Thursday, April 19, 2012

Occupy Dataran Merdeka

This morning I woke up to the news that the students and sympathizers of Occupy Dataran Merdeka had been attacked. Unlike previous other thuggish attacks, this one seems to have less videos of it going viral cos the perpetrators have wizened up. They went round smashing any gadgets they could lay their hands on. And we say Malaysians are peace loving people... When power is slipping away, people turn desperate and they become thugs.... here it's no different

These are students. And they have stated their intent to be peaceful. So far they've just protested peacefully. We should just leave them be to protest for what they believe in. That's how a democracy should work. They have been well-behaved. The authorities should be engaging them. But engagement becomes difficult because there are too many other issues - Cowgate, the Scorpene and other Defense deals, PKFZ, Tajuddin Ramli's MAS bailout... issues which lend a credibility problem to this engagement. Everyone is trying to dangle something to fish for support. And everyone wants something from the government for their support. Stuck in the middle are those who could do with some breaks..... hence the PTPN loan quagmire now. This is Malaysia, a country where freebies have been doled out in huge amount for certain races and supporters.

Occupy Dataran Merdeka... their demand is that PTPN be abolished and university education be made free. When PTPN first came out, many people hailed it as a relief provider cos students could borrow money to finance their studies. Years down the road, PTPN is a failure. It enriches the private education sector without looking into the welfare of the borrowers cos if a course is profitable, there'll be a mushrooming of colleges offering those courses. When retired senior government servants began to occupy positions of importance in the private institutions after retirement, you know for sure that the field has become really lucrative. This is Malaysia, where a retired head honcho of the judges of the land can turn into a road builder overnight and by the way his company was able to secure huge tenders. Must be quite a builder!

The recent news about trained nurses without jobs.... well, that's in part PTPN at work. Conducting nursing courses is very lucrative. So colleges offer all kinds of incentives, take in all kinds of students. Signing up for nursing courses sometimes come with other perks like free handphones and even $$$. But suddenly, there were too many nurses for too few nursing positions, might I add nursing graduates with questionable skills. The same will be happening to our medical courses too. Lucrativeness has a way of resurrecting greed which turns a blind eye to falling standards. So PTPN instead of becoming a catalyst to better quality has become the pit where less than mediocrity is cultured. So why not free tertiary education? Many PTPN loan holders can't even land jobs that commensurate with their qualification. Graduates with business degrees pitching sales in supermarkets. Microbiologists filling in for sales clerks. Who knows? Medical graduates might be opening a charkwayteow business.... that after investing close to half a million ringgit for a medical degree!

For years the government has been sending our students overseas to study. And that involved huge amount of money. I don't know about now but back in those days when I attended university, most of my Bumiputera coursemates had some form of financial aid. It wasn't so for the nons. In school today, many of my Malay students get some form of aid too, regardless of their academic achievements. It'd be interesting to make a comparison with schools with a more mixed racial composition. Point is, free money has been flowing rather freely all these years. On hindsight, some of us can also see how much of a crutch has become and how how competitiveness as a nation has also been compromised as a result. So why not free tertiary education for all? Taxpayers might be screaming murder but there has been so much being given out all these years.

Everyone feels they deserve something these days. And we use race, merit, connections as excuses because we feel we deserve it. The yardstick hasn't quite been based on sound principles but based on what we think we think and feel is deserved by us. Take the recent bursary programme for post SPM achievers for example. Even those who can afford it feel they deserve it because they have merited it. For what's its worth, I still believe in some form of affirmative action for those less fortunate ones. As with PTPN, those who graduate with first class and second upper get breaks from their loans while the lesser ones pay in full. Ironic isn't it? The former are more likely to occupy the glittering corporate world. And they get breaks! While those who might not be quite ready for the field of academia are 'duped' into thinking that their future lies in those glittering towers.

The Occupiers won my admiration today; for being so young yet full ideals and for standing up against what is beginning to look more and more like a tyranny each day.... we have politicians who do not come outright and condemn thuggish behaviour, a police force capable of coming out with riot gears and water canons yet helpless against 50-60 bullies. As for the Occupiers they just want what everyone wants too.... perhaps someone should explain to them why that is wrong. Somebody said the taxpayers will have to pay more... I wonder who have been paying for all the Cowgate, PKFZ what have you not? Aren't they the same taxpayers?

We are indeed screwed up.... cos we have a Home Minister who asked us to be wary of allegations by the Occupiers that they had been attacked! Aiyo! All he needed to do was just condemn the thuggish act.... What do thugs and PERKASA have in common? They all get away with atrocious behaviour without hardly a slap on their hand. Don't know whether the Minister has squeaked anything about them though. PTPN, there's actually more than meets the eye. Falling quality, less than employable graduates, lacking skills... how to expect them to be able to pay back. They've been trained on crutches, let out into the real world burdened with a debt... and the other side, Cowgate, RM9 billion navy vessels, countless leakages....

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