Monday, November 22, 2010

Friends of Pakatan Rakyat in London

Last weekend, Friends of Pakatan Rakyat in London met at a forum to discuss on the participation of youth in Malaysian politics. Nik Nazmi (ADUN for Seri Setia), Ginie Lim (PKR) and I shared our experiences to the young Malaysians in London. Here are some photographs taken that evening:

  Raja Petra Kamarudin and Haris Ibrahim were also present

Catching up with Raja Petra Kamarudin

Also met Mariam Mokhtar

 With Marina Lee

I was also pleasantly surprised to meet a classmate of mine from SMK Subang Utama at the forum, now based in London. It has been 14 years since I last met him! We want to encourage more young Malaysians (based locally or abroad) to engage in politics and participate in nation building. Hopefully when that happens, we can chart a better future for our children and see a decline in migration.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Press Statement from Menteri Besar

NOV 18, 2010

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor Government has put on hold the proposed development of 19 acres in Taman Subang Ria until a full valuation of the property is completed and presented to Subang Jaya residents.

The decision was made this morning at the state economic action meeting chaired by Menteri Besar Tan Sri Dato Seri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim following briefings by Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) president Dato' Adnan Md. Ikhsan and state town and country planning department director, Dato' Jaafar Mohd. Atan. 

The State government is aware that 19 acres of development - which is  part of the 72 acres that is owned by Sime Darby-  have been placed in the gazetted Subang Jaya local plan but assured there will be no development approved until the valuation report is made known to the Subang Jaya residents. 

The Menteri Besar also directed Dato’ Adnan to give briefings to MPSJ councilors as soon as possible to ensure that the residents have access to the correct information with regards to the issue.

The state government ensures its commitment towards ensuring proper procedures are adhered to, most importantly that all information must be given to residents concerned. This is in line with our belief in the right to information and freedom of information.

The residents must be duly informed, given full planning decisions, as they are ultimately the beneficiaries of the state's plans. We hope our planning and development decisions will be made on a multi-stakeholder basis, and continue to encourage such dialogue and discussion between the people and the government.

In April this year, the Menteri Besar gave his verbal commitment during his meeting with Subang Jaya residents in April 2010 that any decision on Taman Subang Ria would be put on hold until the valuation report was completed. At the same dialogue, acquisition of the area on one for one basis was proposed by the residents, an option which the state government said would be explored. 


Press release by Menteri Besar on Taman Subang Ria

18 NOVEMBER 2010

SHAH ALAM: Kerajaan Selangor tidak akan meneruskan cadangan pembangunan 19 hektar tanah di Taman Ria Subang sehingga penilaian hartanah siap dan dibentang kepada penduduk Subang Jaya.

Keputusan tersebut telah dibuat pagi tadi dalam Mesyuarat Tindakan Ekonomi Negeri Selangor (MTES) yang dipengerusi oleh Menteri Besar Tan Sri Dato Seri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim selepas mendengar taklimat oleh Dato 'Adnan Md Ikhsan, YDP Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya dan Pengarah Jabatan Perancang Bandar dan Desa, Datp Jaafar Mohd Atan.

Walaupun cadangan 19 hektar iaitu sebahagian daripada tanah Taman Subang Ria seluas 72 hektar yang dimiliki oleh Sime Darby - telah dimasukkan dalam  perancangan tempatan MPSJ. Walaubagaimanapun kerajaan negeri memberi jaminan tiada pembangunan akan diluluskan sehingga laporan penilaian dibentangkan kepada warga penduduk Subang Jaya.

Menteri Besar juga telah mengarahkan Dato 'Adnan untuk memberikan taklimat kepada ahli majlis MPSJ secepat mungkin untuk memastikan bahawa penduduk Subang Jaya mempunyai akses kepada maklumat yang betul berkaitan dengan masalah ini.

Kerajaan Negeri Selangor akan memastikan prosedur dipatuhi dan yang paling penting semua maklumat perlu diberikan kepada penduduk yang terlibat kerana ini adalah selaras komitmen terhadap kebebasan maklumat.

Penduduk mesti dimaklumkan,diberikan keputusan perancangan penuh kerana mereka akhirnya akan menjadi penerima manfaat rancangan kerajaan. Kerajaan Negeri berharap keputusan perancangan dan pembangunan akan dibuat berasaskan pelbagai pihak  berkepentingan, dan akan terus membuat serta mendorong dialog dan perbincangan antara penduduk dan kerajaan.

Pada April tahun ini, Dato’ Menteri Besar telah memberi komitmen melalui percakapannya dalam mesyuarat bersama penduduk Subang Jaya bahawa apa juga keputusan berkaitan Taman Subang Ria akan ditangguhkan sehingga laporan penilaian dilengkapkan. Dalam dialog yang sama, Menteri Besar juga telah berjanji untuk mengambilkira cadangan penduduk untuk pengambilan tanah dimana penduduk telah menyatakan kesanggupan mereka untuk membayar RM1 bagi setiap RM1 yang diberikan oleh kerajaan negeri,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taman Subang Ria

Brief chronology of the application by Sime Darby to develop Taman Subang Ria :

April 2009 : State Planning Committee gave approval in principle to Sime to develop 19 acres out of 72.63 acres. Balance of 53.63 acres must be upgraded and surrendered back to the State Authority as a public recreational park. [Note : this is still subject to a detailed submission of the application to MPSJ]. 

June 2009 : Hearing for the Draft Local Plan in MPSJ. MPSJ accepted the residents' suggestion to gazette the full 72.63 acres of the park as a recreational park.

February 2010 : Objections by resident groups were submitted to MPSJ after Sime has submitted an application to MPSJ to subdivide and convert land use of the park [Note : this is not a detailed application to develop the park]. 

March 2010 : Menteri Besar releases classified information on Taman Subang Ria particularly on how the land title for the park landed in Sime's hand.

April 2010 : Menteri Besar met about 600 residents of Subang Jaya in Holiday Villa for a dialogue session. At the dialogue, Menteri Besar agreed to conduct a valuation report on the costs of acquiring the park and to have it discussed at a second dialogue to be held in June 2010. There was a delay in the presentation of the valuation report. 

May 2010 : MPSJ rejected Sime's application to subdivide and convert land use of the park on the basis that it was inconsistent with the gazetted Local Plan. 

October 2010 : I was informed that Sime has appealed to Lembaga Rayuan (Appeals Board) in May 2010 against MPSJ's decision to reject their application. We immediately arranged for residents to file an intervener at Lembaga Rayuan, Derek Fernandez will be representing the residents for the hearing on 28 December 2010. Some inconsistencies have been found in the gazetted Local Plan and you can read more about it here.

November 2010 : I have been informed that the valuation report has been tabled to the Selangor State Executive Councillors and that the Menteri Besar is ready to meet the residents a second time via a dialogue to be held in December 2010.

My position : The decision by the State Planning Committee in April 2009 is inconsistent with Local Agenda 21 and lacks transparency and accountability to the people and should be nullified. No consultation was done by the Committee prior to this decision. The inconsistencies highlighted in the Local Plan are a cause for concern and I have notified the State Executive Councillors on the discrepancies. The Menteri Besar must investigate the inconsistencies and hold the culprit responsible. Sime Darby on the other hand (whose substantial shareholder is the Federal Government : AmanahRaya is wholly owned by the Federal Government) should listen to the voice of the people and return the park back to the people.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An article by Vivian Kuan

This is an article written by one of my interns Vivian Kuan who is now doing her second year in law. Below is her observation of the civil service after completing her internship at our office. I'm most glad to see young people interested in governance and speaking up on issues pivotal to nation building. We have great hope in our future generation. You can also read her light hearted posting here after the completion of her internship with me. 


The Civil Service: Malaysia’s engine in need of a major overhaul

8 November, 2010
By Vivian Kuan
The four key areas to transform Malaysia’s civil service.

To date, the Malaysian public service has a staff strength of 1.2 million employees, covering 28 schemes of service. Despite the growth in quantity after 53 years, unfortunately the system still struggles with not only technological usage but also in efficiency, quality of service, and mind-setting spirit at work. We stress on improving the civil service because the Malaysian civil service plays a huge role in the growth of the country, domestically and internationally, and we therefore cannot afford these short-comings.

As recently as 9 October 2010, our Prime Minister addressed the civil sector in Malaysia to be more receptive to change. He mentioned in his speech that we should equip our public service with quality human capital and quality of service to meet the demands of our society. He said the following four areas would be the benchmark in order to improve the civil service:
  1. Transparency and accountability.
  2. Competitiveness.
  3. Merit-based, and striving for a culture of excellence.
  4. Knowledge and high awareness.
Transparency and accountability
The Prime Minister mentioned the adoption of best policies and implementation of services.
There has been much promotion of the policy of 1Malaysia and “people first, performance now.” However this is not reflected in practice.
For me, the true meaning of transparency and accountability – one that will benefit Malaysia – is to aim for zero corruption. Remember the RM12.5 billion corruption in the Port Klang Free Zone scandal? The RM12.5 billion could be channelled to fund scholarships or improve the road system, something that would be more beneficial to the growth of Malaysia.

The Prime Minister said we have to listen to stakeholders.
Having to listen is indeed correct, but not to stakeholders – not yet anyway. The government has to listen to the people and find out what would attract the best people for the job. To be competitive in business, we have to make the civil service a competitive field for jobs. When the best brains are recruited, they will drive the civil service forward and increase competitiveness amongst stakeholders.

The sectors responsible for driving the civil service forward are the Federal Public Service, the State Public Services, the Joint Public Services, the education service, the judiciary, the legal service, the police and armed forces.

To increase competitiveness for these jobs, the government should channel funds to increase the pay of civil servants. This would make the jobs more prestigious and attractive, and would appeal to the best brains in Malaysia.

Jayanath Appudurai, who writes extensively on poverty for the Centre for Policy Initiatives, suggests that Malaysia calculates the PLI based on two-thirds of the median income of its households. The median income is a country’s total income divided by half – which is RM2,830 for Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysia’s PLI for 2010 based on two-thirds of the median income should be RM1,886, rather than the government’s PLI average of RM800 per household.

The basic salary of a special assistant to a politician is RM1,500, and for a local councillor, RM750. As stated above, the benchmark of one living in poverty is an income of RM1,886. We cannot expect a degree holder to want to take up a job that pays below the poverty line.

Recently, in light of the 2011 Budget, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said bonus payments to civil servants would depend on the country’s economic situation. And yet the government can afford a RM 65 million facelift of the PM’s official residence, and an additional RM147 million for the construction of the new national palace at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Merit-based, and striving for a culture of excellence
The Prime Minister spoke of an outcome-based performance and delivery.
Yes, we should aim for a high performance culture, but this would only be possible when we achieve a cultured civil service. There should be more non-bumiputeras recruited. The reason is simple. Our country is multi-racial. Hence, the different races have different needs the government should cater to. Let me give you an example. Take the issue of merely fulfilling a basic need of having a crematorium for non-Muslims in a district. If the people up in the board are populated of more than 90% of bumiputeras, more often than not, we cannot expect them to provide for needs that would be almost impossible without proposal and deliberation from the non-bumiputeras. It would then be a challenge to strive for excellence and a high performance culture. We can’t really blame this on the people in the civil service, really. We blame it on the system.

AB Sulaiman wrote in his blog Anak Bangsa Malaysia on 4 February 2010 on the civil service being very “Malay-sian”. He mentioned his experience of working in the civil service, particularly in recruitment exercises: “Each time, my interview committee members and superiors goaded me to select and appoint people of my own type. The reason given was: ‘Malays are not yet ready for the highly competitive private sector employment. They won’t be able to survive out there’.”

There should be a place for all Malaysians in the civil service, so that each race is well represented. Lim Kit Siang, on his blog, stated that as at 31 December 2009, the racial breakdown of the Malaysian civil service comprising 1,247,894 employees is as follows: Malay (78.2%); Other Bumiputras (7.7%); Chinese (5.8%), Indian (4.0%); and Others (4.2%)

This the worst multi-racial composition of the government service, with the lowest Chinese and Indian representation in the public service in Malaysia’s 53-year history. This is clearly seen from the three sets of comparative figures of the racial breakdown of the civil service before the NEP 1971 and as at December 2009 – Malays (60.80% and 78.2%); Chinese (20.2% and 5.8%); Indians (17.4% and 4.0%); and Others (1.6% and 4.2%).

It is clear that the Government is setting the worst example of a 1Malaysia Government.

Yes, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk T. Murugiah told a press conference in Parliament on 13 October 2010 that the number of Chinese employed to date had seen an increase of 9% compared to 2008. With all due respect, an increase of 9% of the 5.8% of the Chinese in the government is quite pathetic.

Knowledge and high awareness
Our Prime Minister mentioned that there is need to implant knowledge into our thinking and reacting.
I beg to differ. I believe the more accurate statement would be that we have to implant thinking into the knowledge we’ve learnt. Often in the Malaysian syllabus of education, students are required to merely memorise facts and formulas to regurgitate out at the exam halls. There is minimal requirement for any form of thinking to be shown.

The education system is extremely important to empower the people with knowledge and high awareness. Not only does the current system not facilitate the need for thought and reaction, it also needs improvement in the area of cultivating civil awareness. For example, the syllabus should include basic general knowledge of the roles of different ministers, about the legislation, executive and judiciary, the difference between a Member of Parliament and an assemblyman. It’s tragic that SPM graduates do not know about basic things like that. These are all basic requirements in cultivating high awareness in our society.

The Prime Minister gave his views on improving the government system. Here are some of my views.

Malaysia has always been talking about improving infrastructure, growth in development, etc. Yes, Putrajaya is indeed a beautiful city. The government has spent billions beautifying that particular area. However, this would not attract the best brains to work there. More often than not, it is the pay that attracts. As mentioned earlier, money should not be allowed to leak into corruptions like the PKFZ scandal. These billions should be used to up the attractiveness of the pay of government servants.

To the dismay of government servants, the bonus to be paid to civil servants totalling RM 3.1 billion had not been included in the 2011 budget, due to financial constraints. Now there is a recent proposal of building another skyscraper with an allocation of RM 5 billion. I personally think that this RM 5 billion could be channelled to improving the government service by increasing the pay of civil servants.

It is evident that there is an increasing growth of infrastructure in our country but you’d be surprised that when it comes to simple necessities like street lamps, water pumps, the town council does not have sufficient funds. There must be something really wrong in our allocation of money.

Back in the day, the civil service used to be a very highly looked up to profession. How did that change over the years? How did the quality drop so immensely? Is it because the people running the system have become so complacent with things that they feel there is no need to maintain the quality, let alone improve it? After all, it’s been 53 years – and 53 years is a very long time.

Wanting to change things from grassroots level will not be as impactful. Given the analogy of the best lawyer in town, being able to lay down brilliant points of arguments and accurate cases in court, but we don’t change the way judges are appointed, justice still will not be served. Change must come from the top. 

The Prime Minister said Malaysia’s Talent Corporation will start its operations in January 2011, marking the start of a concerted effort to woo the return of Malaysian professionals abroad. Charles Polidano once said, “Most reforms in government fail. They do not fail because, once implemented, they yield unsatisfactory outcomes. They fail because they never get past the implementation stage at all. They are blocked outright or put into effect only in tokenistic, half-hearted fashion.”

So, Mr. Prime Minister, the rakyat will hold you to all your speeches. Prove to us that it all isn’t just words someone else had prepared for you to read out, and that this will move past the implementation stage. After all, they always say, actions speak louder than words.

Vivian Kuan is a person that never lets anyone tell her she can’t do something. She channels her time and energy only to what she loves in life. Thus, she chose to read law and is currently in her second year. Other than burying her head in law books, she loves to dance, play the piano and write songs. And she never says no to food. She has a heart for people; hence she finds joy in making a difference in the lives of others. She always believes she can do anything, which sometimes gets her into crazy situations, but that belief gets her through. She’s always wanted to be a part of something bigger in life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Deepavali!

Here's wishing all my Hindu residents and friends a very Happy Deepavali!