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TELLING IT AS IT IS
Acting Editor-in-Chief: Chong Cheng Hai Consultant Editor: Zainon Ahmad Executive Editor: Lee Boon Siew Deputy Editor: Patrick Choo (Production), Editor: R. Nadeswaran (Special Reporting and Investigations)

theSun
General Manager, Advertising and Marketing: Charles Peters Senior Manager, Production: Thomas Kang Senior Manager, Distribution Channels: Joehari Abdul Jabbar

| WEDNESDAY MAY 20 2009

speak up!

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Be open for grouses to stop
FORMER national hockeight A1s, one A2 and ey captain, N. Sri Shanone B3 in his SPM exmuganathan captained aminations. He sent in the Klang High School his application to pursue hockey and cricket teams; his education in Marine played soccer and volleyEngineering. He had met ball for school and also the criteria to get scholarexcelled in athletics. After ships and duly sent out his Senior Cambridge, applications to JPA, Pethe was offered a place ronas and Sime Darby. at Victoria Institution in Unfortunately none of the Kuala Lumpur because CitizenNades organisations gave him a of his abilities in sports. A chance. We have heard by R. Nadeswaran job as a police inspector that students with lower came along after leaving than his qualification had school and he subsequently joined been offered scholarships. This is the Anti-Corruption Agency before very unfortunate as he had strategiturning to the private sector. cally performed well academically Tam Chiew Seng, played cricket as well as co-curricular activities as for the country before he turned 16 he knew that it would count.” and then played hockey for MalayThis is just one letter. In the sia. He was another whose career “Letters to the editor” pages of started in the police force and is now newspapers, several have appeared. in the private sector. Scores of other I sympathise with the unsuccessful names come to mind when it comes applicants, but there are major isto “good” jobs, which were scarce in sues which ought to be addressed those old days. and let me categorically state that I If the police force gave priority to don’t intend to hold the candle for the sportsmen, matching or even doing Public Services Department (PSD) or better was the Central Electricany other organisation. What I am ity Board, then National Electricity seeking to do is contribute ideas to Board and now Tenaga Nasional a system which is fair and equitable Berhad. Under Sharples and later to all citizens. Raja Zainal and Tan Sri Abu Zarim, There are 2,000 PSD scholarships you could rattle off the names of naup for grabs and there are 10,000 tional cricketers and more than half applicants who meet the academic of them would be from this stable. requirements. Besides, some schools Headmasters of yesteryears put a limit on the number of subjects scoured the playing fields all over students can offer in their SPM exthe country and followed the sports aminations, in some cases, a maxipages of the newspapers to “discover mum of 10. So, if one gets 15As and new talent” so that they could be another gets nine, should the former lured to their schools to play one be given priority for a scholarship? game or another. Anandarajah, as Isn’t a student who gets only five As headmaster of Malacca High School eligible for the same scholarship if gave a number of sportsmen a break. he had played, say, in the Thomas Even if they did not do well enough Cup or represented the country at in Form Five to be allocated a place hockey? to the Higher Certificate of EducaIf we go by mere academic qualifition, Master Rajan as he is popularly cations, then all the 10,000 applicants known, bent the rules with the supwill qualify, but when there are only port of sports-loving chief education 2,000 places, what is the criteria to be officers with only one aim – giving used? I don’t profess to have the ideal priority to sportsmen and enhancing formula, but at a time when we are the image of the school. Those days, crying at how the level of sports has sports was the passport to education dropped in this country, shouldn’t in the best school and a “good job”. it be used as a yardstick? Over the Yesterday, I received this email years, I have heard arguments from from one reader: “My son achieved parents of sportsmen who say: “If my son had put all his effort on his books instead of dividing his time between studies and sports, he could have achieved better results. So, where is the reward for being in sports?” But again, the real issue is: What level of competence has the student achieved in his chosen sport? Playing for Blue House is a non-starter, but if the student was a Tam Chiew Seng or a Sri Shanmuganathan, shouldn’t he be given a scholarship, even if he did not meet the minimum academic requirements? No one should complain if Nicol David is given a scholarship to pursue her studies after she retires from squash. Never mind the fact that she earns prize money. She sacrificed her education for sports and in the process, brought fame and glory to the country. She deserves it. Similarly, shouldn’t a student who finishes as the top trainee in the National Service programme be given priority or one who has represented the country at an international quiz or debate? What about those who have excelled in other fields such as music or the arts? The reason for the unhappiness is that the public has no knowledge on the weightage, if any, given to co-curricular activities. Understandably, a few hundred places are allocated to students from Sabah and Sarawak and from poor families. No one begrudges that. This problem can be solved if the whole system of selecting the scholars is made transparent. I have been told that the PSD invites professionals like doctors and engineers to conduct the interviews. No one will take umbrage to that. Any misconception people have in their minds must be dispelled by making everything open – a trait which is rarely seen these days. The PSD must set the example of putting everything on the table for all to see. That will put an end to all the moans and groans.

What’s a secret between friends?
by Daniel Chandranayagam

TUCKED away from reports of the political and legal wrangles in Perak, I found a little nugget reported by Bernama. The title was “Russia makes monthly jobless data secret”. According to the story, Russia’s statistics office intends to keep secret the monthly jobless data because the soaring unemployment rates in the country Where young views rule affect consumer confidence and pose a threat to social stability. Nevertheless, Russia will still reveal jobless rates every quarter. Reuters’s calculates that unemployment rates hit 11.9% in March. About 500,000 Russians lost their jobs in January, 300,000 in February, and the latest data suggest Islamic a record of 700,000 in March. banks’ Although the Human Resources Ministry has been assets open about unemployment rates, it was not lost on me that Malaysia could make unemployment rates an official exceed secret, no questions asked. US$600b After all, other commercial and investment data have pg 14 been classified as “official secrets”, including the water concessions agreement, the auditor’s report on the water concessions agreement, toll concessions agreements and the Port Klang Free Trade Zone agreement, among others. Who knows, this might be just the tip of the iceberg. The Official Secrets Act, read in context, seems to me clearly about spying, the protection and defence of our nation. Section 2B of the Act gives a minister, the mentri besar or the chief minister of a state the power to appoint any public officer to classify any official document, information or material as “top secret”, “secret”, “confidential” or “restricted”. A cursory glance at the Act does not reveal a section which states what may not be classified as an official secret. As such, almost anything can be an official secret. But with the current climate of consumer and public distrust, social activism and transparency via the Internet, it is hard to understand why any administration or corporation would want to classify its commercial data as an official secret. With Web We believe that the young 2.0 at full speed, information is at the should have a say in how things tip of one’s fingers. are run, because they have eveOne would think rything at stake in our future. businesses would This column creates that space observe IBM for our panel of bright young Global Business Services’ Steven sparks to debate a whole range Davidson advice of issues that they feel strongly R. Nadeswaran is editor (special and “to be open, about. investigative reporting) at theSun. rather than be he can be reached at: citizen-nades@ pried open.” thesundaily.com According to business experts, investors want “more” and “better” financial information from companies. Transparency is an assurance – less information means less certainty to investors. Being less transparent means letters@thesundaily.com there is something to hide. And from recent events, surely the non-disclosure of commercial reasons, only for a scandalous discovery later, would mean damage to a business’ (and politician’s) reputation? Being transparent is now vital for “branding”. Businesses are beginning to disclose all policies, and to explain to the public and their employees why a certain approach is taken. Contemporary businesses no longer look for WE refer to reports of a fire in “customers”, but for “fans”, “friends” and “evangelists”. Bukit Gasing on May 9. We An emotional connection needs to be made, and this can would like to stress that Gasing only be achieved by being open. Meridian Sdn Bhd has been a Being transparent gives the business itself clarity. strong advocate of safety and has According to business experts, by operating a business been warning about the implicawith complete transparency, managers will be able to tions of intrusion since our very evaluate the business constantly so that they (and invesfirst community advisory. tors and employees) are aware of where the business is Periodic monitoring rounds heading, as well as the details of the business’s growth by GM’s personnel continue to and development. In short, knowing that full disclosure is confirm that many unauthoravailable to the public keeps the business efficient. ised persons are still running So it is time for businesses to say “no” to the clasthrough the area including our sification of its documents as “official secrets”. It is time property. for public officials to say “no” to classifying commercial We will of course continue to decisions as “official secrets”. maintain our security measures, Malaysia has reached a stage of development where but this is made much more there is no more room for the Official Secrets Act to exdifficult without the protective ist, except and only in the context of state security and hoarding which certain neighdefence. One wonders how much longer the public will bours are adamantly protesting accept the current state of affairs before taking their about. intolerance of it to the ballot box. We thank the support of We have grown up. Let’s get rid of our toys.

Freespace

letter

Firm puts safety first

those of our neighbours who are well aware of the importance of proper fencing. Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd Via email

Daniel freelances in writing and publishing, and has a deep passion for sleeping, eating and labour law. He can be reached at pottedplot.com.