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Media Conference by Lim Kit Siang Siang at DAP PJ Hqrs on Friday, 15th May 2009 at 12.30 pm: 

Unfair award of PSD scholarships - suspend PSD DG for insurbordination or Ong Tee Keat should resign as Minister for failure to implement Cabinet policy decided in March

Yesterday, MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat announced that the Government will review the selection criteria for Public Services Department scholarships and that a meeting the same day would be held among Barisan Nasional component party leaders, the PSD director-general and the Chief Secretary to the Government to discuss the matter and reconsider rejected cases.

However, the most senior MCA Minister was contradicted yesterday itself by the Public Service Department director-general, Tan Sri Ismail Adam, as reported in today’s New Straits Times, which carried the headline “’No review of PSD scholarship selection criteria’”, viz:

PUTRAJAYA: There will be no review of the selection criteria for Public Service Department scholarships, PSD director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam said yesterday.

He said he had not received any directive to reconsider the criteria.

Unsuccessful applicants for scholarships had until Monday to appeal, he added.

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said on Wednesday there would be a review of the PSD criteria for giving out scholarships.

Ismail denied there was a meeting among Barisan Nasional component party leaders, the chief secretary to the government and himself, as claimed by Ong.

Ismail also denied Ong's claims on the current selection criteria.

Who is lying? The MCA President or the PSD DG?

If it is the MCA President, then Ong should resign; but if it is the PSD director-general, then Ismail should be suspended from office immediately for public insurbordination of a Cabinet Minister and the Cabinet!

This period of the year has been described as the “annual begging season” when Malaysians have to beg for scholarships from the PSD although they are entitled to them because of their excellent academic results and meritocracy.

This is followed by the annual rigmarole of Barisan Nasional component parties trying to champion aggrieved students who had been by-passed in the PSD scholarships despite having brilliant academic results, when all these injustices and power abuses would have been prevented if there is in place a fair and transparent PSD scholarship system which is not prey to discriminatory regulations or the whims and fancies of individual bureaucrats.

Malaysians were as good as promised that they would be spared this humiliating “annual begging season” this year as there is now a new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his slogan of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.”

This slogan captured beautifully what was wrong with the PSD scholarship awards in the past years as to turn this period into an “annual begging season” – precisely because they failed to observe all the three criteria of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now”.

It is an indictment of the hollowness of Najib’s slogan of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” that the “annual begging season” is again being played out after the PSD announced results of its foreign degree scholarships last Friday.

Yesterday, Najib said he wanted to be the People’s Prime Minister.

He said the government must “listen to the pulse of the nation” which was the reason why he started his walkabouts.

He said:

"I went to Puduraya (bus terminal) so that I could smell the sweat, the grime and the dust. This is totally different if I were to listen to a briefing on the terminal by the mayor in my air-conditioned room. You are able to look deeply and assess the real situation.

"I do not want formality, red-carpet welcomes, garlands and so on. I just want to continue going down to the ground. Even if there is no (media) coverage, it is OK as I want to be the people's prime minister."

This is all well and good and commendable, if he really wants to empathise with the cares and woes of ordinary Malaysians, why had Najib been insensitive to the cries of outrage of Malaysian for the past week at the injustices of the PSD foreign degree scholarship awards?

Why had Najib failed to intervene personally to resolve the issue even after the subject had been raised in the Cabinet on Wednesday – especially as PSD comes directly under the responsibility of the Prime Minister?

In fact, the present batch of Cabinet Ministers are guilty of serious remiss of responsibility in failing to resolve the problem at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, as Tan Sri Bernard Dompok had announced as far back as March (Star 27.3.09) details of a new PSD scholarship scheme for foreign degrees, viz: 20 per cent or 400 of 2,000 scholarships for excellent students, 60 per cent or 1,200 scholarships for bumiputra and non-bumiputra SPM leavers; 10 per cent for 200 scholarships for Sabah and Sarawak bumiputra SPM leavers; the remaining 10 per cent for disabled students who excelled in their studies.

Why has this new PSD foreign degree scholarship scheme not been implemented? Was there insubordination by the “Little Napoleons” in the PSD?

Even if there had been insurbordination by “Little Napoleons” in the PSD, why were the Cabinet Ministers so ineffective and impotent at the last Cabinet meeting as not able to ensure that the new PSD scholarship scheme decided by the previous Cabinet is carried out without any sabotage or insurbodination?

According to last year’s SPM results, three students scored 16 1As, two scored 15 1As, six 14 1As, 41 of them scored 13 1As while 229 scored 12 1As.

Have everyone of these SPM top-scorers been awarded PSD scholarships if the new system of meritocracy is in place? Malaysians are entitled to a clear answer.

In the past week, the press have been full of reports of SPM top-scorers with 14 1As, 13 1As, 12 1As, 11 1As and 10 1As (like the case of Ma Ye Voon of Seremban which was raised by DAP MP for Rasah Anthony Loke) who had been by-passed in the PSD foreign degree scholarship awards, while others with seven or eight 1As are successful.

The MIC Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk S. K. Devamany had advised those who had failed to secure a PSD scholarship not to despair as there are many other opportunities.

The issue is not about disappointment or sense of despair of students bypassed in the PSD scholarships, but the sense of injustice that they are victims of a system which is blatantly unfair and discriminatory! What are the Ministers and Deputy Ministers doing to end such an unfair and unjust system so that unsuccessful applicants for PSD scholarships do not go away nursing a life-long burning sense of injustice and grievance?

The PSD interviewed 8,363 out of the 15,084 candidates who had applied for 2,000 scholarships under the foreign degree programme between March 31 and April 3. Those unsuccessful have been given until Monday, 18th May, to appeal.

But how is the PSD going to give scholarships to SPM top-scorers without doing a new injustice, in withdrawing scholarships to the existing batch of 2,000 successful students?

Is the government prepared to increase and even double the number of PSD foreign degree scholarships this year?

The 2009 budget for local and foreign scholarships is RM233 million – which is a small fraction of the gross waste of public funds in other sectors, like the RM12 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal, for which Malaysians are still waiting for Ong Tee Keat to fulfil his promise to “tell all” and make public the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the PKFZ scandal.

If the government does not squander public funds in mega-scandals like the RM12 billion PKFZ scandal, it would find no difficulty in doubling or even trebling the budget for PSD scholarships, as the RM12 billion which is reported to be the latest update on the total costs which have to be borne by the taxpayers for the project is some 50 times of the annual PSD scholarship allocation!

I call on Najib to give his personal attention to ensure that all the SPM top-scorers with more than 10 1As are awarded PSD scholarships, as a first step to make his slogan “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” really meaningful.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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