Penang in Asia Lecture Series: Affirmative Action in Malaysia - Who Gains? Who Loses?

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Speech by Chief Minister Of Penang

Penang in Asia Lecture Series: Affirmative Action in Malaysia - Who Gains? Who Loses?

2 MARCH 2017

Affirmative Action Works When It Does Not Adversely Affect Freedom Or Equal Opportunity, Meritocracy Or Pursuit Of Excellence Or Fighting Corruption

We are often told that hard work will bring success and change destiny. The underlying assumption is that outcome is directly related to efforts. The reality is however much more complicated than that. Parents all know that how important it is to give their children a good head start. Environment plays a tremendous role in our life chance. Social scientists call it structural constraints, which individuals may not be able to overcome on their alone, no matter how hard they work. Competitive edges are inheritable and accumulative. How likely is a kid from inland Sarawak with no internet access and no one in family ever attended university to beat Subang Jaya professionals’ kids growing up with ipads to do medicine or architecture in top university? To positively discriminate in favour of marginalised groups so that they may have a more level playing field to compete is Affirmative Action.

There are at least two broad arguments for Affirmative Action.

The first is based on enlightened self-interest. If the marginalised in the society are forever marginalised, they may choose to disrupt the entire socio-political and economic system. It may take the form of a revolution or a riot. But, even if it is a just an electoral revolt, it can be no less disastrous. Look at the Brexit in the UK. Look at the election of President Donald Trump in the US. Besides cultural factors, the unexpected outcomes were driven much by economic discontent. People who stand to lose or gain little from globalisation voted in the hope to halt the loss of jobs and to reverse to the good old days where they didn’t have to face competition from people culturally different from them, home or abroad.

The second argument for Affirmative Action is rooted in solidarity. The idea that we should care for our fellow humans and ensure that everyone can live a dignified and fulfilled life. And it is morally wrong that some members of society are forever condemned in poverty or backwardness, no matter what the causes are.

As the idea of human rights grow, we recognise more forms of marginalisation beyond poverty and more categorisation warranting affirmative action beyond ethnicity. Today, a common form of affirmative action measure implemented or advocated for is the minimum 30% target for women in decision-making positions. Here in Penang, we are proud to have women holding the positions of state legal advisor, secretary of state legislative assembly and presidents of both city and municipal councils. At the Penang legislative assembly, women make up 15%, higher than 10.8% in the federal parliament but we are of course not complacent -- We hope to achieve soon the 30% target.

Before we go further on Affirmative Action, it is important to remember this is not the only method to correct inequality. The alternative – sometime also complement to Affirmative Action -- is often forgotten is the welfare state, where social goods like health, education, transportation and housing are provided cheaply and inclusively so that the poor may escape the poverty trap.

We wish to transform Penang into an entrepreneurial and welfare state, where we can enjoy both economic advancement and prosperity, without the poor getting poorer and be left behind. Penang has amongst the highest GDP per capita in the country and we also implement a form of universal basic income. We top up the household income of any families who receive less than RM790 per month.

The debates on affirmative action unfortunately has been stifled by two obstacles.

First, positions on affirmative action are often almost by default linked to one’s ethno-religious category. When the issue is raised, it is common for all sides to trade claims of marginalisation and complaints of discrimination by others. While the official justification for affirmative action in Malaysia is often based on preservation of social harmony and political stability, some quarters deliberately frame it as a permanent nativist privilege, making it even less universal.

Second, the myth that Malaysia is unique and not comparable to other countries. This myth prevents cross-national learning. The realities are (1) most countries in the world are actually plural society and Malaysia is not the most complicated one; (2) affirmative action is applied in many countries – not only affirmative action for women and disabled people is commonly found, even identity-based affirmative action can be found from countries as diverse as India, South Africa, United States, Sri Lanka and China.

We at the Penang Govermment are social democrats. We believe in solidarity. We believe in inclusion. Hence, we believe in affirmative action. We are sick of egregious corruption or crony capitalism disguised as affirmative action. We want affirmative action to work, not to be abused. We want affirmative action to empower, not to control, citizens. We need new lens to look at affirmative action, lens that are free from our communal bias and see empowerment of all marginalised members of our society a national agenda, not communal agenda of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans or Sarawakians. We need new languages like human rights to articulate and frame issues related to affirmative action to break free from the communal paradigm.

Finally affirmative action should not be an obstacle towards freedom or equal opportunity or meritocracy or establishing integrity or pursuit of excellence. If it does, then affirmative action has failed – that is not affirmative action but inflicting punishment or discrimination. The Scandinavian countries are good examples of affirmative action helping the poor, weak, dispossessed and marginalised without affecting freedom or equal opportunity, meritocracy or pursuit of excellence or fighting corruption.

It is in this light I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Judge Navi Pillay for accepting our invitation to share with us here her insights on affirmative action and human rights, drawing from experiences in her home nation South Africa and other jurisdictions. Before serving as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 – 2014, she worked as a lawyer, and subsequently was appointed as a High Court judge.

I am sure we will all be enlightened by Judge Pillay’s lecture and the panel discussion with her and our three distinguished panellists. When do we need affirmative action? When should affirmative action give way to more effective or inclusive policies? What are the policy domains suitable for affirmative action? Besides ethnicity and gender, what categorisation may be suitable to introduce affirmative action?

For friends who remain sceptical of universal solidarity, allow me to repeat US President Roosevelt’s reminder that we are all inter-dependent, ““This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.”

Thank you.

Majlis penyampaian Cek Peruntukan Bantuan Kewangan Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang Kepada Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil Dan Tadika Di Sekolah Tamil, 2017

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Ucapan Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang

Sempena Majlis penyampaian Cek Peruntukan Bantuan Kewangan Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang

Kepada Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil Dan Tadika Di Sekolah Tamil, 2017

2 Mac 2017 (Auditorium A, Komtar)


Saya berasa sangat gembira berjumpa dengan anda semua sekali lagi dalam Majlis Penyampaian Cek ini. Majlis Penyampaian Cek ini adalah majlis yang kesembilan. Berbeza daripada tahun-tahun lepas kali ini penyampaian cek kepada sekolah Tamil dan tadika diadakan bersama. Kami telah memulakannya pada 2009 dan meneruskannya sehingga ke tahun ini. Saya berjanji di sini bahawa Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang di bawah pimpinan saya akan terus membantu pendidikan dan sekolah-sekolah Tamil di negeri ini selagi kami mentadbir negeri ini.

Harus dingat bahawa dalam lapan tahun ini penambahbaikan struktur fizikal dan kemudahan sekolah Tamil adalah amat ketara, penambahbaikan seperti berikut telah dilakukan di sekolah-sekolah Tamil:

a) Mengatasi kekurangan bilik darjah dengan membina bilik darjah bahru
b) Membina Dewan Terbuka di 8 buah sekolah
c) Membina Makmal Komputer di 12 buah sekolah
d) Memastikan bahawa semua sekolah mempunyai kemudahan tandas moden
e) Menambahbaik keadaan dan kemudahan bilik guru dan guru besar
f) Menambah baik perpustakaan
g) Memasang kemudahan 21st Century Classroom di 3 buah sekolah

Pendek kata, pihak kami telah membantu memperbaiki infrastruktur di sekolah-sekolah Tamil Pulau Pinang sehinggakan sekolah-sekolah ini dikatakan sebagai yang terbaik dari segi kemudahan fizikal di seluruh negara.

Misi kami tidak terhad kepada peningktan kemudahan infrastruktur sahaja malahan mentranformasikan sekolah-sekolah Tamil untuk menghadapi cabaran abad ke-21. Demi memastikan bahawa kanak-kanak di sekolah Tamil dapat menikmati perkembangan ICT ini kami telah membekalkan SWIPE (Smart Wireless Interactive Presentation & Education System) di beberapa buah sekolah sejak dua tahun lalu. Alat ini mempermudahkan penyampaian maklumat dan juga dapat mengawasi dan mengawal murid-murid dari mana-mana sudut di bilik darjah.

Pada tahun lepas pula, kami telah membekalkan kemudahan 21st Century Classroom di 3 buah sekolah, iaitu SJKT Mak Mandin, SJKT Bukit Mertajam dan SJKT Sungai Ara. Pada tahun ini kami bercadang untuk memperluaskan kemudahan itu kepada semua sekolah.

Di samping itu, sejak 2012 Kerajaan Negeri sedang memperuntukkan RM100 ribu setiap tahun untuk membantu menguruskan tadika dengan lebih baik dan meningkatkan kualiti kemudahan di tadika. Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang adalah satu-satunya Kerajaan Negeri yang bantu tadika Bahasa Tamil.

Kini sampai pula masa yang ditunggu-tunggu, iaitu pengumuman jumlah peruntukan bagi tahun ini. Dengan bangganya saya ingin mengumumkan bahawa jumlah wang yang diperuntukkan bagi tahun ini ialah seperti berikut:

1) Bagi Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil – RM1.75 juta
2) Bagi Tadika - RM100,000.00
3) Bagi Tabung Khas Jawatankuasa Khas Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil – RM100,000.00 untuk kerja pengurusan, penilaian peperiksaan dan pengelolaan sekolah dan murid sekolah Tamil.

Jumlah peruntukan yang telah diperuntukkan kepada Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil sejak tahun 2009 adalah sebanyak RM15, 416, 000 dan kepada Tadika Tamil sejak tahun 2012 sebanyak RM550, 000.Sementara itu, jumlah peruntukan yang diberikan untuk Tabung Khas Jawatankuasa Khas Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil sejak tahun 2012 adalah sebanyak RM536, 000. Ini menjadikan keseluruhan peruntukan yang diberikan adalah sebanyak
RM16, 502, 000.

Sebelum mengakhiri ucapan saya biar saya merakamkan terima kasih kepada Dato’ Dr. Anba, Dato’ Rajoo, En. Anil, En. Sathis dan Cik. Fatimah kerana sumbangan mereka kepada sekolah-sekolah Tamil di negeri ini melalui Jawatankuasa Khas Sekolah-Sekolah Tamil. Saya berharap mereka akan terus membantu Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang mencapai impiannya untuk meningkatkan taraf akademik sekolah-sekolah Tamil di Pulau Pinang.

Sekian, terima kasih.


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1 March 2017

Selamat datang ke Pulau Pinang.

A very warm welcome to Penang, the Pearl of the Orient. And a sincere Thank You to the International Mobility Convention (IMC) for choosing our wonderful Island as host to your 6th Annual Conference.

I believe that one of the main reasons why IMC chose Penang was because we share the same values of excellence, diversity, opportunity and freedom. In Penang we have not only freedom of speech but also freedom after speech. UNESCO recognises our diversity and multi-cultural harmony by awarding George Town as a World Heritage site. And we are listed as one of the top 17 best places in the world to visit by CNN, coming out number 2. No wonder Yahoo Travel listed Penang as one of the Top 8 islands in the world you must explore before you die. Since you are all here, we can all die happy!

Penang is the ideal place to welcome Mobility professionals from around the world as this island has always been – and no doubt – will continue to be a crossroads for cultural and economic exchange.

For centuries Penang has been at the forefront of what we now call Globalisation.

I believe there is nowhere better to have a conference that welcomes 170-plus members of the international mobility community than Penang. Penang is an industrialised city with 95% of our GDP based on manufacturing and services sector. Penang also has internationally-rated facilities and infrastructure to serve your needs. We are also the most liveable city in Malaysia.

You have come from all corners of the globe, from very diverse backgrounds and cultures to meet in Penang and continue the global exchange of business, ideas and culture that has been the lifeblood of Penang for hundreds of years. Do not forget to enjoy the Penang street food – the best in the world. So remember to put in 1kg in weight or else you have not been to Penang!

Thank you.


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Speech by Chief Minister of Penang


26 February @ Gurney Paragon

Ever since its establishment in the year 1924, the Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH) has grown to become a tertiary healthcare centre for the Malaysian community and international visitors. In the recent years, more than RM80 million had been invested to set up the Adventist Oncology Centre and a multi-storey car park. This is made possible through an interest free loan and contributions from our generous sponsors.

The PAINTING PENANG PURPLE cancer awareness campaign is indeed an eye opener for many people as it will walk us through the importance of fighting and not giving up, when one is faced with the most devastating event of your life. The idea of using Purple Cloth to tie up trees along Jalan Burma-Jalan Cantonment- Jalan Kelawai- Persiaran Gurney is a good awareness marketing tool to attract the attention of many Penangites from all walks of life.

Being awarded GOLD in a clinical health research project by the World Health Organization (WHO) - The International Network of Health Promoting and Health Services, is timely. This will help to highlight the good deeds and community work done by the Adventist hospital.

The tagline “YOU WON’T FIGHT ALONE” is a powerful one. It is truly wonderful seeing so many good-hearted people, young and old, all geared up to support cancer patients to win this life and death battle. And we have many victorious stories of such successful battles.

Finally, I would like to thank Penang Adventist Hospital for its year-long cancer awareness campaign. Let us all as one community JOIN HANDS and FIGHT TOGETHER to overcome cancer. Remember, cancer need not be the end of your life.

Thank you.