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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bidding Farewell to Year of Tragedies

THANK you for debating on the subject “Negara Banjir, PMBergolf di Hawaii”. Please continue.

In the meantime, let us also look back at the year that is about to end and see what is install for us in the New Year.

We may not like, but 2014 will go down in history as probably the most tragic and problematic year for us since Merdeka in 1957.

When we started the year, we thought that the attack on Sabah by the Moro gunmen in early 2013 was the worst that could happen to us. The handling of that incident did not make us particularly proud or confident.

Then came the sad morning of March 8 when a Malaysia Airline’s Boeing 777 jetliner operating as MH370 went missing. It is still not found nine months later.

Two hundred and thirty nine souls were on board as it left KLIA for Beijing on what was otherwise a routine medium-haul flight filled with returning Chinese tourists disappeared into thin air.

MH370 Missing Without A Trace Since March
 Then, just four months later on July 17, another MAS jetliner - MH17 was shot down over Ukraine killing all 283 people on board.

The lightning, in the case of luckless MAS, did strike twice and at the same spot. The airline had since became theoretically bankrupt and had to be rescued by its majority owner Khazanah Nasional Berhad.

MH17 - Malaysia's image lies in tatters
 Added to these tragedies were other equally burdensome events like the plunging crude petroleum, palm oil and rubber prices, the rising cost of living and growing political discontent, communalism and religious intolerance.

With the weakening of commodity prices and the fall in the demand for our commodities and manufactured goods by the global market, the ringgit’s exchange rates took a tumble.

Our currency was the worst performing emerging Asian currency so far this year with a 6.1 per cent loss against the dollar, according to Thomson Reuters data. Our stock market too lagged behind regional compatriots.

Rubber Smallholders: Backbreaking task for pittance
When the ringgit falls, our imports automatically become more costly. We are a big importer of foodstuff. Sooner or later, the higher import prices will be transferred to the consumers thereby translating them into imported inflation.

And now it looks like we are bidding farewell to 2014 and ushering in 2015 soaked in the worse floods in our country’s recent history.

The floods only worsen the rakyat’s hardship inspite of the RM500-million assistance announced by Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak upon his hush return from conducting a “golf diplomacy” with the US President Barrack Obama in Hawaii.

On lap of luxury board: PM consulting on floods
The floods claimed not only lives but also destroyed personal belongings and livelihood of the victims. Rebuilding lives will take time and money. The rain and the floods mean rubber trees could not be tapped and palm oil fruits could not be harvested – a double whammy for the smallholders who are already suffering low commodity prices.

Come April we will have to face the GST whose effects nobody is sure of. Even the government is not able to give a definite answer as to the extent of price changes – up and down - the new tax will generate. In the meantime, producers and consumers are engaged in the game of wait-and-see, which will impact the economy in the short to medium term.

Oh, don’t forget the repeated landslides and flash floods up in the mountains at Cameron Highlands, which our brilliant officialdom had squarely blamed on the immigrant workers while turning blind eye to the scheming by the “pembesar”, the civil servants and the taukehs who misused and abused their power for the sake of money.

Cameron's floods: Blame it on immigrant workers

Call all these bad luck, bad feng shui, God’s wrath and punishment, but at the end of the day we suffer – physically, emotionally and image wise. Today, whenever a bad thing happens, the international media seek to link it to us.

So when a tragedy involving an Indonesian Air Asia Airbus A320 happened over the Java Sea on Dec. 28, the Associated Press headlined: “This Has Been A Historically Bad Year For Malaysian Air Travel” and another said: "Missing flight is 3rd Malaysia-linked incident". We have become synonymous with bad things and bad news.

In trying to justify and to come to term with these tragedies and problems, we have to look at ourselves and at the people whom we had elected to lead us.

Did they do a good job at stopping all these bad things from happening – those that are within their powers - and when these bad things happened did they do a good job at lessening our sufferings and predicaments?

We can blame it on takdir and on fate, but that’s for divinity to decide. As human beings and as Malaysians, we have to say that the buck stops somewhere here on earth.

And if we have a responsible government, the buck stops with it. But there’s a caveat. We the rakyat are the judges. We have to judge our government. Otherwise those self-aggrandizing politicians and civil servants will continue to award themselves with sterling KPIs while we suffer.

Tragedies and disasters: Cry the little people
 Wallahuaklam.

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