Keng Yaik a big let-down - to get Abdullah in Cabinet to undertake as his first task as Acting Prime Minister to "mediate" between the two clashing furniture fairs instead of addressing weightier issues like to award full scholarship and first choice of course to the 624 STPM top scorers

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Thursday): Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik must be very pleased with his "achievement" in the Cabinet yesterday when he should be utterly ashamed of himself.

On Tuesday, Keng Yaik said he was appalled with the simultaneous staging of two furniture fairs in the Federal capital for the past five years, creating "confusion of sorts to potential foreign buyers who can be misled into believing that Malaysia does not have a mature furniture market" and declared that he would raise the matter in the Cabinet.

Keng Yaik warned that the clashing of two furniture fairs could pave the way to price undercutting, which will eventually kill the whole industry.

He said: Some exhibitors too are confused and exhibit at two places, which is quite nonsensical…Likewise, they have (also) created confusion among Cabinet members." (New Straits Times 5.3.03)

Keng Yaik opened the ninth Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) 2003 on Tuesday while the Malaysian Furniture Export Exhibition (Mafex) 2003 jointly organized by Mines Exhibition Management and the Muar Furniture Association was opened by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Tengku Datuk Seri Azlan Sultan Abu Bakar on Monday. Both events were held about 12 km apart, the MIFF at the Putra World Trade Centre and the Mafex at the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

After the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Keng Yaik proudly announced to the waiting media at his Ministry that the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will "mediate" between the two clashing furniture fairs.

This is a big letdown from Keng Yaik - to get Abdullah in Cabinet to undertake as his first task as Acting Prime Minister to "mediate" between the two clashing furniture fairs instead of getting him to address weightier national issues like the award of full scholarship and first choice of course to the 624 STPM top scorers.

Keng Yaik had in fact done a great disservice to Abdullah - whose first task as Acting Prime Minister should be momentous and far-reaching issues affecting the rights of the people and future of the country instead of "mediating" between two clashing furniture fairs!

But is Keng Yaik prepared to make amends - to raise in the Cabinet meeting next Wednesday the award of full government scholarship and first choice of course to the 624 STPM top scorers to send a clear message of the new ethos of academic performance and achievement in our tertiary education system?

Offering full government scholarships and first choice of course to the 624 STPM top-scorers, which would only represent 1.7 per cent of the 2002 university intake of 36,500 places, would be the start of a major transformation of the public universities from centres of mediocrity into centres of merit and excellence, introducing a new academic culture of achievement, performance and excellence.

Yesterday, I expressed sadness that the country's top STPM scorer of 5As, Cheong Chee Yen of SMK Seri Kampar, and who hail from a poor family, had to say in his press interview that he hoped to get public support to finance his medical studies in Ireland - highlighting the tragedy in the Malaysian national education system where achievement, performance and excellence do not enjoy top premium and the best and brightest are not assured of the best and state-sponsored university education in Malaysia.

The Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, is to be commended for offering Chee Yen a scholarship to read medicine at the Perak College of Medicine (PCM), which costs RM50,000 a year or an annual grant of RM5,000 a year if he chooses to study in other universities in the country.

The condition to the scholarship offer by the Perak state government is, however, most unreasonable and I call on Tajol Rosli not to impose the condition that Chee Yen must enroll with Perak College of Medicine but to give an open-ended annual grant offer of RM50,000 whichever university in the country Chee Yen chooses to study.

Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should emulate Perak's example and offer full state government scholarship to the top Penang STPM scorers, in particular the nine STPM 5A scorers in the state (Khur Boon Kgim, Lee Khai Chian, Lee Kian Hean and Quah Kah Teong from Jit Sin, Chan Phaik Ying, Ong Gin Hwa and Margaret Teoh Wei Ling from Penang Chinese Girls' High School, Ng Rui Lun from Chung Ling and Lee Siew Kean from Sri Balik Pulau).


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman