Speech by Lim Kit Siang Siang at the Parliamentary Roundtable on PSD scholarships in Parliament on Friday, 22nd May 2009 at 10 am:
Time for the government to be colour-blind and to end ethnic profiling for scholarships
If the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is serious about his slogan of 1Malaysia, then the time has come for the government to be colour-blind and end ethnic profiling for scholarships.
The Barisan Nasional government had promised that there would not be a recurrence this year of the perennial problem of Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships selection creating grave injustices and public alienation but this is not the case.
I am very disappointed that after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, there had been no announcement whatsoever about the solution to this year’s nation-wide uproar at the unjust PSD scholarship awards, and the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat had been particularly quiet after various statements about a solution for the aggrieved students who failed to get scholarships despite clear merit in their results.
May be Ong is preoccupied with the RM12 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, on the breach of his repeated promise to make public the PricewaterhouseCooper audit report on it.
However, many are saying that the gross wastage of public funds and mega financial scandals are interconnected with issues of PSD scholarships and government services, as for example the RM12 billion squandered on PKFZ would have amply provided scholarships to all the over 8,000 applicants who applied for PSD foreign degree scholarships this year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is talking about limiting the number of subjects a SPM candidate can take, but this is a very ad hoc and limited approach which does not go to the root cause of the problem of a fair, just, efficient and transparent PSD scholarship selection system.
Limiting the number of SPM subjects will not end the annual ruckus over the PSD scholarship awards unless there is a total revamp of the system to make it fair, just, efficient and transparent where meritocracy is given top priority, coupled with a needs-based programme.
The purpose of this roundtable is to kickstart a national debate on the need for a total revamp of the PSD scholarship selection system, whether scholarships should be awarded only at the SPTM level, a flexible programme to allow for change of courses, and the loopholes and weaknesses evident in the present system.
There is also a need to have an effective and transparent system so that Malaysians can monitor the PSD and the implementation of the various ministerial policy pronouncements.
For instance, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had announced in Parliament the PSD scholarship ratio of 55:45 for bumiputras to non-bumiputras for foreign degrees, that all top-scorers with 13A1s and 14A1s will automatically get scholarships as it is otherwise a great injustice, and that there is no quota for the PSD scholarships for local universities.
As these ministerial policy pronouncements are not translated into practice, there must be a transparent system of PSD scholarship selection so that Malaysians can monitor it.
It was revealed in Parliament that in the past six years from 2003 to 2008, Petronas awarded 1,035 scholarships for foreign universities, made up of 87% or 901 scholarships for bumiputras and 13% or 134 scholarships for non-bumiputeras.
Petronas and all government-linked scholarships should follow the PSD example of a scholarship ratio of 55:45 for bumiputras to non-bumiputras to pave the way for the end of ethnic profiling for public scholarships if the Najib motto of “1Malaysia” is to be meaningful.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor