Prime Minister Najib Razak must be the happiest person on planet earth when his wife, Rosmah Mansor or Auntie Rosy, received her scroll along with 500 other graduating students from Curtin University. Auntie Rosy is now Dr Auntie Rosy or Dr First Lady Auntie Rosy after the Australian university conferred (or rather “rewarded”?) her the honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Gosh, this is a credential that is better than orgasm – not even her hubby, the prime minister of Malaysia has the honour of being addressed as “Dr”.
Auntie Rosy was rewarded the doctorate in recognition of her efforts in the development of education, particularly children’s education through her pet project – the Permata Negara programme. Permata programme was supposed to provide opportunities to children below five years of age from rural and urban families in the lower socio-economic group to experience a holistic learning environment. But if the Early Childhood Education and Care Programme or better known as ECEC was so noble, why Curtin University’s latest action attracted so much criticism?
The university has apologised for referring Auntie Rosy as “First Lady” in its media statements but nevertheless stand by its decision to grant the honorary doctorate. However that doesn’t seems to cool down the public uproar simply because many Malaysians do not think the prime minister’s wife deserve it. To start with, the Permata programme was given special privilege by the PM in his yearly budget – RM100 million and RM111 million in 2010 and 2011 Budget respectively. There’re speculations that as much as RM2 billion of taxpayers money has been channelled to Permata.
Naturally the perception that huge “leakages” happened to the taxpayers money when RM10 million was allocated to each centre but in actual fact the setup cost requires only RM60,000, at least that was the opinion of insiders involved in Permata project. Even if a property is purchased instead, it would be less than RM1 million for each centre. If one can remember, such Permata programme resemble similarity to once controversial Malaysian National Service Training Programme which is costing taxpayers money to the tune of not less than RM500 million annually (and counting) since it started in 2004. Hence, the same problem of inflated purchases, supplies contract awarded to family members and whatnot.
Netizens via Facebook blasted Curtin University with some ridiculed the standard of the university with some openly expressed regret going to the university. Surely anybody can do what Auntie Rosy has done, if not better, given the mind-boggling RM2 billion allocation. Interestingly former prime minister Abdullah Badawi was conferred an honorary doctorate in technology from the same Curtin University back in 2006 without much public uproar, nevermind the former premier knows nuts about technology (*grin*).
Actually, it’s not that difficult to understand why Curtin University has to suck up to the present Malaysia government considering millions of dollars in public funding has been channelled to the university, not to mention former Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister George Chan is the chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Council together with Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s BioValley Park Project finger-prints all over Curtin Sarawak. But are there more reasons as to why the woman who is known to crazily collecting Hermes Birkin bags (as if she was racing against time to beat Victoria Beckham’s collection of 100 Birkin bags) was conferred the doctorate?
Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, needed and appreciated Malaysia’s help in deterring thousands of people making sea journeys to its soil under a “The Malaysian Solution” deal. An initial attempt to exchange 800 asylum seekers to Australia with 4,000 registered refugees in Malaysia was scuttled by Australian High Court because Malaysia has not signed the UN refugee convention, not to mention Canberra could not ensure protection for asylum seekers sent to Malaysia. Human rights groups alleged that Malaysia had a consistently bad record in the treatment of refugee and asylum seekers. Fortunately, Julia Gillard was forced to dump the Malaysian plan because she did not have the numbers to change migration laws to allow the refugee swap.
Lynas Corporation Ltd (ASX: LYC), an Australian Securities Exchange 100 listed company, is currently in hot air over its RM1 billion investment in Gebeng industrial zone, Kuantan. Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis tried his marketing gimmick justifying that the rare earths refinery project would benefit the next generation of Malaysians and radioactive thorium is as safe as hamburger but that doesn’t amuse local protestors. One can’t blame the locals especially after the past experience in similar Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant in Bukit Merah that eventually closed down in 1992 after sustained public protests.
Thanks to former prime minister Mahathir who almost swear on his mother’s grave that the plant in Bukit Merah was as safe as Kentucky Fried Chicken during his rule, the plant is still undergoing a RM300 million cleanup exercise and has been linked to at least eight cases of leukemia, with seven resulting in death. It also doesn’t help that the Lynas project was done in a highly “secretive” manner, not to mention Lynas plant, which would be the world’s biggest refinery for rare earths, will produce 20,000 tonnes of radioactive waste annually – 10 times more than the previous Bukit Merah’s Asian Rare Earth factory.
Worse still, Lynas plant in Kuantan is being built with undisclosed subsidy of taxpayers money, with “pioneer status” including 12-year tax free exemption thrown in. New York Times reported that insider engineers claimed there are structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in many of the concrete shells for 70 containment tanks, some of which are larger than double-decker buses. Engineers also claimed steel piping ordered for the plant is made from standard steel instead of costlier stainless steel or steel piping with ceramic or rubber liners.
Another claim – concrete tanks were built using conventional concrete, not the much costlier polymer concrete mixed with plastic that is widely used in refineries in the West to reduce the chance of cracks. Memos also show that Lynas have pressured a Malaysian contractor, Cradotex, to proceed with the installation of watertight fiberglass liners designed for the containment tanks without fixing the moisture problem and with limited fixes to the walls.
Lynas is obviously an important project to both Australian and Malaysian government. Lynas projects the plant will generate some RM8 billion in annual revenue by 2013. The company also agreed to pay 0.05 percent of the plant’s revenue each year to the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board for radiation research. Time is running out as Lynas is expected to begin refining rare earths shipped from its $100 million mine in Mount Weld, Western Australia, by the second quarter of this year.
Furthermore, Australia’s ROC Oil Co Ltd (ASX: ROC) was awarded the Balai Cluster oil field located offshore Sarawak by Petronas back in Aug 2011, a 15-year Small Field Risk Service Contract (SFRSC) project spanning two phases costing US$200 – US$250 million and US$650 – US$700 million for each phase respectively. The Australian company has just started and you can expect more projects to be awarded to it with the close relationship between Najib administration and Gillard administration. Therefore Gillard administration has to suck up to PM Najib Razak.
So, with billions of dollars in business deals ranging from university funding to radioactive thorium factory on the table do you really need to be Einstein to figure out why Auntie Rosy was rewarded with a piece of doctorate from Curtin University? Heck, it was a small price to pay in exchange for billions in Australian dollars of profits. Who cares if it cheapens the university’s standard as long as money changes hands, despite the allegations of Auntie Rosy’s $24 million diamond ring and the murder of Mongolian model?
Furthermore Auntie Rosy helps Australian economy by spending $100,000 at one Sydney fashion boutique in January. Yes, it’s all about business and money, and to think Curtin University has its own (high) standard to protect is simply naive. Curtin University is about business. Lynas is about business. ROC Oil is about business. And of course Rosmah’s shopping spree is also about (tourism *grin*) business, never mind it’s not from her own pocket. So which part of this that you don’t understand?
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