For the week of 29 Nov to 5 Dec, the Chinese media highlighted Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s congress, forms for Employees Provident Fund (EPF) members to maintain their contribution at 11%, and the reactions towards Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s proposal for a single education system to promote unity.
On 1 Dec, Lum Chih Feng’s analysis in Oriental Daily, titled PKR congress out of focus, said the congress did not discuss the party’s failed bid to take over the federal government. The congress, instead, focused on internal issues and relations with Pakatan Rakyat, without taking into consideration the national political landscape.
Lum noted that in this “out of focus” congress, delegates merely discussed party politics and missed broader issues such as the global financial crisis, economic slowdown and other education and political issues.
The congress was poised to be the center of attraction because everyone was waiting for PKR de-facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to clarify the reasons for the failed takeover on 16 Sept, and the announcement of a new takeover plan.
Lum said, “The content of the debate lacked depth and did not mention much about the current political environment, such as the transition of power from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. The delegates also did not urge Anwar to announce new takeover plans.”
When asked by reporters, PKR strategy director Saifuddin Nasution admitted, “This is the quality of our delegates, this is the real situation, we cannot control nor restrict their speech. You (reporters) came with preconceived notions that the congress will focus on [discussing the] takeover. Once we do not discuss it, you perceive the congress as out of focus.”
Saifuddin further noted that there is common understanding among the delegates to leave the takeover plans to Anwar, hence it was not mentioned during the debate.
Besides that, delegates who took part in the debate also reminded the leadership to not be intoxicated by the victory at the 8 March 2008 general election.
Guang Ming Daily‘s 2 Dec editorial titled Why the unnecessary move? reported that despite many opposing voices, the EPF went ahead with its decision to make members who wish to maintain their employee’s monthly contribution rate at 11% to submit a form for this.
Under the RM7 billion stimulus plan introduced to help the country face the global economic slowdown, employees can choose to reduce their EPF contribution to 8% from January 2009 to December 2010.
By doing so, the government hopes to boost domestic consumption amid rising prices in the market. According to projections, the three-percentage-point reduction in contribution would be able to inject RM4.8 billion into the market if 5.6 million active EPF members were to participate in this measure.
The editorial admitted that reducing employees’ contribution to increase cash flow in the market is acknowledged by economists as a feasible way to stimulate the economy.
However, the main opposition to this measure lies in the government’s insistence that members who want to maintain the rate at 11% have to go through the hassle of filling in a form.
The editorial also questioned whether the reduction in EPF contribution will really help the public.
A widely forwarded email saying reduced EPF contributions would increase income tax has left many doubtful. The argument was later proven by taxation experts that a reduction of three percentage points in EPF contribution will increase the amount of taxable income.
“As of now, EPF members who wish to maintain 11% contribution are still forced to fill in the “KWSP17A (AHL)-Khas” form by 31 Dec. However the government can no longer ignore the wishes of the people. Acting stubbornly will only taint the government’s image and public trust,” said the editorial.
Single school system
On 1 Dec, Kwong Wah Yit Poh reported on MCA Youth chief Wee Ka Siong’s reaction to Mukhriz’s proposal for a single education system to promote unity.
Wee strongly opposed Mukhriz’s argument that the vernacular education system is the cause of racial polarisation.
“Language is not the only element in achieving national unity. Respect, tolerance, and understanding are more important in achieving racial harmony,” Wee said.
Wee, who is also Deputy Education Minister, pointed out that the sheer number of non-Chinese studying in Chinese and Tamil schools proved that these schools do not accept students based on race. The schools also help to nurture tens of thousands of good citizens annually.
Wee said in the report, “Mukhriz’s statement not only failed to reflect the reality but has also generalised racial issues, and this is regrettable.”
“When many countries are talking about the concept of inclusion, many advanced western countries are allowing their minorities to uphold their right to mother tongue education. As a multi-racial society, Malaysia should treasure its diversity, making it an asset to the country,” he said.
He advised everyone, especially politicians, to be responsible in their speech and not to simply make statements that would hurt the people’s feelings.
Trained as a linguist, Leong Lai Ming is now working for a local social research firm. She believes everybody has a place in the world.