Monday, March 31, 2008

Scholarship Withdrawn Over Blog?

There was the earlier case that JPA scholars were prevented from blogging, but I thought this new case was just absolutely ridiculous.

The complainant, CK, was a JPA scholar studying at one of the pre-university centres in preparation for going overseas. In one of her blog post, CK criticised one of her college mates, YK that she had no fashion sense and that her dress made her look like a grandma. CK published YK's picture along with the post.

In addition, CK was critical of the college's rigid dress codes as well as the college's security personnel who acted like "guard dogs" for they would try very hard to find faults with the students.

YK's parents went beserk, approached their professor and threatened to bring CK to the police station.

Despite deleting the critical post(s), and sending in an apology letter as requested by the school (where her professor had promised CK that the case would subsequently be resolved), her scholarship was terminated a few months later.

Subsequently, she was suspended from the school late last year for 2 months and she has not been back to the pre-university centre for some 3 months to date. (There's the question of whether the termination of scholarship means she can't attend classes anymore.. as the centre's only meant for scholars).

The newly appointed deputy minister of education, Wee Ka Siong has been alerted a few months back. The minister in prime minister's department, Datuk Nazri Aziz has appealed on her behalf to JPA, but all to no avail.

Is this a case of JPA and the pre-university centre going to the extremes in punishing a student over a seemingly trivial matter (which should have ended with the letter of apology issued within days of receiving the complaint)? Or is there more than it meets the eye?

I've personally called upon the new Deputy Minister of Education to act in the interest of justice last week, and he has promised that he's still pursuing the matter with the prime minister's department (which is in-charge of JPA).

In the interest of the bright young student, her scholarship and place at the school should be immediately re-instated. CK may not have been an angel, but certainly in this case, the punishment meted out is clearly disproportionate to the crime, if ever there was one in this case.

If the case isn't resolved by the time Parliament starts at the end of April, I'll contemplate bringing the issue into Parliament as well.

For those interested, the sequence of events on the above case is as follows:
  • --.07.07 - CK wrote articles with regards to dress code and security personnel on blog

  • 10.08.07 - CK wrote post criticising college mate's dress sense

  • 11.08.07 - CK wrote apology letter to college

  • 12.08.07 - CK wrote apology letter to YK

  • 23.08.07 - College warning letter to CK

  • 27.11.07 - JPA scholarship termination letter to CK

  • 30.11.07 - CK appeal against termination letter sent to YB Wee Ka Siong

  • 19.12.07 - Disciplinary hearing by college against CK

  • 03.01.08 - College letter of suspension to CK

  • 15.01.08 - CK appeal against college suspension

  • 15.01.08 - CK appeal against scholarship termination via college

  • 31.01.08 - CK appeal against scholarship termination to YB Ong Ka Ting

  • 04.02.08 - College rejected appeal against suspension

  • 31.01.08 - Appeal by YB Datuk Nazri Aziz against scholarship termination rejected by JPA

  • 13.02.08 - JPA rejected CK appeal against scholarship termination

Turning Back the Clock

Ah, that's my A01C class at Raffles Junior College 1989
(I'm right most on the back row)

The Star Education Supplement did some interviews with some of the newly elected representatives on their days in school. Yours truly was one of those interviewed, and you can find it here.

I must say it's not the most accurate of interviews 'cos the text is heavily summarised, but overall, it provides a good quick picture of my 15 years of formal education ;-)

I was also asked on our local education system, with the answers as follows:
What is your view of the current education system?

I believe the current policies emphasise quantity at the expense of quality.

The drive to have more universities, more university students, more PhD holders, etc, creates a lot of pressure and affects standards.

The quality of educators needs to be addressed to ensure that we provide good education.

What changes would you like to see in our education system?

I’d like to see educators receiving higher salaries. To get the best, you need to pay the best.

We need to attract the most suitable people to be teachers and lecturers. Educators should be hired based on merit, regardless of nationality, race and ideology.
Check out the answers from the other DAP representatives - State Assemblyman for Sungai Pinang, Selangor - Teng Chang Kim and State Assemblywoman for Subang Jaya, Hannah Yeoh, or other interviewed reps here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

UUM and VC wins libel case

It was reported recently that UUM and its VC has been awarded RM7 million for a libel case taken out against prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and the editors of Suara Keadilan. Apparently, RPK accused Tan Sri Dr Nordin Kardi, the VC of UUM, of being a plagiarist. Hopefully, no one will take out a lawsuit against myself or Tony over some of our posts! I'm fairly confident that we have not libeled anyone, other than some people associated with dubious institutions which award dubious degrees.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

SPM Chinese: An MOE Conspiracy

Thanks for the many comments and emails in regards to my previous post on SPM Chinese. I've certainly had my views on this issue changed and am now quite convinced that there is a conspiracy within the MOE to purposefully decrease the % of A's obtained by students taking SPM Chinese to deny some of these students from getting straight As (hence getting a JPA scholarship) as well as to decrease the incentive for students to take this subject at the SPM level.

I have to admit that my previous post was somewhat conditioned by my time in Singapore where all of my Chinese-ed friends told me that the Chinese standard in Singapore was much lower than that in Malaysia. This led me to believe that the Chinese exams in Malaysia was also much harder than those in Singapore which naturally, I thought, would lead to fewer A's being obtained in this subject.

A number of comments and emails have made me change my mind. Firstly, I've been told that the % of students obtaining As in Chinese is very very low, in a single digits compared to the 20% or so among the same candidates who obtain As in BM. If non-Malays, for whom BM is not their native tongue, can work hard enough to obtain an A in BM, then it seems strange that such a small percentage of Chinese can obtain A's in their mother tongue, especially in the context of SMJKs and Chinese Independent schools (for those where students take SPM Chinese). Furthermore, it has also been indicated that the standard of the Chinese SPM paper, while challenging, is actually not that difficult (although probably more difficult than O level Chinese). Certainly not to the extent that only a few % of students can obtain an A, if they were curved in the same way as other subjects such as BM or English.

Secondly, a friend of mine told me that the % of students getting As for Chinese SPM fell DRASTICALLY since 2001, which coincidentally, was the year when JPA 'liberalized' and awarded scholarships to non-Malays, including giving guaranteed scholarships for all students scoring straight A1s. In this school that my friend is familiar with, the number of A1s in Chinese fell from double digits to ZERO after 2001. While this is only anecdotal evidence but from Ian's letter and the other comments, I think this particular conspiracy theory does hold water. Lots of it.

After getting these emails and comments, I'm really pissed off, not at the commentators (which I have to thank for enlightening me), but at the MOE for this HEINOUS action. I am convinced that the decision to grade the curve in SPM Chinese such that only a small number of students score A1s is directed at decreasing the number of Chinese students who obtained straight A1s and hence their ability to obtain a guaranteed JPA scholarship. (I'll be interested to know if Indian students taking SPM Tamil faced the same problem) There's no other way to explain this.

I don't know how many students were affected but I'm guessing that they would number into the hundreds, if not thousands. These are students who would have gotten straight A1s if not for the fact that the Chinese SPM curve was manipulated to their detriment.

I'd be interested to find out the number and % of A1s and A2s awarded in Chinese SPM from when they started calculating this figure and to see how much it dropped after 2001. I'm very sure that the % would have dropped significantly after 2001. Does anyone know if Dong Jiao Zong keeps track of this statistic and if they publish this information anywhere?

I'm surprised that no opposition MP, to my knowledge, has brought this issue up in a public forum because this revelation really makes my blood boil. It's an underhanded attempt by the Ministry to shift the goal posts once the game has started and the rules have been agreed on. In my opinion, this is worse that creating a matriculation stream that it largely not open to non-Bumiputras to manipulate the public university entrance standards. Perhaps, people are already too jaded and accept this as part of the 'system' which treats certain groups unfairly? Or perhaps, many of the opposition MPs i.e. DAP MPs simply don't know about this?

I'm especially disgusted at MCA since the portfolio of the Deputy Education and Deputy Higher Education Ministers are held by MPs from this party. This was happening right under their noses and they did nothing to stop it or to highlight it! Perhaps, it was part of a secret bargain whereby the JPA would allow non-Malays to obtain JPA scholarships but be allowed to 'rig' the results of the Chinese SPM exam as a way to reduce the number of non-Malays who would be eligible for a guaranteed JPA scholarship.

I hope that one of the first things which Tony does when parliament reconvenes is to ask the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Wee Ka Siong, who was at outspoken backbencher and MCA spokesperson on education matters, for the history of those scoring A1s in Chinese SPM and then ask him to account for why the figures dropped after 2001.

To those who will undoubtedly accuse me of viewing this through a 'racial lens', I ask you to consider this from a matter for fairness. How would you feel if your favorite football team found that their goalposts had been widened by a few feet and their opponent's shortened by a few feet after the game had started? I would be pissed off too. And with good reason.

Reply to Ian Beh

Ian Beh, a form 5 student from a school in PJ, recently wrote this provocative and insightful open letter to myself and Tony in regards to the issue of SPM Chinese. It's an issue which I've given some thought to on and off in the past and I'll take this opportunity to respond to Ian's letter in detail.

Ian's main concern with Chinese at the SPM level is that it has become so hard that (i) nobody would take it if they were not forced to (ii) that it is so difficult to score an A in the subject that it affects the ability of some students to obtain a JPA scholarship.

Ian is not the first person who has told me that they have no interest in taking Chinese after primary school, much less for PMR and SPM. I have my own take to explain this which many of our readers might not agree with.

Basically, any subject that is taught at a higher and higher level will have fewer and fewer students who are interested or even capable of taking this subject. For example, most people can indulge in a little bit of algebra, do a little bit of differentiation and integration, but once we get more a sophisticated level of Math, it becomes accessible to far fewer people. Not everyone is expected to take Additional Math at the SPM level and they shouldn't be expected to take Math at that level if they don't have an aptitude for it.

We can apply a similar logic to the study of languages. I'm studying Chinese right now, to improve my reading and writing, and I'll be very happy once I can get to the level where I can easily read Chinese newspapers and websites and listen to Chinese news on the TV and the internet (I'm getting there). I have less desire to obtain a standard where I can enjoy Chinese classical literature or poetry (I'm not sure that I can reach that level). Similarly, there are many students in Malaysia which might do well just to reach a level of English proficiency where they can write using proper grammar and sentence structures but not necessarily be able to write a literary criticism of Toni Morrison or Michael Ondaatje.

Language is of course a little different from Physics or Math or History. Most teachers or educational planners want students to be continually exposed to language lessons because it needs to be kept fresh in one's mind and incremental improvements can be made in regards to a student's command of a language. In addition, there might be symbolic or socio-political reasons why a language should or must be taught and learned throughout one's pre-tertiary school life.

But there is also another important distinction between the teaching of languages and of other more 'objective' subjects like Math and Physics which is that the level of a language that is taught is very much contextual. One might find that teaching Shakespeare to a 13 year old in England is very much the norm but would find that to be a stretch even to 17 year olds in Malaysia. Most English schoolchildren would have been exposed to some Shakespeare either on TV or in school by the time that they reach secondary school. But that's not the case in Malaysia. Hence, SPM English is very different from let's say O level English in the UK. The latter is much more difficult. This is one of the main reasons why English is so much easier than BM at the same grade. Peribahasa is much more familiar to most Malaysian students compared to English proverbs. More Malaysians will understand 'katak di bawah tempurung' compared to 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'.

There is a second factor (in addition to context) which explains the different levels of English, BM and Chinese exams in Malaysia. This factor is the number and category of students who are taking these exams. The more students taking a particular subject, the easier the exams for these subjects. If English was not compulsory, I think that you'd find that the standard of the English exams at the SPM level would quickly increase. BM exams, another compulsory subject at the SPM level, are harder than English because of the first factor (context) but it is easier than Chinese because of the 2nd factor, the number of people taking this exam. If the BM exams was set too hard, then the Ministry would find that a lot more people would fail the BM exam and fewer people would be scoring A's in BM.

Because Chinese at the SPM level is taken by relatively fewer students (a few select national schools and the Chinese independent schools) and presumably, Chinese is the native tongue of most of the students taking Chinese, those who set the Chinese papers can afford to make it tougher (context and numbers) which explains why Chinese is harder than BM. It also explains why more Chinese student's in Ian's school (which I presume is Catholic High in PJ) score A's in BM compared to Chinese.

One also has to remember that those setting the Chinese exams do so with the Chinese independent school students in mind, which, to my knowledge, form the majority of students taking the Chinese exam at the SPM level. There is undoubtedly pressure on those setting the Chinese exam to ensure that it fulfills the high standards of Chinese proficiency set in the Chinese independent schools.

It would be interesting to compare the Chinese SPM exam with that of the Tamil SPM exam. My sense is that the Tamil SPM exam should be much easier that the Chinese SPM exam (at least measured in the % obtaining As). The reason is that there are no independent Tamil secondary schools which means there is less of a context factor operating at the secondary school level for those taking Tamil. Following this, there will be less pressure for those setting the Tamil SPM exam to make it hard, even though almost all the students who are taking this will be Indian students from Tamil speaking households. But it should be harder than the English SPM exam.

Lastly, I need to include the factor of political pressure. No doubt, there is political pressure in the Ministry of Education to ensure that the BM exam is harder than the English exam (or to make the English exam relatively easy). At the same time, there is probably less pressure on the part of the Ministry to make the Chinese SPM exam so hard. I suspect that the MOE leaves this issue solely in the hands of the Chinese bureaucrats within the MOE who are in charge of setting these exams. If these bureaucrats are making the Chinese SPM exam harder, it does not hurt the majority in Malaysia so there is little pressure on the part of the MOE to intervene. Furthermore, the MOE would not want to be seen as 'interfering' in the 'sensitive' issue of deciding the standard of Chinese exams at the SPM level.

So how should we respond to the current situation in Malaysia?

In an ideal world, I'd get rid of compulsory language exams after Form 3. One should have obtained a sufficient degree of literacy in BM, English and Chinese or Tamil by that time. If one is interested to pursue these languages further, they should be given the option to take subjects like Malay or English or Chinese literature.

But this is not an ideal world and I can see the need to force students to continue to learn English up to the SPM level (at least) given that English proficiency among our students is still very poor. I can also see the need to force students to continue to learn BM given that the command of the national language among non-Malay students is also quite poor. This leaves us with Chinese at the SPM level. I don't think this should be made compulsory in national schools such as Catholic High since these schools, in theory at least, don't need to have a 'Chinese' identity and most of the subjects at the SPM level are taught in BM. (In reality, I'm well aware that most students in schools like these are Chinese and speak Mandarin or Chinese dialects inside and outside of school). This would immediately solve one of Ian's dilemmas which is how taking Chinese would impact his ability to score all A's and get a JPA scholarship. (which probably affect only a small % of students)

I'm in more of a quandary in regards to whether Chinese should be compulsory in Chinese independent secondary schools. On the one hand, one can argue that taking Chinese is central to the character and identity of these schools much like how BM is compulsory in national schools. On the other, one can also argue that since most subjects are already taught in Chinese in these schools, there is less of a worry of these schools losing their 'Chinese' identity or character.

One possible way out is for those setting the Chinese SPM exam to grade on a curve such that more people will get A's. This reduces the disincentive for many students who might want to take this course but are afraid that it will affect their overall grades. And at the same time, the examiners don't need to 'dumb down' the standard of the Chinese SPM exam.

I'll leave the questions of revamping the syllabus for Chinese at the secondary school level or changing the teaching methods aside since I don't know enough about it to give an informed opinion.

For now, there is no easy solution or quick fix apart from making Chinese non-compulsory in national schools. In regards to the growing importance of Chinese as a language, I would say this - it is possible to maintain a high level of interest and activity in the Chinese language without resorting to forcing Chinese students to take it at the SPM level. I think that the cultural and business spheres are much more important and influential in trying to achieve this aim.

PMR dates changed again

Looks like the PMR dates are set to change again, this time to the end of October and early November instead of the middle of October and early November as reported earlier. I'm glad that they are announcing this now instead of a month before the actual PMR exams since this will give the Ministry ample time to prepare for the timely marking of papers. Hopefully, the dates won't be changed again!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tzuo Hann is back!

Remember my crazy friend from Duke who was cycling back to Malaysia from Ireland? I've posted about Tzuo Hann here and here. Well, he's finally back in Malaysia. He arrived in the midst of the election campaign. I'm really proud of his efforts. He has raised almost 150,000RM already for charity. If you're interested in helping out, please visit his fundraising site here and read about his traveling exploits here. Tzuo Hann BOLEH!

5 Priorities on Higher Education Issues

With a stronger opposition in the parliament and hopefully a more reform minded PM moving ahead, I want to list out what I think are 5 priorities on higher education issues which the opposition as well as the government should move on. I want to emphasize that these priorities cannot be achieved by opposition pressure alone or by the BN.

1) Revamping the UUCA

- It is ludicrous that students in public universities, a majority of which are over 21, could have voted in the recently concluded elections but cannot join a political party or be involved in political campaigns.
- This law is especially ludicrous to me given that so many college students who were formerly politically apathetic have been galvanized into political action by Barack Obama's campaign here in the US.
- The demobilization of the public universities have led to a decrease in voter registration among the young people. Revamping the UUCA would be a step in arresting this trend.
- I'm pretty optimistic that something can be done in regards to the UUCA for two reasons. The first is that there had already been indications during Tok Pa's time as Minister for Higher Education that the government was looking at revamping the UUCA, albeit probably in not a very radical fashion. The second is that the opposition, together with civil society, is more capable of pressuring the government to revamp the UUCA. Imagine a Bersih type rally but of university students! Now that would be something.

2) Ensuring at least one VC appointment process that involves a respected committee
- Tony has blogged about this in the past on numerous occasions. I'm not sure which VC from one of the major public universities (UKM, UM, USM, UPM) will come up for renewal first but when it does, I hope that there will be a stringent and open process by which their performance is evaluated.
- If a new VC needs to be appointed, hopefully a well respected committee can be established to oversee this process.

3) Ensure that the process of selecting government sponsored PhD students is open and and transparent
- As mentioned in this blog many times in previous postings, the government is on an aggressive campaign to increase the number of PhDs in the local universities and is spending tons of money sending students overseas to obtain their PhDs.
- This process has been less than transparent in the past and qualified candidates have been denied this opportunity in favor of less qualified candidates because of racial quotas. Given the new political environment, one hopes that this practice can be cut down if not totally eradicated and students can be sent overseas based on merit.

4) Ensure that the key initiatives started by Tok Pa in the Higher Education Strategic Masterplan is followed through
- I've been generally positive about the MOHE Higher Education Action and Strategic Plans in previous posts. I hope that the new Minister, Khaled Norin, will be able to see through these key initiatives instead of taking the path of the Minister of Education which had a new Education Blueprint written after he became the Minister. I think continuity is important and the opposition should support this initiative where possible.

5) Ensure that the process of tendering contracts by public universities are transparent

- This is an issue which I've not written about that much but have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence on. Many academics and insiders have complained that VCs and other administrators in public universities sometimes 'benefit' from the allocation of certain projects or contracts in the public universities.
- I'm not sure how this can be done but perhaps the opposition or the government can seek 'whistleblowers' who can notify the authorities if they hear of such wrongdoing. Or the board of governors, which is supposed to be revamped under the Higher Education Strategic and Action Plan, can have a bigger advisory role.

I'm not sure if Tony agrees with any or all of these priorities in regards to Higher education in Malaysia but I'm sure he'll chime in when he has a bit of time on his hands.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hou Kok Chung is the new Deputy Minister of Higher Education

One of the two new Deputy Ministers of Higher Education is Dr. Hou Kok Chung, who ran under the MCA ticket in Kluang in Johor. He's a former UM academic in the Chinese Studies department, if I'm not mistaken and was heading the Institute of China Studies (ICS) before being called up by the MCA to contest in the 2008 GE. He got his PhD from SOAS, London and has a pretty extensive publication record (even if most of them are local journals or books). Hopefully, having a former academic in the MOHE as a Deputy Minister will help the new Minister, Khaled Nordin, improve the state of higher education in our country since Dr. Hou should know the weaknesses (many) and strengths (few) of the public university system.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Khaled Nordin is the new Minister for Higher Education

This just in - Mustapha Muhamed or Tok Pah in this blog has been moved to the Agriculture Ministry and Khaled Nordin, former Works Minister, has been named as the new Minister for Higher Education. I don't know much about Khaled Nordin's record at the Works Ministry but he's generally avoided the headlines. But I can't help but be disappointed that Tok Pa has been moved. He's done so much while at the MOHE, most of which I've written approvingly of, that I would have liked him to see through. I'm not sure it's something that you can quickly pick up as a new Minister. I wish Tok Pa all the best in his new posting and welcome Khaled Nordin to his new post. You can be sure that we'll be keeping a close eye on him. I'll come up later with a list of educational priorities which the new government and opposition should focus on. I'm sure Tony will chime in later as well our readers.

P.S. Correction: One of our readers astutely pointed out that Khaled Nordin actually held the position of the Minister of Entrepreneurial and Cooperative Development (MECD). The Works Minister was previously Sammy Vellu.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Perlis MB with bogus PhD

Now that the elections are over, I can hopefully go back to blogging regularly here on education issues. Thanks for to marquisdulazares for highlighting this post from Susan Loone, a former Malaysiakini journalist who is currently based in Bangkok. Apparently, the new MB in Perlis has a PhD from New Port university, something which Tony has blogged about in the past!

I think this Malaysian version of the New Port university is just an offshoot of the equally dubious New Port university that is based in California. My wife informed me that the address of the California based New Port university is near an airport and only occupies one suite of a commercial building!

Check out former MPs Aziz Shamsuddin and M Kayveas here. Both of them received degrees from this university. And if I'm not mistaken, Kayveas also received a degree from the infamous Irish International University! Thankfully, both of them lost in the recent elections so hopefully, it's the last we'll see of them!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Tony Pua is the new PJ Utara MP

Congrats to Tony who won with a resounding and unexpected 19,000 vote majority in PJ Utara! Hopefully this means that he will be able to bring some of his ideas on education policy to the parliament and effect change!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Splitting up the PMR dates - good or bad?

OK, a break from the GE now. Just saw this report on the Star stating that the PMR dates have been set for Oct 13th to 15th and Nov 4th and 5th. The ostensible reason is to decrease the level of truancy which happens at the end of the year. Does this proposal make sense?

According to this website, the school holidays in Malaysia starts on November 18th and goes to January 1st. Having the PMR in early October means that those who finish their PMR have one more month of holidays compared to their peers who don't have to take their PMR. The reason why the exams where not all postponed to Nov 4th and 5th is because the 'subjective' or 'non-objective' exams cannot be marked in time for the results to be released by the end of the year.

Frankly, I'm a bit perplexed by this decision. I've not experienced any 'major' exam in my primary and secondary school life where the paper exams are separated by a period of 2 weeks. I remember sitting for my A levels in Singapore where I had to take some of the 'lab' exams a couple of weeks early but the paper exams were taken in a span of about 2 weeks. I've always preferred taking exams in a relatively short period of time and getting it over as soon as possible. I find it difficult to keep up the momentum and adrenaline of studying and preparing for exams if they are spread out over a longer period of time, in this case, for almost 4 weeks.

But perhaps, some students will like this. They can cram hard for the first few exams in the middle of October, take a break and then use the remaining two weeks to study for the objective type exams.

Still, the rationale of delaying the exams is a little mystifying. Perhaps some parents complain that they don't know what to do with their kids because they finish school a month earlier than everyone else. But can't the Ministry ask the schools to use this time more productively, by, for example, organizing the students to do volunteer work, to learn a new skill, to play games, etc...? Isn't the Ministry running the risk of forcing the markers to mark the papers in a shorter period of time (the non-objective ones) and perhaps increase the chances of them making mistakes? Isn't the Ministry also running the risk of making mistakes in compiling the grades because of the smaller time window to release the results? Frankly, I would prefer the students to have more time off than to make mistakes in the preparation of the PMR grades.

I'm curious as to the effect splitting up these exams may have on different students. For example, are those who are low performers more likely to do worse under this 'split' system because they cannot sustain the necessary momentum to study and prepare for exams over the course of 3 to 4 weeks? Or are they more likely to do better because they have more time to prepare? I'm inclined to think the former.

My gut feeling tells me that the Ministry will try this out for 1 year, find that they have problems finish marking the papers and compiling the grades and perhaps find that there are some changes in the average grade of students and then go back to the former policy of having the exams in early October. Those who suffer will be the 'guinea pigs' this year.

What do our readers think of this? Especially those who have kids who are taking their PMR exams?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Vote for Tony in PJ Utara!

I'm not sure if our readers are aware, but Tony and I have taken care to keep politics out of this blog as much as possible. While we've been critical of government policies in the education arena, we've tried not to evaluate them on the basis of partisan stands. With the upcoming 12th Malaysian General Election, I thought that this would be a good time to make an exception. While I'm not stepping out to endorse any political party, I will step out to endorse Tony as the candidate that all our readers who are in the PJ Utara parliamentary constituency should vote for.

For those of you who are not yet aware, our country goes to the polls on March 8th, next Saturday, to vote in a new government. Tony Pua, who started this blog and invited my to co-blog with him, is running in the parliamentary constituency of PJ Utara where he is facing MCA incumbent Chew Mei Fun. Tony is standing as a DAP candidate.

I'm endorsing Tony as the candidate for PJU not just because he happens to be a friend and co-blogger. But I think that having a parliamentarian of Tony's background and knowledge will increasing the quality of debate in our otherwise rather sad parliament. I also think that it will be a bigger platform for him to raise issues concerning the quality of education in Malaysia. One of the most important roles of an MP, in my opinion, is to raise issues of national importance in parliament, which i think that Tony will excel in. One of the least important roles of an MP, is to make sure that the drains or longkangs are not clogged, a role which the incumbent MP, Chew Mei Fun, excels in. I would prefer my MP to excel in the former rather than the latter.

I'm sure that most of our readers who are PJU voters would vote for Tony but I would encourage you guys to do more. Volunteer to help out in his campaign, contribute funds, tell your friends and relatives who are also PJU voters to vote for him, go out and support him during his ceramahs. You can find out more details at Tony's website. Tony needs all the help he can get. He's up against an incumbent who won in 2004 with a 13,000 majority. He's up against an incumbent who has the support of the Star newspaper, a paper which many of the PJU readers read. He's up against the superior machinery of the incumbent regime.

Every vote counts. I only wish that I could have taken leave to come back home to Msia to cover the elections and lend Tony a helping hand. Vote Tony Pua!