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The Government Should Reveal Payments to Private Consulting Firms

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Nov: The Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, Wong Chen, urged the Federal Government to disclose details regarding expenditure that has been wasted on private consulting firms.

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He said that the Federal Government has spent over RM7.2 billion on private consulting firms in the past five years.

He said that the amount could be broken down to RM125 per month or RM4 million a day, and the payments have been found to increase from year 2099 till last October.

“The amount is used from government revenue, and a part of it was generated from the people’s yearly income tax, and this is very irresponsible,” he said in a press conference here at the Parliament lobby today.

He also questioned the government’s action of not stating the purpose, benefits and the types of companies who have been awarded contracts.

He said that reliance on private consulting firms reflect the low-confidence on public service.

“The trend of expenses for consulting services is worrisome. This is a legitimate concern since private consultants charge fees that are not fixed.

“How do we know that the government hired the firms at reasonable rates; and more transparency is needed on this issue,” he said.

In this regard, he urged all ministries to release the full amount of expenses and consulting firms involved.

He said that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will coordinate with all Member of Parliament to ask the ministries to release all expenses associated with the private consulting firms in a question and answer session, if the government refuses to disclose them.

“We also want the Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee to focus on expenses for these services in the next report,” he said.

According to statistics, expanses recorded a total of RM1.2 billion in 2009, RM1.6 billion in 2010, RM1.7 billion in 2011, RM1.8 billion in 2012, and over RM720 million as of last October.

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PR Opposes to DBKL Increasing the Assessment Fee

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Nov: Pakatan Rakyat (PR) objects to the increase of the assessment tax which will be imposed by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in 2014.

Member of Parliament for Batu, Tian Chua, said that the rate of tax imposed on the people of the Federal Territory is inappropriate.

He said that there is no uniform rate of increase according to areas; when there are places that increase by 150 percent while the others go up by 20 and 30 percent.

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“PR MPs do not know what criteria are taken into account for the increase in the tax rate,” he said in a press conference here at the Parliament lobby today.

Also present was the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar, the MP for Kepong, Dr Tan Seng Giaw, and the MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok.

Tian Chua said that he will request a meeting between the MP for the Federal Territory and DBKL to discuss the matter.

“DBKL should be aware that city dwellers will be the first the face the pressure of inflation compared to communities in other areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, Izzah wants the people to compare the DBKL Mayor, Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib, with the former Mayor who increased revenue without increasing the assessment rate.

“The previous Mayor did not burden the citizens. But the new Mayor, there has not even been a dialogue for the increase in the tax, not only have the people not been informed, but neither have Member of Parliaments,” she said.

Prior to this, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) hopes that the DBKL will not dramatically increase the assessment rate, thus burdening property owners.

Previously, DBKL announced that it will evaluate and standardise the assessment rate on 500,000 property units under the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur; where action will be implemented since the agency has not assessed since 1992, and it is required based on several factors.

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Syed Mokhtar Profits RM3.5 Billion But Farmers Remain Poor

SUBANG, 13 Nov: Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Bukhari is expected to earn an income of RM3.5 billion from the proceeds of his investment in Padiberas Nasional Berhad (BERNAS) in the next three years.

The projected income is derived from the ever-growing BERNAS profit from the rice commodity which is also the staple food of Malaysians.

The General Chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said that this proves that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government prioritises their cronies compared to the life of paddy farmers who are continuously plagued by poverty.

“What is more puzzling is how a Malay can buy a company or to privatise one and record a revenue wealth projection of RM3.5 billion in the next three years from BERNAS while the income of the poor people are is not sufficient,” he said at the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Dinner here at the Empire Hotel last night.

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Anwar said that when he was the Finance Minister, the privatisation of BERNAS could only happen provided that 10 percent of the company’s shares were distributed to the National Farmers Organisation (NAFAS) and the National Fishermen’s Association (NEKMAT), while five percent would go to the Agricultural Development Authority of Kemubu, Kelantan (KADA), the Youth Agricultural Development Authority of Kedah (MADA) and the staff of BERNAS.

Prior to this, Anwar stressed that Syed Mokhtar managed to own 53.7 percent of BERNAS shares through two of his companies until the end of 2009, and the share purchase offer, said to be worth RM477 million, was extended until the end of February through several other companies.

Anwar said that the consistent annual net profit of BERNAS has been RM135 million since 2006 and continued to increase from RM2.1 billion to RM3.6 billion in 2012.

The PR Dinner was attended by about 100 key leaders of PR, including the President of PKR, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, the DAP Advisor, Lim Kit Siang, and the PAS Deputy President, Mohamad Sabu.

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Temple Demolishing Issue, Central Government Asked to Not Lie to the People

KUALA LUMOUR, 12 Nov: The Central Government has allegedly been lying to the people when they said that the demolition of the Sri Muneswarar Kaliyaman temple in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday was to beautify the temple.

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The Member of Parliament for Padang Serai, N.Surendran, said that the over 100 year old temple has been once again ‘attacked’ by the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) on the orders from the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing, where a large part of it was demolished yesterday.

He said that the move once again proves the Umno-BN government’s failure in fulfilling promises made during the Genera Election (GE) to not demolish the temple.

“90 percent of the temple has been torn down and can no longer be used by the Indian community, thus proving that the statement issued by Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, is a lie.

“The Prime Minister promised to not demolish the temple in a pledge he made, however failed to implement it. In fact, they gave this land to developers to be developed,” he said in a press conference at the Parliament lobby today.

reviously, Tengku Adnan claimed that demolition work by DBKL at the Sri Muneswarar Kaliyaman temple is part of the government’s plan to “beautify” the temple.

Calling it as simply a “place of worship” and not a kuil, he also claimed that there are illegal activities being carried out in the place based on inspection by his ministry.

Meanwhile, the Member of Parliament for Batu, Tian Chua, said that the government did not need to use force to solve this issue because the temple committee agreed to carry out renovations based on the criteria set.

“We hope that the government can be tolerant and wait for negotiations to resolve this issue,” said the PKR Vice-President.

The Member of Parliament for Bagan, Lim Guan Eng, representing DAP, described the situation now faced by the Indian community in Kuala Lumpur as the same as in Penang.

He said the governments guarantee to beautify the temple is doubtful because the Federal Government had demolished a Hindu kuil at the Penang Port and did not rebuilt it despite promising to do so.

Even though they promised to rebuild (the kuil), they have yet to implement it for over three years.

“I assume that the promises from ministers are dubious because they proved their failure when they did the same thing in Penang,” he said.

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SELANGOR

FOMCA: CGT Does Not Burden Consumers

SHAH ALAM, 12 Nov: The Central Government has been suggested to implement the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to replace the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will be implemented on 1 April 2015, because it is able to provide revenue for the government and not burden consumers.

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The Communications Director for the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA), Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman, said that however, the implementation of the CGT requires more in-depth studies and analysis by economists.

He said that the study is important to ensure that the decision made will not burden the people, who are becoming increasingly pressed with the cost and burden of living which is increasing every year.

“If it is found that the CGT is better, then implementation should be considered to replace the existing tax system.

“We understand that the government needs a source of income to develop the country.However, we want to implement it in a way that does not to burden the people,” said Yusof, when contacted Selangor now.

The CGT would mean that tax is imposed on profits from the sale of assets such as shares, bonds, property, gold and so on.

Currently, the government is only imposing the CGT on profits from the sale of property which is also called the Real Property Gain Tax (RPGT).

He was commenting on the proposal by Economic Analyst, Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, for the Central Government to implement the CGT to reduce the burden of poor people from being further squeezed by the GST.

Commenting on the implementation of the GST, Yusof suggested for the Central Government to reconsider the six percent to be imposed so as to not dramatically affect consumers.

“I think that the GST, as a new thing in Malaysia, should be introduced at a lower rate; which is about three or four percent, as practiced by our neighbouring country, Singapore.

“This is important so that the people or consumers are not dramatically affected by the implementation of the six percent tax,” Yusof said.

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Maria Chin Appointed as the New Chairperson of Bersih 2.0

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Nov: Activist Maria Chin Abdullah was appointed as the new Chairperson for the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) after winning uncontested in the first election of the coalition which will be held on 30 November.

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Maria Chin received support from 13 NGOs after the nomination period, which ended on 8 November.

A straight fight for the position of Vice-Chairman of Bersih 2.0 will witness a clash between Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa and Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.

Meanwhile, there is a one-on-one match for the position of treasurer, between Masjaliza Hamzah and Nahar Md Nor.

Five candidates will be vying for the two seats as committee members; K.Arumugam, Ng Chak Ngoon. Farhana Halim, Hishamuddin Rais and New Sin Yew.

A total of six committee members will be later appointed for the state level, adding to the five-member team at the national level.

They will all campaign until midnight on 29 November and the election will be held at the Petaling Jaya Library on 30 November.

The election this time involves postal voting for NGOs in Sabah and Sarawak. Ballot paper will be sent starting today, and they would have to return it to the Secretariat before 30 November.

A total of 90 organisations in Bersih 2.0 will have one vote each in the election this 30th November.

Member of the Bersih 2.0 Election Committee,Stanley Yong, said that the formal announcement on the steering committee will only be made on 30 November, even though there is no competition for the position of Chairperson.

He added that it is up to the new leadership of Bersih 2.0 to decide the status of Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Datuk A Samad Said, who previously led Bersih 2.0.

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SPAD Urged to Stop Inconveniencing Taxi Drivers

SHAH ALAM, 12 Nov: The Metered Taxi Drivers Task Force (BBPTB) has asked for the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) Chairman, Tan Sri Hamidi Albar, to stop agendas that inconvenience taxi drivers in the country.

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The BBPTB Chairman, Amran Jan, said that taxis under the 1Malaysia Taxi (TEKS1M), which began operating last month, has invited a variety of questions in terms of its appearance.

He said that taxis under this programme are not like normal Budget Taxis where the permit holder’s name is displayed in the vehicle.

“Do not continue making the taxi service industry an ‘slaughterhouse’ of taxi drivers. BBPTB has been informed that the TEKS1M taxi permits actually belong to the SPAD,” said Amran.

He said that selected taxi drivers need to apply for a bank loan, supported by the SPAD, and the hire purchase for an Exora Bold is about RM800 per month for seven years.

“Drivers have to reapply for the new TEKS1M permit, and certainly for new vehicles as well.

“There is no certainty whether the Exora Bold, once the payment period is over, will become the property of the driver or the SPAD,” Amran said in a statement.

Amran said that many drivers have been offered the TEKS1M permits, which is the latest form of ‘modern slavery’, and have decided to return the TEKS1M permit offer by the SPAD.

Feedback from a number of vehicle salespeople have also advised taxi drivers to be careful with the Exora Bold because it has a high maintenance cost.

He said that drivers cannot afford to ‘preserve’ this vehicle in the long-term even though its monthly payments are cheap.

This scenario shows that taxi drivers who dream of their own permit are ‘trapped’ and ‘used’ by the SPAD to meet the repayment of vehicles, in addition to increasing the sales of the Proton produced car.

“BBPTB is worried that all the hard work and good faith will be hindered if the SPAD Chairman uses this commission for the success of partisan political success, as well as personal interests,” Amran said.

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SELANGOR

ASTRO Should Not Increase Charges of Existing Packages

SHAH ALAM, 12 Nov: The increase in charges imposed by ASTRO is not warranted since the services offered do not correspond with the price paid by the customers.

The PKR Consumerism Bureau Chairman, Yahya Sahri, said that the company also needs to upgrade services offered to customers before charges are increased.

He said repeated broadcast and service interruptions during rain should also be improved because the price charged does not commensurate with what is offered by ASTRO.

“We consider the action as unwarranted because it directly oppresses users. Many customers complain of not receiving quality services which matches the charges,” he said when contacted by Selangor Kini today.

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Yahya said that the central government should also end ASTRO’s monopoly and approve paid television service licences for other companies.

He said that the implementation will create healthy competition among service providers, like what is happening between communication service providers, to enable users to make a choice.

“ASTRO has already hugely profited and monopolised the market. So it is unwarranted for the service charges to be increased,” he said.

In relation to this, he urged the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia to take decisive action to prevent the increase in charges, and users are also asked to not subscribe to ASTRO as a sign of protest against the company.

Prior to this, ASTRO informed that they will be imposing an additional charge of RM2 for the family package and RM6 for the sports package, starting from 24 November.

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Nurul Izzah: Why are there 30 Special Branch officers in London?

SHAH ALAM, 12 Nov: Nurul Izzah Anwar questioned the BN government’s actions of placing 30 members of the Special Branch in London, England.

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The Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai said that the cost of placing the contingent in London is funded by public funds, and as far as she knows, there does not seem to be any credible threat to Malaysia’s internal security coming from England.

“Would it not be better if they patrol our Malaysian neighbourhoods?” Nurul Izzah said.

She said this when speaking at a forum on the goods and services tax (GST) in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, last night,

The Special Branch’s London contingent, she added, was revealed in various government documents such as the 10th Malaysia Plan and the annual Budget, and from the Home Ministry’s replies in the Dewan Rakyat.

She said that placing 30 officers in London was yet another example of how the Home Ministry did not properly allocate policing resources to combat crime.

This is because, she said, the main task of officers placed in the Special Branch is to spy on Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians.

“In 1954, to battle the Communists, we had 459 Special Branch officers. Now we have 8,200. So we have more special branch officers now compared to the time when we were battling Communists?”

“The number of special branch members has also increased since Najib became Prime Minister. In 2008, we had 5,000 special branch members. The figure has increased by 3,000 during Najib’s administration,” said Nurul Izzah.

She said that the crime solving rate could be boosted if special branch officers are redeployed to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Nurul Izzah said last year that the Special Branch churned out 830,000 surveillance reports mostly on Pakatan politicians. By contrast, the CID solved 60,000 criminal cases.

“Could not these Special Branch officers be redeployed to the CID so that we could boost our crime solving rate?” said Nurul Izzah.

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GLC’s Directive to Purchase Ads Proves Umno is Desperate to ‘Save’ Utusan

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Nov: The federal government is allegedly desperate to save Utusan Malaysia, which is reportedly experiencing a decline in sales, when they ordered several government-linked companies (GLCs) to buy more ad space in the newspaper.

Member of Parliament for Bayan Baru, Sim Tze Tzin, said that the move was also in line with the ‘call’ by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to ask more GSCs to advertise their products in the Barisan Nasional (BN) owned newspaper.

He said that Utusan Malaysia is also facing financial problems and is seen as become more vulnerable after the newspaper received a lot of lawsuits from various quarters, including politicians, on their news reports.

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“Utusan Malaysia has suffered a lot of losses when they were forced to pay hundreds of thousands of ringgit in damages and is also facing other cases in court for previous publications of their articles.

“All of these things affect the financial position of Utusan Malaysia, thus clearly demonstrating the central government’s directive to GLCs to buy ads is to save the newspaper,” he said in a press conference here at the Parliament lobby today.

He said that the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Ahmad Maslan, is also considered to be confused with his role as deputy minister and Umno information chief when he urged the GLCs to buy more ads in the newspaper.

He said that Ahmad should place the interests of all Malaysians when performing his duty, and to not just protect the interests of Umno, which uses the newspaper to spread their propaganda.

“GLCs also need to be more independent and careful, as well as professional, before investing on an ad, whether in Utusan or other newspapers. They should not bow to political pressure to do something that is contrary to the principles of business because the GLC mandate is to protect national interests, not the interests of Umno,” he said.

Previously, Ahmad reportedly wrote to the highest leader of GLCs to spend their advertising budget in the Malay-language newspapers owned by Umno; Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian.

He said that the 3.7 percent expenditure from 35 major GLCs for their advertising budget in Malaysia is too little compared to “Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian’s struggle for the country”, however MCA criticised the directive.

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GST Implementation: The People Will Face an Increase in Electricity Tariffs in 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Nov: Malaysians are still faced with an increase in electricity tariffs as soon as the goods and services tax (GST) is implemented by the Federal Government, effective 1 April 2015.

Member of Parliament for Kulai, Teo Nie Ching, said that although the Federal Government informed that the GST will not be imposed on the first 200 kWh, equivalent to RM43.60 per month, consumers cannot avoid from paying tax if electricity consumption surpasses the amount.

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She said that the implementation of the GST will also affect some other sectors such as health (clinics and hospitals), business and commercial industries, and schools.

“The increase in electricity tariffs will also be felt by other sectors such as hospitals and clinics. How can they accommodate the increase in electricity tariffs, including the tax payment of six percent imposed by the Federal Government.

“The government should review this policy because it affects many parties. If what is said is true, it proves that Barisan Nasional (BN) is no more than the slogan “Prices Up”,” she said in a press conference here at the Parliament lobby today.

She said that the increase in electricity tariffs is expected to be a reality when the Federal Government reduces subsidies for natural gas following the volatility of the world market price.

After the 13th General Election (GE-13), the BN government started pressing the people with the price increase of the RON95 petrol and sugar, by RM0.34 cents, with effect as of 26 October.

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GST: Idris Jala is trying to confuse the people

SHAH ALAM, 11 Nov: The former Deputy Governor-General, Dr Rosli Yaakob, described the statement that rich people will be paying more goods and services tax (GST) by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, is misleading.

He said that poor people pay higher tax compared to the rich because the calculations are based on percentage of income.

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Rosli said, for example, that a poor person with an income of RM1,000 per month would spend RM160, a tax of 16 percent. Whereas, a rich person who spends at the same rate with RM10,000, will only pay 1.6 percent of tax.

“Of the total amount, we do not deny the truth of his statement. However, the statement is very misleading if we take into account the percentage; the portion of income paid by the rich is far smaller from their total income.

“We can see that the portion of a poor person’s income used to pay the GST is higher, compared to their income,” he told Selangor Kini today.

He said that the way to measure the tax burden is through the percentage of tax paid compared to the income receive, thus making the GST heavier for the poor.

Citing a report from the Malaysiakini news portal, Penang Institute is of the opinion that Idris Jala’s argument that the rich will pay more GST does not match the standard measure of international taxation.

A fellow of Penang Institute, Lim Kim Hwa, said that it is the international practice to measure the impact of taxes on income groups is by looking at paid tax as part of the income and not the absolute tax paid, and this method is also used by the US tax administration, the IRS.