Monday, October 13, 2008

Tourism Ministry Goes Overboard

R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandezaa of theSun should be commended for exposing the 'excess baggage' in the Ministry of Tourism. The report 'Over the Limit...' (13 Oct 2008) is reproduced below:

PETALING JAYA: The tourism minister’s office has excess baggage. It’s over-staffed and the appointment of some 20 staff contravenes the Public Services Department (PSD)’s regulations limiting the appointments to only eight. It is also in defiance of a Treasury circular on cost-cutting and austerity.

The minister’s office has three special officers, five political officers, one research officer, six Information technology (IT) officers and five support staff

The PSD allows a minister to have only one special officer, one senior private secretary or administrative and diplomatic officer, one private secretary or assistant administrative officer, one press secretary or information officer, three administrative assistants one general office assistant

These details are contained in documents sighted by theSun which also highlight other discrepancies, such as:

· the appointments were backdated to circumvent circulars from the PSD and the Treasury;

· applicants being paid much more than they asked for;

· multiple payment of salaries from different companies; and

· absence of proper selection process as the posts were not advertised.

The correspondence between the ministry’s officers and minister’s private secretaries to heads of subsidiary companies of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board expose a series of breaches of government rules and regulations.

In a letter dated April 23,the ministry’s deputy secretary-general Datuk Ab Ghaffar A. Tambi wrote to the then director-general of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, directing him to make arrangements to pay the salaries of 20 staff who on paper are attached to the minister’s office – ranging from special officers to administrative assistants. But subsequent letters are telling indeed with the appointments being back-dated.

As only the PSD can approve new appointments, the guidelines were circumvented by getting Tourism Malaysia subsidiary Pempena Sdn Bhd and its affiliates Malaysian Travel Business Sdn Bhd and SD Corp Communications Sdn Bhd to pay their salaries.

PSD Director-General Tan Sri Ismail Adam had on April 30 issued a circular emphasizing the restriction of appointments in the offices of ministers and deputy ministers. Each designation is spelt out with a proper salary structure. Ministers can have eight and their deputies, four. The circular was effective March 19 – a week after the new members of Cabinet took office.

Subsequently, on May 2, the Treasury issued a circular freezing new appointments as part of the government’s cost-cutting measures. But documents show that some appointments in the minister’s office were made after that date and backdated to April 1.

· On June 11, the minister's senior private secretary Mohd Daud Mohd Arif requested the chairman of Malaysian Travel Business Datuk Abdullah Ahmad to employ three persons as ‘administrative assistants’ with salaries ranging from RM2,100 to RM3,000. Abdullah was asked to back-date their appointments to April 1.

· On May 12, the minister’s private secretary, Suziyana Natasya Abdullah, wrote to Pempena human resource officer Mariam Amy, attaching a list of 16 names and 17 Pempena employment application forms for ‘immediate action’.

The appointments of several of these officers do not reflect details in their application forms. For example, David Chiam Joy Woon ‘applied’ for a job as pegawai khas (special officer) and put his expected salary as RM6,000. However, in documents related to payment of his salary, he is being paid RM10,000 – RM5,000 as executive director of SD Corp and another RM5,000 as a board member Malaysia My Destination (MYD) Sdn Bhd. He is also a board member of other affiliates and subsidaries, including Malaysian Travel Business and Awana London, Awana Beijing.

Similarly, former Malay Mail sports reporter Tony Mariadass applied for a job as a ‘research officer’ with an expected salary of RM8,000. He is listed so in the list of officers in the minister’s office, but has since been ‘appointed’ general manager of Shopping Malaysia Secretariat (SSM) at a salary of RM10,700. Co-incidentally, both he and Chiam had previously worked for the same minister in the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Mohd Radzi Ramli applied for the post of pegawai politik (political secretary) with an expected salary of RM4,405 but also holds the post of senior executive (government liaison) at SSM, with a pay of RM3,000.

For the record, it now costs at least RM23,000 a month in salaries to four people, to run the SSM, not taking into account EPF payments; medical bills and other perks that come with the jobs.

Other appointments on the list of 16 whose names do not appear in the forms include Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who is executive director of Pempena. She is paid RM10,000 and is provided with a car and driver.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dr M: Financial Turmoil Ahead

Did you read former PM Dr Mahathir's post on Financial Turmoil? He gives some interesting insights into what's in store. If you are holding plenty of US dollars, he suggests you get rid of them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Outcries Against Use of ISA

Since the recent ISA arrests last Friday, the incident continues to hog the limelight in the local media. More parties have come out to voice their views against the use of ISA on those detained. Even BN ministers have made their stand.

(The Star) Muslim NGO: Use of ISA is ‘un-Islamic’

(The Star) BN members lash out at the arrests

(The Star) Don’t use ISA, says Zaid and (NST) Zaid hits out at use of ISA

(The Star) Hishammuddin: ISA use not justified against reporter

(The Star) Suhakam: Reporter’s arrest an abuse of ISA

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism has appealed to the PM to release the ISA detainees.

And Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim was reported to have tendered his resignation to the PM . Read here and here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Was Sin Chew Journalist Reporting A Fact?

Reading from the press reports on the turn of event surrounding the report filed by Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, one will probably conclude that she was doing her job - reporting what Bukit Bendera UMNO chief Ahmad Ismail had said at a talk in the run-up to the Permatang Pauh by-election. That is the only logical conclusion since the police had released her from detention under the ISA albeit that it was done for her safety. Not forgetting that Deputy PM Najib Abdul Razak had aplogized on behalf Ahmad Ismail for his "Chinese are squatters" remarks, and that Ahmad was subsequently suspended by the UMNO Supreme Council over the incident.

See FREED: Tan detained because life was 'under threat' (NST) and also MCA’s Fong: Home Minister’s explanation ‘unacceptable’.

In another development, de facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim gives his views on the proper use of the ISA 'Wrong use of ISA: De facto law minister', saying it "should only be used against terrorists or those trying to topple the government by force". But Minister in the PM Dept Ahmad Zahid begs to differ, saying the detentions were justified. See also Invoking ISA is not the solution, says Koh (NST).

Meanwhile, DAP Adviser Lim Kit Siang told reporters that Seputeh MP Teresa Kok had been warned of her Internal Security Act detention, but she refused to go into hiding. See Teresa was warned of impending detention (NST).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

12 Sept 2008 Another Dark Day

Look at the following headlines in today's newspapers...I am saddened with the developments:

(NST) Police detain Teresa Kok, Sin Chew reporter under ISA

(The Star) Raja Petra, Teresa Kok and Sin Chew reporter arrested under ISA

(NST) Teresa Kok held over 'azan' issue

(The Star) Why Raja Petra, Tan and Kok were detained

(The Star) Raja Petra anticipated his arrest, says wife

(The Star) Show-cause letters for dailies


As the following news quoting the MCA, it is rather perplexing: MCA shocked by arrest of reporter and not perpetrator. Why indeed?

And the NUJ says 'Detention of journalist an act to intimidate media'.

The event naturally was reported in BBC Asia 'Blogger's detention sparks fears'.


Meanwhile, we read the following news breaks:

(NST) Sin Chew journalist released and (The Star) Sin Chew reporter released

(The Star) NUJ saddened, disappointed by arrest and calls for an EGM on 20 Sept to discuss the 'serious national crisis'. And MCA says it's against the use of ISA on journos.

PAS says more will be detained in 'Arrests are an attempt to cover up real issue'.

Home Minister says: 'Order to arrest did not come from me' but declares 'No more arrests'. Seems rather odd that the police had detained the Sin Chew journalist under the ISA to ensure her safety.

I must agree with the DAP's call to 'Let the courts decide' and Transparency International: Try RPK and Teresa Kok under court of law, not ISA.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Wushu Exponents Get Olympic Medals

The following is extracted from 'Wushu exponents wrap up campaign with credible show' (The Star Online, 24/08/08). See also 'Wushu: Another silver for Malaysia' (NST Online, 23/08/08):

MALAYSIA wrapped up their campaign in the Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008 with two silvers and a bronze in the taolu (barehands and weapons) categories at the Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium yesterday.

Chai Fong Ying handed Malaysia the first silver in the women’s taijiquan and taijijian combined events in the morning before Lim Yew Fai grabbed the second in the men’s jiangshu (sword) and qiangshu (spear) combined events in the evening.

The 22-year-old Fong Ying, who is also the Doha Asian Games gold medallist, was trailing Japan’s Miyaoka Ai in third spot by a marginal difference of 0.2 after the taijiquan discipline on Friday. But she put up a better performance in the taijijian (taijisword) discipline to earn 9.70 for a combined total of 19.34 points. She received the silver medal from action movie star Jet Li.

Yew Fai finished just 0.1 point ahead of Vietnam’s Nguyen Huy Thanh with his total of 19.32. Chai Fong Wei delivered a bronze in the women’s gunshu and daoshu combined events with 19.16 for Malaysia’s fifth medal of the world meet.

Note: There was not much fanfare or publicity given to the success of our wushu team. The medals are not counted in the Olympic tally. I wonder whether they will receive the cash rewards (like Lee Chong Wei) and the Datukship.

Pak Lah Should Do It More Often

If it is not a political gimmick - given the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election - then PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's decision to take time off to take rides on the Komuter and the LRT last week probably indicates that he is not particularly happy with the performance of the Transport Ministry. Badawi didn't say it but if the public transport service is in top shape, he need not have to personally see the state of affairs.

Beside the Komuter and LRT services, there are obviously other public services and amenities that need his attention. The lay people will be observing whether the PM will come down from his Putrajaya tower office more often and not during run-ups to by-elections.

Read 'Rail bad! LRT, Komuter not meeting expectations' and 'Mobility woes within the city' (NST Online) and 'PM unhappy with city rail services' (The Star Online).