Chinese Malaysians are currently engaged in furious cili-padi hot char koay teow*-ing over the alleged scandal of kickbacks for school principals through the half a billion ringgit per annum school books sales.
* char koay teow is a type of stir fried noodles, where reference to its stir-frying action implies a destablised situation of acrimonious wrangling
Teh Hon Seng, vice-chairperson of the Petaling Parents Association worked out that each year a student incurs around RM 780 for books, stationery, computer classes and tuition arranged by the school. Since there are 650,000 students in all Chinese primary schools, the total cost would amount to half a billion ringgit annually. Assuming the standard 30% percent commission is paid out, the schools should have received RM 100 million.
He asked: “Where has the money gone? Why is it not recorded in the accounts of the school committee or that of the Parent-Teacher Association?”
Bearing in mind that the main role of Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association) has always been to source financial support if the school does not receive sufficient assistance from the government, the RM 100 million should have gone to the kitty of the association and NOT the pockets of individuals.
However the accused, the National Union of Chinese Schools Headmasters alleged that Teh’s attack on them has been nothing more than a move by Dong Zong to regain authority over the awarding of canteen tenders. But parents have also questioned the possibility of conflict of interests where the headmasters could make students buy more study material than are necessary because of the commission
Previously Dong Zong had looked after the school properties and canteens and thus controlled the tendering process but in recent years, much to the chagrin of the Chinese community, its powers have been reduced when it was forced to transfer most of this duty to the school headmasters
Ong Koh Hou, chairperson of the SRJK(C) Chin Woo school committee, part of Dong Zong and playing the role of a supervisory body, accused the headmasters of pocketing the commission when it ought to go to the association general fund where it would benefit schools and students. He was so incensed that he put up a reward of RM 500,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to evidence of such selfish and questionable business relationship between the book vendors and headmasters.
That’s when he hit the first snag. Most of the Chinese mainstream newspapers refused to accept his paid advertisement, which he wanted to run for 3 days, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the MCA controlled newspapers are afraid the accusations, and even worse, evidence provided by potential whistleblowers, may blow up into serious political disadvantaged for the party, and secondly, the vendors/providers of the textbooks and study paraphernalia are the newspapers themselves.
However, China Press, of recent Squatgate fame, has now agreed to publish Ong’s advertisement offering the reward of half a million. But it conceded it may encounter some 'difficulties'.
There are 4 parties in the Chinese char koay keow shindig – namely, the group of school headmaster, the Chinese newspapers (some being the vendors of the study material), Dong Zong, and the Chinese community.
I believe it will be in the interest of the Chinese media to side Dong Zong in this unhappy affair because the Chinese community wants it that way.
The newspapers-book publishers would still have their sales, and MCA could then continue to enjoy the Chinese support. I don’t believe that the interests of those who now benefited from the commission have been of any benefit to the greater Chinese Malaysian education.
The choice for MCA and the newspapers is fairly clear.