• Malaysia demonstrates lack of leadership in climate change issues by being only 1 of 2 ASEAN countries not to submit the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) as of 1st of October, 2015

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of October

    Malaysia demonstrates lack of leadership in climate change issues by being only 1 of 2 ASEAN countries not to submit the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) as of 1st of October, 2015

    On the 23rd of September, 2014, in his address to the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak not only reiterated his promise made at Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce Malaysia’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, he stated that Malaysia had already achieved a more than 33% reduction in emissions intensity.[1]

    Unfortunately, we were never told where these emission reductions came from. Indeed, one doubts the authenticity of these numbers as well as Malaysia’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions moving forward, especially given our continued reliance on coal powered electricity generating plants. From a parliamentary reply I received from the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHa), it is projected that the generation fuel mix from coal power plants (which contributes far more towards carbon emissions compared to gas fired plants) would increase from 50% in 2015 to 65% in 2022. The percentage of electricity generation from renewable sources is projected to be at a measly 3% by 2020 (See reply below).

    In contrast, President Obama’s recently announced Clean Power Plan provides strong regulations and incentives to reduce the United State’s reliance on carbon intensive power plants (especially coal power plants) and move towards renewable energy sources.[2] While it is acknowledged that Malaysia and the United States are at very different stages of economic development, it is nonetheless shocking to see the lack of leadership in Malaysia on the issue of climate change.

    The most recent example of this lack of leadership is the fact that Malaysia, together with Brunei, are the only two countries in ASEAN which have failed, as of the 1st of October 2015, to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).[3] The INDCs are an essential component of the process leading up to the Conference of Parties 21 (COP 21) which is scheduled to take place in Paris in December where an ambitious agenda to tackle climate change will be negotiated.

    As of the 1st of October, 119 countries (out of 167) have submitted their INDCs including big developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia and other smaller developing countries such as Liberia, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Malaysia finds itself among countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela as those who have not yet submitted their INDCs.

    This not only puts Malaysia in a poor light especially given our position as the chair of ASEAN for 2015 but also calls into question Malaysia’s preparedness heading into COP 21. This is also part of a larger problem in demonstrating lack of leadership in addressing the most important environmental problem facing the country now which is the haze issue. Resolving this issue requires strong leadership by Malaysia especially in our dealings with Indonesia and how we leverage the ASEAN framework on this matter. I call upon our new Minister for Environment and Natural Resources (NRE), Datuk Wan Junaidi, to give an explanation for this embarrassing lack of leadership on the part of Malaysia.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Parliamentary Reply from KeTTHA on Generation Fuel-Mix from 2015 to 2030

    [1] http://www.pmo.gov.my/home.php?menu=speech&page=1676&news_id=736&speech_cat=2

    [2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change#section-clean-power-plan

    [3] http://newsroom.unfccc.int/

  • Statement of Clarification – Pakatan Harapan and PSM

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, and Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam on the 24th of September, 2015

    Statement of Clarification – Pakatan Harapan and PSM

    We refer to Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s (PSM) statement issued today, the 24th of September, 2015, stating that we had lied about the reason why PSM was not invited to the meeting on Tuesday, 22nd of September, 2015 involving PKR, DAP, Amanah and certain NGO leaders. The reason we were told at the meeting by PKR President and Opposition Leader, Dr. Wan Azizah, on why PSM were not invited was because they were opposed to Article 153 in the Federal Constitution concerning the special position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak. Our statement to the press was to inform them of what we were told at this meeting by Dr. Wan Azizah.

  • Challenges to Pakatan Harapan (Part 1)

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on 23 September 2015

    Challenges to Pakatan Harapan (Part 1)

    How will history judge the third attempt at forming an opposition coalition in Malaysia? Only time will tell. But the newly formed Pakatan Harapan faces considerable challenges in preparing to face the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the fight for the nation’s future in the next general election. At the same time, there are also opportunities to be grasped in shaping the identity and platforms for the new coalition.

    In this first part, I will go through some of the challenges of forming this new opposition coalition and argue that this is the right time to launch Pakatan Harapan. In part two, I will outline some of the challenges and opportunities for Pakatan Harapan in preparing for the next general elections.

    While the announcement of the formation of Pakatan Harapan by opposition leader and PKR President, Dr. Wan Azizah, together with DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang and Parti Amanah Negara Chairman Mat Sabu seemed like a done deal, there were many forces that were moving behind the scenes to delay or even scupper the formation of this new opposition coalition. Some of this was driven by genuine motivations, other less so.

    Arguments against the formation of Pakatan Harapan

    The arguments made against the formation of a new opposition coalition can be grouped largely into three categories with some overlaps between them.

    The first argument revolves around the notion that because BN-Najib will be so unpopular heading into the next general election, all the opposition parties need to do is to avoid three corner fights in order to get to Putrajaya. Including Amanah but excluding PAS from a new opposition coalition would likely lead to some damaging three corner fights that would detract from this larger objective. Hence, the opposition parties should maintain the status quo and not rock the boat.

    The problem with this argument is that GE2018 (assuming the BN Prime Minister goes full term) will be different from GE2008. Winning a majority of parliament seats is a different ballgame compared to denying the BN a two thirds majority. The expectations of the rakyat have changed together with the political landscape in the country. If there is no official opposition coalition with a concrete platform and manifesto, some voters may just opt to stick with the familiarity of the BN, enough to deny an opposition victory. We also cannot discount the possibility that voter turnout will be lower than in GE2013 if voters do not see a viable opposition coalition to take over the BN. This will inevitably hurt the opposition more than it hurts the BN.

    Furthermore, this argument is predicated on Najib remaining as Prime Minister. What if, for some unexpected reason, Najib is replaced by a rejuvenated and invigorated Muhyiddin prior to GE2018? A Muhyiddin led BN would benefit from a Pak Lah GE2004 boost to its popularity. The opposition parties would then have to scramble, in an uncoordinated manner, to try to find an effective counter to this. With a new opposition coalition in place, we would be in a much better position to plan and prepare for such a possibility and to show how we can do better than the BN, regardless of whether it is a Najib-led, Muhyiddin-led, Zahid Hamidi-led, or Khairy-led BN.

    The second argument against the formation of an opposition coalition revolves around the fear of alienating PAS and losing the Malay vote. The notion here is that PAS is the only opposition party that can reach out to the Malay rural heartland and if they are excluded from the opposition coalition, this voter base will also abandon a PAS-less Pakatan Harapan. A further extension of this argument is that excluding PAS will push the party closer towards working with UMNO thereby decreasing the chances for an opposition victory in the next general election.

    Again, this argument is problematic from many angles. The assumption that only PAS can win or hold on to the rural constituencies needs to be re-examined. Of the 15 parliament seats which the opposition won in 2008 but failed to defend in 2013, 10 were in the PAS stronghold states of Kedah and Kelantan. 7 of these seats were lost in Kedah alone partly due to an inept PAS-led state government that failed to deliver. In contrast, Pakatan in Penang as well as Selangor made gains in GE2013 in terms of vote share. Indeed, it may be fears within PAS that it may not be able to hold on to the Kelantan state government post-Tok Guru Nik Aziz that forced it to put hudud on the agenda post GE2013. The inability of the PAS Kelantan state government to come up with any systematic post flood reconstruction and rebuilding plan may very well come back to haunt PAS in GE2018.

    It is undeniable that Amanah’s ability to capture the Malay vote is still somewhat in doubt. But that is to be expected given that it is only a few months old. There are encouraging signs especially the fact that more than 8000 members have signed up in the state of Kelantan. Amanah is also expected to make a strong push in the southern states of Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan, states which PAS’s presence has been traditionally seen as weak. The political support of the Malay community is fluid, just like that of the other communities. Having a new progressive Islamic party to fight for the hearts and minds of the Malay community is a positive development especially given the reluctance of the current PAS President, Tok Guru Hadi Awang, to attack the many weaknesses and shortcomings of the Najib administration.

    The formation of a PAS-less opposition coalition also does not prevent a future electoral pact to be agreed upon with PAS so that three corner fights can be minimized or avoided altogether especially in the marginal seats, if PAS is willing to come to the negotiating table.

    Finally, the possibility of PAS having a closer working relationship with UMNO is already apparent, with or without the formation of a new opposition coalition. It is likely that Hadi Awang will continue to be manipulated and misled by UMNO into believing that the hudud agenda in Kelantan is still a possibility with the cooperation of UMNO. Given these existing tendencies, would it not be better to force PAS to reveal its political position vis-à-vis UMNO before the next general election rather than after? What guarantees do the other opposition political parties have that a Hadi Awang led PAS will not cooperate with UMNO in a post-GE14 context even without the presence of Pakatan Harapan?

    The third argument against the formation of an opposition coalition is that this is not the right time. More discussion needs to take place and the policy positions of the new coalition needs to be firmed up so that the problems which broke up Pakatan Rakyat does not lead to the breakup of any new opposition coalition. The opposition parties should also go to the ground in order to understand the rural voters and form a coalition that will be able to win their hearts and minds. These are well meaning suggestions but are politically impractical.

    That fact is that the opposition has been dysfunctional since the decision by Hadi Awang to push for the hudud agenda in Kelantan which is a direct contravention of the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework. The need to fill the leadership vacuum which has been vacated by Najib is all the more pressing given the upcoming budget session in parliament, the worsening economic conditions in the country and the blatant attempts by UMNO to encourage and even organize events that raise the racial rhetoric and temperature in the country.

    It would also not be fair to leave our friends and colleagues in Amanah ‘hanging’, so to speak, after making the very painful decision to leave PAS, their party of struggle for many years, and to form a new progressive Islamic party. The expectation was that Amanah would join a new opposition coalition that would provide leadership to the country in a time of need. Forming the opposition coalition at this time would give Amanah a much boost in its legitimacy and demonstrate its commitment to the opposition cause as well as confirm the commitment of the other opposition parties to its cause.

    Discussions can go on endlessly without any resolutions. The fact of the matter is that the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework already established the common policy commitments of the then opposition coalition. Pakatan Harapan can adopt the same framework and tweak it as we go along in in accordance to the new political and policy challenges which we will face in the run-up to the next general election. The formation of this new opposition coalition will also allow us to present a united front in the upcoming parliamentary session including the presentation of an alternative budget, something which may not have been possible without the presence of a formal opposition coalition.

    Does the formation of Pakatan Harapan means that we have answered all the arguments against new opposition coalition? I would be naïve to assume so. But it is a good first step towards the bigger and more significant fight that will come at the next general election. In the meantime, Pakatan Harapan will have to face many challenges and try to grasp the many opportunities that will come our way. That will be covered in Part 2 of my statement.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    MP for Serdang
    23rd of September 2015

  • The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 18th of September 2015

    The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

    In the past month, many DAP representatives have received complaints that newly registered voters were being objected to being included in the electoral roll by unknown individuals. These voters were being asked to attend a public hearing that was being held at the Selangor Election Commission at Wisma PKNS in Shah Alam. I attended such a public hearing on the 10th of September and what I found was utterly unacceptable.

    On this day, the voters who were being objected to were registered in the N38 Paya Jaras and the N55 Dengkil state seats, both of which were contested by UMNO in the 2013 General Election. All of the 20 voters I spoke to (newly registered as well as registered voters who requested for a change in address) had been living in the address on their IC for at least 3 years, some of them more than 10 years. The reason given by the objectors (or “pembantah”) was that the voter cannot be traced (“Pemilih Tidak Dapat DiKesan”) (See Appendix 1 for a sample). No additional proof was given to show that the objector had indeed done his or her homework in order to trace the voter that was being objected to. The fact that these objections were spurious was clear when all of the voters whom I spoke to on the 10th of September had the objections against them rejected i.e. all of them were approved to be included in the electoral roll.

    While the right to object to the inclusion of a voter on the supplementary electoral roll into the primary electoral is provided under Section 15 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, these regulations also make it clear that the Registrar – usually a member of the Election Commission – has the right to ask the objector for more information regarding the nature of the objection.

    Article 15 (5) states: “Upon receipt of an objection under this regulation, the Registra may, if he is of the opinion that the particulars given in the objection are insufficient, request for further information from the objector who shall furnish the information within seven days from the date he receives such request.”

    The Election Commission must not allow objections to take place when so little proof has been furnished on the part of the objector. Instead of wasting the time of the newly registered voter, the EC should ask for more proof from the objector before allowing the objection to get to the public inquiry stage.

    I was also surprised to see that the Election Commission did not order the objector to pay the objectee the maximum amount of two hundred ringgit as compensation for any loss of time or inconvenience caused under Article 18 of the regulations. Many of these voters took time off work and had to travel to Shah Alam for the public inquiry. One voter even had to drive back from Kuantan, where he is working in a public hospital, in order to prove that he is a legitimate voter in the N55 Dengkil constituency. Voters coming from places such as Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor, which are far from the EC’s office in Shah Alam, may not be able to cover their expenses and time lost even with the maximum RM200 compensation. Instead, the EC asked the objector to pay RM100 for each failed objection. (See Appendix 2 below)

    In addition, the EC also failed to ask the objector to pay the objectee on the spot. Rather, the objectees were asked to fill in their details on a piece of paper by a person acting on behalf of the objector. When I asked the EC officer in charge why the objector could not pay the objectee on the spot, he replied that the EC had no power to compel the objector to do so. This is also grossly unfair to the objectee since there is no guarantee that he or she will be paid even the RM100 for the inconvenience and time lost off work.

    What the EC needs to do is to amend the maximum fine to a higher amount, in order to dissuade individuals and groups from making spurious objections to otherwise legitimate voters in their respective areas and that this compensation must be paid on the spot if the objector is not able to find any concrete reasons to object to the inclusion of these voters to be included in the primary electoral roll.

    It is hard to resist from speculating that this is part of a desperate attempt by UMNO to win back some of its state seats by objecting to voters whom they feel are much more likely to vote for the non-BN parties. When I was at the Selangor EC’s office during the public hearing, I met two UMNO representatives – one from the Paya Jaras state seat and the other from the Dengkil state seat.

    The Election Commission must carry on its own due diligence and put its foot down so that these spurious objections will not take place in the future. They can do this by asking for a much higher burden of proof from the objector as to the basis of the objections, and also by increasing the maximum amount of compensation to be paid on the spot if the objector’s reasons are found to be without basis.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Objection to Leong Yung Hong using the reason “Pemilih Tidak Boleh DiKesan”

    Appendix 2: Decision by the EC to ask the objector to pay the objectee RM100 only

  • Malaysia needs to take concrete steps against palm-oil companies who are responsible for the haze problem

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, 17th of September 2015

    Malaysia needs to take concrete steps against palm-oil companies who are responsible for the haze problem

    Every year the haze from Indonesia engulfs Malaysia, causing the Air Pollutant Index (API) to reach unhealthy levels and bringing untold health, financial and social costs to millions of Malaysians. And every year, the Malaysian authorities are helpless in its demands for the Indonesian authorities to take concrete steps to prevent this from happening.

    Even after the ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution by Indonesia in September 2014, it will take a few years before the proper mechanisms including the sharing of land use and concessions maps, and for the implementation of the ASEAN sub-regional Haze Monitoring System (HMS).[1]

    In the meantime, Malaysia cannot stand by and just wait on the side lines. It needs to take concrete steps to mitigate the irresponsible slash and burn practices in Indonesia that are the cause of the haze problem. The government should pass a legislation similar to Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 which was passed in August 2014.[2] Professor Alan Tan Khee-Jin of the National University of Singapore wrote the following with regards to the powers of this act:

    The legal implications of the Act for Singapore‐linked companies or entities are tremendous. Under its provisions, a convicted entity that engages in conduct, or engages in conduct that condones any conduct by another entity or individual which causes or contributes to any haze pollution in Singapore (or the entity that participates in the management of a second entity that owns or occupies land and engages in the relevant conduct) can face a fine not exceeding S$100,000 (about US$80,000) for every day or part thereof that there is haze pollution in Singapore.18 If the entity has failed to comply with any preventive measures notice, there can be an additional fine not exceeding S$50,000 (US$40,000) for every day or part thereof that the entity fails to comply with the notice.19 Overall, the court must not impose an aggregate fine exceeding S$2 million (US$1.6 million).[3]

    This act gives the Singapore authorities the power to go after companies which cause the haze in Singapore even if they have no operations whatsoever or are not registered as a company in Singapore. The Act also allows for civil suits against companies which cause the haze, where the civil damages are theoretically unlimited.

    Dr. Nigel Sizer, Global Director of Forests Program of the World Resources Institute, a renowned think tank in the field of advocacy for the sustainable management of natural resources, praised the Act:

    “Singapore’s transboundary haze law marks a new way of doing business for governments and companies seeking to address forest and peat fires. It sends a powerful message that those who burn land and forests illegally will be held accountable. In particular, any companies caught using fire illegally now face the massive reputational risk of being dragged into court in Singapore as soon as their executives step foot on the island. Their customers, bankers and insurers will surely shy away from doing business with them.”[4]

    The Act has allowed Singapore’s National Environmental Ministry to formally ask Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry to provide a list of companies suspected to be behind the land and forest fires once the information has been confirmed.[5]

    Having such an act will allow the Malaysian authorities to go after these irresponsible companies which are responsible for causing the haze which envelops the region year after year. A good place to start would be at home, since many of the oil palm plantations which are at least partly responsible for the slash and burn activities in Indonesia are Malaysian owned or controlled. A plantation manager working for PT Adei Plantation and Industry, a subsidiary of Kuala Lumpur Kepong, a company which is listed on the KL stock exchange, was convicted of negligence in failing to prevent irresponsible parties from setting forest fires in an estate belonging to the company in September 2014. The plantation manager was ordered to serve 1 year in prison. At the same time, a director of the company was ordered to pay a fine and serve 5 months in prison.[6] But these kinds of convictions have been few and far between because of a legal system that is suspected of being compromised by corruption. With the implementation of such an act in Malaysia, the government will no longer have the excuse of pushing the burden of enforcement and prosecution solely to the Indonesian authorities as indicated by the parliamentary reply to my colleague, Chong Chien Jen, the Member of Parliament for Kuching (See Appendix 1 below).

    One cannot help but wonder if the reluctance of the Malaysian authorities to take any concrete action against Malaysian companies with significant palm oil operations in Indonesia is due to the lobbying power and influence of many of these large plantation companies including KLK, Sime Darby Plantations, Genting Plantations, IOI Plantations and Tabung Haji Plantations, just to name a few.[7]

    It is high time that the Malaysian authorities stop sitting on the side lines and do something concrete with regards to this haze problem, starting with the companies it should have the most influence over namely the Malaysian companies with significant operations in the hot spot areas in Indonesia.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Parliamentary Answer on action taken by Malaysia against Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) whose subsidiary in Indonesia was found to be responsible for causing forest fires in Indonesia

    [1] http://haze.asean.org/?p=1142

    [2] https://www.parliament.gov.sg/sites/default/files/Transboundary%20Haze%20Pollution%20Bill%2018-2014.pdf

    [3] http://law.nus.edu.sg/wps/pdfs/002_2015_Alan%20Khee-Jin%20Tan.pdf

    [4] http://www.wri.org/news/2014/08/statement-singapore%E2%80%99s-new-haze-pollution-law-%E2%80%9C-new-way-doing-business%E2%80%9D

    [5] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/world/article/worsening-haze-has-singapore-renewing-offers-to-help-indonesia-fight-fires#sthash.KgK3jXTG.dpuf

    [6] http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/09/11/malaysian-firm-fined-executives-get-prison-role-forest-fires.html

    [7] http://repository.um.edu.my/23648/1/PRE-PRINT%20apbr%202013.pdf

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