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Perak, PR and tariffs

FOR the week of 9 to 15 Feb 2009, the Chinese press highlighted the ongoing Perak political crisis. The press especially focused on state assemblyperson Hee Yit Foong, who left the DAP, and on party chairperson Karpal Singh, who had asked Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to step down as de facto Pakatan Rakyat leader. 

The Chinese newspapers also looked at the government’s announcement to lower electricity rates.

Hee rejected

Ma Shao Lun’s 13 Feb article, The Malaysian Chinese community does not need Hee Yit Foong, published in Oriental Daily, noted that the Jelapang state assemblyperson was now infamous for causing the power transition in Perak, and that Hee was now dubbed a “traitor to Jelapang voters”.

Ma said if Hee was appointed as an executive councilor in the new Barisan Nasional (BN) state government, it would cause resentment among Chinese Malaysians in Perak and create future instability.

“If (newly appointed) Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir appoints her as exco, the Barisan Nasional (BN) would be seen as not listening to the people,” said Ma.

On 13 Feb, Ng Kee Chung commented in Sin Chew Daily that it would be bad if the rumours that Hee may join the MCA were true.

Ng wrote in MCA should not accept Hee Yit Foong: “Hee has been called a traitor to Chinese Malaysians by former senior state exco Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham. Although party-hopping is legitimate, Hee’s action is unreasonable because she violated the people’s will and hopes.

“Accepting Hee as a party member would definitely bring adverse effects that cannot be neutralised by having one more state assemblyperson for the MCA [in Perak]. Admitting Hee into the MCA would mean the party agrees with the act of defection, and shelters a person that is hateful to the community. This will put the MCA in a tight spot against regaining the people’s confidence,” said Ng.

Keep cool, Karpal

While the media generally reported displeasure towards Hee’s desertion of the DAP, Karpal’s call for Anwar to step down as Pakatan Rakyat leader drew diverse reactions.

A 14 Feb commentary in Kwong Wah Yit Poh by Xin Sui titled Karpal should keep his cool disagreed with Karpal’s statement. He said, “When Pakatan Rakyat is now in a crisis, its leaders should come together to think about possible solutions. Karpal’s statement becomes a political trap that can be used against Pakatan Rakyat, allowing others to accuse the coalition of having serious differences.

“Anwar is the symbol and representative of Pakatan Rakyat. Although he is at fault for acting hastily in the Perak crisis, it would be very difficult to unite the struggles of the coalition parties without Anwar,” said Xin.

The writer concluded: “Although Anwar has made some blunders, he is unmistakably the lynchpin in the coalition. Karpal should realise this political reality and keep his cool even when he wants to stick to his principles.”

So what if DAP leaves Pakatan Rakyat?, written by Guang Ming Daily‘s deputy news editor Dai Zhi Qiang on 9 Feb, seemed unfazed by the idea of Karpal making statements against another coalition member.

He thought it was fine for Karpal to call for the DAP to leave Pakatan Rakyat as he reminded the readers that “Pakatan Rakyat is not an official coalition, it is a pact. The parties do not share one single logo like the dacing of the Barisan Nasional.

“If the Barisan Nasional in Perak could form a state government with three independent reps, the DAP can also work with PKR and PAS in forming a coalition government even if it leaves Pakatan Rakyat.

“Therefore, leaving the coalition does not mean losing power in four other states. As long as the chief ministers have the support of the majority of elected reps, the state government can still stand. Even if the DAP is not a member of Pakatan Rakyat, its reps would not support a BN rep as chief minister. This is something we can be very sure of.”

Disappointed with tariffs

Following the announcement that electricity tariff rates would be reduced by 3.7% effective 1 March, the Chinese press generally expressed disappointment with the insubstantial reduction.

Guang Ming Daily‘s editorial on 9 Feb noted that despite the unsatisfactory reduction, many analysts have pointed out that any drop in tariffs would help in a scenario where demand was falling and retrenchments rife.

However the editorial cautioned: “Reducing electricity tariffs by providing subsidy is not a lasting solution. If international fuel prices increase, coupled with the government’s inability to sustain subsidies for fuel and electricity, consumers would ultimately bear the brunt of inflation.

“The cabinet might as well consider the suggestion put forth by the chambers of commerce to have different tariffs for peak and off-peak periods. This would be a multi-beneficial solution that invariably reduces wastage in power generation and increases TNB’s revenue.”

On 12 Feb, Oriental Daily‘s editorial was titled Overcome problems in the structure of energy industry to reduce electricity tariff.

Reflecting the public’s reaction towards the reduction, the paper wrote: “The rumours of reduction in electricity tariff have been circulating for some time, but the reduction announced was at most a mere 5%.

“For families that have been paying RM150 monthly for electricity, they have to pay RM143 now. The money saved is only enough to pay for a meal. It is only normal for consumers to feel dissatisfied, what more manufacturers.

“A flaw exists within the energy industry due to the previous federal government’s mismanagement. The flaw is that TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad) is forced to buy all energy produced by independent power providers and bear the cost of generators, thus providing no motivation for power providers to improve their services.

“For long-term benefits, the government should find ways to address the flaw. That way it can rectify the production and sale of energy. Only then can the electricity tariff be reduced for the benefit of consumers and the business sector,” concluded Oriental Daily.

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