Monday 26 September 2011

Najib: ‘Sin’ money for schools

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced today that some RM100 million of gambling profit will be channelled to vernacular and mission schools.

Amid speculation that national polls would be held in the next six months, the announcement is likely to be interpreted as Najib’s effort to regain non-Malay support.

Vernacular schools often complained about lack of funding and support from Putrajaya. The Najib administration knows that education funding is one of the major issues that could draw support particularly from the Chinese electorate.

Najib said the funds would be distributed in close consultation with the government and Barisan Nasional component parties to ensure fair distribution.

The announcement was made at the launching of the “Community Chest” fund run by a consortium of tycoons that paid over RM2 billion for billionaire T Ananda Krishnan’s Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd (PMP) in July. It would be spearheaded by Lim Kok Tay of gambling giant Genting Bhd.

Others on the board of trustees are Genting deputy chairman Hanif Omar, Quek Leng Chan of the Hong Leong group, Lion Group boss William Cheng and Westport’s G Gnanalingam.

As much as RM26 million have been pumped into 61 vernacular schools as of today while Najib said a minimum of RM100 million would be channelled annually beginning next year.

The fund was modelled after Hong Kong’s Community Chest, a non-profit organisation that bankrolled community projects.

The initiative came amid the Chinese’s continuous snub of national schools in favour of Chinese-language primary schools. They believe the schools provide better quality education despite the lack of support from the government.

The Singapore Straits Times reported last month that financial executives involved in the deal believe it could improve BN’s standing among the Chinese and Indian electorate.

Flagging non-Malay support contributed to the ruling coalition’s dismal performance in the landmark 2008 general election where BN lost its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament and five states.

Meanhwile, Najib said Putrajaya would work on creating a “creative solution” to complement the government’s efforts to ensure access to quality education for all.

“We cannot meet all the needs of the community but it is important that new models are initiated to achieve government targets,” he said at the Confucian Chinese School here.

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