Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year Wish for 2013 - An Independent Judiciary


By: Choo Sing Chye

It is too encumbered for the rakyat to ask for a judiciary that is not only independent, but also seen as one?

The three pillars of good government, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary must be separated.  The legislature legislates laws, the executive executes them, and the Judiciary checks its implementation.

But in a Westminster Parliamentary system, we shouldn’t put too high a hope because the Prime Minister is the head of the Legislature and as the same time heads the Cabinet which is the Executive.  These two entities are seamlessly interchangeable.

In Britain, the  separation of powers rest squarely on the Judiciary.  

“In 1984, Clive Ponting, a senior civil servant in the Naval Affairs office after the Falklands War, was charged for leaking information to a Labour Member of Parliament.  Ponting’s bosses at the Defence ministry had been systematically lying to the parliamentary committee investigating the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano.

“Poning believed that when Prime Minister Thatcher ordered the attack on the Argentine cruiser, it was already leaving the war zone.  There were 368 Argentine lives lost in the sinking, and many Britons were killed in reprisal.  

“Feeling that, two years later, a cover-up was still in effect, Ponting decided he owed a higher allegiance to truth and to Parliament than to his bureaucratic superiors.

“Arrested and tried by the government, Ponting was eventually acquitted in a much-publicised trial at the Old Bailey, by a jury of 12 ordinary men and women who, like their fellow citizens, saw no harm in a civil servant insisting on honesty in government.”  (1)

In Malaysia, the Barisan Nasional leaders had reduced the parliament into a rubber stamp.  And with the sacking of Tun Salleh Abbas, had further provided the Barisan leaders with near absolute judicial power.  Now they can change and interpret laws as they like.  

Just like in a quasi-democracy, the Malaysian Judiciary is seen as another extension of the Executive.

Should we, the rakyat be contented with the state of affairs that we are in now?

With our neighbours’ democratic space  expanding, Malaysia’s is shrinking. Even Burma is taking baby-steps towards the direction of democracy.

Apparently there is no reason what­soever for the Barisan Nasional leaders to lead our country into the abyss of dictatorship. Only you can stop this trend through the ballot box in the 13th General Elections.

A  reminder: “Whereas animals live by instinct and therefore do what they do directly, we can decide between alternatives, and this choice is possible because we can reflect on how we are going to act.”  - From: “Philosophy in the Mass Society,” by George Grant

Thus don't look the other way because the choice is yours.





Reference:

1)  Patrick Watson & Benjamin Barber.  The Struggle For Democracy, Toronto: 1988
    
Review:  The book, The Struggle for Democracy, touches on many aspects of democracy and it gives us a myriad of insightful events which touches the very cord of this subject.   This book is a good read, especially for POLITICIANS

Monday, December 24, 2012

Transforming Penang To A World Class Tourism Hub? – Here we go again, Teng Chang Yeow!

By Choo Sing Chye




The gumption to tell the truth is never a forte of the Barisan Nasional Government.    And these lies had been repetitively bundled into cute little news reports that are ever so willingly published by the subservient BN leaning media as truths.  This is Joseph Goebbels'  doctrine at its best – repeating lies over and over again until it is “transformed” into truths. 


In the desperate “Vote Us Back,” message, the BN pledged that “it would raise Penang’s global image to be, in the eyes of tourists, at par with other world-class cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore and create a business-friendly environment for investors and companies.” (MalaysiaKini)


This “Vote Us Back” message that was launched in the amidst of a huge volume of hot air pathetic yelping of transforming Penang into a Singapore/Hongkong like super tourists hub is a TALL TALE!


The State BN chief, Teng Chang Yeow should have known that Penang BN under Dr Koh Tsu Koon had  said precisely the same TALL TALE  in 1990 and pronounced publicly  that a State Tourism Master Plan was to be drawn up to transform Penang into a top tourist center , rivaling the best in the world. 


Teng Chang Yeow and his cohorts should easily recall  Dr Koh Tsu Koon's 1990 Budget first maiden speech as Chief Minister in the State Assembly.  He  resolved that:  

"Kerajaan Baru akan mengubal pelan Induk Pelancongan untuk menghadapi cabaran-cabaran baru dan untuk meningkatkan lagi kedudukan negeri Pulau Pinang sebagai pusat destinasi pelancongan yang utama di dunia."  


This was said by the brand new Penang BN Chief Minister 22 years ago.  And in mid 1993 the Penang State Government still hadn’t come out with the promised  State Tourism Master Plan.  And worse of all, the affluent Malaysian press did not have the decency to probe the then Penang Chief Minister for the truth!


The Chronicle of statements made by the then BN State Government and its State Tourism Committee Chairman Madam Kee Phaik Cheen. 


On November the 6th 1990 under the headline in the Star,  "Master Plan To Streamline Tourist Trade."  the first public statement made by Madam Kee on the Tourism Master Plan, affirmed that a master plan will be drawn up to streamline tourism development in Penang   towards   the   21st  century.


Six months later, in May 1991 Madam Kee further stated that a foreign PR firm would be drafting a directional paper cum action plan to rejuvenate Penang as   a  major  tourist  destination.


But a mere 3 months later on August the 1st  1991, Madam Kee changed her mind and under the headline in the Star: "Experts Drawing Up New Tourism Plan." stated that a group of locals (now locals) consultants would be drawing up an aggressive action plan to further promote and market Penang in the international tourism market.


Apparently just in a spate of 3 months, the confused Madam Kee changed the team of consultants from a foreign PR firm to a group of local consultants drawing up the same plan.   


Okay before going further, let’s stroll back a little bit just not to be confused. First of all, we know in May 1991, a tourism action plan was supposed to be drafted by a foreign PR firm and in less than 3 months later on August the 1st  the BN government changed to a group of local consultants drawing up same plan. Okay, so far so good.


Now, here’s the gem statement of the Penang BN government.  Call it transformation if you wish, here it is.


A year later, on June the 19th  1992 Madam Kee again announced that the drafting of the Penang Tourism action plan was to be drafted by the Penang State Government.  


Now, instead of being drafted by local consultants, she affirmed that on 11th of November, the same year in the Star, under the headline, "State Government Forms Teams to Draw Up Tourism Action Plan,"   that the working teams involving relevant government agencies, formed by the State Tourism Committee would draw up a comprehensive and aggressive tourism action plan towards the year 2000.


Okay let’s us regress and simplify  this whole episode,  in May 1991, a tourism action plan was supposed to be drafted by a foreign PR firm, but changed in less than 3 months to a group of local consultants.  Fifteen months later, it changed again to the Penang State Tourism Committee, assisted by working teams from relevant government agencies.  Now we are back to an all BN show.


Year 2000 had come and gone-nothing done!  And had the Penang State Tourism Committee been successful in transforming Penang into a World Class Tourism Hub, BN leaning newspapers and electronic media would be reporting this success to the hilt,  but they did not, and remain very silent, in fact too silent.


Lately, the State BN chief, Teng Chang Yeow with its cohorts’ nasty traits of forgetting the past, dive in to announce the “Vote Us Back plan” ahead of the 13th General Election.


In the travesty of logic, the Penang State BN blared out its breast-beating message that,  “Penangites cannot afford to be stagnating. Penang needs another transformation, just like what it had done over 40 years ago.”  (MalaysiaKini)

Yes, Teng Chang Yeow, here we go again!



This article also appears in http://aliran.com/11123.html

Friday, December 14, 2012

Najib’s 20,000 affordable houses in Penang – Is it for real?


By Choo Sing Chye

Jestering about the return of the free port status in exchange for a Barisan Nasional’s victory in Penang had made its chief Teng Chang Yeow an undisputed local political clown.  I thought this title would be permanently etched in the minds of the people in Penang, but Najib had to butt in and go national.  


I genuinely pity Najib, none of his advisors including Teng Chang Yeow had any clue on the Penang housing problem.   Promising to build “not less than 20,000 units of affordable housing…in Penang,” (1) without knowing the fact that the same very State BN had earlier made a promise under the four Malaysia Plans spanning from 1976 to 1991 to build 39,279 houses, but only managed to deliver 5,484.  And it is even more clownish as this big “Promise” comes under the “Promises Fulfilled” banner. 


The table below shows low-cost housing units built by the State Government under the various Malaysia Plan (Penang Hansard)


                    Malaysia Plan



Targets
Actual
Units Built


3rd Malaysian Plan

1976-1980

4,279 units

2,422 units
4th Malaysian Plan
1981-1985
21,000 units
2,654 units
5th Malaysian Plan
1986-1990
14,000 units
140 units
6th Malaysian Plan
1991- to June 1994
No Targets
268 units

Total
39,279 units
5,484 units


Najib, buoyed by his BN advisors’ flawed perception,  shoots out his mouth with a huge dose of pomposity,  “it is now open for registration online and these housing units will be priced below the market price so if the market price is RM500,000, it will be sold at RM300,000” (2).

Najib’s advisors should not be in the dark  and put their boss in an humiliating position.  These highly paid advisors should just leaf through the past records of the BN government, they would immediately know that the state government had another 3-year Special Low-Cost Housing Privatisation Programme of its own to build 41,080 low-cost housing units.  


This Programme was launched in 1986 and it was to be completed in 1989.   And in it, there were about 40,635  eligible applicants registered with the State Housing Department.   


Furthermore, this programme was backed  by a RM1.4 billion Special Low-Cost Housing Federal Fund set up by the Federal Government for the purpose of building low-cost homes from which the State Government could apply. 


Apparently BN being an incompetent government as it always shown to be,  it managed to build only 2,926 units(7 percent) out of the targeted 41,080, thus missing the golden opportunity to provide 41,080 Low-Cost houses  for the poor.  And shamefully, the 2,926 units were built over a period of 8 years and not 3 years as  targeted.


Now, the BN clowns have gone on a breast-beating show around Penang but they cannot hide the fact that they have lost the only once in a lifetime  opportunity to help the poor. 


The BN government should have fulfilled the targeted 41,080 Low-Cost House for the poor 14 years ago without much difficulties when the cost of  land, labour, and material was low. 


And furthermore, the majority of the poor in Penang at that time could definitely scrap through owning a RM 25,000 house.   But owning a RM 300,000 house is  way beyond their reach.  

  
Najib, do have some humility for the poor, the RM300,000 house is not for them.  Tell me Najib, when the  poor can afford to buy a RM 25,000 house 14 years ago, your BN government screwed up big time in fulfilling this pledge and only built 2,926 units.  

Now if we give the same opportunity of  low labour, land and material cost to Lim Guan Eng – he would definitely solve the housing problem hands down.



After the first three and the half years under Chief Minister, Dr Koh Tsu Koon, the State Government and its agencies were only able to built and complete 1,797 low-cost housing units. Below is the breakdown:

268 units built by the Penang State Government.
133 units by Penang Development Corporation (PDC).
690 units by Penang Regional Development Authority (PERDA).
706 units by Urban Development Authority (UDA).

All the above information  are sourced from the Penang Hansard 




All information were gathered during my work-visit to Penang in 1994 with the late P. Patto, to help out with the first Suara Tanjung 3 issue,.





Comments: 
I welcome intellectual comments.
If you want to comment please send your comments to 
singchye@gmail.com  

Comments from Malaysia Today 
From Gilagila

Mr Choo Sing Chye, please look again. Your

columns of statistics under 
various malaysia plans. Are these 
PAN-MALAYSIAN or just applicable to Penang alone? 
Your answer will determine how I answer to the

above finding.




Dear Gilagila

I do not have an account with MT so I cannot answer you there.  I hope you would surf here. Sorry for the slight vagueness, I have included above the table with this to make clearer:  The table below shows low-cost housing units built by the State Government under the various Malaysia Plan (Penang Hansard).
Hoping for your reply.


Reference:


1) Najib pledges 20,000 affordable houses, monorail for Penang.

    Malaysian Insider, 08-12-2012

2) Ibid.