View issues with Tan Seng Giaw

Friday, December 30, 2005

Will Malaysian civil servants smile and be helpful in 2006?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong urges the Malaysian civil servants to show that the delivery system has improved by leaps and bounds in 2006, especially after receiving the cost of living allowance (COLA).

About a year ago, a government report showed that about 850,000 civil servants were perceived to be rude and lazy. The Cheif Secretary Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman said that he had experienced the rudeness of his bureaucrats and that he wanted departmental heads to check on them. Some people who visit government departments have been sent on a wide goose chase.

If we include the armed and police forces, the number of civil servants is over one million. Apart from implementing the Royal Commission recommendations for the police, the Government should tell the people whether it has been able to fulfill the promise to improve the delivery system of all departments.

Dr Tan feels that after receiving COLA as mentioned in the 2006 Federal Budget and the circular from the Public Service Department (PSD), civil servants should serve the people better. This time, those eligible for COLA include the management, professional and support groups.

How many bureaucrats have been sent by Tan Sri Samsuddin to undergo reeducation to smile and be helpful to the public? How many new civil servants have been recruited in the last two years and at what cost to the tax-payers? What is the average government salary compared with the private sector? How many unemployed graduates have been absorbed by the Government?

There are dedicated government servants. But for those who are rude and unhelpful, they contribute little service to anyone. They have cushy jobs, relatively good pay and pensions. Malaysian tax-payers have to pay for them. This is an increasing burden.

Tan Seng Giaw

Will Malaysian civil servants smile and be helpful in 2006?

Assess the status of women in Malaysia in 2006.

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls on the Government to update the mechanism for assessing and eradicating gender discrimination in Malaysia.

Is the Human Rights Commission up to the job? Do we require a Gender Commission?

Since the amendment of the Article Eight of the Federal Constitution on 1 August, 2001, to add gender to an anti-discrimination list, what progress has been made? Hitherto, the list only included religion, race, descent and place of birth.

Dr Tan will continue to raise the issue of gender discrimination within and outside Parliament in 2006 which will be the fifth year of the constitutional amendment to ban gender discrimination.

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stresses the appointment of women on merit. The former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad set up the Women Affairs Ministry. Very few women have been appointed to key government posts. The governor of the Central Bank is a woman. So are the ministers on Women Affairs as well as International Trade and Industry

We would like to know the progress in the campaign to achieve gender equality and to ban discrimination in the past five years such as in top management, legal profession, school heads, members of parliament and employment. Is there any change in the culture of gender discrimination? Women teachers dominate primary and secondary schools. How many school heads are women? Over 60 %of students in higher education are women? How many professors are women? None of the vice-chancellors in 18 public universities is a woman.

The Prime Minister has expressed his desire to see woman judges in syariah courts. We have raised this repeatedly. No woman has been appointed to these courts. However, the relative reticence of the Women Affairs Minister on this issue is astounding. Her follow-up to Malaysia's ratification of the United Nations Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is unconvincing.

Amending the constitution to ban gender discrimination is one thing. Constant campaign to achieve gender equality is another. We need a regular and transparent assessment of the status of women in the country. Malaysia has the Human Rights Commission. UK has the Equal Opportunity Commission and Australia the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. These commissions have their assessment of the status of women in the respective countries.
How effective is the Malaysian Human Rights Commission in the campaign against gender discrimination?

Tan Seng Giaw

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Can Malaysian parliamentary backbenchers play the part of a meaningful Opposition?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw urges the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to rethink about what is a meaningful Opposition in Parliament as a basis for parliamentary democracy. How far does he tolerate the rights of dissent?

The PM must review the part played by the media. How free are they? By that I do not mean the freedom to destroy the country.

As the Barisan Nasional (BN) has 91% members of parliaments (MPs) in the Dewan Rakyat, encouraging the backbenchers to ask tough questions and to criticize constructively would not produce a truely meaningful Opposition.

Dr Tan comments on Abdullah's statement yesterday that Malaysians live in a more open country, where criticism is not frowned upon and where different views are accepted for what they are--different views. Dr Tan believes that the rights of dissent, not to destruction, should be accepted.

The Prime Minister says that Malaysians today are free to express their views and opinions and that he has allowed his backbenchers in Parliament to ask very tough questions, telling them that their role is to be constructive in their criticism.

True, views and opinions critical of the Government are tolerated slightly more in this country, compared with some of our neighbours. But, Abdullah has to review the media to see how he can increase the coverage of opinions, views and criticisms.

While we can hear occasional backbenchers question certain things that the Government or the government-linked companies (GLCs) have done such as the saga of approved import permits (APs) of cars and the Malaysian Airlines System (MAS), they are muted in some ways. If we talk about the need to appoint women as syariah court judges, BN MPs are conspicuous in their silence. Hitherto, there is no woman syariah judge.

Very often, some backbenchers may be critical about certain issues such as the effects on women of the recent amendments to the Islamic Family Law and the possible monopoly of airport taxi service as a result of the amendment to the Transport Law, the BN Whip has threatened to take action against those who might vote against the bills. All backbenchers voted with the Government. For example, at the beginning of this month, Parliamentary meeting was temporarily adjourned on airport taxi service or license so that BN backbenchers could discuss the matter with Transport Minister or his deputy. There was much thunder and lightning, but precious little rain.

Let us be clear about the duties and obligations of MPs, be they BN or the Opposition. One of the duties is to analyse the policies of the Government and to offer constructive alternatives. The difference is that an Opposition MP can criticize Government policies more emphatically. Why does a person become an MP if he or she becomes a deaf mute in Parliament?

When the late Tun Hussein Onn and now Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad were Prime Minister, they were seemingly happy with different views within BN. Once they relinquish the post of PM, they believe in a stronger opposition. Tun Dr Mahathir says:"We need an Opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes." He felt that 90% BN majority in Parliament was too strong. I wish Tun Dr Mahathir was as positive on the Opposition when he was PM.

Tunku Abdul Rahman was critical in his views on Government policies after 1970. I spoke in the same platform as Tunku in 1988. Tun Hussein Onn expressed differing views when he was not PM. Now, Tun Dr Mahathir offers constructive criticisms on some issues such as APs and the need for a strong opposition.

The culture of sycophancy and patronage persists. For those MPs who do not believe in this type of culture, BN Whip guides them towards the nuances of tough questions and constructive criticism. Guided opposition among backbenchers is a form of delusion.

Tan Seng Giaw

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Will there be integrity in the Malaysian public and private sectors?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw proposes that the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) is restructured to instil integrity in the public sector and to make it easier to do business in the country.

Dr Tan believes that we should take "Doing Business in 2006" report by the World Bank seriously.

In the 2006 Budget, the Government emphasizes on making Malaysia more business-friendly. Apparently, the Cabinet has directed Mampu and National Economic Action Council (NEAC) to go through the report by the World Bank. This is reasonable. We hope that the two organizations will come out with workable solutions to overcome the weaknesses in Malaysia.

The report lists Malaysia at 21st in terms of ease of doing business and 101th in dealing with licenses compared to other countries in the world. Is it true that a businessman has to go through 25 procedures and 226 days to build a warehouse? How many agencies does a developer go through before he or she is able to get a development order for a project?

Since the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been serious on introducing integrity in the country, Mampu has been trying to improve the delivery system such as by having a pilot project in the Ulu Langat and Kuala Kangsar District Councils. If this pilot project is successful, it should be introduced nationwide, to 142 other local governments.

We need to revamp Mampu, to make it more efficient. Besides looking at the World Bank report, we should review all aspects in the public and private sectors. Efforts are being made to improve the airports like KLIA and the immigration checkpoints. But, we still have a long way to go. The mammoth task of dealing with illegal immigrants and the irregularities makes us wonder. Administrative burdens, licenses, permits and various overcomplicated regulations boggle the mind.

It seems that applications for permits and licenses are faster. But, people still give under-the-table payments. Approval of projects and procurement are still not based on fairer criteria.

We want Malaysia to be more competitive. After the 1987 cirsis, Malaysian ringgit was pegged to the US dollar. On the other hand, Korea and Thailand did not do so. They suffered more. Nevertheless, they have emerged more competitive. Look at the problems in automotive industry and Malaysian Airlines System (MAS). Why? Granted, there are still areas in which Malaysia may be better than Thailand such as less overt corruption. How long will it be before Thailand overtakes Malaysia in all fields?

Tan Seng Giaw

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Are speed cameras in Malaysia lying?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong calls for the Malaysian Government to enquire into the reliability of the system of speed cameras used in the country.

It is high time that the Government let Malaysians know how many of them have been cheated by cameras that have flaws. While hundreds of thousands of motorists in the country have paid fines, have they been wrongly convicted? Many do not have the perseverance to overcome the hassle.

Dr Tan has received complaints from motorists who have received notices from traffic police. Some notices have been given to wrong drivers. Very often, motorists simply pay up without bothering to confirm whether they have done anything wrong.

From the hundreds of cameras installed in the country, the police would have to give photographs so that motorists can check whether they have exceeded the limits. Do the police study the photographs before issuing the summonses? Drivers who are not sure whether they had been speeding should ask for the photographic evidence.

In the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail on 24 December 2005 reported on speed cameras that do lie. The Dutch-made Gatsos account for 85 per cent of the UK's roadside cameras.

As there are flaws in speed cameras, motoring groups in UK are calling for the entire speed camera network to be shut down after a major technical flaw was exposed. According to the Daily Mail, motorcyclist Bryn Carlyon, 'caught' at 46 miles per hour (mph), proved he was actually doing just 18 mph.

"Mr Carlyon cleared his name after demanding to see the two photographs taken by the camera which supposedly recorded him at 46 mph in a 30 mph zone in Cardiff (Wales).

"He used the lines painted on the road to measure how far his motorbike travelled in the half second between the first timed picture and the second.

"This let him calculate his speed at more like 18 mph, and certainly no higher than 26 mph.

"But it took him seven months and a lot of perseverance to prove his innocence."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Step up enforcement to reduce indiscipline among Malaysian students

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw calls on the Malaysian Government to improve enforcement such as by local authorities on entertainment outlets to ensure that students do not go to places where they are not supposed to be.

While the Education Ministry is reviewing laws like the Police Act and the Child Act to give the police and the teachers more power, it should be looking at how local authorities can improve their enforcement. Amending laws may not necessarily enhance enforcement. On the other hand, it may lead to more irregularities: corrupt people have to pay more.

There are over two million students in Malaysian primary and secondary schools. They must be protected.

Dr Tan comments on the statement by the Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein yesterday that there were limitations to what teachers could do outside school. For example, they had no authority to act when students visited cyber cafes. The police, too, did not have the power to detain students in certain situations.

He said that the number of cases of indiscipline among stduents was 2.07% in 2004 and 1.74% in 2005; vehicle theft by students was 415 cases in 2004 and 391 in 2005. How many cases were not reported?

The Education Ministry has a Special Task Force to combat indiscipline. Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir will replace Hishamuddin as its chairman. That the ministry's flying squad visited 1,624 primary and secondary schools to monitor cases of indiscipline last year means that it is doing something. This is inadequate. It must look seriously into the effectiveness of amending laws such as the Police Act and the Child Act.

As Malaysians are concerned with indiscipline in schools, the Government ought to study why local authorities have been allowing the mushrooming of cyber cafes, entertainment outlets and computerised game machines without effective supervision. A few years ago, the police took action on many outlets for pinball machines, people thought things were looking up. Alas, within a short time, these outlets have sprung up again with more modern machines in centres all over the country. For example, the City Hall Kuala Lumpur appears ineffective in monitoring outlets in Kepong Baru, Metro Prima at 7th mile Kepong and Jinjang.

Is it the lack of amendments to the existing laws or the inefficient enforcement of authorities or the absence of integrity among some officials that contribute to underaged people appearing in adult outlets? It is imperative that the Ministry study all aspects. Meanwhile, all local authorities should buck up.

Dr Tan Seng Giaw

Merry X'mas and Happy New Year.

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong wishes everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Good riddance to 2005 and the disasters such as the July bombing in London and the South Asia earthquake. The first anniversary of tsunami in the Indian ocean reminds us of the need to prevent natural catastrophies, if we can, such as by having oceanic warnings as has been done in the Pacific Ocean. Some tsunami victims in affected areas like Acheh have received international assistance, but some have not.

Let us hope that this Christmas and 2006 will bring peace and happiness to the world. Will we be able to see the end of the conflicts in the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Thailand?

In Malaysia, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has set up the National Integrity Institute (IIM) and the National Integrity Plan (PIN) that have given so much hope to Malaysians. We should help him to achieve a clean, efficient and trustworthy public and private sectors.

We have such a long way to go. The lack of integrity and efficiency as seen in the endless saga of the Malaysian Airline System (MAS) and the abuse of the approved import permits (AP) of cars, steel and so forth saddens Malaysians. Mediocrity, feudalism and bloody-mindedness persist in various fields including higher education.

If we want a world-class education as enshrined in the Education Act 1996, we must have world-class vice-chancellors, professors and students. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya puts up billboards to advertise the university as world-class. This can only make the institution a world-class billboard university.

Since 2003, the introduction of the teaching of English in Mathematics and Science in all streams of primary schools causes anxiety. Many Malays and Chinese educationists insist on using mother tongue to teach maths and science. There is a fear that the teaching of Mandarin in Chinese schools will be gradually reduced. The Government should present full reports of the progress in the teaching of maths, science, mother tongue and English.

In 1987, several countries like Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand suffered from the economic crisis. Malaysia pegged its ringgit with the dollar and Korea and Thailand accepted the vagary of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. They have bitten the bullet, emerging stronger. The Malaysian Government and the people must recognize the weaknesses in our system and work together to overcome them.

There are tens of millions of Chinese tourists, eager to see the world. The number is increasing. Similarly, the middle class is expanding in India. Countries such as the U.S., the U.K., the European Union and Thailand have tried their best to attract them. They deal with genuine and less genuine tourists in their stride. Unfortunately, certain people including a small number of police have handled the situation in Malaysia unacceptable to the world. Any unnecessary detention and infringement of human dignity and rights cause furore. The terrible image deters tourists.

The less developed world protests against agricultural subsidies in industrial countries. On the other hand, how do we manage subsidies including those for petrol and diesel in our country. While it is necessary to help poor people to help themselves, it is essential to ensure that subsidies are not misused. We wish that Petronas is transparent and that the earnings from petroleum can be put into more meaningful use for the country.

Tan Seng Giaw

Monday, December 12, 2005

Don't pollute the Malaysian rivers further such as the Klang River

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw urges the Malaysian Government to study the degree of pollution of the Taman Nanyang Pond, the TamanWahyu Pond and the Kg Delima Pond that serve as retention ponds for the Flood Mitigation Project (Package B) for the Sungai Gombak System and the Sungai Keroh System, Kuala Lumpur.

On 11 December, 2005, Dr Tan brought two members of a Chemical Company to collect six samples of the leachage at the Taman Beringin dumpsite, Jinjang Utara, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. The result of the analysis, available in two weeks, will be sent to relevant authorities such as the Environment Department.

For over 30 years, rubbish from Kuala Lumpur has been dumped in Jinjang North. The Government announces that it would close down the Taman Beringin dumpsite. However, solid waste is still deposited there. Meanwhile, there is scarcely any treatment of the leachage that flows to lower ground, polluting the surrounding areas including the Taman Nanyang Pond that is connected to the Taman Wahyu Pond and the Kg Delima Pond.

The RM528.88 million Kuala Lumpur Package B Flood Mitigation Project is being implemented. The Sungai Keroh system, Kepong, involves monsoon drains and huge underground culverts, carrying excess rain water to the above-stated ponds. The water will then be released into Jinjang River, Gombak River and Batu River, ending in Klang River. If we aim to rehabilitate the dead Klang River, further polluting it will defeat the purpose.

The Government should let us know the effect of the leachage from Taman Beringin dumpsite on the ponds and the rivers.

Friday, December 09, 2005

When can repair work start on MRR2, Kuala Lumpur?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong presses the Public Works Department (JKR) to repair the extensive cracks of the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2, Kepong Viaduct or Flyover) as soon as possible.

Cracks occur on 31 of the 33 croossbeams and other structures of the RM238 million highway project. These were discovered in 2000. Over five years later, rehabilitation has not been done. Who is responsible?

The contractor for MRR2 is Sukmin-Bumihiway-KKM (Wilayah) JV and the design contractor is Maunsell, Sharma and Zakaria Sdn Bhd (MSZ). Works on the project began on 27.5.1999 and completed on 15.5.2002. It was a design and build or turnkey project. Although cracks were discovered in 2000, the report was made to JKR on 13.11.2002 and the complaint was received in June, 2003. It was over three years before JKR took it more seriously.

The initial grouting did not work because after the cracks delayed ettringite formation (DEF) appeared, aggravating the situation. This was discovered in January, 2005, by Halcrow Group, the British consultant appointed by JKR on 12.8.2004.

Today, the Director-General of JKR Dato' Prof. Ir. Dr Wahid bin Omar says that JKR is issuing document to the contractor giving the latter two weeks to reply whether it would start the repair works as soon as possible. It is responsible for the repair estimated at RM20 million.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Do not eat fish from the ponds and Jinjang River near the dumpsites

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong calls on the Government to investigate the state of health of the people in the Kepong constituency especially Jinjang North and the effects of pollution on vegetations and fish in the ponds and Jinjang River near the dumpsites.

Dr Tan talked to an angler who caught three big catfish (over two feet) from a pond near the Taman Beringin dumpsite on 4 November, 2005. He took about an hour for the catch.

Jinjang North has had two dumpsites for over 30 years, taking most of the rubbish from Kuala Lumpur. The dumpsite at Taman Beringin follows the closure of the site nearby. The waste gives rise to toxic chemicals such as dioxin and methane, affecting fauna and flora.

The Government says it wants to close down the dumpsite. As it is difficult to find alternative sites, dumpings continue. The leachage treatment plant has been abandoned.

The untreated leachage flows into ponds that adjoin Jinjang River. Catfish, which are bottom-feeders, thrives while other types of fish die. The angler from Myanmar and others fish in the area on Sundays and other holidays. Dr Tan has advised them against eating the fish. But, would they listen to the advice?

The Government should investigate the effects of pollution on the fauna and flora and take measures to protect people against fishing and eating fish from the polluted ponds and river. Let us clean up the ponds and river.

When can Malaysia have Waste Management Bill?

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw urges the Malaysian Government to promulgate Waste Management Bill to deal efficiently with waste and dumpsites in the country, consistent with the modern world.

Dr Tan visited the dumpsite at Taman Beringin, Jinjang North, Kepong, on 4 December, 2005, together with a group of residents to understand the state of pollution and the lack of waste management.

For over 30 years, Jinjang North has borne the main burden of waste from Kuala Lumpur cityfolks; each person generates 2.5 kg of waste per day. The total daily waste is about 3,000 tonnes. The Government has announced the closure of the dumpsite several times, especially in the last two years. The site is still open and scavengers are active. Although it is meant to be sanitary and landfilled, it is not sanitary and not filled satisfactorily.

Residents breathe polluted air, especially near the present dumpsite and the old site a stone's throw away. The Government has shifted many squatters fron the site. It allows new housing estates to mushroom at and near the area. Such is the paradox of human society.

The Government should consider seriously the suggestion to conduct heath survey of hundreds of thousands of people affected by pollution arising from the dumpsites. How can they be compensated?

The leachage treatment plant at the dumpsite has been abandoned. This has become a breeding ground for Aedes and nuisance mosquitoes. The leachage flows into nearby pond, not far from Sungai Jinjang.

In theory, the site has been closed. In practice, it is still opened. Although it is said that only garden waste and construction debris are dumped there, who has separated the waste? Meanwhile, the transfer station nearby processes the waste not deposited at the site and the partially treated waste is transported to Bukit Tagar, a crow's fly from Batang Berjuntai, Selangor. There is no long-term leachage treatment plant at Taman Beringin. Neither is there a visible system of pipes for gases.

We have Environment Quality Act, 1974, but no special legislation to manage waste and dunpsites after closure. Hence, we need Waste Management Bill to overcome all aspects of waste management.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tens of millions of outpatients in government clinics a year

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw urges the Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek to use the allocation of RM4.2 billion for medical treatment in 2006 effectively, ensuring the safety of all patients.

Comment by Dr Tan on the efficient use of health funds in Malaysia.

Yesterday, a friend Kumaraguru pointed out to me that the figure of 280,000 outpatients a year for the whole country is very wrong. In fact, in 2003, there were 48 million outpatients and 1.7 million inpatients in government hocpitals and clinics. He is correct.

I did mention millions of patients during the debate on the allocation of RM8.7 billion for the Ministry of Health on 29 November, 2005. 280,000 outpatients is the estimated figure of the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) outpatients for 2006.

In 2006, the estimate for visits to family clinics is 24 million, new emergency patients being 4.2 million. For surgery, the number of outpatients is .5 million and inpatients .27 million; paediatrics .38 million and .31 million;orthopaedic .62 million and .27 million;ENT .28 million and .012 million; skin .046 million and 971; neurology .049 million and 1,000; urology .16 million and 9,600 and so forth.

There are tens of millions of outpatients and millions of inpatients in government hospitals and clinics. The number of staff in the Ministry of Health of '160,000' and the number of patients are two of the factors that require a total revamp 0f the service. We need a Royal Commission to study the strengths and weaknesses of the Ministry.