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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Najib Razak - Malaysia's flip-flopping PM



No other prime minister of Malaysia has shown such consistency in back-pedalling on policies, as Najib Abdul Razak has done.

What does the future hold for Malaysia under such an indecisive leader?

1. Lynas

Background: Lynas is to process rare earths concentrate imported from its mine in Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Advanced Materials Plant in Malaysia. 

NONEIt will not only produce rare earths for export but also (generate) a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low-level radioactive material.

Before Backtrack:
Although experts have proof, including declarations by international bodies, that the residue is safe, there are people who are still apprehensive about it. So we have decided that the residue will be moved to another place," Najib told reporters during a visit to Kelantan.
International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said the Australian company had now submitted a letter of undertaking to send its rare earth processing residue abroad if it cannot find a suitable waste disposal site in Malaysia.
Backtrack: No residues from the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant will be exported from Malaysia, said the factory's managing director Mashal Ahmad.

2. Mas-Airasia share swap

Background: Fernandes and his Tune Air Sdn Bhd partner Kamarudin Meranun are expected to swap a portion of their AirAsia shares for 20 percent of Khazanah's stake in MAS.
NONEThe share swap was to allow Fernandes to step in and pilot the ailing MAS airline back to profitability.

Before Backtrack: Under the share swap, there will be rationalising of routes.
The two airlines cover most of the lucrative routes from Asia to Europe.
Malaysia will get the best of both worlds a premier full-service carrier in MAS and the best budget carrier in AirAsia.

Backtrack: After eight months, the assessment is that, the cross-holding of shares has become a distraction to management's efforts to turnaround MAS.
This was because the share swap had failed to get stakeholders' support for the collaboration.

3. Section 114A, Evidence Amendment Act

Background: Under Section 114A, an Internet user is deemed the publisher of any online content unless proven otherwise.
It also makes individuals and those who administer, operate or provide spaces for online community forums, blogging and hosting services, liable for content published through their services.

Before Backtrack: "I have asked the cabinet to discuss Section 114A ... Whatever we do we must put people first," Najib said in a tweet.

Backtrack: "As a government, it is our responsibility to ask: how do we ensure that online reporting is responsible?
How do we ensure that people do not become the victims of intimidation and cyber-bullying? How do we ensure that freedom co-exists with respect?

"It was with these questions in mind that we amended the Evidence Act. Perhaps it wasn't explained clearly enough what this meant for web-users in Malaysia. And I believe that it is a modern and forward-looking piece of legislation."

4. Peaceful Assembly Act

Background:The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 was passed by Parliament after six amendments were made - among others, these shorten time for the police to reply to organisers and reduce time to object to a proposed assembly.

Before Backtrack: In his Malaysia Day 2011 speech, Najib announced that the Internal Security Act 1960 will be repealed.
He said any law enacted will take into account rights and fundamental liberties based on the federal constitution.

Backtrack: "The government believes that after more than half a century of practising democracy since Independence, Malaysians have reached a high level of maturity. 

penang protest over peaceful assembly bill 271111 02"In view of this, we are now ready to enter a new era where the function of government is no longer seen as limiting freedom of the individual but, instead, of ensuring that the basic rights as enshrined in the constitution are protected," Najib said.

The government, he added, wants to uphold the rights of the rakyat to freedom of assembly, (so) it abolished Section 27 of the Police Act and introduced the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

5. Perkasa

Background: Ibrahim Ali had objected to Najib's election pledges made in Chinese areas in Hulu Selangor because of the community's poor support for the coalition. Ibrahim said that, despite BN's success in winning the semi-rural seat from PKR, the Chinese voters had largely chosen to back the federal opposition.

Before Backtrack: "Perkasa is not so extreme, if you listen to them carefully.
They can shout about Malay rights as long as they are not extreme in their views and you know to the extent that we can accommodate Perkasa. 

"And we can accommodate also the non-Malays as well. I do engage the non-Malay groups as well, so as prime minster, I've always said I'm prime minister for all Malaysians."

NONEBacktrack: Perkasa is eroding support for BN among non-Malays with its comments, said Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor. (right)
"When they talk about my Chinese or Indian friends, they make us lose more votes. What do you want for Malaysia? You want a civil war?" he said.

6. Public Service New Remuneration Scheme

Background: Those in Grade 54 and below will receive increments of between 7 and 13 percent, while those in the upper levels, from Superscale C and above, will reportedly get increments of at least RM5,000.

Before Backtrack: Najib has announced a review of the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA) to resolve issues raised in certain quarters pertaining to its implementation. He said the cabinet ... decided on the review.

"After the review, the SBPA will come into force as of Jan 1, 2012, as promised by the government."

Backtrack: The SBPA has been scrapped, Najib announced. He said the existing Malaysian Remuneration System would be reintroduced with improvements.

7. New Economic Model (NEM)

Background: According to Najib, NEM will generate benefits for all Malaysians, irrespective of race, under its inclusive growth goal and approach.
Under the NEM, inclusiveness will enable all communities to contribute to and share in the wealth of the country.

Before Backtrac
k: The NEM will also ensure equality be achieved through competition that is complemented with merits and recognition.

Backtrack: He said the NEM was formulated as a "trial balloon" by experts with two broad objectives in mind - it has to be market-friendly and global in outlook.

8. Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT)

Background: The RPGT is normally imposed to curb speculation but, due to its flat structure, does not differentiate between home owners who have been holding a property for 20 years or those who are flipping properties within one or two years for a profit.

In 2007, premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi exempted the RPGT in order to boost property development industry.
In Budget 2010, Najib announced the government would exercise the RPGT.

Before Backtrack: The government proposes that a tax of 5 percent be imposed on gains from the disposal of real property from Jan 1, 2010.

Backtrack: Najib reversed his government's decision to reintroduce RPGT on Jan 1 for all transactions, amidst concerns that it would hit long-standing home owners and foreign investors.

Instead, the government has decided the 5 percent RPGT will only apply to property sold within five years of purchase.

9. Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Background: Najib announced the GST in Budget 2010 to replace the current sales and services tax.

Before Backtrack
: According to Najib, the government is at the final stage of completing its study on implementation of GST, particularly to identify the social impact on the rakyat.

Backtrack: He said the original 2011 deadline for GST implementation has not been confirmed yet. 

He said the government would need some time to explain the broad-based tax system to the people and only after that, will it decide on the implementation date.

10. Automated Enforcement System (AES)

Background: The AES is to begin operations on Sept 22, 2012 in 14 designated areas to catch drivers who break the speed limit and jump traffic lights. The first phase includes 14 cameras in four states; the second phase will cover 817 designated places nationwide.

NONEBefore Backtrack: Putrajaya has refused to pander to demands raised by federal lawmakers across the political divide to temporarily shelve the AES, despite concerns raised over its ability to reduce road accidents by punishing speedsters.

Transport Minister Kong Cho Ha said the government is firm in implementing the system according to schedule, insisting that it will benefit road users in the long term.

"I think they (lawmakers) do not understand the whole system. Our officers today briefed the Prime Minister's Office team.. and it was found that even they have misunderstood alot of things."

Backtrack: The Attorney-General's Chambers has ordered a halt to all court proceedings related to summonses issue under the AES to study the legal issues that have been raised.
The decision was made following the issuance of nearly 300,000 summonses by AES since it began on Sept 23.

POLITICAL STUDIES FOR CHANGE is a political think tank. This is an edited and abridged version of the article, which cites press reports and blog posts as sources of information.

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