Utilising The Memorandum To Achieve Reform And Stability

KEADILAN and our Pakatan Harapan partners acceptance of the government’s Memorandum was driven by our concern for the rakyat particularly on the need for institutional reforms and overcoming the socio-economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government must now promptly and comprehensively undertake the reforms it has promised.

It must redouble its efforts to fight Covid-19 in an inclusive, science-drive fashion, revive the economy as well as the livelihoods of all impacted Malaysians and decisively abandon the failed policies of the past with a bigger economic intervention.

There must be no more excuses or delays given that the current administration has accepted the Memorandum as well.

Responsibility for its success or failure lies in the words and deeds of the Prime Minister and his government.

The Memorandum is by no means a free pass or a carte blanche for them to do what they like.

The Opposition will continue to remain vigilant in its role as a watchdog to the government and the guardian of the national interest.

For its part, KEADILAN and PH will continue to discharge our duty as an active Opposition. This is not a Unity Government. We cannot and will not hesitate to call out or vote in Parliament against any move that hurts the welfare of the rakyat.

For instance, we will closely scrutinise the upcoming 2022 Budget to ensure that it not only benefits the rakyat, but also that it implements the highest standards of good governance and transparency in all spending.

If the government wishes our support to pass the Budget, it must live up to the spirit of the Memorandum and comprehensively negotiate all aspects of it to the satisfaction of PH before tabling it in Parliament.

The negotiations must also be done with the maximum amount of transparency possible and also involve related stakeholders where appropriate.

The Memorandum is hence not an end or suspension of Malaysia’s democratic and political process but an act of patriotism for the national interest on the part of KEADILAN and PH.

This same spirit will drive us to ramp up our work as a check-and-balance to the government with the goal of ensuring the country’s recovery as well as the upliftment of the rakyat.


Ismail Sabri Must Prove “Malaysian Family” Phrase Has Substance

Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s talk of a “Malaysian Family” is an acknowledgement, however belated, that UMNO’s racially divisive rhetoric does not reflect the reality on the ground of our country.

Malaysia has always been a “family” for its people, long before some politicians chose to label it as such.

Nevertheless, it is hoped that the new Prime Minister will follow his words with actions in order to unite our country, especially in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He cannot fail to realise that many Malaysians have little reason for confidence or hope in these difficult times, especially given the controversial record of his party and his own rhetoric.

Happy and stable families, after all, must listen to and enrich the lives their members, rather than ignore and exclude certain relatives, or take unilateral decisions without any consultation.

In contrast, KEADILAN under Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has consistently stressed the need for progressive multiracialism.

We have always been and will always remain a multiracial party, championing an all-country approach in development and governance, such as through the Malaysian Economic Agenda and Ketuanan Rakyat concept.

KEADILAN has proven that its promises have substance. It is up to the Prime Minister to do the same in the 21 months remaining in the term of this Parliament.


Muhyiddin’s Political Appointees In GLCs Must Resign

With the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, it is only right that his polical appointees in the various GLCs, GLICs and other bodies immediately tender their resignations as well.

This is the proper and honourable thing to do.

With the resignation of the PM, their reasons and legitimacy to stay on in their posts has come to an end as well.

Most of these bodies are professionally run and so any disruption should be minimal.

However, Malaysia’s new government must commit to fill these positions professionally and based on merit rather than purely political considerations.


Congratulations SPM Class Of 2020

Older people, often unfairly doubt whether the youth are resilient or can carry on the traditions of their societies.

The SPM results should put such fears to rest, at least at this juncture.

The Class of 2020 has proven that the indomitable Malaysian spirit of being able to not only persevere but prosper lives on and will continue to live on in them.

No doubt, scholars, academics, and educationists will be intensely studying how these young Malaysians managed to pull it off, despite the many disruptions and dislocations faced by them.

But no one should look askance at the achievement of the Class of 2020, of being able to complete their secondary education in the middle of a raging, worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and faced with tremendous adversity.

Because, make no mistake, the Class of 2020 was confronted with many obstacles—many of which did not have to be in their way in the first place.

This includes flip-flops on learning policy, a lack of substantial support for online learning (especially for the B40 students) and the current administration’s glaring shortcomings in managing the county’s pandemic response in general.

Indeed, it is heart breaking to think that some our ex-Form Fivers will never be able to show parents or other loved ones that succumbed to the coronavirus their good results. Even one case of this is too many.

The news should spur us all, but particularly the government, to action for and on behalf of the “Generation Covid”—the youths whose education and entry into adulthood have been impacted by the pandemic.

Yes, the Class of 2020 did well despite the odds. But these were challenges that no generation ought to face, not least without government assistance.

The Class of 2020 came out swinging. But I am confident that they will agree that they should be the last generation of Malaysian children to have to suffer like they did.

There is little certainty that Malaysia will be able to achieve herd immunity soon despite efforts to speed up the national vaccination campaign.

The government, in particular the Senior Minister and Minister of Education Radzi bin Md. Jidin should anticipate possible and further disruptions to the school system. Indeed, this has already happened with the latest “total lockdown”.

His colleagues and he have had more than a year on the job and yet fundamental issues persist, including a shortage of devices for students in need and a critical lack of support for teachers to make the most of online learning.

Does anyone really believe that online learning, or face-to-face-schooling with physical distancing for that matter, whether from a public health or financial standpoint, is any easier for B40 and M40 students as well as their families today than it was a year ago?

My friends in Pakatan Harapan (PH) and I, as well as countless civil society groups have in good faith outlined solutions on what should be done many a time—but our feedback has invariably fallen on deaf ears.

Moreover, I have also consistently argued that the Class of 2020 and indeed, the rest of the “Generation Covid” will need to be monitored and supported.

They successfully navigated the “storm” sitting of the SPM during a pandemic. But that was just the first of many squalls ahead: how will their experiences impact on their performance in higher education and indeed, when they start their careers?

That is why I have urged for the “Generation Covid” to be assisted when they further their studies or enter the job market.

For instance, higher education institutions may have to expand or strengthen their Foundation or Diploma offerings if “Generation Covid” enrolees need more preparation to be able to tackle tertiary-level work.

Employers may also need to ensure that proper training and HR engagement is given to their workers should they lack the relevant skills. That is what all good businesses do anyway.

And overall, we certainly need better job creation policies and initiatives than what the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has offered so far.

Such oversight may have to continue for years, long after the pandemic is over—although it is inevitable that some “Generation Covid” youths will do better than the others.

That is why this task must be comprehensive, granular and ought to have begun months ago, if not last year.

Fail on this, and Malaysia’s “Generation Covid” as well as its “Class of 2020” cohort risk becoming a “Lost Generation”. Our country will likewise suffer.

To the Class of 2020: I wish you all the very best. Your SPM results—whatever they were—do not define you.

What is decisive is the content of your character and good that you do in your families, peer group and society.

The future will be difficult, but it will still be YOUR future: to shape and build lives upon.

I pledge that I will do the best I can to ensure that it is one that not only sees Malaysia recover from the pandemic, but is also filled with hope and opportunities for you all.


Solidarity With Palestine

The assault against the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere is continuing unabated.

Despite the on-going humanitarian tragedy confronting the Palestinians during Eid, it is heartening to see that Malaysians of all faiths, races and walks of life have united in solidarity with them.

This shows Malaysians at their best: that despite the difficulties and divisions we have faced in this last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that we can still unite against the face of blatant oppression.

Indeed, the psychotically cruel and brutal actions of the Israeli government in attempting to evict Palestinians from their own land while deploying overwhelming military force against them have rightly been condemned all over the world.

As long as Israeli’s Western enablers, including the United States remain silent along with their Arab Muslim allies in the Middle East, they will be complicit in the former’s crimes and atrocities.

But Malaysians should not be discouraged despite the seemingly overwhelming obstacles. We must remain steadfast with our Palestinian brothers and sisters in their time of great trial.

We must not doubt that our efforts, whether protesting online, or spreading awareness of the Palestinian cause, or through donations, or even just our prayers, will help bring about justice in the Middle East, sooner or later.

The key is to continue with our efforts, to not lose hope and never falter. We must continue our peaceful activism and pressuring the international community to ensure a just and lasting peace emerges, resulting in an independent and viable Palestinian state.

To our Palestinian brethren: you are not alone in your hour of need.

The people of Malaysia are with you—now and always.


The Government Must Be Transparent On The LCS Saga

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) saga was one of the several issues that had been brought to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs when I chaired it from December 2019 until the December 2020.

We must remember that LCS is one the largest defence procurement for new equipment undertaken in Malaysia’s history.

The Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement and Finance (JKSTUPKK) had stated that the LCS is one of the vendor-driven procurement undertaken by the Ministry of Defence, where the requests and needs of the contractor prevailed over that of the end-user, the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM).

TLDM had initially agreed to use the Sigma design proposed by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding from the Netherlands, but was overruled by then Minister of Defence, Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the requests of BNS without referring to TLDM in 2011. BNS was pushing for the Gowind-class design by the Naval Group France (NGF). TLDM had also initially expressed its disappointment at the decision.

The first delivery of the 6 LCS was supposed to have taken place in April 2019. In fact, it was revealed in December 2020 that the first ship is only 59.79% complete despite some RM6 billion having been paid out.

Compare this with Egypt-which ordered four Gowind-class ships two years later than Malaysia in 2013 and the first ship commissioned in 2017. Keel laying to delivery took only 36 months.

Indonesia on the other hand ordered four Sigma-class ships in 2010. This was the original request by TLDM. The first ship was commissioned in 2017 while the second was commissioned in 2018.

The current government, has however decided that the project should be continued by its contractor, the Boustead Group via its BNS subsidiary. The majority shareholder for Boustead is Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT). Earlier, the government ruled out an option to appoint NGF as a “rescue contractor” to complete at least 2 of the LCS.

The Cabinet has said that it will impose a number of conditions that the Boustead Group must obey. However, what these conditions are, how they will be enforced or will help the completion of the project (which was supposed to be finished by end-2023) has not been detailed.

For one thing, it was still allocated the project despite its alleged poor track record with previous projects such as the New Generational Patrol Vessel (NGPV), which was reportedly impacted by delivery delays and large unforeseen additional costs—the matter had been investigated by the 11th Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in 2007.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs was also informed by JKSTUPKK that BNS had created written commitments with third party suppliers regarding specifications and equipment for the LCS before the “surat setuju terima” (SST) had been issued by the government.

This in turn had an outsized influence on the design of the LCS that BNS recommended to the Ministry of Defence, rather than the considerations and needs of TLDM as the final user as mentioned-earlier.

Before we go any further, it should be established that the main priority in defence procurement must be getting the best equipment for our armed forces. By this logic, the needs of the armed forces should be paramount, rather than those of companies or other interests.

While it is true that the Navy eventually agreed to the specifications, it cannot be denied that the issue of the LCS’ design sets a negative precedent.

The Committee was also told that BNS had applied and received an advance of more than RM1 billion on the contract, which is more than the norms established by the Ministry of Finance.

An exception however was made by the request of the Ministry of Defence due to the supposed weak financial state of BNS even at that early stage. So the current problems faced by the LCS was not something inevitable if normal government financial procedures were followed.

The Committee in fact heard from BNS’ management itself that almost RM396 million from the LCS project was used to pay off debts and interest occurred from the NGPV project. Effectively, this was robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Committee was further informed that BNS had taken loans from financial institutions to manage the cash flow for the LCS project, but this resulted in the need to pay interest of up to RM571 million by February 2020, which had not been planned for while the contract was being negotiated.

BNS’ cash flow problems also resulted in the late or failure to pay a number of OEMs for the LCS project, leading to work stoppages or the cancellation of deliveries by the OEMs, hence contributing to the delays.

These are just a few of the many anomalies that were said to have plagued the project.

All of this suggests a failure on the part of the government at the time to undertake due diligence on the contractor, whether in terms of its technical or financial capacity to carry out the project.

The current Perikatan Nasional government is compounding these failures by continuing the project solely on the basis of the unknown “conditions” it has set the contractor.

I do not rule out the possibility that the company has been able to address its various real and perceived weaknesses in the interim.

However, public confidence and the national interest would be better served if, as noted, the government could be transparent and reveal what the conditions are, how they will be enforced and how it will ensure the guarantee of completion.

It cannot simply cite the interests of jobs, vendors and the LTAT to continue the project without outlining what safeguards it has put into place to ensure that the contractor will finally be able to deliver.

It must not be forgotten that the cashflow problems also caused hardship to the OEMs (who are vendors, after all) and their workers. And the last thing the LTAT needs is to keep having to deal with the reputational issues the LCS issue has caused.

But more importantly, Malaysia, via its serving men and women, urgently needs better hardware like the LCS to defend its borders, especially the increasingly challenging maritime sector.

Without proper safeguards, transparency and a commitment to the best practices, Malaysia will be stuck in an endless cycle.

We must cry over spilt milk. This government owes us much more information and far better performance than it has dished out so far.