Tuesday, 2 June 2009

New Era College row: The betrayal of DJZ, Pt 3

New Era College row: The betrayal of DJZ, Pt 3

http://www.malaysiakini.com/opinions/105639

Kua Kia Soong | Jun 2, 09 2:14pm
This book on the New Era College (NEC) controversy details how Dong Zong chairperson Yap Sin Tia executed ‘Operation Axe Kua’ in their attempt to discredit and oust me as the college principal.
MCPX

It reveals his control strategies and hidden agendas and ultimately the erosion of confidence in his leadership.

On Oct 20, 2006, Goh Kean Seng, the Confucian school headmaster confided in me that Yap had asked his opinion about me since my annual contract was nearing renewal.

yap sin tian djz chairman hq 030805Yap (right) had indicated to Goh that I was “a bit of an impediment”, and had been going round saying that he was the chairperson of the board but had no power to touch NEC funds.

I told Goh that Yap had not divulged the real story. What had happened was that at one board meeting, Yap had wanted to use the college Endowment (sponsors’) Fund for the use of the parent company, DJZ Higher Learning Centre Bhd (DJZHLC).

I had opposed this because, I said, this was a breach of sponsors’ trust who had donated specifically for the college use. Again, this became another example used by the directors to say that the CEO had too much power, even more powerful than the chairperson of the Board

Through their sabotage in casting doubt on the management of the college, Yap and his cronies have done irreparable harm to the college. The enrolment this year has dropped. Many donors have indicated that they will not donate any more funds. Yap and the other directors had destroyed the principles of the college even before I left.

1. The whole controversy exploded because Yap ordered our heads of department out of the June 14 meeting of the Board of Governors. This was a breach of the democratic practice of not only the college but also the whole Chinese education movement.

2. Yap, as chairperson of the Board of Directors, had shown contempt for the Board of Governors by failing to schedule any meetings since August 2008, despite the need to approve urgent college agenda. Even though the Board of Governors is the only college body recognised as accountable by the Higher Education Ministry and therefore we could have easily obtained an injunction against the directors, we chose not to, in deference to an appeal by our elder, Sim Mow Yu.

3. Yap has taken away the checks and balance from the college governors by concentrating the power to sign cheques in the hands of the directors of the parent company. He has destroyed a democratic practice established in 1998. There is now no transparency and accountability. Three years ago, I prevented Yap from using the Endowment Fund of the college for the purposes of the DJZHLC.

4. Yap has violated the autonomy of the campus by overriding the CEO of the college and demanding a head of department to ‘show cause’ as to why he sent an email to the press. As in Dong Zong, Yap has interfered in the running of the college. According to the spirit of the Instrument of Government of the college, the CEO is in charge of the college. The Private Higher Education Institution Act 1996 stipulates that the CEO is responsible to the Registrar-General.

5. Yap and the directors have, for the first time in the history of the Chinese education movement, compromised its cherished political independence, through their actions regarding the college. First they allowed the MCA, through the deputy minister of higher education, to intervene in the NEC controversy with various offers to me and my heads of department, and saying that the government has the right to intervene.

The lawyer he has employed to sue Goh is a MCA lawyer. His apologist in the parent company’s Higher Education Committee is Chua Yee Yan, another MCA man. But their historic compromise was seen in their joint caper with the MCA leaders and then Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo just before the last general election when they signed a MOU on the Sepang project.

6. As soon as the new principal assumed office in mid-January this year, he changed the weekly management review meetings into monthly meetings. This is in line with the disempowerment of the heads of department started by the directors last June. Thus, decisions are no longer collectively and democratically made. Worse, he has even given over the power to decide on minor posts (e.g. transferring a technician to another department) to the chairperson of the Board.

Account for Sepang campus

The Sepang project has been dragging on since 2000 when Hong Leong announced that it was donating a 100-acre piece of land to NEC. At the time, we all supported Quek Suan Hiang, the Dong Zong chairperson, for accepting the offer mainly because Hong Leong was fully supporting us – they actively raised funds for us, putting donation boxes in all their branches and they were the manager of the project. They even invited Andy Lau to come for a fund-raising concert in 2001 when RM2 million was raised.

However, in 2001, after the authorities had ordered the cancellation of the launching ceremony of the Sepang project, Hong Leong began to pull back. They stopped raising funds for us and also pulled out as project manager.

When it came to the renewal of the contract, we decided that we could not accept the contract as it stood, because this would mean we would be raising funds on our own and we would have to have the land in our name before the public would donate to the project. The negotiations over the contract have continued since then.

At the end of 2004, we faced a crisis over whether to proceed with the Sepang project. There were problems over extending the agreement. It was risky because the agreement was not in our favour. Hong Leong had backed out of being the project manager and wanted us to take full responsibility for this. They also wanted us to foot the bill for the infrastructural work.

On the Sepang project, it must be put down on record that in the January-February 2007 report of the parent company DJZHLC, the contract had been almost fixed. At the Feb 5, 2008 Executive Directors’ meeting, the Sepang contract had already been accepted and the directors were ready to sign the new contract.

selangor adun ceremony 220408 khir toyoOn Feb 19, 2008 at Wisma MCA, Yap signed the MOU with Vintage Heights together with MCA ministers and Khir (left), with Quek as witness. It was front page news in all the Chinese dailies. It was clearly an orchestrated press event to give the impression that the MCA/BN was supporting Dong Jiao Zong and the college. The MOU stipulated that the contract would be signed within three months.

It was obviously an attempt by the BN with the cooption of Yap and the other Dong Jiao Zong leaders to try to swing the Chinese votes to the BN during the March 2008 general election.

At the April 28, 2008 Executive Directors meeting, it was minuted that the Sepang contract would be signed before May 19, 2008.

After the college management had expressed our opposition to the terms of the new contract that had been negotiated by the College ‘legal adviser’, the June 6, 2008 Executive Directors’ meeting expressed the view that they could not accept the contract stipulation that construction of the campus had to be completed within 15 years and that each phase had to be completed within 3-5 years.

education quek hin siang farewell 080805 talkingOtherwise, Vintage Heights had the right to take back the land or buildings that had not yet received the Certificate of Fitness. The meeting resolved to write to Quek (right) for assistance.

Then at the June 14, 2008 Board of Directors meeting, I pointed out that the college must have the right to develop anywhere it likes apart from Sepang. At this meeting, I pointed out that I had already submitted to the board the City Campus concept with the Kajang campus as its centre. This would have the advantage of attracting more students since it is nearer to KL and the transportation routes.

At this meeting, it was resolved that it should be left to a committee of professionals to evaluate the Sepang project and the result should be reported to the public. The problem with the Sepang campus is not only that of the quality of the Sepang land but also the problem of attracting students to such a distant campus and the feasibility of development there.

The meeting resolved to let a committee comprising the three organisations, ie. Dong Zong, Jiao Zong and Merdeka University Bhd, follow up with Vintage Heights before deciding what to do with the land.

It is now nearly a year and Yap has still not accounted to the Chinese community on the Sepang project.

At the June 9, 2007 Board of Directors meeting, I pointed out that the Sepang contract had been dragging on long enough with new problems being raised every time. As such, it would be more advisable for us to consider a ‘city campus’ concept around Kajang. The meeting requested I put forward a concrete proposal.

We put forward this more practical ‘city campus’ project which Yap had refused to discuss. Our development plan around Kajang is popular among stakeholders as it increases our accessibility, deepens our community involvement and requires a lighter investment from the Chinese community.

Yap must explain why he does not want to discard the Sepang project. Does he have any personal interest in this?

The four-part series will conclude tomorrow.

Read Part 1 and Part 2

KUA KIA SOONG was the principal of New Era College (2000- 2008). He has also been opposition member of parliament for Petaling Jaya (1990-95); political detainee under the ISA (1987-89) and academic adviser to Dong Jiao Zong (1983-85). He is the author of ‘May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969' and ‘New Era College Controversy: The Betrayal of Dong Jiao Zong’.



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