Archive for November 18th, 2008

Is Malaysia’s first and biggest oceanarium in Mabul necessary?

I asked the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas in Parliament less than half an hour ago this question – is Malaysia’s proposed first and biggest oceanarium resort of luxury chalets in Mabul in the east coast of Sabah necessary?

This was during Douglas’ winding-up of his ministry in the 2009 Budget committee debate.

I said that the controversial oceanarium resort at Pulau Mabul had become hot news in the last few days and asked for the Federal Government’s stand on the opposition of environmentalists, villagers and dive operators who warned that the proposed 33 ha parcel of shallows will bring disaster to Mabul marine life and may also degrade the eco-sensitive coral reefs of Pulau Sipadan, a 20-minute boat ride away.

I referred in particular to the views of the Sabah Environment Protection Association president Wong Tack who not only asked if the oceanarium was necessary “because one could easily see fishes swimming in the clear Mabul waters” but how approval to such a massive project could be given before the terms of the EIA are known. Read the rest of this entry »


Idris vs Rafiah – more important is the sharp fall in standards of Malaysian universities

Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Idris Haron should either defend his insinuation against Datuk Rafiah Salim in Parliament implying that the former University of Malaya Vice Chancellor was lacking in “high level performance” or he should be gentleman enough to apologise if he could not stand by his statement.

Malaysians concerned by the continuous drop and decline in standards of Malaysian universities must be distressed by the unnecessary diversion from what should be the sole focus of all involved in higher education – that Malaysian university standards have fallen so low dangerously that we are even losing out to universities in Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines – something completely unthinkable in the first three decades of our nationhood.

For the second consecutive year, Malaysia had fallen completely out of the list of the world’s Top 200 Universities this year in the 2008 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) – Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.

The national shame of Malaysia falling completely out of the list of the world’s Top 200 Universities this year in the 2008 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) – Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings is being compounded by the ignominy of Malaysian universities losing out not only to top universities in Singapore, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea but also to other South East Asian nations like Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »


Pempena Police report – “looting of people’s money using tourism as a front’

I thank the Tourism Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman for giving me a copy of the Summary Report of the PricewaterhouseCooper review of Tourism Ministry’s subsidiary, Pempena Group of Companies but I will write to her for a copy of the Final Report, as the implicit promise she made in Parliament during her winding-up of the 2009 Budget debate on Nov. 3 was for a full and unqualified disclosure of the PricewaterhouseCooper report.

I must admit that I am somewhat surprised by the PricewaterhouseCooper summary report as the Tourism Minister had led Parliament to believe that it is an audit of the various financial scandals of the Pempena Group of Companies, but clearly this important brief was excluded from PricewaterhouseCooper’s terms of reference, which is a clinical “high level business review” of selected investments by Pempena Sdn. Bhd and “specifically does not include any investigative audit or forensics work”.

In fact, it is mentioned in the PricewaterhouseCooper summary report that the investigation into the various financial scandals in the Pempena Group of Companies are “separately performed internally” in an internal audit of Pempena.

Why did Azalina hide the fact from Parliament that there had been an internal audit by the Tourism Minsitry of the various financial scandals of its stable of Pempena Group of Companies, which includes its affiliates Malaysian Travel Business Travel Sdn. Bhd and SD Corp Communication Sdn. Bhd and that such an internal audit had been completed by 14th August 2008? Read the rest of this entry »


Summary Report of PricewaterhouseCooper on Pempena Companies

Overview of Pempena

In 2005, Pempena established a business plan for 2005-2009 to implement the following key activities:

(i) Equity participation in tourism related industries
(ii) Implementation of activities under the Shopping Malaysia Secretariat
(iii) Placement of funds in the money market and unit trusts.

There were 14 key areas of new businesses indentified by Pempena for implementation.

Pempena planned to invest a total of RM49.8m over the period of its business plan (ie 2005 – 2009) representing equity and profit sharing arrangements.

As at June 2008, Pempena has invested a total of RM54.4m via equity participation in and advances made to the Investee Companies. Read the rest of this entry »


Enhancing Human Capital Through Health

by M. Bakri Musa

Two well-recognized factors to enhancing the quality of human capital are health and education. When citizens are healthy and well educated, their capacity to be productive and contributing members of society is greatly enhanced. The converse, when they are unhealthy and poorly educated, they are a burden upon society.

To the pair I would add a third: freedom. To get the best out of people, we must grant them space to enable them to develop their talent and pursue their passion. Then we should grant them the freedom to express themselves and their creations.

Great and inspiring works in the arts and sciences are the creations of those who are passionate in what they do. Such passions come only when people are given the freedom to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Such endeavors are rarely undertaken purely in the pursuit of honor or wealth but for their own intrinsic pleasures and rewards.

Honors and material rewards may well follow, and we should not minimize their importance. They help inspire and motivate the rest – the talented and otherwise – who need the extra nudge.

As for freedom, there may be exceptions to my statement but they are more apparent than real. Ananta Pramoedya Toer produced his greatest literary works while imprisoned under the most trying physical conditions on Pulau Buru. The authorities may have imprisoned him physically, but as he contemptuously asserted in his autobiography, they could not imprison his will and thought, though not for lack of trying. Read the rest of this entry »