Frankly Speaking

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Best to give language options In abolishing the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics, not only has the government done a flip-flop, but it has also not addressed the problem of the lack of confidence among Malaysians about the quality of schooling their children are getting.Politically, whatever mileage the government hoped to gain is, at best, neutral because the decision to stop the teaching of science and mathematics in English has pleased half the population and upset the other half, which is what happened six years ago when it was decided to use English to teach the two subjects.We have to accept that Malaysia is a pluralistic society and build an education system that is pluralistic, not impose a one-size-fits-all solution on everyone.Education is a political hot potato. But it is a political hot potato that the government and politicians do not have to worry about if only they would leave the decision to parents in deciding  how they want their children to be schooled.How do we go about doing it?Allow schools to use Bahasa Malaysia, English or Mandarin — the languages spoken most by Malaysians — as the medium of instruction from primary school up to university level. These schools and universities can be government funded or privately funded but they will use a common syllabus.Bahasa Malaysia and English must be made compulsory subjects in all schools regardless of the medium of instruction.The choice of schools, or more specifically, the choice of medium of instruction, should be a decision left to parents and the students. They will take responsibility for their own decision.  It is time for us to bite the bullet and admit that the policies of the last 38 years have failed and we must now depoliticise language and education. Give choice to the people. The outcome can only be better than the mess we are in today.Where is the valuation?Over the last two weeks, Trans Asia Shipping Corp Bhd (Trasco), a company that provides warehouse and logistics services, has been busy buying and selling properties to consolidate its operations into one big area in Shah Alam.While the objective of the exercise — to integrate its current warehouse operations in Shah Alam where the facilities are over-flowing and spread over three different locations — makes good economic sense, what is lacking is clarity about the basis of the valuations adopted in the purchase and sale of properties.Trasco is acquiring from JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn Bhd (JVC) a piece of land measuring almost one million sq ft, together with the buildings erected on it, for some RM41.8 million. The transaction, which does not require the approval of the Foreign Investment Committee, was announced on July 1.A week later, Trasco announced the disposal of an existing property in its stable to a private company, Greenway Link Sdn Bhd, for RM17.3 million. This property is a three-storey building on 4,047 sq ft of land. The cost of investment in the building and property by Trasco in 2003 was RM16.4 million while the net book value is RM14.6 million.What’s surprising is that both transactions were done on a ‘willing buyer-willing seller basis’ and no valuations were carried out on both properties to quantify the market value.Why were there no independent valuations carried out to determine if the properties were under- or over-valued?This is particularly important in the acquisition by Trasco of the property from JVC which will be funded partly by borrowings. Without an independent valuation, how did the company arrive at a price, considering that the deal was done on a willing buyer — willing seller basis?It is true that not all independent valuations of property reflect the market price. But it provides a basis to determine the pricing for such transactions.Hartal is a double-edged swordAs the ousted menteri besar of Perak, Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin gears up to convince the Federal Court that he is the legitimate leader of the state government, a political movement is growing to force the Barisan Nasional (BN) state government to stand down for a new state election.Last Wednesday, the Perak People’s Action Committee, a non-governmental organisation, submitted a memorandum to the BN state government, giving it until Aug 8 to dissolve the state legislative assembly and call for fresh elections or face a state-wide shutdown. This act of civil disobedience is aimed at protesting against the manner in which the BN took over control of the Perak government.Nizar and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) are said to be considering whether to back the hartal, during which the people will be asked to boycott all activities, including work, school and business for the whole day to send a message to the government in power. Also, there are signs that the protest may spill over into a nationwide action as people sympathetic to the agitators may decide to join in the mobilisation exercise.This form of resistance, which was popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during the struggle for India’s independence, has taken on a life of its own in the South Asian nations today. In plain language, it has become a blight, with political parties disrupting livelihoods, business and government affairs at the drop of a hat.As the PR leadership weighs the political benefits it could gain from such a campaign, it would be highly pertinent for the coalition to calculate its economic cost to the state and the nation, the damage that would be done to the country’s standing as a well-governed economy and the propensity for such disruptive acts to gain a foothold in the public life.It would be far better to take the long road to legitimacy by inculcating a thorough respect for democratic principles among the people at large. This article appeared in The Edge Malaysia, Issue 763, July 13-19, 2009