Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are we racists?

There is a difference between lip service and service to the Rakyat. A difference that is yet to be learned by both governments of the day.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines racism as such
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination
In the Malaysian context, the first definition may also be modified to the following
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent inferiority of a particular race
This definition gives rise to the racial prejudice and discrimination that we see almost everywhere, in government policies, in the private sector and even in the supposedly egalitarian alternative media.
Let us now look at the speech delivered by YB Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on the 20th of May 2004 in the debate on the Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address, as the Parliamentary Opposition Leader.
The Honourable MP for Ipoh Timor calls for the formation of 10 Select Committees as a start towards making the Malaysian Parliament a ‘First-World Parliament’. You may read the transcript here,
The tenth Select Committee was to focus on the ‘Marginalisation of the Indian Community as the underclass’
The Honourable MP says,
“During the 2004 general election, the “Group of Concerned Citizens” in its paper “Election 2004: New Politics for Indian Malaysians” had summarized nine long-standing fundamental issues faced by Indian Malaysians:
The number of Indian youth dying in police custody has increased;
The socio-economic inequality between the Indian poor and rich and between other communities has worsened;
The State has not responded effectively in addressing social ills in the community;
The State policies towards and financial allocation for Tamil schools remains pitiful;
The University intake policy has been a source of major distress for the community;
The State has not stepped in to help resolve the MAIKA scandal;
The Kampung Medan racially-motivated killings have not been brought to a closure. No public inquiry was instituted.
Low cost housing needs of the Indian poor have not been adequately addressed;
The negative consequences of the final breakdown of the plantation economy on the Indian rural poor have still not be regulated. Aggressive displacement of Indian Malaysians is a serious problem.
These nine fundamental issues afflicting the Indian community, marginalizing them into the new underclass in Malaysia, should be the terms of reference of a Select Committee on the marginalization of the Indian community in the country.”
A few questions rise in the mind upon reading the above.
First, is YB Lim Kit Siang a racist for raising Indian Malaysian issues in Parliament? If the answer is ‘no’, can we label anyone else as a racist for raising the same issues today, regardless of the name of the person who speaks out?
Why has the Pakatan Government, upon coming to power in several states, not addressed the same issues that was raised by one of its current leaders in the Parliament 5 years ago? A lack of political will, or a lack of moral will?
The third prime duty of the government to its people has been defined as to ensure that every family unit of the nation has space in the nation’s territory for a home and a means of livelihood.
When citizens are given different treatments when it comes to means of livelihood, education, right to identity and wage protection; and space for a home, based on race, then we have to accept the fact that we are a racist country and people.
There is a difference between lip service and service to the Rakyat. A difference that is yet to be learned by both the governments of the day. This is compounded by the inability of the supporters from both sides of the divide to discern the primacy of egalitarian service over egalitarian slogans.
We are racists as far as the Merriam-Webster definition goes, and that will not change with the mere adoption of slogans.

Discrimination and Marginalisation

Many are unsure of what is meant by discrimination and marginalisation, and whom it impacts.
Consider the following:
The PR state governments have, commendably, liberally granted state land and huge financial allocations on coming to power. For example:
1. RM 100 million and 400 hectares for a pig project in Sepang, Selangor.
2. 349 Rancangan Perkampungan Tersusun (RPT) and 134 New Villages in Perak, with 110,000 and 102,000 titles respectively, to be given out. Freehold titles for just RM 63 for 110,000 villagers almost 99% of whom are Malay Malaysians, and 102,000 Chinese New Villagers of whom 99% are Chinese Malaysians. “The value of these properties will then go up and they can apply for bank loans to rebuilt their houses” says Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.
3. The Pakatan Perak government has also allocated 1,000 hectares or 2471 acres of land to 9 Chinese vernacular schools, “for them to generate revenue to pay for their operational expenses” says MB Nizar. Additionally, MB Nizar also donated RM 30,000 for each of the 9 schools. Barisan’s MB Zambry on coming into office confirmed that the issuance of titles will proceed.
4. 3.3 hectares of land for each Orang Asli family was approved, and 18,000 hectares of forest land has been gazetted as Orang Asli reserve, and another 30,000 hectares is waiting to be gazetted says Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.
5. In Bagan Pinang the UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yasin announced that RM 900,000 will be allocated to upgrade Chinese vernacular schools and Chinese temples. But for the Indians in Bagan Pinang, the Lukut Tamil school which is the only school in Malaysia and perhaps the world over which is situated on the first floor of a shop house was merely promised two (2) acres of land. As usual nothing has been given in writing, let alone having the land little issued. Even then these 2 acres of land will not be enough to cater for a school field, Assembly cum Community Hall and any future expansions. MIC went a bit further and announced that the school will get a computer and a fax machine.
A lot was done with lightning speed within about one month of the Perak and Selangor PR state governments coming into power, and in Bagan Pinang during the by-election. We were all overjoyed. What MCA and UMNO did not do in 52 years, the Pakatan government did in one month! This is what we want to see.
But hang on. Did anybody notice or ask, what about allocations to Tamil Schools? The Indian Malaysians have waited a year and a half since March 2008 but to date there is no mention of anything.
How many hundreds of hectares did the Pakatan government allocate for the 138 Tamil vernacular schools in Perak? How many NGOs and political parties have actually pointed out these omissions to those in power?
The disparity in what is done to uplift Malaysians must cease to exist. There is no cause for joy in slogans and clarion calls when politicians are able to fish for votes with empty promises and food hampers. That opportunity must no longer present itself in this country.
This is what is meant by discrimination, and this is how a Malaysian community continues to be marginalised.

By Jeevindra Kumar Krishnan, Protem Committee Member, Human Rights Party Malaysia

The Penang Monorail Project and the Kampung Buah Pala Connection

The demolition of KBP started after a character called Dato JK started to get involved, purportedly to help the KBP villagers. I used to wonder why this multimillionaire Dato was so interested in KBP that he drove down in hurry on the Friday just before Hari raya in that heavy traffic to have some meetings with the villagers. It all seemed too good to be true.

Now it seems to be turning out that he was the one who made it easier for LGE and his cronies to screw the KBP villagers.This Dato was just using the villagers to get himself the monorail project. I do not know what kind of deal he made with Prof Ramasamy and LGE during his individual discussions with LGE and Ramasamy - but here is the report of what he has now got in Penang.

The poor are always the pawn.
Read on... Seeralan

Penang monorail: the South African connection

The latest Edge weekly reports sources as saying that the Penang state government has given the green light to a low-profile businessman, Jeyakumar Varathan, to build and commission a RM70-million monorail test track on a 30-acre site in Batu Kawan.

The paper suggested that this could be a sign that the state is embarking on its own monorail plans and cited sources as saying that the groundbreaking for the project could be in December.

Jeyakumar’s consortium may first have to prove that its technology is viable before it can build a monorail network in Penang, the paper added.

Some questions arise:

  • How much is Jeyakumar paying for the 30-acre site in Batu Kawan?
  • Does the state government have a public transport masterplan and is a monorail part of it? First, it was the monorail and then subway, next it was the ‘aerorail’ – and now it’s back full circle to monorail?
  • What about other public transport options such as a bus rapid transit system and trams – which could be more cost effective? Have they been considered? How does Porr fit in?
  • Has the state government informed and briefed members of the Penang Transport Council? The perception is that its members are in the dark about this monorail thing. Why the secrecy?
  • Does Jeyakumar have a proven track record? Is the Penang state government aware of Jeyakumar’s attempts in South Africa? (See “Monorail king goes mum“.)

According to the US/Europe-based Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, on the very day of the bankruptcy of the Kuala Lumpur system (16 May 2006), Newcyc Vision announced a project commitment to build a 45-kilometre (28-mile) system in Johannesburg.

Read what the sustainable transport experts are saying. The same article points out that monorail systems create visual intrusions to the urban environment (how would this affect George Town’s appeal as a heritage city)? This should be enlightening reading:

South Africa

Despite the bankruptcy of the Kuala Lumpur system and the financial collapse of the Putrajaya project, the Malaysian monorail developers have attempted to develop new markets elsewhere. The most recent target has been South Africa. With South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup looming, a Malaysian consortium, known as Newcyc Vision, has targeted South African cities as a prime market.

In fact, on 16 May 2006, the very day of the bankruptcy of the Kuala Lumpur system, Newcyc Vision, announced a project commitment to build a 45-kilometre (28-mile) system in Johannesburg. The system would link Soweto directly with the central business district of Johannesburg. The estimated infrastructure cost of the system is R12 billion (US$1.7 billion), or US$38.1 million per kilometre.

While the exact financial arrangements on the Johannesburg project are unclear, it appears that the system developers will be awarded with land, property, and a ridership guarantee. As part of the deal, the consortium will be given public property in the central business district as well as along the corridor for development. Also, as is increasingly the case of many rail-based PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships), the developers will be guaranteed a minimum number of daily passengers. If that guaranteed ridership does not materialise, the South African government (i.e. South African taxpayers) will make up the difference. The costly Gautrain system, a previously approved rail system for the Johannesburg area, also provides a private consortium with rather generous ridership guarantees.

As in other cities, the Johannesburg project promoters have made some rather bold claims regarding the monorail system’s likely performance and ridership. At the initial press conferences to announce the project, the Province of Gauteng and Newcyc Vision claimed that the Johannesburg system would be able to carry 1.5 million passengers per day. Given that this amount is roughly equal to all public transport trips in the city, it was a bit difficult to believe this ridership could be achieved on a single corridor. Further, given that no monorail system is currently serving more than 5,000 passengers per peak hour per direction, increasing this by an order of magnitude in low-density South African conditions seems optimistic. However, if given ridership guarantees by the Government, then perhaps the system developers have no real concern regarding the actual performance.

The proposed monorail alignment will also largely duplicate the proposed Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project that has already been approved and is under planning in Johannesburg. The future of the Rea Vaya project may become somewhat doubtful if the monorail project proceeds.

Fortunately, the Johannesburg project announcement now appears to have been premature. Apparently, the project developers forgot to notify the Mayor of Johannesburg and the City Council, who have responsibility over public space in the city, as well as the National Minister of Transport, who holds responsibility over rail systems nationally. In an unprecedented move, the National Transport Minister Jeff Radebe was forced to make a press statement in which he noted that he had no prior knowledge to the project’s existence. The project has thus been retracted to the status of being “under review”.

Undeterred, though, by this initial setback, the Gauteng Provincial Government and Newcyc Vision have instead insisted that they will continue pursuing the project not only in Johannesburg but also other South African municipalities, including Tshwane (Pretoria) and Ekhuruleni. Hopefully, reason will prevail and the Gauteng projects will be forced to go through an open and transparent process in which there is full public financial disclosure and as well as a full comparative analysis with all other public transport options.


Monorail technology does hold many intriguing performance aspects as well as an image that can potentially be attractive to discretionary public transport users, and especially to car owners. While the Malaysian monorail systems have experienced financial difficulties, there is a glimmer of hope that these systems can evolve into well-performing and lower-cost services, as was originally envisioned.

However, that future is yet to arrive. To date, monorail technology has suffered from operational difficulties, negative press coverage, and a spate of bankruptcies. As technologies such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) have delivered quality services at rational costs to a long list of cities, including Bogotá, Brisbane, Curitiba, Guayaquil, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Paris, Rouen, and Seoul, monorails have achieved nowhere near the same record of implementation or performance.

It would perhaps be unfortunate if the unrealised promises of monorails deter actual public transport advancements in South Africa and elsewhere. Monorail developers dream of taking us back to the future, but the hard reality is that our world cities require quality public transport today.