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 in a court of law: 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

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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, May 20, 2015

Bukit Beruntung must be one of the most misnamed townships

Literally, in Malay, it means 'Profitable Hill'. The big project, which must have been created out of a cosy relationship between developer and the former BN state government, is believed to have caused the developer's downfall and financial ruin. Years later, the company had to be rehabilitated  with help from the Selangor government.

At the time, the hype was that the new airport will be built nearby. But as it turned out, instead of north, it went south of KL. The impact of this major mistake in guessing the location of KLIA also caused the failure of another major project, Lembah Beringin. I can still remember the advertisement over the radio when I used to drive along NSE, which boasted that the landscape budget alone was over Rm100 million and the distance is only 36 minutes from KL! Even a dedicated entrance/exit from NSE did not help the Lembah Beringin project and the listed holding company was later taken over by a HK magnate.

Bukit Beruntung's failure was a classic example of how the location (and its reputation) of properties is so important. It could mean success breeds success or the reverse, a vicious cycle of bad reputation in terms of security, which leads to low occupation rates and low rentals, and inevitably causing property prices to drop drastically. Even free rental could not attract occupants because of many cases of lawlessness: robberies and even iron grilles were stolen.

After so many years, it is surprising that efforts to revive the place were unsuccessful, especially now that people are crying out for affordable housing in nearby Klang Valley (KL and PJ).

The latest statement by MB of Selangor seems to suggest a lack of cooperation and coordination between Selangor State and Federal governments.

To my simple mind, the source of the problems seem to be security, followed by transportation, and once these twin problems are solved, the rest (purchase, rental and maintenance of properties) will follow and take care of themselves.

What is needed is a conspicuous presence of the police or even army personnel. This could be in the form of training camps or whatever necessary to have them there. There must be continuous police presence with beat bases which can prove their effectiveness in handling complaints promptly and efficiently. The place must be well lighted and if possible, with CCTVs at strategic locations.

Ideally, transportation can be served by connecting to the nearest railway station, complemented by efficient transit bus services. The rail service is under Federal control while the latter can be provided by Selangor state. For immediate results, bus services can be opened to willing operators who can provide them.

The house and apartment prices in Bukit Beruntung are so low that they are at 'a steal' prices or 'going for a song'. Present owners are just waiting for the right moment to do up their properties for either own occupation or for rental. There must be many prospective purchasers waiting to buy just before any improvement to the present dire situation.

State government could throw in some incentives like waiving outstanding assessment bills and/or lowering the rates of assessment for a limited period. Industrial lands should be encouraged with incentives to be developed. With cheap lands or factories and safe hostel accomodation for their workers, wouldn't industrialists be tempted?

Paint companies could even be encouraged to sponsor their paints to repaint public properties, in competitions or as part of their advertising expenditure.

I am sure there are many other good ideas which the public can contribute once the State  or Federal government takes the initiative, to be followed by concerted efforts by the relevant stakeholders.


Friday, May 15, 2015

How 6% GST on prepaid phone card shows our government still favours the big boys

Before: 6% SST was included in those prepaid cards which meant the telcos paid over to the government, 57 sen for every Rm10 sold (6/106 x 10) and the public got Rm10 worth of calls. Was that correct? Why do I get the nagging feeling that we actually got Rm9.43 worth of call instead of Rm10? This especially so with the current statements and corrections which seem to confuse the public, but at the end, the aim is to shift burden to the public.

This is because the relevant ministry seems to make a big deal now that we will be getting Rm10 for every Rm10 paid.

When GST came into effect on April 1, 2015, the burden was conveniently pushed from the telcos to the public: Rm10 prepaid costs Rm10.60. There was understandably public outcry over this. Then Deputy Minister, Ahmad Maslan said it would be for only 1 month and the situation will be reversed back to the old system of having telcos absorbing the GST (used to be SST). Then even PM had to intervened and declared that only the Minister can make public statements on this.

Basically, whether the Rm10 prepaid included GST or is worth Rm10 of calls, the burden will be shifted to the public and this has been confirmed by the Minister.  In other words, either we had been getting only Rm9.43 worth of calls before (even though we appeared to get Rm10 worth) or we are still getting the same Rm9.43 despite the claim that we are getting Rm10 worth for every Rm10 paid. Otherwise, it is impossible that the telcos could shift the burden and yet able to provide the full Rm10 worth, unless there is some adjustment to the rate of charges.

Now I am not even sure if this headline allegedly based on what Minister Shabery Cheek said, 'Prepaid mobile credit - GST free unless you call' is genuine, coming from a site Fake Malaysia News. Honestly, I cannot keep up with checking everything as to whether it is real or fake.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

1MDB epitomizes bad governance

A so-called sovereign wealth fund, created out of just Rm1 million seed capital, added with government-sold (almost like given) cheap lands, used as collaterals for huge loans, which are supported by government guarantees.

After just a few years, it is evident that certain things just cannot be fast-tracked despite all the special treatment given by relevant government departments because the company is headed by none other than the PM cum Finance Minister himself.

Suspicious deals include buying a power plant which is nearing its end of concession period at a higher than market price. No doubt, with special treatment, getting extension of concession is a piece of cake when you know who rather than having know-how. But in finance, the most basic involves cash-flows and anything negative cannot be sustained for long without creating hiccups and requiring quick funds to at least take care of interest due periodically. Before long, we find the company in the proverbial situation of having only 9 covers (or even less) to cover 10 pots.

Its use of tax haven to park its funds and deliberate avoidance of Bank Negara controls only add to creating more rumours and suspicions. The lack of transparency plus the conflicting statements  to put up a front that 'everything is well and good' only create the impression that it was covering up one lie after another.

Desperate situation requires desperate measures and thanks to investigative journalism and the internet, we were privy to private and confidential documents proving one wrongdoing after another, with the relevant authorities silent on major breaches of the law. Of course, on the basis that all those accusations were lies, they need not do anything. The police seems super efficient (led by the super twit) in monitoring all tweets, internet postings and comments. Anything that could possibly harm the good name of the PM, Rosmah and 1MDB will see the messenger in police remand and enjoy their hospitality of wearing purple uniform, hand-cuffed and bare-footed, with free publicity in the mainstream media.

The system of political patronage is now out in the open, with Umno divisional leaders known to be heading one GLC or another, as reward for supporting the PM. Now that the PM is in want of support, they are only too glad to show theirs so that they can continue to be in highly paid positions which also provide opportunities to enrich themselves.

Not only that, the recent purchase of land from 1MDB by Tabung Haji revealed at least 4 persons in positions with conflict of interest. They were trustees as well as advisors or directors of TH and IMDB respectively. They could well be in positions of conflict of interest without anyone knowing, until the exposure of the actual land purchase. This particular deal must be the last straw which tests the patience of the Malays. TH was established to provide an opportunity for ordinary Malay Muslims to save for their pilgrimage. It is surprising how small amounts from a large population could build up a formidable fund worth billions.

The transaction which saw a piece of land (half the size of a football field) bought by 1MDB for less than Rm100 psf, was sold to TH for almost Rm2800 psf! The exceptional appreciation over a period of 4 years serves to prove the special treatment given to 1MDB. Why is it so special to be practically given the land and why must TH made to buy the land even if it is considered fair market value now? The fact that TH paid for it in full (unlike the usual 10%, followed by 90% upon completion) only prove to show how desperate 1MDB was to get the money in order to pay off an amount imminently due on a loan.

The outcry from the Malays was quick, especially with some withdrawing their savings immediately after the rumours, and effective, because the PM cum Finance Minister actually instructed that the land be sold by TH to a third party! What are the implications of such actions?

Firstly, did the PM give the instruction to TH to buy or at least knew about the decision to do so? The fact that he could now give instruction to sell could only mean that he has the power as well as the intention in the first place. The Chairman of TH (an Umno division head) actually denied that there was such a deal, why?

With such great powers, surely the PM cum FM could actually reverse the deal instead of selling the land so soon after buying it. I can see RPGT at 30% on the expected Rm5 million gain, as well as at least 5% on the huge gain when 1MDB sold the land. The reason could be so simple ie. that any subsequent sale by TH is of no concern to 1MDB since they received the required sale proceeds needed to pay interest due. Had the deal been reversed, any further delay in finding a buyer could mean default on loan repayment which could set off a chain reaction of defaults.

Before the dust settled on this TH deal, there are already rumours of KWAP (pension fund) being in another purchase of 1MDB land.

What happened to 'leadership by example'? Having witnessed all the breaches of the law involving 1MDB, people would be cynical about law and enforcement in Malaysia. While the ordinary people are subject to strict law enforcement, some favoured ones are able to break the law with impunity.

By the way, there was a suggestion recently that a state or parliamentary candidate standing for election must have a credit in Bahasa Malaysia. While the suggestion makes practical sense, I would prefer anyone who has the passion to serve the public, has high integrity as well as possesses what it takes, when appointed to hold public office.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Our camel is either more resilient or not really tested

What could be the last straw which would break the camel's back was not to be. No scandal, however big, can stick to our PM Najib. It is like water running off a duck's feathers. We thought ex-PM and also ex-mentor of Najib, Tun Dr Mahathir could force Najib to step down. But instead Najib broke his long elegant silence with a direct attack on his former mentor who had been relentless in his open attacks.

'Datuk Seri Najib Razak sounded a defiant note today to pressure to step down as prime minister, saying he will remain in the job with support from Umno and trust from the people.'

'"Was he (Dr Mahathir) not tested? There was the test of Team A and Team B, (where Dr Mahathir) almost lost. More than 50% of Umno members back then demanded for his resignation. What was his reply? "Even if I win by a single vote, I will continue to be the prime minister. A great answer.

"In 1987, I was one of those who supported him. He remains the PM because of what? It is because we (Umno members) were together even in hardship. When he was faced with hardship, we give our support to ensure that he stayed (in power).

"If we did not support him in his time of need, Dr Mahathir would not have stayed on for 22 years as the PM," he said.

"So, do not forget, when he was the PM, we gave him our full support... Now that he is no longer the PM, support us in return.

"Don't make noise even if not so supportive," he said.

- See more at:

In my humble opinion, I would blame the system which decides on who can be PM. As long as majority of 191 Umno division leaders are kept happy, he remains as PM... regardless of Umno members or the public. MCA, MIC and other component parties are never consulted where this is concerned, let alone the public. Silent majority is often taken for granted as consent.

Some people say Najib is more afraid of facing Rosmah if he lost his position than facing the wrath of Tun Dr Mahathir.

The weakness of Westminster model of democracy is to be blamed for a government decided by a majority in Parliament and not by popular vote. We all know how BN obtained 133 seats out of 222 (60%), with just 47% of total votes. In the recent UK general election, the Conservatives under David Cameron won 330 out of 650 seats (about 51%) with just a third of total votes. It surprised most people because they expected a neck-to-neck competition between Conservative and Labour. As it turned out, Scottish National Party gained 50 seats, almost all at the expense of Liberal Democrat (-48), mainly because of Scotland's secession issue as well as whether UK should remain in European Union.

We have something similar in secession issues with Sabah and Sarawak, which support were taken for granted as 'Fixed Deposits' by BN. That Najib broke his silence in the company of Sabah Umno shows the importance of their continued support to his tenure as PM.

We shall see how things will eventual pan out, as some leaders decide on their loyalty, which might make or break their own political careers.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Will this be the last straw to break the camel's back?

No, I'm not referring to the sex on camel example which is hardly appropriate in Malaysia where camels are only found in zoos. 

But this figure of speech has to do with indefensible conflict of interest involving trustees of Tabung Haji (Pilgrimage Fund) who also serve as advisor or director of 1MDB, or its subsidiary. As Sarajun Hoda puts it, 'The betrayal is in collosal proportion. This is najib's value system. He puts rats to look after cheese.'

                                       Pic from Facebook, courtesy of Sarajun Hoda

According to J. D. Lovrenciear in Malaysia Chronicle:

'How best can we describe a business or investment entity that buys some 70 acres of prime land at below RM100 per square foot and then re-sells it within four years to a body corporate that is a trustee for public (religious) funds at a sweet song of over RM2,000 per square foot?
Business marvel? Brilliant accomplishment? Or is it bordering on ugly profiteering and scheming?
We seem to be losing all our ethical bearings these days. When a retailer hikes his ‘bawang’ and ‘halia’ by a few sens a kilo to make RM30 extra earnings for the day, the government’s enforcement arm will swing into action and the news makes headlines in the muzzled main stream media the next day.'

'And to get Tabung Haji’s property investment arm to pay such a sinfully high price and then get them to justify the action by stating that 1MDB even gave them a decent discount on the going ‘market value’ is like committing two sins to cover one sin really.
And on top of that, we now have even the vanguard of citizens’ safety and security, the cops, threatening to take action on the whistleblower under the Official Secrets Act on this mother-of-all exposes.'

Full article: