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Seat allocation for the Sarawak 2016 state elections

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the seat allocation for the Sarawak 2016 state elections on the 26th of April 2016

I know that many opposition supporters are disappointed with DAP and PKR for not being able to avoid clashing in 6 out of 82 state seats in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. This disappointment and frustration is understandable. I too wish that it could have been avoided. But in order to explain to our supporters why this situation came about, I feel that it is necessary to provide a historical as well as a more recent context.

Let’s go back to just after the 2011 Sarawak state elections when PKR was accused of being too greedy when it contested in 49 out of the then 71 state seats at stake. When Sarawak PKR state chairman, Baru Bian, was asked about PKR’s relatively poor performance in those elections and the decision to contest in 49 seats, he had this to say[1]:

Baru admits that this strategy came with a heavy cost. The party was severely stretched because the rural campaign was resource-intensive. “The burden was more on us (to deliver) while DAP won more seats because their resources could be concentrated (in a few cities). But this is okay because we are all part of Pakatan,” he said.

In a subsequent interview in 2011, Baru Bian said the following[2]:

Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said the party will focus only on a few winnable seats in the coming parliamentary election, rather than contest all the remaining seats in the state that the other Pakatan member parties won’t take on. He was responding to criticism that the multi-racial party had been “too greedy” by contesting as many as 49 seats in the recent state election, in which it won only three seats. 

“In (the next) parliamentary election, we will use a different method,” Baru (left) said in an interview with selected media at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya this morning. “Because of restrictions in resources, in particular financial resources, we will focus on certain areas (which are winnable), based on the state election results.” He also said PKR hoped PAS dan DAP would “share the responsibility” of contesting the remaining seats “If they are prepared to be seen as multiracial – you all know reports said that DAP is a Chinese chauvinist party – it will be a good time now (for them) to take on the remaining Dayak and Melanau areas. “I do hope they will bear this responsibility.”

In the aftermath of the 2011 state elections, DAP was responsive to the call to shoulder a greater burden of contesting in the rural areas. In fact, in the 2013 general elections, DAP fielded Dayak candidates in 5 rural parliament seats – Mas Gading, Serian, Mukah, Kapit and Lawas – and also a Dayak candidate in the semi-rural parliament seat of Bintulu. (In comparison, DAP fielded candidates in 5 urban parliament seats in 2013)

The willingness of PKR to relinquish some of the rural seats was repeated by Azmin Ali in 2013.[3]

Sekarang DAP sudah mula masuk ke kawasan pedalaman dan membina kekuatan. Kita sedia berunding kerana akhirnya yang menang ialah PR. Kalau DAP dan PAS ada kekuatan, KEADILAN akan sedia melepaskan kerusi terbabit. Kami pun tak mampu nak pegang terlalu banyak kerusi kerana ia memakan kos yang tinggi.

DAP’s commitment to going into the rural areas in Sarawak was demonstrated by the more than 50 projects done under the Impian Sarawak banner since 2013[4]. From providing water supply to rebuilding broken jetties, from upgrading roads to medical and education camps, DAP’s track record in the rural areas is there for all to see. In fact, you can buy the Impian Sabah and Sarawak coffee table book for a full list and photos of these projects![5]

Of course, whether or not these projects will enable the opposition, specifically the DAP, to win any of these rural seats is still not known. But to answer the question of whether DAP or PKR is the better party to contest in some of the rural seats claimed by both parties, a more objective measure needed to be used. Which is why DAP and PKR commissioned a survey to evaluate the popularity of both parties in six seats claimed by both parties.

The results are summarized in Table 1 below (and provided in Appendix 1 below).

DAP had significantly higher favourability ratings compared to PKR in 5 out of the 6 seats surveyed – N2 Tasik Biru, N13 Batu Kitang, N23 Bukit Semuja, N32 Simanggang and N75 Senadin. DAP and PKR were about even in the remaining seat of N19 Mambong.

If going purely by these survey results, which both parties had agreed to abide by, DAP would have contested in 5 out of these 6 seats. But DAP choose to give up N13 Batu Kitang, arguably the most winnable seat out of these six seats, for the right to contest in rural and less winnable seats in other parts of Sarawak. The explanation of the negotiation process on the part of the DAP has been done by Anthony Loke, DAP National Organizing Secretary. What I would like to highlight here are the survey results which are not widely known yet.

To those who accuse the DAP of being greedy and for not wanting to contest in unwinnable seats, let me offer two counter examples. There are 8 state seats in the mostly Iban majority areas of Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu (Figure 1 below). After the conclusion of the seat negotiation (or what DAP thought was the final negotiation) on the 7th of April, 2016, DAP asked to contest in one of these eight state seats – N32 Simanggang. DAP had conceded the state seat of N36 Layar to PKR even though there was a potential candidate who had been stationed in this seat and working the ground for the past one year. DAP’s candidate for N32 Simanggang, Leon Donald, lives in the Sri Aman area, contested in this seat in 2011 and had been working the ground for the past 5 years. The survey results also showed the DAP candidate being more popular and well known compared to the PKR candidate. Is the DAP greedy for wanting to contest in only one out of eight state seats in this area? And where the survey result had shown DAP being the more favoured party with the stronger candidate compared to PKR? I think not…

Figure 1: Eight state seats in the Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu areas, PKR contesting in all eight seats, DAP is contesting only in N32 Simanggang

At the same time, DAP is contesting in all three state seats in the parliamentary seat of Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram. These seats are in areas with far flung longhouses, many of which can only be accessible via longboat. The BN candidate won 78% of the popular vote in this seat in the 2013 general elections. While the Pelagus state seat was won by a then independent candidate – George Lagong – in 2011 who later joined the Sarawak Worker’s Party (SWP), this seat, along with Bukit Goram (a new state seat), are uphill tasks for DAP, without the backing of local influential leader and former BN state assemblyman, Sng Chee Wah and his son, Larry Sng.

Figure 2: DAP contesting in all three state seats in Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram

I do believe that Pakatan Harapan will be able to find a way to emerge from this disagreement between DAP and PKR after the Sarawak state elections. But in the meantime, even as we are focused on fighting the BN in the other 74 state seats, it is important to set the record straight on the background behind these seat disagreements.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Appendix 1: Party Favourability in 6 state seats where surveys were conducted

N2 Tasik Biru

N13 Batu Kitang

N19 Mambong

N23 Bukit Semuja

N32 Simanggang

N75 Senadin

[1] http://www.barubian.net/2011/04/baru-reveals-why-pkr-vied-for-49-seats.html

[2] http://www.barubian.net/2011/05/swak-pkr-to-focus-on-winnable-seats.html

[3] http://www.roketkini.com/2013/12/26/sembang-sembang-azmin-ali/

[4] http://www.impiansarawak.com/en/

[5] http://dapmalaysia.org/impianbook/

Outcome of my meeting with Chairman of Yayasan NAAM, Datuk M.Saravanan

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 31st of March 2016

Outcome of my meeting with Chairman of Yayasan NAAM, Datuk M.Saravanan

I would like to thank Datuk M.Saravanan, Chairman of NAAM, for inviting me to the office of NAAM this morning and for giving me a thorough explanation of the activities and programs undertaken by NAAM. Based on our meeting, I take note of the following explanations given:

1) That the RM19m grant given to NAAM was via the Economic Planning Unit under the development expenditure of the budget from the Prime Minister’s Department. RM15m was spent in 2014 and RM4 million was spent in 2015. No additional funds have been allocated to NAAM in 2015 despite the initial announcement that a total of RM37 would be allocated to NAAM.

2) That none of the members of the board of trustees of NAAM, nor its coordinators (“pelaksana”) at the state levels receive any compensation or salary from NAAM. That the rental of NAAM’s office and salaries of clerical staff do not come from NAAM’s allocation from the EPU.

3) That NAAM is a training service provider that does not provide any loans to those which it has trained. That NAAM has spent approximately RM9.6m out of its RM19 allocation in training services provided by 3 companies (including cost of materials) to 1330 people in order to equip them to start their own chili farms.

4) That EPU provided guidelines to NAAM on the type of programs and activities which it can carry out and the proposed budget for each type of program and activity

5) That the Ministry of Youth and Sports has done an internal audit for NAAM.

While it is commended that the chairman of NAAM was willing to explain the details behind its programs and activities, there are still some areas of ongoing concern including:

1) Success rate of those trained to start their own chili farms is still very low

For example, 1330 participants were trained to start their own chili farms but only 129 had started their own chili farms (approximately 10%) due to a variety of factors such as the lack of capital and not having access to land to plant these chilies. Given the amount of funds spent on training these participants (a total of RM9.6m or RM7300 per person), this low conversion rate raises issues about the effectiveness of NAAM’s flagship program of chili farming.

2) The inability of many of these participants to obtain financing to start their own chili farms is also worrying

Out of these 1330 participants, only 11 were successful in obtaining loans from TEKUN to start their own chili farms and the amount they could borrow was RM19,000 whereas the estimated cost of starting a chili farm was given by the chairman at RM40,000. This means that for most of the participants of NAAM’s training program, which comprised of marginalized Indian youth with very little capital, it is almost impossible for them to find the funds to start their own chili farms.

3) More disclosure of information is needed e.g. training companies

While the chairman of NAAM did show me a breakdown of the expenditure of NAAM in 2014 and 2015, I was not given a copy of this expenditure. I am interested in the identities of the companies given the contracts to do agricultural training for the chili farms and to check their backgrounds. I have asked the chairman to publish this information on its website. I will wait to see if this is done or not. The identity of these companies is important in order to confirm that none of these contracts went to companies which are linked to MIC or to the chairman himself.

4) Possible conflict of interest via NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd

NAAM set up a private company called NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd which acts as the middleman between the chili farmers and the marketplace. NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd is 49% owned by NAAM. A possible conflict of interest exists because NAAM Trading House may benefit from charging the chili farmers a transaction or commission fee from buying the chilies from the farmers and selling them to the marketplace.

The chairman explained that NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd is no longer active because the farmers sell their produce directly to FAMA and the markets. We are not sure how much profit was made by NAAM Trading House given that its 2014 accounts did not provide information on its revenue and profits.

5) Suitability of government funds being allocated to an NGO headed by a Deputy Minister still questionable

Finally, despite the extent to which the chairman was willing to disclose information regarding NAAM’s activities, I stand by my earlier position that it is not suitable for an NGO where half of its board of trustees are comprised of members of a political party – MIC, in this case – to receive government funding for it to conduct activities and programs.

I will follow up with the chairman’s promise to provide me with a full list of details of all the 129 participants who have started their own chili farms. After getting this list, I will work with my colleagues and other interested parties to conduct a selected audit to evaluate the success of these chili farms.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

10 Questions for Yayasan NAAM

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 31st of March, 2016

These are the 10 questions which I will be asking Datuk M.Saravanan, Chairman of YAYASAN NAAM and Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, when I visit NAAM’s office later today.

10 Questions for Yayasan NAAM

1)      What is the organization structure of NAAM[1] and who are its staff?

NAAM’s website only shows the board of trustees. The management staff of NAAM is not listed. I would like to know who is its CEO / Executive director and the rest of the management staff as well as the chairman / head of NAAM at the state level. I would also like to know how many of them are MIC leaders at the branch, division, state and national levels. For example, it is reported here that a Datuk VS Mogan is the chairman of NAAM in Negeri Sembilan.[2] He also happens to be the MIC information chief and member of the MIC Central Working Committee.

This is to evaluate the extent to which NAAM is comprised of MIC leaders at various levels and hence whether NAAM is an MIC entity pretending to be an NGO.

2)      What is the compensation structure of the board members of NAAM as well as its staff?

I would also like to know the compensation arrangement (salary / allowances) for the board of NAAM, the management team as well as the state chairmen.

This information is to evaluate to what extent NAAM is being used as a vehicle to reward MIC leaders financially.

3)      What are the details in audited accounts for NAAM in 2014 and 2015?[3]

NAAM submitted its accounts for Financial Year End 31st December 2014 on 30th June 2015. The accounts showed that NAAM did not have any income or expenditure. Why was this the case? Was NAAM not operational in 2014? Did it not receive any funds or incur any expenses in 2014?

If the 2015 audited accounts are not ready, I would be satisfied with a copy of NAAM’s unaudited accounts showing the preliminary balance sheet, the P&L statement and the cash flow statement. This is to ensure that the funding which NAAM says that it has received is indeed being channelled through the accounts of NAAM and not through another entity.

4)      What are the content of NAAM’s board meetings?

If there were any board meeting minutes in 2014 or 2015 which documents the activities of NAAM, I would also like to inspect them. It is not uncommon for foundations / NGOs like NAAM to have quarterly board meetings to report on the progress of its activities.

Having access to these minutes would allow me to check whether NAAM has regular progress reports to its board so that the board can evaluate the effectiveness of NAAM’s activities.

5)      Can NAAM furnish me with a list of all its programs and activities run in 2014 and 2015, the participants of these programs and how much each program cost?

Chairman or NAAM and Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk M. Saravanan promised that he would give me a full breakdown of the activities of NAAM in a press conference yesterday.[4] I hope that he can follow through on this promise.

Having this list of participants would enable the public know who exactly were the beneficiaries of NAAM’s programs and how much was spent to train each of them. It would also enable the press and other interested parties to contact the participants themselves to see the extent to which they benefitted from NAAM’s programs and to ascertain if a majority of them were MIC members.

6)      Where is the budget item from which NAAM obtained its funding from?

It was reported that Saravanan had said that the RM19 million received by NAAM in 2015 was given by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) under the Prime Minister’s department. A check of the EPU’s operating expenditure in 2015 showed that it was allocated RM48.8 million out of which RM40 million was for the payment of salaries. Did NAAM’s allocation in 2015 come from EPU’s operating expenditure? Or did it come from another budget item under the Prime Minister’s department? Is NAAM’s allocation classified under operating expenditure or development expenditure?

What is NAAM’s budget allocation for 2016?

This information is important from a transparency standpoint since Saravanan had said that the money did not come from the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

7)      Is NAAM also involved in other business activities in order to seek profit for itself?

NAAM is the 49% and controlling shareholder of NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd which lists its core business as the export and import of fruits and vegetable food products. On the 15th of January, 2015, NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd signed an MOU with DRS Trading Sdn Bhd which is also involved in the distribution of agriculture products.[5] What are the details of this MOU? What is the purpose of NAAM getting involved in business for itself?

Is NAAM getting involved in business so that the other shareholders of NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd can earn a profit for themselves? The other shareholders of NAAM Trading House Sdn Bhd include Kesavan A/L Kandasamy (MIC Youth National Leader, Office Bearer in charge of New Media) with a 30% share, G. Padmanathan (former MIC FT Youth Chief) with a 19% share and M.Mathuraiveran (MIC CWC Member) with the remaining 2% share.

8)      What are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) used by NAAM to process claims and expenditures it has incurred and does NAAM claim these expenses from the Ministry of Youth and Sports under which NAAM’s funds are supposedly parked?

This is an important point since NAAM signed an MOU with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to support the Corporate Integrity Pledge (CIP). I would like to see a sample of the claim forms and procedures used by NAAM and how the Ministry of Youth and Sports ‘signed off’ on NAAM’s expenditures as part of the monitoring mechanism. The transparency of this monitoring mechanism is all the more important given the recent investigations into large scale corruption in the Ministry of Youth and Sports by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

9)      How successful has NAAM been in helping Indian Youths obtain access to TEKUN loans for their chili planting and other entrepreneurial endeavours? Can these records be revealed?

There have been numerous news reports on how NAAM wants to help Indian youths to obtain loans from Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga (TEKUN), an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture.[6] At the same time, it has also been reported that NAAM will act as the middleman to collect the loan payments from these young Indian entrepreneurs to pay back TEKUN.[7] I would like to examine the records of how many individuals have NAAM help to obtain loans from TEKUN and what is their track record in paying back these loans.

Furthermore, I would like to ask why NAAM needs to spend the bulk of its expenditure to help the chili farmers when many of them are able to borrow money from TEKUN?

10)   Why is there a need for NAAM when an existing agency – SEED – has already been set-up to help Indian entrepreneurs?

The Secretariat for the Empowerment of Indian Entrepreneurs (SEED) which sits in the Prime Minister’s Department was established in 2012 with the specific purpose of providing assistance to Indian entrepreneurs especially at the SME and individual levels.[8] Under the SEED program, RM180m of funds was set aside under 5 discreet programs to help different groups of Indian entrepreneurs. This includes RM30 million for the “Skim Pembangunan Usahawan Masyarakat Indian (SPUMI)” which is parked under TEKUN. SEED also works with other agencies such as SME Corp and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) in order to assist Indian entrepreneurs obtain funding and loans. Given that there was already an existing government organization under the Prime Minister’s department, why is there a need for NAAM, especially when it seems to be duplicating the efforts of SEED?

Hopefully, I will be able to have satisfactory answers to these 10 questions when I visit NAAM’s office later today.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] For the rest of this statement, NAAM refers to Yayasan NAAM.

[2] http://www.bernama.com/bernama/state_news/bm/news.php?cat=sl&id=1205456

[3] The assumption here is that the activities relating to chili planting and youth development is related to YAYASAN NAAM, the company registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) rather than an entity which is registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS). I stand to be corrected on this point since it is possible that NAAM also registered itself under ROS as well as CCM.

[4] http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/335808

[5] https://www.facebook.com/datuksaravanan/posts/768011720009801

[6] http://ww1.utusan.com.my/utusan/Selatan/20140712/ws_05/500-belia-terima-faedah-projek-NAAM, http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/01/121186/saravanan-wants-tekun-assist-indian-youths and http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2014/07/21/naam-pilot-project-help-500-indian-youths/

[7] http://superteks.rtm.gov.my/index.php/berita/tempatan/6364-yayasan-naam-tekun-jalin-kerjasama-bantu-usahawan-belia-india

[8] http://www.seed.org.my/aboutus/index.php?id=8