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It is time to end one-party dominance in Malaysia

I refer to media reports that quote former Barisan Nasional (BN) Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon as saying that it is time to end “one-party dominance”.[1]

I cannot agree more with Koh. We definitely have to end one-party dominance at the federal level where BN has been ruling for 61 years. In fact, BN currently holds the world record for the longest ruling party still in power in a democratic country. The only parties in the world that have ruled longer than BN are the Communist Party of Vietnam, Worker’s Party of North Korea and the Communist Party of China, all of which are totalitarian states.

On top of that, there is also one-party dominance within BN itself, with UMNO exerting hegemonic influence over the 12 other component parties. It is little wonder then that none of the other component party leaders dare to speak up and criticise Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak over the 1MDB financial scandal that has embroiled our country in unsustainable debts.

It is time that Malaysia is led by a coalition of equal partners like Pakatan Harapan which brings promises a better and cleaner government, free from corruption and abuse of power.

More importantly, it is time to put an end to one-party dominance in Malaysia.

Zairil Khir Johari
DAP Penang Vice-Chairman
Pakatan Harapan Candidate for Tanjong Bunga

[1] https://m.malaysiakini.com/news/422500

NB: This press statement was released on 2 May 2018 in George Town

Does Teng Chang Yeow dare to stand up to Najib and voice the concerns of the people?

At a press conference following the nomination of election candidates yesterday, Penang Barisan Nasional Chairman and Tanjong Bunga candidate Teng Chang Yeow described me as a “blue-eyed boy” of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. He then questioned whether I dare to voice out the concerns of the people of Tanjong Bunga.

Teng may call me whatever he wants, but I can categorically state that I have no problems voicing out the concerns of the people as I have been doing precisely that for the last five years as the Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera.

I have not only spoken up on issues relating to my parliamentary portfolio of education, but I have also expressed strong views on various other issues including opposing PAS President Dato’ Seri Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill (RUU355). Even though I was vilified for it and even had posters labelling me as “anti-Islam” put up all over Penang, I stood my ground.

Can Teng stand up to Najib?

However, I would like to ask Teng whether he really dares to voice the concerns of the people to his own boss, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak.

Chief among the people’s concerns is the issue of GST. Ever since the implementation of the consumption tax, Malaysians have been suffering due to inflation and spiralling cost of living. According to Mydin, hypermarket sales dropped by four to five per cent in the last one year. As hypermarkets make up half of the total grocery market in Malaysia, this means that the purchasing power of Malaysian households has been severely affected.

In fact, during my walkabouts yesterday, I met a Tanjong Bunga resident who lamented that he was unable to have more children because he simply could not afford it despite now working two jobs. He then added that he would gladly have more children if Pakatan Harapan manages to win power and abolish GST.

Another big issue of concern to Tanjong Bunga residents as well as all Malaysians is the 1MDB financial scandal that has left the country with massive debts. As a consequence of 1MDB, the ringgit suffered massive depreciation resulting in higher import costs. On top of that, Malaysia now has the shameful reputation of being a global kleptocracy.

The question is, does Teng dare to stand up to Najib and and voice the biggest concerns of millions of Malaysians, including Tanjong Bunga residents, who reject GST and 1MDB?

Zairil Khir Johari
DAP Penang Vice-Chairman
Pakatan Harapan Candidate for Tanjong Bunga

NB: This press statement was released on 29 April 2018.

Teng Chang Yeow has no right to point fingers when the BN manifesto contains inconsistencies in the different language versions as well

Penang Barisan Nasional (BN) Chairman Teng Chang Yeow has criticised the Pakatan Harapan Penang GE14 Manifesto as having “different versions with different contents to the different races in the state.”[1]

This claim is utterly untrue as the inconsistencies occurred only with the Chinese translation of the manifesto. Of particular significance, the Malay and English versions contained a point about abolishing the toll at the first Penang Bridge as well as the Sungai Nyior toll. However, this point is omitted in the Chinese version, which instead contained a different point about tax distribution.

This error occurred primarily because the wrong version of the page had been sent for printing. As I had admitted in a press conference yesterday, I was unable to proofread the Chinese version and so could not detect the error before it was published.

As the person in charge, I have apologised for the oversight and accept responsibility even though I am unable to read the Chinese translation. The error has since been rectified and the correct version will be published and distributed.

However, I would like to point out that Teng has no right to point fingers when the BN manifesto itself contains inconsistencies in the different language versions. According to a report by Malaysiakini, the Chinese translation of the BN manifesto contained a promise about abolishing toll fees for motorcycles on the first Penang Bridge, while this point was not found in the Malay version.[2]

Clearly, errors have occurred due to the frantic pace of the election period. Thus, for Teng to paint Pakatan Harapan as playing the racial card is laughable and a pathetic attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that their own manifesto has inconsistent versions.

The difference is that I immediately took responsibility and apologised for the mistake even though I am unable to read Chinese. Not only has Teng not apologised, he obviously cannot use the same excuse.

Zairil Khir Johari
DAP Penang Vice-Chairman
Pakatan Harapan Candidate for Tanjong Bunga

[1] https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2018/04/362057/will-you-fulfil-your-ge14-manifesto-penang-bn-asks-opposition

[2] https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/421722

NB: This press statement was released on 27 April 2018 in George Town.

UMNO and Barisan Nasional set to lose votes over rising cost of living

I refer to press reports quoting Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya as saying that he feels confident that a reverse Malay tsunami was likely, whereby Malay voters who used to support the opposition would now swing to UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN).[1]

According to Shabudin, his prediction was based on “feedback and grassroots support he has gotten from the Malay electorate around the country, especially the ones in Tasek Gelugor.”

If Shabudin’s comments prove one thing, it is that UMNO leaders are far removed from what is actually happening on the ground. I have just spent three days campaigning in the Malay heartland in Johor and the feedback I received is the same as elsewhere in Malaysia – people are hard hit by GST and inflation caused by the failure of Barisan Nasional policies.

However, it is pointless to argue based on anecdotal evidence. Instead, let us consider the facts. During an interview on BFM recently, Dato’ Wira Ameer Ali Mydin, the managing director of local hypermarket chain Mydin, stated that the retail sector in Malaysia is expected to face difficult times.[2]

This is based on the fact that retail sales and more tellingly hypermarket sales have been consistently dropping in the last one year, despite the Malaysian GDP showing positive growth figures. As hypermarkets make up half of the total grocery market in Malaysia, and with Mydin being one of three players who cumulatively control 50 per cent of market share, it is a serious point of concern when their data reveals negative growth of around four to five per cent in the last one year.

According to Ameer, one of the main reasons for this contraction is inflation. Tracking 150 basic items in his stores, he reveals that their prices have gone up by more than 14 per cent over the last five years. This includes basic household items such as cabbage, which has gone up 29 per cent, ikan kembung hitam (19.5 per cent), Maggi chilli sauce (38.8%) and Ayam brand sardine (30.6 per cent). This is a far cry from the official consumer price index statistics published by the Government.

Mydin’s data is most alarming, because it means that the B40 or bottom 40 per cent of households in our country are hardest hit by rising cost of living brought about as a direct and indirect result of BN national policies over the last five years. This includes the introduction of GST in 2015, the withdrawal of subsidies for petrol, gas, cooking oil and sugar, as well as the weakening of the ringgit following the 1MDB financial scandal.

With the actual state of the economy in such dire straits, it is mind-boggling that Shabudin and other UMNO leaders would even dare to think that they will win more votes, especially from the Malays and Bumiputera who make up the bulk of the B40. In contrast, it is almost a certainty that voters by and large will swing away from BN, which has clearly failed them, and choose instead a new government that is committed to addressing the bread and butter concerns of all Malaysians.

Zairil Khir Johari
DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary
DAP Penang Vice-Chairman

UMNO dan Barisan Nasional bakal hilang undi akibat kenaikan kos sara hidup

Saya merujuk kepada laporan akhbar yang memetik Ahli Parlimen Tasek Gelugor Datuk Shabudin Yahaya sebagai berkata bahawa dia yakin kemungkinan berlakunya keterbalikan tsunami Melayu, di mana pengundi Melayu yang dahulu menyokong pembangkang kini akan beralih ke UMNO dan Barisan Nasional (BN).[1]

Menurut Shabudin, ramalannya berdasarkan kepada “maklum balas dan sokongan akar umbi yang diperolehnya daripada pengundi Melayu di seluruh negara, khususnya di Tasek Gelugor.”

Kenyataan Shabudin ini hanya membuktikan satu perkara, yakni bahawa pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO langsung tidak memahami realiti sebenar rakyat. Saya baru sahaja menghabiskan tiga hari berkempen di kawasan Melayu di Johor dan maklum balas yang saya terima adalah sama seperti di tempat lain di Malaysia – orang ramai dibebani GST dan inflasi yang berlaku akibat kegagalan dasar Barisan Nasional.

Walau bagaimanapun, adalah tidak munasabah untuk berdebat berdasarkan kisah anekdot. Sebaliknya, mari kita pertimbangkan fakta. Semasa temubual di BFM baru-baru ini, pengarah urusan rantaian pasar raya tempatan, Dato’ Wira Ameer Ali Mydin, menyatakan bahawa sektor runcit di Malaysia dijangka menghadapi masa sukar.[2]

Ini didasarkan hakikat bahawa jualan runcit dan pasar raya telah menurun secara konsisten dalam masa satu tahun yang lalu, walaupun KDNK Malaysia menunjukkan angka pertumbuhan positif. Memandangkan pasar raya besar membentuk separuh daripada jumlah pasaran runcit di Malaysia, dan dengan Mydin menjadi salah satu daripada tiga pemain yang secara kumulatif menguasai 50 peratus bahagian pasaran, ia adalah satu perkara yang serius apabila data mereka mendedahkan pertumbuhan negatif sekitar empat hingga lima peratus peratus dalam tempoh satu tahun lepas.

Menurut Ameer, salah satu sebab utama penguncupan ini adalah inflasi. Merujuk 150 item asas di kedai-kedainya, beliau mendedahkan bahawa harga jualan telah naik lebih daripada 14 peratus dalam tempoh lima tahun yang lalu. Ini termasuk barangan isi rumah asas seperti kubis yang meningkat 29 peratus, ikan kembung hitam (19.5 peratus), sos cili Maggi (38.8%) dan sardin jenama Ayam (30.6 peratus). Ini jauh berbeza berbanding statistik indeks harga pengguna rasmi yang diterbitkan oleh Kerajaan.

Data Mydin adalah paling membimbangkan, kerana ia bermakna bahawa B40 atau 40 peratus isi rumah terbawah di negara kita terhimpit dengan kenaikan kos sara hidup yang diakibatkan secara langsung dan tidak langsung oleh dasar BN sejak lima tahun yang lalu. Ini termasuk pelaksanaan GST pada tahun 2015, pemansuhan subsidi bagi petrol, gas, minyak masak dan gula, serta kelemahan ringgit berikutan skandal kewangan 1MDB.

Dengan keadaan sebenar ekonomi yang mengerikan ini, adalah sangat mengejutkan apabila Shabudin dan pemimpin UMNO lain berani menganggap bahawa mereka akan memenangi lebih banyak undi, terutamanya daripada orang Melayu dan Bumiputera yang membentuk sebahagian besar B40. Sebenarnya, adalah hampir pasti bahawa pengundi secara besar-besaran akan menjauhi BN yang jelas telah menghampakan mereka, dan sebaliknya memilih kerajaan baru yang komited untuk menangani isu sara hidup semua rakyat Malaysia.

Zairil Khir Johari
Penolong Setiausaha Kebangsaan DAP
Naib Pengerusi DAP Pulau Pinang

[1] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/04/14/reverse-malay-tsunami-is-coming-umno-man-warns-opposition/

[2] https://www.bfm.my/bg-datuk-wira-ameer-ali-mydin-on-kr1m-i-was-naive.html

NB: This press statement was released on 15 April 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.

Time for Malaysians to Show Power

A question commonly posed to me is what made me decide to choose politics as a vocation.

I wonder about it myself sometimes. Although it may not appear to be so, I am in fact naturally an introvert. Of course, I have since learned how to summon on demand the confidence and tenacity required to face the public on a daily basis. And while I would like to think I have assimilated well enough into my role as a public figure, there remains still a part of me who finds it all a little awkward.

To be sure, politics has always fascinated. As a child, I could rattle off the names of American presidents and British prime ministers, along with some associated trivia, courtesy of the reading material my father provided me. The first biography I read was Mubin Sheppard’s authoritative volume on our first prime minister, the Tunku. Until today, stories of wars, coups and the creation of nations enthral me.

One thing that was imprinted into my mind early on was that power makes the world go round, and that politics is the art of harnessing and controlling power. It is for this reason that history and the course of human development are often determined by those that wield power.

With Absolute Power Comes Absolute Responsibility

But power is a double-edged sword. It is an enabler that allows its wielder to exercise great influence and control over those subjected to his or her power. In the hands of a benign and development-oriented dictator, human progress can take place. But as much as a roll of a dice may turn out favourable, it can just as well be the opposite, resulting in oppressive conditions with the wrong person in charge. And as history has proven time and again, it sometimes takes only one wrong person to undo centuries of advancement.

This is why power must necessarily be accompanied by structural boundaries that define its parameters and preferably premised upon popular legitimacy. In the absence of such limits, the extent of a leader’s power is limited only by his or her imagination, as many absolutist systems of governments have proven. In autocratic societies ruled by dictators or monarchs, the efficiency and efficacy of its governance lie arbitrarily in the hands of the individual personality in power, thus resigning the fate of millions to the inherent predisposition of one person. As can be expected, this often results in gross inequalities, not just in wealth and economic opportunity but also in basic human rights and freedoms.

Dawn of Democracy

A turning point in human history occurred in eighteenth-century France when, tired of perennial subjugation by the clergy and nobility who ruled by “divine right”, the masses revolted on the back of the powerful slogan liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). Even though it took France a little longer to finally become democratic – the French Revolution succeeded in deposing the monarchy but ended up replacing one dictator with another when Napoleon Bonaparte, another historical figure who captured much of my imagination as a boy, took over as emperor – the ideals and spirit of the revolution would go on to inspire the rest of the world, creating a wave of democratisation that emancipated countless societies in every corner of the globe.

The dawn of modern democratic governance, albeit in various shapes and sizes, ushered in what was previously unimaginable – an inverse power corollary. Suddenly, leaders were representative of and answerable to the people. And they were no longer there just because they were born into it, but because the people allowed them the privilege – until they decide to choose someone else.

More importantly, structures were put into place not only to set the limits of power but also to ensure the system is not abused to the advantage or disadvantage of any particular person or group for no justifiable reason. Integral to the entire democratic process is of course the process of elections, a periodic procedure that must be conducted as freely and fairly as possible in order to ensure that the will of the people is constantly and consistently reflected in the government of the day.

Power and Corruption

But structures and systems are only that. Where power is concerned, humans are not limited by the impossible. As Lord Acton was wont to remind, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Such is clearly the case when even democratic processes can be usurped by charismatic personalities who often come into power with the gloried credentials of fighting for freedom and the oppressed, but who end up being oppressors themselves.

History is replete with such examples. The Nazi despot Adolf Hitler is probably one of the most famous. Others include the likes of Idi Amin in Uganda, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and closer to home, Suharto in Indonesia. All of them came into power promising a better deal for their people, and they were celebrated and loved. But they all ended up suppressing the very freedoms they championed, and eventually met inglorious endings, disdained by the very people who placed them upon their pedestals.

One thing we can always be sure of is that history tends to repeat itself. No structure or system is fool-proof, especially when charismatic leaders succeed in manipulating popular perception. Today, the world no longer regards Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the democrat he once claimed to be when he first took office 15 years ago as a persecuted victim of an oppressive government. Today, his own government is accused of a myriad human rights violations – including media crackdowns, the blocking of access to social media and the incarceration of journalists and dissenters.

Questions are now also being asked of Xi Jinping of China, touted to be a reformer when he first ascended to the presidency in 2013, following his recent move to abolish the two-term limit to the country’s highest post – a constitutional mechanism put in place to prevent any one person from becoming leader for life.

Despotism in Malaysia

Power is certainly the great corruptor, and it is no different here in Malaysia. After more than 60 years in power, it is no surprise that the ruling BN regime has begun to display excesses of despotism – corruption and abuse of power.

The 1MDB global financial scandal is perhaps a most appropriate manifestation of such excesses. Implicating those at the highest echelons of power in Malaysia, the scandal reads like a Hollywood script, not only involving the misappropriation of billions of ringgit but also the use of the ill-gotten gains on Picasso paintings, super yachts, private jets and luxury property all around the world.

Due to its global nexus spanning offshore shell corporations and complex money trails all around the word, the scandal is now the subject of investigation by authorities in various countries, while no less than the US Attorney-General has named Malaysia as a kleptocratic regime with the prime minister as a beneficiary of the corrupt funds. As a result, Malaysia’s latest corruption perception index ranking according to Transparency International is now the lowest in history, while The Economist has named Malaysia as one of the top crony capitalist economies in the world.

While international efforts are underway to unravel the 1MDB corruption scandal, news on the issue in Malaysia is blacked out while Parliament has been muzzled with MPs prevented from speaking about the issue at the risk of suspension, and Internal government critics are either promoted to keep them quiet or sacked, as the former deputy prime minister and attorney-general can attest to.

That Malaysia is now mired in grand corruption should not come as a surprise. It is the inevitable result of unchallenged rule. The fact is that BN is not corrupt simply because they are made up of innately greedy individuals, even if some may feel such an accusation justified. Their kleptocratic tendencies are actually symptoms of being drunk on power – over 60 years of it.

The moral of the story is that it is dangerous to allow any individual or party to have unfettered power. It is not just that wealth and natural resources get plundered. Rulers who have no fear of losing are also inclined to subvert public institutions to serve their needs and prolong their power, as we have seen in Malaysia where the courts are used to jail Opposition leaders and where the election commission has taken it upon itself to gerrymander and malapportion seats in the most creative manner possible to keep the government in power forever. And unless BN is stopped soon, forever might not seem so far off a possibility.

As the people of France showed valiantly 200 years ago, change and reform can only be achieved by a collective show of force. The same formula of people power has succeeded in overthrowing corrupt regimes the world over, from South America to the Middle East to Asia.

For us Malaysians, the coming general election may very well be our moment in history. So let us make it count. In the name of kebebasan, kesaksamaan, persaudaraan.

NB: This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of the Penang Monthly.

Opening Ceremony of MATTA Fair Penang 2018

I am most delighted to be here at the Opening Ceremony of the MATTA Fair Penang 2018. First of all, I would like to congratulate the organiser, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), for their efforts in once again putting together this MATTA Fair, which is Malaysia’s Largest Consumers’ Travel Fair, here at the Straits Quay Convention Centre, Penang.

This is a most impressive effort and should indeed be applauded as it is not easy to gather so many industry players and captains under one roof to promote tourism to both local and foreign consumers.

I am informed that a total of 48 tourism-related companies have participated. This is a great achievement and I wish to congratulate MATTA under the leadership of Datuk Tan Kok Liang for the resounding success.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Having the MATTA Fair here in Penang is wonderful as it gives an opportunity for Penangites to enjoy great deals and packages to local and foreign destinations. I am sure that many tour and travel agencies have designed very attractive holiday packages to fulfil the many different requirements of consumers.

I also know some airlines are offering massive discounts to many international destinations, making overseas holidays affordable to the masses. To paraphrase a famous airline slogan: Now everyone can travel – thanks to MATTA Fair.

At the same time, we will also learn about some of the latest offerings by various airlines, such as Malaysia Airlines’ latest Airbus 350-XWB which comes with Wi-Fi on board. Things are certainly looking interesting in the tourism industry, especially here in Penang as we are hot on the heels of the recent launch of daily Penang-Jakarta flights by Citilink.

Of course, earlier last month we also witnessed the start of Qatar Airway’s Penang-Doha route. This is significant as it gives Penang direct access to an important global aviation hub in Doha, from which we can fly to Europe, Middle East and many other places. As much as inbound tourism will increase from having these new routes, it also makes it easier for Penangites to travel internationally.

However, for those wishing to go on holiday, I would like to take this opportunity to issue a travel advisory: please try to plan your holidays from late May onwards and not before that. This is so that you do not miss a very important occasion that comes by only once every five years.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I understand that MATTA Fair Penang is targeting sales of RM20 million compared to RM17 million last year. I am sure it can be achieved. After all, the Penang economy is going strong, enjoying healthy growth and development over the last few years, especially in the tourism sector with the mushrooming of new hotels and increasing occupancy rates.

As you all know, our Penang International Airport has already surpassed its capacity expectations with 7.2 million passengers in 2017. We look forward to the promised expansion of the airport from the present capacity of 6.5 million passengers to 12 million passengers as announced in the Federal Budget last year.

Certainly, this is proof that Penang is fast becoming a location of choice for investors and tourists, not only in Malaysia but for the region as well. According to MIDA, Penang was the top FDI (foreign direct investment) recipient in Malaysia for 2017, with RM8.5 billion in approved manufacturing FDI. For total manufacturing investment, we recorded RM10.8 billion last year.

In terms of tourism tax collection, Penang was the third highest contributor from 1 September to 31 December 2017, collecting a total of RM3,881,544. Since 2008, Penang has regularly been listed as one of the top tourism destinations in the world by the likes of Yahoo! Travel, Lonely Planet Guide, The Guardian, LA Times, Forbes and many other respected publications.

Certainly, we have much to offer the world especially when it comes to our food, natural beauty and cultural heritage. One thing for sure, the Penang government will continue to promote Penang both domestically and internationally to ensure that we maintain our position as one of the top holiday destinations in Malaysia. For this we will need to collaborate and work together with MATTA and its members in putting together exciting tour packages promoting Penang tourism products.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we are all aware, MATTA Fair is eagerly awaited by all Malaysians. I was told that the recent MATTA Fair in Kuala Lumpur attracted 110,000 visitors with a turnover of about RM210 million in sales. Under Datuk Tan’s leadership, MATTA has grown from strength to strength and is now not only a profitable venture but also one that has been a key driver of Malaysia’s travel industry. As I said earlier, now everyone can travel, and in our hectic pace of life these days it is important that we allocate some time and space for quality rest and relaxation.

To visitors of the MATTA Fair, I urge you to take advantage of the best price offers available for your holidays with friends and family. Also, do not forget my “travel advisory” earlier about planning your travel timing.

At the same time, I would also like to call upon all Penangites who travel abroad to also become our tourism ambassadors for Penang by promoting our state as a tourism destination. Tell people about our food, our festivals, our unique products. I do not think I need to elaborate, as I know every Penangite welcomes any opportunity to talk proudly about our beloved state.

On that note, on behalf of the Chief Minister of Penang, it gives me great pleasure to officially open the MATTA Fair Penang 2018.

Thank you.

NB: This speech was delivered on 30 March 2018 at the Straits Quay Convention Centre, Penang.

Pelancaran projek “My Taman, My Tanjung Bungah”

Projek “My Taman, My Tanjung Bungah” adalah bertujuan untuk menambah baik pelbagai taman kejiranan dan taman poket di seluruh kawasan Tanjung Bungah, bagi meningkatkan mutu kehidupan dan menyediakan ruang aktiviti kemasyarakatan yang selesa dan selamat.

IMG-20180325-WA0034

Sebanyak empat buah taman telah dikenal pasti untuk fasa pertama, yakni:

  1. Taman Kejiranan Persiaran Sungai Emas yang akan menerima bangku-bangku baru bagi menggantikan bangu-bangku lama, pemasangan peralatan gim luaran (outdoor gym), lampu LED baru, trek joging yang lebih baik, landskap yang lebih indah, platform untuk aktiviti zumba/taichi serta projek seni graffiti dengan kerjasama pelajar sekolah.
  2. Taman Kejiranan Sungai Emas akan menerima pagar baru bagi menggantikan pagar yang telah usang, laluan masuk yang baru, akses yang lebih baik untuk orang kurang upaya, pembaikan kepada kemudahan sukan, lampu LED baru serta peralatan gim luaran tambahan.
  3. Taman Rekreasi Loh Poh Heng akan diberi laluan akses tambahan, lampu LED baru, papan tanda baru dan bangku baru untuk keselesaan pengguna.
  4. Kawasan Lapang Hillside akan melihat penambahbaikan kepada kemudahan sedia ada dengan bangku baru, landskap yang lebih indah serta lampu LED baru untuk mencerahkan kawasan pada waktu malam.

Adalah diharapkan bahawa peningkatan kemudahan di setiap kejiranan ini akan turut meningkatkan kualiti hidup penduduk setempat. Sesungguhnya, kehidupan yang berkualiti berkait rapat dengan persekitaran kejiranan yang kondusif dan selesa. Pada masa yang sama, persekitaran yang baik akan mempupuk perasaan sayang terhadap kawasan kejiranan masing-masing yang diharap dapat diterjemahkan dalam bentuk kerjasama serta semangat gotong-royong dalam kalangan penduduk.

IMG-20180325-WA0036

Setinggi-tinggi penghargaan harus dirakamkan kepada semua pihak yang terlibat, khususnya Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang yang telah menjalankan kerja penambahbaikan. Terima kasih juga diucapkan kepada pelajar-pelajar The International School of Penang (Uplands) dan Han Chiang University College yang telah menghasilkan lukisan mural yang terdapat di Taman Kejiranan Persiaran Sungai Emas. Mural ini pasti meningkatkan lagi keceriaan kejiranan kita.

Kos bagi penambahbaikan Taman Kejiranan Sungai Emas yang baru sahaja siap adalah sebanyak RM30,000 manakala kos bagi taman-taman lain adalah tertakluk kepada pengiraan akhir. Dengan kejayaan projek “My Taman, My Tanjung Bungah” ini, adalah menjadi hasrat saya untuk meluaskan usaha ini kepada kejiranan lain.

IMG-20180325-WA0035

Zairil Khir Johari
Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera
Naib Pengerusi DAP Pulau Pinang

NB: This press statement was released on 25 March 2018.

MOE’s parliamentary reply on the use of imported English textbooks contradicts their own instructions

In response to my oral question yesterday in Parliament regarding the decision of the Ministry of Education to replace local KSSR and KSSM English language textbooks with the imported Super Minds and Pulse 2 halfway through the 2017 academic year, Deputy Minister of Education Datuk Chong Sin Woon stated that the imported textbooks are not actually replacements for the local ones, but are to be used alongside them.

Unjustifiable expenditure

This response makes no sense whatsoever. Firstly, if what the deputy minister is saying is true, then he has basically admitted that the Ministry of Education (MOE) had spent RM41 million last year for English textbooks for just two cohorts – Year 1 and Form 1 students.

This is based on the cost of the local KSSR and KSSM textbooks, which amount to RM7.1 million, while the imported textbooks cost RM34 million according to a previous parliamentary reply I received.

This is an extravagant sum of money to spend on textbooks, especially when there is no justification as to why there is a need to have both local and imported ones. Furthermore, if local textbooks have already already purchased and approved for use, why introduce new imported ones?

Contradiction

Secondly, Chong’s answer also contradicts MOE’s own circulars dated 16 August 2017 and 12 September 2017, which clearly state that the imported textbooks should be used as the “main textbooks for students”, while the local KSSR and KSSM textbooks “can be used by teachers as reference or supplementary books”. The circular also adds that the “KSSR and KSSM textbooks will not be distributed to students.”

Clearly, according to MOE’s own instructions, the imported textbooks are meant to be complete replacements and not supplementary material. In fact, if the circulars are to be followed, the local textbooks will not even be used by students. Unless of course MOE has decided to make another U-turn.

Sacrificing our children’s future

Despite all the fanfare with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, MOE appears to be beset by indecisiveness. Sudden policy changes with confusing and contradictory messages have now become the norm in our education system. This is most unfortunate, as the inevitable victims of such unclear policymaking are none other than our students and teachers.

It is also doubtful how the use of imported English textbooks, at a cost of five times the price of locally produced ones, will result in improved learning. The entire exercise is made all the more questionable when the imported textbooks procured last year at the cost of RM34 million were not procured via open tender but instead by direct negotiation. Is someone benefiting at the expense of our students?

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

NB: This press statement was released on 15 March 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

It is UMNO and BN’s racially divisive politics that causes disunity, not our schools

The idea that the existence of vernacular education is the cause of disunity among Malaysians has been a false narrative propagated by UMNO. This time, it is no other than Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak himself who is repeating the claim.

According to a report by The Malaysian Insight, Najib “has said that the segregation of vernacular and national schools has affected the country’s unity, and pledged to revamp the country’s education system after the 14th general election.”[1]

This fallacy has been conveniently used by UMNO leaders over and over again. To be fair, it is easy to lay the blame of the obvious divisions in Malaysian society on the fact that there are different language streams in our education system. The logic goes that if children go to different schools and learn in different languages, then as adults they cannot be united by a common Malaysian spirit.

Unfortunately, there has never been any empirical evidence to back this notion. In fact, by this warped logic, every graduate from top boarding schools in the country such as Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) must be incorrigible racists after years of living and studying in a Malay-only environment.

However, the truth is that schools such as MCKK have produced many upstanding Malaysian citizens who believe in Malaysian ideals and who do not hesitate to celebrate the strengths of our plural society. MCKK itself has produced many contemporary luminaries including Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar of Khazanah Nasional and young open-minded politicians such as Rafizi Ramli and Nik Nazmi. I do not think that any of them could be considered racists.

In fact, empirical evidence tends to point the other way. Chinese vernacular schools, for example, now attract a growing number of non-Chinese enrolment, including many Malays. At least 15 per cent of Chinese school enrolment today is made up of non-Chinese. In some schools, non-Chinese students make up more than half of the student body.

If Chinese schools are really racially divisive, then why do more and more Malay parents choose to send their children there?

I believe that the cause of unity among Malaysians depends very much on the values that we are taught and live by, and this begins from the top. If political leaders propagate divisive politics and constantly use racially tinged language to secure votes, do we need to look further for the root of disunity? For as long as UMNO and its Barisan Nasional allies resort to racial fear-mongering and threatening the Malays with a “Chinese threat” and the Chinese with a “Malay threat”, then there is no doubt that Malaysians will continue to be divided.

Therefore, if Malaysians are indeed divided, it is not because of what language they study in but rather due to the racially incendiary politics practised by UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders. So please stop blaming our schools.

Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology

[1] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/39539/

NB: This press statement was released on 24 February 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.

Merentas dunia baharu

Teknologi adalah faktor yang paling berpengaruh dalam menentukan bagaimana kita hidup, bekerja dan berkomunikasi. Hal ini lebih ketara dalam tempoh 300 tahun yang lalu, sejak kejayaan teknologi seperti kereta api dan telegraf elektrik menghasilkan perubahan yang dramatik dan berlanjutan tentang bagaimana kita berinteraksi dengan dunia.

Hari ini, dengan adanya komputer dan internet, serta pertemuan kedua-duanya dalam bentuk telefon pintar, setidaknya kita boleh mengatakan bahawa kita sedang menyaksikan revolusi yang tidak pernah berlaku sebelum ini dari segi skala, skop dan kerumitan.

Secara sejarahnya, Revolusi Perindustrian Pertama bermula pada pertengahan abad kelapan belas. Inovasi dan teknologi baru seperti kuasa stim mencetuskan peralihan daripada pengeluaran manual kepada mekanisasi, sekaligus menjadi pemangkin perindustrian pesat dan pertumbuhan ekonomi.

Satu abad kemudian, Revolusi Perindustrian Kedua berlaku apabila elektrifikasi dan pembangunan proses perkilangan moden membolehkan pengeluaran secara besar-besaran. Pada akhir 1970-an, kita mula mengalami apa yang dikatakan oleh beberapa sarjana sebagai revolusi ketiga, yang muncul melalui kemajuan eksponen dalam teknologi maklumat dan telekomunikasi yang kemudian memperlihatkan peralihan daripada peranti elektronik dan mekanik yang bersifat analog kepada automasi dan teknologi digital.

Hari ini, kita berdiri di ambang Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat – zaman yang akan melihat sintesis semua perkembangan teknologi, sama ada dalam bidang genetik, kecerdasan buatan, robotik, nanoteknologi, percetakan 3D atau bioteknologi. Di dunia baru ini, tidak akan ada garis yang membahagikan antara fizikal, digital dan biologi.

Dunia baharu

Kita sudahpun merasai permulaan dunia baharu ini. Berjuta-juta orang kini dihubungkan dengan peranti mudah alih yang kini juga membolehkan akses segera dan tidak terhad kepada dunia pengetahuan melalui internet. Sistem pintar yang mengawal rumah, kilang, ladang dan juga bandar raya seluruh dunia membantu menyelesaikan semua isu – daripada pengurusan rantaian bekalan kepada perubahan iklim.

Kemunculan ekonomi perkongsian (shared economy) telah membolehkan penghasilan keuntungan daripada apa-apa sahaja dan segala-galanya, daripada perkhidmatan peribadi kepada pengurusan rumah dan kenderaan persendirian. Kenderaan kawalan kendiri sudah ada di jalan raya kita, dan kita boleh membayangkan kemungkinan-kemungkinannya jika skala sedia ada ini diperluaskan. Sementara itu, percetakan 3D dan penurunan kos pembuatan berdasarkan tempahan (customised manufacturing) sudah pasti akan mengubah makna perkataan “kilang”. Contoh-contoh ini hanyalah sebahagian kecil sahaja – gangguan (disruption) yang lebih besar akan berlaku kerana teknologi akan terus berkembang dengan pesat.

Sementara revolusi perindustrian sebelum ini menghasilkan perubahan kepada kaedah dan proses pengeluaran, revolusi keempat pula akan melampaui hal ini dan memberi impak kepada setiap sektor daripada pengeluaran kepada pengurusan hinggalah tadbir urus kerajaan. Sebenarnya, revolusi ini akan mencabar idea-idea mengenai kehidupan, realiti dan sifat kemanusiaan sendiri.

Tidak sukar untuk membayangkan masa depan yang tidak begitu jauh di mana mesin bukan sahaja mempunyai kecerdasan tetapi juga kesedaran. Kini pencerobohan teknologi dalam kehidupan kita telah sedia meruncing sehingga semakin sulit untuk meletakkan garis jelas antara dunia peribadi dan awam. Sudah tentu soalan-soalan eksistensial ini bukanlah sesuatu yang baru, namun sebelum ini soalan-soalan ini hanyalah latihan retorik manakala tidak lama lagi soalan-soalan ini akan menjadi tuntutan praktikal.

Talentism ialah kapitalisme yang baharu

Ketepikan huraian falsafah, mungkin lebih penting untuk mempertimbangkan bahawa revolusi komprehensif ini juga akan menjadikan andaian sedia ada tidak lagi relevan. Sebagai contoh, hubungan antara modal, buruh dan negara tidak lagi berfungsi sebagaimana sebelumnya.

Sebagai penggerak, teknologi telah “mendemokrasikan” setiap aspek perdagangan dan perniagaan, sehingga pasaran dan perkhidmatan dalam talian hari ini sering beroperasi di luar kerangka sedia ada berkaitan dengan pengawalseliaan, pensijilan, pelaburan dan pembangunan perniagaan. Hari ini, sesiapa sahaja boleh menjalankan perkhidmatan hotel atau menjadi pemandu teksi melalui perkhidmatan seperti Airbnb dan Uber. Sesiapa sahaja juga boleh mengumpul dana melalui crowdfunding atau meningkatkan skalabiliti melalui crowdsourcing.

Dunia baharu sudah menjelma, dan masyarakat serta kerajaan sedang berusaha untuk memahaminya.

Pada masa lalu, sumber yang paling penting untuk perniagaan adalah modal. Seorang usahawan tidak dapat memulakan kilang tanpa sejumlah besar modal untuk membeli peralatan dan mengajikan pekerja. Walau bagaimanapun, dalam Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat yang baharu ini, kejayaan memerlukan beberapa faktor pengeluaran yang berbeza.

Berdasarkan perkiraan inilah, Dr Klaus Schwab, seorang jurutera dan ahli ekonomi Jerman yang terkenal, telah merumuskan talentism (modal insan) semasa pembukaan Forum Ekonomi Dunia di Davos pada tahun 2013. Menurut Schwab, “modal dalam bentuk sumber kewangan sedang digantikan oleh daya kreativiti dan keupayaan untuk membuat pembaharuan – dalam erti kata lain modal insan – sebagai faktor yang paling penting dalam pengeluaran. Sepertimana modal kewangan telah menggantikan perdagangan manual semasa proses perindustrian, modal kewangan sekarang memberi laluan kepada modal insan. Talentisme adalah kapitalisme baharu.”

Bersaing dalam zaman idea

Di dunia yang baharu ini, satu-satunya hakikat yang kekal adalah perubahan. Justeru kegagalan untuk berubah akan mengundang padah. Ambil bekas gergasi telefon mudah alih, Nokia, yang pada tahun 2007 menguasai 49.4 peratus pasaran industri telefon pintar global. Pada tahun itu, Apple memperkenalkan iPhone pertama. Hanya beberapa tahun kemudian, Nokia telah dilupakan. Pada tahun 2013 syarikat Finland ini hanya menguasai 3 peratus pasaran. Oleh itu, inovasi dan kreativiti, bersama-sama dengan kebolehsuaian dan kadar responsif, kini menjadi pemacu utama kejayaan ekonomi. Dan ciri-ciri ini tidak datang daripada jentera yang terbaik atau pekerja terpantas. Sebaliknya, datang daripada bakat terbaik.

Dengan kata lain, daya saing dalam ekonomi baharu ini memerlukan proposisi nilai baru. Satu-satunya cara untuk mengekalkan kerelevenan dan untuk berada di hadapan dalam Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat ini bukanlah dengan menawarkan keberkesanan kos atau peningkatan kecekapan dalam pengeluaran, tetapi dengan menawarkan apa yang paling dituntut oleh dunia hari ini – idea. Inilah sebabnya mengapa orang yang berpendapatan tertinggi hari ini adalah orang yang mempunyai idea.

Oleh itu, penting bagi semua pihak yang berkepentingan, terutamanya pembuat dasar, untuk merealisasikan kecenderungan dunia masa hadapan ini. Pertimbangan yang mendalam dan holistik perlu diterapkan kepada dasar-dasar berkaitan perdagangan, tenaga kerja dan pendidikan. Ia tidak lagi akan menghasilkan pekerja yang paling baik dan paling berdisiplin tetapi mengasah keupayaan untuk membayang, mereka bentuk dan mencipta, sekurang-kurangnya buat masa ini sehingga mesin menjadi cukup pintar untuk melakukannya untuk kita.

Dalam era idea ini, keinginan dan iltizam untuk berubah adalah dua ciri utama yang diperlukan oleh sektor awam, swasta dan masyarakat. Ini kerana dua sifat paling utama yang diperlukan oleh talentism ini adalah pemikiran kritikal dan kreativiti, yang sering dizahirkan dengan cara yang sukar diterima dan diraikan pada awalnya, khususnya apabila ia mencabar status quo. Dalam keadaan ini, orang yang paling cepat menerima dan menyesuaikan diri yang akan berjaya.

Paling menarik, untuk individu, zaman idea ini juga akan menjadi zaman serba mungkin. Dengan skala yang tidak pernah dilihat sebelum ini dan ketersediaan peralatan, pengetahuan dan data, teknologi telah mendemokrasikan pasaran untuk semua orang. Oleh itu, tiada alasan untuk sesiapa sahaja yang bercita-cita tinggi, bertekad serta berbakat, tidak kira dari mana-mana bahagian dunia, untuk tidak dapat menghasilkan sesuatu yang mengagumkan dunia.

Apa yang diperlukan hanyalah idea yang bernas.

NB: This article was originally published in Roketkini.com on 2 January 2018.