- Noh, wrong! Ops Lalang was orchestrated
- Don’t misunderestimate Russell Brand!
- GST: killing the golden goose
Posted: 27 Oct 2013 05:10 AM PDT
BN’s Tanjung Karang MP Noh Omar has been quoted as saying that Malaysia will not be a country at peace if Operasi Lalang had not been carried out in 1987.
He said this on Oct 22, during the debate in Parliament on the amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures] Act (Sosma). The amendments seek to place organised crime as an offence punishable under Sosma.
Noh said there was a threat of racial riots in 1987, resulting in the dragnet that saw more than 100 innocent Malaysians arrested and detained without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
I was one of those detained and I happen to be one of the few Malaysians who have been documenting and monitoring Umno and the way it orchestrates “sensitive issues” whenever there is a crisis facing the party.
Yes, like the May 13 pogrom, Ops Lalang was also orchestrated by Umno. Unlike May 13, we have the benefit of more media coverage and more witnesses among the present generation regarding Operation Lalang.
Umno is facing a break-up
We know that 1987 that time during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s term when he faced the biggest threat to his rule, with Team B under Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah challenging the results of the Umno elections.
A court decision in Team B’s favour would have meant the end of Mahathir’s grasp on power.
Thus, in the run up to Ops Lalang and before the assault on the judiciary resulting in the sacking of the Lord President and several other Supreme Court judges, the ruling party orchestrated a tense situation in the country by creating various “sensitive” issues.
These included the sending of non-Mandarin qualified administrators to the Chinese schools, conversion of Muslims to Christianity and even threats to organise a 500,000-people Umno rally in the capital.
All these were to justify the unleashing of 'Ops Lalang’ to deal with the so-called “threat to national security”.
The country’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, in his twilight years at that time, had more perception and integrity than Mahathir in his prime and certainly more political nous than the Tanjung Karang MP.
The Tunku, like many other perceptive democrats at the time, could see how Ops Lalang was orchestrated. This is how he described the situation:
“Umno was facing a break-up. The Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory over Tengku Razaleigh. The case alleging irregularities brought by Umno members was pending in court. If the judgment went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community.”
The ISA has been at the convenient disposal of the government of the day ever since its introduction in 1960. When it was first introduced in Parliament, Abdul Razak Hussein tried to justify it by saying it would only be used against “communist terrorists”.
Through its grisly career, the ISA has been used most blatantly by the ruling coalition to cripple its political opponents, most notably the arrest and detention of practically the entire leadership of the Socialist Front, the main threat to the Alliance during the Sixties.
This sham democracy was the main reason for the Socialist Front’s boycott of the 1969 general elections.
Since then, “threats to national security” have included Members of Parliament, trade unionists, environmentalists, educationists, Christian evangelists, Islamic practitioners, document forgers, and the list goes on…
Since the repeal of the ISA, detention without trial now comes in the guise of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. With the latest amendments to Sosma, we are told that gangsters are the new “threat to national security”.
All this points not to any threat to the nation but to the machinations of a very insecure regime that orchestrates “sensitive issues” whenever any crisis to the ruling party necessitates it.
Posted: 27 Oct 2013 02:18 AM PDT
I don't know why interviewers still insist on underestimating Russell Brand. Have they not watched any of his previous interviews? Anyone who has seen any interview or guest appearance he's made in the past few months — or even years — will notice that he expresses himself clearly, has been following the issues and does not like being treated like a "trivial" actor/comedian, never mind what the chyron beneath him says.
Now he's done it again, this time on Wednesday night on BBC's Newsnight program with Jeremy Paxman. I can't show the full clip, which contains an F-bomb (Gawker has it; you stand warned) but if you are an interviewer planning on casually dismissing Brand, please, alter your plans. Do not assume that he does not have a vocabulary at least as large as yours, and do not laugh him off or address him as though he is not in the room. This will not work. It will only make him and his revolution stronger, and will make you look like an idiot.
I sometimes wonder how long the Brand machine would thrive if we hired an American comic or actor to read exactly the same statements in an accent that was not British. Would they retain their power to impress? Probably. He explains his decision not to vote by fluently saying: "It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations." Not the, "I'm not voting because I, uh, there was like a deadline or something and, um, cards and voting is, you know, ugh, you know?" as would probably come out of most of us were we put on the spot. He has mastered the art of being More Serious Than You Expected (MSTYE?) first pioneered by Jon Stewart. A comedian? With knowledge of the issues? And "lexicon" in his, er, lexicon? SURELY THIS IS THE NEW MESSIAH! LEAD US, RUSSELL, LEAD US!
I am paraphrasing a little, but this does seem to be the way the sentiment is tending. There are a few people hesitant to leap onto what is being termed the Brandwagon (well played!) but the response, if sheer volume of hits counts for anything, has been overwhelming. These awkward encounters offer all the raw enjoyment of watching newsmen cringe combined with the delight of seeing someone Susan Boyle an interview out of the park. Still, it's been happening with such regularity that you might think someone would notice. It's almost becoming Brand's stock in trade — comedian Russell shows up and shows you up. As long as interviewers keep failing to realize what they're dealing with, this publicity will spiral into — well, certainly more buzz for Brand's tours, but at his present rate of virality, possibly some kind of Occupy 2.0 or mass stampede to redistribute everything. You can't rule it out! Anyway, don't underestimate him. That's my point.
[VIDEO] Paxman and Brand on revolution and beards
Posted: 27 Oct 2013 02:14 AM PDT
The proposed goods and services tax (GST) will tax those who can't afford to be taxed, i.e. 60% of Malaysians who are eligible for BR1M. These are the people who will soon be taxed by the regressive tax, together with the rest of us who live and stay in this country.
I would like to drop the Orwellian double speak so prevalently employed by many GST apologists who are trying to mask the real issue. I will share my views plainly here.
Some argue that the government has to be cruel to be kind. Hence, BN would have us believe that the fuel hike subsidy rationalisation is needed to balance the government's expenditure and ensure its good financial standing.
In theory, this sounds legit. However, look closer and you will find many flaws in the argument. For one, this argument does not take into account the adverse effects on the man on the street. It also demonstrates an incomplete understanding of how the economy grows or declines.
What is the real reason for the Barisan Nasional government to implement the GST? This tax has hung like a sword of Damocles over our heads since Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s era in 2005.
GST apologists' main argument is that it is the most effective form of taxation. What does "most effective" mean? Simply put, it means that the government can obtain more tax revenue from our pockets.
Another pro-GST argument is that since 140 odd countries have implemented it, Malaysia should follow suit . However, you do not find BN supporters rushing to follow in the footsteps of other countries' democratisation processes. For example, most countries in the world set the voting age at around 18, so why do we not adopt the "follow the majority" argument in this instance?
GST widens inequality
In the past decade, particularly after the 2008 global financial crisis, the global economy has become acutely concerned about income inequality – the gap between the haves and the have nots.
Scholars and thinkers the world over have acknowledged the negative effect that GST has on the income gap.
Assume my income is RM10,000 and I spend RM1,000 and I'm charged a 5% GST or RM50 for the goods and services I consume. RM1,000 is just 1/10 of my supposed RM10,000 income. Imagine a person earns RM1,000 per month and spend all his income to consume goods and services and pays a similar 5% GST. RM50 to a person who earns RM10,000 and to a person who earns RM1,000 carries an absolutely different meaning. The lower income person will suffer more.
The BN apologists also argue that GST is fair, since it taxes everyone in a country where the majority do not pay tax. A belated consolation to the minority taxpaying group who have been contributing to the national coffers, if you will.
However, 60% of Malaysians are eligible for the BR1M financial aid, meaning to say 60% of Malaysian families earn less than RM3,000 a month. They are already struggling to make ends meet. They do not pay taxes because they are below the tax-paying threshold.
Of course there are those who evade paying tax, I believe that we have adequate laws to deal with this, if the enforcement is done properly.
The middle income group will suffer too
Some advocates for GST said, the daily necessities of the poor are not subject to GST. I would like to ask them, who are the poor? If 60% of Malaysians need BR1M money, that means 60% of the country’s families are struggling. If what the 60% need are exempted from GST, might as well we keep to the old system as there is no GST system that exempts 60% of people and still remains worthwhile to run.
How do we differentiate between daily necessities for poor people and for normal people? Are we not degrading the quality of life of those trapped in the middle income group through their consumption of GST-exempted products meant for the poor?
One other argument is that by introducing GST, we can reduce sales tax and eventually, income tax.
While we recognise that Malaysia's tax system does no favours to the middle income bracket who earn between RM5,000 and RM10,000, the cure is not the introduction of GST. This unfortunate fact of high tax for middle income bracket should be rectified by tax adjustments to reduce the burden of the middle income families, shifting the focus to the super-rich.
Malaysia's GST is not like in the UK, Australia and other developed nations where top income tax rate were 50% and above before the introduction of the GST. For them, tax cuts were the natural course of action after the introduction of GST.
There is little room to manoeuvre for a tax cut with the Malaysian income tax rate which is not that high by comparison.
Killing the golden goose
BN ministers have said that the GST is a necessary evil to balance the accounts and to reduce deficit and debts. To most of us, such a statement means that the only "balance" it seems to bring is to allow the powers-that-be to continue to squander the nation's wealth – business as usual.
The crux of the matter is this: killing the golden goose. Here's what I mean by "golden goose"- our economy is no longer as export-reliant as it once heavily was. While previously, our biggest trading partner was the US, in the past three years the growth of our economy has heavily depended on domestic consumption.
Apart from the government's expenditure, domestic consumption comprises the money spent by ordinary citizens, mostly via debt. Hence, the rakyat who spend money are the "golden geese".
Malaysia's household debt is the second highest in all of Asia. Should the bubble burst, we will have many casualties.
I would like to reiterate that arguably, GST by nature is designed to tax those who cannot afford to be taxed in the first place. The 60% of citizens who are eligible for BR1M aid will now be taxed by GST, shrinking the domestic consumer market – i.e. the disposable income that could have been spent buying goods is now taken away by tax.
In this scenario, imposing GST at this stage will be akin to killing the golden goose. It would not be far fetched to imagine the worst case scenario of GST not as the feared monster of inflation, but the falling demand that precedes a recession.
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