Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whither MCA?

Lacklustre MCA, The Sick Man of Malaysia

( - Riau, Indonesia - 21. 11. 09):- The future of the Barisan National (BN) is linked to the resolution of the conflict within the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). Will Najib Razak's peace deal seal the sinking ship or will it accelerate the rot?
Party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, under pressure by some powerful groups within the MCA to quit his post and pressed by some Umno members to also quit as Minister in the Prime Minister department is said to be the one person who can probably help bring change to the party. Deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, ousted for his role in a 'porn' video, is back with a bang within the party but that does not mean he will 'revive' the MCA in the process.

PM Najib is now vetting between both camps, proposing the same plan that he hopes will be executed immediately in order to salvage the MCA from sinking further in the murky waters of division. The stronger the MCA, the better the chances of the BN to maintain its grip on power in the country. The MCA is the conductor that can bring the Chinese community to support the BN in the next general elections (GE). Without a solution, the elections will be in jeopardy but finding a quick fix may mean general elections are not far away and this should be a warning for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

However, there are a few issues of great importance to the BN and to Prime Minister Najib Razak's 1Malaysia concept that seperates the MCA to the BN. And this situation will become more and more explosive if the leadership tussle within the MCA is not resolved quickly and the 'unity' plan is not implemented immediately. Under the 1Malaysia concept, there must be 1 school for every single Malaysians. The MCA has in the past, played its role in grooming the Malaysian Chinese to adopt the Chinese Vernaculary schools and abandon the Government schools. The Chinese community leaders and MCA supporters blame the United Malays National Organization (Umno) for the situation that has drained most of the Chinese pupils away from the Sekolah Kebangsaan Malaysia. They went to study in the Chinese vernaculary schools in order to escape what they call 'brainwashing' and a form of 'racism' which they feared would damage their children.Najib has an uphill battle with the 1Malaysia schooling system as without the Chinese and the Tamil-Indians of Malaysia supporting the Malaysian national school system, there may not be a 1Malaysia afterall.

The Chinese community is also blaming the BN for any losses of the business they once controlled and which has fallen into the hands of other communities. This will be hard to reverse since once lost, these businesses will surely remain in the hands of those in control. Hence the Chinese community, abandoning the MCA for not being able to defend these 'rights' to control a certain businesses; will look elsewhere to establish their 'just cause'. The Pakatan is promising a fairer distribution of the national cake and a larger integration of non-Muslim communities into the social fabric of the country. This is appealing to the Chinese community and if the BN is not ready to grant more 'aid' and 'support' to the non-Muslims, it risk losing more in the near future.

There is also the issue of 'rights' that seem to be one issue that has offended the Chinese and the Indian communities altogether. The Chinese community is seen as the one that can force the necessary changes needed in the way the country is run, that is less biased approaches by the authorities and lesser 'stigmatization' of the non-Muslim communities. These are the basic complaints by the Chinese community leaders in general and are the reasons why the BN is losing touch with the realities in Malaysia, observers said to

Since the MCA is the political wild card that the BN need to beat the PR in any future GE and the MCA is far from being the party that use to assemble a large majority of the Chinese community under its wings, the overall situation is much to the detriment of the BN. The MCA is not the same strong and adamant party it was a few years ago. It has fallen and is now a weaker organization, struggling to regain its composure, and risk dragging the entire Barisan machinery down with it. Though the PR may rejoice over this prospect, the fact remains that many of the former MCA supporters and leaders are currently sitting on the fence, waiting to be swayed by any parties offering the right solutions for a community that feels it is being duped.

Nevertheless, the Chinese community itself is in turmoil and this is highly reflected in the mess that the MCA is in. Malaysia's Chinese community is known for the cooperation that has brought them together as a united force for decades. Their communal capacities are well known with the power to help each other and support even the needy at times. However, since the fall of the MCA in 2008, the Chinese community is now in search of a new political aspiration. WIll it give total support to the BN again or will it climb onto another ship, the Pakatan and try a soul searching in the process? The Chinese community is aware that the future of the BN is closely linked to the fate of the MCA. The death of the MCA will only mean the death of the BN and for the MCA to be buried from its misfortunes in 2008, it has to be abandoned by the Chinese community as a whole.

The irony of Malaysian politics is that it is Abdullah Badawi, the man who changed the face of Malaysia's blogosphere and media with a larger freedom to maneouver and criticize the regime in power, who paid the heavier price for MCA's failure to deliver more seats to the BN. In 2008, it is the MCA that suffered the most along with the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Gerakan party. Abdullah was removed as Prime Minister after much brouhaha by former PM Tun Mahathir Mohamad who saw in Abdullah the reason for the BN's massive failure to win big in 2008.

The MCA's poor performance is not linked to the ills caused by Abdullah Badawi with his openness towards the media and the injecting of more democratic values in the country. It has to do with the Chinese Community finally reacting to the marginalization of the Chinese in the country. As weird as it sounds, the rich Chinese community did not much for the poorer and for middle class Chinese since 2004, when the same Abdullah Badawi delivered the biggest and most resounding BN victory in history.

Today the party that is seen as helpless, unable to keep up with reality and is losing credibility with its mainly Chinese supporters. In the wake of the recent turmoil within the party, the MCA is finding it tougher to implement a 'rebranding'  exercise. The rebranding, thought to be the way forward for the party, is stuck between the obvious disunity that continues to plague the party and its loyalty to the BN.

While it is true that the United Malays National Organization (Umno) is doing better with a stronger leader in the seat and with at least half of the Malay-Muslim community still behind it, the BN needs the return of the non-Muslim support if it want to keep the ruling mantle on in the future. With the MCA's popularity plummetting everytime, there are fears that the BN too will see its popularity rating go down due to the lack of Chinese support to the MCA. The MCA, incapable of change, will have to battle hard within itself to regain the support that it enjoyed in the past, said Muhamad Isa, a political observer to

One thing is clear, the unity plan proposed by Najib Razak is being pushed ahead on both camps fighting it out within the MCA with elections in mind. The MCA's peace plan will be the next step in the major rebranding and repositioning of the BN itself in the eyes of the public in general. The BN popularity rating is also plummetting and this will be seen with the lacklustre support the ruling coalition will garner in the next GE, which PM Najib is battling hard to prevent.

The Chinese community has not 'returned' to the folds of the BN and has abandoned the MCA as a matter fact and this counts highly in the ratings of the BN. The fate of the MCA is  altogether based on the support that it will get from the Chinese community members and since this seem to have vanished for the time being, there's no indication that this situation will be redressed. The party is sick man of Malaysia and this sickness is fast spreading like a virus that will bring the BN to face more difficulties in the future.

And this, unless a drastic change of heart takes place within the party itself, which seems impossible at the moment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BN to include Direct Membership, Independents, NGOs etc

Amendments to curtail BN bosses' power

By RK Anand
KUALA LUMPUR: Several controversial amendments to be tabled at next month's Barisan Nasional convention is set to cause ripples in the ruling coalition.
FMT learnt that some BN component party leaders were seeing red over the amendments as it would curtail their powers and render them as mere figureheads.

If approved, a BN source said the amendments would also rob component party leaders of their say on who to field during elections.

According to the source, there would be no allotment of seats to various political parties as practiced in previous general elections.

“The seats could be allocated to independent members to contest,” he added.

The source said a committee would decide on the candidate for a particular parliamentary or state seat.

Since the formation of the Alliance, BN's predecessor, in 1974, it had been the practice for component party leaders to nominate their choice of candidates for a particular seat.

Consensus system to be abolished

Meanwhile, the source said the consensus system in BN, which was practiced since its formation, would be abolished and replaced with majority-based decision.

The source warned that the move would likely meet with stiff resistance from BN component parties.

“This means that if a component party does not agree to the inclusion of another party into BN, it would be meaningless as the decision will be based on a majority vote,” he said.

Currently, political parties intending to become a BN component must have the consensus of all coalition members.

If any one party were to object, the application would be rejected.

The other amendments included the direct admission of individuals, clubs, non-government organisations and political parties into the coalition.

A secretariat would be formed to look after the direct membership, the source said.

The BN convention would be held here on Nov 28.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The argument for minimum wage in Malaysia

The case for Malaysia to have minimum wage, now

Prelude – A Global perspective

Imagine this scenario. Australians are laughing at us Malaysians and those who work in Malaysia due to low wages. This is not a joke. It is real. The absence of minimum wage is one of the reasons why others ridicule our salary system in Malaysia. We are chastised even among Malaysians who work overseas. Yes, Australia is a much more developed country compared to Malaysia. But is this an excuse for not implementing minimum wage? Look at the interesting chart “Gapminder World Map 2010”. In the 70s and 80s, we used to be ahead of or on par with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan in terms of economic dynamism. But where are we now? We are even eclipsed and beaten by countries such as Argentina, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia in terms of GDP and life expectancy. Data and common sense prevail that the higher income countries will have a better life expectancy. And what do these nations have in common that Malaysia does not have yet? Yes, all of them have a minimum wage system and I believe if Malaysia does not address this issue soon, we will be left in the middle-income trap and not be able to achieve Vision 2020 as envisioned by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The case for minimum wage – A Local Perspective

There have been growing concerns over the implementation of minimum wage in Malaysia. The Human Resources Ministry has decided to “grab the bull by its horns” and came out with proposals to engage stakeholders in coming up with an appropriate action which can benefit the working class, particularly the middle and low income groups. The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has been lobbying hard for a minimum wage for the past 12 years or so. Federal opposition parties like in Malaysia like DAP and PKR are campaigning for a minimum wage as well. Even recently, the Federal Government parties like UMNO and MCA are beginning to warm up to the idea of a minimum wage system. It appears that only a handful of organizations are against minimum wage. The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), true to its objectives in protecting profits made by employers and their companies, and as such, will not resort to minimum wage as they claimed will affect productivity and raise the cost of doing business. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) have argued that in a free market, government should not interfere in manipulating salary schemes and the introduction of minimum wage will further push poor workers into worsening poverty.

Pros and cons – but what are the facts?

As they say, the truth is ugly and truth hurts for that matter. According to the New Economic Model (NEM) report released by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), it is a shocking fact that 70% of our workforce population is earning at most RM 1,500 per month. And 70% of them are mostly high school grads with only SPM qualification. Opponents of minimum wage are arguing that increasing wages will only lead to inflation and the best way to increase wages is by investing on education and skills learning. But do we have the time? It may be unfortunate that we should have done that a long time ago, but we are at the crucial crossroads now. We have only 10 more years to go before we are scheduled and expected to reach a high-income nation. The low and even middle-income groups are finding it hard to make ends meet. Whereas the elites and employers are laughing happily all the way to the bank, the socioeconomic gap between the haves and the haves-not is widening and this is not a healthy development for a multiracial country like Malaysia.

Concrete and constructive reasons for a minimum wage

1. Wages in Malaysia have been stagnant for the past few years and this is just not acceptable. Cost of living has risen tremendously and the purchasing power of Malaysians is getting weaker day by day. With the recent subsidy rationalization programme, this will push up the cost of living even more. So as a “quick fix”, a minimum wage can at least cushion the impact of the rising cost of living among the working poor. Whether or not this so-called quick fix will have consequences cannot justify the need for an immediate solution to address the socioeconomic imbalances. When people have no money, they get hungry. And when they get hungry, they become angry.

2. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has announced time and again that we need to achieve Vision 2020 with the support of key pillars such as the 1Malaysia concept, the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plan. The main philosophy of 1Malaysia is People First, Performance Now. Note the catchphrase people first and not employers first. Obviously employers are also people but what we need to stress here is the working poor who unfortunately account for 40% of the population, out of which 34% live below the poverty line of RM 700 per month. This is a serious and hard pressing issue. Malaysia – indeed we have a problem! There is no way we can achieve what the PM espoused for until and unless this segment of the population is being taken care of.

3. Coming back to the NEM that states we should be a high-income, inclusive and sustainable economy, it is acknowledged that a high-income nation will remain only a pipe dream if our workers continue to earn low wages. We cannot be inclusive if our working poor are unable to earn a decent living. How sustainable can we be if the gap between the high income and low wage groups persists and keeps on widening? It is simply unsustainable and sooner or later, the working poor population will be bursting at the seams. This would reflect a bad effort on part of economic mismanagement by the government.

4. Needless to say, having a minimum wage will push salary scales and subsequent adjustments to a higher rate. This can help address the brain drain phenomenon and prevent Malaysian talents from leaving the country. As of now, close to 350,000 Malaysians are working in Singapore due to low wages in Malaysia. The amount of Malaysians working abroad is huge. What about Malaysian professionals who work in North America, Europe, East Asia and Oceania?


We should face the facts and look where we are now. See where is Malaysia again in the map and we can do better. We are a resource-enriched nation. We do not have catastrophic natural disasters of any kind. We are blessed with political stability over the years. We owe it to our people to provide them a better life for generations to come. We need a minimum wage, or at least a fairer wage system badly. The minimum wage policy should be seen as an effective tool to break the vicious cycle of addiction to low cost of living, cheap foreign labour and continuous dependence on low wage system in order to achieve high-income nation status. The government must take bold, decisive aggressive and compulsory methods to elevate Malaysia to greater heights. It is now or never. In 10 years from now, I hope Malaysia will be among the top right corner group of countries in the “Gapminder World Map 2020” and that Australians will never laugh at us anymore for having low wages. Malaysia Boleh!

Monday, September 13, 2010

By Malaysian Genius, Professor Lim Kok Wing

The clock is ticking - Perpetuation or Innovation?

The clock is ticking - Perpetuation or Innovation?
Now that Merdeka celebrations are over and done with, there is a bit of a festive lull - at least until the upcoming Hari Raya.
During these periods of national revelry, the mood is often nostalgic as looking to the past is a common human preoccupation.
While nostalgia certainly has its place, the past is said and done. We can learn lessons from it, but we cannot impact it.
What we can impact is the future. The present is happening so fast that in order to keep up, we need to be leaps ahead in our planning.
For the longest time, we have focused our efforts Vision 2020 - a target that when it was first articulated in 1991 quickly caught the public’s imagination and gave everyone something to work toward.
But now, 11 years on and soon to be 9 years from the target, I know I am not alone in having serious doubts about whether we are on track to achieve that lofty goal of being a fully-developed nation in the spirit of that vision.
The world has changed, expectations have changed.
The game and the goalposts have changed.
Yet, the collective mindset has not changed.
As a culture - we still expect to be told what to do - instead of doing what needs to be done.
As a culture - we still retain the top-down mentality. Instructions have to come from the top before even small changes can be effected.
As a culture - we adopt buzzwords like innovation quickly - but fail to adopt it individually in all that we do.
We are good at sprints, but when it comes to marathons we lose steam quickly and give up too easily.
Yet, we are now possibly in the most critical marathon of our nation—to realize Vision 2020 and make the words a reality.
The Prime Minister - to his credit - is working hard to put in place the changes that must take place, especially within the public sector - which has no time to lose in becoming the model of innovation.
Next month, he will unveil the 2011 Budget, which he has said will set the pace to transform Malaysia into a developed and high-income economy by 2020.
The PM is doing all that he can to encourage, nurture and implement policies that will help us achieve that target. We have the National Transformation Agenda, we have the National Key Results Areas, KPIs, Innovation Units etc to move us along.
But he cannot be the lone voice of change, no matter how loud he shouts.
He cannot push a mountain of deadwood who refuse to budge - all by himself.
He cannot change the cultural inertia that permeates many aspects of socio-economic life - all by himself.
He cannot empower people to use common sense to distinguish between too many rules, and too much chaos - all by himself.
The public and private must listen to one another and find ways to solve new issues and problems that are not in the administrative rule books.
Progressive governments are moving away from purely administrative to stewardship roles; from ownership to partnership and from hierarchy to collaboration.
Given the scale and significance of the public sector in every aspect of our lives, loosening rigidity and encouraging innovation even by 10% for now would have amazing results.
In a discontinuous world, we need to turn down the dial a bit on perpetuation and turn up the dial on innovation.
We need everyone on board to work with the PM - and not distort what he means.
Protecting the status quo, after all, is a sure way to be left behind & be rendered irrelevant.

We need the best talent

The rise of innovation to the top of the agenda of many countries today has resulted in a profound shift in the nature of global competition.
Economic advantage no longer depends on natural resources, raw materials, trade of goods and services, giant factories, or even growing consumer markets.
The next 9 years will be very difficult, made more challenging by the global economic slowdown, terrorism concerns, and an increasingly competitive marketplace in which our Asian neighbours - like Japan, South Korea, India and China - will dominate.
With their huge populations, a well-trained and skilled workforce, they are on the cusp of a socio-economic boon already being felt around the world.
Where do we want to stand in this scenario?
We have had endless debates about education while 3 generations have grown up with an outmoded industrial age education system that most agree, have failed to nurture thinking minds.
In these sobering times, there is no ignoring that we are lagging where others are excelling.
We are losing the best brains and the best talent to countries that have more innovative environments.
For the best who now live and work overseas, we need to give them really good reasons to want to come back.
Reasons that go beyond great weather and good food.
For the best who are in local universities and graduating soon, we need to give them really good reasons not to leave for greener pastures.
Reasons that go beyond national loyalty and obligations.
For the young who are still in school, we need to give them really good reasons to want to excel creatively and innovatively.
Reasons that make it clear that excellence will be rewarded generously.
My wish is this - that we make excellence our overarching national agenda.
There is no failing if we commit to this. We will attract and keep the best.
The best will create the innovations.
The best will set the pace of change.
The best will make the outcomes happen.
Nine years is a blink in the time of life. We need to get going.

The clock is ticking

Monday, August 23, 2010

Championing women's rights

Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations

Statement by
The Honourable Mr. Huan Cheng Guan,
Member of Parliament, Malaysia

on agenda items 61(a): Advancement of Women &  61(b): Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly at the Third Committee of the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative
of South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China on the agenda items under
consideration. We would like to also express our appreciation to the various officials for
presenting us with their respective reports yesterday.

Mr. Chairman,

2. To realise its full potential in pursuing sustainable development, a nation needs to
harness all of its human resources including women.  Given equal opportunity, women have
succeeded in holding high positions and being involved in decision-making processes, both in
the public and private sectors.  We recognize that the vision and leadership of women, their
knowledge and skills, their energy and drive, have benefited their families and entire
communities.  We also recognize that women's progress has contributed significantly to the
overall progress of the nation.

Mr. Chairman,

3. Creating an enabling environment and mainstreaming a gender perspective into the
national agenda are necessary to establish a foundation of equal rights and opportunities for
women and men.  It is in this spirit that the Malaysian Government constantly endeavors to
reform its related mechanisms and institutions to enable them to take active measures to
redress any gender disparities and inequalities. The most significant measure taken by the
Malaysian Government was the formulation of enabling legislations and policies. Malaysia’s
Federal Constitution fully recognizes and safeguards the rights of women. It contains explicit
provisions that prohibit discrimination against women. Malaysia is now in the process of
reviewing existing laws including in the area of Islamic Family Law, to identify and eliminate
any provision that may have a negative impact on women, and will carry out gender impact
analysis of all future draft laws.

4. In order to ensure the equitable sharing in the acquisition of resources, information,
opportunities and benefits of development for men and women, the National Policy for Women
and its Plan of Action were formulated in 1989 and are now being reviewed. Greater
prominence has also been given to promoting and achieving gender equality with the inclusion
of a special chapter called “Women and Development” in Malaysia’s Five Year Development

5. With a separate Ministry dedicated to women’s issues, gender mainstreaming and
gender responsive processes across the whole country have been enhanced. The catalytic role
of national mechanisms is further strengthened by the establishment of the Cabinet Committee
on Gender Equality chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister, the setting up of Gender Focal Points
in all Ministries and Government agencies, the inter-ministerial working groups and technical
working groups on critical areas of concerned, as well as the broadening of networking and
sharing of good practices with government agencies, gender centers and experts in and outside
the country.      

Mr. Chairman,

6. Malaysian women are empowered. Laws, policies and programmes have ensured their
access to education, healthcare and employment. Our success at providing Malaysian women
with a high level of education has empowered many of them to hold high-level jobs and
participate in formal decision-making processes, as well as provided them with access to more
resources and better health services. In many instances, they very often exceed expectations of
their potential.

7. Notwithstanding these accomplishments, impediments to the achievement of the goal of
gender equality persist. Negative aspects of culture including sex stereotyping for example,
remains a major hindrance to the advancement of women. In this regard, the Government has
drawn up guidelines to ensure that the content, presentation and graphics in school textbooks
are not gender biased. Sex disaggregated data and statistics are produced at all levels of
education system. Gender centers have been established in almost all universities, where
courses on gender issues are conducted and research in the field of gender are being carried

Mr. Chairman,

8. In the area of health, an enabling mechanism such as the Advisory and Coordinating
Committee on Reproductive Health was established that has helped to integrate the elements
of reproductive health into the national health programmes. Sex education has recently been
introduced into the school system to inculcate positive values of mutual respect, promote
healthy relationships between boys and girls as well as to prevent abuse and create awareness
of self worth, rights and responsibilities.

9. Similarly, the Government has issued guidelines against sexual harassment in the work
place and has encouraged its implementation in the private sector, as well.

10. Women’s safety and security is a major concern in Malaysia, especially given the rise in
violence perpetrated against women worldwide. The ratio of one in three women subjected to
violence at one point in her lifetime is indeed very disturbing. We welcome the long-awaited
Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women and remain
confident that its recommendations would indeed become a clear strategy for Member States
and the UN systems to make measurable progress in preventing and eliminating violence
against women. Malaysian Government agencies, in close collaboration with NGOs, have
succeeded in making significant progress in the fight to curb domestic violence and other
crimes against women. One-stop crisis centers, acknowledged in the Secretary-General’s report
as one of the best-known good practices in service provision, have been set up in almost all
hospitals in Malaysia. This service brings together police investigation, medical treatment and
counselling services in one neutral and friendly place.

Mr. Chairman,

11. Monitoring progress and setting benchmarks are essential steps in order for us to
ensure the effectiveness of all our initiatives and the progressive realization of our goals.
Towards this end, the Government of Malaysia has established the Gender Disaggregated
Information System (GDIS), which will help us to track gaps and discrepancies in
implementation, and to plan and formulate new initiatives.

12. At the 35th session of CEDAW in May this year, Malaysia presented a comprehensive
account of the situation of Malaysian women to the committee in its initial and second periodic
reports. My delegation appreciates the constructive dialogue with the members of the
Committee and thanks the Committee for its positive recommendations, which we will
endeavour to implement.

13. Malaysia believes that the sharing of experiences, practices and expertise is essential for
the strengthening of the enabling environment and the acceleration of the success of our
efforts. Malaysia has been participating in multilateral efforts through which such sharing and
learning takes place. Malaysia has been in the forefront of some of these efforts.  During our
Chairmanship of the NAM we hosted a Ministerial Meeting on the Empowerment of Women in
the era of Globalization where Malaysia’s proposal for the setting up of an Institute for the
Empowerment of Women for NAM member countries to be located in Malaysia was adopted.
The Heads of State/Government of NAM countries at the NAM Summit held in Cuba in
September this year endorsed this initiative. We welcome the offer of the Government of
Guatemala to host the next ministerial meeting next year.

14. Finally, Mr. Chairman, the government appreciates the work and the continued support
of many of the women NGOs. Their wealth of experience and inputs has greatly contributed to
the informed decisions and the planning and formulation of policies on women and
development in Malaysia. We hope that such cooperation and partnership will be sustained for
the achievement of our common goal. Malaysia will continue to work with all stakeholders and
support the international and regional initiatives in making this world a better place for women
and all humanity.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.