An open letter to Ninian Mogan, CEO, MBF Holdings

An open letter to Ninian Mogan, CEO, MBF Holdings

Source: Malaysiakini

I have been constrained to resort to an open letter to you as your staff at the MBF headquarters at Menara MBF, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur refused to accept this letter when it was sent to them by hand on May 27. Subsequently, I tried to post it to you via registered post but the letter was returned to me a few weeks later by Pos Malaysia.

We really need your assistance to resolve a long-standing labour issue in Padang Meha Estate in Padang Serai, Kedah. I hope you will spare a little time to read this letter.

The problem began in 1994 when the East Asiatic Company sold 5,000 acres of plantation land to MBF Holdings Berhad. A total of 460 workers were retrenched. Slightly more than half of them accepted the retrenchment benefits of 20 days of wages per year of service as mandated by the Employment Act and vacated their quarters. However, as this only came to about RM8,000 for a worker with 20 years of service, and since they were not only losing their jobs but also their homes as well, the remaining 207 workers said that they were not moving out until they got better compensation.

MBF Holdings had registered the land it had bought from East Asiatic under MBF Country Homes & Resort Sdn Bhd (later renamed as Alamanda Development Sdn Bhd), a fully-owned subsidiary of MBF, to develop the land into a new township. Alamanda initiated eviction proceedings but the Alor Setar High Court ruled in favour of the workers. Alamanda then negotiated a settlement with the workers and promised to:

a. pay an extra RM200 per year of service in addition to the retrenchment benefits mandated by law;

b. build 240 low-cost houses for the workers and sell these to them at RM12,500 each;

c. Allow the workers to continue staying in their current estate houses until the construction of the alternative houses was completed.

This was in 1997. However, despite some meetings with the local Land Office during which the issue of an alternative housing scheme was discussed, the compensation was not executed. (Appendix One: Copy of settlement agreement between MBF and a former worker).

Around the same time, MBf took East Asiatic to court for not handing over vacant possession of the estate to MBF. This was settled via a payment of RM7.055 million to MBF – RM3.6 million as damages for non-delivery of vacant possession and the remainder for retrenchment benefits and a re-allocation grant to be paid to the ex-workers. East Asiatic handed over a list of all 207 workers with the amounts due to each of them. (Appendix Two: Letter from the liquidator to MBF Holdings).

However, there was no progress at all in the construction of the low-cost houses for the workers. So in 2003 (six years later), the workers took Alamanda to court. The court proceeding started in August 2003 with the help of CAP lawyers, Tetuan Meena Raman & Partners and the workers won again – the court agreed that the ex-workers should be awarded an additional RM22,500 (in addition to the retrenchment benefits and the ex gratia) as Alamanda had failed to provide low-cost houses at half-price. (Appendix Three: Copy of court order, with the list of the 207 workers to be compensated with the amounts for each worker).

But then Alamanda applied for voluntary winding up in 2005 and two liquidators (Mustapha Raj and Jeyaraj Ratnasamy) were appointed. The workers were told that they would have to wait until the assets of Alamanda were sold before they could be given the compensation due to them from Alamanda. Neither the workers nor their lawyers were invited to the several meetings that the liquidators called with the other creditors. The unsold portions of the estate land were subsequently transferred to MBF or Vintage Developers Sdn Bhd, another fully-owned subsidiary of MBf Holdings, but the obligations to the ex-workers remained parked under Alamanda.

The ex-workers sent many letters to various parties to solve this long-festering issue. Some groups, both from the government and the opposition, intervened to try and settle the problem but there was no progress. Finally, in 2016, the ex-workers decided to take the matter to the court again. They engaged law firm Hakem Arabi, which agreed to represent them pro bono. A case was filed against six parties – the two liquidators, Alamanda Development Sdn Bhd, MBf Holdings Berhad, MBf Equities Sdn Bhd and Vintage Developers Sdn Bhd.

The lawyers for the liquidators said that they were prepared to pay the ex-workers a total sum of RM1.03 million immediately with a promise that an additional RM0.64 million would also be paid if funds could be mobilised from the liquidation of remaining Alamanda assets. This was recorded as a consent agreement between the workers and the liquidators in April 2018. (Appendix Four: Consent order with liquidators.)

The lawyers for MBF Holdings and its subsidiaries argued that the case against them should be thrown out as the six-year limitation period had long passed. The lawyers for the workers, Hakem Arabi, discovered from the documents filed by the liquidators that East Asiatic Company Berhad had paid RM7.06 million to MBF Holdings in 1995 to help defray the costs of compensating the former workers. MBF’s lawyers argued that the entire sum of RM3.3 million for the ex-workers had been passed to Alamanda. However, this assertion was contested by the liquidators who presented documents that established that Alamanda did not receive the RM3.359 million. (Appendix Two)

Hakem Arabi further argued the payment of RM3.359 million to MBF by the East Asiatic Company in 1995 had created a “trust” in favour of the former workers and that the six-year limitation rule for contracts did not cover trusts. The Kuala Lumpur High Court judge was sympathetic but ruled that he was not convinced that a “trust” had indeed been created in favour of the former workers and he dismissed the plaintiff’s claims and allowed MBF’s counter-claim against the workers that they should vacate their estate quarters within two years from the date of the judgement.

Hakem Arabi appealed to the Court of Appeal. There, the judges ruled that a trust had indeed been created and that the RM3.359 million should be paid to the workers. This will work out to RM16,306 per worker when divided 206 ways. The appeals court also ruled that the workers should vacate their quarters within six months of receiving the cash compensation. (Appendix Five – Appeals Court judgement).

Many of the workers were unhappy that the quantum of compensation was much lower than the RM22,500 that Alor Setar High Court ordered in 2011. They are also unhappy that there was no order as to interest on the RM3.359 million although it had been held by MBF for more than 20 years.

Although the Appeals Court had given the workers six months from the settlement of their compensation to vacate their premises (around 70 of them are still staying in the old labour lines), Vintage Developers Sdn Bhd got the Kedah Water Board to cut off water supply barely five days after the Appeals Court judgement. The affected workers have since managed to reconnect the water. Barely a week later, the electricity sub-station burnt down plunging all the houses into darkness. The workers have got a contractor to reconnect supplies and have made police reports asking the authorities to rule out arson.

This, then, is the situation.

I believe this issue can be resolved fairly easily. MBF and Vintage Developers Sdn Bhd now own several hundred acres of the former estate land. If a 35-acre plot of land could be transferred to the workers, the workers can negotiate with the state or federal government for a low-cost housing scheme for them to rent-to-own. However Vintage and MBF are not prepared to even consider this option.

This is why I am writing to you. We need your intervention to resolve a long-festering problem. The 200 or so families who will benefit are all families of former estate workers, and they are part of the bottom quintile of the Malaysian population. A resolution of their housing problems will be a great help to them and would free financial resources for them to better educate their children and grandchildren. MBF and Vintage have several hundred acres of former estate land in their possession – so setting aside 35 acres for this purpose is doable. But I think this will require your intervention.

I know that you were not the owner of MBF from 1994 to 1997 and not responsible for what happened then. However, as the current owner of MBF, you are in a position to resolve the issue in a fair manner. I really hope you will look into this matter. I can send you the appendices mentioned in this letter if you would like to see them and am prepared to help out in whichever way I can. I can be contacted via my handphone number +6019 5616807 or through e-mail [email protected]

 

Don’t blame the poor for their poverty

Don’t blame the poor for their poverty

by Darren C. Ong

The English author C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia is one of my favourite writers. His stepson, Douglas Gresham once shared this anecdote, one that has had a profound influence on my views on poverty. This story appeared in the Spring 1998 edition of the Southern Cross Quarterly, published by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Here, C.S. Lewis goes by the name “Jack”:

“Jack and a friend were walking to a meeting one day when they were approached by a beggar. The beggar asked them for some spare change whereupon Jack gave him everything he had. Once the beggar had gone, his friend said, “You shouldn’t have given that man all that money Jack, he’ll only spend it on drink.” Jack’s reply – “Well, if I’d kept it, I would have only spent it on drink.”

I think this story has a lot of lessons to teach us in Malaysia as we grapple with questions of poverty and inequality in our country.

Like Jack’s friend in the story, we as a society always assume moral failings on the poor, with little if any justification. We assume that the poor as a group are lazy, entitled, alcoholics, thieves, drug or drug addicts. Sometimes these insults just come out in the open- as when Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, told journalists “not to behave like estate people”. But more often these insinuations come out in a very subtle way, and this can be even more damaging. Consider how, whenever workers and activists demand an increase in the minimum wage, the forces opposed to it bring up Malaysian workers’ supposed low productivity to justify their low pay. This claim is completely unjustified, of course, and Bank Negara released a report last year (http://www.bnm.gov.my/files/publication/ar/en/2018/ar2018_book.pdf) concluding that “Malaysian workers are still being paid less than workers in benchmark economies, even after accounting for the different productivity levels across countries”. But this falsehood reflects the assumption that poor Malaysians are poor because they are unproductive and lazy, an assumption that so many of us make with zero evidence.

 

I must confess that I have made similar false assumptions too. I was once visited a friend of mine who ran a centre in a Jakarta slum that gave the children living there free tuition. He and his family moved to the slum too, to be closer to the people they are serving. I asked if it was safe to live in this community- and he replied that he felt it was safer there than in a middle-class neighbourhood, because people in slums need to depend on each other, and so the community is a lot more tight-knit and watches out for one another, whereas in rich neighbourhood nobody knows or cares about their neighbours. I had never considered this perspective on life in the slums- and I wonder now if the many stereotypes we have for the poor are grounded in reality? And more tragically, how often government and social policy toward the poor is formed based on these false stereotypes, based on an ignorance of their true living situation?

These unfounded assumptions hinder our ability to move forward with real solutions for poverty. We are so concerned with poor people misusing or wasting the assistance given them, that we toss aside solutions that will make a real difference in peoples’ lives. I especially love C.S. Lewis’ humility in his last comment- “I would have only spent it on drink”- rich people waste money on wasteful and frivolous things too, and often in more damaging ways than a beggar buying a lottery ticket or a can of beer. Perhaps us Malaysians in the upper and middle classes should consider that maybe poor people are poor not because of their moral failings, but because of ours- because we have failed to listen to their concerns, because we assume that they are untrustworthy or immoral without evidence, because we care more for our own comfort than the survival of our neighbours.

Mogok “rider” foodpanda: Manifestasi kemelut pekerja ekonomi gig

Mogok “rider” foodpanda: Manifestasi kemelut pekerja ekonomi gig

Ramai penghantar makanan (rider) syarikat penghantaran makanan atas talian Foodpanda yang bekerja di luar Lembah Klang telah mengadakan mogok selama 3 hari dari 30 September hingga 2 Oktober 2019, untuk membantah skim pembayaran baru yang menghapuskan bayaran tetap RM4 sejam kepada mereka.

Mogok ini telah mendapat perhatian ramai termasuk pihak kerajaan. Kabinet telah mendengar isu mogok penghantar makanan Foodpanda dalam mesyuarat mingguannya, dan membuat keputusan untuk menubuhkan sebuah jawatankuasa khas yang dianggotai oleh tiga kementerian dengan tujuan mengkaji lebih mendalam mengenai isu “ekonomi gig” dengan lebih mendalam. Tiga kementerian yang terlibat ialah ialah Kementerian Sumber Manusia, Kementerian Belia dan Sukan serta Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri dan Hal Ehwal Pengguna.

Menurut Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman selaku Menteri Belia dan Sukan, Kerajaan menyarankan syarikat Foodpanda untuk mengembalikan skim pembayaran asal untuk menjamin kebajikan para penghantar makanan.

Menteri Sumber Manusia M. Kula Segaran pula berkata bahawa kementeriannya sudah bertemu dengan wakil syarikat Foodpanda Malaysia berhubung isu mogok penghantar makanan Foodpanda. Kula Segaran mengatakan bahawa syarikat Foodpanda mengesahkan bahawa ia akan memantau skim gaji baru yang dilaksanakan di beberapa negeri sebelum memutuskan sama ada boleh kembali ke skim lama atau tidak.

Mogok penghantar makanan Foodpanda telah mendapat perhatian pihak kerajaan dan sedang dalam usaha mencari jalan penyelesaian, adalah sesuatu yang positif. Namun, adalah menjadi persoalan sama ada Kerajaan kita hari ini memahami isu pokoknya dalam perkara berkaitan dengan ekonomi gig atau tidak.

Syed Saddiq dalam kenyataannya berkata bahawa “kerajaan percaya kepada persaingan pasaran bebas, tetapi ia tidak boleh mengorbankan nasib pekerja”. Bunyinya seperti boleh mewujudkan situasi “menang-menang”, tetapi hakikatnya realiti ekonomi gig hari ini jauh lebih berbeza.

Masalah yang dihadapi oleh penghantar makanan Foodpanda, adalah sebahagian daripada masalah lebih besar yang dihadapi oleh semua golongan pekerja yang sedang mencari rezeki di bawah ekonomi gig.

Ekonomi gig menjadi satu trend yang sedang menular di seluruh dunia, termasuklah Malaysia, bukannya sebab anak muda hari ini sukakan “kebebasan” maka memilih kerja yang bersifat lebih “fleksibel”; sebaliknya adalah disebabkan logik pengumpulan modal yang berterusan melalui pemaksimuman keuntungan syarikat pemodal membawa kepada “inovasi” sistem ekonomi yang melemahkan perlindungan hak dan jaminan kerja untuk golongan pekerja. Syarikat korporat dan pemodal besar mahukan keuntungan lumayan, tetapi bagi mereka sistem kerja tetap yang sedia ada dengan pekerja dilindungi dengan jaminan kerja (iaitu tidak boleh dipecat sewenang-wenang) dan hak pekerja (seperti hak untuk menubuhkan kesatuan sekerja, menikmati kebajikan pekerja dan sebagainya) dianggap sebagai penghalang kepada pemaksimuman keuntungan. Sistem kerja yang “fleksibel” atau bersifat kontrak di bawah ekonomi gig, amat seiras dengan motif korporat terus menjana keuntungan dengan mengurangkan tanggungjawabnya terhadap kebajikan pekerja.

Oleh itu, adakah “kepercayaan kepada persaingan pasaran bebas” daripada Kerajaan itu sejenis kepercayaan sepenuhnya kepada golongan korporat yang sentiasa mencari jalan untuk memaksimumkan keuntungan tanpa mempedulikan akibatnya?

Jika kerajaan serius dalam mengendalikan isu ekonomi gig, maka jawatankuasa khas yang terdiri daripada tiga kementerian itu perlu mengkaji kerangka undang-undang baru untuk membendung masalah ekonomi gig yang mengkaburkan hubungan “majikan-pekerja”. Pekerja-pekerja yang diupah sebagai “kontraktor”, “vendor” atau “pekerja bebas” (freelancer) oleh pemilik platform perkhidmatan atas talian, walaupun namanya sedap didengar dan ganjarannya untuk kerja sesuatu tempoh mungkin lebih menarik berbanding seorang pekerja tetap yang diupah di bawah ekonomi “tradisional”, tetapi mereka tidak mempunyai jaminan kerja seperti pekerja sepenuh masa dan mudah terjerumus dalam perangkap kemiskinan dalam era keadaan ekonomi yang tidak menentu kerana krisis ekonomi boleh berlaku bila-bila masa.

Mogok pekerja Foodpanda terbaru ini sekali lagi menunjukkan bahawa aksi mogok ialah senjata yang paling berkesan untuk golongan pekerja menyuarakan tuntutan mereka. Jika adanya organisasi pekerja atau kesatuan sekerja yang lebih tersusun, sudah pastinya pencapaian mogok akan jauh lebih hebat.

Laporan sebelum ini: Pekerja foodpanda mogok untuk jaminan pendapatan

Amnesty slams PSM activist’s arrest under Sedition Act

Amnesty slams PSM activist’s arrest under Sedition Act

Source: Malaysiakini

Amnesty International Malaysia has criticised yesterday’s arrest of PSM activist Khalid Ismath under the Sedition Act 1948, a law which the Pakatan Harapan government has promised to abolish.

“Amnesty International Malaysia is dismayed with the continued use of the Sedition Act, this time against Khalid Ismath when he was arrested on Sept 13.

“Once again, the repeated use and the wide nature of the Sedition Act signals a stagnation of the efforts to improve freedom of expression in the country.

“Despite repeated promises to do away with the Sedition Act, the Pakatan Harapan government has failed to live up to its word,” Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said in a statement.

Shamini said Putrajaya must follow through its promise to abolish the Sedition Act in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting next month.

“Along with the call for the Sedition Act’s full abolition, we are urging the government to drop all pending charges under this repressive law immediately and without condition,” she said.

PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan, in a separate statement, confirmed Khalid’s arrest at around 10.30pm.

He said Khalid, who is the former PSM Youth chief, was arrested at his home in Klang under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act over Twitter postings he allegedly made against Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

‘Form of intimidation’

Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act concerns the utterance of seditious words that carries a fine of up to RM5,000 or imprisonment up to three years or both for the first offence.

“PSM is of the opinion that the arrest at his home at night was a form of intimidation.

“If police needed (his statement), it can ask him to present himself at the police station and he would have cooperated,” Arutcelvan said.

He noted that the Permaisuri Agong had also urged people not to make police reports against those who are critical of her.

Artuchelvan added that Khalid has denied making the Twitter postings against the Permaisuri Agong.

He said the continued use of the Sedition Act must stop in line with Putrajaya’s promise to abolish the law.

“PSM calls for Khalid’s immediate release,” he said.

Khalid was brought to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters and is expected to be remanded.

‘Worrying trend of social media policing’

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty director Melissa Sasidaran said the recent surge in online policing of social media posts was worrying.

“These arrests are a serious assault on our freedom of speech which is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

“This fundamental right has a high threshold which also covers the freedom to speak about sensitive issues in Malaysia.

“While it is clear that freedom of speech is not absolute, it is only in limited circumstances, when it is absolutely necessary that the authorities may act, in a proportionate manner, against social media posts which carry a real issue of incitement, public disorder or security,” she said in a statement.

She added that the vagueness of laws, such as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, has aggravated the problem.

“The Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission must publish clear, consistent and fair guidelines on what constitutes offensive online communication. Without such guidance, citizens are unable to regulate their own actions to ensure they do not unwittingly cross the threshold of a possible criminal offence.

“Furthermore, comments should not be deemed criminal just because they touch on the royalty.

“It is for this reason that the Sedition Act must be abolished as the law is overly broad and vague where almost anything controversial can be construed as seditious,” she said.

She added that arrest over social media posts was a “shameful and common practice” under the previous government and should not happen today.

Arrest of activist Khalid Ismath a form of intimidation, says PSM

Arrest of activist Khalid Ismath a form of intimidation, says PSM

Source: The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Sosialis Malaysia is urging authorities to not detain its former party youth chief, activist Khalid Ismath, and views his arrest as a form of intimidation.

PSM deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan (pic) said the party condemns Khalid’s arrest, saying it was against the Criminal Procedure Code.

“We are made to understand that he will be remanded on Saturday (Sept 14) but remanding someone before investigations are carried out goes against the Criminal Procedure Code,” he said in a statement.

Arutchelvan said Khalid, 29, was arrested around 10.30pm on Friday (Sept 13) at his home in Klang by three officers from the D5 unit in Bukit Aman under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act for allegedly posting a seditious tweet aimed at Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

It is learned that Khalid was picked up at his home as soon as he returned from dinner with his family and calmly followed police instructions.

He also requested not to be handcuffed as his four-year-old daughter was with him when he was taken.

Arutchelvan said Khalid’s arrest was a form of unnecessary intimidation.

“They could have asked him to go to the police station and he would have complied and cooperated willingly.

“Her Majesty had already expressed her stand about the tweet and has not linked anyone to it,” he said, adding that Khalid had earlier denied that he had posted anything against the Queen.

Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Fahmi Visuvanathan Abdullah confirmed Khalid’s arrest.

Khalid’s arrest happened hours after the Queen posted on Instagram telling the public that she had left Twitter for personal reasons and there was no need to lodge any police reports.

Her posting was shared by her daughter Tengku Puteri Afzan Aminah Hafizatullah Al-Sultan Abdullah, who reposted it on her own Twitter account, @tengkuafzan1.

Many of the Queen’s followers had earlier believed that she had left Twitter because of cyberbullying.

Since she left Twitter, a Twitter user, whose tweets were screenshot and circulated on the Internet, has issued a public apology to Tunku Azizah for earlier remarks he made about her.

In a string of tweets, which have since been deleted, Twitter user Firdaus Asraf commented on the popularity of Tunku Azizah and the following that she has gained on social media.

He later posted a formal apology on his account, saying that he regrets his actions and he hopes that Tunku Azizah will accept his apology.

Cancelling pension scheme: Is government losing the plot?

Cancelling pension scheme: Is government losing the plot?

Source: The Leaders Online

The recent statements emanating from top civil servants, namely Datuk Seri Borhan Dolah the Director General of the Public Services Department and Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Hj Bakar, the Chief Secretary to the Government, indicate that the proposal to phase out the pension scheme for government servants is being seriously considered at the highest levels of government.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir weighed into the controversy on 7/9/2019 saying that the total pension bill of RM28 billion per year currently (amounting to about 10% of the federal budget) has become a burden to the country. But he did add that no decision has been taken as yet on the issue of pension.

The casualisation of labour is a global trend that has many negative consequences. It increases insecurity and leads to underemployment and poverty. It also makes people anxious about their own future and therefore more focused on securing themselves and reduces any inclination in helping others.

When applied within the civil service it will lead to a reduction in the civil servant’s commitment and pride in serving the nation and might shift their focus to please their superiors (so that their contracts are renewed) or start preparing for alternative carriers while still in government service.

Removal of pension scheme is part of the neoliberal agenda to trim and squeeze the state apparatus driving it to inefficiency, thus justifying further privatisation of essential services to the people .

The PSM is against any policies that will undermine social security and make the lives of our people more precarious. We are strongly against dismantling the government pension system. On the contrary, we believe that the way forward for Malaysia is to introduce a Universal Pensions System for our elderly.

It is high time Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders reflect seriously – Why do we have government in the first place? What is your role as government leaders? Of course, maintaining law and order is an important function. So too is making sure that the economy functions smoothly such that goods and services are provided to the people and employment opportunities are generated.

But it appears to us that the PH government has become too focused on making Malaysia seem “business friendly” and on trimming the budget deficit so as to impress the International Credit Rating Agencies.

The PH Government seems to have forgotten that one of the most important responsibilities of government is to ensure that no one is left behind – that our society does not become too unequal and therefore unjust. Surely the PH recognises that in many instances the free market will not meet the basic needs of certain sectors – especially sectors that do not have much buying power.

In other words, the market mechanism may fail to provide adequately for the basic needs of the bottom 40% (B40) of society. Also, PH leaders should take cognizance of the fact that corporations augment their profits by keeping wages down. In these circumstances, a responsible government needs to intervene to ensure that the B40 are not pushed deeper into poverty by 1) legislating a decent minimum wage and 2) by building a robust safety net for all Malaysians. In both of these important matters the PH government is not meeting the mark!

The recent proposal from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (Star online 1/9/2019) that the retirement age should be shifted from 60 to 65 years should be seen as a cry for help on the part of the working population. Official statistics reveal that 68% of Employment Provident Fund contributors aged 54 years have less than RM50,000 in their EPF accounts and most retirees use up this amount within a few years of retirement (Star Online 25/10/17).

Many Malaysians face old age without any savings and when over 70 years of age, are totally reliant on family members who might also be struggling to meet the needs of their own families. This is the backdrop to MTUC’s proposal.

This is why the PSM has long been advocating that Malaysia implements a pension scheme for all Malaysian citizens above 70 years of age who do not have government or social security (SOCSO) pension. Our suggestion is that we start at a pension of RM300 per month. As there are approximately 800,000 people in this age bracket who are not receiving any pension currently, the total bill will be RM 2.9 billion per year. This is about the same quantum as the BSH program, and is less than 1 % of the total federal budget. Although RM 300 is not enough for an elderly person to live on his or her own, it will be a big help to the family looking after him/her and certainly add to the dignity of his/her life.

Detractors will argue that our federal budget is already stretched and it would be imprudent to start a scheme that will become more expensive over time as the number of the above-70 group increases. We disagree. One of the principal responsibilities of government is to ensure that the wealth of our country is shared equitably. We already hold down wages in Malaysia so that we can compete for FDI and so that our exports can compete in the international market.

In other words, we keep asking our working people to accept low wages for the national good. This is the main reason why many of our retirees are not able to accumulate enough savings for their old age. Isn’t it only fair that we collect part of the wealth generated by the effort and sacrifice of our workers to strengthen the social net and provide a bit of help to them when they are above 70 years of age?

Are these detractors aware that government expenditure has dropped from 43.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1983 to 21.6% in 2019. This decrease is due to several factors including, the race to the bottom in corporate tax rates among the ASEAN countries engendered by their desperation to attract foreign direct investment – our corporate tax rate was 40% of corporate profits in the 1980s. It is now 24% of profits and falling!

Another factor is the financial liberalisation brought about by WTO rules and the Free Trade Agreements ne have signed on to. These rules enable large corporations to siphon out their handsome profits to tax havens through Transfer Pricing – thus avoiding paying taxes in Malaysia. Low corporate tax rates and tax avoidance are not ordained by the almighty! They are the result of the overwhelming power of the richest corporations in formulating trade and financial rules. They are man-made and can be, by men unmade! This decrease in government revenue is a major reason why the PH government is now talking of phasing out the pension scheme for government employees.

PSM believes that it is the duty of government to address the issues of tax avoidance and the race-to-the bottom among ASEAN countries. Then the government will have the funds to expand social expenditure on pension, improving health care, increasing the budget of the welfare department, improving public transport, financing greener sources of energy, etc.

Of course, this will require a multi-national effort and cannot be accomplished overnight. But has the PH government embarked on this course of action? Has it even contemplated it?

Currently PH’s knee-jerk response to any proposal to increase social expenditure is to say “Sorry, no funds. Our deficit is already too big”. This knee-jerk response is simply not acceptable. The government must apply itself to the task of retaining a larger share of the wealth that Malaysia is contributing to the global economy and use this fund to make Malaysia a more equitable society.

This is the responsibility of government. Please fulfill it!

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj is the PSM national chairperson

 

Program sarapan percuma boleh ditambahbaikkan lagi

Program sarapan percuma boleh ditambahbaikkan lagi

oleh S. Arutchelvan

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) menyambut baik dan positif terhadap cadangan Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia (KPM) untuk melancarkan program sarapan percuma khas bagi murid-murid di sekolah rendah di seluruh negara mulai tahun 2020. Menurut KPM, melalui program ini nanti, murid-murid akan disediakan sarapan enak berpandukan menu yang sihat dan ia adalah percuma.

PSM merasakan ini adalah satu tindakan kerajaan Pakatan Harapan yang cukup baik. Selain daripada memberikan makanan percuma, KPM juga boleh mengambil beberapa langkah untuk memberikan nilai tambahan kepada program ini di kalangan kanak-kanak sekolah rendah. Antara syor kami adalah:

  1. Kanak-kanak harus dididik mengenai kepentingan makanan dan budaya tidak membazir makanan. Pengetahuan seperti masalah kebuluran dan jaminan makanan boleh menjadi ajaran sampingan.
  2. Menjamu makanan pelbagai bangsa di Malaysia untuk mempromosi makanan daripada kumpulan etnik berlainan, supaya menjalin rasa perpaduan melalui amalan makanan ini dijadikan keutamaan semasa membuat pilihan makanan.
  3. Kanak-kanak juga harus diajar untuk membawa bekas makanan sendiri untuk menghindari penggunaan bahan yang mencemar alam seperti plastik sekali guna, dan mempromosi pendidikan menjaga alam sekitar.
  4. Kanak-kanak juga harus diajar tentang kelebihan memakan makanan berkhasiat dan mengetahui nilai makanan seimbang untuk kesihatan.

==========

S. Arutchelvan ialah Timbalan Pengerusi Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

It takes a cleaner 6 years to earn a CEO’s daily wage

It takes a cleaner 6 years to earn a CEO’s daily wage

Source: Malaysiakini

In recent weeks, we have been occupied with the question of whether the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston’s claim is correct or false.

Alston concluded that Malaysia’s absolute poverty rate cannot be 0.4 percent but was closer to 15 percent. Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali immediately dismissed the report as unacceptable and irresponsible, while Prime Minister Dr Mahathir said the government will study the claim and may review the figures.

Nevertheless, Mahathir also ridiculed the report by saying, “It is not as bad as what is pointed out by the people who come here for one day, stay in a big hotel and then pass judgement”.

Let me talk about my interaction with around 70 cleaners who attended a retreat in Camp Perasaan near Taiping last weekend. This was not a venue of a 5-star hotel but a low budget resort.

I was one of the resource persons and the group who attended were all hospital cleaners who work in government hospitals. These are the same people who work and keep our overcrowded government hospitals clean.

When I asked them what were their salaries, they said that they were paid RM1,100. When I asked the most senior person in the group who has worked for 30 years, the shocking answer was that his salary was also RM1,100.

They received the minimum wage irrespective of their years in service. They were employed through a contractor employed by the government.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia has always taken a position opposing contract work for permanent workers. This is an abuse of the system and a manipulation. It goes against the norms of job security enshrined in our constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Then, I compared their salaries with top salaries or income earned by CEOs in Malaysia in the year 2017. When I shared these figures, they were shocked.

Obscene Salaries of CEOs

These figures were taken from publicly published reports and FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI index list (accurate as of May 31, 2018). The report looked at the very top companies.

To put the record straight, these are 2017 income figures and are not data on the top ten richest persons, which would definitely be much higher. One can oneself search for this on Google.

Just for those who think that these are pre-14th general election wages: Let me also state that the earnings of top earners in 2018 are higher than in 2017. I cite the 2017 salaries as a comparison because the report does mention salaries and bonuses paid, unlike the 2018 report.

Now we take Sime Darby Plantation – a government-linked company – CEO Mohd Bakke Salleh’s salary for 2017. His total salary and remunerations was RM7.8 million in 2017. That would work out to RM 652,416 a month. Now would someone dare to compare this with the earnings of a plantation worker under Sime Darby?

Now let’s take another GLC, Petronas. Petronas Chemicals Group CEO Sazali Hamzah was paid RM1,013,352 for his services to the company for the year 2017. That would work out to a monthly income of RM84,446.

Now let’s see what two other GLCs pay their CEOs. In 2017, Malayan Banking Berhad paid its CEO Abdul Farid Alias a salary of RM2,400,000, and the bonuses alone amounted to RM4,300,000.

Now, the report says his total earnings was RM8.7 million, and if I break this down to monthly income, it works out to RM727,916 a month. If I further break it down to a daily wage, it would be around RM24,000.

What about the CEO of Tenaga Nasional who has proposed a bill hike? This is yet another GLC, and its CEO Azman Mohd’s total salary and bonuses for 2017 were RM3,494,120 and RM3,000,000, respectively.

With other benefits added, his total annual income was reported as RM7,247,219. That works out to a total monthly income of RM603,935 and an estimated daily earning of RM20,131.

Daylight robbery?

Now let’s look at the top earner of 2017, Public Bank CEO Tay Ah Lek. He earned RM27 million in 2017. The current top earner for 2018 is RM80.6 million from Genting Berhad.

The Public Bank CEO’s salary was RM11,079,000 and he got a bonus of almost RM16 million (RM15,974,000). His total income for 2017 was RM27.8 million.

That means if we break down the total income, it will work out to RM2.3 million monthly and RM77,000 daily. If we break this down to 24 hours even though no one works 24 hours, his salary would be around RM3,200 an hour. That is almost three times our minimum wage.

Now let’s compare the top CEO’s one-day income with the monthly income of our cleaners at the government hospitals. It will take our cleaners almost 6 years to get the CEO’s one day salary, and it will take them around 174 years to get his one-month salary.

Isn’t this obscene? Every time when we want to raise the minimum wage, there is massive opposition as if these poor workers are going wreak havoc on the economy.

Most of the top multimillion ringgit earners in Malaysia are GLCs. If this is not daylight robbery, what do we call it?

Looking at these figures, one wonders whether it is actually necessary to debate on our poverty rate. We talk about racial divisions yet the rich-poor gap remains unbridgeable.

May the workers get real freedom from poverty and low wages. Happy Merdeka!


S ARUTCHELVAN is the deputy chairperson of PSM.

Rich Malaysian … Poor Malaysian – The Merdeka gap

Rich Malaysian … Poor Malaysian – The Merdeka gap

by S.Arutchelvan

In recent weeks, we have been occupied with the question of whether the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston’s claim is correct or false. Alston concluded that Malaysia’s absolute poverty rate cannot be 0.4 percent but was closer to 15 percent. Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali immediately dismissed the report as unacceptable and irresponsible while Prime Minister Dr Mahathir said the government will study the claim and may review the figures. Nevertheless Mahathir also ridiculed the report by saying, “It is not as bad as what is pointed out by the people who come here for one day, stay in a big hotel and then pass judgement”.

Let me talk about my interaction with around 70 cleaners who attended a retreat in Camp Perasaan near Taiping last weekend. This was not a venue of a 5 star hotel but a low budget resort. I was one of the resource persons and the group who attended were all hospital cleaners who work in Government Hospitals. These are the same people who work and keep our overcrowded Government Hospitals clean. When I asked them what are their salaries, they said that they are paid RM 1,100. When I asked the most senior person in the group who has worked for 30 years, the shocking answer was that his salary was also RM1100.

They receive the minimum wage irrespective of their years in service. They are employed through a Contractor employed by the Government. PSM has always taken a position in opposing contract work for permanent workers. This is an abuse of the system and a manipulation. It goes against the norms of job security enshrined in our constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then I made a comparison to their salaries and top salaries or income earned by CEOs in Malaysia in the year 2017. When I shared these figures, they were shocked.

Obscene Salaries of CEOs

These figures were taken from publicly published reports and FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI index list (accurate as of May 31, 2018). The report looked at the very top companies. To put the record straight, these are 2017 income figures and not the top ten richest persons data which would be definitely be much higher. One can oneself search this on google.

Just for those who think that these are pre GE14 wages. Let me also state that the earnings of top earners in 2018 are higher than 2017. I take the 2017 salaries as comparison because the report does mention salaries and bonuses paid unlike the 2018 report.

Now we take Sime Darby Plantation – a GLC – CEO Dato’ Mohd Bakke Salleh’s salary for 2017. His total salary and remunerations was RM7.8 million in 2017. That would work out to RM 652,416 a month. Now can someone dare to compare this with the earning of a plantation worker under Sime Darby?

Now let’s take another Government linked company(GLC), Petronas. Petronas Chemicals Group CEO Datuk Sazali Hamzah was paid RM1,013,352 for his services to the company for the year 2017. That would work out to a monthly income of RM 84,446.

Now let’s see what two other GLCs pay their CEOs. In 2017, Malayan Banking Berhad paid its CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias a salary of RM2,400,000 and bonuses alone amounting to RM4,300,000. Now the report says his total earning was RM8.7million and if I break this down to monthly income, it works out to RM727,916 a month and if I further break down to a daily wage it would be around RM 24k.

What about the CEO of Tenaga Nasional who has proposed a bill hike?. This is yet another GLC where the CEO Datuk Seri Ir. Azman bin Mohd total salary and bonuses for 2017 were RM3,494,120 and RM3,000,000 respectively. With other benefits added, his total annual income was reported as RM7,247,219. Now that works out to a total monhly income of RM 603,935 and an estimated daily earning of RM 20,131.

Now let’s look at the top earner of 2017, Public Bank CEO Tan Sri Dato’ Tay Ah Lek. He earned RM27 million in 2017. The current top earning for 2018 is RM 80.6 million from Genting Berhad. The Public Bank CEO’s salary was RM11,079,000 and he got a bonus of almost RM16 million (RM15,974,000). His total income for 2017 was put at 27.8 million. That means if we break down the total income, it will work out to 2.3 million monthly and RM77k daily. If we break this down to 24 hours though no one works 24 hours, his salary would be around RM 3,200 an hour. That is almost three times our minimum wage.

Now let’s compare the top CEO’s one day income with the monthly income of our cleaners at the Government hospitals. It will take our cleaners almost 6 years to get the CEO’s one day salary and it will them around 174 years to get his one month salary .

Isn’t this obscene? Every time when we want to raise the minimum wage, there is massive opposition as if these poor workers are going wreak havoc on the economy. Most of the top multimillion ringgit earners in Malaysia are GLC companies. If this is not daylight robbery, what do we call it?

Looking at these figures, one wonders whether it is actually necessary to debate on our poverty rate. We talk about racial divisions yet the rich-poor gap remains unbridgeable.

May the workers get real freedom from poverty and low wages. Happy Merdeka!

S.Arutchelvan
PSM Deputy Chairperson
30-8-2019