How to resolve the TARUC funding dilemma — Chong Zhemin

DECEMBER 10 — Sabah MCA Wanita Chief Dr Pamela Yong who is also sitting on the board of governors of TARUC (Tunku Abdul Rahman University College) yesterday wrote a scathing opinion piece to attack the government decision to allocate RM40 million funding to a new foundation without political background to provide financial assistance to TARUC students. However, she conveniently left out the main issue of TARUC funding — can government provide public funds to a foundation owned by political party?

If the answer is positive, can the government now freely allocate public funds to any political party or foundation owned by political parties? This is why in line with the basic principle of governance, the government has decided to channel the funding to a new education foundation without political background to avoid any political interference in deciding the distribution of funds.

TARC was started by MCA in 1972 to reject Merdeka University

Pamela Yong only told half the story of TARC (Tunku Abdul Rahman College) history. TARC was started in 1972 due to MCA’s rejection of Merdeka University which was the main wishes of the Chinese community at that time. To quote former MCA president Tun Tan Siew Sin, “It is easier for hell to freeze than the Merdeka University to be established in this country.” Such that was the MCA stand of Merdeka University that MCA is willing to go against the wishes of the majority Chinese community.

It was under this political background that TARC was founded. MCA also come to an agreement with Umno that the government will provide a RM1 to RM1 funding to TARC to reward MCA for its stance to oppose Merdeka University. This funding is not a binding social contract between the government and the people as described by MCA but just a political compromise between Umno and MCA.

However, this RM1 to RM1 funding was breached when TARC was upgraded to TARUC in 2013 to a maximum annual government funding of RM60 million. This amount was halved in 2017 and 2018 to RM30 million. Why was MCA silent on the shrinking amount of funding back then?

TARUC was privatised by MCA in 2013

When TARC was established back in 1972 it was owned by KTAR Trust Fund, a public trust. However, when TARC was upgraded to TARUC in 2013, the KTAR Trust Fund was transferred to TARC Education Foundation, a private Trust where all 15 voting members comprises of MCA current and former leaders.

MCA must explain why the public trust was quietly transferred to a private trust without public knowledge in 2013. Most of the TARUC funds come from public donations and government funds and it is morally wrong for MCA to privatise TARUC.

TARUC Board of Trustee comprises of all MCA leaders

Pamela Yong also mention that government reps sit on the board of governors, however the most powerful decision-making body in TARUC is the Board of Trustees where all major decision on capital expenditures, operating expenditures and other major expenses need absolute approval from the Board of Trustees. All eight members of the board of Trustees comprise of MCA leaders.

There is also a convention that the sitting MCA president will be appointed as the chairman of TARUC Board of Trustees. This shows that MCA has full institutional control over TARUC.

By appointing all 8 members who are sitting in TARC Education Foundation to TARUC Board of Trustees, MCA has also violated the TARC Education Foundation Constitution. At least 50 per cent of the total number of board of trustees must be third parties with no connection with the foundation or any of its founders.

Provide development blueprint on how to use the RM634 million cash reserves

Pamela mention that the RM634 million of cash come from 40 over years of prudent management, however a quick check on TARC Education Foundation financial statements will reveal that half of the RM634 million cash reserves were piled up from the last five years mainly from government funding.

The government funding provided to TARUC from 2014 to 2018 totalled RM231 million and this amount was not used for the benefit of the students. In fact TARUC has already made a surplus before taking into account government funding. TARUC surplus excluding government funding are 2014 RM13.77 million, 2015 RM 14.7 million, 2016 RM 12.75 million, 2017 RM15.5 million, 2018 RM25.45 million.

All these surplus together with the government funding received by TARUC in the past five years totalled to a staggering RM313.17 million which beg to the question why is TARUC not using this money to the benefit of the students?

MCA has repeatedly mentioned that the RM634 million cash reserves will be used for new buildings and even new campuses. However, until today MCA failed to provide a development blueprint to explain to the public how are they going to use the RM634 million cash reserves.

Is there a development blueprint or has MCA made up their mind what to do with the RM634 million TARUC is holding?

Education and politics should be separated

The RM40 million funding provided by government will be better put to use to help needy TARUC students than to hand it over to MCA to add to TARUC already enormous cash reserve. In comparison, the RM40 million funding is just 6.3 per cent of the cash reserves of TARUC is holding. Why is MCA objecting that the RM40 million be used to provide financial assistance to TARUC students while they figure out what to do with the RM634 million cash reserves?

MCA president Wee Ka Siong has threatened to raise tuition fees by 15 per cent when the government announced a RM5.5 million allocation of capital expenditure to TARUC last year. This shows that MCA is using TARUC as a political tool to attack the government at the expense of the students, despite the fact that TARUC is making a surplus every year even without government funding.

For the benefit and welfare for the students it is best that MCA quit TARUC. Education and Politics should be separated. It is not the duty for a political party to own and run an education institution. TARUC was raised from public and government funds, it should be return to the Chinese community and run freely without any political interference. It is time for MCA to quit TARUC and let TARUC blossom into a world class education institution.

* Chong Zhemin is the Keranji state assemblyman.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Related Articles