FOR the week of 6 to 12 Dec 2008, the Chinese press highlighted the issue of responsibility over the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide and reactions towards Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim’s statement that minority races should give up their mother tongue. The Chinese press also looked at a brewing fishing-community strike.
In a 12 Dec report, Oriental Daily quoted MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek as criticising Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan and Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek for their remarks over the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide.
Chua said the ministers were being irresponsible by saying the landslide was “a natural disaster and fate”.
“I think this is quite wrong. Landslides are possibly caused by problems related to structure, buildings or maintenance. These elements, I fear, are human induced. The heavy rains merely accelerated the problems planted by human factors,” the former health minister said.
“Whenever there are landslides, the relevant authorities give lame excuses and nobody dares to claim responsibility,” he said. He added that the government should look into the issue of who should be responsible in times like these.
Chua, who is also the head of MCA’s government policy monitoring bureau, said: “Malaysia’s high-rises are built by A-class experts, but when it comes to landslides, nobody comes forth to claim responsibility, pointing fingers at each other… please save us the drama.”
He said the authorities should instead look at proper guidelines and not point fingers. He also advised home buyers to be careful when choosing property. He stressed that structural problems may only occur after 20 years.
Chua added that there were 13 cases of landslides within the last 15 years, five of which were severe including the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy.
As for Ahmad Shabery’s view that home buyers should also be responsible for the landslide, Chua argued, “Consumers like you and I are not experts. If the government approved the house as safe, certainly we would think it was fine.”
He pointed out that according to hillside development guidelines, high-rises should not be built on slopes with a gradient of more than 35 degrees. “However some A-class experts cut down trees so that these slopes fulfill the guidelines for high-rises to be built.”
China Press on 10 Dec reported on the responses by several Chinese Malaysian organisations against Khoo’s statement that minority races should give up their mother tongue as the medium of instruction in schools so that they could get out of the racial box.
MCA deputy secretary-general Datuk Loke Yuen Yow expressed disappointment with the statement, saying that the Universiti Malaya historian should have carefully considered the country’s multiracial and multicultural reality.
“Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution has clearly stated that no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (other than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning any other language. Therefore, nobody can take away the rights to mother tongue education enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” Loke said.
Loke added that Khoo seemed to have ignored the fact that a majority of those who graduated from Chinese primary schools were proficient in three languages — Malay, Mandarin and English. Furthermore, people who are multilingual can contribute more to nation building.
The United Chinese School Committees Association of Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur described Khoo’s statement as absurd and unconstitutional, adding that it ignored the multicultural reality of Malaysia.
“Khoo’s statement is a result of self-belittlement, complete lack of racial dignity, and being unaware of mother tongue culture,” said the association.
Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) also refuted Khoo, saying such statements were unwarranted from a highly respected academic, and was a shame to the university’s graduates.
Umany said: “Why does Khoo think that students with a Chinese or Tamil primary school background are unable to connect with the world? If that were the case, Chinese and Japanese nationals who received mother tongue education since they were young would definitely be uncompetitive. But the reality is that China and Japan have become economic powerhouses.”
On 9 Dec, Kwong Wah Yit Poh reported Perak state executive councillor Nga Kor Ming as saying about 600 fishing boats and 2,000 fisherfolk would be on strike on 12 Dec. Fisherfolk from Kedah, Perlis, Penang and Kelantan joined the strike which began in Perak, Selangor and Sarawak to protest against the government’s refusal to reduce diesel prices despite falling crude oil prices.
Nga, who is also the Pantai Remis state assemblyperson, had toured the Sungai Beruas fishing areas with several town councilors and said the strike was influential. It is estimated that the strike will result in a 50% reduction in catch, and a lack of seafood in markets.
Nga said the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry or the Finance Ministry should announce a reduction in subsidised diesel price to RM1 per litre to prevent a nationwide fisherfolk strike. Nga said he, together with Beruas Member of Parliament Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, had tried to raise the issue in Parliament but the federal government was unresponsive.
“International oil prices have dropped from US$145 per barrel to US$42 per barrel and the government has also reduced petrol prices six times. However, subsidised diesel remains at RM1.43 per litre, and diesel makes up the bulk of cost for boats which go out to sea. The price of subsidised diesel should be reduced to ease the burden of fisherfolk,” said Nga.