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Call on Prime Minister to issue directive to all Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to promptly honour their undertakings in Parliament such as giving written answers
by Lim Kit Siang
On October 19, 2005, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis promised to give me a written answer to my query on the Open Source operating system on the ground that he had run out of time.
In my speech on the 2006 Budget on October 3, 2005, I had asked whether the Malaysian Government had kow-towed to Microsoft on the the “Open Source” issue, which I had described as “another example of the government putting corporate interest above the national goal of broad-based IT literacy” when it shelved the plan to experiment with open source operating system.
I had referred to the announcement by Jamaludin in April 2004 that Mimos Bhd was tasked with creating an operating system for computers using open source software, describing it as “a move that when completed will make information communication technology cheaper and accessible to all”
Microsoft holds a monopoly on operating systems for personal computers and charges expensive royalty and fees usage and upgrade. Open-source is software for which the source code (the instructions for the software) is available for distribution and modification. The modifier retains the copyright for his work, but the source code is public domain.
I informed Parliament during the debate that Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and recently Peru, among others, have been actively moving toward the Linux operating system and other open-source alternatives that can mean millions of dollars in savings.
Institute of Information Technology, a Brazilian government agency working to promote digital inclusion, estimated that Brazil spent USD 1.1 billion on royalties and licensing fees for imported software programmes in 2002.
According to the same source, Brazilian government agencies that have adopted free software had their costs reduced to a mere three percent of what would have been paid for proprietary programmes.
Jamaludin pointed out then that the Government wanted to look at ways to boost computer literacy among Malaysians without the burden of paying high fees.
Malaysia spent about RM 7.86 billion on IT in 2003, of which RM 1.8 billion were on software. If the cost of using open-source software is 10% of Microsoft’s product, the RM 1.6 billion savings could be utilized to reduce the gap between the “information haves” and “information haves-not”.
I also told Parliament that less than two months after Jamaludin’s announcement, Micosoft’s boss Bill Gates visited Malaysia, met with the Prime Minister and other ministers, and donated RM 10 million to some schools.
I pointed out hat since Bill Gates’ visit, the discussion on open source operating system had vanished from public discourse. I stressed that it was time for the government to reexamine the potentials of open-source and stop “kow tow” to Microsoft as the IT policy of Malaysia must be a policy that champions “IT for All”, not favoring big corporations.
About a month has passed, and everyone are still waiting for Jamaludin to keep his promise in Parliament on Oct. 19. Jamaludin should not think he can get away from his parliamentary undertaking so easily. If I do not get an answer from Jamaludin by tomorrow, I will move an amendment motion to cut the Minister’s salary by RM10 when the 2006 estimates for Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation come up for debate next Tuesday.
In the second case, Deputy Finance Minister Tengku Putera Tengku Awang promised in Parliament on October 27 during the winding-up of the committee stage on the 2006 budget estimates for the Finance Ministry to give me written replies on two issues which I had earlier brought up in the debate, viz:
The Prime Minister should remind Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries of their duty to achieve the objective of transforming the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament, as it is impossible to have a First World Parliament if there continues to be Third-World Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in the administration.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman