• Why is the Election Commission (EC) allowing UMNO to make spurious objections to young people being registered as voters, especially in Selangor?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of April, 2017

    Why is the Election Commission (EC) allowing UMNO to make spurious objections to young people being registered as voters, especially in Selangor?

    From Quarter 1 to Quarter 3 2016, a total of 4694 objections were received by the Election Commission. Out of this total, 4427 or 94% were objections that were filed in Selangor. This clearly shows that the focus of the objection exercise is in Selangor.

    Our analysis of the objections from Q1 to Q3 2016 in Selangor shows two distinct trends. Firstly, out of the 36 seats which have objections, 30 or 86% were in seats which were contested by UMNO in the 2013 general elections. Secondly, of the 4427 objections in Selangor, 92.8% were Chinese voters, 5.8% were Indian voters and 1.2% were Malay voters. (See Table 1 below)

    This trend continued in Q4 2016. A total of 2550 objections were lodged in Selangor in 24 state seats. Out of the 24 state seats, 20 or 83% were seats contested by UMNO in GE2013. Out of the 2550 voters being objected to, 79.1% were Chinese voters, 6.3% were Indian voters and 14.2% were Malay voters (See Table 2 below).

    We are not against the right to file objections against voters but these objections have to be filed based on solid grounds. For example, our colleagues in Johor have filed objections based on investigations that voters were being registered en masse in shop houses and in addresses which they do not live in. In the case of Selangor, we have received many complaints about objections that were made on spurious grounds such as ‘the address of the voter cannot be found’ or ‘the voter is not known by the local residents’ when in fact, the objector has never visited the voter at his or her registered address!

    We have received anecdotal evidence that the objections in Selangor are being filed by UMNO members and UMNO linked entities. At a time when the Election Commission is supposed to be encouraging more young Malaysians to register to vote, it is unacceptable that it is allowing UMNO to carry out race based voter objections in Selangor which will end up depriving thousands of young Malaysians from exercising their constitutional right to vote in the next general election. The Election Commission should act immediately to stop these baseless objections which are happening in Selangor.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Full details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act must be known before a decision to support or not can be made

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 30th of March 2017

    Full details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act must be known before a decision to support or not can be made

    Yesterday, on the 29th of March, 2017, myself together with my colleagues, Anthony Loke (Seremban), Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Chong Chien Jen (Bandar Kuching), Julian Tan (Stampin), Oscar Ling (Sibu), Jeff Ooi (Jelutong) and Ng Wei Aik (Tanjong) met with Senator Datuk Paul Low, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to discuss the details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act.

    The recommendations[1] of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing were published on its website on the 30th of September 2016.[2]

    We expressed our disappointment that this committee chose to only focus on political donations and expenditure without addressing larger issues of reform which are linked to political donations and expenditure including the independence of the Election Commission as well as the office of the Attorney General (AG).

    We also highlighted some of the shortcomings of the recommendations including the proposal to lift all spending limits and not to have a cap on political donations to political parties and individuals. This will skew an already uneven playing field in favour of the Barisan Nasional (BN).

    At the same time, we welcome the following recommendations:

    • The creation of an office of the Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure and the assurance of a transparent and fair process to appoint the Controller
    • The creation of a parliamentary standing committee on political financing to scrutinise the work of the Controller on behalf of Parliament
    • That state funding be provided to support the effective operations of the constituency offices of the elected Members of Parliament and elected State Legislative Assembly members
    • The ban on state owned companies and companies receiving government contracts and concessions from making any political contributions
    • Steps to be taken to criminalise discrimination or victimisation of donors and the creation of a mechanism to enable donors who feel they have been unfairly treated to seek justice

    We informed the Minister that state funding for MPs should include access to constituency development funds which are currently being denied to opposition MPs.

    We also took note that many of the finer details to do with the implementation of the proposed act have not yet been confirmed and is in the process of being ironed out by the technical committee.

    We appreciate the assurance by the Minister that he will keep us informed of any future developments with regards to this proposed bill and that he ‘will not spring any surprises’ on us.

    We will await the full details of the proposed bill before we decide on whether to support the bill or not.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Photo: DAP MPs meeting with Paul Low

    [1] http://transparency.org.my/what-we-do/reforming-political-financing/full-report-from-the-national-consultative-committee-on-political-financing/

    [2] http://politicalfinancing.my/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Media-STATEMENT-JKNMPP-English-final-290916.pdf

  • The Ministry of Education is guilty of gross incompetence in administering the 2015 PISA test

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang,  Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara and Zairil Khir Johari, MP for Bukit Bendera, on the 29th of March 2017

    The Ministry of Education is guilty of gross incompetence in administering the 2015 PISA test

    The poor performance of Malaysian students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009, where Malaysia was ranked in the bottom third of all countries, was highlighted in the National Education Blueprint 2013 to 2025 (See Figure 1). Malaysia’s performance in the 2012 PISA test did not show significant improvement. Not surprisingly, there was much attention on the 2015 PISA test scores to see if the efforts of the Ministry of Education would be able to boost Malaysia’s performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science.

    Figure 1: Comparison of Malaysia’s PISA 2009+ ranking and scores against other countries (selected)

    Unfortunately, even though Malaysia’s scores for Reading, Mathematics and Science did show an increase from 2012 to 2015 (from 398 to 431 for Reading, from 421 to 446 in Mathematics, from 420 to 443 in Science), Malaysia was not included in the 2015 PISA ranking. According to the 2015 PISA report, “In Malaysia, the PISA assessment was conducted in accordance with the operational standards and guidelines of the OECD. However, the weighted response rate among the initially sampled Malaysian schools (51%) falls well short of the standard PISA response rate of 85%. Therefore, the results may not be comparable to those of other countries or to results for Malaysia from previous years”.[1]

    In a parliamentary reply to MP Tony Pua, on the 22nd of March, 2017, the excuses given by the Ministry of Education for this low response include: (i) students were not used to answering the questions using computers resulting in their response not being recorded and (ii) technical problems such as damaged data and data which were lost during the taking of the test.

    These excuses are unacceptable for the following reasons:

    • The Ministry of Education had at least 2 years, starting in 2013, to prepare for the 2015 PISA test.[2]
    • This is not the first time which Malaysia is going through the PISA process. In 2009, the response rate for the students selected was 99.3% and in 2012, it was 100.0%. How was it that in 2015, the response rate had dropped to 51%?
    • Before the release of the PISA report, the Ministry of Education had given assurances that both students and teachers had been adequately prepared for the taking and administering of the PISA tests.[3]

    The admission of these technical failures shows that the Ministry of Education was grossly incompetent in administering the 2015 PISA tests. In doing so, it has put Malaysia in an embarrassing situation of not being featured in the PISA rankings.

    The Ministry of Education should not be boasting about Malaysia’s improvement in its PISA scores since the PISA report has clearly stated that our 2015 scores cannot be compared to past PISA scores. Instead, it should issue a detailed report on why the sample of schools included in the PISA test and explain why the response rate of 85% was not reached. Deputy Education Minister, Chong Sin Woon, promised in December 2016 that such a detailed report would be released but till now, we have seen no such report.[4]

    Figure 2: Reasons given on why Malaysia only managed a 51% response rate for the 2015 PISA test

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] PISA 2015 Results – Policies & Practices for Successful Schools Vol.II, pg. 261.

    [2] http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-news/malaysia-capable-improving-its-position-pisa-2015-26809

    [3] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/02/13/students-being-prepped-for-pisa-assessment/

    [4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/report-on-malaysias-pisa-disqualification-underway

  • How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 27th of March, 2017

    How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

    Tony Robbins is a household name among those who follow management trends and self-help coaches. He has been a life coach to movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and world class athletes including Andre Agassi. For US$650, you can get nosebleed seats to a 3 day “Unleash the Power Within” Tony Robbins seminar in New York later this year. For US$2995, you can have a seat on the floor and access to the Premier Lounge.[1]

    If Tony Robbins were to come to Malaysia, the private company which has to pay his appearance fee would have to charge very high ticket fees in order to cover their costs and to make a decent profit. It would be hard to imagine this private company getting any funding from the Malaysian government to organize such an event. Perhaps some private corporations may be inclined to sponsor such an event so that some of their management can have special access to the man himself. But the risks and the rewards of organizing such an event would be in private hands, with little or no government involvement.

    Malaysia now has its equivalent of a Tony Robbins ‘make yourself feel good session’ in the form of the Global Transformation Forum (GTF). The first forum was held in 2015 and the headliners to this forum included Arnold ‘the Terminator’ Schwarzenegger and former Olympians Carl Lewis and Sebastian Coe. Fast forward to 2017 and this year’s headliners include businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson and 8-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.[2]

    For GTF 2015, ticket prices started at RM427 for a university student and went up to a maximum of RM1424 for a regular delegate (Figure 1). For GTF 2017, ticket prices were jacked up to a starting price of RM4,000 and went up to a maximum of RM10,000 (Figure 2).

    If this were a purely private event organized by a private company, this Member of Parliament would have no beef with the ticket prices nor with the hosting of the event itself. But this is not a purely private event. Nor was it funded purely by ticket sales to individuals and the private sector.

    Figure 1: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2015

    Figure 2: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

    The first issue I have with this event is that it involves taxpayers’ funds. The first GTF in 2015 was organized with a government subsidy of RM10 million (Figure 3). Despite the higher ticket prices in 2017, the government subsidy was increased to RM15 million (Figure 4).

    Figure 3: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2015

    Figure 4: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2017

    Since this event is mostly accessible to those who are affluent, because of the high ticket prices, it does not make sense for the government to pour in millions of Ringgit to subsidize this event organized by the rich, for the rich and of the rich. It makes even less sense that the government subsidy increased by 50% from RM10 million in 2015 to RM15 million in 2017 when ticket prices in 2017 have been raised significant and there are no discounts for students and the less affluent.

    The second issue I have with this event is that the revenue for GTF 2017 goes directly to a private company. GTF 2015 was organized by BFR Institute, a company which is 100% owned by PEMANDU Corp, which is a company limited by guarantee under the control of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.[3] GTF 2017 is organized by PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd which is a private company that is co-owned by its CEO and President Dato Seri Idris Jala (Figure 5).

    Figure 5: Ownership of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd (downloaded from the Companies Commission of Malaysia / Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia website on the 26th of March, 2017)

    Since the GTF is no longer organized by BFR Institute, which is a government owned and government controlled company, but by a private company, namely PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, how much of the sponsorship of this event, including the RM15 million set aside by the Government of Malaysia, which is going into the pockets of this private company that is co-owned by Idris Jala?

    The third issue I have with the GTF is that a private company, PEMANDU Associates, is using this publicly subsidized event to increase its own public profile, perhaps in the hope of selling its consultancy services to the government, Government Linked Companies (GLCs) and other companies.

    PEMANDU Associates was set up on the 16th of December 2016 as part of the transition for PEMANDU Corp to hand over its responsibilities back to the civil service. According to PEMANDU’s website, “all staff in PEMANDU and BFR Institute will move to PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, a private consultancy firm newly established by PEMANDU management and staff”. In addition, “under our agreement with the Government on 5th January 2017, PEMANDU Associates will be deploying 45 people to the National Transformation Program (NTP) work under the supervision of the Civil Service Delivery Unit in 2017. This number will reduce to 30 in 2018. The current employees not deployed to the NTP work will be doing business development work, as well as to provide consultancy services to public sectors abroad and business turnaround”.[4]

    In other words, PEMANDU Associates will be paid by the Government of Malaysia in 2017 and 2018 for its consultancy services. This means that PEMANDU Associates will have access to the inner workings of various government ministries and agencies. As far as I know, Idris Jala, who was appointed as the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia as of the 1st of January, 2017[5], has not officially resigned from his position as CEO of PEMANDU Corporation or as chairman of the BFR Institute. What assurance is there that PEMANDU Associates will not abuse its position and knowledge of the civil service in order to sell its consultancy services to other government departments or private companies who want to have access to the civil service? The fact that Idris Jala has not clarified his position and role as the CEO and President of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, the CEO of PEMANDU Corporation, the Chairman of BFR Institute and the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia does not give any public assurance that conflicts of interest arising from the holding of these various positions will not arise.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] https://www.tonyrobbins.com/events/unleash-the-power-within/new-york-area-07-20-2017/#pricing

    [2] One of Usain Bolt’s relay gold medals was recently taken away because of a positive drug test for one of the relay runners (not Bolt).

    [3] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/media-room-idris-jala-holds-no-shares-bfr/

    [4] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/pemandu-begins-transition/

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/12/01/idris-jala-to-become-heineken-malaysia-chairman/

  • Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of March, 2017

    Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

    The Global Transformation Forum 2017, featuring internationally renowned speakers and celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson, Jack Ma and Usain Bolt, is currently taking place at the KL Convention Center from the 22nd to the 23rd of March, 2017.[1] It has a number of corporate sponsors including Tenaga, Hong Leong Bank, YTL, MMC Gamuda, KL Kepong and many others. The cost of entrance for this forum starts at RM4,000 for a basic package (“Club Pass”) and going up to RM10,000 for the most expensive package (“Signature Pass”). As of today, tickets for the Circle Pass (RM6,000) and the Signature Pass (RM10,000) has been sold out and only a limited number of Club Passes (“RM4,000) are left (See Figure 1 below).

    Figure 1: Cost and Benefits of the Club Pass, Circle Pass and Signature Pass packages for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

    If this was a purely private affair, organized by the private sector for the private sector, it would be no business of mine as a Member of Parliament (MP) to question the costs of organizing such an event. But a similar forum had previously been organized in 2015 at a cost of RM10 million to the taxpayer.

    In the parliamentary reply given to me today, the cost to the taxpayer for organizing this event has escalated to RM15 million! (See Appendix 1)

    When government funding to our universities and our hospitals are being cut left, right and center, and government subsidies for essentials such as sugar and cooking oil are being cut, why is the government subsidizing an event that will be almost exclusively attended by affluent and well-connected Malaysians? So that the Prime Minister will have more opportunities to take selfies with celebrities? This is a slap in the face of Malaysians who are suffering because of increases in the cost of living and cuts in government expenditure. The organizers of the event should be ashamed of themselves for asking the government for RM15 million to organize this forum for the rich, of the rich and by the rich.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://globaltransformation.com/

    Appendix 1: Answer to my Parliament Question of the Government Allocation for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

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