(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The time has come for Ministers and government leaders to show that they are serious about K-society and K-economy by giving K-speeches and K-statements, which are based on knowledge and information, instead of giving S-speeches and S-statements - speeches and statements which are downright stupid or regard the listeners or readers as stupid.
The latest example of such a S-statement was the New Straits Times report today under the heading "Students in rural areas won’t be left out - Musa: Computer education at all schools", which states:
"Said Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad: ‘If there is no electricity in the schools, then we will provide the generators'."
"’We will make the arrangement to ensure that the students are not deprived of this education.’"
"He was speaking after launching the Intel-Teach To The Future programme, run in collaboration between the Ministry and Intel Malaysia at Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu Melaka in Durian Daun today. It is also supported by Microsoft Corporation.
"For schools with no telephone lines, the Ministry will provide them with mobile phones or the latest communication products so that the students can access the Internet."
"Such efforts were ongoing, Musa said, adding that most schools in the rural areas had been equipped with computers, except for a few schools in Sabah and Sarawak."
Musa’s S-statement made light of the grave problem of digital divide particularly affecting the rural schools, a problem which the DAP had highlighted in the past five years.
Four-and-a-half years ago, in the parliamentary debate on the Seventh Malaysia Plan in May 1996, I expressed shock and outrage at the high figure of 25 secondary schools and 1,295 primary schools in the country without electricity and called for an emergency programme to ensure that they were all supplied with power so that they would not be left out of the information revolution.
In the Royal Address debate in March 1997, I declared that it was a national scandal that three years before the new millennium and at a time when Malaysia was promoting the Multimedia Super Corridor in the world arena to attract companies with cutting-edge technologies to come to Malaysia, there were 883 schools totally without power supply and 440 schools with limited power supply.
I had proposed in Parliament that the government should launch a Schools Electrificiation Programme 2000 to provide steady power supply to all the 1,273 schools without electricity or with only limited power supply by this year.
I also urged MPs from all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional or the Opposition, to take a clear-cut common stand to demand that all schools in Malaysia, whether in the most remote areas in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or Sarawak, should be supplied with power by year 2000 and that the Education Ministry should give a progress report at every Parliamentary meeting as to the number of schools without power supply which had been provided with electricity and the number of schools with limited power which had been given steady and continuous electricity.
But neither Barisan Nasional MPs nor Ministers were really interested about the full electrification of all schools in the country in the past four to five years, as it ranked very low in their order of priorities.
In his 2001 Budget speech, Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin said that "By the end of year 2001, all schools with electricity supply and telephones are expected to be equipped with computers and software" under the government’s computer literacy programme.
However, Daim made a significant omission - he did not say when all schools in the country would be provided with electricity supply and telephones as to be able to be connected to the Internet. This is proof that the Finance Minister is also quite adept at making S-speeches and S-statements.
Can the Education Minister give a full list of the number of schools in the country which are still (I)without electricity; and (ii) with only limited power supply and when all the schools in the country would be supplied with electricity and connected to the Internet?
Musa’s irresponsible and meaningless S-statement yesterday about the full electrification and Internet-connection of all schools is most deplorable as the Education Minister should belong to the group which should be most serious and concerned about the digital divide in the country, especially considering a recent study by the National Information Technology Council (NITC) which highlighted: