Lim makes a point at the forum. With him are Nik Nazmi (centre) and Pua. — Picture by Jacky Ooi
By Melissa Loovi
KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is urging the Cabinet to issue a directive to ensure all top scorers in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination be given Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships.
It should also disclose the full criteria and list of recipients, PR leaders demanded at a public forum on the PSD scholarship issue last night.
"If not, then the Najib Cabinet is even worse than the ‘half-past six’ Cabinet of the previous PM Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as condemned by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad," DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said of Datuk Seri Najib Razak's administration.
Lim was referring to a statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in March when he said that if a top scorer was not granted a scholarship, it would be an "injustice."
If necessary, the Ipoh Timur MP said PR would support a supplementary budget Bill in Parliament to increase the allocation for PSD scholarships from RM700 million to RM1 billion to ensure that all top scorers received scholarships.
He added that making public the criteria and recipients of the 10,000 local and 2,000 overseas scholarships "in the name of fairness, accountability and transparency is the least that the Cabinet should do at its meeting" today.
Other PR leaders present also reiterated that a full review and revamp of the current system is required, stressing an emphasis on merit over other considerations.
PKR's Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad also called for more transparency in the process of awarding the scholarships, pointing out that the funding for the scholarships came from the taxpayers.
"It is the taxpayers' money after all, so we should ensure that the best and brightest people get the scholarships in a transparent manner," said the political secretary to Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.
DAP's youth wing chief Anthony Loke stressed that while certain allocations had been made, such as 20 per cent of scholarships being awarded based on merit, the issue remained that terms such as "merit" or "disadvantaged" were not made clear to the public.
"We want transparency so that the full list of JPA scholarships are made known to the public and we have raised this in Parliament, only to be told ‘the process is fair and just but we don't reveal names’," said the Rasah MP.
His sentiments were echoed by Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkifli Ahmad. "What is the status of rights in Malaysia if even matters of education cannot be resolved in a just manner?"
The PAS research chief added that meritocracy is "universal and very Islamic" and expressed his disappointment that young Malaysians were "subjected to this kind of poor leadership and governance."
DAP information chief Tony Pua suggested several reforms for the government to consider in light of the annual bout of appeals from school-leavers whose seemingly excellent academic qualifications have not been enough to guarantee scholarships.
"Why not allow the students to apply for university placements first so that these renowned institutions can process their application before our governments awards the scholarships?" asked the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.
Pua added that using STPM, A-levels or pre-university results rather than SPM would also help with the issue of too few scholarships for an ever-increasing slew of straight A students.