict or tussle between them.

The Indians would fill up the professional posts. He did not foresee the days when government could not create enough jobs for the greatly increased number of Malays.

The kongsi Alliance worked well. But in 1963 Singapore joined Malaysia.

Immediately the PAP tried to gain Chinese support by condemning the Alliance kongsi for being disadvantageous to the Chinese. Malaysians, said the PAP, were not equal. There should be a Malaysian Malaysia where all the benefits should be based on merit alone, with the best taking everything, irrespective of race.

Without saying so in so many words the PAP was inferring that the Malays did not deserve their positions. The best people should rule the country. In the eyes of the PAP, Singapore was ruled by the best qualified people. That they happen to be almost all Chinese is incidental.

In the 1964 elections the MCA and Malaysian Chinese generally valued their cooperation with the Malays. They rejected the PAP and its chauvinistic appeal, giving it only one seat.

The Tunku realised what the PAP was up to and decided that Singapore should not be a part of Malaysia. But the PAP was not done. The remnant of the party in Malaysia set up the DAP to carry on the Malaysian Malaysia meritocratic formula for undermining Chinese support for the MCA.

Harping continuously on the so-called Malay privileges and the unfairness to the Chinese, the DAP slowly eroded the idea of kongsi in the multi-racial coalition of the Barisan Nasional.

Despite the fact that the Barisan Nasional supported Chinese education and the use of the Chinese language, the DAP convinced many Chinese that the Chinese, their culture and language are not given proper treatment by the Barisan Nasional coalition.

The MCA was attacked for not doing enough for the Chinese.


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