Sandra Rajoo brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “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.”

Minimum wage: ready, willing and able?

Is Malaysia ready for a minimum wage policy? The Cabinet gave the green light, agreeing to a minimum wage of RM1000, with ‘a RM100 difference between east and west Malaysia’. MTUC (Malaysian Trade Unions Congress) however is asking for a minimum amount of RM900 across the board.

But there is a downside. The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) says 200,000 companies and 4 million jobs will be at risk if a blanket minimum wage is imposed. The Pakatan Rakyat Policy Committee says a minimum wage policy must be enforced in a comprehensive manner that includes providing transition aid to small-medium industries (SMIs) to retool, mechanise and adjust operations to create new jobs.

A holistic plan is mandatory – the impact on all sectors of the workforce has to be determined and steps to address it have to be in place before going ahead. Having such a policy that benefits workers makes sense but enforcing it rashly and hastily does not.

No money for the disabled…

Those who can work will welcome the minimum wage plan, but those who can’t because of disability will have to depend on welfare. Unfortunately, for one disabled man in Sarawak, welfare aid was denied him. The reason? He supports the opposition.  Frusis Lebi had his welfare aid revoked on the orders of Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) vice-president Mong Dagang. Lebi has been deprived of his subsidies and allowances since last October. Whilst Dagang’s action received all round condemnation, it found a staunch supporter in PRS president James Masing. In Masing’s book, such discrimination is fine because the ‘rule of life’ is ‘jangan lawan towkay (don’t fight the bosses)’ and everyone, regardless, must strictly adhere to it.

People in government should remember that money for welfare comes from taxpayers. We have heard the ‘Rakyat didahulukan…’ war cry often enough. Does it not sound dreadfully hollow now?

On the other hand, how about adopting the other side of this policy: Malaysians who did not vote for the government are exempt from paying taxes?

…more money for the able

No money for a disabled man, but the government is willing to pump millions of ringgit into the supposedly ‘able’ National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) with nary a thought for how the money is used or misused. Unknown to many, NFCorp has been spending most of the money buying properties around the world. The latest acquisition is a piece of property worth RM1.7 million, unearthed in Kazakhstan. This new find is another addition to the long list of properties amassed by NFCorp, as revealed recently.

So far, Pakatan Rakyat representatives have uncovered a RM10 million condominium in Orchard Scotts Residence, Singapore, eight shop office units valued at RM12 million in KL Eco City, Bangsar, and millions of ringgit parked as fixed deposits. It looks like the National Feedlot Centre is into real estate more than cattle-rearing.

From Bangsar to Kazakhstan – with so many properties to choose from, it must be tough for the owners to decide where to reside or holiday. Is it any wonder that the cattle business did not even get to first base?

Revisiting Altantuya Shaariibuu’s cold-blooded murder

In another long-running saga, the cows have finally come home, so to speak. Shah Alam High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki has delivered his written judgement on why political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda had nothing to do with Altantuya Shaariibuu’s brutal murder in 2006. The judge says Razak has no prima facie case to answer in the charge of abetting two Special Action Squad members, Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar, who apparently acted on their own when they executed Altantuya. Sirul had cried foul, claiming he was made the ‘scapegoat’ in this intriguing case. Azilah and Sirul are filing an appeal against the conviction.

Closure for this murder looks remote. Altantuya’s soul may never find peace until her killers are brought to justice; likewise her killers (whoever they may be) will never find peace of mind until they answer for their crimes.

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...