KUCHING (April 21): The Kuching High Court hearing in a defamation suit involving entrepreneur Dato Richard Wee against attorney Michael Kong has been told that the federal government – be it Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN) or Perikatan Nasional (PN) – has not contributed enough to the development of Chinese language schools.
Witness 14 Chai Voon Tok, also a Chinese lawyer and educationist, said this during re-examination conducted by plaintiff’s lawyer Shankar Ram before Judge Dr Alwi Abdul Wahab yesterday.
Shankar asked Chai if the defense attorney, Chong Chieng Jen, during cross-examination tried to imply that the previous PH government gave better grants to these schools.
Shankar: Do you know if any Chinese institution, school or college has faced a situation where they received lesser grants? Mr. Chong’s line of questioning is to show that PH was giving better grants to Chinese schools.
Chai : As I said, there were Chinese schools that needed grants but were not satisfied by the governments of PH, BN or even PN now.
Chai explained that there was a time when the BN government allocated more than the PH government if the amount of funding was considered.
“But the important issue that is at the heart of the Chinese community is the recognition of UEC,” he said, referring to the unified examination certificate.
“It was something the PH government promised in its election manifesto, but it failed to deliver.”
During direct examination by Shankar earlier, Chai, 56, said he regarded Wee highly.
“Yes, I consider the Applicant (Wee) to be an influential Chinese leader in Sarawak by the fact that he is the President of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Sarawak (FCAS) and over the years he has assisted and been instrumental in obtaining funding for Chinese schools in Sarawak from the government.
Notably in 2014, he helped secure RM3 million for independent colleges in Sarawak from the state government under the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem, which was later increased by RM1 million per annum, and RM10 million last year.
“Furthermore, the Complainant was instrumental in the recognition of UEC by the Government of Sarawak, which means that UEC graduates can apply for state civil service jobs.
“Furthermore, as chairman of FCAS, he helped secure state government approval for the disposition of prime land behind the Spring Mall for FCAS to build its office” , Chai said.
He testified that Wee also helped the Chinese community secure the alienation of state land of about 40 acres in Samarahan for the Sarawak Independent Colleges Board of Management, in addition to numerous donations made to non-governmental organizations and schools. . during the last years.
During cross-examination of Chong, Chai said that the previous PH government had delayed recognition of the UEC.
Chang: Am I correct in saying that the creation of the special review committee by the PH government was an attempt by the PH government to address this problem?
Chai : I do not agree. To me, that’s a delaying tactic.
Chang: Before the PH government took over the federal government, was there a committee set up by the then BN government to deal with this problem?
Chai : Not that I know of.
Chang: Have you ever wondered why this UEC recognition problem can’t be solved from the 1980s to 2018, when the BN was the federal government?
Chai : As a Chinese educationist, I have repeatedly criticized BN for not recognizing UEC. I think that’s why we voted for PH as a government.
Chang: You said ‘…we voted in the PH as a government…’ Am I correct in saying that it was a five-year term for a government?
Chai : Yes. But I don’t think it will take five years to have the UEC recognised.
Chang: Since the fall of the PH government in February 2020 when the PN became the federal government until now, has the UEC been recognized?
Chai : No.
Chang: You mentioned earlier that the applicant was instrumental in getting the Sarawak government grant for Chinese colleges since 2014. Am I correct in saying that there was no State Government Allocation for Chinese Colleges Before 2014?
Chai : No annual subsidy as such. But I believe that the state government has contributed to Chinese schools through ministers and YBs (elected representatives) from their development allocation.
Chang: Am I correct in saying that before the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem took the helm as Chief Minister of Sarawak, there was no annual grant for Chinese schools, but a few ad hoc grants from individual ministers and elected representatives?
Chai : Yes.
Chang: Similarly, for the federal government before PH took over as the federal government in 2018, there was also no annual allocation for Chinese colleges, am I correct in saying that?
Chai : Yes.
Chang: After PH took power as the federal government, the PH government gave an annual allowance to Chinese schools, am I right in saying that?
Chai : It is intended for Chinese independent schools (Chinese middle schools) because before PH took over from the federal government, the then BN government provided a maintenance grant to Chinese primary schools nationwide.
Chang: Am I correct in saying that after taking over the federal government, the PH government not only continued to provide maintenance grants to Chinese primary schools nationwide, but this grant was also included for development purposes and that the total amount of the allowance has been increased by the years?
Chai : I think you have to look at the year you are referring to because there were one or two years when the BN government provided RM100 million for the Chinese Primary School Maintenance Grant in the country.
Chang: Are you saying one or two years out of decades of BN government ruling the country?
Chai : I am just pointing out the fact because if we want to compare the subsidy given by the PH government with the year or years when the BN government provided RM100 million then you cannot say that the PH government increased the subsidy in itself.
Chang: How much was the subsidy amount for Chinese primary schools from the PH government for the year 2019?
Chai : If I remember correctly it was still RM50m but definitely not more than RM100m.
When told that in 2019, the federal government of PH gave more than RM100 million in allocation to Chinese primary schools nationwide, Chai replied, “I think I have to look at how the allocation of fund was categorized.”
Chai also said he disagreed with Chong’s suggestion that the PH government’s grant disbursement mechanism was faster and more efficient than the previous BN government.
When asked if he knew that UEC is recognized by the state government as an equivalent of SPM or STPM, Chai replied, “I just know that UEC is recognized and since the release of the announcement by the state government, they (UEC holders) are allowed to apply for a job in the state civil service.
“The government has not clarified whether UEC is equivalent to SPM or STPM,” he added.
Chang: Do you know that the job of any SPM holder in the public service will have a lower pay scale or benefits than those of the STPM holders who is of a higher level than SPM?
Chai : I think so.
Chang: Refer to your Witness Statement, Attachment B of your CV under “Public Sector Appointments” (b) where you have been appointed as a member of Samudah by the Government of Sarawak since 2012 with the aim of improving the provision of civil service in Sarawak. As a member of Samudah since 2012, wouldn’t you know the salary scale of an employee of the said government holding different diplomas?
Chai : No, because the employment of civil servants falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. Samudah only deals with complaints in the delivery of public service.
Chang: As a Chinese educator concerned about Chinese college graduates and their job prospects after graduating from Chinese college, shouldn’t you be worried about the compensation that the state government might offer them or the status that the state government attaches to their CUE on their employment?
Chai : I believe the management councils of Chinese colleges have looked into the matter and for those who have knowledge in the development of Chinese education in Sarawak, I focus mainly on Chinese primary schools. Even then, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any concerns about the status of the UEC. I will definitely look into the matter.
Wee is suing Kong after the latter allegedly disparaged his reputation as a successful businessman and educator via a Facebook post on July 21, 2020.
Chai is the chairman of the management board of Chung Hua No. 1, 2, 3 4 5 and 6 elementary school in Kuching, and also the chairman of the management board of Kuching Chinese elementary school, Samarahan and Serian working with Wee to solve all the problems. concerning primary and secondary schools in Sarawak.
Attorneys Russell Lim and Yu Ying Ying are assisting Shankar, while Chong is assisted by attorneys Sim Kiat Leng and Brenda Chong.