Only time will tell

Many people are understandably upset. Many more are feeling despondent. Many are worried. Many are even depressed.  Of course there are some who are rejoicing, especially if you are the one getting promoted out of the blue.

I  have a sense of déjà vu. I have seen these happen before. Not once, but many times.

In October 1987, when operating Lalang was launched, and many newspapers were suspected, we all felt what we are feeling right now.

In 1988, when the then Lord President was sacked by a tribunal, the same feeling arose.

Then in 1998, during the height of the financial crisis, when our currency was sinking lower and lower, and the sudden sacking of Anwar as deputy prime minister hit like a bombshell, we again experienced this feeling of despondency and uncertainty.

Lest some of my readers may be too young at that time, let me inform you that all these occurred during Dr M’s administration. But Malaysians ‘mudah lupa’ ; after each episode, Dr M went from strength to strength, leading BN to win by more than two third of seats after each of these events.

i remember in the mid 90’s , especially around the year 1995, he was enjoying strong support of Malaysians, despite the fact that what he had done in the 80s has irreparably weakened various institution of our country. The mechanism of check and balance, so tediously laid down by our earlier leaders , was tossed to the wind. He was hailed as a great leader, and in private conversation I have with many of my businessmen friends, they told me variously that ‘ clear water has no fish’,’ the end results justify the means’ etc etc. By then the people not only forgot the harm he has done in the 80s, but they adored him as a great dictator who was able to provide stability and put money in everyone’s pockets by means of charting a steady growth rate.

Malaysians mudah lupa, yes!

Now we Malaysians are facing yet another sandiwara similarly to earlier ones. The student has learned well and using the same strong hand tactic, he is doing exactly a ‘Dr M’. He must be secretly hoping that since we Malaysians have this ‘ mudah lupa’ traits, if he can buy time, and give stability and good growth rate to the country, people will forget and forgive.  After all, most of the people are like the Joe-6-pack of America, as long as there is enough to spend for himself and his family,  other things are secondary.

One thing in his favor is the power of incumbency. As no.1, with all mechanism of check and balance weakened, and his enormous power to dispense both positions and favors, people with aspiration to climb ladders will succumb to enticement and give him full support. So will those with skeletons in the closet- there must be tons of them.

So he must be hoping that after a couple of years, people will forget.

The main difference between the situation now and the earlier crisis is that the people are much better informed nowadays, with Internet and online media taking over the role of watch dog. Furthermore, the people  are badly affected by bread and butter issues, no thanks to the inflation brought about by the untimely imposition of GST, exacerbated by  the plunging commodities’ prices and the sinking value of the ringgit.

Will Malaysians still mudah lupa?

Only time will tell.

 

this article is published in Malaymailonline.

 

 

Empire strikes back

Gain Patail replaced as attorney general shocker. This is the headline of a Malaysiakini article just published.

He is apparently being replaced  due to health reasons, even though he was quoted to say that he was not aware of it.( malaymailonline posted an article ‘ Gani says in the dark over sudden termination’ ).

I don’t know what he means by ‘ in the dark’. In the dark of being replaced or in the dark of his’ poor health’?  Anyway this is not important as either way, he is out. In politics, poor health means ‘Chap Bao Fok’ , a Cantonese phrase for packing off.

Yesterday, I mentioned whether we will have a new no 1 depends on the four Tan Sris. Now one of them is out because he is ‘sick’. Do the rest want to be ‘ sick’ too? If they don’t want to be ‘sick’, follow lah certain ‘lifestyle’.

There is a Chinese phrase of killing a chick to warn the monkeys. The chicken is ‘sick’, so if the monkeys want to be healthy, we all know what lifestyle they should adopt!

Apparently No. 2 is also being replaced. No. 1 has suddenly turned tough, no more Mr. Nice Guy. This is as I predicted in my article yesterday where I mentioned that a wounded tiger is most dangerous when cornered, and he would muster his remaining strength to fight back.

This would probably lead to some being chopped from cabinet or even party, and maybe a splinter group will come out. Do not underestimate the effect of chopping no. 2 from office and making AG sick retire due to ‘sickness’ . This will silence all dissenting voices and make members/officials both in the party and the government toe the line. Whether No. 2 can fight back will largely depend on how much grassroots support he can muster and how strong is Old Horse’s hidden hand of cards.

It will be interesting to watch whether this will lead to a realignment of  political forces, with PAS teaming up with Big brother, and splinter group heading to Pakatan.

Even as early as in 2008, when I was still in Gerakan, I have predicted that Malaysia will see a realignment of forces after the 2013 GE. Maybe I may be right after all.

 

 

 

Crossing the Rubicon

No. 2, and PM in waiting, has crossed the Rubicon  and at the same time thrown down the gauntlet.

In opening a division meeting, he was quoted to say:

“1. If not The Edge, then which source can be trusted for 1MDB reports?

2. I told Ah Jib Kor to quit 1MDB but he didn’t listen,

3. Ah Jib Kor must answer WSJ’s allegations on fund transfers.”

Malaysian politics is like wayang kulit. You don’t go on a frontal attack unless you have marshaled sufficient forces. If you don’t have enough bullets, it would be better to lie low and sit on the fence. You only start to attack when you are 99% sure of your chances. DrSubra did a good job in the other party , and now is the undeniable No. 1 in that party.

We all know that the old horse is now behind no. 2, as they share a common interest to see Ah Jib go.

The interesting thing to note now is what will the 4 Tan Sris in the special task force do? Look at the flag and see which side the wind is blowing is probably a good survival skill, and if they go with the wind, then we will probably have a new No. 1 in no time!

The writing is on the wall, and the wind is getting stronger and stronger. Karma will probably cause ‘What goes round comes around!

………………………………

On the other hand, do not underestimate the wounded tiger! A tiger is at its most dangerous when wounded and cornered. If he can muster his remaining strength and counter attack, expect another ‘ operasi rumput’.

When two elephants tigers fight, the people in between will suffer. You probably realize by now your net worth has gone down so much in a short period, no thanks to the negative perception that is partly responsible for the slide in our ringgit! We as the rakyat can only wish to have this end quickly so that the country can move on again from this impasse. Sigh!

jumping the gun

I deplore the suspension of the Edge papers by the Home Ministry.

According to Malaysian insider, a letter from the ministry stated that the publications’ coverage of 1MDB was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

if the Edge papers have committed acts that are against the law, those in charge of the papers should be hauled up and charged according to our law, in open court.

If there is no concrete evidence to charge them, then how can the authority says their coverage was prejudicial to public order?

Especially when the investigation into the scandal has not been completed?

Isn’t this act a case of jumping the gun? Or is this meant to silence the critics?

GST and consumer power

Updated.

Almost one month has passed since the implementation of GST, has the cost of living gone up?

GST was successfully implemented in many countries and is perceived to be a useful tax to raise revenue for the government.  Protagonists will label it as a fair tax; you pay when you spend; the more you consume, the more you pay.  But if you are one of those living and working in the cities in Malaysia and earning a salary slightly higher than the minimal wage, you probably will be the one worst hit by this so called consumption tax and you will not welcome this.

Even though essential items are exempted from this tax, working persons will have no choice but to eat at least one meal outside. And if you eat a meal outside, you will definitely feel the effects of this tax on your pocket.

So far, I have come across three categories of businesses on how they deal with GST.

1. Many merchants have put out notices that they absorb GST. One prominent example is multinational company IKEA. There are notices in Ikea stating that prices remain as before. They must have a very comfortable profit margin to be able to absorb six percent of taxation. Anyway, as consumers, most of us would be happy to patronize these.

2. Many are charging more than six percent even though  on their receipt, it is programmed to read 6 percent. One example is those curry puff chain stores.  One of them  was selling curry puff for RM 2 per piece just before CNY.  After CNY, it was raised to RM 2.20, reasons being that the impending implementation of GST has raised cost and thus a 10 percent adjustment in price.  But then, come April first, the curry puff price went up to 2.40 , an increase of another 20 cents. Six percent GST on 2.20 would be 13 cents, so why increase it by another 20 cents? Why can’t they just sell it at 2.35 or even 2.30 , since they have already increase their puff by ten percent just a couple of months earlier? On the receipt, of course, GST reads exactly six percent of a puff which are now priced higher at 2.26.

A fried YaoCharKway (fried chinese doughnut or flour sticks) in uptown used to charge 40 sen per stick (the small variety type, not the normal long one available elsewhere). Now he is charging 50 sen per stick, an hefty increase of 25%. The reason is that as a small business, he can’t charge GST but have to buy raw materials which may be subjected to GST. So he has to pass on the increase. An increase of 25% no less, even though GST is only 6%.  It doesn’t matter that not all his raw materials are subjected to GST; flour and sugar are certainly GST exempted.

One of my favorite cafe at uptown Damansara raised its white coffee from RM 3 to RM 3.30 a cup, an increase of 10  percent, starting this month.  On top of that, GST is charged on the 3.30. Which means an increase of more than 16 %  on that cup of coffee. The reason given is again increase of cost of living due to the new tax. By their logic, the six percent GST  is causing the cost of living to go up 10 percent? These merchants must be either out of their minds or they are such good predictors of future that they could predict that there is a rise of cost of living of 10% due to the six percent of GST.  More likely, they are shrewd businessmen trying to make more profits using GST as a pretext.

3. This category did not use GST as an excuse to raise their prices, yet! They charge GST as GST should be charged– prices of goods purchased plus 6 %.  They did not have to absorb any cost, but they also did not go all out to profit from the pretext of an increase in cost of living due to GST implementation. Examples are plenty: many restaurants, most hypermarkets and supermarkets.

There are many other examples of category 2 merchants. Precisely because of these unscrupulous merchants , cost of living may go up higher than what it should be purely on GST taxation per se. Precisely because of there are so many category 2 businesses,  that we should have perhaps postponed the implementation of GST until people’s mentality changes to that of first world countries, or until such time when enforcement improves and profiteering can be cut down to a minimum.

In the meantime, what can we consumers do? individual Consumers are powerless, but together we can teach these cat2 merchants a lesson. If they raise their prices in addition to charging GST, like the examples I quoted above,  we should  all stop patronizing them. If we can do that, we will be sending a strong signal to these people that profiteering will not be tolerated.

Afterall, what are they without the consumers?

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P.S. There are of course the  rare ones that have lowered their prices. These outlets are so rare that I won’t even categorise them. One of them is this :

image

 

Please note that although this outlet has reduced its prices, they are still not cheap and would still be out of reach for the ordinary wage earners. Anyway, this act of reducing price is commendable and hopefully more outlets should take after this.

Stand up and take charge

I applaud the 25 prominent Malay dignitaries who came forward to preach moderation for Malaysia.

Today, I read that another 33 Malaysians from different ethnic groups have come forward to voice their concern about the extremist views that have been uttered by various rightist groups.

The country as I see it is facing certain hurdles in its journey towards a developed nation.

The most obvious and dangerous one is of course extremist views have gone largely unchecked, and the perception is UMNO has turned more and more to the right and this does not herald well for the party and the country.

Another hurdle is the slowing economy and rising inflation, but this will not be discussed here at the moment.

So the brave 25 prominent Malays who started the ball rolling must be given credit for voicing out the views of many. Even though they have the comfort in numbers, this is still an act of courage to stand up and urge the country to go back to its roots and Federal Constitution.

The ball is now in the court of the Prime Minister. He has often preached moderation, especially in overseas forum. The position of PM is a very powerful one. He should start exerting himself if he really believe in what he preaches. Please read this old post of mine “Please walk the talk’.

Without PM exerting leadership and taking control and clamping down on the extremist views, whatever is uttered by these prominent Malaysians will not have much effect.

It is up to the PM to act decisively. His about turn in Sedition Act shows the amount of pressure he is under, especially when many of the UMNO’s delegates have turned rightist.  The latter is the results of leadership not showing a firm direction for party members. When there is a vacuum, little wonders that   many big wits including the Old Horse start to lead the way. The result:  the party is now what it is now

His office is powerful. He can overcome the obstacles if he starts exerting his power now. Leader must not be follower of trends. A good leader must be able to buck the trend and turn opinion around.

I am hoping  that PM will start doing that, and walk his talk. The country needs that. As i see it, he is the only one AT THE MOMENT with the stature and power  to stand up and clamp down on the extremists, and only with him doing that, the country can go back to its moderate way again.

 

A step backward

Many of us are disappointed with the about turn in retaining the Sedition Act. Many have written about  this flip flop in the various online media, and many conclusions are made. I have written many times in the past about the need to abolish this Act, and I am not going to write on that again since so many voices have already done so  following the flip-flop.

I shall just attempt to put forward my two cents worth of opinion  about the politics that may have to do with this about turn.

We can draw a few inference from this about turn:

1. PM, the alleged reformer,  has decided put his own position above the reforms that he would like to implement.

2. The reason why he needs to do so  is that he is not as strong as we thought.  All along we  know that he is not in full control of the party, with even the Old Horse openly declared that he was withdrawing his support. The Old HOrse is a wily old man, and he must have evaluated carefully about the strength of PM and his own support before doing so. The Old Horse has not done a “Pah Lah” to PM yet. This is more to do with the fact that there is no viable candidate to succeed PM at the moment. But the scenario could change in a few years’s time when his son builds up support and is ready to take over the helm.

3. A few years ago, when Perkasa first came to light, I have written an article in Malaysiakini titled : ” the ascendency of right wing politics”. I will paraphrase  a paragraph from this article here:

” Recent events have showed that right-wing politics is on the rise and the ascendancy of these right-wingers do not bode well for the country. The country is on the road to extreme racist politics if these right-wingers have their way. The road that these right-wingers advocate is a direct opposite of the ‘1Malaysia’ concept which was introduced by none other than the prime minister himself.”

That was written in 2010 and events have proven me correct. These right wing NGOs have succeeded to implants false ‘seeds’ in the minds of many rural people, and as the saying goes, if a lie is told a hundred times, people will tend to believe. These right wing organisations have succeeded in playing up the fears and insecurity of many people, and thus have influenced many of the delegates of UMNO. UMNO is now much more right wing than before, because many of the warlords thought by adopting a more right wing approach, they can probably change the tide and gain more grounds, and thus ensure their own survival.

Seeing the tide is building against the abolition of the Act within the party, it is either doing the about turn or risk losing support in the assembly.  PM chose the former course. In doing so he is taking a step back. Will this step back results in 2 steps forward later, 0nly time will tell.

4. the failure to inform other component parties before the about-turn says much about the complete marginalisation of these parties.  The quickness of all component parties in coming to terms with this about-turn, even though many in the past favoured abolition of the Act, show the pitiful state of these parties now. One wonders why they are still in the Front; they are no longer able to influence any big decisions.

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