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Saturday, August 31, 2019

National Day seen in full splendour



Patriotism on show: Sultan abdullah and tunku azizah enjoying the colourful displays on show at the 62nd national day parade in putrajaya. the queen was also seen using her phone numerous times to take photos of the event.
Reports by MAZWIN NIK ANIS, JOSEPH KAOS Jr, MEI MEI CHU, LO TERN CHERN, STEPHANIE LEE and DEREK YONG
PUTRAJAYA: The sunny skies above the federal administrative capital was the perfect setting for the celebration.
The 2019 National Day parade rolled out in splendour, with countless Malaysians gathered here to mark the country’s 62nd year of independence.
Some arrived as early as 5am. Families came with their young children in tow.

These early birds wanted to secure a good spot along Persiaran Perdana to watch the parade, as well as to avoid traffic congestion.

They came with flags and Merdeka-themed outfits. Their other “props” included folding chairs, mats and baskets of food.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim were among the earliest VIPs to arrive at the main stage situated in front of the Palace of Justice.
At 7.50am, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appeared.
The 94-year-old drove himself to the event in a maroon Proton Saga.
His wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, who was admitted to hospital earlier last week for mild diarrhoea, was absent.
At 8am, the crowd cheered again for the arrival of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
This is the first year Sultan Abdullah attended the Merdeka celebrations as king, following his appointment as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 31.
After the king inspected the guard-of-honour, what followed was the singing of Negaraku and the raising of the Jalur Gemilang.
At the same time, a 14-gun royal salute – representing the 13 states and the federal territory of Malaysia – was carried out by the 41st Ceremonial Battery of the Royal Artillery Regiment.
In line with this year’s National Day theme “Sayangi Malaysiaku: Malaysia Bersih” and the government’s drive to battle corruption, an officer from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was chosen to lead the recitation of the Rukun Negara.
MACC chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Zuhairie Abu Bakar was joined by 62 others comprising of teachers, students, civil servants, as well as representatives of the corporate sector.
The parade then kicked off with a special performance of drama and musical dances by 1,627 participants. It conveyed a storyline about the dangers of corruption and power abuse.
The main showcase was the parade, which saw the participation of 14,885 people from 34 contingents.
An aerial march-past by the Royal Malaysian Air Force was a crowd favourite, as spectators cheered while the jet fighters performed breathtaking stunts above Dataran Putrajaya.
The finale was a performance of Sayangi Malaysiaku: Malaysia Bersih by pop punk rock band Bunkface.- Star

Lahad Datu cops shoot sword-wielding robber dead

Police say the masked suspect refused to surrender.
LAHAD DATU: A 28-year-old Indonesian man was shot dead by the police when he tried to attack them with a sword after he allegedly attempted to break into a house near here yesterday morning.
District police chief Nasri Mansor said the suspect was shot dead during an operation at Palm Heights, near here, at 3.40am.
He was believed to have earlier attempted to break into a house in the area.
“The police who were patrolling the housing estate saw the suspect, dressed in dark clothes, with a mask and flashing a sword. They chased after him but he refused to surrender,” Nasri told reporters.
He said the suspect acted aggressively and swung his sword at a policeman who approached him. The policeman opened fire, hitting the suspect in the chest, to defend himself.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene by a medical team from Lahad Datu Hospital, he said.
Police seized a 74cm sword and a mask.
Nasri said no identification documents were found on the suspect, who was later identified as Mohd Rahmat, who had been convicted of entering the country illegally in 2017.
The suspect was sentenced to six months’ jail and three strokes of the rotan by the court and had been ordered to return to his country.
“However, he is believed to have illegally entered Malaysia again,” he said.
He said the suspect was believed to be involved in 13 cases of robbery and house break-ins. - FMT

Water shortage at Sg Buloh prison hits detainees

Prisoners and detainees have been complaining of a severe water shortage at the Sungai Buloh prison.
PETALING JAYA: A severe water shortage at the Sungai Buloh prison over the past five days has led to severe living conditions for prisoners, according to a lawyer.
Defence counsel Hannan Ishak said she was informed about the water shortage yesterday by her client under remand in the prison.
She said the water cut has led to dire living conditions in the prison cells, with prisoners having difficulty going to the toilet, cleaning themselves and fulfilling daily prayers.
She told FMT that some prisoners are refusing to eat to avoid using the toilet as much as possible because they cannot clean themselves due to the water shortage.
Hannan added that detainees are only allowed half a glass of water a day for consumption.
“Even my client can’t take his medicine because there’s not enough water,” said Hannan.
“The detention cells are dirty and smelly. Carcasses of rats and cats have not been cleared or cleaned,” she added.
These conditions also mean that detainees are exposed to various diseases and are placed under stress, which could then lead to fights among fellow inmates.
Hannan said a formal letter of complaint had been sent to the director of the prison.
When contacted, a Sungai Buloh prison spokesman said the issue was due to a leaking pipe at the prison, adding that the issue had been resolved two days ago and water pressure was back to normal.
Hannan disputed this, however, as her client and other inmates had complained about the water shortage just yesterday evening. - FMT

MTUC proposes RM500 cost of living allowance

The MTUC says that with low wages and high cost of living, workers are in a ‘make or break situation’. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called for a monthly minimum of RM500 in cost of living allowance (Cola) in its Budget 2020 proposals, especially after the nation’s poverty rate was questioned.
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the government must accept that Malaysians in the middle- and lower-income levels were unable to make ends meet and those with families were actually struggling.
“We are not asking for higher take-home wages, we are only asking for real living wages. The UN findings show that the poverty rate is as high as 15% to 20%, and this has direct relevance to low wages,” he said in a statement.
A United Nations human rights expert recently said that the government uses a low poverty line that fails to reflect the actual conditions of the country.
UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said the official poverty line does not portray the cost of living in the country and excludes vulnerable populations in its official figures.
The national poverty line is currently set at RM980 per household per month.
Solomon also urged for government to consider the Bank Negara Malaysia report which states that a working bachelor in Kuala Lumpur needs a minimum of RM2,700 a month to enjoy a decent living, while a married couple with two children has to earn about RM6,500.
It is timely, he said, for Putrajaya to consider a real living wage.
Solomon said the introduction of Cola would be an effective way to address the income disparity and the “pittance” minimum wage.
It would also strengthen the aggregate demand and boost economic growth.
“With the current low wages and the high cost of living, workers are in a ‘make or break situation’. The RM500 would be a major boost for the B40 and M40 category of workers who are the hardest hit,” he said.
MTUC is also proposing for the retirement age to be increased to 65 due to the lack of sufficient income to sustain retirement as well as the expected increase in Malaysian lifespan to 80 years.
Solomon said increasing the retirement age would boost the EPF savings of those in the lower-income category and senior citizens who could then depend less on their children, society and the government for old-age support.
“We propose that the extension of retirement age be made optional and, at the same time, the EPF withdrawal should also be optional at the age of 55 as the current practice.
“For those who withdraw at 55, they will still have continuous savings up to 65 years of age with the extension of the mandatory retirement age,” he said.
MTUC is also mooting the introduction of human and workers’ rights in schools; enhancing accessibility to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes; introduction of mandatory reskilling and resettlement programmes; and enhancing employee welfare and better employment opportunities. - FMT

Politicking and the RM210 billion stock wipeout

Fund manager Danny Wong.
PETALING JAYA: While the US and China engage in a trade war which has taken its toll on Bursa Malaysia, the constant politicking and questions about a transfer of power is making things worse, says a fund manager. However, an academician says the market slump is because of fears of a recession.
Since the general election of May 2018, market capitalisation has fallen from RM1.62 trillion on May 9 last year to RM1.41 trillion on Thursday (Aug 29) — a “paper loss” of RM210 billion in capital value.
For the past 15 months government leaders have been under fire from the opposition, most notably former prime minister Najib Razak, who has repeatedly illustrated the difference between the stock market’s performance during his time and the present.
Fund manager Danny Wong says there is no need yet to panic over the stock market’s performance but believes less politicking and a clearer picture of how the government plans to grow the economy would help.
“Going by the FTSE Bursa Malaysia EMAS Index, which captures the broader market, market capitalisation went down from RM1.62 trillion on May 9, 2018 to RM1.41 trillion on Aug 29, 2019.
This 13% dip amounts to an RM210 billion loss, but this does not paint an accurate overall picture of the stock market.
“It is mostly the “big boys” who have taken a hit,” said Wong, who is chief executive of Areca Capital. He said big stocks went down by some 5% but some mid- and small-cap stocks are performing, with some showing increases in value of between 15% to 18%.
The drop in the bigger stocks he said also affect fund management institutions because they typically buy shares in such companies.
In the case of big stocks, Wong said that many are either controlled or associated to government-linked companies and changes in their board or leadership in the past year would have a short term effect on them.
“Also when it comes to external factors such as increase in cost or slow down in business, small or mid-cap companies are less vulnerable.”
The fall in capitalisation were only “paper losses” as they would be realised if the stocks were sold for a lower price than they were bought.
“For big stocks, people usually buy them for the long-haul, say like bank stocks, short term fluctuations don’t matter as people will see them as having the ability to generate revenue and rebound.”
Wong said the US-China trade war has had an impact on perceptions about the economy, as did the constant politicking and question marks over the transfer of power from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim.
“Will there be a change in leadership and as such policies? There is speculation that a telco giant may have to fork out billions as part of the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NCFP) and this will affect its revenue. Will this change if there was a change in leadership? These are questions investors will have.”
Politicking he said, fuelled uncertainty and this wasn’t good for investors.
“Sometimes the government wants to implement something and then it can’t because of politicking, tomorrow it’s something else that is politicised.”
Wong said the government would also be giving the stock market a boost if it shared its plans to grow the economy.
Stock slump because of fears of a recession, says academic
But economist Barjoyai Bardai has a different view, saying that while politics plays a role in the stock market performance, it isn’t substantial given that the country went through the most radical change in its political scenario with the change of government.
Barjoyai, who is with Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, said he does not believe the market is too concerned about smaller post-GE14 developments compared to external factors like the trade war and a sluggish global economy.
The slump in the Bursa Malaysia, he said was expected as the country is expecting a recession and that usually the stock market will experience a downturn before the overall economy does.
The government he adds, could come up with a stimulant, like a megaproject, to get the market excited but he doesn’t think it should.
“To me the government should allow a recession to happen and later let the stock market recover on its own.
“Recessions are a normal part of an economic cycle, the faster we face it the faster we recover and the stock market will be the first to recover.” - FMT

Eliminate discrimination to eliminate poverty



THE United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Phillip Alston gave a much-needed wake-up call to Malaysia on our poverty scenario. 
Undeniably the poverty line needs be revisited, but the method solving poverty needs be revisited as well.
Poverty eradication by BN was more focused on social mobility for subsequent generations. BN infamously fed on poverty to stay in power by giving handouts near elections and blaming on other races. 
Poverty existed due to discrimination, allowing the upper echelons of society to squeeze out more wealth from the bottom rungs. The higher the ability to discriminate, the higher the inequality within a society.

The ability of employers to overwork but underpay migrant labour led to artificial low wages and joblessness in Malaysia.
The system granted employers the ability to discriminate migrant workers as they have 'less rights' than the average Malaysian citizen. Xenophobia is used as a justification every time NGOs/CSOs advocate an end to discrimination.
The contractual system that started with cleaners and security guards has reached teachers, pharmacists and engineers. The contractual system discriminates Malaysian from receiving annual pay raise and fair wages. 
Eventually, rising inflation and stagnant wages will push more people into poverty. Without fixed employment, the working class is forced to live in rented homes benefiting the house owners.
Malaysians are suffering from malnutrition due to high food prices. Yet, our farmers are suffering from poverty due to low price for their produce. 
The middlemen or brokers in agricultural production are keeping our farmers and fisherfolk poor. The ability of middlemen to discriminate our farmers and control our food prices has led to the misery at both ends of the food supply chain.
Discrimination creates and sustains poverty within society. Poverty can only be eliminated effectively if discrimination is eliminated. 
Pumping in more subsidies and welfare benefits will not solve poverty. Malaysia needs to eliminate discrimination such as access to quality education, access to healthcare, job security, accessibility for OKU, sexual discrimination, racism etc. 
Clearly, poverty is real and alive in Malaysia.
Giving free breakfasts for kids to solve malnutrition is definitely welcome, but the real question is why the parents cannot afford nutritional benefits for their kids?
Giving tax breaks to family members with OKU is welcomed, but why can't people with disabilities go from point A to point B without depending on someone?
The big question is will Pakatan Harapan end discrimination to solve poverty or continue feeding on discrimination like BN?

SHARAN RAJ is a central committee member of PSM. -Mkini

Rais Hussin is not alone in foretelling Harapan’s downfall



I am amused - very, very amused.
Why? Because our grand old man suddenly turned furious after Rais Hussin (above) commented that Pakatan Harapan would lose if elections were held now.
I find it funny that a simple, harmless remark could have incensed the prime minister in such dramatic fashion that he has to rebuke his party strategist publicly in a room full of reporters.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad wanted to rein in Rais, a Bersatu supreme council member, as he felt that party leaders should not talk negatively about the coalition.
Mahathir, the powerful Bersatu boss, said the party would take disciplinary action against Rais for tarnishing the party's image.
What? Is this a joke? I think this is petty and unnecessary. I don’t see how Rais has tarnished the party’s image by saying what he said. Since when is it wrong for someone within Harapan to wake leaders up from their slumber?
Rais is not alone in foretelling Harapan’s downfall. I’ve lost count of DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang’s doomsayer remarks over the past few months.
Other Harapan MPs like PKR's Hassan Abdul Karim and DAP’s Charles Santiago had also waded into the coalition’s problems publicly. But they were never reprimanded.
This is why I find Mahathir’s action funny, even if he was serious about punishing Rais. 
I am amused that Mahathir suddenly noted that his party had not appointed anyone to the post of chief strategist, adding that “this is a self-proclaimed title…there is no such thing."
Rais has been posting his comments regularly with the media quoting him as Bersatu’s chief strategist. Everything was okay previously, until his recent “Harapan will lose” remark.
So, is Rais the party’s strategist or not? I must also ask whether Daim Zainuddin (above) is Putrajaya's adviser and whether A Kadir Jasin is Mahathir’s media adviser. Did the prime minister appoint them to such positions?
Or is it because Mahathir had appointed so many people, soon after the euphoric GE14 victory, to positions he cannot remember now?
In Rais’ case, perhaps the Bersatu boss thinks Rais is just an ordinary political consultant whose job is merely to promote the interests of the party and the election of certain candidates.
Mahathir and Rais are probably on different levels with the role of a political strategist. They will have to sort this out, in order to save both men further public embarrassment.
Meantime, Rais should be advised that once you incensed the old man, your political career is as good as kaput.
I’m glad PKR president Anwar Ibrahim (above) has declared that his party would not emulate Bersatu in penalising leaders who predict Harapan’s defeat in the next general election.
In fact, I take a little satisfaction in Anwar’s veiled swipe at Mahathir when he said that “in PKR, there is greater democratic space to air views. So no action would be taken against PKR leaders who foretell defeat for Harapan.” Good one, Anwar!
So what about all those doomsayers and their take that Harapan would lose if the elections were held now?
They are not wrong, in my opinion. Signs of a Harapan defeat are pretty glaring. Harapan has made too many missteps.
People will understand if genuine mistakes are made. However, when mistakes are repeated, despite early warning signs, then the situation becomes unbearable. Such mistakes are unforgivable.
Harapan has miscalculated the people’s hopes and aspirations all too often. It seems the people’s support for Harapan in GE14 has been taken for granted. This is the general feeling of Malaysians today.
First, it was about the many unfulfilled promises in the Harapan manifesto. Malaysians were prepared to give the coalition more time to make good on their promises.
As time went by, we found out that Harapan leaders were no different from those we deposed in GE14. They share a similar hobby – politicking.
This is made worse with a former dictator running the show and doing what he has always been most adept at – leading his partners by the nose, suffocating them politically in the process.
Many of his partners and followers choose to keep quiet for fear of losing their exalted positions. Once politicians are in power, what they fear most is losing it. This disease we attempted to cure in GE14 is now back like a plague.
We hear lies and more lies. There is an undermining of public trust in the institution of government and the political process as a whole. Politicians care more for their own respective party in the Harapan coalition than for the people they pledged to serve.
If Harapan leaders are still unable to recognise the disappointment and disillusionment of Malaysians today, then good luck to them.
Even retired national shuttler Lee Chong Wei (above) has lamented that “this is not the Malaysia I fought for."
Political parties and coalitions, including Harapan, can lose elections, but the people must always win.
Parties and politicians will come and go, but the interests of the nation and its citizenry must take priority above all other interests.
Every election has to be a people’s victory.
This is the essence of the New Malaysia I envisage. Unfortunately, I have yet to catch a glimpse of it.

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com - Mkini

An idea whose time has come: Raising Malaysia's poverty line



Remember 1977? Maybe not, because most of the current Malaysian population had not been born yet. 
Back then, Malaysia’s GNI per person was RM200 per month, and the government established a new poverty line income (PLI) of around RM50 per person.
Since then, Malaysia has prospered, and GNI per capita has risen to more than RM3,800 per month, while the PLI has increased only incrementally to RM245 (RM980 for a family of four). 
As the United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) and others have argued, an update of the PLI is long overdue.

Regardless of the poverty line used, no one would deny that Malaysia has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty. The sharp decline from almost half of Malaysians living in poverty in 1970 to less than one percent today using the current PLI is among the best in the world.
Yet it is time to raise the bar. Even 'absolute poverty' lines need to be dynamic. 
Malaysia’s PLI and its companion multidimensional poverty index could serve as key barometers of Malaysia’s progress toward shared prosperity and inclusive development, but only if they are upgraded to reflect the current realities in Malaysia.
More than survival
It is a common misconception that absolute poverty lines should be based on the minimum biological and nutritional requirements for survival. 
It is about more than survival, and includes having the resources to lead a healthy, active and dignified life and being able to participate meaningfully in society. That is why virtually all countries revise their poverty lines as they develop and living standards improve. 
This concept is elaborated quite clearly in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) methodological guide that Malaysia references for setting the PLI: “Also the base of the absolute measure, that is the basket of goods, is likely to need updating over time as community standards or expectations change.”
One recent example is Mexico, a country with a GNI similar to Malaysia’s, where the autonomous panel responsible for setting the poverty line revised its standards upwards in 2018.
What should Malaysia’s poverty line be? Ultimately that is for Malaysians to decide, based on Malaysians’ own values and aspirations, perhaps drawing lessons from other countries that have advanced to upper-middle or high-income status.
Alternatives proposed to Malaysia
Recent research by Martin Ravallion shows that countries with average incomes similar to Malaysia’s have absolute poverty lines equivalent to RM2,550 per month for a family of four, almost three times the current PLI.
That poverty line would yield a poverty rate of about 15 percent, which is close to the rough estimate given in the UNSR’s report, and also the 17 percent that arises from applying an OECD-style relative poverty line.
The multidimensional poverty index (MPI) introduced in the 11th Malaysia Plan is also too low for a country at Malaysia’s level of development.
Malaysia’s MPI comprises the current monetary PLI plus non-monetary measures of deprivation such as education, health, and living standards. Even when non-monetary aspects of wellbeing are considered, Malaysia’s MPI counts less than one percent of Malaysians as multidimensionally poor.
At the recent World Statistics Congress in Kuala Lumpur, World Bank staff presented new research on a potential alternative MPI for Malaysia, using the same multiple dimensions as the current MPI but setting standards relevant to an upper-middle income country. This alternative estimates Malaysia’s rate of multidimensional poverty at 19 percent.
The UNSR’s report also rightly draws attention to those who are disproportionately affected by poverty.
The 'invisible' poor
It highlights that not only is poverty more prevalent than the isolated pockets often assumed, but also that poverty is deeper among some communities in Malaysia.
Many of these are “statistically invisible” because the Household Income Survey (HIS) that is used as the basis for poverty measurement excludes Orang Asli settlements, foreign workers and refugees.
The HIS does not record the status of persons with disabilities, and its sample design prevents reliable poverty estimates for indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak (non-Malay bumiputera), whose poverty rates appear to be much higher than those of Malays.
The government authorities have the technical and financial resources to amend the HIS to make these comparisons possible. It is time to do so, as the absence of this information impedes the formulation and implementation of policies to help Malaysians escape poverty.
Updates of the PLI and MPI to levels commensurate with Malaysia’s state of development can complement the current focus on the B40 to guide policies to ensure that the needs of the poorest Malaysians are addressed adequately.
It will take political courage, and good communications, to raise Malaysia’s official poverty standards.
Inevitably some will claim, incorrectly, that poverty has increased. The reality is that poverty has not been increasing, but rather that Malaysians expect more from life and more from their government and most of all to share in the nation’s prosperity.

KENNETH SIMLER is a senior economist with the World Bank Group Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia. - Mkini

Racial provocations are 'time bombs' waiting to explode, ruler says



Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak today criticised those, including leaders, who compete to demonstrate their egos to the extent of lowering their self-esteem for the sake of gaining influence and political support.
He said that the political climate in the country after the 14th general election was getting hotter through acts carried out by political leaders, whether from the government or the opposition.
Sultan Nazrin disclosed this at the Perak level Maal Hijrah in Ipoh today. Also gracing the occasion was Raja Permaisuri Tuanku Zara Salim.
Known as a ruler who frequently ‘admonishes’ leaders if they were in the wrong, Sultan Nazrin said that after 62 years of achieving independence, the act of instilling the feeling of hatred between the races and religions was being committed more often.
He said various provocations, which were extreme in nature, were being made, including placing statues and hurling of pork into mosques, placing the heads of cattle in Hindu temples, disseminating slander through social media and insulting the Islamic religion, as well as Prophet Muhammad.
The ruler said such acts were like setting up time bombs which were waiting for the right time to explode.
"Beware! The splinters from such time bombs do not discriminate their victims. In fact, the grandchildren and other family members of those who set up such time bombs are also exposed to the dangers due to the action of those with shallow minds,” he said.
Poisoned by fake news
Sultan Nazrin said that the true facts and authenticity of the news concerned are not important, since emotions play a bigger role in influencing people, including the learned, to the extent that their minds are being poisoned and possessed.
In addition, said the ruler, every incident from crimes on the road to the disciplinary action of teachers in schools or employers at the workplace, the colour of leaders’ attire, errors in raising the national flag, and changes in school curriculum were being negatively interpreted according to racial and religious dimensions.
"Such situations are very unhealthy, placing the nation in a dangerous and worrying situation. The majority of the people in the country love peace. 
"The people are becoming more restless and fearful,” he said.
Sultan Nazrin said the heated climate must be immediately brought down, and the acts of instilling racial feelings and spreading the feelings of enmity between the religions must be stopped without delay.
He said the rule of law must remain sovereign so that personal security and the safety of public property would be protected and ensured.
Concluding his speech, Sultan Nazrin prayed that Malaysia would be placed under trustworthy and sincere leaders who would carry the voice of moderation, voice of reason and friendship so that the people of various races and religions in this country could live in peace and harmony.
Bernama