Ask Lord Bobo: Bersih Headache, and Minimum Wage

From the Selangor Times 4 May 2012. Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered!

Dear Lord Bobo, I’ve got a massive headache post-Bersih. Not because I was kicked in the head by a mob (police or otherwise), but because of all the arguments flying around blaming different parties for the bad ending. My question is: Bersih is over, and the arguments can go on until the cows come home, but what do we do next? What happens now? (Actifast, via email)

Lord Bobo is a big fan of Ambiga Sreenevasan. That lady knows how to turn a phrase, and her press statement on 1 May encapsulates the key message from the Bersih 3.0 rally on 28 April. This key quote says it all:

“Despite the violence displayed by the police and the actions of the callous and irresponsible few, these enduring facts cannot be forgotten – a 250,000 strong crowd stood side by side in peace and for a common purpose for hours.

They were the young and the old, Malaysians from different backgrounds. They came from the Klang Valley and as far away as Sabah and Sarawak. They came despite the threats by the government, the lack of transportation and the roadblocks placed in their way. And they were not the only ones. Thousands of other Malaysians gathered in Penang, Malacca, Johor, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and in more than 80 cities around the world.

These are the true faces of Malaysia. They are a reflection of the true will and aspirations of Malaysians. No political maneuvering, retooling of the facts by the mainstream media or allegations of “hijacking” of the event will change that. Politicians from both ends of the divide ignore this truth to their peril.”

Remember Bersih’s call is for free and fair elections. Of their eight demands, the most basic is to clean up the electoral roll and to give 21 days to campaign before a general election. The use of indelible ink has been agreed to, but made redundant by amendments to election laws which basically make it easier for the Election Commission to exclude candidates’ sending in observers to polling stations. Of course, there is no hope that the postal ballot will be reformed in time for the next election.

So what do you do? Well, you can start writing letters to the head of the Election Commission telling him he has lost your confidence and should resign. After all, how can he be independent if he is a member of a political party. Apparently he does not know how and when he was registered as an Umno member.

This is something new to Lord Bobo – the ability to be registered as a member of Umno without one’s knowledge.

Lord Bobo is tempted to sign up a few people without them knowing, just for laughs.

You can start writing letters to the PM and members of the Cabinet telling them you want Bersih’s demands to be met before any general election is called. And you can stop buying mainstream media, whose coverage of the Bersih rally was atrocious.

Forget about the obituaries you can only find there, and just stop your subscriptions to those newspapers (you know which ones) who seem unable to distinguish between news and propaganda.

Most importantly, if you were at Bersih – tell your friends and family what you witnessed with your own eyes. Your personal, honest account will resonate more with them than whatever the politicians or media spin doctors say.

Democracy is about the ordinary people, each and every one of you. So what happens next? That’s really up to you.

Don’t let your future be dictated to you.

Dear Lord Bobo. What’s going to happen, now that there’s a minimum wage in Malaysia? I earn too much money – there’s not going to be a maximum wage, is there!? (Tabung Sendiri, via email)

A maximum wage – now that would certainly cause a riot! When this “minimum wage” concept started to be discussed and conceptualised, there was some mild panic amongst a misinformed minority, who had thought that the government was hatching a nefarious plan to minimise wages! Anyway, I think we all know now that that’s not what “minimum wage” means.

Many have scoffed on Twitter that the new minimum wage is meaningless. Don’t ask how people scoff on Twitter – we suppose it involves using the hashtag #scoff.

For example, one Riyuna Lee (@riyuna_lee) said: “My first job in Kuching paid RM800 per month. I worked six days a week. After deducting EPF, Socso, fuel and my car loan (because buses are always late), I had no money left.

(You will notice that His Supreme Eminenceness detests the short forms and insults to grammar  that Twitter’s 140 characters require, and has purposely put the tweet into Her Majesty’s English. If you ain’t happy with that – tough bananas. #justsaying)

The DAP MP for Klang Charles Santiago (@mpklang), being a member of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, naturally opposed the amount of the minimum wage, pointing out that Filipino (RM1,400) and Indian (RM1,400) domestic workers were required to be paid higher wages than Malaysian workers with the new minimum wages of RM900 in Peninsular Malaysia and RM800 for Sabah and Sarawak.

Lord Bobo is sure that someone or other would also have lamented about the disparity in the treatment of workers in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, where workers in our Borneo states need only be paid RM800.

All journalist and native Sabahan Erna Mahyuni (@ernamh) said was she “would love to force BN politicians to live in rural Sabah without their drivers and try to live on RM800. Peeved!” [Exclamation mark added by the Lord for emphasis!!]

If you read LoyarBurok (and if you don’t, you really should you know: It’s bloody marvellous), and have read the article by Justin Sunam-Wong called “Cabo-what policy?” you would see that most products in Sabah and Sarawak cost more than in the Peninsula, and why this is so.

As he points out “Goods are generally 20% more than what it cost in West Malaysia. For example, the Straits Times is sold at RM1.20 in West Malaysia but RM1.80 in East Malaysia, 50% more!”

At the May Day rally in Kuala Lumpur, various employees’ groups said that a proper minimum wage would be RM5,000 or just over RM6 per hour, whilst the current minimum wage translates to about RM3.85 to RM4.33 per hour.

Many, of course, including friend of LoyarBurok Wan Saiful Wan Jan of the IDEAS think-tank are opposed to the idea of a minimum wage on principle, saying it stifles free trade and will in fact cause more unemployment amongst locals (since businesses will sack lower paid employees as they cannot afford to pay the minimum wage). Some may even decide to spend more money on technology so they have to rely less on labour, once it is more expensive to employ people.

So the effect of the minimum wage is yet to be seen. Perhaps this time the government has actually got it right: establishing a tripartite consultative council consisting of government, employee and employer representatives and setting the minimum wage low enough that it will probably not force employers to sack their employees but still higher than what many are now earning.

Yes, this may shock readers of the Selangor Times but there are many who earn much less than RM900 a month and are forced to house, clothe, feed and educate a family on that. How much does your weekly mani-pedi cost?

What is clear is that there is absolutely no prospect of a maximum wage being set for anyone. If you earn too much money, please send donations to the Pusat-Rakyat LoyarBurok – we need every sen we can get!

Have a question for Lord Bobo? Call on His Supreme Eminenceness by emailing [email protected], stating your full name, and a pseudonym (if you want), or tweeting your questions by mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #asklordbobo. What the hell are you waiting for? Hear This, and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)! Liberavi Animam Meam! I Have Freed My Spirit!

You can read archives of all the Ask Lord Bobo columns by clicking here. These are the divinely-inspired words of His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo Barnabus PhD SP GBE OMGWTFBBQ.

Recommended Reads:

Seeing Clearer, Through Tear-Gassed Eyes
ALB: ISA Deceptions and Budget Goodies
Fallacies Spun by Critics of the Bar
REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (14-20 Sept)

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Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered! It is the ONLY place that His Supreme Eminenceness' thoughts are regularly channeled, via His Lordship's most loyal meditating purple-banana munching minions.

Posted on 4 May 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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