JPA s’ships - can Najib Cabinet end the “oppression, injustice” suffered by the nation’s top scorers or is it even worse than the “half-past six” Abdu

I have been on the twitter for a week and earlier today, I sent out this tweet: “6A1s get PSD eng s’ship - 13, 14 A1s no s’ships: why our Cabinet Ministers allow such nonsense yr in yr out. Sack the whole useless lot!”

This follows the latest revelation by the Deputy Education Minister, Wee Ka Siong, about the PSD scholarships scandal this year – of the case of a student with 6A1 and 4A2 who obtained a scholarship to study engineering while students with 13A1s and 14A1s are given places to do matriculation instead of being awarded with scholarships.
The PSD scholarship uproar this year is all the more inexcusable, for three reasons:

* It is a tragedy for nation-building after 52 years of nationhood;
* It has torn to shreds the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s motto of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now”.
* It is a breach of the solemn promise made by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in Parliament in March this year about the end of the annual national travail at this period of the year of the nation’s top SPM scorers being victims of an unfair and discriminatory PSD scholarship selection system.

In Nazri’s speech in Parliament on 18th March 2009, in the committee stage debate on the Prime Minister’s Department on the 2009 second supplementary estimates on the RM60 billion second economic stimulus package, DAP MP for Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan together with DAP MP for Rasah, Anthony Loke Siew Fook and DAP MP for Bandar Kuching, Chong Chieng Jen kept intervening on the subject of the unjust PSD scholarship scheme to the nation’s top scorers.

As recorded by the Hansard of 18th March 2009, Nazri made this categorical statement:

“Kita bercakap tentang biasiswa JPA. Saya kata yang itu benchmark nya akan ditentukan oleh JPA supaya untuk mengelak daripada apa yang telah berlaku tahun lepas. Orang yang mendapat keputusan yang cukup baik tidak dapat scholarship tanpa mengira kaum, yang top student yang dapat tanpa mengira kaum. Kita akan bagi kepada mereka biasiswa secara automatik. Kerana ini persepsi. Sebab katalah kalau dia dapat 13A1, dia tidak dapat sudah tentulah itu satu penganiayaan terhadapnya. Jadi, saya sudah buat keputusan yang top scorer, kita akan beri. Jangan tanya dua kali.”

There cannot be a more categorical statement than this: Nazri’s solemn undertaking in Parliament that denial of PSD scholarships to top scorers like those getting 13A1s is “penganiayaan” – “injustice, oppression” – and they will all be automatically given scholarships, if not in the course of their choice, like medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, then in other degree courses.

This is what Nazri said at the end of his speech:

“Kemudian, Yang Berhormat Bandar Kuching tanya ramai dapat keputusan cemerlang SPM dan STPM tetapi tidak menerima biasiswa. Apakah jaminan kejadian seperti ini tidak akan berlaku pada tahun ini. Untuk tahun 2009, biasiswa program ijazah luar negara hanya untuk dua ribu tempat dan memandangkan mengikut keputusan SPM 2008, terdapat 1,676 pelajar 1A dalam semua mata pelajaran yang diambil. Oleh itu mustahil untuk memberikan semua biasiswa kepada yang cemerlang terutamanya kerana kebanyakan memohon bidang pengajian perubatan, pergigian dan farmasi, bidang-bidang kritikal di mana terdapat kuota di luar negara untuk bidangbidang ini. Pelajar Malaysia terpaksa bertanding dengan pelajar-pelajar asing lain. Ini masalah praktikal yang kita hadapi iaitu oleh sebab juga kuota di luar negara, universiti mungkin tidak dapat.

Jadi tidaklah boleh kita kata automatik semua akan dapat biasiswa dalam bidang yang dia hendak. Mungkin dalam bidang yang lain, itu mungkin. Jadi kita tidak boleh jamin semua hendak doktor, semua boleh dapat. Belum tentu sebab di luar negara tempat juga terhad dan kita bersaing dengan pelajar-pelajar daripada negara lain.”

The nation-wide outrage at the injustices of this year’s PSD scholarship award is therefore a clear violation of the government undertaking given by Nazri in Parliament in March for an end of such “penganiayaan”.

If the Cabinet meeting tomorrow cannot put right and uphold its earlier decision that top scorers would “automatically” be given PSD scholarships, though not in the course of their choice, then the Najib Cabinet is even worse than the ‘half-past six” Cabinet of the previous Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as condemned by Tun Dr. Mahathir.

Yesterday, together with DAP MPs Fong Kui Lun (Bukit Bintang), Anthony Loke (Rasah) and Tony Pua (Petaling Jaya Utara), I met the PSD director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam in Putrajaya and asked that the full criteria for scholarship selection as well as the full list of scholarship receipients together with their results be published.

Ismail said he needed clearance from his political superiors. The Cabinet tomorrow should authorise and direct the PSD to make public the full criteria for scholarship selection as well as the full list of scholarship receipients together with their results in the name of fairness, accountability and transparency – this is the least that the Cabinet should do at its meeting tomorrow.

In keeping with the Najib motto of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now”, the Cabinet tomorrow should come up with a swift and just solution to the scandal of the PSD scholarship awards, based on the following three principles:

* Firstly, it would be unfair and unjust to withdraw any PSD scholarship which had been awarded last Friday;
* Secondly, all students with 9A1s and above should be awarded PSD scholarships – which means an increased allocation of RM300 million for JPA scholarships from RM700 million to RM1 billion. A special supplementary estimate of RM300 million for 2009 should be presented to the June meeting for this new allocation. There are four Pakatan Rakyat MPs at this forum tonight and we pledge full support for such a supplementary RM300 million allocation for PSD scholarships for the aggrieved top scorers. I don’t think any Barisan Nasional Minister or MP could argue against such an increased allocation when there is gross misuse of public funds – like the RM12 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal.
* Thirdly, the whole system of PSD scholarship awards should be revamped from next year onwards to end the perennial complaints every year about the injustices of the awards so that it is in full accord with the slogan “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now”. A Parliamentary Select Committee headed by an Opposition MP should be formed in June meeting of Parliament to completely revamp the PSD scholarship system.

I hope the Cabinet meeting on the PSD scholarships scandal would be more fruitful than the one last week.

After the Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat announced that the Government will review the selection criteria for Public Services Department scholarships and that a meeting the same day would be held among Barisan Nasional component party leaders, the PSD director-general and the Chief Secretary to the Government to discuss the matter and reconsider rejected cases.

However, the most senior MCA Minister was contradicted the next day by the Public Service Department director-general, Tan Sri Ismail Adam, who categorically stated that there would be no review of the selection criteria for PSD scholarships and that no such meeting mentioned by Ong was ever held.

Ong later explained that the Cabinet directive had probably not yet filtered down to the civil service.

This is a most astounding statement and thrown light on why there is such widespread inefficiency, incompetence and ineptitude both in the Cabinet and the civil service.

When it needs to take close to a week for a Cabinet decision to “filter down” to the PSD, from Putrajaya to Putrajaya, in fact from PM’s Office in Putrajaya to next door in Putrajaya, it does not speak highly of the KPIs whether of the Cabinet Ministers or the top civil servants!

Will Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, the Minister for KPIs for Ministers, take note?

Malaysians await the outcome of the Cabinet meeting tomorrow on the PSD scholarships issue with bated breath.

(Speech at the DAP forum “JPA scholarships – seeking a fair and equitable policy” held at the KL/Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, 19th May 2009 at 9pm)


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