REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (19-25 Nov)

In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

Here, we bring you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement. They “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.”

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[Original REFSA Rojak issue here.]

brought to you by Sandra Rajoo

Reforms need reforming

The government’s proposed  Peaceful Assembly Bill has come under a barrage of criticism. Among its  more egregious provisions is  that gatherings can only be in designated areas after 30 days’ advance notice. Street rallies are not allowed and arrested demonstrators face fines of up to RM20,000.

Can the new law be any worse? That is the general perception. Former Bar Council chairman, Datuk Ambiga feels it  thwartslegitimate dissent, and creates an “illusion” of freedom. In short it undermines the Federal Constitution.

In fact, come Saturday we may witness a “Malaysians Can Walk Freely In KLCC Without Police Permit” assembly. The organiser, academic Wong Chin Huat of Monash University wants to prove a point on the absurdity of the bill. To date, 300 people have indicated interest.

Another bill will be tabled next year to replace the ISA. According to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, police can still detain a person without trial under the new law. Suhakam’s reaction to this? Strong condemnation, to say the least.

The elation surrounding the replacement of repressive laws is fast dissipating.  How hollow the PM’s utterances on reforms sound now. Are the pledges mere empty promises? Let’s wait for further drama to unfold.

Mismanagement of public funds: What a long list!

The government can try to reform laws but can it reform the way it manages public funds? The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) alleges a long list of mismanaged projects. Squandering  taxpayers’ money is now like a cancer, deeply rooted in our society and spreading silently to kill all that is good and valued.

The PAC is quite fed up with this never-ending soap opera of new debacles. The National Feedlot Centre (NFC) is now on its agenda. PAC is investigating NFC for jumping the gun; the RM250million government loan it received was disbursed before agreements were signed.

When questioned, ministry officials had no legitimate answers. Even the second Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Husni was mum on the standard procedure for disbursing government loans. The MACC, for some unexplained reason, has washed its hands off the issue, leaving the police in charge. The police, in turn, have questioned  three to four people, including NFC Chairman Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh.

This does not augur well for people who want accountability. When will the questioning stop and charges be pressed? What’s worse is when people in government rally around the culprits every time some transgression is uncovered.

No criminal element?

This brings to mind the FBC Media scandal. It was disclosed that the Malaysian government misused public funds to pay FBC RM85 million in total to whitewash the country’s image overseas. Even though investigations had revealed FBC’s wrongdoing, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato Seri Nazri arrogantly maintains that there was no criminal element in its dealings with Malaysia.

Let’s call a spade a spade, please. Admit the wrong and redeem what’s left of your self-worth. Make a strong stand against fraud and mismanagement.

Bribing the right people

What is the quickest way to get something done? Bribe the right people! French engineering group Alstom was investigated and found guilty by Swiss authorities for bribing government officials to win contracts in Malaysia, Latvia and Tunisia. The company was fined RM133 million.

Alstom defended itself, claiming to be the victim and pointed the finger at some of its employees who received the kickbacks. There was only corporate negligence, not bribery, it insisted. It however acknowledged that “improper payments” were made to the said civil servants.

Alstom had been awarded a RM2.8 billion contract by Tenaga Nasional, and contracts to build power plants in Lumut and Kuala Langat. It also secured deals in the Tanjung Bin and Jimah coal-fired plants. Since the probe, the RM4.5 billion expansion plans for the Tanjung Bin power plant have been put on hold.

DPPs have had enough

Is there another ‘judicial crisis’ in our country? More and more deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) are leaving the service. And the reasons driving them to do so – politicking, nepotism and cronyism.

Free Malaysia Today reported that senior DPPs who have left include K. Muniandy, S Devanandan, Ahmad Firuz Zainal Abidin, Dr Sabirin Jaafar, Shamsul Sulaiman and Sallehuddin Saidin. The latest to join them is Solicitor-General II Mohamed Yusof Zainal Abidin who has submitted his “application for optional retirement.”

Unlawful or unconstitutional?

Here’s something good for a giggle. Is it unlawful to be a homosexual? Or is it unconstitutional? Take a wild guess. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir says it is unconstitutional for a person to be homosexual in Malaysia. So, where does this leave the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community?  Don’t take the word of the constitution in vain, Datuk Seri. Just because you don’t like something you dismiss it as unconstitutional. How unconstitutional is that?

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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!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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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. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 26 November 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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