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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.”
All the promises and proclamations about transparency and good governance have come to naught
The government has handed the multi-billion ringgit contract for the Ampang LRT extension project to the George Kent-Lion Pacific consortium, despite the revelations by PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli that it had failed the technical evaluation, and that it was the highest-priced bidder.
George Kent’s expertise lies in water supply equipment, not rail infrastructure. In the hands of the unqualified, the LRT project could derail, or worse, the end-product could be a potential landmine, putting the lives of millions of commuters in jeopardy every day.
The moral of the story? Go play golf. George Kent chairman Tan Kay Hock is PM Najib’s golf partner. The next round will likely be on him as the company’s shares shot up 15 percent after the announcement of the award of the contract. There’s money to be made even before the project rolls out.
Going all out to round up whistle-blowers
While the ink is barely dry on the Ampang LRT agreement, PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli is arrested. Rafizi had unearthed the hanky-panky behind the bidding process, the close ties between Najib and Tan Kay Hock, and the fact that George Kent had failed the technical evaluation.
It seems too much of a coincidence, but, indeed, Rafizi’s arrest has nothing to do with the LRT project. Instead he is detained for having contravened the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) when he blew the whistle on the scandalous goings-on in the National Feedlot Centre (NFC), which involved the misuse of a RM250-million government loan, among other fraudulent dealings. Charged together with Rafizi was Johari Mohamad, the bank clerk who is accused of having revealed confidential bank documents.
When companies linked to the Barisan Nasional government are involved, an unspoken ‘hands off’ policy applies. Notice that Dr Mohamed Salleh had his ‘hands free’ when presented in court whereas Rafizi was hand-cuffed. The fact that Rafizi has been proven right – the NFC director, Datuk Dr. Mohamad Salleh Ismail, was officially charged in March with “two counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), and two counts of violations to the Companies Act” – makes no difference.
Why was Rafizi not protected under The Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 (WPA) which was set up as “an initiative under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme to aggressively tackle corruption” and protect whistle-blowers? The only aggression we can see is that inflicted upon the whistle-blowers. Is the WPA merely a front, set up to entice and trap whistle-blowers and throw them in prison?
The spirit of Merdeka has been violated by politicians
Political sloganeering has marred the coming Independence Day celebrations. The political slant given to the 2012 Merdeka theme: 55 Tahun Merdeka: Janji Ditepati (55 Years of Independence: Promises Fulfilled), the logo and the theme song has left an awful distaste in everybody’s mouth. The theme song Janji Ditepati, has attracted a considerable 20,500 dislikes compared to a paltry 297 likes on youtube!
The lyrics of the song trumpet the ‘magnanimity’ of the recent government programmes from BR1M to KR1M to Klinik 1M. Particularly unpalatable are the words “Janji sudah ditepati, Kini masa balas budi”, which openly suggests we owe BN our vote. Not surprising, considering the words were penned by Information, Communication and Culture minister Rais Yatim himself. “The lyrics are shameful” says lawyer and academician Azmi Sharom.
The ethos and spirit of Merdeka have been subverted. Compare this year’s theme with those of previous years, and notice the stark difference:
1999: Bersatu Ke Alaf Baru (Together Towards the New Millennium)
2000-2006: Keranamu Malaysia (Because of you, Malaysia)
2007: Malaysiaku Gemilang (My Glorious Malaysia)
2008: Perpaduan Teras Kejayaan (Unity Is The Core of Success)
2012: Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled)
We deserve cheaper cars
The federal government may have changed the soul of Merdeka but one thing it hasn’t changed is the National Automotive Policy (NAP) which has forced consumers to pay exorbitant prices for cars for decades. Pakatan Rakyat promises to revamp the NAP should it be voted into power. It pledges to reduce “excise and import duties and sales tax”, albeit gradually in order to protect the livelihood of second-hand car dealers and owners. It also assures the public that Approved Permits (APs) will be subjected to an open bidding system.
The BN government however, doesn’t think the idea is feasible, citing economic instability and bankruptcy as possible outcomes. It feels the NAP has to remain to protect the local car industry. The question is, who looks out for the poor consumer?
Malaysia faces fiscal catastrophe if debt is not reined in
What does it mean to have a high GDP growth and face a massive debt at the same time? It appears to be a paradox yet this is the reality of Malaysia.
Our high GDP growth is touted loud and often but the words mask the colossal debt we are saddled with because of mismanagement and wastage. From 2007 to 2011, federal government debt doubled to “RM421 billion”. Including government-backed loans or “contingent liabilities”, which are conveniently ‘hidden’ from public view, total debt rose to 65% in 2011, putting Malaysia at risk of a major financial and economic disaster.
Malaysia’s predicament and the essence of its fiscal and economic fundamentals are nicely captured in a book titled UMNO-Nomics. Written with the ordinary Malaysian in mind, author Teh Chi-Chang writes clearly and unequivocally, comparing the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat’s budgets and explains how each tackles spending. The issues are also cleverly exemplified with humourous and witty illustrations by cartoonist Johnny Ong, making the book an easy and enjoyable read. There is a wealth of information for those who want to understand more about the country’s fiscal and economic structure and policies.
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!