EVENTS in the past two weeks have made me disappointed, angry, sad, mad and exasperated.
First, the Prime Minister’s speech on Labour Day was a major disappointment, particularly his announcement that we are not ready for a minimum wage review yet.
This is despite the fact that the National Minimum Wage Consultative Council (a tripartite body with government, employer and employee representatives) has submitted its recommendations to the Cabinet, twice. Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot has to exercise leadership on this issue. He must not buy into employers’ fear-mongering and whining that they are not ready.
We have less than five years to our target of becoming a fully developed and high-income nation by 2020. An appropriate minimum wage is critical to achieve this.
Then we had a Mara-sponsored student jailed in the UK after he was convicted of possessing extreme pornographic images and videos of children.
What makes me angry is that people in positions of authority in Malaysia had the audacity to suggest that the government should use our tax money to bring him back to continue his studies in public universities here and even to fund an appeal against his conviction despite the fact that he pleaded guilty.
Why? Just because he is a bright student? Heck, if he is that bright he would not be involved in such despicable acts in the first place!
Then you have the 1MDB fiasco. To add to the ongoing controversy, we had reports of Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH), the custodian of funds for Muslims to perform their sacred pilgrimage, purchasing a 0.64ha of land for RM188mil from the embattled government development fund. That is a shocking RM2,774 per sq foot, more expensive than even the prime land in the KLCC area.
The price was valued by a professional independent valuer and LTH even got a discount, according to the pilgrim fund.
Yeah right, if that is the real market price, why was the land sold to 1MDB so cheaply in the first place?
Then came the sad “solution”. Because of the public outcry, LTH will sell the land they just bought. It claimed to have three parties who are interested and that it would even make a profit.
Who are these three parties? If at all they are interested, why didn’t they buy it from 1MDB in the first place, instead of having to spend more now?
It makes me mad that when the issue blew up, the first thing Tabung Haji did was to make a police report on the alleged leakage of documents that exposed the transaction.
As usual we want to kill the messenger. We should be giving the whistleblower a datukship instead. I just don’t buy the typical retort, “Oh, we should not expose it outside, report to the appropriate authorities so they can investigate”. Isn’t that like telling a child to not to expose abuse by the father but instead report it to the mother for her to investigate?
I will not be at all surprised if the police do a thorough investigation and bring the whistleblower to book.
With all these shenanigans going on, it was reported that Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) would buy a piece of land with a 40-storey building from 1MDB for RM1bil to RM1.2bil, a price 15% lower than what LTH paid.
KWAP is the custodian of civil servants’ pension fund. No wonder 95% of EPF contributors want to withdraw their money at age 55, not 60.
I am an advocate of withdrawal at 60 solely on the basis that EPF is meant for retirement and should only be used when we retire. But I perfectly understand all brickbats and hate mail I received. It is governance issues like this that has distracted us from formulating long-term policies for the good of our country and its people.
Then we have ex-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad leading the call for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to step down, using 1MDB as the focal point.
But hang on, wasn’t it Dr Mahathir who started us on the road to all these governance issues? The sacking of the chief justice led to loss of confidence in the judiciary, the bastion of governance. Let us not forget the numerous corporate scandals during Dr Mahathir’s time.
It this not the pot calling the kettle black? And it was Dr Mahathir who started the trend of the prime minister also holding the finance portfolio.
I have been calling for Najib to appoint a technocrat to be finance minister while he takes over the Home Ministry to resolve various issues on immigration, crime and human trafficking.
But nobody listens to a small columnist like me. So forgive me if I am exasperated.