- Call for more tweaks in subsidies, reforms
- 11 tahun negara dalam hutang
- Four Umno Youth Leaders To Contest MT Posts
- LoyarBurok: How to choose a spouse, ADUN, or MP
- At least they agreed on one thing: only in Malaysia is Allah an issue
- East Malaysia: primus inter pares
- Political Philosophy and Power: Democracy in Malaysia
- KPRU: Biar PETRONAS Lapor Kepada Parlimen Sebelum Laksana GST (with English and Chinese ...
- “Chinese or Malay, what does it matter?”
- Khalid Samad sokong Anwar jumpa Najib
- Who sets the agenda?
- ‘Al-Arqam cult yet to repent’
- Movie version of Malaysian race riot stirs unease
- Police permit required for assemblies, Appeal Court affirms
- Pengguna internet marah Pak Samad ditahan awal pagi
- PAS tolak kerajaan perpaduan
- ‘I fought for my country, not for any race’
- A decade later, still no keys to houses
- Conservative Forces Now Sniping At @khairykj
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 10:59 AM PDT
(Business Times) - REACHING TARGETS: Moody's says fuel price hike a positive step but more adjustments to Malaysian govt fiscal plan needed
THE fuel price hike is a positive step but more tweaks in subsidies and other fiscal reforms are needed if the government is to address its overall fiscal deficits.
Global rating agency Moody's Investors Service Inc said the lack of additional reforms would place the government's fiscal targets "increasingly out of reach".
Read more at: http://www.btimes.com.my/articles/20130904232853/Article/
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 10:52 AM PDT
(Sinar Harian) - Keputusan mengurangkan subsidi itu, jika dibaca melalui kenyataan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, nyata tidak berkait dengan kenaikan harga minyak dunia atau jumlah minyak yang dieksport Malaysia setiap tahun.
RAMAI orang meluahkan rasa geram, mengapa kerajaan perlu kurangkan subsidi petrol dan diesel sedangkan harga minyak dunia tidak meningkat mendadak, dan Malaysia pula adalah negara pengeluar minyak.Tetapi keputusan mengurangkan subsidi itu, jika dibaca melalui kenyataan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, nyata tidak berkait dengan kenaikan harga minyak dunia atau jumlah minyak yang dieksport Malaysia setiap tahun.
Apa yang jelas, keputusan kerajaan mengurangkan subsidi minyak buat pertama kali dalam tempoh dua tahun ini adalah bagi mengurangkan defisit dalam belanjawan negara yang mencecah 4.5 peratus daripada Keluaran Dalam Negara Kasar (KDNK) tahun lalu.
Itu adalah tahap yang dianggap agak membimbangkan oleh pakar ekonomi dan pelabur luar, menyebabkan Fitch Ratings pada Julai lalu menurunkan prospek ekonomi Malaysia daripada stabil kepada negatif.
Mengikut pakar ekonomi Barclays Plc di Singapura, Rahul Bajoria, pengurangan subsidi petrol dan diesel adalah langkah positif dan tanda pentadbiran Najib mula mengakui terdapat masalah berhubung kedudukan kewangan Malaysia.
"Mereka mula bergerak ke arah yang betul. Lebih banyak perlu dilakukan," menurut Bajoria seperti dilaporkan Bloomberg, kelmarin.
Menurut majalah perniagaan Forbes pula, Malaysia, sebagai pengeksport minyak dan gas, telah mendapat keuntungan daripada harga minyak dunia yang semakin tinggi, namun kenaikan kos petrol dan diesel di dalam negara serta kewangan kerajaan yang semakin lemah memaksa kerajaan mula mengurangkan subsidi kerajaan.
Jika dilihat kepada statistik, Malaysia mencatatkan defisit bajet secara berterusan sejak 11 tahun lalu.
Graf defisit bajet kerajaan Malaysia di laman web Index Mundi, iaitu laman web yang mengumpul data ekonomi dan sosial daripada agensi bertanggungjawab di negara seluruh dunia, menunjukkan sejak 1988, bajet kerajaan mencatat purata defisit 2.89 peratus daripada KDNK dengan 2009 mencatatkan rekod terburuk, iaitu defisit 6.70 peratus daripada KDNK.
Berbeza dengan orang biasa yang akan dikejar bank atau ah long, jika hutang tidak dibayar dalam tempoh minimum yang diberikan, kerajaan sesebuah negara boleh beroperasi dengan defisit sederhana buat beberapa tahun kerana pemberi pinjaman tahu kemungkinan untuk sesebuah kerajaan tidak membayar hutang adalah rendah.
Tetapi, sama seperti perbelanjaan harian orang biasa yang berhutang kad kredit atau rumah, jika dibiarkan terlalu lama, hutang yang bertambah itu akan hanya menyumbang kepada lebih banyak defisit; bermakna kerajaan terpaksa mengeluarkan lebih banyak wang untuk membayar kadar faedah bagi hutang asal hingga menyebabkan kelembapan ekonomi.
Mengapa subsidi minyak perlu dikurangkan? Bandingkan dengan orang biasa yang perlu mengurangkan perbelanjaan harian dalam beberapa aspek hidup untuk mendapat lebih wang bagi membayar semula hutang.
Cuma bezanya, bila kerajaan mengurangkan perbelanjaan, kesannya dirasai oleh rakyat.
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 10:51 AM PDT
(Bernama) - Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said four leaders have been named as candidates for Umno Supreme Council (MT) posts in the party elections next month.
They are Umno Youth vice-chief Datuk Razali Ibrahim, information chief Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, economic bureau chairman Datuk Sohaimi Shahadan and new media unit chairman Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz.
"We give unanimous support to the four candidates. I urge all the youth delegates who will vote for the Supreme Council seats to give them solid support," he told reporters after chairing the Umno Youth committee meeting at Menara Dato' Onn, Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here Wednesday.
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 10:25 AM PDT
The 13th general election is finally over. The people have chosen. What's left now is for all the elected representatives to get to work and to prove how worthy they are of the people's votes. It's also up to us to hold them accountable to their duties. After all, if all things fail and result in irreconcilable differences, a separation or divorce can be an option like any other relationships.You would do this for the many other things in your life, but why should you expect less from our politicians?
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 10:12 AM PDT
(TMI) - The forum "Is Allah exclusive to Islam – Law, Faith and Politics" was organised by MySuara.net, an online TV portal yesterday.
In a heated online television discussion yesterday, three Muslim scholars were still agreed on one thing: that the use of the word "Allah" to describe gods of different religions – including the Christian god – is an issue only in Malaysia and nowhere else in the world.
But it still was an issue to two of the scholars as they argued there was an agenda behind Christians using Allah to refer to their god in Malay bibles.
"Christianity is said to be over 2,000 years old. They should have a big vocabulary bank to choose from to refer to God. The fact that they chose Allah was evidence that they have an agenda," argued Dr Khalif Muammar Harris, associate professor of the Center for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilization at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Agreeing with him, another panellist echoed the refrain of some that Christians had used the word to mislead East Malaysians to convert them to Christianity. Making this point was Dr Yusri Mohamad, chairman of the Coalition of Supporters of Islam (Pembela), who wanted the word "Allah" banned in Malay bibles.
"It is a Christian virus in the country. They cannot be faulted for having their own missionaries, but they are propagating the virus of pluralism, that all religions are the same," he said.
The forum "Is Allah exclusive to Islam – Law, Faith and Politics" was organised by MySuara.net, an online TV portal yesterday.
It was moderated by ex-Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin and held as a curtain raiser to Putrajaya's appeal set to be heard on Tuesday.
The appeal is against a 2009 High Court ruling that allowed the Catholic Church to use the word "Allah" in its weekly newspaper, the Herald.
Dr Asri, in his opening comments, said the word Allah was in a Catholic bible he bought in Jordan some time ago.
"They have been using the word a long time ago, and so it's a non-issue in the Arab world," he noted.
But Dr Yusri responded that the word was currently being misused in the Malay bible.
"Yes, the problem is exclusive to Malaysia, but my personal opinion is it cannot be used in bibles. The National Fatwa Council also felt the same.
"The world would not turn upside down for the Christians if they are not allowed to use the word. It is actually not a big issue to them even if the word is banned. It's not as though they don't have an alternative word that will not upset their Muslim friends," he said.
The third panellist, PAS Member of Parliament for Shah Alam Khalid Samad, felt that it was not an issue.
He argued that instead of banning the word from non-Muslim tracts, religious leaders and scholars should instead educate and create awareness on what Allah means to Muslims.
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 09:48 AM PDT
The rise and rise of right-wing Islamic politics in the peninsula means that will use federal power to impose their will on East Malaysia. The tragedy is that the good ethnic relations experienced in East Malaysia for the past fifty years will be nothing more than a distant dream.
James Chin, New Mandala
Last Saturday Malaysia celebrated her 56th year of independence in Dataran Merdeka in central Kuala Lumpur.
Many people in East Malaysia, however, may not be celebrating. Why? 31th August is the date of independence for Malaya but not the Malaysian federation. The fact is, the federation of Malaysia was proclaimed on 16th September 1963, and the federation of Malaysia is 50 years old, not 56. This simple fact is often ignored by Putrajaya much to the annoyance of East Malaysians.
When Najib Tun Razak became Malaysia's prime minister in 2009, he declared that 16thSeptember is be called "Malaysia Day" and added it as a public holiday in the country. Prime Minister Najib's concession was no doubt linked to the 2008 general elections when voters from East Malaysia helped Barisan Nasional to retain power when voters in the peninsula abandoned the BN.
While recognition of 16th September is welcomed in East Malaysia, the bigger issues for most East Malaysians are the '20 Points' and political recognition that East Malaysia should treated as an equal partner, not merely two of the 13 states in the federation.
Prior to the formation of the federation in 1963, Sabah (or North Borneo as it then called) and Sarawak wanted a set of guarantees before they would agree to form the proposed Malaysia Federation with Malaya, Singapore and Brunei (Brunei was to withdraw at the last minute). Four meeting were held under the Malaysian Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC), leading to the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak (better known as the Cobbold Commission) and a joint British-Malayan committee, the Inter-Governmental Committee (better known as the IGC Report), was established to ensure these concerns were reflected properly in the new Malaysia Constitution. These set of guarantees, commonly referred to as the 20 Points, gave Sabah and Sarawak a large degree of autonomy in areas like immigration, language, religion, Bornenisation of the civil service and representation in the Federal Parliament.
The autonomy was needed to allay fears of a takeover by Malayans and Singaporeans who were deemed more developed than East Malaysia. In terms of history, culture and demography, there was nothing in common between the peoples of the peninsula and Borneo, other than all were ruled by the British.
Since then, many East Malaysians, especially Sabahans think Putrajaya has not adhered to the 20 points and infact, has purposely breached the guarantees in order to forcelly impose politically on East Malaysia a political framework, essentially an UMNO-led Malay-first political system.
This is clear from the testimonies given at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) in illegal immigration into Sabah for the past four decades. The RCI has been told numerous times that the highest levels in the federal government, during the Mahathir era, gave thousands of Muslim Filipinos and Indonesians Malaysian citizenship to ensure that Sabah became a Muslim-majority state in less than a decade. From 1970 to 2010, Sabah's population increased by 390 percent! This was to guarantee Muslim political hegemony and ensured that the native Kadazandusun, previously the majority in Sabah, will never be able to politically challenge a Muslim-led leadership, both in Kota Kinabalu and Putrajaya. One witness, a civil servant who issued the Malaysian identity cards illegally, openly told the RCI he saw it as his duty to ensure Muslim dominance.
The same pattern is repeated in the civil service. Despite a promise that, when British expatriate left their positions in the public service after 1963 they would be filled by Sabahans and Sarawakians, it did not happened. Most of the current senior civil servant positions are filled by Malays from the peninsula.
The other big issue that annoys East Malaysians is Putrajaya's refusal to acknowledge the special status of Sabah and Sarawak. East Malaysia saw themselves as one of three different political entities (Borneo, Singapore, Malaya) that came together to form the Federation back in 1963. This means they were not equal to the states in Malaya, and this was acknowledged in the original first article of the federal constitution that was promulgated on 16th September 1963. Later amendments were made which lump Sabah and Sarawak as the same category as other states.
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 08:57 AM PDT
At times, it seems obvious that we're all equals. But at other times it seems very obvious just how unequal we are.
Consider this – how should I put this delicately? – some people are really really stupid. Some people are really really ignorant and bigoted. You really want a system in which their votes count for the same as yours?
This speech was delivered at the Kuala Lumpur Bar Council on the 17th of July 2013.
In the synopsis to this talk I ask the question: Nowadays information on politics is everywhere, but where can wisdom be found?
So this is what it's come to on a Wednesday afternoon at the Bar Council, huh? All of you here in this room, listening to a 25-year-old tell you about wisdom.
But what's the difference between information and wisdom?
Well, what would happen if we were to stop watching and reading the news? What would happen if we were to retire into the jungle and live there as hermits for a year? At the end of that year, would we still know anything of value about politics, or would all our knowledge be obsolete? What if we did this for two years, five years, ten? At the end of that period, what knowledge would we have that's still of value?
Political philosophy seeks to provide that knowledge. It provides timeless lessons on power detached from the frenzy of the 24-hour news cycle: lessons that retain their potency even as politicians come and go, and empires rise and fall.
The origin of Western philosophy is illustrated here, with Raphael's famous painting of The School of Athens.
Raphael's School of Athens
The central figures are Plato and his most famous student, Aristotle. These two men weren't just the quintessential philosophers; they also sought to guide power. Plato was once an adviser at the court of King Dionysius of Syracuse, whilst Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander the Great, probably the greatest conqueror the world has ever known.
Plato (logic) and Aristotle (experience)
As you can see, Plato is depicted pointing up into the air. He is the lofty thinker: knowledge for him comes from logic, from revelation, and from imagining the abstract ideal Forms of all things.
Aristotle, by contrast, is depicted with his outstretched hand seeming to motion downwards. Whoa, he says, calm down, come down. Aristotle is more down to earth: knowledge for him comes from experience, from empiricism, from gritty conflict and human interactions.
This combination of logic and experience lies at the heart of knowledge in most disciplines. We shall require both in our exploration of democracy today.
Democracy as a political system has seen an upsurge in the past hundred years. According to Freedom House, the number of democracies climbed from just 22 in 1950 to 115 in 2010 out of a total of about 200 countries.
Today even regimes that aren't democratic feel obliged to justify themselves in democratic terms. At present the only four countries that don't claim to be democratic are Brunei, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Vatican City.
Even the recent military coup in Egypt is being portrayed by its supporters as a move to safeguard Egypt's nascent democracy against an increasingly undemocratic Mohammed Morsi.
But what do we mean when we say 'democracy'? Because the way we use the term today isn't very straightforward.
In a recent BBC interview our old Prime Minister Dr Mahathir said that 'Asians like to be democratic, but they don't really understand democracy.'.
Well, I suppose we better make sure we do understand democracy, so that next time Mahathir cannot laugh at us.
The term 'democracy' comes from the Greek word demokratia, which was coined from the word demos (people) and the word kratos (power). It literally meant 'people power'. In its most basic form, democracy means a system of government in which the majority of the citizens determine what's to be done.
It's best to start at the beginning. Apparently there were democracies in India even before this, but in the West democracy was invented in Athens around 500 BC.
The democracy then though, was very different from the democracy we have now. First of all, the voting franchise was restricted to free adult males above the age of 20 who were Athenian citizens; women and slaves could not vote.
Most importantly, the democracy then was democracy in its most straightforward form: it was a direct democracy. This meant that citizens would regularly attend debates on every single big public issue, and then vote on them: whether to impose taxes, whether to make a treaty with another city, whether to go to war, what military strategy to use – all sorts of things. Those issues would all be decided by simple majority voting.
We don't have that sort of system now. What we have are representative democracies. In our parliamentary system that means that citizens only typically vote once every 4 years, and that's to select a legislature and (through that) an executive, who are then supposed to decide on almost all public issues in the intervening period. Policy decisions are supposed to be decided by those with special expertise and with access to special information.
The Situation Room
For example, in America, economic policy is decided by the President, the Treasury Secretary, and the Chairman of the Fed. Military strategy is decided by the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For important covert operations like the one that killed Osama bin Laden, decisions would be made by the President and a close group of advisers. In Malaysia all that is probably decided by Rosmah. Okay, I'm kidding, but I think you get my point – in both countries these kinds of decisions lie outside the ambit of the ordinary citizen, and that's the way it works in most countries around the world that call themselves democratic.
Indeed, the ancient Greeks wouldn't have regarded modern democracies as democracies at all. As Donald Kagan, former Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale, notes, 'the Athenians would have been astonished at the claim of modern states to [the title of democracy]'. 'To them an essential feature of democracy was the direct and full sovereignty of the majority of citizens. Government by elected representatives…appointment to important offices, unelected bureaucracies…terms for elective office of more than one year, all of these would have seemed clear and deadly enemies of what reasonable people might understand by democracy.'.
But what's this mean? How did the fact that ancient Athens was a direct democracy affect decisions on public issues?
What this means, first of all, is that there were few secrets. Because everything had to be openly debated and discussed in the Athenian Assembly and then openly voted on, virtually everything became public knowledge. If, for example, the Athenians decided to send a fleet against the Spartans, the Spartans would know about it because they'd have spies within the Assembly who'd report to them as soon as a decision was reached.
This also means that a lot of important decisions, including military strategy, were made by people with no special expertise and with no access to special information, people who were sometimes ignorant and uneducated, people who could be easily influenced by demagogues into making rash choices.
This book here is the history of The Peloponnesian War. It chronicles the war between Athens (a democracy) and Sparta (an oligarchy) almost 2,500 years ago. It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian general involved in the war, and the man hailed as the father of scientific history. Though written as a history, it's the most powerful argument against democracy I've ever come across and it's helped my understanding of democracy immensely.
In this book Thucydides illustrates the weaknesses of democracy. He chronicles in excruciating detail how Athenian democracy degenerated into mobocracy. In his account of the Sicilian Expedition, he relates how the Athenian people voted in favor of invading Sicily, and forced a general who had strongly advocated against the invasion to command it. Later, when the invasion didn't go well, they blamed the general for it even though it was their idea in the first place. When the general begged the Athenian people to let the troops come back home, the Athenians refused to listen and instead did the exact opposite: they voted to send even more troops and more ships to fight, throwing more resources into an unwinnable expedition. Finally, the Athenian army got surrounded by their enemies and was massacred, and that general was killed.
Historians of the war also relate the aftermath of the Battle of Arginusae.
In this battle, the Athenian fleet defeated the Spartan navy and won a great victory. The Athenian admirals then decided to concentrate on pursuing the retreating Spartan navy and only sent a smaller force to retrieve the survivors and the dead bodies from their ships that had been sunk in the battle. A storm came and the survivors and the dead bodies were lost. When the admirals got home, the Athenian citizens, stirred to anger by rabid politicians, sentenced all 8 of the admirals to death without due process. And so Athens lost 8 of its finest admirals. Without these admirals the Athenian fleet was crippled, and it was crushed by the Spartan navy within a year. The Spartans then captured the city of Athens and celebrated by tearing down its proud walls to the sound of flute music. Thus, Athens, the great beacon of democracy, was defeated and the Athenians were subjugated under a Spartan dictatorship.
The great lesson of the Peloponnesian War that Thucydides tries to convey is that democracy is a really bad idea. It's not that Athens happened to be a democracy and happened to lose to oligarchic Sparta: Athens lost to Sparta because it was a democracy. It was because the Athenian people voted on every issue and no one was held accountable for their collective bad decisions. It was because the people shifted the blame to others instead of looking at themselves. It was because they ignored the counsel of generals who knew war and military strategy, choosing to substitute their own uninformed judgment. It was because they were easily riled by demagogues into persecuting their best men – the only men who could have saved them. In the end it was the people who were the architects of their own subjugation.
Thucydides wasn't the only one who thought democracy was a terrible system. This view was shared by most of the great thinkers of that time. Many of the criticisms they made of democracy are still very valid today.
Socrates in Plato's Republic ranked democracy as the second-worst kind of political system – just one step away from tyranny. He described democracies as anarchic cities where the people are slaves to their desires.
Indeed, Socrates would go on to personify the injustice a democracy was capable of. As the father of Western philosophy, he spent his time talking to his fellow Athenians and provoking them into questioning absolutely everything, including the gods, the way they lived their lives, and the Athenian democratic system itself. Eventually, his enemies got sick of him and had him charged with 'corrupting the youth and disbelieving in the gods of the city'. He was found guilty by the democracy and put to death. In the process, he became history's most famous martyr for free speech, and his death was a powerful indictment of democracy – demonstrating how it could kill people unjustly. Socrates died by drinking poison, but he held to his principles until the end, something that's captured very vividly in this painting.
The Death of Socrates, by Jacques Louis-David
Likewise, Cleon, an Athenian politician, denounced democracy for creating a city of people who would support whoever was the best speaker, regardless of what that person was proposing. Here's how Cleon scolded the Athenians for what he called their 'addiction to argument':
'You like to be spectators of speeches…Good speakers advocating some future course of action are all the evidence you need to judge it possible…you are in thrall to the pleasure of listening, and you sit here more like spectators at the sophists' displays than men taking decisions for their city.'
I think Cleon hits on an important weakness here. There were lots of factors leading to the rise of people like Mussolini and Hitler. But one important factor was that both of them were said to have been very good speakers. They could make lots of people listen to them and support their policies of fascism and brutal nationalism.
Hitler was said to have been such a great orator that he could be speaking to a crowd of thousands and many people in that crowd could feel like Hitler was speaking to him alone.
A few years ago I was at a Malaysian Student Leader's Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel. There was a panel there with Khairy Jamaluddin on it. And you know, KJ is a very eloquent speaker, probably the most eloquent speaker in the whole of BN. At one point a student asked him a question: it was something about why the standard of living in Malaysia is so much lower than in Singapore. KJ replied 'Why do you want to compare with Singapore? We should be kicking Singapore's ass!', and most of the hall cheered and applauded and that was that. The student's question, an important one, was so easily deflected by a childish appeal to a sense of national pride. This was a reminder for me of how modern societies remain vulnerable to the influence of charismatic demagogues, to people who use passion to counter reason.
Probably the most fundamental criticism of democracy though, is this. Democracy is a system that treats people as equals. Rich or poor, smart or dumb, open or bigoted, educated or uneducated, every citizen gets an equal vote, even though, in many important respects, they're not equal. 'How can you have a system that treats people who are grossly unequal as equals?' the ancients would ask, 'That's unjust, in fact, that's crazy.'. You don't hear that very often nowadays because it's not politically correct, but it's still an important question.
At times, it seems obvious that we're all equals. But at other times it seems very obvious just how unequal we are.
Consider this – how should I put this delicately? – some people are really really stupid. Some people are really really ignorant and bigoted. You really want a system in which their votes count for the same as yours?
You really want a system in which the votes of Ibrahim Ali and the rest of his Perkasa idiots count for the same as yours?
Anyone remember that video of that Suara Wanita 1 Malaysia president trying to bully that student at UUM that went viral a few months back?
Well, the scary thing wasn't that president woman, because there are always some crazy people here and there: it was the crowd of students, many of whom cheered and clapped in support even though her speech made virtually no sense at all, especially that bit about chickens and sharks also having problems. Well that wasn't just a small group of students – there were hundreds of them. You really want a system where each of their votes counts for the same as yours?
John T. Wenders, former Professor of Economics at the University of Idaho, described democracy as 'Two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch'. Ultimately, a big part of whether you support democracy or not depends on the confidence you have in your fellow citizens. Confidence in their knowledge and intelligence (at least to a minimum level), and most of all, confidence in their values and their basic human decency. If you view most of your fellow citizens as coyotes, you're unlikely to be too hot about democracy.
Well, turns out, many people throughout history were convinced by those arguments against democracy, and so after ancient Greece was conquered by Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great) in 337 BC, democracy largely disappeared from the Western world until the birth of the American republic around 1789, more than 2,000 years later. Although there are significant differences between democracy in early America and present day democracy (for example only a minority held the voting franchise), this was the prototype.
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy
Thus began the great American experiment with democracy. After fleeing persecution and bigotry in Europe, and having to fight for their independence from the British Empire, the last thing the Americans wanted was rule by another tyrant.
But here's the thing: America's founding fathers were great readers of the classics. They had read Thucydides and Plato and Thomas Hobbes – all those great thinkers who wrote that democracy was unsustainable because people are too stupid, too violent, too selfish. The founding fathers didn't ignore the weaknesses of democracy, they learned from them, and they used this knowledge to design a system that was democratic in nature, but which guarded against the weaknesses of the Athenian direct democracy.
What they created wasn't just a democracy, it was something different: it was a republic. It was rule by the people, but it had special checks against the tyranny of the majority, because they acknowledged that the majority could sometimes be wrong. They chose a system of representative democracy, in which elected representatives (who devoted their time to understanding issues and were privy to secret information) made decisions on behalf of the people, and were accountable to them.
They drew upon the Roman and British traditions, as well as the writings of the French political philosopher Montesquieu, and stressed a separation of powers into a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary, and gave the Supreme Court great powers to check the other two branches. In the Bill of Rights, they put liberty at the heart of their law and enshrined freedom of expression, freedom of the press, due process, and private property – all these safeguarded minority rights against the majority. 'The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few', said President Obama in his second inaugural address, 'or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic'.
These ideas went on to influence the development of democracy in England, and in other parts of the world, leading to the democratic systems we have now. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up in 1948, it drew on these ideas too. It's common to think of democracy and human rights as going hand in hand, but they don't really.
Some of you might remember an incident across the causeway 2 months ago when Zainudin Nordin, a Member of Parliament in Singapore, posted up a quote from a book by the author Terry Goodkind pointing out that 'Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action.'. He came under a lot of flak for doing that by politically-correct Singaporeans, but he was largely correct.
The unfortunate Zainudin Nordin
If 'democracy' just means majority rule, well, that means that whatever the majority decides can and should be done. If the majority wants to rape someone then fine. If the majority wants to persecute someone for speaking his mind then fine. If the majority wants to ban minorities from using the word 'Allah', then that's fine too.
But human rights opposes this. It draws a line in the sand. It says there are some things you cannot do. It says that some rights are so precious and so fundamental that they should be protected even if the majority decides to infringe them.
It's no coincidence that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up in the bloody aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust, in which millions of people, many of them minorities, were massacred. It was because the drafters of the Declaration realized that, whilst democracy was important, so too were specially-protected human rights, and in modern democracies there's a calculated tension between the two.
And so when we use the term 'democracy' today, it doesn't just mean 'majority rule'. It has become something far more complex. It means majority rule, but majority rule through representation, and with checks and protections for fundamental rights in place. It is comprised of different, and often conflicting, elements, and it is, I think, a better system of government because of this.
But how does democracy fare in the Malaysian context? How does it interact with political Islam? How does it function in a country as religiously and ethnically diverse (some would say 'religiously and ethnically divided') as Malaysia.
In this book, World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, Yale law professor Amy Chua helps to answer those questions. This is a disturbing and iconoclastic book, a work of rigorous scholarship, and it's contributed a great deal to my understanding of democracy in the region.
In short, the prognosis is worrying. Professor Chua observes that rapid democratization can be very dangerous in countries with market-dominant minorities.
What do you think she's talking about here when she says 'market-dominant minorities'?
She's talking about the Chinese in Malaysia, who are a minority, but who control a disproportionately large portion of the wealth in the country. And this isn't something you find only in Malaysia, you also find this with Chinese diasporas in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines.
Increasing democracy in these countries can be dangerous, because the majority ethnic group, the Malays in the case of Malaysia, may feel resentful at the disproportionate wealth of the Chinese minority. Their different ethnicities will make this worse, because it's not, for example, the same as a poor white guy looking at a rich white guy in America. In that scenario, that poor white guy may think that he's not so different from the rich white guy. He may think that maybe one day if he works hard and works smart he can be just like him. In the Malaysian context, it's a bit harder. The poor Malay may look at the rich Chinese and think that they're very different. They look different, their skin is a different color, they have different customs and religions, they might not even speak the same language. He may well conclude that no matter how hard or smart he works, he'll never be just like that rich Chinese. He may view the other ethnicity as alien.
Where can this feeling of resentment lead? Sure, most of the Chinese may deserve to hold that large share of wealth: they may have worked hard and smart for it, they may have earned it with their initiative and ingenuity, and their country may have benefitted a great deal from their enterprise.
But, as we saw even from the time of Thucydides, human nature is not always fair. It can be selfish and violent and shortsighted, and when members of an ethnic majority look at the wealth of a rich minority that they feel alienated from, there can be the temptation to take it all away. They might just decide, hey, since this country is democratic and we, the ethnic majority, comprise most of the votes, why don't we just pressure our politicians to take all that minority's stuff and redistribute it to us instead? In this scenario, the majoritarian side of democracy becomes favored at the expense of checks and human rights. Combine this with political Islam, in which an extremist form of Islam is exploited by demagogues to justify persecuting those who are different, and you have a recipe for great atrocities.
So what's the solution to this problem? Well, some prominent Chinese families decided to oppose democracy, developing a symbiotic relationship with local despots: the despots kept the majority at bay and in return the families provided (usually financial) support. Chinese elites in the Philippines propped-up the kleptocratic Marcos regime. Chinese tycoons like Bob Hasan and Liem Sioe Liong helped finance the despotic Suharto regime in Indonesia in exchange for special favors and government contracts.
You see something similar in Malaysia with the support the ruling party enjoys from Chinese tycoons like Francis Yeoh of YTL and Vincent Tan of Berjaya. Indeed, this can sometimes extend to direct complicity in repression. Some of you might remember that The Sun newspaper was once quite vocal and objective compared to other Malaysian papers. However, when it was bought over by Berjaya it became much more subdued and biased towards the ruling party.
Professor Amy Chua's solution is to endorse schemes like Malaysia's NEP, arguing that its affirmative action policies reduce resentment by leveling the wealth disparity.
To an extent I can see where they're coming from. These solutions aim to reduce the discrepancy between political and economic power.
So are these people right? Should I, as a Chinese Malaysian, oppose democracy in Malaysia and throw my support behind the authoritarian BN government? Should I endorse the NEP? What do you think? Tough call, huh?
By the way, there are parallels between this dilemma and the Arab Spring. In December 2010, the self-immolation of a young Tunisian man triggered a wave of democratic protests across the Arab world, and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. And the US government, which had been calling for democratization for years, suddenly had no idea what to do, as was seen from its confused reaction. The Americans were apprehensive because they had been rather deplorably propping-up those Middle Eastern dictators for decades, and now, with this rapid democratization, they were afraid of what the Arab people might vote for, and feared the rise of Islamic extremism.
Protestors in Egypt's Tahrir Square
Well my answer to the Malaysian dilemma is this. The thing about supporting authoritarianism and policies like the NEP in Malaysia is that they aren't really solutions because they're not sustainable; they don't solve the problem, at most they only delay the reckoning.
The NEP may seem to ease the resentment of the Malays for a while, but what we find in Malaysia is that over time these affirmative action policies create a 'crutch-mentality' among many Malays; many have come to rely on the government for handouts instead of learning to compete, and so grow increasingly incapable of improving their economic status, leading to greater frustration in the long-term.
Supporting an authoritarian strong-man may seem to keep the threat of violence at bay, but it doesn't go away: it simmers under the surface. Meanwhile, an authoritarian government finds it easier to get away with corruption and cronyism and squanders public money instead of using it to improve the country. The BN government also deliberately stokes racial and religious tension to rally support, whilst often prohibiting reasoned discussion on important issues. It severely limits civil society by restricting peaceful protests, gatherings, public forums, and independent media, such that for many years the only outlet was Islamic extremism. The long-term effect of this is that poverty and racial and religious tensions get even worse. The threat of violence may be delayed for a while, but you pay heavily for this borrowed time. The Americans tried this bargain by propping-up dictators in the Middle East, and extremism in the region rose. Some Chinese-Indonesian tycoons tried this for decades by propping-up Suharto. They thought with their money they could control Suharto, and Suharto could control the resentment of the pribumi Indonesians. When the racial riots broke out in 1998, they found out just how in control they really were.
Indonesian pribumi rioters burn a portrait of Liem Sioe Liong and his wife pillaged from his house during the 1998 riots
I had the pleasure of talking to Professor Amy Chua when I was a student at Yale, and during our conversation I put all that to her. She said she hadn't realized those complications. I asked her if she could think of a more sustainable solution to this problem. Professor Chua is an exceptionally careful and meticulous scholar: she said she didn't have an answer, and that she would need to do a lot more research before she could come up with one.
I think that democracy is difficult and messy and complicated, but the alternatives, at least in Malaysia, are unsustainable. I think Winston Churchill was largely right when he said 'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried'.
I think our best hope lies in a country that's more democratic, but which also has strong protections for fundamental rights. It lies in a country where those from poorer backgrounds are given help (primarily through education) to compete with others, in a way that empowers them instead of coddling them. It lies in a country where people are free to debate and discuss the most important issues and work out solutions instead of burying them and leaving them to fester. Such a country will require the richer Chinese minority to actively engage with national problems, to realize that they have a stake in the country too, and to resist throwing money at problems to try to make them go away. There's a Chinese saying that 'nothing is a problem if money can solve it'. It's sometimes true: money can certainly get you out of certain difficulties. But to take it to an extreme, and to think that money can be substituted for the hard work of dialogue and engagement and nation-building, is a grave mistake.
Aristotle wrote that if you assume a wise and benevolent government, a dictatorship is better than a democracy. I think he's right.
Throughout history however, it seems an immutable rule that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely', that those with too much power almost always abuse it. Because of this there are very few governments that are wise and benevolent, and certainly very few that, upon attaining overwhelming power, remain wise and benevolent for very long.
Aristotle, empiricist that he was, recognized this. If you assume a wise and benevolent government, he wrote, a dictatorship is better than a democracy. But a corrupted dictatorship is worse than a corrupted democracy. And since actual governments tend towards corruption and abuse, in reality it is democracy that ends up being better. In this way Aristotle arrived at a qualified defense of democracy.
Ultimately, I support democracy in most cases because I share this deep mistrust of people who are given too much power over others, and modern democracy has the most effective checks against such power.
There are other reasons too. The ancients warned that democracy can descend into mobocracy; instigated by charismatic leaders, the people can make terrible decisions and persecute minorities. All that remains true.
However, it's also true that, whilst Athens lost to Sparta in The Peloponnesian War, modern representative democracies have tended to win against dictatorships when they fought. It's also true that the rights of minorities have been better protected under modern democracies than under authoritarian regimes. And it's also true that democracies tend to be more prosperous and better at encouraging creativity and innovation.
Modern democracy is a concept perpetually in tension with itself, with its own conflicting elements. It will remain a sound system of government so long as people remember that it's supposed to be that way.
(MTadmin - footnotes were left out due to formatting problems)
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 08:35 AM PDT
Langkah ini bukan sahaja penting bagi mempertahankan kepentingan PETRONAS daripada terus dicekik oleh kerajaan dan terpaksa menyerahkan keuntungannya kepada kerajaan tanpa ketelusan, malah ia dapat menjawab persoalan mengapa harga petrol tidak diturunkan apabila harga minyak mentah pasaran antarabangsa mencatatkan penurunan.
Pada 27 Ogos 2013 lalu, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (PETRONAS) mengumumkan bayaran dividen sejumlah RM27 bilion kepada kerajaan pada 2013, iaitu berkurang 3 bilion berbanding dengan RM30 bilion yang disumbangkan pada tahun lepas. Ini bermakna, pendapatan kerajaan akan menurun memandangkan PETRONAS yang merupakan penyumbang terbesar kepada sumber pendapatan kerajaan mengurangkan sumbangan dividennya.
Pada 2 September, Perdana Menteri merangkap Menteri Kewangan, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak membuat "pengumuman gempar" bahawa harga diesel dan minyak petrol RON95 dinaikkan sebanyak 20 sen seliter mulai tengah malam hari tersebut. Pengumuman tersebut mengejutkan rakyat Malaysia daripada kemeriahan suasana sambutan Hari Kemerdekaan. Menurut Najib, ini merupakan salah satu langkah rasionalisasi atau penyusunan semula subsidi yang dilaksanakan secara berperingkat oleh kerajaannya. Ia juga merupakan salah satu insiatif menuju ke arah mengukuhkan kedudukan kewangan negara dalam menghadapi persekitaran ekonomi dunia yang mencabar.
Kedua-dua pengumuman tersebut dibuat secara berasingan dan kelihatan tidak berkaitan; pengamatan badan pemikir, Kajian Politik untuk Perubahan (KPRU) pula mendapati keadaan yang sebaliknya. KPRU berpendapat, dalam keadaan ekonomi dunia yang tidak menentu, tambahan pula dengan penurunan pendapatan kerajaan, penurunan eksport negara, kejatuhan nilai mata wang negara dan fiscal defisit yang masih berada dalam kedudukan yang tinggi, serta pertumbuhan ekonomi negara yang gagal mencapai sasaran, pemotongan subsidi minyak ini yang menimbulkan keresahan bercampur dengan kemarahan di kalangan rakyat Malaysia merupakan salah satu langkah bagi mengurangkan perbelanjaan kerajaan di samping mengganti balik pendapatan kerajaan yang berkurangan, memandangkan Presiden PETRONAS, Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas sebelum ini pernah mengumumkan bahawa PETRONAS berhasrat menetapkan nisbah pembayaran dividen pada paras 30 peratus, di mana jumlah dividen yang diisytiharkan akan berubah-ubah mengikut pendapatannya.Penting sekali, kenaikan harga minyak ekoran penstrukturan semula subsidi ini bakal diikuti dengan pelaksanaan Cukai Barangan dan Perkhidmatan (GST).
Maka, KPRU ingin mencadangkan, sebelum kerajaan Najib dengan tegasnya membawa GST ke Parlimen semasa pembentangan Belanjawan Negara 2014, kerajaan seharusnya pertama sekali meminda Akta Pembangunan Petroleum 1974 apabila Dewan Rakyat kembali bersidang pada 23 September ini, supaya PETRONAS bertanggungjawab kepada Parlimen, bukan sekadarnya bertanggungjawab kepada Perdana Menteri bagi menjamin ketelusan atau transparensi dalam tadbir urus kedua-dua kewangan PETRONAS dan kewangan negara.
Langkah ini bukan sahaja penting bagi mempertahankan kepentingan PETRONAS daripada terus dicekik oleh kerajaan dan terpaksa menyerahkan keuntungannya kepada kerajaan tanpa ketelusan, malah ia dapat menjawab persoalan mengapa harga petrol tidak diturunkan apabila harga minyak mentah pasaran antarabangsa mencatatkan penurunan. Khususnya, dengan mengambil kira kenyataan Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dalam majlis perasmian Seminar Minyak dan Gas Asia 2013 (AOGC) Pusat Konvensyen Kuala Lumpur pada 10 Jun bahawa industri minyak dan gas menyumbang lebih 40 peratus kepada pendapatan negara ini. Menurut beliau, kerajaan turut menjangka PETRONAS akan menjana RM131.4 bilion kepada Pendapatan Negara Kasar (PNK).
Seperti yang ditunjukkan dalam Jadual KPRU, PETRONAS merupakan pembayar cukai yang terbesar dan sumber hasil terbesar, di mana sumbangannya mencakupi sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus daripada hasil kerajaan persekutuan.
Jadual KPRU: Hasil Kerajaan Persekutuan daripada Sumber Petroleum 2009-2013
Hak cipta © KPRU 2013
2009-2011: penerimaan sebenar
2012: anggaran disemak
2013: anggaran belanjawan
Sumber: Memorandum Perbendaharaan mengenai Anggaran Hasil Kerajaan Persekutuan
Sejak perbadanannya pada tahun 1974, PETRONAS sentiasa dijadikan sebagai "kantung peribadi" kerajaan dan dananya disalurkan bagi menanggung pembiayaan projek-projek kesayangan pihak kerajaan. Sebagai syarikat minyak negara, memang dalam jangkaan PETRONAS mengisytiharkan sebahagian besar keuntungannya kepada kerajaan. Bagi tahun kewangan berakhir 31 Mac 2011, hampir 55 peratus daripada keuntungan bersih PETRONAS telah dibayar sebagai dividen kepada kerajaan, nisbah peratusan ini jauh melebihi purata 38 peratus yang dibayar oleh syarikar-syarikat minyak nasional di seluruh dunia!
Namun, butiran-butiran tentang bagaimana hasil yang disumbang itu dibelanja dan digunakan oleh kerajaan tidak ditunjukkan dalam akaun rasmi atau didedahkan. Berikutan itu, KPRU berpendapat, PETRONAS harus bertanggungjawab kepada Parlimen dan tidak lagi disembunyikan daripada tatapan wakil rakyat, biarpun rakyat Malaysia.
Perbandingan syarikat minyak milik kerajaan luar negara dengan Malaysia
KPRU telah membuat kajian terhadap syarikat-syarikat petroleum nasional di luar negara dan mendapati bahawa syarikat berkenaan seperti Statoil di Norway, Pemex di Mexico, Petrobras di Brazil , dan Pertamina di Indonesia adalah tertakluk di bawah kuasa kementerian berkaitan, bukannya di tangan Perdana Menteri atau Presiden. Statoil di Norway dan Pemex di Mexico masing-masingnya diwajibkan mendapat kelulusan di Parlimen dalam hal pembukaan kawasan baru untuk penerokaan atau membuka sektor tenaga untuk pelaburan swasta. Di Brazil, Petrobras bukan sahaja bertanggungjawab kepada Menteri dan Kongress Kebangsaan, ia juga diwajibkan memberi maklumat kepada Mahkamah Audit Persekutuan. Tambahan pula, bagi menjamin ketelusan dalam pengurusan dan pentadbiran, Petrobras menubuhkan Citizen Information Service (CIS) untuk memberi maklumbalas dan panduan kepada masyarakat awam untuk mengakses kepada maklumat.
Secara perbandingan, PETRONAS di Malaysia hanya perlu melapor terus kepada Perdana Menteri dan beliau diberi kuasa sepenuh untuk meneliti akaun dan keadaan semasa kewangan PETRONAS. Peruntukan dalam Akta Kemajuan Petroleum 1974 ini menyebabkan rakyat Malaysia tidak berpeluang memantau penggunaan kewangan PETRONAS yang diperolehi daripada kekayaan sumber asli negara ini. Di samping itu, keputusan dalam hal seperti pengendalian penggunaan petroleum hanya perlu mendapatkan kebenaran Perdana Menteri dan bukannya dibahas dan diluluskan di Parlimen.
KPRU: Let PETRONAS report to Parliament before implementing GST
On August 27, 2012, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (PETRONAS) declared a lower dividend of RM27 billion to government this year, compared with RM30 billion in the previous year.
This signifies that government revenues will as well decline as PETRONAS being the largest income contributor reduces its payout.
On September 2, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Finance Minister announced that the price of the widely used RON95 and diesel would be increased 20 cents per litre. Pump price rise was indeed sudden. Najib said this is one of rationalization or restructuring of subsidies implemented gradually by the government. It is also one of the leading initiatives to ease country's fiscal situation and to strengthen the financial position in midst of a challenging global economic environment.
The two announcements were made separately and seemed to be unrelated; think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) nonetheless observed the correlation in between. KPRU argues that during such uncertain economic times, together with the decline of government's revenue, the depreciation of our national currency, and a slow growth in economies whilst fiscal deficit remains high, slashing oil subsidies is deemed to be one of the measures to keep government's spending low, and meanwhile replacing the declining government revenue. As the president of PETRONAS, Tan Sri Ahamsul Azhar Abbas had announced earlier that PETRONAS wanted to adopt a 30 per cent dividend payout ration rather than paying a dividend of RM30 bilion consistently regardless of its profit level, oil price hike will soon be followed by the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Therefore, KPRU would like to suggest the government to amend the Petroleum Development Act 1974 for the coming Parliament session which will convene on September 23rd before tabling the GST for the National Budget 2014. This is to ensure Petronas will be responsible to Parliament and not solely responsible to the Prime Minister to ensure the transparency in the governance of finance for both Petronas and the country.
This is also crucial not only to defend the interest of PETRONAS from being strangled by the government and forced to hand over its profits to the government without transparency, but this can as well help to answer the question of why fuel prices are not lowered when crude oil price within international market declines. In particular, as we taking into account the fact delivered by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the opening of the Asia Oil and Gas Seminar 2013 (AOGC) in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on 10 June that the oil and gas industry accounted for over 40 per cent of the country's income.
According to him, the government also expects PETRONAS will generate RM131.4 billion in Gross National Income (GNI).
As shown in the table below, PETRONAS is the largest taxpayer and the largest source of revenue, which accounts for at least 30 percent of the federal government.
Table KPRU: Revenue of the Federal Government from Petroleum Resources 2009-2013
Since its establishment in 1974, PETRONAS has always been treated as a "piggy bank" of the government to provide funds for pet projects. Being a stste-owned oil companies, Petronas is expected to share a big portion of profit to the government.According to PETRONAS figues, in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011, the annual payout to the government gobbled up almost 55 percent of its net profits, which was well above the average of 38 percent paid by any other national oil companies around the world!
Nevertheless, the information regarding how the money is being spent has never been shown in Malaysia's official accounts and the government has steadfastly refused to disclose any details about that.
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 08:26 AM PDT
"We must always remember that Malays and Chinese don't naturally hate each other. It is because we (Chinese) have come to your (Malay) home and somehow occupy a privileged position now. We fight over resources, not because you are Chinese or Malay. My father taught me this history. Therefore we must remember to always be good and help each other. My grandfather came from China and was helped by the Malays. Now, it's our turn to help the Malays."
Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, The Online Citizen
"The Japanese were hunting the Chinese. And my grandfather was caught and hung upside down from the tree. But as they were about to kill him, it was the Malay penghulu (village headman) who pleaded and persuaded the Japanese soldiers to release him. From that day onward, my father swore to help the Malays in return for saving his life."
Posted: 04 Sep 2013 12:42 AM PDT
Membincangkan isu negara dan bukannya merancang pembentukan kerajaan perpaduan.
Jamilah Kamarudin, FMT
Ahli Jawatankuasa PAS Pusat Khalid Samad bersetuju usul pertemuan antara Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak dengan Ketua Pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim diadakan bagi membincangkan isu masalah negara dan bukannya merancang pembentukan Kerajaan Perpaduan (UG).
Katanya, semua pihak perlu menerimanya dengan hati terbuka memandangkan perkara itu boleh menguntungkan rakyat apabila kerajaan dan pembangkang duduk bersama membincangkan dasar polisi negara.
"Sekarang ni perbincangan antara Barisan Nasional (BN) dan Pakatan bukan untuk membentuk UG tetapi mencari dasar bersama yang wajar untuk menyelamatkan masalah yang sedang dihadapi negara.
"Soal UG tiada dalam agenda Pakatan Rakyat kerana majoriti rakyat sudah tolak BN)," katanya dalam sidang media di sini hari ini.
Beliau berkata sedemikian dalam responnya mengenai cadangan Anwar yang mahu berjumpa dengan Najib dan kerajaan BN dalam perutusan Hari Kemerdekaan minggu lalu.
Beberapa pemimpin Umno termasuk Menteri Besar Kedah Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir dan Ketua Pemuda Umno Khairy Jamaluddin bagaimanapun membidas cadangan tersebut dan menggesa Anwar membentangkan isu itu secara terbuka dalam Dewan Rakyat.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 06:14 PM PDT
So what is the solution then? I am not sure but maybe Anwar Ibrahim who opposed subsidies for fishermen and farmers when he was the Agriculture Minister can enlighten us since he concluded that subsidies for those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder help the rich rather than the poor.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
A good sleight of hand would be one where you do not even see the 'magic' trick. The 'magician' very cleverly makes you focus on one hand while the trick is executed with the other hand. Hence what you see is 'magic'.
Politicians, all over the world, work on the same premise. They, too, perform sleights of hand to make you focus on one issue so that you do not notice the other and more important issue. This can be called WMD or weapon of mass distraction.
Basically, you set the agenda and make everyone focus on a certain issue and not on something else that may be more damaging or embarrassing.
Just look at what has been in the news over the last couple of months. We have the 'minority government' issue, the 'May 13' movie issue, the DAP party elections issue, the canteen in the toilet issue, the 'seditious' Malaysian flag issue, the Buddhists praying in the surau issue, the shooting of the gangsters issue, the Hindu temple issue, the Selangor 'water shortage' issue, the 'illegal immigrants' issue, the Allah word issue, and now the RM0.20 increase in the price of petrol issue (amongst just some of the many issues).
You may not have noticed but all these 'issues' are a 'make-them-look-bad' strategy. It is about running down the other side to make them look bad. At the end of the day, even if these issues never cropped up or are settled, will that make our life better? Will it give us what is more important in life -- a quality of life?
When politicians set the agenda that may not necessarily mean that agenda is in our interest. It is in the interest of the politicians. But they will have to make it appear like it is in our interest. Hence the issue, although real, will have to be slanted in a certain direction to meet this objective.
Let's discuss just one of those many issues, the latest 'hot' issue, and that would be regarding subsidies. Most of us feel that subsidies should be maintained so that prices can remain low. Hence the government pays for the differential in price. We also want taxes reduced or, if possible, removed altogether. Hence the government will pay for everything and we pay for nothing. That, to us, is the ideal government.
But how would the government pay for everything and we pay for nothing when there are no taxes or lesser taxes to collect? Have you not heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch? Someone, somewhere, has to pay for it. There is nothing free in life. So whatever freebies the government gives us must come from somewhere. And that somewhere would have to be the taxes that we pay.
The wage earner will have to pay taxes because their salaries are fixed and documented. Hence there is no running away from taxes. The tycoons and capitalists, however, are able to run away from taxes and just pay a nominal amount, which is far short of their actual wealth or earnings.
Hence the 'poor' pay full taxes while the rich get away with a lot of tax 'savings'. Hence, also, the 'poor' pay more taxes than the rich (percentage wise) and, therefore, it is the money from the poor that pays the cost of the subsidies that benefit the rich.
Take petrol as one example. The 'poor' may have one small car that does not consume a lot of fuel. In fact, it may even be an eco-car (which in the UK would be road tax exempt). The rich, however, own a fleet of gas-guzzlers that may consume more fuel in a day than the poor man's car consumes in a month.
So who benefits from the fuel subsidy? The 'poor' man who owns one car and consumes, say, RM200 worth of fuel a month or the tycoon businessman who owns a fleet of expensive cars that consume, say, RM2,000 worth of fuel a month?
Subsidies have always been a headache for the government since the 1970s. And that was why when Anwar Ibrahim became the Agriculture Minister in the 1980s he REMOVED the subsidies for fishermen and farmers.
Fishermen and farmers are supposed to be at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. If Anwar believes that subsidies can help the poorest segment of Malaysian society, why remove the subsidies? Why not increase the subsidies when fishermen and farmers are so poor?
Well, that is because the subsidies for fishermen and farmers DO NOT benefit the fishermen and farmers. They benefit the middlemen, the traders, the businessmen -- those who buy from the fishermen and farmers to sell to us, the consumers. The fishermen and farmers do not get any richer. The businessmen do. And because of that Anwar removed the subsidies.
Because fishermen get a subsidy for fuel, the cost of the fish becomes cheaper. But the reduced price of fish is not transferred to us, the consumer. In fact, the cost of fish in fishing states like Terengganu is more expensive than in Kuala Lumpur. So the poor people in Terengganu have to pay more for their fish than the rich people in Kuala Lumpur do.
Then there is the problem of fraud. Say the fishermen need RM500 worth of fuel for one fishing trip. They buy RM1,000 worth of fuel at a subsidised price and sell half to the traders at a profit. The traders then sell this black market fuel to the consumers at normal market price (say like factories and sawmills). So the subsidies do not really help reduce the price of fish. It just helps the recipients of the subsidies plus the traders to make money on the black market.
So we, the taxpayers, are merely helping the exploiters of the subsidies to make money. And we still end up paying a high price for the fish we buy. And, to add insult to injury, the poorer the state, the more expensive the fish price. It came to a stage that the people in Terengganu ate chicken instead of fish because fish was just too expensive in spite of the hundreds of millions of our money that the government was spending in trying to keep the price of fish low.
The same occurred with regards to the subsidies for the rice industry. The government spent hundreds of millions in subsidies for the rice industry. The rice farmers, however, remained poor. But the rice millers and rice traders became even richer because now they could pay a lower price for the rice they bought but still sold the rice at a high price to the consumers.
The government supplied fishing nets and fertilizers free-of-charge to the fishermen and farmers to subsidise the fishing and rice industry. A lot of these fishing nets and fertilizers were then sold back to the traders at a reduced price since the fishermen and farmers got them free anyway. The traders then sold them on the market at normal market prices.
Hence the fishermen and farmers made money selling what the government gave them free while the traders also made money selling what they bought at half price at normal market prices. And we, the consumer, still paid a high price for the fish and rice that we ate -- which was even more expensive in poor fishing/farming states like Terengganu.
Subsidies do not always work. Sometimes those who pay for these subsidies (the taxpayers) do not really benefit from the subsidies. The poor pay while the rich benefit from these subsidies. This has been the problem faced by the government for 40 years since the 1970s and was the reason why in the 1980s Anwar decided to end the subsidy policy.
We need to look at a new way in how to help the less fortunate or the low-income citizens. Policies such as subsidised fuel may not really help the less fortunate or low-income population. The more fuel you burn the more money you save. And those who can afford to pay would be those who burn more fuel while those who cannot afford to pay are subsidising them through their taxes.
You may think that you do not pay income tax because your salary is too low. But while you may not be paying income tax you are paying other taxes. As they say, there are two things you cannot escape -- death and taxes. And subsidies, which are paid for from your taxes, are more beneficial to the rich than to the poor since everyone will receive the benefit of these subsidies, the rich included.
So what is the solution then? I am not sure but maybe Anwar Ibrahim who opposed subsidies for fishermen and farmers when he was the Agriculture Minister can enlighten us since he concluded that subsidies for those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder help the rich rather than the poor.
In fact, I remember Anwar replying to the question as to why he wanted to end subsidies for fisherman and farmers. He said: we do not want a nation that survives on subsidies. But then at that time he was an Umno Minister and not the leader of the opposition -- so maybe today he has a different opinion regarding subsidies.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:58 PM PDT
(The Star) - HARDCORE followers of the defunct deviant Al-Arqam movement have yet to repent, claimed former Al-Arqam legal adviser Zabidi Mohamed.
"If they have sincerely repented, they would have closed down the movement's welfare home and sent the children back to their respective families," Sinar Harian quoted Zabidi as saying.
Zabidi said that it was questionable if Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhd director Hatijah Aam and her followers had really repented.
This was because former Al-Arqam members were still running Global Ikhwan.
The Saudi Arabian authorities recently deported Hatijah and her followers for allegedly spreading deviant teachings.
Zabidi said that their pledge of repentance before the local religious authorities was a mere survival gimmick.
"They just want to continue with their lives without any more disturbances and threats," said Zabidi.
Former Al-Arqam follower Zaidi Aziz also confirmed that they had to pretend to repent in order to protect the chain of companies under the Global Al-Ikhwan group.
"If the followers of the deviant group had really repented, why would only Ummu Jah (Hatijah) come forward to confess when they should all do it collectively?
"This sends a clear message that Ummu Jah only wants to control Global Ikhwan's finances.
"This is because many subsidiaries of the company are run by followers who still abide by Al-Arqam practices," he said.
> Sexy dangdut singer Zaskia Gotik said that she does not mind weighing 25kg heavier on her wedding day.
The extra weight, however, was attributed to her wedding gown, reported Sinar Harian.
The wedding gown's designer Ayok Dwipanca said that it would be studded with swarovski crystals.
Zaskia is set to marry businessman Vicky Prasetyo.
However, the exact date of the wedding has yet to be announced by the happy couple.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:52 PM PDT
(Reuters) - At a crucial point in the film "Tanda Putera", ethnic Chinese youths urinate on a pole flying the flag of a Malaysian state, setting off events that push the country into a deadly race riot that still haunts the national consciousness four decades later.
The publicly funded movie, which opened recently in Malaysia after a long delay, is stirring up racial sentiment at a sensitive time over its depiction of the ethnic Chinese minority as the aggressors in the violent events of May 13, 1969.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:45 PM PDT
(TMI) - Public assemblies require police permits as a regulatory condition, the Court of Appeal affirmed today in a majority ruling when dismissing an appeal by five ex-university students arrested in an unlawful assembly in 2001.
Court of Appeal judges Datuk Seri Mohamad Apandi Ali (pic) and Datuk Linton Albert were in the majority. Apandi also said the Police Act was not unconstitutional.
"The restriction to participate in an assembly is regulatory and not prohibitory," he said at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya today.
Judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer who dissented said the requirement to obtain a police permit was unreasonable.
All the five were fined RM3,900 in a magistrate's court in 2005 and they had paid the fine.
Apandi, in his 50-page judgment, said there was no merit to the appeal as the Police Act did not prohibit the right to a peaceful assembly and police were duty bound to maintain security and public order.
Hamid said the primary role of the court was to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and judges were guardians of the supreme law.
He said the constitution did not permit Parliament to arm the executive and a public authority with uncivilised power or discretion which may usurp the spirit and intention of the supreme law.
Hamid said in this case there was a requirement under Section 27 of the Police Act to obtain a licence but in that process the police could not refuse to grant the licence.
"They can only place terms to regulate the assembly and licence has to be issued to all without any form of subjective discrimination failing which it will violate article 8(1) of the Constitution (equality before the law)," he said in his 77-page written grounds.
He said freedom to assemble was a right recognised under the Constitution and did not permit any legislation to compromise on that right, except to regulate.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:39 PM PDT
Diyana Ibrahim, TMI
Penahanan Sasterawan Negara, Datuk A Samad Said pada 12.40 pagi tadi mencetuskan kemarahan pengguna di laman sosial, dan kebanyakannya meluahkan rasa tidak puas hati terhadap penahanan itu.
Antara yang berang ialah Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yang menyifatkan tindakan polis itu sebagai biadap kerana mengheret Samad pada tengah malam.
"Tindakan biadab! A Samad Said umur 80 tahun diheret jam 12 malam?" Reaksi Anwar dalam laman Twitternya ketika mengetahui Samad ditahan.
Anwar turut menggesa Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi memohon maaf kepada sasterawan negara itu.
Dalam Twitternya, Anwar berkata, menteri dalam negeri wajib mohon maaf kepada kepada Samad kerana pada usianya 80 tahun, beliau dibawa tiga polis pada jam 12 tengah malam ke ibu pejabat polis.
"Tak dapat soal siasat siang hari? Perikemanusiaan?" katanya dalam Twitter.
Tindakan polis menahan Samad turut dikritik rakan seperjuangannya dalam Bersih, Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan yang juga Pengerusi Bersama Bersih 2.0.
"Pak Samad, Pengerusi Bersama Bersih 2.0 ditahan dan dibawa ke Balai Polis Dang Wangi. Layanan yang mengejutkan dalam menghormati sasterawan negara," memetik dari laman twitter Ambiga.
Penasihat DAP, Lim Kit Siang yang kini berada di Sibu turut mengutuk tindakan polis.
"Penahanan yang dibuat pada polis merupakan satu kebiadapan ia mesti dikutuk oleh semua rakyat Malaysia," katanya.
Manakala seorang pengguna sosial, Radin Shamsulkamar @radins berkata dalam twitternya : "Kalau Pak A Samad Said berjalur Umno, nescaya PDRM tidak akan bertindak semustahil ini."
Komen twitter itu turut dihantar kepada Zahid Hamidi dan Ketua Polis negara Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
Zaim Al Amin @zaimhq : "Sasterawan negara berusia 80 tahun dibawa ke Balai Polis pada waktu malam untuk disiasat."
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:21 PM PDT
(TMI) - Ketua Pemuda PAS, Nasrudin Hassan (gambar) menegaskan, PAS menolak kerajaan perpaduan antara PAS dan Umno seperti yang diputuskan dalam beberapa mesyuarat parti itu sebelum ini.
Dalam kenyataannya hari ini, Nasrudin berkata, perkara itu ditegaskan oleh Presiden PAS, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dan ia dipersetujui semua Ahli Jawatankuasa Kerja PAS Pusat.
"PAS sememangnya bertegas dalam hal ini dan ia bermula sejak awal," katanya.
Nasrudin berkata, beliau percaya rakan pimpinan PAS yang lain juga akan mengambil pendirian serupa kerana ia dipertegaskan secara bersama sejak sekian lama.
Katanya, ia dibuat melalui dua siri Muktamar PAS, satu Seminar Politik Khas dan beberapa siri mesyuarat PAS Pusat dan mesyuarat Lajnah Politik PAS Pusat.
"Masih segar dalam ingatan saya, selepas menerima keputusan PRU ke-12 pada 2008 dan meneliti keperluan semasa pada waktu itu, Presiden PAS melalui ijtihad politiknya melontarkan idea kerajaan perpaduan," katanya.
Beliau berkata, ijtihad itu dilontar lima tahun lebih awal daripada versi kerajaan perpaduan berkait dengan Datuk Seri Anwar yang sedang hangat dibincangkan pada hari ini.
Nasrudin yang juga Ahli Parlimen Temerloh, berkata, sehingga pagi ini masih ramai wartawan dan orang perseorangan menghubunginya bertanya pendiriannya mengenai isu kerajaan perpaduan.
Isu kerajaan perpaduan berkumandang kembali apabila Anwar mengesahkan melalui Asia Sentinel bahawa Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak menawarkan kerajaan perpaduan dengan PKR.
Namun sehingga kini Najib belum mengesahkannya tetapi pemimpin Umno menolaknya.
Nasrudin berkata, semua pihak patut mengambil pengajaran daripada apa yang berlaku sebelum ini.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:16 PM PDT
A Malaysian hero reminisces on his dangerous life as an anti-communist fighter.
Alfian ZM Tahir, FMT
Death, or the threat of it, is nature's way of telling you to slow down, according to Terry Pratchett.
But how was Yuen Yuet Leng to know? He was an anti-communist fighter long before Pratchett began writing his novels. Despite being shot several times and surviving seven assassination attempts, he never slowed down until he retired from the police force in 1984.
He once even defied his superior's order and trekked into the deepest part of the Sarawak jungle for a powwow with the leader of the North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP).
Now 86, Yuen spends most of his time reading and relaxing, only occasionally accepting an invitation to deliver a speech at some event or granting a press interview.
During such an interview with FMT recently, he said he joined the police force precisely to fight communist terrorists. The British recruited him into a squad of police trainees composed of 22 Malays, 19 Chinese and 13 Indians.
"When I was a teenager, I was given the chance to go to China to study, and I went. However, I was shocked to see the political situation there. I did not finish my studies and came back to Malaya.
"I was a teacher in Seremban when I applied to join the police."
A few years after completing his training, Yuen was involved in a battle in Grik and was shot in the thigh, buttocks and his back. The bullet that went into the back is still there.
"After the attack I was rushed to a nearby hospital. There was no doctor there, only a medical assistant. They forgot to take out the bullet in my back. Perhaps they didn't even know it was there. There was no X-ray machine then."
He said he came to know about the bullet only in 1982 during a medical check-up. "The doctors were surprised to see a bullet still in my back after so many years," he said, smiling.
Yuen became a Special Branch officer in 1953 and was awarded the Colonial Police Medal in 1957 for his intelligence work, which he carried out at great personal risk. When he was assigned to Sarawak in 1971, he had already attained the rank of Assistant Police Commissioner.
He returned to peninsular Malaysia in 1975 to take up the post of State Police Chief in Perak. Subsequently, he served in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Kelantan.
He was moved back to Sarawak in 1981 to take up the post of State Police Commissioner.
During the interview, Yuen seemed to relish his memory of serving as an intelligence officer. He once headed the Special Branch.
A spy in the camp
"Many people don't realise how important the Special Branch is," he said. "It was because of us that the communists were halted. Not many know how hard it was for us to come up with vital information. Many of my men died during dangerous operations.
"When I was heading the Special Branch, no one knew where we were at any one time. Not even my family knew what I was doing. My men and those from other police units did not know one another. That was how good we were."
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:08 PM PDT
Homeowners in Taman Alam Perdana, Ijok, claim they have been deceived by the Selangor Menteri Besar, who took over the housing project in 2011
Anisah Shukry, FMT
At a glance, Taman Alam Perdana, Ijok, appears to be just another low-cost housing area in the city, constructed to meet the growing demands of those unable to afford typical Klang Valley homes.
Blocks of medium-density flats loom over rows of single-story houses and in the middle is a small playground for parents to let loose their children while they swap neighbourhood gossip.
But give it another glance, and one notices how deserted the roads are, how the playground facilities are unnaturally pristine, how not a squeak emanates from the flats nor the houses.
Much like a ghost town, the majority of Taman Alam Perdana, which boasts 1,116 houses and 2,500 units in 25 blocks of flats, have remained unoccupied since construction began in 2002.
Over a decade later, despite construction being complete, 733 terrace homeowners have allegedly neither received their keys nor a Certificate of Fitness (CF).
"The Selangor Menteri Besar and state government has deceived us," frustrated homeowner Isaac Nathan told FMT in a recent interview.
"Abdul Khalid Ibrahim swooped in like a white knight to take over the terrace houses development project in 2011 from private firm LBCN Development Sdn Bhd, when in fact 98% of the project was already complete.
"Now, he is claiming he spent millions of ringgit to rejuvenate the project. How could he have spent so much on an almost-complete project? And why, two years after the state took over, are we still not given the keys?" he asked.
According to a 2011 letter from state firm Permodalan Selangor Negeri Berhad (PSNB), the state government had seized the land consisting of the terrace houses from LBCN to revive the abandoned project and "protect the interests of the homeowners".
But instead of speeding up the development, homeowners found their problems exacerbated as they were unable to view the ongoing construction, pressed for more payment from PSNB, and found themselves in a legal bind with the bank and the former developer.
They were also confused as to why the state government had not consulted them before appointing PSNB to oversee the project.
Meanwhile, the flats development project was taken over by federal government-owned firm SPNB (Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad).
Unlike the terrace homeowners, under SPNB's management, the flat owners received the CF and their keys – coincidentally handed to them by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak days before Election 2013 – but were now awaiting for their water and electricity supply to be reconnected.
A SPNB spokesman had told the media last week the flat units should have electricity supply by Sept 2, while Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) had started to install the water meters on Aug 28.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 02:14 PM PDT
(KL Chronicle) - Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (pix) may face an uphill task in defending the Umno Youth chief post in October as conservative forces within the party are seen to be undermining him.Umno sources said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's latest statement on the admission of youths into the party was yet another subtle attempt to discredit Khairy.
"Mahathir's statement was directed towards Khairy, who is seen by certain quarters as being too liberal in his views concerning Malay rights," said a source.
Mahathir warned the ruling party against youths who may have absorbed "western liberal ideas from abroad" on issues such as equality, human rights and the Western concept of justice.
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