Maszlee Malik: The most influential or most destructive minister?

MARIAM MOKHTAR

COMMENT | Dr Maszlee Malik (above) has squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically reform the Malaysian education system.

He has the power to influence generations of Malaysians, thus enabling the nation to realise its true potential, and forge ahead of our neighbours.

Instead, Maszlee has projected an image of weakness and given the impression that he is taking orders. Children continue to be turned into lemmings and the country will tread the same racial path as before. It is all about “Them” and “Us”.

Maszlee has proven that he is no different from his predecessors in Umno-Baru/BN. Their education policies, which were designed to stultify Malaysians, did not encourage children to think or to ask questions.Advertisement

Fifteen months ago, Maszlee was thrust from relative obscurity, as a political-analyst-cum-lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia, to head what is arguably the most important ministry.

Perhaps, Maszlee is too young to realise that our education system was once one of the best in Asia. Its supremacy ended when successive Umno-Baru/BN governments tinkered with it. Meritocracy was rejected and the superiority of only one race mattered. Many non-Malay lecturers fled overseas.

There are enormous challenges involved, but Maszlee’s thrust on the three “Cs” – the colour of shoes, khat calligraphy and cashless payment in schools, horrified parents.

Of importance to parents and educationists, are the three “Rs” – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic’, as well as better discipline, a reintroduction of the value-system, instilling respect, and promoting teachers who encourage critical thinking.

Despite his many reforms, Maszlee’s most damaging policy is the maintenance of the quotas in education.

A parent who displays favouritism amongst his children only encourages enmity. Similarly, quotas discourage national integration. The people who are discriminated against will feel bitter and resentful.

Quotas do not help the Malays. The majority will be under the illusion that they need not work hard to achieve. Moreover, allegations of pass marks being lowered only give a false picture of Malay educational attainment.

Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad knows the Malay psyche best. Pampering the Malays will ensure political dominance, but the downside is that the Malays, as he has previously acknowledged, become lazy and ineffective. Some go on to commit corrupt activities.

It is disingenuous of Maszlee to equate quotas in the matriculation programme, with the private sector refusing to employ Malays, simply because they don’t speak Mandarin. Many employers reject Malay workers, because they are used to being pampered, and are not as productive as the non-Malays. Even Mamak shops prefer foreign workers. Their owners know only too well about poor performance and frequency of “ponteng” (absenteeism) amongst Malays.

Politicians have successfully divided Malaysians along racial and religious lines, resulting in some Malays refusing to shop in non-Malay businesses. If the non-Malay business clientele is predominantly non-Malay, a non-Mandarin speaking employee would be detrimental to the business. Moreover, businesses want to avoid the negative publicity of a Malay employee who refuses to handle a can of spam or a bottle of beer.

Quotas in school sports’ teams do not foster team spirit and Maszlee must work with the Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, to abolish quotas in sport.

Maszlee claims that many non-Malays are rich and can afford tuition, or places at private universities. A non-Malay would have to be exceptional to win a place in a public university. The alternative is work, or to enrol in a private university, where the medium of instruction is in English, which is considered a hurdle for some Malays. This is because nationalists from the 70s and 80s said that speaking English was unpatriotic. Maszlee needs a solution for the Malay reluctance to learn English.

For many non-Malays, education is the key to escaping the poverty trap. In my youth, many Malay grandfathers and fathers encouraged their daughters to have an education. This stopped when the ulamas said that the woman’s place was in the home, for procreation and to care for hubby. Maszlee should try to re-educate some Malay fathers.

He should not insult non-wealthy Malays who struggle to educate their children without government help. He should also mix with more non-Malay families, to realise that they are not all rich. Many make enormous sacrifices to provide an education for their children. Tuition is necessary because our national schools are rubbish.

Is Maszlee aware that many Malay parents cannot see the value of education for their children? Some actively encourage their children to stop schooling, to help them run a food stall. How does Maszlee propose to change the mindset of these Malay parents?

Despite his background in the teaching of religious matters, Maszlee should keep religion and religious teachers out of the classroom. Tahfiz schools should not be run in isolation, and he needs to bring them into line with the Malaysian education curriculum.

Today, more Malay parents enrol their children in Chinese type schools because of better discipline and learning methods. Could Maszlee learn from these schools?

If national schools had improved discipline, better teaching methods and competent teachers, parents would not hesitate to enrol their children there. With Bahasa Malaysia and English being compulsory, Chinese or Tamil could be optional extras.

The indigenous people of Peninsular and East Malaysia are bumiputra and are heavily discriminated against. What has Maszlee planned for the children from these communities? Only those who are politically connected thrive.

Renaming the Permata program to Genius, was a no-brainer. The highly gifted/intelligent do not need hundreds of millions of ringgits of help. Benefactors, philanthropists (including the Singapore government) will beat a path to their doors; however, the money could help poor and marginalised children, or train more teachers.

It is imperative for the success of Malaysia that the education system is upgraded. Maszlee needs to think long-term and abolish quotas. Will he be able to improve Malaysian education?

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MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Leave a comment

Dr M, spare Sabah, Sarawak the sermons

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT I have said in the past that when we need to speak up and tell our prime minister some hard truths, we have to do so with respect.

It is true that there are some politicians for whom we have little or no respect, but this is Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our elder statesperson who is 94 years old, not a man of 30 or 40 whom we can whack as we please without any remorse if they go off track.

Unfortunately, of late Mahathir has been seriously vilified by Malaysians, including some of my fellow Sarawakians, rightly or wrongly. To many, the writing is clear on the wall. His time as prime minister is up.

In an online chat group, a friend recently challenged me after I called for decorum in the language used against Mahathir, asking what respect I still hold for the prime minister after all the misgivings against him, his dictatorial decisions and for allowing racial and religious taunts to prolong, in particular.

This did not come from a politician whom we could brush aside as an adversary, but an ordinary professional whom I know has zero political ambition. Things are not looking rosy for Mahathir indeed.

I only have sympathy for the grand old man. Surely, a man of 94 should be spared such animosity and spite, hate even. My worry is that the longer Mahathir stays on in the job, the worse it will be for him. 

Only Mahathir himself can decide whether he wishes to be spared more public attacks, ridicule and misery.

What is my beef with Mahathir now? His statement on Friday that the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality was unhealthy, adding that everyone should think of themselves as Malaysians and not individual territories.

“We may live in Sabah, Sarawak, or on the peninsula, (but) we are Malaysians and we talk like Malaysians,” he had said, stating his disapproval.

I’m sorry, but I have to express my disapproval too, for the slogans were coined for good reason. The prime minister must practise what he preaches. Mahathir is the one who has to lead by example by thinking that he is a Malaysian first and not a Malayan.

If he thinks that the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality is unhealthy, then the prime minister must also discard his ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality.

For 56 long years, it has all been about Malaya and worse, that only the interests of Malayans of a certain race were given priority. It has reached a point where Sabahans and Sarawakians just did not feel a sense of belonging in Malaysia.

The ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous in a multiracial and multireligious country like ours because Mahathir is the nation’s powerful chief executive.

The recent pronouncement by Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (photo) that ‘Malaysia is for Malays’ cuts a deeper wedge, especially when the prime minister did not tick off the mufti for his racially stinging remark.

What about Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin’s ‘I am Malay first, Malaysian second’ declaration some years ago? No one chided him.

So, I have to ask Mahathir to spare us his sermons of thinking like Malaysians when he did not bother to tell others the same thing in the past. Please, don’t preach to Sabahans and Sarawakians now. It smacks of double standards. It is even hollow.

It’s disappointing that an elder statesperson like Mahathir is still unable to see the growing disillusionment among Sabahans and Sarawakians against many of his ‘one-man’ policies, both past and present.

One recent example is his decision to set up Bersatu branches in Sabah and Sarawak, even against the wishes of Pakatan Harapan allies in the Borneo territories.

Don’t blame the people of Sabah and Sarawak for feeling that Mahathir’s desire is to see Malayan parties in control of their homeland. The powerful Bersatu chairperson has insisted that his party must have a presence in the Borneo territories even when support is minimal.

Why? Because to a leader like Mahathir, Malaya must always be in charge. Sabah and Sarawak will have to take and follow instructions from Malaya. This is something we resent and will no longer tolerate.

In a way, the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ slogans are our way of telling Malaya that we have had enough of playing second fiddle for the past 56 years. We have to chart our own destiny now, with or without Malaya’s approval or support.

If Mahathir really wants Sabahans and Sarawakians to have a sense of belonging in Malaysia, he should know what to do first – stop pushing us against the wall.

As it is today, Malaya has many issues to resolve. The controversies surrounding Zakir Naik, khat, Dong Zong, Selangor conversion bill and the sex video are all Malaya’s creations.

We do not have such problems in Sabah and Sarawak. Those are Malaya’s issues to resolve so don’t burden Sabah and Sarawak with them.

In fact, if Mahathir and other Malayan leaders were able to think and act like Malaysians, we would not have to face such disturbing issues of race and religion in the first place.

Who is responsible for perpetuating and prolonging them? Why is the most powerful man in the country today dilly-dallying in putting an end to these contentious issues once and for all?

And that is my way of telling our grand old man some hard truths with the utmost respect.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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Activist accuses Dr M of having ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality

Francis Paul Siah says the people of Sarawak and Sabah believe that Putrajaya has a tendency to impose its will on their governments and were resentful of this.

By LARISSA LUMANDAN

KUCHING: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call for Malaysian patriotism among Sarawakians and Sabahans has drawn the scorn of the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS).

The organisation’s founder, Francis Paul Siah, accused the prime minister of hypocrisy, alleging that he harboured a “Malaysian for Malayans” mentality.

Mahathir, in a response to critics accusing Putrajaya of failure to consult East Malaysians on several issues, said last Friday that all Malaysians should think of themselves as Malaysians instead of identifying themselves as citizens of particular territories.

He described the “Sarawak for Sarawakians” and “Sabah for Sabahans” mentality as “unhealthy”.

Siah told FMT he would urge Mahathir to practise what he preaches. “He has to lead by example by thinking that he is a Malaysian first and not a Malayan.”

He alleged there were others besides Mahathir who placed Peninsular Malaysia’s interests above those of the East Malaysian states and added that this was not only unhealthy but dangerous in a multiracial country.

He spoke of such a mentality being particularly dangerous in a man like Mahathir since he is the nation’s chief executive.

The MoCS leader said the people of Sarawak and Sabah believed that Putrajaya had a tendency to impose its will on their governments and were resentful of this.

He claimed there was a suspicion among Sarawakians and Sabahans that Mahathir would like to see peninsula-based political parties taking control of Sarawak and Sabah.

He said the decision of Mahathir’s party, PPBM, to set up branches in the two states was against the wishes of even its Pakatan Harapan allies in the Borneo territories.

“It’s disappointing that an elder statesman like Mahathir is still unable to see the growing disillusionment among Sarawakians and Sabahans over many of his one-man policies, both past and present,” he said.

“The Sarawak for Sarawakians and Sabah for Sabahans slogans are our way of telling Malaya that we have had enough of playing second fiddle after 56 years,” he said.

“We will have to chart our own destiny, with or without Malaya’s approval or support.”

  • Free Malaysia Today
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MoCS tells Dr M to practise what he preaches

KUCHING: In response to the prime minister’s call for Sarawakians and Sabahans to think as Malaysians, Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) founding chairman Francis Paul Siah said that Dr Mahathir Mohamad should practise what he preaches.

Francis Paul Siah (file pic)

“If he thinks that the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality is unhealthy, then he must also discard his ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality, as that is not only unhealthy but dangerous in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like ours because Mahathir is the nation’s powerful chief executive,” Siah said in a statement yesterday.

He said that it was disappointing that an elder statesman like Mahathir is still unable to see the growing disillusionment among Sabahans and Sarawakians with many of his ‘one-man’ policies, both past and present.

“One recent example is his decision to set up Bersatu branches in Sabah and Sarawak, even against the wishes of Pakatan Harapan allies in the Borneo territories. Don’t blame the people of Sabah and Sarawak for feeling that Mahathir’s desire is to see Malayan parties in total control of Malaysia.

“In short, Malaya must always be in charge. Sabah and Sarawak will have to take and follow instructions from Malaya. This is something we resent and will no longer tolerate,” Siah stated.

He added that if Mahathir really wanted Sabahans and Sarawakians to have a sense of belonging in Malaysia, he should stop pushing the two Borneo territories against the wall.

“In a way, the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ slogans is our way of telling Malaya that we have enough of playing second fiddle for the past 56 years. We will have to chart our own destiny, with or without Malaya’s approval or support,” Siah said.

He added that Malaya had many issues to resolve, such as the controversies surrounding khat calligraphy, Zakir Naik, Dong Zong, the Selangor conversion bill, Lynas and the sex scandal videos.

“We do not have such problems in Sabah and Sarawak. Those are Malaya’s issues to resolve — don’t burden Sabah and Sarawak with them. In fact, if Mahathir and Malayans were able to think as Malaysians, we would not have to face such issues of race and religion in the first place,” Siah concluded.

Mahathir was recently quoted as saying the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality was unhealthy, adding that everyone should think of themselves as Malaysians and not individual territories.

“I would like to remind everyone that we are all Malaysians. We may live in Sabah or Sarawak or in the peninsula, but we are Malaysians,” he said.

Prior to this, the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) urged the federal government to give Sarawak full autonomy over education policies following a decision to introduce lessons on khat calligraphy in vernacular primary schools from next year.

It was also reported that the Sabah Progressive Party, Parti Bersatu Sabah and Liberal Democratic Party supported Chinese educationist group Dong Zong’s stance in opposing the introduction of khat.

The federal government also drew flak after Prof Taufiq Yap Yun Hin’s was appointed Universiti Malaysia Sabah vice-chancellor, a decision which was made without consulting the state government.

  • Borneo Post
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Harapan, don’t bring your problems to Sarawak

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | I must applaud Sabah PKR chairperson Christina Liew for taking a firm stand on the khat controversy right from the start.

She declared that khat would not be taught in Sabah schools, even before the federal cabinet made a final decision on the matter, reducing it from six to three pages of khat lessons in the primary school Bahasa Malaysia Year 4 syllabus and making it optional.

Liew, a Sabah deputy chief minister, was one step ahead. Education is a federal matter, and whether she had the authority to eventually stop khat lessons in Sabah schools or not is a separate matter. 

That Liew dared to come out strongly against its introduction, instead of waiting for instructions from her national PKR leaders and parroting them later, speaks loudly of her determination to say and do the right thing for Sabah. This is admirable.Advertisement

The same cannot be said of Pakatan Harapan leaders in Sarawak. I am disappointed that all of them kept quiet initially until negative reactions from Sarawakians forced one or two junior leaders to pose feeble questions. That is damage control, too little too late.

It is now clear that the khat introduction has seen fierce pushback from the non-Malay community, not unexpectedly putting pressure on DAP.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also upped the ante, calling Dong Zong racist and even suggesting the Chinese educationist movement be banned.

To Harapan and Mahathir, please don’t bring the khat and Dong Zong bad blood to Sarawak via your Harapan leaders here, confusing and dividing us in the process. This is not a Sarawak problem. This is your issue to resolve.

We wish to concentrate on improving the standard of English and introducing subjects that will ensure a brighter future for the younger generations of Sarawakians. Religious subjects do not interest us. Don’t bother us with a fun subject like calligraphy. That is not our priority.

What is urgent now for us in Sarawak is to repair our dilapidated schools. According to Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg, he has repaid RM350 million to Putrajaya, but up till this day, the Finance Ministry has not been given the green light to release the sum for repairs as promised.

I must also add that finding the two missing Sarawakian soldiers is also urgent and pressing.

Harapan leaders in Malaya are too busy with khat, Dong Zong, the Selangor conversion bill and Zakir Naik. For us in Sarawak, those issues are none of our business.

Sarawakians are unhappy that Malayans have been engrossed in controversies which are of zero interest to Sarawak, distracting Putrajaya from fulfilling their obligations to our homeland in the process.

We have little or no issue with race or religion. Even Muslim leaders in Sarawak, including those in the GPS government, are not in favour of khat lessons. No such conversion bill like the one in Selangor has ever been bandied about in Sarawak, let alone tabled in the state assembly.

There is no official religion in Sarawak too and we do not have royalty insisting that we manage and run the government in a certain way. One black spot for us – we have a greedy governor, but to be fair, he’s no racist nor extremist.

We don’t go around calling Dong Zong racist. In fact, we have some ties with the movement too. Several Sarawak Chinese schools management boards are affiliates of Dong Zong, and Sibu businessman Vincent Lau (photo) once served as its chair.

On record, Sarawak is also the first to recognise the United Examination Certificate (UEC), thanks to the courage and vision of Adenan Satem, our late chief minister. Penang followed suit later.

I like to believe that our government makes decisions and policies bearing in mind the interests of all Sarawakians, without ever considering the race and religion elements.

In this connection, I find the Selangor menteri besar’s contention that the conversion bill was necessary in order to ensure Malay/Muslim votes for Harapan very disturbing. This is exactly the kind of racial and religious taunts that we do not need in this country.

As for Zakir, the controversial preacher has been declared a persona non-grata in Sarawak. Several groups in Sarawak have also appealed to Putrajaya to deport the hate preacher.

Since Putrajaya pays no attention to our pleas, we let it be. This is Malaya’s issue to resolve, not Sarawak’s. If Putrajaya is unprepared to say good riddance to bad rubbish, that’s their grave to dig.

Now, Zakir (photo) seems to have grown bolder, wading into more controversies involving Hindus and Chinese. This is what we get for being stubborn in backing a fugitive. Perhaps, the worst is yet to come.

Harapan is now torn apart. At the centre of the storm is our grand old man, Mahathir.

It seems that the most acceptable narrative now is for the prime minister to call it a day. There is growing mistrust against him, not only among Malaysians at large, but within Harapan.

I believe my fellow Sarawakians will not allow these Malayan issues to distract us from our priorities. We need to continue to fight for our rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. 

We need to work harder to boost our economy. We need to continue waging the war against corruption and prevent wastage in our state coffers with prudent management.

We need to see to the alleviation of abject poverty in Sarawak. We need to ensure that all our children receive an education, our sick have access to medical care and our elderly are well taken care of in their sunset years.

When the poor in Sarawak are hungry, our sick folks are left unattended, our young are not going to school and our graduates are unemployed, do you think we are concerned about khat, Dong Zong, conversion bill or Zakir? Third national car or flying car? 

The priorities of Malaya and Sarawak are poles apart.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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When journalists and their kids go hungry

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT Last month, I received an email from a former media colleague who asked me whether a person sharing my surname, whom he got acquainted with recently, was related to me.

He told me he was in Papua New Guinea (PNG), something I wasn’t aware of as we have not been in touch for some time.

After clearing his initial query, I asked when and why he moved to PNG. His reply: “Started work here on March 3, 2019. Cannot cari makan in Malaysia anymore. Need to do some work to keep my brains working. So, might as get a job and be paid well, instead of doing free work and services for politicians who don’t keep their word.”

I’m happy for my ex-colleague. He is still healthy, in his early sixties and a good writer. I’m not sure about the part of him working for politicians, but I do know him as a decent, well-meaning guy.Advertisement

Since he is still fit enough to work, but could not find gainful employment here, he is prepared to move anywhere. He is an adventurous person who had worked overseas in the past. I have to salute my friend as a journalist with the right aptitude.

Let me connect the dots of this little tale of my former colleague with recent developments in the journalistic fraternity in the country.

As a media man, the financial constraints faced by Utusan Malaysia and Bernama and the blow suffered by journalists as a result, saddens me. However, the news was not surprising as other media companies have also been downsizing in recent times.

When fellow journalists run into problems related to job security and livelihood, we all feel for them as we rightly should.

I’m glad the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), a vocal and effective voice for journos, has always stood by their members. This time, however, the desperate plea for Utusan journalists came as a shocker to me. I did not realise the situation was that critical.

“Some of our members had to give their little children some syrup to replace milk as they could no longer afford (the latter) due to lack of money”, NUJ secretary-general Chin Sung Chew claimed.

When toddlers are fed syrup instead of baby formula, then it’s no longer a laughing matter. It’s a very serious issue which warrants immediate attention. Parents may be able to go hungry for a day or two, but babies cannot.

It was reported that after repeated delays in the payment of their salaries affecting some 800 NUJ members, Utusan employees are set to picket on Aug 19.

According to the report, salaries for executive staff were also delayed for two months, with the last partial payment of RM2,000 being paid in June.

Two months in arrears. This makes me wonder whether journalists in Utusan are paid such low wages that they have zero savings to tide over two months. To the extent that their babies have to go without milk, never mind the housing and car loans.

Utusan is not expected to ever return to its hey days, not with the current political climate and the bruising times faced by the print media.

The nation’s foremost English daily, The Star, where I was attached 25 years ago, has also downsized, offering many of its staff voluntary separation scheme (VSS). The century-old popular afternoon daily, Malay Mail, has also shut down its print edition.

Do the Utusan journalists have an exit plan? Even a VSS payout will only last a period of time for journalists with large families.

Are they adventurous enough to wander overseas to work like my friend in PNG? Will there be able to find suitable jobs in the first place?

One important question comes to mind. Are the Utusan journalists proficient enough in English to land them suitable jobs elsewhere? I’m mindful that Utusan is a Malay language paper and their journalists must be very proficient in Bahasa Malaysia.

In a case like this where Malay journalists are unemployed, we must review our education system and seriously stress on the importance of English.

Future generations of Malay journalists have to be proficient in both Bahasa and English to ensure job security. A good command of English and sound journalistic skills will likely open more doors for jobs overseas. If cannot cari makan in Malaysia anymore, like my friend in PNG said, move elsewhere.

The case of Bernama, which is more complicated, caught many by surprise. That a government-owned news agency is facing financial constraints does not give a good impression of sound management of its finances.

Understandably, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was unhappy on hearing of Bernama’s woes, describing the situation as a possible “mismanagement of funds” meant for staff salaries.

Bernama CEO Nurini Kassim (above) was reportedly summoned to Putrajaya to explain the agency’s so-called “cash-strapped situation”.

Malaysiakini had earlier quoted Bernama’s Accounts and Finance senior manager Syarifah Zaini Syed Zain as making serious claims such as having yet to receive the grant from the Ministry of Finance, which resulted in the EPF contributions being used to pay for the July staff salaries.

As an editior, I was not a great fan of Bernama, as all media outlets get the same stories and photos. Editors will prefer to opt for exclusive reports from their own journalists.

The plus points are the newsfeed of official events covered by Bernama, and foreign trips of the prime minister and his cabinet members. It must also be noted that Bernama’s subscription rates are more reasonable compared to packages offered by foreign wire services.

Thankfully, no children of Bernama journalists have to go hungry like those in Utusan because of the agency’s financial woes.

Lim’s statement that “Pakatan Harapan is not bankrupt, unlike a certain state government which cannot pay the salaries of their civil servants” is reassuring.

We can see that the Harapan government is a proud one with a proud finance minister who will not tolerate hearing of government employees not being paid their salaries.

That being the case, I believe Bernama’s financial issues will be sorted out in no time.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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The strange case of two missing Sarawakian soldiers

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | Corporal David Edmund, 29, and Lance Corporal Moses Logers, 25, were discovered missing on July 19 while on duty on Pulau Perak.

Edmund and Logers were both attached to the Fourth Battalion of the Royal Ranger Regiment (4RRD) based at the Bukit Cowder Camp.

According to a report, the absence of the two Sarawakian soldiers was detected late evening on July 19 when the placement chief made a parade of night checks.

On July 29, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (photo) said efforts to find the members of the armed forces by the three military branches were halted on July 26, as no new leads were discovered.

That was the last official statement from the minister. Almost three weeks into the disappearance, there has been no further update from the Defence Ministry.

Understandably, family members of the missing duo are worried sick. Officially, search and rescue operations have stopped, which means no one is out there looking for Edmund and Logers. 

It also means that it is not known whether they are dead or alive. There is no closure for the families yet.

My heart goes out to the brothers of the missing soldiers when they called a press conference in Kuching on Aug 5 to express their concerns and worries.

In fact, I was shocked to learn of what they had to go through with the army in their attempt to find their missing brothers. If their claims that they received no assistance from the Defence Ministry are verified, then it is disturbing.

According to Logers’ brother Thony, the family went to the location between July 22 and July 29 at their own expense, hoping to meet his superiors and join the search.

They also wanted to see the situation for themselves, but their visit failed to lead anywhere as they were prevented from going to Pulau Perak.

Thony claimed that the army did not extend any help, whether financial or otherwise, during their trip.

“From day one until now, not only was there no help given to us, there is also no moral support. Nobody came to see us about our missing family members,” he said.

If this is true, then the Defence Ministry has some explaining to do. Are the top brass of the army such heartless people that they wouldn’t even offer moral support to family members of their soldiers who had gone missing while on duty?

I doubt it, because I know that our new defence minister has a heart of gold and his generals should do well to follow the minister’s example.

I’m aware that it would be impossible for even a responsible and caring minister like Mohamad to look after each and every one of the 80,000 strong Malaysian defence forces.

I have questions for the Defence Ministry and I hope some answers would be forthcoming. I believe the family members would like to know too.

What was the operation on Pulau Perak about? A routine training exercise? An operation to flush out criminals or to prevent aliens from landing?

We are not at war, so who are the enemies the battalion was after? It’s unbelievable that our soldiers could not handle peace-time enemies, whoever they might be. Surely, we can rule out Edmund and Logers as casualties of war.

What could possibly have happened to them? Could they have accidentally drowned? Were they lost in the jungle? It was a battalion out there on Pulau Perak. How was it possible that none of their mates knew what happened to the two Sarawakians in the same battalion?

When soldiers go on a mission, are they not supposed to be looking out for each other? What about the commanding officer of the battalion and his responsibilities?

Now for the worst-case scenario. Was foul play involved? A possible homicide? Anything could happen among a group of young soldiers on a deserted island.

Why do we have to come up with so many possibilities of what could have happened and so many theories of the case? All the above could possibly be untrue.

This is the trouble when the authorities are not saying anything. If we hear nothing from official sources, we tend to form our own opinions.

In this case, it is not fair to the families of Edmund and Logers when they do not even get some moral support, let alone regular updates from the Defence Ministry.

The families of the missing duo have lodged police reports, calling for investigations into their disappearance.

This is the right move, because the police have to step in if the army has exhausted all avenues to conclude the case. The police are better at detective work than soldiers, that’s for sure.

Yesterday, I sent a message to Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong (centre in photo), asking him whether he has any comments on the case. I was hoping for an update to help alleviate the worries of the families.

As Liew did not respond for 24 hours, I take that such a case was outside his jurisdiction or that he was trying to obtain an update on the incident himself.

Edmund’s brother Morni declared at the press conference that “we want justice,” hinting perhaps that something fishy could have happened to the missing soldiers.

No matter what it finally turns out to be, the families need closure after their long emotional rollercoaster ride, pining for their missing loved ones since July 19.

The Defence Ministry owes that to them.

-Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)