Call on Abdullah to establish a Senate Appointment Commission to ensure that the criteria set out in Article 45 of the Constitution for Senators  are scrupulously adhered to in keeping with his pledge of  a clean, incorruptible and trustworthy administration

2004 General Election Post-Election Ceramah
by Lim Kit Siang

(SerembanThursday): It is less than three weeks from the 2004 general election, but the humility of Barisan Nasional leaders during the election campaign seems to have evaporated, replaced by hubris as a result of the  biggest landslide victory of the Barisan Nasional in history, giving it the unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority which nobody would have dared to forecast before polling day. 

This Barisan Nasional hubris has spawned the twin ills of instant amnesia about its election pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, trustworthy, people-oriented administration which is prepared to hear the truth from the people and a growing arrogance of power with contempt for the Opposition, dissent and the ordinary people. 

Every day, there are more disturbing signs and  a lengthening list of such a Barisan Nasional hubris, which is illustrated by the undemocratic “We Are the Boss” syndrome of Barisan Nasional leaders, when in a genuine system of parliamentary democracy, it is only  the people and voters who can say “We Are the Boss”! 

As a result, we are seeing almost daily examples of the Barisan Nasional hubris resulting from the nine-tenth parliamentary majority victory, such as the high-handed announcement by the new  Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid on Tuesday that  with immediate effect, all Mykad applicants who fail to collect their cards within three months of the date of the reminder to do so will be fined RM100 each. 

Although the press today reported a big rush at the national registration department offices to collect the MyKads, with more than 1,000 applicants turning up at the Petaling Jaya office, is this the right and proper way to resolve the problem of unclaimed Mykads from piling up in National Registration Department (NRD) offices? 

If threat of hefty fines is the most effective way to get prompt public responses, why is this “golden rule” not applied to the public service, with the Minister, Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary as well as government servants liable to pay RM100 fine every time they fail to promptly attend to public grievances or problems? 

Another example of such Barisan Nasional hubris is the “jobs for the boys” syndrome and the blatant competition for the “spoils of office” between and within Barisan Nasional component parties after the landslide election victory – whether in having the biggest, most bloated and flabby Cabinet in the nation’s history or the scramble for Senator or other appointments. 

Malaysiakini reported today of a leadership tussle in the Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) in Sarawak, not over what should be the new political, economic, educational, environmental and nation-building reform policies which SUPP should urge on the new Prime Minister, but over disagreements about the post-election allocation of the “spoils of office” – a Senator post for SUPP, as to whether it should remain with Kuching SUPP or go to an influential SUPP member in Bintulu instead.

This is most scandalous as it  a gross abuse of power as well as being most unconstitutional – as the establishment of the Dewan Negara in  a bi-cameral Parliament in the Merdeka Constitution  by our founding fathers was not to provide a rubbish dump for Barisan Nasional political rejects and also-rans, but to have the services of worthy citizens who have distinguished themselves in different professions and walks of life.   At present, the overwhelming majority of Barisan Nasional  Senators have only distinguished themselves as “apple-polishers” of the powers-that-be!

Is the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, prepared to honour his pledge of a clean, incorruptible and trustworthy government by ending the long history of abuses of the constitutional provision on the appointment of Senators by farming it out to Barisan Nasional political has-beens, rejects and also-rans?

The time has come  for the criteria in Article 45 of the Constitution on the appointment of Senators from persons who “have rendered distinguished public service or have achieved distinction in the professions, commerce, industry, agriculture, cultural activities or social service or are representative of racial minorities or are capable of representing the interests of aborigines” to be fully complied with. 

Before a Senator is appointed, the public should be given the opportunity to object on the ground that the constitutional criteria for Senators had not been met.

Better still, Abdullah should establish an independent and impartial Senate Appointments Commission should to  vet and ensure that the criteria set out in Article 45 of the Constitution for Senators  are scrupulously adhered to in keeping with his pledge of  a clean, incorruptible and trustworthy administration

Let me  give two  more examples of the hubris of the Barisan Nasional leaders which have caused them to suffer from the twin ills of political amnesia and arrogance of power.

On Tuesday, I tried to contact the Chairman of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional – PTPTN) Datuk Ahmad Husni Hadnazlah, who has been promoted Deputy Minister in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

I had visited the Perak Education Expo 2004 in Ipoh on Sunday and  found that there had been 80 – 90 applicants for medical studies in the Crimea State Medical University in Ukraine in the past three days. 

The Crimea State Medical University in Ukraine is probably the single biggest university, whether in Malaysia or in the world, with the highest concentration of Malaysian students pursuing medical studies, as there are at present  some 700 Malaysian students with 500 pursuing the medical degree with another 200 doing the one-year pre-medical course. 

Crimea State Medical University offers the cheapest medical course for Malaysians, including local medical faculties or colleges.

It is estimated that it will cost some RM400,000 to pursue a medical degree in Australia, RM500,000 in Canada, RM630,000 in the United Kingdom and RM700,000 in the United States, while it will cost  some RM250,000 to pursue medical studies locally, such as at the Perak College of Medicine (PCM). 

For the Crimea State Medical University, the cost of the medical course is only RM99,000 (inclusive of the one-year pre-medical course).  

There is however one problem.  Although  the medical degree of Crimea State Medical University is recognized by the Health Ministry, with  the Public Services Department, Yayasan Selangor and the Armed Forces sending  students to the Ukraine university to be trained as doctors,  it has been “blackballed” by  the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional – PTPTN).   

This has resulted in gross discrimination against the Malaysian students at the Crimea State Medical University, including “high flyers” with 9 to 11As in SPM and  who come from poor families,  being denied  study loans by PTPTN which disburses  billions of ringgit as study  loans to students enrolled in 18 public universities and nearly 300 private universities and colleges.

This was why I had phoned up  Husni in Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh to ask that the  PTPTN should  reverse its unfair and discriminatory policy against the Malaysian students in the Crimea State Medical University.

Although I had left my phone number with Husni’s personal secretary requesting that he could return my call, I have not heard from him.  I had known Husni as a very humble, pleasant and approachable person when we were both MPs in the 1995-1999 parliamentary session. I had no doubt that he would have returned my call, but I was wrong.  Probably he is  now a different person as he has become a “big shot”, affected by  hubris of the unprecedented Barisan Nasional general election landslide win.

The other example was  the absence of the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, from the ceremony to proclaim the upgrading of Hilir Perak District Council to Teluk Intan Municipal Council by Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah on  Sunday night.

What excuse could Ka Ting give for being absent from this function, which comes directly under his Ministry – that he had to delegate his speech to be read out by his ministry Secretary-General Datuk Lokman Hakim Mohd Jasan?

I call on Abdullah to check  the hubris of Barisan Nasional leaders over the unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority win in general election spawning the twin ills of instant amnesia about BN election pledges and arrogance of power, and to remind them in no unmistakable terms they should not become “too big for their  shoes” and never to forget the Barisan Nasional’s 2004 general election pledge of a clean, incorruptible, efficieint, trustworthy, people-oriented administration which is prepared to hear the truth from the people, and its slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” which should not  end up as “Temberang”.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor