The Case for Tommy Thomas as the next AG


Note 1: Got this from OutSyedtheBox and it makes alot of sense
Note 2: It is reproduced verbatim (I only edited the layout for clarity) – the authentication is not confirmed

(After the major screw-up and yet to accept the reality of things, the guy on the left does not have enough trust and credibility to continue to be the Attorney General. The country needs a change – a drastic change that it. Image source: Free Malaysia Today)

DOES THE AG NEED TO BE A MALAY OR A MUSLIM? DOES HE HAVE TO ADVISE ON SYARIAH LAW?
By GK Ganesan Kasinathan, Advocate and Solicitor, Kuala Lumpur
03 June 2018

The nation is trundling towards a calamitous constitutional misunderstanding. Someone has to do something about it and set matters straight. Let us identify what is happening. A debate has begun to rage. It concerns the identity of the person who should be the next Attorney General.

It is about constitutional provisions regarding what characteristics the Attorney General should have—and whether the current nominee, Mr. Tommy Thomas has them.

Two conflicting ideas

At the heart of the debate are two conflicting statements:-

  • The first is the altruistic proposition that certain quarters ‘have no objection at all to a non-Malay being nominated as AG.’
  • The second is an opposite argument. It is that the AG should be ‘in a position to advise the palace on Syariah matters.’
  • And the third proposition, being a conclusionary one, is the argument ‘… that therefore a judge, or a retired judge of the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court ought to be appointed as AG.’ These arguments are deeply flawed.

Here are the reasons..

These arguments have no constitutional basis at all. In fact, the Federal Constitution says the opposite. Why is that? The rakyat should be allowed to interpret the Constitution. The rakyat should take part in this debate. They should look at the Constitution and inform themselves of the important aspects of this confusion. They should be taught to interpret the Constitution. It is their right. Lawyers should not be the only ones telling people what the law is.

So let us look at the Constitution.

The starting point is Article 145.

Answer to the claim AG ‘must advise on Syariah law.’ The first and most important opposition to the Administration — and Mahathir — comes from the argument that the ‘AG must be able to advise the King on Syariah matters’. This demand contradicts Constitutional provisions. This is because the Constitution exempts the AG from such a requirement. You will understand this readily, because the relevant part of Article 145(2), states:

– ‘145(2): It shall be the duty of the [AG] to advise the [King] or the Cabinet or any Minister upon… legal matters, and to perform… duties of a legal character,… and to discharge the functions conferred on him by or under this Constitution or any other written law.

So what it says here is that the AG must discharge the duties that the Constitution asks him to. What power does the Constitution give him? That is explained by Art 145(3). It states:

– ‘145(3): The [AG] shall have power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial.’ Clause 3 prohibits the AG from dealing with proceedings before Syariah Courts and Military Courts.

As far as Syariah matters are concerned the AG has no role. No one would disagree that the King must have the very best Syariah advisor—an expert. Were previous AGs experts on Syariah Law? Was Gani Patail an expert on Syariah law? Was Apandi? How come no one objected then?

So how can the AG be now compelled to perform a duty — or exercise a power — that the Constitution has taken away from him? Why is the AG now being asked to advise on something that the Constitution tells him is none of his business? The person to advise the King on Syariah law cannot be a retired judge.

The fifth argument is that the nominee for the AG ‘must be either an existing or a retired Federal Court judge or a Court of Appeal judge; for, that way he can render legal advise on Syariah matters’. This argument is a non-starter. Again there is a clear instruction from the Constitution on this.

Apart from informing the AG what matters over which the AG has powers to act on, the Constitution goes one step further.

Secular courts are non-Syariah courts: i.e. the Magistrate Courts, Sessions Courts, High Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal Courts: [Article 121 defines the secular courts].

The Constitution expressly removes from all secular courts any power that is only a Syariah Court can exercise.

Clause (1A) says:- ‘The courts referred to in Clause (1) [read, ‘secular courts’] shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts.’

The Syariah judicial system works under a different set of laws. They have their own courts, their own judges, and their own lawyers. They are independent of the Judiciary.

Therefore if Syariah law advice is needed, their Highnesses have ample Syariah resources available at their disposal. If so, how can candidates be chosen from the retired or existing list of the secular Federal Court or the Court of Appeal judges? From them have been removed the power to deal with Syariah matters. It stands to reason that they, no matter what race or religion they profess, would have had no formal legal training on Syariah law at all.

So why ask to choose from a group who possess no Syariah knowledge at all? So the argument that the AG ‘must be able to advise on Syariah matters’ argument is a red fish! It is simply not true.

What qualities must a candidate for an AG have?

The next question to ask oneself is, who can be appointed as the AG? Article 145(1) answers the question in this way:

– ‘145(1): The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court to be the Attorney General for the Federation.’

Note the phrase, ‘a person qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court’. Who is that?

That is explained in Article 123. It prescribes that a nominee for an AG must be (a) a citizen and (b) for the last 10 years before his appointment he shall have been ‘an advocate’; or ‘a member of the Judicial and Legal service’ (this differs from judges in the Courts – do not confuse them as one), or a mixture of both. It does not mean he must be a Federal Court or Court of Appeal Judge. He must only be one who is ‘qualified to be’ one.

From which pool would you choose your AG, given the choice?

As a matter of choice where would you choose the AG to come from? Let us examine the pool of resources available to the Prime Minister. Suppose there are about 1,800 lawyers in the AG’s Chambers [AGC]: that is about right. Suppose we assume that at least 500 AGC lawyers in AGC have crossed the ‘10 year practice’ mark (the numbers could be far lower]. Then at least 500 persons qualify to be the AG.

Now, the Malaysian Bar has ten times more lawyers than the AGC. It had, at the latest count, over 18,000 members. Of that number [I extrapolate] there are over 9,000 lawyers who qualify under this Art 123 — they have crossed the ‘10 years of continued practice’ requirement. They are all citizens.

Go now to the judiciary as a source. If you add the total number of judges in the Federal Court and the Court of Appeal that does not cross 45. A great proportion of those judges are from the AG’s Chambers: some say as high as 90%. As a matter of choice, where would you choose the AG from? From the largest pool of 9,00 members, or a lesser pool of 500 lawyers from AG’s chambers, or from a smaller pool of 45 judges from the Judiciary— the latter of which is already under attack?

Equality of all candidates not matter of race

The sixth point is, the Constitution, which upholds equality as its central core (read Article 8 of the Constitution), does not prevent a non-Malay from being appointed an AG. If our forefathers thought it necessary, they would have inserted that proscription into the Constitution. Had they done it, that would have been against all known conventions of human rights. They have not.

Our forebears were reasonable people. They saw this issue and catered for it. The framers of the Constitution were men of great foresight. So why manipulate that intent by specious arguments of non-existent ‘conventions,’ conventions which are against human rights?

So there is no racial restriction in the Constitution. So that argument too goes out of the window.

The King ‘shall appoint’ Clause (1) of Article 145 states that His Majesty the King ‘shall’ on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint as AG a person proposed by the Prime Minister. This is what it says:

– ‘145(1): The yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court to be the Attorney General for the Federation.’

Note the word, ‘shall’. It is mandatory.

The binding nature of the Prime Minister’s proposal is buttressed by an explanatory clause in Art. 40(1A): It says:

– ‘In in the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or federal law, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to act in accordance with advice, on advice, or after considering advice, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall accept and act in accordance with such advice.’

The phrase ‘shall accept and act in accordance with such advice’ points to a mandatory requirement. There is a reason for this. The functioning of a valid government cannot be stultified by delay.

The Manifesto Point

The seventh argument is: ‘In appointing a non-Parliamentarian, Mahathir has departed from the Harapan manifesto that the AG shall be an MP.’

Many points answer this vacuous argument. The manifesto point is readily overcome. Second, I have said elsewhere, the AG ought to be an MP answerable to the people, through parliament. I have suggested that the Constitution ought to be changed to effect that. The Committee for Institutional Reform is engaged in just that.

Like the Council of Eminent Persons, they have had no rest. They are burning the candle at both ends. They are inundated with all manner of papers. They will suggest amendments—in good time. But until that change is done, the law, as it stands, must be complied with. There is no countervailing argument against that. There is, fortunately, a Half-Way House solution.

It is embedded into the Constitution. Art. 61 of the Constitution, which states, ‘(2) Either house of parliament may appoint as a member of any of its committees the [AG]… notwithstanding that he is not a member of that house.’

So, through this side-door, Parliament may, after it convenes, ask the AG to be appointed into its committees. The Committees may ask him to answer questions. In this way the current AG can be brought into Parliament’s deliberations.

So these concerns are easily alleviated. So any allegation that ‘Harapan has breached its Manifesto’ is really no issue at all.

Parliament has a right to override the King on executive matters

The King has executive authority over the Federation. That authority is, however, not absolute. It is subject to the dictates of Parliament: this is because Art 39 states:

‘The executive authority of the Federation shall be vested in the yang di Pertuan Agong and exercisable… by him or by the Cabinet or any Minister authorised by the Cabinet, … but parliament may by law confer executive functions on other persons.’

The AG’s appointment, under the current law, is an exercise of executive authority. If the King does not act on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Constitution grants another route to Parliament. In matters of governance, the primacy of Parliament is constitutionally entrenched. But Parliament has not been convened. That time is not yet come. It will. But can we wait till then?

The power of the Conference of Rulers

The final argument in the opposition’s quiver is that the Conference of Rulers have an absolute power to object to any suggestion of the Prime Minister. This is incorrect. True it is that the Conference of Rulers have certain ‘discretionary’ powers. Article 38 lays it out in great detail. They have a right to be consulted on certain matters.

These are listed with some care: these deal with matters relating the appointment of the King, e.g., include any matter relating to the special position of the Malay rulers, the Islamic religion or the rights of Malays under Article 153 (Reservation of quotas in the services, permits etc. for Malays). True also it is that that Art. 38(2)(c) states that the Conference of Rulers shall exercise its functions of consultation by —

‘… consenting or withholding consent to any law and making or giving advice on any appointment which under this Constitution requires the consent of the Conference or is to be made by or after consultation with the Conference’.

Some argue that Clause (6) gives the Conference of Rulers the right of carte blanche— blank cheque; that that it is ‘an absolute right’. This is what the relevant part of Clause (6) says — … the members of the Conference of Rulers may act in their discretion in any proceedings relating to the following functions, that is to say… (c) consenting or withholding consent to any law and making or giving advice on any appointment which under this Constitution requires the consent of the Conference or is to be made by or after consultation with the Conference; In constitutional theory, the personal prerogative of the monarch is said to contradict democracy.

On a proper reading of Clause 6, this personal power is not absolute.

  • First, much of the strength of these prerogative power are diluted by constitutional principles.
  • Second, other clauses in the Constitution severely limit that power.
  • Third, the ‘right to consultation’ cannot mean an ‘absolute right to refuse.’

That is why the Constitution, with great care, has said, their Highnesses ‘may act in their discretion.’ This discretion is called ‘royal prerogative.’ Blackstone described it as the powers that ‘the king enjoys alone, in contradistinction to others, and not to those he enjoys in common with any of his subjects.’ So they are are ‘personal prerogatives.’ But the principles underlying the exercise of prerogatives have been uniformly accepted without contradiction across the world.

It is for that reason such prerogatives are carefully circumscribed. The way the words in clause 6 are crafted is a call to exercise, in their Highnesses discretion, one of the most fundamental provisions of the Rule of Law: when a constitutional discretion is granted, it cannot be exercised arbitrarily.

So the exercise of the ‘personal prerogative’ must seek to achieve the equality principle rooted as the basic fabric of the Constitution. It must be subject to transparency and good governance. It cannot be exercised arbitrarily. It cannot be exploited capriciously. Such a discretion must be exercised in a way that will aid democracy and uphold the Rule of Law. The words must be construed to comply with the spirit of the Constitution and the Will of the People.

Conclusion

Parliament is not in session. Not yet. Yet someone has to carry the burden of the AG. Charges have to be filed. People have to be hauled up before the courts.

The Cabinet is busy answering a hundred, perhaps a thousand urgent calls upon its time. This amidst the urgent concern that economic matters should be dealt with alacrity. Manifesto or no, Mahathir has to stop the haemorrhage.

The Cabinet cannot hang about. Time is of the essence. Mahathir has to act now. Those who delay the appointment of the AG are doing a great disservice to the toils of an elderly patriot trying to right a wayward ship. These detractors are playing into the hands of the pilferers who have purloined billions from our coffers. They sit pretty, smiling from their strongholds. They think nothing will come upon them so long as they keep raising one constitutional crises after another, and trigger as much unease and delay as possible.

That is why they are delaying the appointment of the AG. They wish to feel safe. They think the GE 14 is a pyrrhic victory. They feel they are untouchable. They must be stopped. As a nation we cannot sit idly by, while these detractors stultify the rakyat’s hard-won victory

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Upholding Dharma


It is a short one for this week but it has something that our country (and its good citizen) have been lacking in some areas and should be revisited. It is also something that I have been pondering on a personal basis.

Let me start with a simple case study:-

There is a junction near the housing area where a quiet number of the residents would take to make a u-turn to go to the housing area. Well, that fine as it is quite convenient for the residents. The only problem is there is a clear sign that says no u-turn is allowed. Despite this sign board and sometimes the inconvenient (and danger) posed to other road users, the residents continue to make u-turns instead of driving a bit more further and make u-turn. It may sound trivial but perhaps the residents may not be aware, they are breaking traffic law on daily basis.

The notion of dharma comes to my mind. The concept of dharma may mean many things to different people and religion. It may even have different name in different part of the world and culture. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’ (Wikipedia)

Before anyone accuse me of being holier than holy (ha ha), let me assure you that it has nothing to do with religion but rather a way of life, doing the right things (as oppose to doing the things right) and ensuring that we do not hurt others out of greed, anger and of course, stupidity. You can find a variant of this in every modern society, culture and religion. Morality is one aspect of it but then the question may arise – what is right for me may not be right for you. That I agree with you. But there simpler acid test for this – be guided by the existing laws and society norms.

It can simple as following the traffic rules – don’t make illegal u-turns is one example, not driving on the wrong side of the road, put on the indicators when changing lane, wear a helmet when riding a motorbike and so on. And to something more complex like managing the country in the best interest of it’s citizen. There is no law written down to managing the country in the best interest of the citizen, of course.

This is where the society norms comes in place. No society wants to be governed by greedy, dumb, wasteful, dictator alike government – unless we are in a failing states like Zimbabwe or North Korea (but not Iran as the US wants us to believe). But we are not, we are far from countries like that. We will come across many instances of doing the right things in a day if you keep an eye and ears on it.

Asking people to do the right thing is nothing new concept. It is an age old concept.

I first came across the word “dharma” when I went to India for the first time and bought the Mahabharata from a local book store there. It was on sale (most things were) and the language used in the book was not so complicated to follow (I had to do something to kill time when the ladies were out for their shopping).

The dharma is mentioned a few times in Mahabharata which itself been called the story of dharma:-

Mahabharata is one of the oldest epics of our country, nay the world. It shows how dharma and karma govern our lives. Dharma is what is the right thing to do at a given time or situation. Dharma is based on wisdom, insight and human values. Dharma has many meanings and many dimensions as well – duty, truth, non-violence (ahimsa paramo dharma) and others. It is well said that “dharmo rakshita rakshata” – dharma protects he who follows dharma. However, if you do not follow dharma, you have to reap the consequences. That is karma – you reap what you sow, sooner or later.

(Source)

Failure to uphold the dharma will eventually attract bad karma. That’s universal – if you don’t do the right things, the consequences will not be good as well. If you don’t follow the traffic rules, you may get into an accident (or cause others to get into an accident).

The same with running this country. If you don’t govern the country well, it will not prosper and developed. And so. You may have heard variations of it – Murphy’s law, Newton’s 3rd law of motion, blah, blah

Knowing what is the right to do is one thing, doing it without fail is another:-

Doing right always is a very difficult task. Many a times we do not know what is dharma, what is not. Even though we know, unless it is a very usual habit of following it, at times of great stress it is impossible to follow the path of Dharma.

(Source)

In order to do thing on a constant basis, it takes high discipline and of course practice but more importantly there must be an acceptance that doing the right things should precede doing things right. It has to be habitual as well.

Toll Hike, Ha, Ha, Ha!


.

Go ahead, clear your mind and a have good laugh.

Hopefully it will soften the pain that you feel deep down whenever you read Ministers’ statements in this country. I don’t know if they read their own statements before they read it aloud in public. It just reinforces the notion that we need to change the Government from the top, hopefully at least it will wake some people up and get them to use their mind before talking.

Well, take a deep breath and read this:-

The government has decided not to raise toll rates in 2014 to help Malaysians face rising prices. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will have to pay over RM400 million in compensation to concessionaires as per agreement with them.

The government is also considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements after a thorough review of existing concessions.

Muhyiddin said the government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living, with hikes in prices of goods and subsidy cuts.

(Source)

Reading Muhyiddin’s statement that the government is “considering” renegotiation of toll concession agreements and the government made the decision not to raise tolls “in the light of increasing criticism” from various quarters almost caused me to choke on my breakfast yesterday. Muhyiddin was talking like the issue of toll hike crop up only yesterday and the RM400 million paid came from his own pockets, sigh. Very caring indeed. The government can always find way to screw the taxpayers on way or another and in this case, there is no difference.

The call for the government to renegotiate the toll concession agreements is not a new one. Pakatan had called for the same thing way back in 2009 and a good number of years had lapsed since then and only now they want to “renegotiation of toll concession agreements”? Sorry, consider to renegotiate. Hoooo, that’s scary. But then again, what the fuck they have been doing for the past few years when they could have done all their studies (with their highly paid consultants) and renegotiate the toll agreements when the toll was cheaper back then? Had their head in the ground and told themselves that everything is alright? They could have save millions of taxpayers money and the road users would have been a lot more happy with a prospect of cheaper toll even when they are stuck in mega traffic jam on the so-called highways.

And assuming this is true, I mean that they are finally going to do something about it instead farting loud in the wind (as usual), another 5 years would have lapsed and the toll concessionaires would still have made their millions either from toll hike or huge compensations. So trust me when you hear that the government is considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements, it will remain in the “considering” phase and no real action would take place (unless until we change the Government).

The other part of the morning joke by DPM was this – that government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living. Wow, how grateful we are but hold on, you mean to say that the government actually had a choice on this matter? I thought another Minister of yours said that they have no choice on this matter despite the same “criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living”?

The toll rate hike next year is unavoidable as it is an express condition in the concession agreement between the government and highway concession companies, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Wahid Omar

(Source)

Oh wait, now I get it – the government made the decision not to raise tolls (due to criticism) but they still whack the people with huge compensations. Something is not right. You are not taking money from people who actually use the highways but then take money from all people who may or not use the highway and pay the compensation. And come up to the stage and say that you have been very caring.

Anyway, have you watched the video and laughed? If that does not make you laugh, I am sure that the statement from DPM above will. There is no toll hike but the taxpayers get screwed anyway with RM400 million bill and who knows what will happen after the Kajang by-election fiasco had ended. After all, didn’t they promised to reduce the toll before the last general election but right after the general election, they threw that idea out of the window and said that they have no choice but had to raise the toll?

Have a good weekend ahead and remember this in the next general elections.

More “Goodies” in 2014


Probably my last post for the year, hope to be more “regular” next year…

kain rentang pasang di pagar bengang bn

(To be fair, one’s voting rights cannot be questioned by anyone but there must be a break point somewhere on how much of the abuse and wastage that a Government that has been in power for so long can be allowed to continue. And seeing on how all that sweet talk and endless promises of cost reduction during the election campaign simply disappeared within months from the election, hopefully people had wise up and will take things with a pinch of salt in the next election? Image source: Omak Kau)

Just as expected, here’s another news that will leave the die-hard BN supporters getting down on their knees and say the grace for voting in the Barang Naik politicians into power for another 5 years (damn, I can even see the grateful smile on their face right now as they get ready to dig deeper into their pockets):-

Prices of stationery items are expected to go up by 20% to 30% within the first quarter of next year. Industry players claimed that they were revising the prices, partly due to the increasing costs from the implementation of minimum wages and transport costs.

Other factors include the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price and the currency exchange rate between the ringgit and China renminbi, as most of the imported stationery items are from China. The speculated increase in toll rates and rentals are also expected to contribute to the increase.

(Source)

Look closely at the reasons for the price hike of the stationery items – implementation of minimum wages, the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price, increase in toll rates (which is yet to be finalized by the Government but already having rippling effect) and rentals. It sounds all too familiar, don’t they? If these are the reasons for the proposed increase (the edible ice suppliers used the same excuse), then what’s stopping everyone else from using the same excuse and raising the price of goods and services?

Didn’t one Barang Naik Minister came out in the open and said that the price hike unlikely to have any bearing on the production cost? If we had believed that, we would have been one of the dumbest people around. Of course, the stationers and booksellers are now being threatened with action under the Competition Act 2010. But if the Minister claims cartel activity and monopoly of market, then what about Astro and TNB huh? Doesn’t the same market monopoly argument applies the same?

And as more goods and services falls into the price hike category, one may need to wonder where it will end. And whether the hike is justified in the first place? Have the people in the Government had done their homework before they press on the “Hike Up” button? Have they even consider things from the business and consumer point of view? Just asking the business to “understand and share the burden” does not really the solution that anyone with brains is looking for.

Onyourtoes: You are telling only half of the story. How can you reduce fuel subsidy when government spending has remained extravagant? How can you reduce sugar subsidy when importation and distribution of sugar is still in the hands of private monopolies?

How can you justify high price of cars when issuance of Approved Permits (APs) is for specific cronies to become billionaires. Which country on earth makes billionaires out of the largesse of public policy? How can you hike the electricity tariff when lopsided Independent Power Producers (IPP) agreements have remained unresolved?

How can you continue to raise tolls when the profit of most concessionaires achieved is far beyond their wildest expectation? How can you impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) when our accounting and retailing are so rudimentary? Read my lips, it will end up with consumers paying but the money not reaching the government.

(Source)

This is in response to the recent hikes by the Government and it just shows that Government had not thought of curtailing expenses and rationalize the reduction of subsidies thoroughly. It has remained a small patch here and a small patch there but at the end, does nothing to stop the leakages. Don’t get us wrong – the consumers will definitely pay more for goods and services provided it is justified and means a substantial improvement of quality in goods & services. Unfortunately in this “tidak apa” country, that not likely to happen – if you pay more for the toll for example, does the insane traffic jam goes away?

But the question remained is whether the Government will be seeing the increase of income at their end. They always ask the people to tighten their belts but are they doing the same themselves? The purported news of 2 BN ministers going to London for their winter shopping certainly did not look good when there are only bad news wherever you look. Who is paying for the trip and the shopping expenses?

So don’t be surprised if, with so many leakages, lack of enforcement, rampant corruption, the Government does not know the meaning of austerity and lopsided agreements, whatever the increase of price is simply going to go “into the wrong pockets” and wrong purpose. And because of this, the Government can rest assured to find itself still short of money to cover its spiraling expenses and in the end, they will be forced to push for another cut in subsidies (with the same excuses) and the vicious cycles starts all over again.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed questioned the wisdom behind the government’s decision to increase the prices of goods and services at a time when people were suffering a financial pinch. In his blog Chedet, the former prime minister of 22 years acknowledged that the government needs more money but questioned if all the increases should come at the same time.

Mahathir said the government should follow in the footsteps of businesses by “costing down” where it could either increase prices or reduce cost when there is competition or when its cost of production reduces its profits. “All its cost can be examined to determine which are truly necessary, which cost can be reduced, which service can be curtailed or modified,” he said.

He said the Government often wasted money because it was not too concerned about the returns on its expenditure, citing the Auditor General’s reports that highlight the excesses every year.

(Source)

It has come to a point where even the retired old man seemed restless now. Never mind the fact that that he should take some of the blame on laying the seeds of wastage and abuse but at least he is restless now for the right reasons (and not on the same and tired racial reasons). Hmm, perhaps he can foresee the downfall of the very system that he had nurtured when he was the PM.

Any way, there are just a few more days to go before we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a truly Barang Naik year in 2014 (some had dubbed it as the New Year of Suffering). I just hope that even so 2014 will bring a better year for all of us in other ways and exposed to less insanity all around and reinforce the notion that a real change will only change with a change of Government in the next general elections.

Happy holidays and I will see you all next year.

Ice Ice Baby, Dummy!


ice_increase

(Another good news for the die-hard BN supporters to rejoice for the coming new year – RM0.50 increase per bag and RM2.50 per block by the edible ice suppliers and you can bet your bottom ringgit that the restaurant and food stalls will put in their own increase on top of increase for sugar price for your iced drink. Reason for the increase? The notice mentions increase in electricity tariff, increase of diesel price, implementation of the “minimum wage ruling”, increase of salary, increase of raw materials and interestingly, improvement of food safety – now that is very scary!)

I saw the above notice when I read the papers this morning. This however was not a big surprise though – it is only natural for businesses to pass on the escalating operating cost to the end consumers. So do expect your iced Milo, iced limau, iced coffee, iced tea, iced water to cost you an arm and a leg from today onwards. Sooner or later, you may want to reconsider eating out and bring your own food from home (although price of vegetables & meat had gone up as well).

Having said that, here’s one that shows that some Ministers still sticking (rather stubbornly) their head into the ground:-

KUALA LUMPUR: TRANSPORTATION and logistic companies have been warned against raising their charges in view of the toll rate hike. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Hasan Malek said the ministry could take action against their umbrella body if companies that come under it raised their charges. “The associations can be charged under the Competition Commission Act 2010 if they influence their members to increase their charges.”

Traders were warned not to use the toll rate hike as an excuse to raise prices of goods. Hasan said the ministry would take action against traders who took advantage of the hike, adding his ministry had started checking in Klang Valley traders were increasing their prices.

“It is a difficult time for Malaysians. The traders should not push the burden to the consumers but, instead, share it with them.”

(Source)

Don’t you feel like want to puke when you read this statement ” It is a difficult time for Malaysians. The traders should not push the burden to the consumers but, instead, share it with them”? Which profit driven company in their right mind want to do that?

What is happening with the Government themselves realizing that it is a difficult time for Malaysians and curtailing their over the board expenses? Some of them are still flying all around the world with the same happy sickening face – obviously, times are still good for them (pressed further, they may even ask – what difficult time?).

One thing you can be certain – that you can be rest assured that more “Christmas goodies” is on the way from Najib’s Administration. Remember it well in the next general election.

Toll Hike, A New Year Gift?


Read these first:-

tol naik sebelum dn selepas_omak_kau

toll

(The sweet talk before the elections – one good proof that one should never trust politicians who had become whiter than white, holier than the holiest man around when elections are around the corner. Barely 5 years after the election, all the sweet talk and endless promises of reducing the toll are quickly forgotten and it was back to business as usual. Image source: Omak Kau & Malaysian Insider)

Probably the last big bang from Najib’s army of highly paid consultants and dumb Ministers for year 2013…

If you had thought Najib acted like the Santa Claus on the loose before the elections, dishing out goodies and promising the sky to gain votes (you would not have missed “you help me, I help you” election bribes – it was on the front page on daily basis), here’s one for the die-hard BN fans to rejoice in tears for this coming New Year:-

The anticipated toll hike is coming too soon after the hike in electricity tariff and increases in the prices of sugar and fuel, say economists. The speculated rise of between 50 sen and RM2 in toll rates, coupled with other price hikes, would impinge on the quality of life. The hike, which will take effect next month, will affect 15 highways.

“The Government could lengthen the term of the agreements or ask the toll operators to space out the hikes,” he said. He warned that the sudden hike could result in a sharp escalation in the cost of living, which would be detrimental to the economy.

“Besides damage to the economy, there might also be widespread social repercussions. The cost of goods and services will go up,” he said. Yeah said it was unfair to raise toll charges for congested highways.

(Source)

To fair, despite of the overwhelming news and strong indications from “people” in the Government on the net & public media, the Government have not confirmed the actual quantum on the toll hike. But the hike nonetheless is still on the paper – it is just an matter of how much more and when the hike will be. Of course depending how loud the protests from the oppositions and the rakyat will be in the coming weeks, ha ha.

To tell you the truth, I never understood why there is a need to increase the toll other than it is stated IN the agreement. Not matter how I tried to understand the maths behind the proposed hike, I could not crack it. It is not like the price of petrol or raw materials which is dictated by global market supply & demand although interestingly when the global oil price came down, the petrol price remained unchanged. Well, no wonder some call this Government, the “Barang Naik” Government – there is only one way to go and that is up. The computation of the toll hikes on the other hand had remained a big secret – anyone who is able to decipher and explain it well & logically deserves a Nobel prize in Mathematics. It has been shrouded in high secrecy and confusion and totally detached from reality from day 1.

Let’s do some simple maths, shall we?

Let’s assume at the point of inking the agreement, the toll computation is set based on 10 cars per year and the toll is set at 1 car = RM1 (in total RM10). RM10 per year for x number of years is sufficient to cover the highway construction plus some sizable profit for the toll concessionaires.

In the same crappy agreement, it is also assumed that in Year 5, the number of cars per year is projected at only 5 cars per year. Why the lower figure, you may ask? If you are doing projections, that is very natural – better to keep lower figure for worst case scenario and you will avoid the need to go back to the stakeholders for more funding. Thus in order to sustain the same RM10, the toll is now increased to RM2 per car.

That seems to be case here whenever the Government announces the increase in toll – that it is IN the agreement. But is this case in reality? What happens if the number of cars per year had actually increased to 100 cars (instead of the projected 5 cars) per year? At RM2 per car (since it is IN the agreement), the toll concessionaires would be make a killing of RM200 instead of the rightful RM10 per year.

They don’t come back and say that the toll will now be lowered to just RM0.10 to maintain the same RM10 per year, do they? There is always one to go and that is up.

Now you know why the rest of us who are caught in the mega traffic jam on daily basis is very pissed off whenever the Government “after taking into consideration of the rakyat‘s hardship” announces increase in toll. Why the increase when there has been corresponding increase in number of traffic using the highway? We all know that there are 100 cars on the road and not 5 cars as projected in the agreement. We all know that as more commercial & residential areas are developed and more vehicles uses the highway, the toll charges should be reducing and not increasing.

And we know that the concessionaires are already making substantial profit even with the current toll amount:-

According to the the Pandan MP, based on the North-South Expressway’s (PLUS) details of cost in its 2010 yearly report, the longest highway in the country collected RM4.098 billion through its toll collection in 2011 and gained a net profit  RM2.515 billion before tax or a 61% profit margin.

“PLUS however only spent RM241 million or 6% on that profit margin to maintain the highway. They even spent more for salary, administration and etc by spending RM397 million. “There are not many businesses in the world that can get a profit of 61% like PLUS has recorded. Looking at the 6% they spent for maintenance alone is enough evidence that the current toll rates is too high and multiply PLUS’s profits,” Rafizi told a press conference at PKR’s headquarters today.

He further added that Kesas Sdn Bhd who operates Kesas highway recorded a 121% profit margin between the year 2008 to 2012 as reported by Maybank Investment Research on Nov 2013. Meanwhile, based on Lingkaran Trans Kota Holding Berhad’s (Litrak) 2013 yearly report, the company that operates the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP), collected RM369 million and gained a net profit of RM180 million before tax, a 49 per cent profit margin.

“The 49% net profit before tax is high, higher than what is made in oil and gas industries,” he claims.

(Source)

Ok, never mind, let’s not focus on the toll concessionaires – they are profit driven companies anyway and so the more money they make, it’s better for them. Let’s instead focus on the other side of the spectrum – the Government who by right should not be profit driven. The very same Government who promised “gradual reduction” of the toll when they went around on election campaign.

Let’s look at the typical reasons given by the Government in justifying the hike in toll – 1. the obvious and probably the dumbest reason that it is IN the agreement and there’s NOTHING anyone in the whole galaxy can do about it 2. the Government does NOT have enough money to continue to subsidize the increase (as a responsible Government, they want it for “cough” better use).

Let’s look at the first reason – that it is IN the agreement and that the Government is unable to do anything about it. But are they really that helpless as they are portraying it to be? Then read this:-

The Government can prevent the toll hike by renegotiating the terms of agreements with operators, said PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli.

“Most highway concessions are dominated by subsidiaries of state-owned companies, so the Federal Government has the power and leverage to renegotiate the terms,” he said. He said PLUS, Prolintas and Gamuda were three of the biggest highway toll operators and all had Government links.

“Based on either share ownership or financial assistance, the Federal Government has the power and influence discuss the matter with concessionaires and ask them to re-work the terms of he agreement,”

“The excuse that the increases cannot be avoided because of agreements signed with the private sector cannot be accepted because a large part of the toll concessions are held by the Government, directly or indirectly,” he added.

(Source)

Put it this way – no contract in the world is cast in stone especially when it is made by the ever powerful Government. Nationalization and privatization have been done in the past with a stroke of a pen. There is always an opportunity to renegotiate – the shareholders of the toll concessionaires may not like it but at the end, they are doing good for the nation by causing the price of general goods not to spike up due to the increase in toll. And speaking about the shareholders, the interesting part here is as what Rafizi had said – the excuse that the increases cannot be avoided because of agreements signed with the private sector cannot be accepted because a large part of the toll concessions are held by the Government, directly or indirectly.

And to show how it should be done, the Selangor State Government had taken steps to make their stand on the hike through their representatives on the toll concessionaires companies (thank god, the voters in Selangor did not buy into Najib’s “we have repented” road show). So, what’s stopping the federal government from doing the same? Why they cannot propose alternatives to minimize the impact of the toll hike on the public? Why the eerie silence?

Let’s look at the other reason for the hike in toll – that the Government is unable to pay high subsidies (or compensation) to maintain low toll price. On an ideal situation, there should not be any subsidies – users pay the actual cost and any money saved from subsidies should be used for development activities that will generate economy for the country. But as I mentioned, in an ideal situation it works just fine but a different story in Malaysia if you have been keeping tab on the unsatisfied hunger & abuse for tax payers. Only in Malaysia, you can fly off a politician’s wife to private functions at the expense of tax payers and act like that nothing had happened. Just ask what had happened with all the past subsidies and compensation saved? How much of it has been “burned” on overpaid consultants? How much of it has been wasted by corrupted and careless civil servants?

It does not make sense when the consumer ends up paying more but whatever money saved ends up being abused by the very politicians who have been entrusted with the said money. There has not been much done to curtail the lavish spending by the Government. There has not been much done by the Government to curtail corruption (enforcement if any has been selective). So who is to be blamed when the Government now finds itself not having enough money.

And we have yet to comprehend the impact on other costs due to the toll hike – teh tarik and roti canai price already increased to an insane level due to increase of petrol & sugar cost (it was crazy to note that the price of my usual kopi-o kosong went up after the sugar price announcement), it is only going to be worse with the increase of electricity tariff and any other hidden increase of basic goods and services. That will take another long post, so probably let’s keep that for another time.

Merry Christmas to all…

P.s. since we are on the subject of “highway”, this is what I think the Government should do on a regular basis – haul up all drivers and send them for mandatory retesting (perhaps every 3 years). This is because there are way too many bastards out there (including bus and army truck drivers but not truck drivers) who do not know to properly overtake other vehicles on the highway. They cut into the fast lane without any indicators and once overtake, cut back dangerously in front of the car without any indicators as well. Sigh.