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Posted by : Admin Direktori Blog | Selasa, 27 September 2011 | Published in

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Philosophy Politics Economics


An Internship Experience: Jason Chow

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 02:49 AM PDT

Jason Chow a 2nd year Psychology student in London interned with me in July/August this year. Below are his thoughts.

Sometimes I wonder if 'home' is really worth coming back to.

I'm one of the few lucky enough to be studying abroad. I'm one of the few unlucky enough to have an interest in politics. I'm also part of the growing community realizing that there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't one of those pieces that goes on and on about how good being abroad is. This is a piece that deals with how bad the current situation is, and whether or not we have something to move forward to.

Bear with me while I wade through the more depressing bits.

Our local landscape can hardly be described as positive. Anaemic growth is touted as an economic success, while the core problems of corruption and overdependence on government funding remain unaddressed. Note how well the rest of the region is doing. It's like cheering at a bag of peanuts while everyone else is getting ready to play for real money.

Crucial issues like education and race are both politicized and sidelined – institutions play up the hype but never sustain any meaningful reform. Our leaders aren't much help. They deliver crude, patronizing statements that condescend the intelligence of our citizens and play up the public's ignorance.

Most members of the public aren't even ignorant by choice. Force-fed extracts from biased media sources, they are led to know what they know from misrepresentative facts.
Don't even get me started on the state of our civil liberties.

But far from being an authoritarian dystopia, Malaysia is a country with incredible potential. And it is changing. More precisely, it is teetering on the edge of change, waiting for something to tip it over. And this possibility is exactly why I haven't given up yet.

I've always been a skeptic. This doesn't mean I have no ideals; I just find it very difficult to believe in the ones I have. So even though I found some hope in the notion that our country was changing, I had to justify that.

Was change a realistic assumption? Were we headed for a better time and place? Did we have good alternatives, not just in terms of leadership, but also in terms of policy?

I took my questions with me to the Opposition, via the DAP's internship programme.

I applied under YB Tony Pua.

The decision had been an easy one. He was one of the more vocal Opposition MPs. His forte was economics, my extra-curricular interest. He had a penchant for explaining complicated things in a relatively simple way, so he seemed like a good sort of mentor.

My one-month stint worked out pretty well. Attending a wide range of events gave me a powerful sense of political exposure – I encountered people as far up the ladder as Pakatan Rakyat's own leadership, all the way down to some of Tony's own grassroots communities.

The pieces came together quite easily. I was able to see how individual politicians handle their daily routine, and how political organizations attempt to function from the inside out – all on a first hand basis. Everything about the whole process was quite enlightening.
While my time with them was short, I managed to learn a few key things, particularly about the attitudes of our potential leaders.

There is a refreshing, genuine quality to their actions, particularly amongst the younger MPs, that has been absent from our political system for a long time. To put it bluntly, they seem to genuinely care about the needs of the people. Whether out of political necessity, or for more heartfelt reasons, their purpose, at the moment, seems strong: Undo unfairness and prevent future injustice to the electorate.

Maybe I'm being too charitable. We still see hiccups – the issue in Kedah, for example, a strong example of how worryingly new this alliance is. Decisions made were reconsidered, and the media plays it up as evidence of over-compromise and factionalism.

But the willingness of leaders to make necessary changes isn't a sign of weak governance; on the contrary, it demonstrates the requisite humility needed to admit mistakes and make tough choices, something that we haven't seen in a while. If anything, it highlights the strength of the between-party relationship, built on mutual respect and some level of consideration for the people.

I know I'm slightly biased. They say the youth tend to support the Opposition, and I think we have a good reason for that – we're more invested in the country's future.

There's a principle in private portfolio management. Young people can afford to take more risk, because they have the rest of their lives to make up for whatever loss incurred. Older people aren't so lucky. So the young are advised to go for broke on high profit, high-risk assets (I am not liable for any losses you make on this investment advice).

The parallel is simple – we stand to lose more if things turn out terrible. The current situation is pretty bad, and most of us don't see it getting worse. So we place our bets on change. We want it to change for the better, and the only way to do that is by getting the future to change at all.

Move from race-based politics to a system based on more meaningful policies and philosophies. Become a more mature democracy. Free up the media channels, giving everyone access to the same facts. Fairly represent the electorate. Properly unite the people under a single banner – sloganeering and logo-mongering don't help when the spirit of a message is consistently violated.

Then we can start tackling the bigger problem of economic reform. Kudos to Penang for getting a headstart on this one.

It isn't impossible; all we need to do is start making the right decisions. While it may be a lot tougher than it sounds, I think we're already on the right track.

Change isn't far off. We just need to make it happen.

Drop "Illegal Assembly" Charges

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 02:39 AM PDT

A total of 21 people, including Tony Pua, Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara, two state assemblymen – Lau Weng San and Ronnie Liu, MBPJ Councillor Tiew Way Keng and a Catholic priest from Church of Divine Mercy – Father Paulino Miranda, were charged in the Sessions Court on 23 January 2009.

They were arrested on Nov 9 last year under Section 27 of the Police Act for allegedly taking part in an illegal assembly. The gathering was a candlelight vigil held at the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) park in front of the Civic Centre to commemorate the first anniversary of the Bersih march in 2007 and to protest the Internal Security Act (ISA).

In the light of the Malaysia Day pronouncements by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak last week, we call upon the Attorney-General to heed to spirit of the speech and drop all "illegal assembly" charges against the above individuals.

The Prime Minister said the government will review Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into account the provision in Article 10 of the Federal Constitutions concerning freedom of assembly. He has also announced that the ISA will be repealed.
Hence the participants of the candlelight vigil held peacefully and briefly in an open park – who posed no security threat or inconvenience to the public – should similarly be protected by the spirit of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which states that
(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) all citizens have the right to form associations.
We believe that the decision to drop all charges under Societies Act and Internal Security Act recently against the 30 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) should be lauded, and the same should apply to all other similar cases, including those arrested for holding candlelight vigils.

The case has taken exactly 33 months to date and is a drain in time and finances for not only the accused, but also for the prosecution and judiciary.

Our lawyers will be writing to the Attorney-General's Chambers to make an official appeal for the charges to be dropped.

Telco Collusion: Multimedia & Communications Act 1998

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 02:36 AM PDT

I had issued a statement on 13th September that the mobile telecommunication companies should be warned by the Government for attempted collusion and price-fixing which is in breach of the Competition Act 2010. However concrete actions could not be taken as the Act has an 18-month grace period, and will take effect only from February 2012.

However, it has been pointed out to me that the telecommunication companies could be prosecuted for the same offence, which is provided under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Under Part IV (Economic Regulations), Chapter 2 (General Competition Practices) Clause 133, telecommunications operators are prohibited from "entering into collusive agreements". It says that
A licensee shall not enter into any understanding, agreement or arrangement, whether legally enforceable or not, which provides for —
(a) rate fixing;
(b) market sharing;
(c) boycott of a supplier of apparatus; or
(d) boycott of another competitor.
The Act also specifies the penalty whereby a person who contravenes any prohibition under this Chapter commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both and shall also be liable to a further fine of one thousand ringgit for every day or part of a day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

Last week these companies had said in a joint statement that purchases of prepaid reloads and prepaid starter/SIM packs the 6% service tax which has been absorbed by the companies since 1998 will be passed on to the consumers effective September 15th.

While the telecommunication providers had every right to decide as to whether to absorb or pass on the service tax to consumers, the fact that the statement was issued jointly meant these companies – Maxis, Digi, Celcom and U-Mobile were colluding to increasing the prices of their services concurrently, to increase the profits for all parties, without fear of any of the companies keeping lower prices to eat into the customer base of the others.

There is no question that the joint statement and attempt by the four telecommunication companies to raise prices by the same percentage concurrently is illegal because they are colluding to form a cartel for the purposes of price-fixing. If the companies are not allowed to collude, due to the competitive nature of the industry, it will be highly likely that the prices will not be increased by any of these companies, for fear of losing market share to the other companies.

Hence it is clear that while the Competition Act 2010 may not yet be in force, the Government can enforce the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and throw the book at relevant telecommunication licensees. The regulator Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commissionn (MCMC) must act to demonstrate that it acts in the interest of Malaysian consumers and is not sleeping with the enemy.

Telco Collusion: Competition Act 2010

Posted: 14 Sep 2011 02:35 AM PDT

Recently the local telecommunications companies incurred the wrath of Malaysians by attempting to pass on the services tax to the prepaid users. The service tax which was increased by the Government from 5% to 6% this year was absorbed by these companies since 1998.

While the backlash from the public, and pressure from political parties have resulted in a temporary reprieve for the prepaid users, pending further consultations with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the real issue at hand is the blatant and coordinated attempt by the telecommunication companies to raise prices concurrently, contemptuous of the competitive spirit.

Last Thursday, the companies said in a joint statement that purchases of prepaid reloads and prepaid starter/SIM packs would be charged a six percent service tax, effective Sept 15.

While the telecommunication providers had every right to decide as to whether to absorb or pass on the service tax to consumers, the fact that the statement was issued jointly meant these companies – Maxis, Digi, Celcom and U-Mobile were colluding to increasing the prices of their services concurrently, to increase the profits for all parties, without fear of any of the companies keeping lower prices to eat into the customer base of the others.
The anti-competitive agreements will be subject to financial penalties of up to 10 per cent of the worldwide turnover of the enterprise over the period during which the infringement occurred.

There is no question that the joint statement and attempt by the four telecommunication companies to raise prices by the same percentage concurrently is illegal because they are colluding to form a cartel for the purposes of price-fixing.

While the Act has been passed in Parliament and gazette in June 2010, due to an 18 month grace period, it will only take full effect from 1 February 2012 onwards. However, regardless of the grace period, the Government, particularly, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs must take a stern position and warn the telecommunication companies in no uncertain terms that their anti-competitive behavior will not be tolerated.

The Government must act to prove that the Competition Act will have teeth to protect the ordinary consumers and not be trampled upon at will by the Malaysian corporate giants.

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