Archive for April, 2015

30
Apr
15

GST hits low-income group hardest

GST hits low-income group hardest – S Ramakrishnan

The goods and services tax (GST) implementation seems to have hit a snag in the service sector. Service providers are now required to display their collective agreement in order to be able to exact service charges.

The service charge has been there for umpteen years but the customs department did not bother about it. But when it hinders the implementation of the GST, service charge becomes an issue. Now, restaurants and hotels have to display their collective agreement publicly to qualify for charging 10% service charges.

Many workers in the hotel and restaurant sector are not union members. This sector is dominated by foreign workers, so Malaysian workers in this industry have very little say. Therefore, as a responsible body, the customs department must ensure that all service charges collected on behalf of the workers go to the workers. Even when there are no formal collective agreements, service charges collected must be distributed among the workers.

GST should not impede the extra income earned by low-income workers. This group is already hard-hit by the rising cost of living. Minimum wages remain at RM900. Unless this group tightens its belt further, it risks defaulting on its instalment payments.

The government’s BR1M RM950 per year is far less when compared to the increase in prices due to GST. Every business, whether or not it is a collection centre, has increased its prices, citing GST payments.

It is common knowledge that wages have not kept up with productivity of labour since 1996. Besides wages make up only 28% of national income compared with Singapore 42%.

The fact that only 6.44% of workers i.e. 798941 out of 12.4 million workers are members of trade unions, speaks volumes about the decline in collective bargaining of workers. About 48% of Malaysian workers earn less than RM1000 per month. Therefore, 10% service charges to be distributed among workers must be retained and customs should threaten to abolish.

According to the World Bank, informal economy constitutes 31% of the Malaysian economy, almost double the percentage in other Asian countries such as Vietnam (15.6%) and Singapore (13%). This sector is too small to register as a collection centre and, therefore, has to absorb the 6% GST itself.

The informal sector also faces a high cost in sales, thus reducing its profit margin. If the registered GST collection centres cannot compete with the unregistered informal sector, more resources will be channelled into the informal sector, leading to reduced collection from the GST.

While the working class and informal sectors are facing the brunt of an increase in the cost of living and a higher cost when doing business, the Minister for Domestic Trade Datuk Seri Hassan Malek, says that GST collections will be used to construct roads, mosques, temples, schools, in the areas of human capital development and education, and for infrastructural repairs.

Talk sounds good, but Malaysians are flabbergasted and disappointed that the GST will also be used to repay debts, incurred due to the high cost of government procurement and the guaranteeing of reckless loans taken by government-owned companies like 1MDB and PFI.

…more
GST hits low-income group hardest – S Ramakrishnan
15 April 2015 – TMI

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30
Apr
15

Authorities cannot ban a peaceful assembly

Objections to rally no reason for May Day ban, Suhakam tells police

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — The authorities cannot ban a peaceful assembly purely on grounds that there are objections to the event being held in a particular area, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today.

Its chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, said the commission maintains its position that freedom of peaceful assembly is a universal right that includes freedom of public expression, as outlined under Article 10 of the Federal Counstitution and by international charters on human rights.

“While the authorities have a duty to strike a fair balance between the fundamental right to peaceful assembly and the competing rights of others in the locality affected by an assembly, the Commission advises that opposition to an assembly is not good reason to impose prior restrictions on an assembly.

“Furthermore, while it is acknowledged that public assemblies may cause some level of temporary interference with, or disruption to, routine daily activities, assemblies are, by definition, temporary activities,” he said in a statement.

Hasmy acknowledged that the right to freedom of assembly only applies to peaceful gatherings and not rallies that are organised with violent intentions or to cause public disorder.

“However, the possibility of violent counter-demonstrations for example does not forfeit police protection and, therefore, restrictions placed on such assemblies must be in conformity with the law and for the purposes of protecting the right of peaceful assembly,” he said.

…more
Objections to rally no reason for May Day ban, Suhakam tells police
April 30, 2015 – MMO

29
Apr
15

Disturbing slew of legislative changes

QUESTION TIME First off, indefinite detention without trial, with no chance of judicial review, has been reintroduced with the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) in Parliament in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

Basically that means anybody can be detained under Pota so long as, first the investigating officer (IO) is satisfied that the person is a terrorist threat, and two, the board that reviews the IO’s decision too is convinced that the person is.

As if that was not bad enough, more teeth will be given to the already teethful, notorious, broad-ranging, extremely oppressive relic from the colonial times, the Sedition Act.

Amendments provide for mandatory minimum jail sentences and denial of bail if the public prosecutor (yes, you read right) felt it was not in the public interest to release the person charged.

Just think about what that means. If you are charged under the Sedition Act and the prosecutor does not like you for any reason, you will have to spend the entire duration from your arrest until your trial is disposed off under detention without bail. Now that could take years.

Then there is a strange amendment in the law to remove the requirement to have a representative from the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), on the board of the nation’s second largest fund, Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pencen or KWAP which manages over RM100 billion. Why? Whatever for?

To top all that up, PAS has tabled in Parliament a bill to pave the way for introduction of hudud in the country for Muslims, which will see punishments such as amputation of limbs for robbery, stoning to death for adultery and crucifixion for apostasy.

Meantime, BN has not announced whether it will support the bill while PAS has appealed to Muslim MPs to support the bill that needs just a simple majority to be passed.

…more
Apr 8, 2015 – Malaysiakini
Disturbing slew of legislative changes

29
Apr
15

Sedition amendments crippling blow to rule of law

COMMENT The Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association are appalled by the amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 passed by the Dewan Rakyat in the early hours of 10 April 2015.

We are extremely disappointed that the Malaysian Government has not only reneged from the promise made in 2012 to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with the National Harmony Act, but has substantially strengthened the former with drastic and oppressive provisions.

The Sedition Act 1948 is an archaic, obsolete, and regressive law that must be abolished. It severely restricts, or even extinguishes, the freedom of speech and expression, and hence tramples on the constitutional rights of Malaysians. It is the antithesis of democracy, justice, and human rights.

The amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 have dealt a crippling blow to the rule of law in Malaysia, and lend weight to the widely held public perception that we are becoming an intolerant authoritarian state.

The democratic space for frank, meaningful, and robust discourse has been palpably reduced.

The amendments reinforce the concern that the limits to freedom of speech and expression are to be determined by those in our society who are not open to adverse comments or contrary ideas, or who are easily offended or angered. This nurtures an environment of intemperance and intolerance.

The amendments passed by the Dewan Rakyat will result in a false sense of unity and harmony that is actually created by intimidation and a climate of fear. This perpetuates insecurity and suspicion amongst our citizenry, and does not augur well for the growth and maturity of our nation.

Criminalising truth

The amendments do not deal with one of the most offensive elements of the Sedition Act 1948, namely that the intention of a person accused of sedition, whether noble or mischievous, is irrelevant. The offence of sedition therefore remains one of strict liability.

Strict liability for criminal offences is an extreme exception in criminal law, and certainly not one that should be used in respect of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.

The amendments also criminalise truth, inasmuch as the truth of the words that are said to constitute “seditious tendency” is not a defence to a sedition charge. This is another abhorrent aspect of the Sedition Act 1948.

The amendment to Section 3(1)(a) removes criticism “against any government” as a ground for “seditious tendency”.

While this is a notable development, it should not be forgotten that adverse statements against the government should never have been criminalised. The government cannot place itself beyond public scrutiny or comment, nor can it insulate itself from criticism.

As regards the deletion of Section 3(1)(c) concerning criticism on the administration of justice, it is a timely recognition that in a democracy, no institution should be beyond the reach of constructive and honest comment.

However, we remain concerned that such speech could still be prosecuted under other legislation. If the Government is to recognise the right of freedom of expression, it must do so consistently across all legislation.

…more
Apr 17, 2015 – malaysiakini
By Malaysian Bar, AAS and SLA
Sedition amendments crippling blow to rule of law

28
Apr
15

Transformer vs Terminator – the road to tyranny

COMMENT In one of the ‘Transformers’ movies, there is an exchange between the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime and arch villain Megatron, who heads the Decepticons.

Optimus: You destroy everything you touch.

Megatron: Because everything I touch is food for my hunger. My hunger for power!

In Malaysia, there is a local variant in the form of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who came into power with grand promises of, yes, transformation.

Styling himself as a moderate and liberal leader, he initiated a raft of government initiatives with sophisticated acronyms designed to impress the casual observer, but which detractors claimed upon closer inspection, revealed a lack of substance.

These initiatives often included the term “transformation”, which became synonymous with the sixth prime minister’s mission in office.

Six years have passed since the reins were placed in his hands but it appears that instead of progressing, Malaysia is regressing on multiple fronts.

Ironically, it is under the 1Malaysia sky that the nation has become most divided along racial and religious fault lines.

And it is amid the backdrop of a promise to widen the democratic space that the walls appear to be closing in.

To his credit, Najib did initially attempt to push the right buttons but this did not translate into votes and he was left red-faced after the last polls.

Despite all his courting, he had performed even worse than his immediate predecessor, who unlike Najib was not a ‘transformer’, but bore a striking resemblance to the character Rip van Winkle.

Since then, there has been talk of an attempt to get rid of him and this climaxed with the blog posting last week of another predecessor, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir is cast in a different mould and if a fictional comparison is to be made, he would be none other than the Terminator himself.

He had ruled with an iron fist for more than two decades, which, among others, witnessed the mass incarceration of dissidents and castration of the media as well as other institutions crucial for our democracy.

…more
Apr 8, 2015 – Malaysiakini
Transformer vs Terminator – the road to tyranny

28
Apr
15

Malaysians are NOT misled by perception

Snap out of it, Najib

The PM says Malaysians are consumed by perception and not reality despite the presence of solid facts about many claims.

COMMENT

Once again our Prime Minister, Najib Razak emerged from his hideout to make yet another futile statement. This time around through a radio broadcast uploaded on http://www.najibrazak.com, he urged Malaysians to be wise in assessing the validity of information as he elaborately explained how we have become a nation living in the era of perception and not reality.

Thanks for your kind advice, Najib, but really, no thanks.

With all due respect – I do not believe that Malaysians are misled by perception. In fact Malaysians are just tired of your sandiwara. And from my social circle, I have solid reason to believe that political supporters from both sides, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, not to mention fence sitters, are on the verge of giving up (if they haven’t already, that is).

You see, none of the perceptions mentioned above have anything to do with false information derived from an illegitimate source as you claim. So what are these “perceptions” you keep talking about, I wonder.

Our national debt has ballooned from RM263.6 billion in 2009 to RM740.7 billion in 2015. Is that perception?

Two policemen who had no reason to kill a woman were sentenced to death for murder. Is that perception?

While unable to settle the debts of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that amounts to RM42 billion, the government decides on its 7th private jet purchase. Is that perception?

Abusing the freedom and rights of the people while giving speeches about being the champion of human rights. Is that perception?

A man – a father to be, jumping out of the window of a building and falling to his death for no apparent reason. Is that a perception?

Najib, oh Najib, none of the above are perceptions. It is not defined as perception if there are solid facts to substantiate the claims.

But then again, if you feel so strongly that everything is merely perception, why don’t you get an independent body to investigate 1MDB and the many other questionable matters to prove us wrong? What is there to fear if you have nothing to hide?

While we are talking of perception here, perhaps I should point out to you that your biggest problem is not about the people having misperceptions. Instead it is about YOUR OWN PERCEPTION that you are running this country excellently.

Najib, snap out of your Lalaland. Face it, you have lost the confidence of half the population of Malaysia. While you think of yourself as “the chosen one”, you have failed to work your way back into our hearts in order to gain back our lost trust in you and your government.

So you see “Yang Berhormat”, there is nothing wrong with our perception. But yours… well, your perception is somewhat flawed.

By the way, would you like to know what my perception is? I will tell you anyway – I perceive this government today, led by you, YAB Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the worst in the history of the nation.

Now that is something you can refute because it is after all my 100% perception.

“Sheep are domesticated to be defenceless.

Malaysians are not sheep. We fight back.”

…more
Snap out of it, Najib
Fa Abdul
April 20, 2015 – FMT

27
Apr
15

New open letter by 40 urges Putrajaya to restore moderation

Another group of Malaysians, including prominent former civil servants and leaders, have signed an open letter urging Putrajaya to recommit to 10 universal values which make Malaysia a moderate country.

The letter signed by 40 individuals said the values – trust, responsibility, honesty, dedication, moderation, diligence, discipline, cooperation, honourable behaviour and thanksgiving – were introduced in 1982 by the government to inculcate universal Islamic values.

The letter comes five months after a group of 25 prominent Malays (G25) issued an open letter calling for a rational dialogue on Islam, which has drawn widespread support from many quarters.

In the letter by the 40, titled “Strengthen the foundational structure of our nation”, the group wrote that moderation as a value was being “ignored by certain quarters, including political leaders who espouse sectarian views to suit their audiences”.

“Never before in this country’s history have such stresses and strains been made to bear upon the foundational principles of nationhood which now threaten to subvert the bonds that have held all Malaysians together and kept the nation comprising the territorial components of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak intact,” the letter said.

The three-page statement, signed by former judges, ambassadors, activists, educationists and notable individuals, said Malaysia had a “civil national order which is religion neutral”.

The group said that it was “deeply concerned” moderation was being drowned by louder voices of intolerance and extremism that were threatening to tear the unity of Malaysians apart.

“It is unfortunate that the policy of promoting these 10 values has become a platform for ‘Islamisation’ by religious bureaucrats.”

They noted that public confidence in the legal system has eroded over the years, owing to religious bureaucrats, whom, they said, had been given “overarching” significance over the Federal Constitution.

The group said Malaysia’s constitutional history recorded the fact that the country was a secular nation with Islam as the religion of the federation.

“As a rainbow nation of many peoples with diverse religions, we charted our destiny upon a civil and non-religious national legal order resting firmly on the twin principles of the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law.

“We are not a theocratic state with religious law being prescribed as the supreme law of the land. Neither should we be forced to live by the rule of religious diktats where decrees of religious bureaucrats have legal and punitive effect.

“Lip service and pious platitudes acknowledge the supremacy of the constitution as the nation’s supreme law. At the same time, diktats of the religious bureaucrats are given an overarching significance over the constitution.

“This has eroded public confidence in the national legal order and in the administrators and adjudicators of this order.”

They also blamed “religious bureaucrats” for halting the implementation of certain laws, such as the Domestic Violence Act 1994 which could not be brought into force for almost two years.

“A similar fate befell the stillborn law reform initiative to preserve the status quo of the rights of parties arising out of one spouse in a civil marriage converting to Islam upon the dissolution of their marriage.”

They said there have been serious jurisdictional issues and worrying decisions in terms of the judiciary when some civil courts had declined to make decisions on constitutional issues and had even handed over the duty to the Shariah Court.

“There is also grave concern about the negative impact on freedom of religion as well as the religious and civil rights of non-Muslims, for example, the constitutional right of parents to determine the religion and religious upbringing of their children who are minors,” the 40 individuals said.

Besides that, non-Muslim religions seem to be increasingly marginalised amid growing signs of non-tolerance against them, their beliefs and practices, the group added.

“This development undermines Malaysia’s claim to be a model moderate nation where Islam co-exists harmoniously with other religions in a multicultural society.”

Saying they wrote the letter with “deep anguish”, the group urged Putrajaya to recommit itself to the pursuit of the 10 universal values to make Malaysia a great nation and expressed their support for the concerns and recommendations raised by the G25 group in December.

“We consider ourselves duty-bound to call upon the federal government and the state governments to give their undivided attention to this grave peril which our nation faces.”

Among the signatories were Datuk Albert Talalla, former ambassador to China, Germany and the US; Bob Teoh, former general-secretary of National Union of Journalists; Datuk Choo Siew Kioh, former ambassador to Sweden and Mali; and Tan Sri Clifford Francis Herbert, former secretary-general, Finance Ministry.

Others included Hartini Zainudin, child activist; Datuk K.J. Abraham, former deputy director-general of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage; Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, chairman of Proham and past president of the Malaysian Bar; Datuk Lily Zachariah, former ambassador to Italy, Chile and Senegal; Datuk Stephen Foo Kiat Shin, former state attorney-general of Sabah; Dr Lyana Khairuddin, educator and scientist working on HIV and HPV; Datuk Stanley Isaacs, former head of Prosecution, Commissioner of Law Revision and Parliamentary Draftsmen of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

…more
New open letter by 40 urges Putrajaya to restore moderation
19 April 2015 – TMI




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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?

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