How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

Why we should be against censorship: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan


Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

MyCen News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Disagreement among opponents to Kidex and Dash?

Wonder how this will pan out eventually...

In Malaysiakini:
  
Groups let down by elected reps' blasé attitudes

‘Say No to Kidex’ (SNTK) and 'Say No to Dash' (SNTD)

http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/287371

A response to anti-Kidex group's grouses by Tony Pua
http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/287384

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

As long as we can get by, what's a few mistakes here and there


  
How would you translate 'food court' into Bahasa Malaysia? There was a pic of a banner in FB, 'Mahkamah makanan' which elicited a number of 'lol' (laugh out loud) in comments.

Then, there was a mistake in The Malaysian Insider which was obviously due to poor proof reading: it was a suggestion by DAP's Chong Chieng Jan for Sarawak ministers...
'Chong said only a transparent system would be able to stem corruption and cronyism. Citing the Penang administration under Lim Guan Eng, he said if Adenan meant business, he should follow Lim’s footsteps and make it a must for ministers and assistant ministers to declare their asses to the public. – January 16, 2015. - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-ministers-integrity-pledge-mere-window-dressing-says-dap#sthash.LPblSGI0.dpuf

The Education Ministry will be introducing a new rule which requires SPM candidates to pass English (besides Bahasa Malaysia) before they can have a full certificate. Already the cynics have pointed out that it will not help the standard of English because to maintain a decent number of passes, they expect the passing mark to be lowered if and when necessary!

We have come across, often enough, of ministers who insisted that their statements had been 'misquoted', 'quoted out of context', or 'outright lies', when their statements turned out to be a 'faux pas' or actually a Freudian slip of the tonque.

I used to listen to song lyrics and when not careful, often mistaken them for years without realising... some could be mistakenly hilarious:

Limestone cowboy; take my breasts away; take a sad song and make it badder; give piss a chance; oh Carol,I'm bloody fool; I'm stuck with the man in the middle;

In one of the videos for kids in Youtube, a mistake in Doremi (Sound of Music) goes: 'Lay, a drop of golden sun'. That it had not been corrected for so long meant either the producer is unaware of it or he or she did not bother to correct such a big mistake in English spelling which is likely to be picked up by those who viewed the video.

Of course, we can joke about others with poorer command of English. But we must also bear in mind, we can look stupid when trying out languages which we have poor command of. Eg. I am illiterate in Chinese and I am now learning to pick up conversational Mandarin and recognition of some Chinese characters. I will appear hopeless in the company of those Chinese educated. Then my formal education in BM was only up to Form 5, way back in 1967. Often I made mistakes in spelling. Eg. 'pandan muka' instead of 'padan muka' and 'ajar ajar ayam' instead of 'ajak ajak ayam'. Malay words like 'kini' and 'justera' were new to me, and years ago, I could not get over my Malay colleague's translation of 'buat masa ini' to mean 'in the meantime' even though it was correct!
 
 

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Unhappy with YES's internet charges


 
What I am going to describe is based on my personal experience and without IT knowledge. Call it perception if you like.

As I have experienced a number of times, my monthly quota of 4 GB for Rm68 can easily be used up within a day or two if I viewed some video clips even sparingly. Therefore, it is a luxury which I reserved for when someone who needs to use it.

Recently, when my daughter said she will be back for Christmas, but will be 'working from home', I topped up 1.25 GB for Rm20. I had already used up my quota and it was 5 days before end of the quota month. She used her notebook to access databases as well as to communicate with her colleagues in Bangkok via Skype. Just one day before 'end of the month', I received the usual notice about '80% quota used up...' followed soon after by '100%...' Fortunately, she could continue her work without complaining about slowdown as was expected when quota had been fully used up and speed was throttled.

This apparent 'no change in speed' soon after notice that 100% quota had been used up, made me wonder if YES's system had been unfair in notifying customers earlier in the hope that they will top up immediately. The fact that my daughter's work seemed uninterrupted despite notice of quota used up even made me wonder if she could have used the internet connection without me having to top up in the first place! Why do I have this impression? Simply because, for the current month, my quota was already used up within 2 days, yet based on throttled speed, I could access and use Maybank's online share trading system for almost 2 weeks already. YES, unlike Maxis, does not specify the speed under throttled mode. Maxis states 128 kbps (used to be 64 kbps). Instead, YES notifies 'fair usage policy is enforced'...'you can continue to enjoy unlimited data usage with reduced internet speed'.

This led me to another question unanswered: When additional quota had been purchased, any use of memory would seem to include the presumed let's say, 128 kbps which is supposed to be free under reduced internet speed. This would effectively speed up the usage of the additional quota. Again, this helps to fuel my perception of unfairness.

To illustrate, I use the analogy of a friend's complaint about massage charges. For eg. standard massage is Rm50 per hour. He was asked if he wishes to have an additional type which uses a spoonlike thing to scrape hard on his back. Not understanding Mandarin, he was presumed to have agreed. After the massage, he was charged Rm95! When questioned, he was told that the additional charge was for the special type. But by having the special, it would seem he had to forgo the time meant for the standard massage.
 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Home Minister biting off more than he can chew?

Just wondering if he knew the details of FBI's investigations on Phua before issuing the letter of support. Anyone reading the report would come to the conclusion that Zahid had acted beyond his duties as HOME Minister. It was not a reference letter in support of a school-leaver applying for a job, but as a Home Minister vouching for someone's character, someone who was caught with irrefutable proof of having conducted illegal casino operations in the USA. He might be able to confirm (based on his best knowledge) that there is no such gang operating in Malaysia, but how could he confirm that a person is not a member overseas? Does not make sense at all and he must have regretted having issued such a letter, which had been described as 'not worth the paper it is written on'. That the letter was withdrawn soon after said it all. That our part-time prosecutor also got involved in this indefensible case is also mind-boggling.

By the way, I cannot understand why Chief Minister of Penang questioned the standard of English and even doubted the authenticity of the letter when there was no denial from Zahid and obvious confirmation of the fact with Shafee's explanation.

Excerpt from Malaysia Chronicle:

'Phua flew from the former Portuguese colony to Las Vegas in his private-owned Gulfstream G-550 business jet with the tail number N888XS, which according to the FBI notes is Phua’s lucky number.

High roller of the Caesars

Meanwhile early last June during the World Cup opening games, three complimentary villas on the Las Vegas strip in the famed Caesars Palace - numbered 8881, 8882 and 8888 - were readied for him - a red carpet welcome fit for a high roller.

Phua is reportedly also known to be actively involved in the gambling scene around Southeast Asia and internationally, even taking part in poker tournaments where stakes go up to seven-figure pots.

The FBI notes tell of how the reserved exclusive villas were fitted with various electronic equipment and communication facilities like fax machines and DSL cables at the request of the guests.

This smelt fishy, according to the FBI report, and the Caesars’ management at that point began to suspect the villas were being used as gambling dens.

Phua and his team had demanded complementary Wi-Fi with the installation of DSL lines and requested an "unusual amount of electronics equipment and technical support" for the villas to monitor World Cup soccer games in Brazil.

This was when the management realised the villas were being used to conduct an illegal Internet sports betting operation and they proceeded to inform the authorities, particularly the FBI.

The FBI, which was already keeping an eye on Phua after his elusive escape from Macau, decided to investigate the villas sending operatives posing as technicians.


Snooping in for the swoop
A Caesars Palace investigator told FBI agents that in one villa alone there were eight computers, five workstations, over 20 monitors, and additional large-screen televisions and Internet lines.

The court exhibits also show that the authorities worked alongside the DSL contractor to obtain enough evidence to raid the villas.

"The DSL contractor was sent to villa 8882 on July 4, 2014 to deliver a laptop requested by the occupants. That same day, the contractor also temporarily disconnected the internet service to villa 8881.

"When the defendants (Phua and associates) asked Caesars to restore the DSL connection in villa 8881, the DSL contractor entered alone and on his own initiative, used his cell phone to make a video of the Villa’s interior, which he delivered to the authorities," the district attorney states in their defence.

Convinced they had a case, the FBI decided to see from themselves before launching a raid of the premises.

The very next day, FBI agents posed as DSL technicians and entered villa 8882 to confirm that illegal betting was taking place, on the pretext of restoring Internet connection in the villa that was disconnected earlier.

Four days later, on July 9, 2014, the FBI and Nevada Gaming Board Control stormed the three villas after obtaining a search warrant from a US magistrate judge.

Preparing themselves like a scene from the movies, the authorities arrived at Caesars in street clothes and prepped themselves in three rooms in the hotel.

Once the operation was given the go ahead, they suited up and followed a Caesars employee who led the agents into the villas via the internal service elevators.

The authorities reported that they found Phua in villa 8882 with his son and another associate, where an online message found on his computer revealed that he had put bets reaching a grand total of HK$2.7billion (RM1.24 billion), according to court documents.

The accused were stated using the SBOBet and IBCBet sports betting websites, neither of which is licensed to operate in Nevada, to monitor odds and place bets, according to federal prosecutors.

The authorities did not arrest them that day itself, but took pictures of the equipment installed in the room and seized the items.

The notes from the FBI in the 295-page exhibit ends at this point.'

Full article: http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=438782:the-gambling-kingpin-zahid-risked-his-career-to-help-paul-phua-a-life-of-jet-setting-luxury-decadence&Itemid=2#ixzz3Oa8z5mP5
Follow us: @MsiaChronicle on Twitter

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Rafizi suggests consignment system for fuel retailers, to be fair to them as well as the consumers

To the layman, the present falling fuel prices make a refreshing change to the previous increases, due mainly to the reduction in fuel subsidies. While the government takes the opportunity to do away with subsidies and introduced a new price-setting system, the monthly revision of prices seems too slow and unfair to the retailers.

'For example, the latest market price for 6 January 2015 (based on price report by Platts and using government’s fuel price formulae) for RON95 is RM1.64 per litre. Unfortunately, because RON95 price is only set once a month, consumers end up paying a much higher price of RM1.91 per litre. Given that Brent crude oil price has hit below USD50 per barrel this week and may touch USD40 per barrel by the end of the month, the equivalent market price for RON95 is expected to come down to RM1.40 per litre by 31 January 2015. Unfortunately, consumers will continue to pay RM1.91 per litre with a hefty 50 sen per litre going to the government as hidden fuel tax by the end of the month.'

The public was quick to accuse the fuel retailers of complaining when the price continues to fall when in the past, they could have made additional profits each time when the price went upwards. This could be true as some stations seem to put up signs of 'Sold out' well before midnight.

For those who are not well informed (including myself) on how the supply and sale of fuel work, Rafizi's explanation is very informative indeed...

COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF FUEL RETAIL INDUSTRY:
CHANGE TO CONSIGNMENT STOCK TO AVOID EXCESSIVE HIDDEN FUEL TAX


My previous media statement on the weaknesses of the current fuel price setting mechanism received mixed reactions from the public. If anything, it highlights how the public hardly understands the modus operandi of the retail fuel industry, in particular the separate roles of the oil companies (the likes of Petronas, Shell, Petron and BHP) and the petrol dealerships.

Features of the Retail Fuel Indusrty

The oil companies own the bulk of the petrol stations and retail fuel assets in the country. They appoint dealerships (usually small enterprises or small companies) as contractors to operate the stations on their behalf.

The main features of the retail fuel industry are as follows:

1. The petrol dealerships are remunerated by way of fixed commissions on every litre of petrol and diesel they sell. The rates are currently 12 sen for petrol and 7 sen for diesel set by the government. Therefore, the monthly revenue depends mostly on the volume of fuel sold each month.

2. In order to get the stock of fuel to sell to the public, the petrol dealerships have to pay cash upfront to the oil companies. Depending on the size and location of the petrol stations, the amount each station has to fork out for each fuel stock purchase is in between RM100,000 to RM200,000. The frequency of fuel stock purchase also varies with the size and location of the petrol stations; some stations have to re-stock every 3 to 4 days, others can survive with weekly re-stocking.

3. The fuel stock management at each petrol station is decided entirely by the oil companies. The oil companies monitor the stock level at each station on daily basis and schedule stock deliveries accordingly in order to maintain a minimum stock level set by the government. Petrol dealerships cannot refuse a stock delivery decided by the oil companies.
4. On top of the upfront cash payment for the stock purchase, the dealership also pay fixed charges to oil companies in the form of rental, maintenance, credit card charge and other charges.

5. Petrol dealerships also have to bear other operating costs which include electricity, utilities and manpower cost.

Since the government has designed the retail fuel industry that way, a new problem arises with the implementation of the managed float system as petrol dealerships stand to incur losses each time there is a price revision. They have to sell at a cheaper price to consumers when the fuel stock was purchased at a higher price earlier on from the oil companies.

BN Does Not Want To Bring Down Fuel Prices Closer to Market Price

In a market scenario that anticipates crude oil prices to continue to plummet for the rest of the year, Malaysia has to wake up to the reality that more and more petrol dealerships will soon find it uneconomical to continue running the petrol stations. This has to be handled with proper in-depth planning to avoid a disruption to the supply of fuel to consumers.

Given the financial loss that petrol dealerships have to bear each time there is a downward fuel price revision, it is convenient for Barisan Nasional to use this excuse not to effect a more regular downward fuel price revision to bring our fuel prices more in line with the market prices. In fact, Barisan Nasional has been victimising petrol dealerships as a scapegoat to avoid a weekly downward fuel price revision because a monthly revision (as practised now) brings in almost a billion ringgit in hidden taxes a month.

The fact is consumers have been paying a much higher fuel price than the market price since 1 December 2014. We also have been paying hidden fuel tax since (though most people do not realise this in the euphoria of the plunging fuel prices).

For example, the latest market price for 6 January 2015 (based on price report by Platts and using government’s fuel price formulae) for RON95 is RM1.64 per litre. Unfortunately, because RON95 price is only set once a month, consumers end up paying a much higher price of RM1.91 per litre. Given that Brent crude oil price has hit below USD50 per barrel this week and may touch USD40 per barrel by the end of the month, the equivalent market price for RON95 is expected to come down to RM1.40 per litre by 31 January 2015. Unfortunately, consumers will continue to pay RM1.91 per litre with a hefty 50 sen per litre going to the government as hidden fuel tax by the end of the month.

It is in the best interest of Barisan Nasional not to revise the fuel price on weekly basis in order to keep collecting the hidden tax. For December 2014 alone, Barisan Nasional had collected an estimated RM633 million hidden petrol dan diesel tax. Based on the current market projection, Barisan Nasional will collect an even bigger hidden tax by the end of January 2015, which I estimate may reach RM700 million.

Therefore, Barisan Nasional will capitalise on public’s lack of understanding of the retail fuel industry (the rules of which they decide for themselves) to make the petrol dealership the convenient scapegoat in warding off any public pressure to effect a weekly downward fuel price revision. It is easy to convince the gullible public that such a weekly price revision will hurt the petrol dealership when the real motive is to collect hidden tax. If nothing is done, the public will pay the ultimate price yet again by being hoodwinked to fork out substantially to subsidise the government.

A Fair Fuel Price Setting Mechanism for All

I have been consistent in championing a reform of the retail fuel industry especially with respect to a fairer fuel price setting mechanism. I have expounded previously that a fairer fuel price setting mechanism will have to ensure that:

1. Petrol and diesel prices are revised on a weekly basis to ensure that the public pays the market price and benefits from the low crude oil price scenario

2. Hidden petrol and diesel tax collected is kept to the minimum level (by ensuring the retail price follows the market price as closely as possible). Any petrol and diesel tax collected due to a difference in retail and market prices cannot be spent except for the sole purpose of stabilising the petrol and diesel prices in the future. The tax collected so far must be put separately in a fund enacted by Parliament

3. A fixed subsidy of 30 sen per litre is given to the public to honour the principle that the hydrocarbon wealth of Malaysia is shared directly with the people. This will reduce petrol and diesel prices even further

4. Petrol dealership can continue to operate as an integral part of the retail fuel industry without being unfairly burdened with financial risk (as is the situation now)

By right, the responsibility to ensure there is an effective forward planning to cope with sudden changes to the fuel market (and the necessary adaptation of the industry rules set by the government) lies with the Finance Ministry and Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry. Unfortunately, we live in a country where a minister’s silence has become a key criterion to keeping his job in the Cabinet so we have not heard any proactive solution to the current problem.


I have taken the liberty to engage the public and the industry with the hope of advocating a fairer fuel price setting mechanism for all. Therefore, I urge the relevant ministries, the oil companies, representatives of the petrol dealerships and consumers to convene an emergency roundtable discussion immediately to consider a complete overhaul of the retail fuel industry in Malaysia.

Move to Consignment Based Retail Fuel Industry

The key reason why petrol dealerships are currently susceptible to immediate financial loss each time a downward fuel price revision takes place is because they have to buy upfront the petrol and diesel stock as determined by the oil companies. This concept whereby petrol dealerships have to buy the wholesale fuel stock exposes them to a financial risk as they are forced to keep an expensive fuel stock in a volatile market environment.

In other countries (for example Australia), the government allows the retail fuel industry to operate on consignment stock basis (as opposed to Malaysia’s wholesale stock basis). This means the petrol dealerships do not have to fork out cash to buy the fuel stock as the stock belongs to the oil companies until it is sold to the consumers. In a way, the consignment stock basis reflects the fuel retail industry better because the petrol dealerships do not own the petrol stations and only collect commission on the volume sold on behalf of the oil companies.

If Malaysia moves to implement a consignment based policy, the key features of our retail fuel industry will be as follows:

1. A petrol dealership only acts as an agent who sell an oil company’s petrol and diesel. As an agent, it collects commission only and does not have to buy the stock

2. Any fuel price change will not adversely or positively affect the petrol dealerships financially because ownership of the fuel stock remains with the oil companies. The petrol dealerships are remunerated by way of a fixed commission based on the volume of sales

3. The oil companies only lose or profit financially from a change in fuel price once a year during an annual stock take. Even then, it is only a paper gain or loss as the stock holding is revalued based on the market price against the cost at which it was initially booked

The oil companies in Malaysia have had a strong financial footing all this while that they will not have any problem to change to a consignment stock if instructed by the government. For example, Petronas is estimated to rake in an operating profit of RM500 million from its petrol station operation for the financial year 2013 (based on information in Petronas Dagangan’s 2013 Annual Report).

With the implementation of a consignment based retail fuel industry, Barisan Nasional does not have any more excuses not to effect a weekly downward price revision. The existing excuse that a frequent fuel price change hurts the petrol dealerships will be invalid. When fuel prices are revised on a weekly basis, we should be paying around RM1.60 per litre for RON95 this week instead of the exorbitant RM1.91 per litre. Most importantly, the public does not have to subsidise the wasteful expenditure of Najib Razak’s administration through a hidden petrol and diesel tax that we have been paying since December 2014.

The ball is in Barisan Nasional’s court. I have no doubt most of them do not have a clue of the issue I explain here but the ministry officials and the industry leaders understand full well what I have proposed. I purposely speak of the plight of petrol dealerships first before putting forth my suggestion of the necessary overhaul because I expect some Barisan Nasional leaders to foolishly accuse me of flip flopping and championing the cause of the rich – so that I can prove today how little they understand the important economic issues that affect the public’s life every day.

It is imperative that the rules for retail fuel industry set by the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism are changed immediately to implement a consignment based system. This will in turn allow for a weekly fuel price revision to be effected immediately.

The refusal to move to a consignment based system is a confirmation that Barisan Nasional intends to keep the petrol and diesel prices artificially higher than the actual market prices in order to collect the massive hidden tax.

RAFIZI RAMLI
Vice President & Secretary General of KEADILAN
Member of Parliament for Pandan

8 January 2015
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