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Thread: Activism REFSA: Weekly Rojak Crisps

   
   
       
  1. #1
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    Activism REFSA: Weekly Rojak Crisps

    REFSA Rojak is our weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia. We trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.
    Crisps of the Week (19 - 25 Oct)


    brought to you by Foong Li Mei
    Know-who cancer killing entrepreneurship
    Whoever says that talk is cheap is perhaps not speaking to the right person. Direct talks between Sarawak Coal Resources Sdn Bhd and four firms, for example, were worth millions of ringgit. According to the 2011 Auditor-General’s (AG) Report, these firms won contracts amounting to RM923 million from the wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarawak’s State Financial Secretary Incorporated, mostly through direct negotiations.

    The oversight of the state financial secretary was also absent in these multi-million ringgit deals. Sarawak Coal Resources conveniently said that it “did not know” that the oversight was needed for contracts worth above RM500,000.
    The audit further discovered that two of the firms “did not adhere to their contracts and to the environmental impact assessment report”.

    Open tender government projects were also no less mysterious than deals made behind closed doors. The Finance Ministry once again tried tunneling its way out of the controversial Ampang LRT line extension project awarded to George Kent (Malaysia) Bhd. It insisted that George Kent won the contract from the start, and denied knowledge of the leaked government documents which showed that the company was poorly rated for the project.

    Monopoly is also apparently the name of the game in government procurements, and dominating the spread so far seems to be Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary. Senior UMNO backbencher Datuk Bung Mokhtar lashed out at the federal government for favouring Syed Mokhtar in all business areas. The business tycoon is listed by Forbes as Malaysia’s seventh richest person, but there is fear that the ballooning debt of his companies will lead to a financial system collapse.

    Procedure-flouting direct negotiations, shady open tender processes and thriving monopoly seem to define government procurements. So, does the ordinary entrepreneur in Malaysia even stand a chance? The recent Budget 2013 allocated millions to assist young entrepreneurs, but unless the government rubs some salt on the know-who leeches, businesses in Malaysia will suck more than it pumps into the economy.
    Eating into funds meant for the poor
    Those tasked with feeding the underprivileged appear to be chomping into the poor’s share of the economic pie. RM 1 million meant for the poor in Kelantan was burnt in a bad investment by a statutory body, clearly violating the directive given. Only 8 percent of the money was recouped. Apparently, the investment was to make dividends to pay for management expenses. It looks like the poor in the Ladang Rakyat programme will not be receiving the monthly aid due to them.

    Across the ocean, the Penans in Sarawak are not only handed the short end of the stick, but may soon see the end of a baton as well. The Sibu police chief has threatened to take criminal action against the protesting natives if they continue to block the roads to the Murum Dam project site. However, the villagers are adamant in defending their homes and customary land. Human rights NGO Suaram urged the police to refrain from interfering in the struggle, saying that the officers in blue should behave as a neutral party and not side with the oppressors.
    Squabbling over secularism
    Is Malaysia secular or not? This debate is raging in the public domain currently. De-facto law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri does not believe so. According to him, our country has “never been endorsed or declared as a secular country”. He says the Federal Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the federation, and this differs from India, the United States and Turkey as the Constitutions of these countries do not state an official religion and were thus secular nations.

    Law experts have refuted Nazri’s interpretation, saying that it is an “oversimplistic argument”. Veteran lawyer Tommy Thomas insists that Malaysia is secular, which is what the country’s forefathers and the legal experts who helped draft the Constitution had intended.

    Nazri has other legal knots to untangle besides Malaysia’s secularism, and one involves his son, Mohamed Nedim. Federal opposition leaders are astounded by the Home Ministry’s decision in the assault case involving Nedim. The Home Minister stated that the case was “amicably settled” by both parties. PKR vice president N Surendran retorted that Malaysia’s legal system does not allow for amicable settlements of crimes that had been reported, and said that the Home Minister “may have connived in an illegal act”.
    100 people under one roof? EC can explain
    Can hundreds of voters share one address? Yes, says the Election Commission (EC). These voters are residents of former squatter colonies, who registered under a common address. These squatters may have moved but they have yet to update their new addresses with the EC.

    The commission also claims to have implemented a number of electoral reforms. They include allowing overseas Malaysians to use postal votes, a clean-up of 100,000 names from the electoral roll, allowing the opposition to have access to public broadcast media, and making double-voting impossible with the use of indelible ink. The EC also says that after the next general election, it will abolish the law that governs the registration of voters in Malaysia.
    At sea over AES’ effectiveness
    The Automated Enforcement System (AES) may be having a little trouble determining what exactly it is supposed to enforce at certain locations – for instance, in the middle of the sea, or the jungle. PAS-backed Kempen Anti-Saman Ekor (Kase) pointed out that some of the sites provided by the Road Transport Department (RTD) for the camera to catch speedsters were quite ridiculous. The group called on the government to suspend the AES system until it is more comprehensively studied.

    Fast drivers are not to be blamed for all road accidents, says Selayang MP William Leong. The PKR lawmaker remarks that the camera system to catch those speeding or beating the red light is not enough to ensure road safety, as other factors causing accidents are not addressed. These factors include the lack of exclusive motorcycle lanes, a flawed traffic system and vehicle defects.

    The effort to lower traffic risks is worthy of applause, but the government would do better listening to its own advice to slow down. Why the haste in implementing the AES? Iron out the kinks first. For example, speed limits on roads should be standardised and clearly displayed. A stretch of highway that goes inconsistently from 110kph to 90kph and back to 110kph again is not a lifesaver – it’s a trap.
    Why 'Rojak'? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
    It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique 'sauce' that is Malaysia. Let's take pride in the 'rojakness' of our nation!
    py

  2. #2
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    A TENDER SITUATION
    The federal government’s policies favouring negotiated contracts and gatekeepers such as PEMANDU have fostered an anti-competitive economy, where the likelihood of procuring a contract depends on who you know, rather than how good your products or services actually are.
    If there isn’t any incentive to improve, human nature is such that there will be hardly any effort put into upgrading service-levels or productivity. And the record shows that a mere 0.2% of class-F Malaysian contractors have upgraded to a higher class. Why bother upgrading if you’re assured contracts by your Class-F status?


    These opaque procurement policies hinder innovation, creativity and productivity, while putting genuine Malaysian entrepreneurs at an disadvantage. Worse still, despite 43 years of formal ‘bumiputera-first’ policies, bumiputeras still comprise more than 3/4 of the bottom 40% of households living on RM50 a day. So much for ‘protecting the bumiputera’!


    Pakatan Rakyat’s open tender policy in Penang is a huge step in the right direction. Awarding contracts to the most capable contractors not only facilitates improvement amongst the contractors, but also rewards industrious contractors based on their own strength.


    We need to look past baseless accusations such as ‘affronts to bumiputera rights’ and ‘threats to the Chinese interests’ and realize the massive potential behind the open tender policy if implemented wisely nation-wide.

    UMNOnomics maps out why a little competition is good for both consumers and workers, with clever cartoons encapsulating the main points.
    Written simply by Teh Chi-Chang, illustrated creatively by Johnny Ong and endorsed by personalities from Nurul Izzah Anwar to Kee Thuan Chye and Zunar, this book is a steal at just RM35. Pick up a copy today at a Times, Kinokuniya, or Borders bookstore near you, or order it online by visitinghttp://shop.refsa.org/
    Spread the word
    py

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    Budget 2013 Behind the Theatrics #3

    So you want to start a business?

    Watch out for the red-tape and barriers.
    py

  5. #5
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    Crisps of the Week (15 - 21 March)
    brought to you by Foong Li Mei
    Light shed on shady dealings of Sarawak land-‘lords’
    International NGO Global Witness zoomed its camera in on the blatant plundering of Sarawak’s natural resources, and opened a repulsive can of leeches. The explosive video, secretly recorded by its undercover investigators, unearthed the goings-on in Sarawak’s land grab which implicated chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family. Taib’s family members spilt the beans on how they made lucrative profits at the expense of the indigenous poor, and got away by cunningly skirting the law.

    The Global Witness exposé showed two of Taib’s cousins and their lawyer smugly explaining the mechanism for exploiting the system and the natives’ ignorance to enrich themselves.
    The 16-minute film notes the elite family’s misplaced sense of entitlement to the land, when in fact logging licenses issued by Taib encroached upon the ancestral territory of the indigenous people. The chief minister, naturally, dismissed the video as an attempt to “frame” him, but Global Witness stood by the veracity of their film.

    Backroom deals cannot hide the fact that whole forests are being razed to the ground. Global Witness reported that under Taib’s rule, less than 5 percent of Sarawak’s forest is left standing. Apparently, Sarawak is churning out more tropical logs for export than South America and Africa combined. The NGO also charged that HSBC, which has clients closely linked to Taib’s family, finances logging companies in Malaysia and in the process, violates the bank’s own sustainability policies.

    It comes as no surprise that the fire of blame has spread quickly to Putrajaya. BN has been accused of being bedmates with Taib in exploiting Sarawak’s resources. According to Foreign Policy, critics of the chief minister alleged that he had a deal with the country’s leaders to ensure him a relatively free hand in Sarawak. In return, Taib will save them a generous piece of the state’s rich oil reserves pie and guarantee reliable political support.

    All eyes are now on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which has previously cited lack of proof for not hauling up Taib. Now that an NGO has done the evidence-collecting job for the government agency, will MACC still be dragging its feet in probing the Sarawak land-‘lords’, waiting for the state to go completely bald before it takes action?

    Sign this petition to urge the Prime Minister to launch a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the plundering that is going on in Sarawak.
    Shahrizat’s ‘fearsome’ defiance
    Logic, like remorse, does not appear to be a prominent feature of our ruling coalition. Wanita UMNO chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil who is linked to the National Feedlot Center (NFC) scandal, carries this fine torch of BN tradition by repeatedly dismissing critics with convoluted reasoning. This time, she claimed that PKR leader Rafizi Ramli chastised her family’s publicly-funded project because politically, “he’s afraid of the strength of Wanita BN”.

    The Malaysian Insider rebutted that politics or not, abusing public funds is a crime, and “someone has to be accountable, no matter if they hold high positions or their movements are feared by many.”

    Shahrizat may think that Wanita BN is a force to be reckoned with, but women rights activist Marina Mahathiris less than impressed about the weight they carry in federal decisions. Marina pointed out that while political parties have a large female membership, “the numbers of women who were nominated to stand and have been elected into office has been pitiful.” Of the 30 ministers in the Cabinet, only one is a woman. This falls very short of the 30% required by the United Nations. This disparity means that it is difficult to enact women-friendly legislation in Parliament, says Marina.

    Will this predicament reach the ears of our current Women minister, who is none other than our Prime Minister? Judging by the female company that Dato’ Sri Najib keeps (one of whom has just published a ‘book of denials’), we can only wonder what inspiring insights he will receive from them.
    PEMANDU playing the numbers game, again
    Is it bad math or a blatant bluff from Pemandu? PKR vice president N Surendran seems to think it’s the latter. The agency’s government transformation report extols the reduction of poverty rate to about 2 percent, but Surendran reveals that the real number is in fact closer to 20 percent. PKR claims to have calculated the poverty rate using an internationally-accepted methodology based on the Department of Statistics’ own 2009 Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey Report.

    The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) Annual Report 2012 also contains math that don’t add up and perception manipulation. Read REFSA’s analysis on how the ETP has once again failed to meet its targets.
    No RIP for the murdered
    With Qing Ming (a traditional Chinese festival to honour one’s ancestors) just around the corner, the ghost of murdered Mongolian translator Altantunya has been resurrected – with a startling confession by senior lawyer Cecil Abraham. He purportedly admitted to following PM Najib’s instructions in preparing the much-disputed second statutory declaration (SD) of private investigator P Balasubramaniam, whose first SD implicated the prime minister in Altantuya’s murder. Incidentally, Bala passed away last Friday.

    This explosive revelation only adds more muck to an already murky case. Bar Council chairpersonChristopher Leong noted that the two convicted policemen, who were also Najib’s personal bodyguards, had no apparent motive for blowing up Altantunya with military-grade explosives.

    There was no happy ending for Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, whose guilt would not allow the blood (of the murdered king) on her hands to be washed off. With BN’s alleged link to the case, will the ‘blood’ of the murdered Mongolian be the stubborn “damned spot” that brings the ruling coalition to its knees eventually?
    Why 'Rojak'? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
    It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique 'sauce' that is Malaysia. Let's take pride in the 'rojakness' of our nation!
    Get updated with REFSA via
    REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues.
    py

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