Anwar Ibrahim reiterates that his 1996 budget is the latest series of his budgets to create a “civil society” but unfortunately, no one else in the Barisan Nasional leadership knows or understands what is a “civil society”

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the 1996 Budget on Monday, October 30, 1995

Anwar Ibrahim reiterates that his 1996 budget is the latest series of his budgets to create a “civil society” but unfortunately, no one else in the Barisan Nasional leadership knows or understands what is a “civil society”

The Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim reiterates that his 1996 budget is the latest series of his budgets to create a “civil society” but unfortunately, no one else in the Barisan Nasional leadership knows or understands what is a “civil society”. This is why no other Barisan Nasional Minister or MP had talked about a “civil society” although it had formed a constant theme of Anwar Ibrahim’s speeches, whether inside or outside the country – including his previous budget speeches.

By the creation of a “civil society”, Anwar said that “Malaysia’s overall development encapsulates noble ideals such as the enhancement of human dignity, the establishment of liberty, the eradication of society’s ills, the revitalization of our heritage and cultural empowerment which reflects intellectual and artistic achievements”.

There can be no argument that there is a need to promote a “civil society” where apart from the “public sphere” of government institutions, there is a greater role for the “private sphere” where the “third sector” of voluntary organisations and independent associations can play tan effective role to strengthen free, democratic, accountable and transparent institutions in the country.

But the question is whether the Barisan Nasional Government, and not just Anwar Ibrahim, is committed to the creation of a “civil society” in Malaysia.

In Malaysia wants to promote a “civil society”, then the Malaysia Government must give full recognition and respect to NGOs in Malaysia and even set aside at least RM20 million allocation a year to help fund the activities of Malaysian NGOs.

But the prospect is very different. The Government is persecuting the NGOs, as trying to declare NGOs which are not registered under the Societies Act but under the Companies Act as illegal.

For instance, the reason why the NGO, Tenaganita, was not appointed to the so-called independent Board of Visitors for the immigration detention centres, headed by the former Anti-corruption Agency direction centres, headed by the former Anti-Corruption Agency director-general, Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmod, as a result of complaints of deaths and ill-treatment of the detained illegal immigrants is that it is “illegal” in not having been registered under the Societies Act.

Malaysia must be developing a very pecullar “civil society” where Tenaganita is recognised internationally as an NGO, given special place of prominence at the Fourth world Conference on women in Beijing, but which is regarded as “illegal” in Malaysia by the Government.

What is even more outrageous, the authorities are persecuting NGOs and their leader, like Irene Fernancez of the Criminal Procedure Code to produce to the police all documents in connection with the Tenaganita memorandum on deaths, abuses and ill-treatment of migrant workers at the immigration detention centres – which made national and international news.

Irene has been given until tomorrow (Tuesday) to produce all the required documents or face the penalties provided by law.

It would appear that the authorities, and in particular the police, are not interested in an independent investigation into the conditions of detention of the migrant workers in the immigration detention centres – which has led to 46 deaths up to August this year – but to find out the sources of information for Irene Fernandez, which raises the question whether these sources would be victimized and penalized for making contact with Tenagatina.

Already, there is reason to believe that one name which Irene Ferandez had informed police as one of her informants for the Tenaganita memorandum is being penalized and victimized by the police, which defers her from revealing her other sources of information.

I call on the Home Ministry and the police in particular to pack off from the present line of persecution of Irene Fernandez and Tenaganita to demonstrate the government commitment to the development of a “civil society” which must include full respect for the role played by NGOs in promoting the culture of accountability and transparency.

I will deal with the question of Tenaganita and the problem of migrant workers later in my speech, as I wanted first to comment on Anwar;s emphasis on the promotion of a civil society. Let men touch on the various proposals which Anwar Ibrahim had made in his 1996 budget.

Anwar is in a very enviable position of managing the problems of success in the eighth year of high growth, where the problems are inflationary pressure, fight labour market and deficit in the current account of balance of payment.

Anwar’s budget strategy to deal with these problems include the following proposals:

  1. Income Tax Deductions

    The individual income tax cuts will benefit the rich more than the low-income groups, as the rate for the highest chargeable income bracket has been reduced by two per cent to 30 per cent, while the lowest chargeable income groups had been reduced by only one per cent. For instance, those in the chargeable income bracket between RM2,501 to RM5,000, the rate had been reduced by one per cent from 3 to 2%; but those in the higher chargeable income brackets exceeding RM20,001 have received a two per cent cut.

    These should be a higher cuts in the individual income tax rates for those in the lower chargeable income brackets, and at the very minimum, I would call on the Finance Minister to amend his budgetary proposal to make sure that the two chargeable income brackets which are getting only a one per cent out, i.e. those in the chargeable income brackets between RM2,501 to RM5,000 (3% being reduced to 2%) and between RM10,001 to RM20,000 (7% being reduced to 6%)would be placed on the same rooting as the seven other chargeable income brackets.

    I wish to give notice that if the Finance Minister does not make such an amendment to this proposal, the DAP will move an amendment to income Tax Act 1967 for this purpose when the Finance Ministry introduces amendments to various legislation in the Dewan Rakyat after the budget had been passed to give effect to the budgetary proposals.

    2. EPF contribution

    To increase savings, the Finance Minster had increased the rate of contribution by employees to the Employees Provident Fund from 10 per cent to 11 per cent effective from January 1996, while remaining untouched the employers ‘contribution at 12 per cent.

    If the government is serious about increasing savings, it should have increased the employers’ contribution to between 13 to 15 per cent. Although Malaysia’s rate of gross national savings of 34 per cent of GNP is considered high, the increase in the rate of savings is lower than the rate of increase in investment, resulting in a widening of the resources gap from 6.2 per cent of GNP in 1994 to an estimated 8.9 per cent in 1995.

    It should be noted that the Singapore CPF rate is 20 per cent contribution rates for employers and employees respectively, making a total of 40 per cent as compared to Malaysia’s total EPF contribution rate of 23 per cent.

    It should be noted that several groups of income earners will receive a lower net pay although they cease to be taxpayers under the 1996 Budget proposals. Their takenome pay will be deceased as they need to contribute one per cent more to the employees’ Provident Fund. For example, those who are married with three children under 18 and with an annual income of RM15,000, would not have to pay taxes but would have to fork out an extra RM150 to the EPF. These are the people who will not be better off under the 1996 Budget which should be flexible enough to resolve such a problem. The Finance Minister should consider whether there could be a separate employees’ contribution rate to ensure that no workers in the low-income bracket would suffer in getting a lower take-home pay as a result of the 1996 Budgetary proposals.

    3. Anwar commended for his “gender-sensitive” budget.

    I commend Anwar for a budget which is “gender-sensitive” as well as more sympathetic to the disabled and the elderly, which provides for training programmes for women, allocation for crecnes in Government departments, an option for both husband and wife to claim tax relief for children, tax relief for a disabled child increases form RM1,600 to RM5,000 and relief for medical expenses for parents from RM1,000 to RM3,000.

    Malaysian should set up the lead in giving concrete form to support the rights of women not as a question of gender but that of social justice, as in providing for longer maternity leave, giving budgetary recognition of Malaysians and a national scheme to set up community crèches near homes and which are run by local authorities.

    In this connection, the time has come for the Government to increase tax relief for children as the cost of raising children has increased in the last few years.

    There should also be fuller recognition of the importance of education not only to the individual but also to the nation, and with this in mind, the Finance Minister should consider providing full tax rebate for all educational expenses spent by parents on their children, whether primary, secondary or tertiary.

    4. To control credit consumption, minimum payment on credit cards should be raised to 50 per cent of monthly balances

    Anwar Ibrahim has raised the minimum payment on credit cards from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of monthly balances. To curb unrestrained credit consumption, the minimum payment on credit cards should be raised to 50 per cent, especially as there are 1.6 million credit cards as at June this year, with total outstanding balances of credit cards amounting to RM2.5 billion.

    His will discourage people from being in debt and misuse credit cards to get credit when it should be meant for convenience of consumers who do not want to carry a lot of money.

    5. RM100,000 levy on every foreign purchase of real estate

    The Finance Minister should consider increasing the RM100,000 levy on every foreign purchase of real estate to RM200,000, as a RM100,000 levy would mean an additional S$60,000 for Singaporeans who are buying up the expensive properties exceeding RM250,000 per unit in Johore and other parts of the country as they will not be able to buy properties at such cheap prices in their own country.

    The increase in real property gains tax rate from 20 per cent to 30 re cent for disposal within two years of acquisition, and another five per cent increase for the third and foruth year of acquisition, as well as a flat tax rate of 30 per cent for the disposal of any real property by non-citizen individuals, should help in reducing speculation in real estate.

    What is disturbing is the reaction by the housing and construction industry that the RM100,000 levy for house purchases by foreigners is unlikely to push down property prices, on the ground that reduced sale of houses to foreigners does not mean automatic reduction in prices.

    6. Increasing Costs of healthcare

    It is disturbing that while welcoming the budget’s abolition of import duties and sales tax on all basic medical equipment, the private healthcare industry is generally not making promises that any savings would be passes to patients in the form reduced treatment cost.

    Many general medical practitioners are in fact disappointed that the budget had done nothing to control the escalating drug prices, leaving them to the tender mercies of suppliers who overcharge the doctors and these added costs are then passed on to the patients.

    The increasing costs to healthcare is becoming one of the biggest over the controversy over the HMO (health Management Organisations) is most disturping, for there is clearly an urgent need for the Health Ministry to regulate HMOs to ensure that doctors do not subordinate the interests of the patients’ health to profit considerations.

    HMOs which are set up to make profits from the health industry will not give the primary priority to the setting up a health care system in the best interest of patients as their first aim will be profit-maximisation where the patients, interests will become secondary.

    For this reason, the health Ministry should freeze all HMO schemes until there is a law to regulate and register HMOs, which also draws up guidelines on patient care for HMOs, a code of ethics which include procedures to ensure contidentiality of patients’ records to be made compulsory, in-built mechanisms on costs and use of their surplus profits to upgrade patient care, etc.

    7. Government must not allow Tenaga, PLUS and other private monopolirs to increase their rates and tolls until they they have improved their services

    In his budget speech, Anwar Ibrahim reiterated the government’s commitment to the target of zero inflation, which is in the danger of suffering zero credibility.

    If the government is serious about zero inflation, then it should not allow Tenaga Nasional, PLUS and other private monopolies to increase their rates and tills until they have improved their services and productivity and fulfilled their basic obligations to the consumers and commuters by proving themselves to be responsible corporate citizens in Malaysia.

    Recently, Tenaga Nasional has been conducting a P.R. exercise declaring that domestic consumers would soon pay less for electricity as Tenaga Nasional has agreed to charge 20 sen for every unit of power for the first 200 units.

    At present, the first 100 units used cost 20 sen a unit while the next 900 units costs 22 sen and the rest 26 sen. Consumers are tole that this reduction is being made under Tenaga’s tariff restructuring exercise which is being studies by the Government.

    But what are the details of Tenaga Nasional’s tariff restructuring exercise and why can’t they be made public before any decision is taken by the government to approve it?

    It is no use for instance for Tenaga to proclaim that consumers would only pay 20 sen for every unit of power for the first 200 units, when two weeks or one month later, the unit costs for the first 200 units is increased as a result of the Tenaga’s tariff restructuring exercise.

    Tenaga Nasional must be made to understand that it has no right to ask for any tariff increase unless it has fulfilled two basic conditions:

    (i) provide satisfactory electricity supplies by ending the constant power disruptions in the country, amounting to 8,000 to 10,000 breakdowns a month;

    (ii) admission of legal liability to compensate industry, business and consumers for damage suffered as a result of power disruptions.

    Parliament was told last week that Malaysia’s power capacity exceeds power demands by 54 per cent. This makes the constant power disruptions – and it is the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed who said that there are 8,000 to 10,000 power breakdowns a month in Malaysia – even more inexcusable.

    What is the justification for an increase in Tenaga electricity tariffs when last year, the company posted a RM1.98 billion pre-tax profit on a RM5.61 billion Highway.

    PLUS must be told in no uncertain terms that a 33 per cent increase in the toll rates, from 7.5 sen per km to 10 sen is completely unacceptable as being against public policy – as it would make a total mockery of the government’s zero inflation campaign.

    Furthermore, PLUS must prove that it is a responsible corporate citizen before it could be allowed to increase toll rates.

    Although PLUS collects RM531 million in toll annually, it has failed to provide the basic facilities which North-South Highway commuters have a right to expect, as for instance, in the proper upkeep, maintenance and expansion of the North-South Highway without causing unnecessary traffic congestions of traffic hazards in certain stretches of the Highway.

    In many stretches of the North-South Highway, particularly between Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, there are permanent conditions of traffic congestions furing certain peak hours – which defeats the whole purpose of paying toll for “smoother, faster and more confortable” journey.

    Furthermore, PLUS have also failed to look after the needs of the commuters for “rest”, and it is not an uncommon sight to see long queues of commuters lining up in smaller “rest bays” to answer the calls of nature – especially when buses or tourists congregate.

    This is a best example of profit maximization by PLUS coupled with minimization of public facilities.

    The Government must set up a mechanism whereby requests by Tenaga, PLUS and other concessionaires which had gained monopoly control over public utilities should be vetted by a citizenry body first before the government takes any decision. This will ensure greater accountability and corporate responsibility on the part of Tenaga Nasional, PLUS and other public utility private monopolies!

    8. Retirement age should be raised to 60 and even 65 to overcome the acute shortage of labour

    Malaysia is facing an acute shortage of labour, both skilled and unskilled. To help reduce dependence on foreign workers, the Government should raise the retirement age from 55 years to 60 even 65, as life expectancy for Malaysians had increased – from 58.8 years to 69.7 years for males and from 73.3 years to 74.2 years for females between the commencement of the Sixth Malaysia Plan in 1990 and the present.

    If the Prime Minister of Malaysia is still going strong at 69 years, there is no reason why the retirement age in Malaysia, for both public and private sectors, should not be raised to 60 or even 65 years.

    A tripartite conference involving government, employers and workers should be convened to reach an agreement over various issues arising from the extension of the retirement age, such as wages, benefits and retraining.

    As the new Education Bill 1995 has raised the concern and anxieties not only for the Chinese Community, but also Barisan Nasional leaders including Cabinet Ministers, the Bill should be made public to seek public reaction and feedback before it is presented to Cabinet for approval.

    Anwar has allocated RM11.783 billion for education and training in the 1996 budget “to continue to reform the nation’s education system taking into account the current pace of the nation’s development and industrialization”.

    Anwar said Malaysia is capable of becoming a regional centre of educational excellence with the support of the private sector.

    The centrepiece of the national education reforms is the new Education Bill 1995 and another three pieces of educational legislation, the new National Higher Education Council Bill; the new Private Institutions of Higher Education Bill; and the Universities and University Colleges Act (Amendment) Bill.

    It is most disturbing that although the Barisan Nasional Government has taken some ten years to finalise the new Education Bill 1995, which the Education Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak said would be presented to Parliament in December for adoption together with the other three pieces of educational legislation, the new Education Bill 1955 and three other new education Bills have not been made public for study and feedback.

    In the past forty years, the issues of education and the 1961 Education Act had been very divisive and contentious issues for multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia because of the “ultimate objective” of the national Education Policy and the “one language, one culture” nation-building policy.

    I call on the Barisan Nasional Government and in particular the Education Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak, to learn from the divisive history of the 1961 Education Act, particularly the 34-year history of the controversy over Section 21(2) concerning the position and future of Chinese primary schools as well as Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and ensure that the new 1995 Education Bill is accepted of national and language groups in the country as an instrument of national unity and modernization to turn Malaysia into a development nation.

    Although the new Education Bill 1995 has not been made public, it is clear that the areas of concern and anxiety with regard to the position and future of mother-tongue education, particularly that of Chinese primary schools and Chinese independent Secondary Schools, have been crystallised and clarified from the speeches and statements made by Barisan Nasional Cabinet Ministers and leaders, as well as the reactions from the Chinese educational bodies, like Dong Zhao Zong.

    For instance, the Gerakan President and the Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik revealed in Penang yesterday that the present new education bill 1995 would adversely affect the Unified Examination of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools, which are antithetical to the objective of the new Education Bill 1995 to liberalise education in Malaysia to turn Malaysia into an international centre of educational excellence.

    Keng Yaik said the draft of the Education Bill 1995 had been completed but it had not been presented to the Cabinet, for adoption, and promised to make clear in Cabinet Gerakan’s opposition to the many restrictions in the draft Bill.

    I commend Keng Yaik for his trankness and courage in openly admitting that there are many provisions in the new Education Bill 1995 which are very restrictive and will adversely affect the position and future of Chinese education in Malaysia, I cannot understand now such provisions had been allowed to get into the new Education Bill when Keng Yaik said that he had been a member of the new Education Bill Drafting Committee for seven years.

    If Keng Yaik cannot get the Drafting Committee of the new Education Bill 1995 to delete the “restrictive provisions” in the final draft of the education Bill, what chances are there that he could get them removed when the Bill is presented to Cabinet?

    It is clear that Malaysians must demand is that the Education Bill should be made public before it is presented to Cabinet for a final decision – so that the Cabinet would have the benefit of public reactions and feedback before it takes a decision on the new Education Bill.

    I hope all Barisan Nasional MPs, especially MCA, Gerakan and SUPP MPs, will support this proposal that the new Education Bill 1995 should be made public before it is presented to Cabinet for a final approval so that the Cabinet would have the benefit of public reactions and feedback.

    The Education Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak should be sensitive to the suspicions and tears of the Chinese community in general and the Chinese educationists in particular about government intentions with regard to the position and future of Chinese primary schools and Chinese independent secondary schools because of the 34-year history of the 1961 Education Act.

    This is why, for instance, there is very guarded’ reaction to the announcement by Najib early this month that Mandarin and Tamil languages would become part of the primary school timetable in primary schools and would be taught to pupils of all races if there is demand.

    I have been making this proposal in Parliament since the 1970s and 1980s, and I welcome this belated acceptance of my proposal in Parliament, for it is a recognition that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation and that Mandarin must be regarded as one of the Malaysian languages and not a foreign language anymore.

    I would even go further and call on the Minister for Education to ensure that the new Education Bill 1995 also accept another one of the proposals which I had raised in Parliament in the seventies and eighties – which is to introduce Pupil’s own Religion’ in primary and secondary schools where our students would be given religious instruction according to their religion or choice. At present, only Islam is part of the school time-table and not the other religious.

    A Consultative Council comprising Education Ministry and Chinese educational representatives should incorporate sateguards into the new Education Bill 1995 to ensure that the position or Chinese primary schools will not be undermined.

    However, while I personally welcome the proposal to make mandarin and Tamil part of the school timetable in national primary schools, I would want the Education Minister to fully understand and be sensitive to the suspicions and fears that is should be be implement in a manner as to undermine and erode the position and future of Chinese primary schools.

    He should understand why for instance, the Gerakan MP for Batu, Joseph Chong, maintained that the proposal to make Mandarin as part of the primary school timetable “is a slow erosion of the spirit of running Chinese primary schools, and represent a poisonous injection for Chinese primary schools, which will affect the sources of supply of Chinese primary schools, and is of no help whatsoever to resolve the problems faced by Chinese primary schools.”

    Chinese primary schools are already presently faced with a crisis of shortage of 3,00 trained teachers and questions are legitimately asked as to how the government could implement the proposal to make Mandarin part of the school timetable in national primary schools when it could not even ensure adequate trained teachers for the Chinese primary schools.

    There is also the fear that good Mandarin teachers may be transferred from Chinese primary schools to national primary schools to implement the proposal to make Mandarin part of the school timetable, which would result in the undermining of public confidence in the Chinese primary schools.

    I call on Education Ministry to provide safeguards to ensure that the proposal to make Mandarin as part of the school timetable will not undermine the position and future of Chinese primary schools in Malaysia.

    These safeguard should be worked out by a consultative Council comprising the Education Ministry and Chinese educational representatives like Dong Zhao Zhong and should be incorporated into the new Education Bill 1955 when the Bill is presented to Parliament for debate and adoption.

    This Consultative Council should be empowered to deal with and resolve all reservations and objective that the new Education Bill would adversely affect the position, development and future of mother-tongue education, whether Chinese primary schools, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools or the proposed New Era College.

    If Barisan Nasional government regards Chinese Independent Secondary schools as “long-term national investment”, then there should be no new restrictions on their functioning and development under the new Education Bill 1995

    During the Sabah state general elections in 1994 and the national general election this year, Barisan Nasional leaders were all full of praise for the contributions of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools to nation-building and development of human resources.

    In Sabah last year, Anwar said that the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools were a “long-term national investment”.

    There should be no objection to the establishment of the Consultative Council that I have proposed if mother-tongue education, whether Chinese primary schools, Chinese Independent secondary schools or the proposed New Era College are seen in this spirit of “enlightenment and open-mindedness” as espoused by Barisan Nasional leaders during the Sabah state and national general elections.

    However, from the various pronouncements by Barisan Nasional leaders, including Cabinet Ministers, as well as the reaction of Dong Zhao Zhong, it is clear that there are many areas in the new Education Bill 1995 which had triggered off widespread concern and anxiety.

    The main areas of concern seem to be two:

    * Firstly, that although Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act had been repealed, the “ultimate objective” of the National Education Policy remains the guiding philosophy of the new Bill;

    * Secondly, that the new Education Bill 1995 contains new regulations and restrictions affecting the free functioning and development of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools which do not exist under the 1961 Education Act.

    If Barisan Nasional government regards Chinese Independent Secondary Scholls as “long-term national investment”, then there should be no new restrictions on their functioning and development under the new Education Bill 1995, when they don’t exist under the 1961 Education Act.

    Keng Yaik has already referred to one new regulation which would restrict Chinese Independent Secondary Schools under the new Education Bill, which could affect the Unified Examination Certificate of the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.

    Others include the following:

    *Chinese Independent Secondary Schools would have to seek special exemption from the education Minister to continue to operate as it would not be using the national language as the main medium or instruction. This of course would give room for all forms of abuses of power and interference with the administration of the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.

    If Chinese Independent Secondary could be recognised by Anwar Ibrahim as “long-term national investment” during general elections, why can’t Chinese Independent Secondary Schools be given statutory recognition in the new Education Bill 1995 which specifically mentions them and permit their continued existence and operation without having to secure “new legal life” by seeking new exemption from the Education Minister when the new Education Act becomes law?

    * New regulation requiring Chinese Independent Secondary Schools to prepare their students for government examinations.

    * New restrictions barring Chinese Independent Secondary Schools from offering twinning programmes except with the approval of the Education Minister.

    * New regulation applying all the regulations and riles of the new Education Act to Chinese Independent Secondary Schools unless they are given specific exemption.

    * New regulation requiring teachers of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools to be registered by the Education Ministry, and the new power by the Education Ministry to revoke the registration. If this law had been in force under the 1961 Education Act, Loot Ting Yu could never have been able to be a teacher in a Chinese Independent Secondary School.

    * Making it an offence punishable with RM30,000 fine or two years jail or both conducting teacher-training colleges in violation of the conditions laid down by the Education Minister.

    As the Barisan Nasional won a landslide victory in the recent April general elections, gaining five-sixth majority in parliament, it should be even more sensitive to these legitimate doubts and fears about the new Education Bill on the position and future of Chinese education in Malaysia.

    After all, the Government must admit that it had not always applied strict educational principles or professional considerations to problems affecting Chinese education.

    For instance, the Education Minister had announced that the Education Ministry would allow Std. VI pupils automatic promotion to national secondary schools without having to go to remove classes, if this is the choice of the parents.

    It was only four years ago that the Education Ministry had given strong opposition to the proposal to allow Chinese primary school Std. VI pupils with distinguished academic results to be automatically promoted to Form One in national secondary schools.

    The reason advanced by the Education Ministry was educational and professional, that statistics have shown that the majority of the Chinese primary schools pupils fared badly in the national secondary schools.

    Then, the 6A rule was modified o 4A-2C, which was again later changed to 4B-2A, and not to be replaced by the offer to all parents that all their children could have automatic promotion to Form One if they wished.

    What is the educational and professional basis for the Education Ministry’s stand on this issue in the past and today?

    The DAP is not only concerned about the position and future of Chinese education in the educational reforms being undertaken by the Government.

    Other four areas on the educational future of Malaysia which must concern all Malaysians include:

    * How Malaysia, is to become a Centre of Education al Excellence especially in higher education recognised and respected internationally – not only by the developing countries but also by the developed world;

    * How Malaysia could be a leader in making use of the information technology revolution and the information Superhighway in the field of education at all levels, whether tertiary, secondary or primary as well as in developing the field of long-distance education;

    * Corporatisation of the local universities as to whether this will make higher education beyond the reach of the poor and those from the low-income groups.

    It is for this reason that I must urge the Education Minister to ensure that MPs and the Malaysian public are given adequate time to study and discuss the four new sets of education bills, that at least two months given for public study, consultation and debate and that at least two days should be set aside by Parliament to debate each of the four new Education bills.

    DAP calls for a national information Infrastructure Policy aimed at making Malaysia a leader in the Information Superhighway

    I welcome the abolition of sales tax on computers and their components, including software, and the provision that in the computation of income tax, the capital allowance related to expenses on computers and other information technology equipment be allowed as a deducation over a period of two years.

    I welcome these responses of the 1996 budget to the revolution of information technology, although it could not yet be described as an information technology (IT) budget as I had proposed – to lay the basis to make Malaysia a leader in the information Superhighway.

    I agree with what Anwar said in his budget speech, that the Malaysian economy must progress to a level where the value of the services sector – which is now very weak and a major contributing factor to the deficit in the current account – should exceed that of the manufacturing sector of Malaysia’s future prospects will not be promising.

    This will itself depend on now development is our National Information Infrastructure which will increasingly determine our national economic competitiveness and health. In fact, the world’s information industry is forecast to account for more than 15% of the world’s GNP by the year 2000.

    We must regard the information highway infrastructure as an essential infrastructure because it can mean:

    – An increasing competitive advantage for Malaysian enterprises;

    – Opportunity for specific new industry to develop;

    – Better, more effective and cost-efficient provision of government services and information; and

    – Improved quality of life and changed way for Malaysians to live, learn, work and play.

    We urgently need a National Information Infrastructure Policy aimed at making Malaysia a leader in the information Superhighway, which should include the following aims:

    (a) to develop awareness among Malaysians at large of the significance of the Information highway in Malaysia and in the world;

    (b) to development usage of information technology in Malaysia among government, private sector and individual practitioners;

    (c) to encourage Malaysian companies to invest in the development of new usages, technologies and software for the information highway and to market these processes internationally;

    (d) to convince companies that are involved in information technology elsewhere to participate in the developments in Malaysia, either through direct investment or partnerships.

    There is clearly an urgent need to educate Malaysians about now to use the Information highway and to inform Malaysians about its potential for social and economic development and job creation, and I hope that future budgets will be even more IT-oriented.

    Anwar said that beginning with the academic year 1996, al institutions of higher larning will introduce distance learning. This is commendable. But I understand that in our universities, university students do not have access to the Internet.

    As communications and information are the new resources upon which the economic prosperity and competitiveness of nations will be built, we should have a Communications Plan with the following aims:

    – With the government as a model user/ customer of the information highway, Malaysia should develop electronic access to a vast array of services. These would bring with them new opportunities for lifelong learning, more efficient and effective health care, greater access to information and one-stop shopping for government information and wide range of information-based products and services.

    – University students throughout Malaysia have access to the Internet to conduct research and collect up-to-the-minute information;

    – Eventually all schools will have access to internet, e-mail and electronic bulletin boards; and

    – Where every house become a school house, having access to the world’s storehouse of knowledge and information through the computer.

    Towards such an objective, Malaysians must become highly computer-literate. The abolition of sales tax on computers though welcome is not adequate, and the government should establish a Fund to give loans to buy computers so that Malaysians, even from the low-income brackets, could afford to own computers at home.

    DAP calls on Anwar Ibrahim to honour his promise to NGOs to make public all the studies the Government had commissioned on the Bakun dam project

    In his budget speech, Anwar spoke of the need to scale down of stagger the timing of mega-projects to ease financial pressures and to avoid the case drain that come with bunching projects together.

    One such mega-project is undoubtedly the highly-controversial RM15 billion Bakun hydroelectric dam project.

    Up to now, the Federal Government has not been able to explain why it had reverse its May 1990 decision to scrap the Bakun dam project for “environmental reasons” three years later in September 1993.

    What is most outrageous is that the Minister for energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie has tried to mislead Parliament last August and avoid having to give an explanation when he denied that the Cabinet had taken a decision in May 1990 to scrap the Bakun dam project – when in June 1990, the Prime Minster, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed had himself announced at an international conference about the Cabinet scrapping the Bakun dam project.

    The bakun dam project is shouded in great mystery and secrecy, and I call on Anwar Ibrahim to honour his promise as Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Bakun to the NGOs last August that the Government would make public all the studies the it had commissioned on the bakun dam project.

    What is very shocking about the bakun dam Project is the long catalogue of contradictions and conflicting statements which Federal Government and Sarawak state Government keep making on the subject.

    Early this month, the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud speakaing at the opening of a three-day environmental journalism seminar jointly organised by the Malaysian Press Institute and “The freedom Forum in Kuching, Taib said that “the current ebergy need or the country was more than 10,640Mw. This figure is projected to grow to about 15,550Mw by the year2,000 and 50,000MW by the year 2020.”

    I do not know where Taib got his figures, but they were clearly different from the figures on present and future energy needs of the country given by the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie in his Minsterial statement in the Dewan Rakyat on 14th August 1995.

    This is form Leo Moggie’s Ministerial statement in the Dewan Rakyat on August 14, 1995: “Adalah diramalkan permintaan punca kuasa elektrik akan berkembang pada kadar 10.3%. Permintaan puncak untuk seluruh Negara dijanka meningkat daripada 6,276 megawatt pada tahun 1995 kepada 10,446 megawatt pada tahun 2000 dan seterusnya dijangka mencapai 16,389 megawat pada tahun 2005.”

    Where did tab get the figure that Malaysia’s energy needs would be 15,000 MW by the year 2,000 when Leo Moggie told Parliament less than two months ago that it would be 10,448MW – an almost 50 per cent difference?

    This is not the first time that there had been such glaring conflicts and contradictions about important facts and facets of the Bakun dam project.

    For instance, last month the Sarawak Finance Minister, Dr. George Chan told a three-day seminar on bakun in Kuching that power from bakun would be exported to neighbouring countries like Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia to earn revenue.

    But this was rebutted by Leo Moggie the next day who said that all the power produced by the Bakun dam would be used locally and would not be exported.

    The confusion of the Sarawak Chief Minister and the Sarawak State Ministers about important aspects of the bakun dam projects is proof that inadequate thought and study had been given to justify the rushing in the implementation of the project.

    A volume could now be written about the contradictory and confusing statements which had been made by Federal and State Government leaders about the Bakun dam project.

    One of the most careless and reckless Statements was made recently by the Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin who went to Sarawak and claimed that there was “unanimous support” from the people of belaga for the Bakun project as the Sahabat Alam Malaysia only managed to get 9% signatures from the 9,428 people in the Belaga district to spport its Bakun Declaration.

    In actual fact, the 97 signatures for the Bakun Declaration, which wanted full consultation with the people of Belaga before the Bakun dam project is implemented and sought just compensation for the affected people, was not of individuals but heads of households and only represented the first phase of the signature campaign, which is still underway.

    Furthermore, this was the third signature campaign among the people affected by the Bakun dam project.

    In 1985-86, local residents conducted a signature compaign and submitted over 2,000 signatures to the Feredal and Sarawak State Governments, representing half of the indigenous people to be affected, as only some 4,000 people were expected to be affected by the project in the 1980s.

    Again, in 1993, when announcement was made about the revival of the bakun dam project, another mass signature campaign among the indigenous people who would be affected by the project was launched. In this campaign, some 3,500 signatures were given to the authorities – over 800 from the indigenous people in Belaga and over 2,000 from lower Rejang.

    The results from these three signature campaigns (the third one is still underway) gives a completely from that presented by Aziz Shamsuddin of “unanimous support” from the people of Belaga for the Bakun project.

    Last week, Leo Moggie gave a fairly longish reply to my parliamentary question on “Bakun and earthquakes”. This is the the most detailed statement so far issued by anyone in authority on the subject and is a positive contribution to make the decision-making process on the R,15 billion bakun hydroelectric dam project more accountable and transparent to Malaysians in general, and the affected indigenous people in Belaga area in Sawarak in particular, and I commend him for it.

    Leo Moggie’s reply however are full of holes and he should clarity them to parliament and the people, for example:

    1. Leo Moggie claims that the Bakun dam could withstand an earthquake measuring six on the Richter scale. Early this month, however, the manager of Bakun Management Sdn. Bhd., wan Zawawi Wan Akil, boasted that the Bakun dam was being designed to withstand earthquakes of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale. Who is right – Leo Moggie or Wan Zawawi.

    2. Moggie said that actual evaluation of seismic activity at the Bakun project site recorded at “peak ground acceleration” was 0.012 time of the earth gravity compared to the design criteria of 0.1 time of the earth gravity as reported in the EIA report, or nine times higher. There seems to be a miscalculation here, for 0.1 is eight times higher than 0.012, and not nine times higher.

    In his answer to my question, “untuk mengelakkan orang-ramai yerkeliru dengan tindak tanduk Ahli yang Berhormat dari Tanjung itu, saya ingin member cirri keupayaan hidroelektrik Bakun berasaskan kajian-kajian yang telaj di-lakukan oleh pihak profesional”, Moggie gave the following data:

    (i) Maximum Generating Capacity 2,400 MW

    (ii) Mimimum Generating Capacity 1,820 MW

    (iii) Firm Capacity 1,771 MW

    (iv) Average Annual Energy Production 16,785 GWH

    (v) Firm Annual Energy Production 15,617 GWH

    (vi) Average Plant Factor 80.0%

    In his answer, Leo Moggie had also challenged the authority of dam analyst Dr. Wang Weilon, claiming that he is only a lecturer in regional planning at the Dortmund University, Germany and had never done any analysis on the feasibility study or the project tender document and that his only source of information is from the newspapers.

    Firstly, let me clarity that Dr. Wang is not a lecturer in regional planning but is attached to the Department of Spatial Planning, University Dortmund, Germany.

    It is through no fault of Dr. Wang Weilou that he had no access to the various studies and date which had been commissioned on Bakun by the Federal and Sarawak State Government, as the authorities concerned had failed to make public these studies and documents although the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had made such a promise in his meeting with NGOs in August.

    If without access to all the Bakun studies, Dr. Wang weilou could make analysis and criticisms which the Federal and Sarawak State Government and Ekran Bhd. had find it difficult to rebut or respond, it is likely that if Dr. Wang and other experts are allowed access to all the relevant studies and data on the bakun dam project, the relevant authorities would find it even more difficult to convince Malaysians about the wisdom of rushing through with the Bakum dam project,

    If Leo Moggie is so convinced that Dr. Wang Weilou is not qualified to analyse and comment on the Bakun Gam project, then I invite Leo Moggie to give full Federal Government support to the Malaysian Parliamentary Group on environment and Development (MPGED) Conference on Bakun in December, where Dr. Wang Weilou could be invited to be a guest speaker.

    If Dr. Wang Weilou’s Credentials are so dubious and his critiques so unfounded, the MPGED Conference on Bakun would be an excellent forum for the federal and Sarawak State Governments and Ekran Bhd to rebut all the criticisms which had been leveled by Dr. Wang Weilou against the Bakun dam project.

    I have asked for Dr. Wang Weilou’s response to the basic statistics given by Leo Moggie in his answer, and his response is not flattering for Leo Moggie.

    Dr. Wang is firmly of the view that the claimed average power output of 16785 GWH per annum for Bakun dam is “not reachable”.

    He said that it is well known that hydroelectric power depends on the usable stream flow, the greater the usable water head and hthe efficiency of turbine, generator and transformer, and the greater the usable stream flow, the greater the hydroelectric power.

    He said that in three reports about Bakun HEP, there had been three different figures about the average stream flow at the dam site.

    In the Master Plan for Electricity supply – Survey of potential Hydro Power in Sarawak (May 1981) the average stream flow at the dam site reaches 1560 cb m/s.

    In the Bakun Hydro-electric Project reasibility report (November 1983), the average stream flow at the dam site is 1440 cb m/s.

    In the Bakun HEP EIA (Interim report, November 1994) the average stream flow at the dam site is reduced to 1314 cb m/s.

    Dr. Wang shows that as a result of the 15.8% reduction in the average stream flow at the dam site in 13 year, the installed capacity of bakun HEP should now be about 4170 MW and not 2400 MW and the average power output per annum 15250 GHW and not 16785 GWH as claimed by Leo Moggie in his answer last week.

    Dr. Wang also described the 15.8% reduction in the average stream flow at the dam site as a “dangerous tendency”, whether it was caused logging activities or a cyclical pattern of nature, and what it portend for the future of the Bakun dam if it the reduction tendency persisted.

    Dr. Wang has also given other facts and figures which throws a disturbing light as to whether the federal and State Governments are in full possession of the facts and data about the dam site, which will determine the future, feasibility and viability of the dam project.

    There is also another contradiction in Leo Moggie’s answer. At a press conference at the Parliament lobby after his Ministerial statement on Bakun on 14th August 1995, Moggie said that the actual capacity of Bakun dam is about 60 per cent of capacity. We have now two sets of figures about the capacity of Bakun dam: 80% and 60%.

    Moggie’s reply on Tuesday has also failed to address in a comprehensive manner all the issues about the subject of “Bakun and earthquakes”, particularly about earthquakes induced by the building of a dam.

    Although it is little known by the general public, Leo Moggie as the Minister directly responsible for the Bakun dam projects should know by now that it is well-established that large dams like Bakum can cause earthquakes.

    The United States Commission on Large Dams, for instance, had compiled a bibliography of more than 2,000 technical papers related to reservoir-induced earthquakes.

    The question is whether the government of Ekran Bhd. had commissioned any study by experts on whether the Bakun dam could trigger off earthquakes according to its design specifications, and if so, who had made such a study and the findings of such a study.

    I would ask the Leo Moggie to declare who are the “earthquake experts” the Federal Government had commissioned to advise the government about all aspects of “Bakun and earthquakes” so that the Malaysian Parliamentary Group on environment and Development (MPGED) could have a dialogue with them on the issue.