Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Judge Who Changes Her Mind

Did you hear about the bizarre case of former Immigration director-general Wahid Md Don who was found guilty of a corruption charge yesterday by the same judge who acquitted him three years ago?
Wahid was charged with accepting RM60,000 from businessperson Low Chang Hian as partial payment for expediting visa approvals for 4,337 Bangladeshis to enter the country. He was alleged to have committed the offence at Jalan Lembah Ledang, off Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, on July 10, 2008.
Sessions Court Judge Rosbiahanin Arifin sentenced Wahid to six years in jail from October 30, 2013 and fined him RM300,000 or 12 months' jail. His request for a stay of the sentence was denied.
The judge reversed her earlier decision, and said that the prosecution had proven the case beyond reasonable doubt. In October 2010, she herself had acquitted Wahid without ordering him to enter his defense. She had then ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission head of prosecution Abdul Razak Musa appealed against the acquittal at the High Court but was unsuccessful. Undaunted, MACC appealed to the Court of Appeal, which was granted in April this year.
No wonder Malaysians often wonder about the state of the judiciary in this country! I did say that stupidity is rampant here, didn’t I?
I was at Café Barbera, 18 Lorong Maarof in KL’s Bangsar, on Tuesday to attend the Bangsar Toastmasters meeting. It was an enjoyable meeting only because the General Evaluator blessed it with much merriment! Victor Ong was that General Evaluator and he conducted the last third of the meeting with classy aplomb. He was indeed a joy to behold because he could switch from being serious to being humorous and back again, enlivening the meeting in the process. I certainly enjoyed this meeting and I would give it an 8 over 10.


The Disadvantaged Receives Less

Najib Razak is an unconcerned, unsympathetic and unfeeling Prime Minister. Despite "grandly" announcing millions of ringgit in allocations to help this section of society, Padang Serai MP N Surendran (left) pointed out that a comparison with Budget 2013 shows that their sliver of the pie has been reduced even further. 

Under socio-economic aid, RM309.26 million allocated to the disabled next year is a whole RM6 million less compared to 2013. Similarly, aid for the poor was "quietly reduced" by RM2.36 million compared with RM272.02 million in 2013. Senior citizens too will get less, with the amount allocated for aid down from RM489 million in 2013 to RM479.71 million in 2014. 

Surendran revealed that as a whole, the total RM1.29 billion allocated for assistance for the poor, disabled and senior citizens only amounted to 0.5 percent of the total budget. 

With snowballing prices and rising inflation, why reduce economic aid to those who are disadvantaged in the first place? I agree with Surendran that cuts in allocations for the poor, disabled and senior citizens in Budget 2014 show a wicked disregard for this bloc of people in need. And Najib is aloof, blasé and callous! This is not the Budget of a considerate, compassionate and caring government! I am just as disappointed! 

Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic continued their unbeaten league run with a 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle on Sunday. 

Georgios Samaras opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a header from an Emilio Izaguirre corner but Kris Doolan leveled in the 67th minute from close range after the Jags striker had hit the Celtic crossbar. Substitute Amide Balde then sealed the game for Celtic when he finished off a solo run by sliding the ball past Jags keeper Scott Fox in the 75th minute.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sugar and Libido

Thanks to Najib Razak who had served as (acting) Women, Family, and Community Development Minister, the gender gap in Malaysia has exacerbated – according to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report in gender equality that was released over the weekend. 

We were ranked 102 out of 136 countries and this was based on four different areas: health, education, economics and politics. Malaysia fared the worst in terms of political empowerment, ranked 121st globally, while we did well in terms of education attainment, ranking 73rd. 

But the fact is that before Najib took office, we were ranked 96th in the world. By engaging in women’s affairs, he made the situation far worse for women. It just goes to show that Najib has never understood the plight of Malaysian women. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise since even in his own household, his wife Rosmah Mansor wears the pants! 

Again, Malaysians are expecting too much from him! Aren't we acutely aware that he has failed as a Prime Minister? All he knows is to dance to everyone’s tune.

And what about the statement he made to explain why he decided to get rid of the sugar subsidy? He said that it would reduce the number of diabetic cases and improve men's sexual libido. 

In a study involving more than 21,000 individuals published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it was concluded that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can interfere with genes that affect weight increasing a person's risk for diabetes. 

The news is not good for sugar and libido either. Sugar is a libido-quencher, if not killer! Sugar-eating people have reported that when they gave in to their sugar cravings, their sex drive "drove off". They have already received a neuro-chemical high from the sweets that they would otherwise have received from sex. Their desire has been fulfilled and the sugar has now taken precedence over their mate. How sad! 

On this matter of sugar consumption, Najib is right after all!

But hey, wait a second! Don't just put the blame on sugar. Refined starches like white rice, white bread, white pasta, and anything made with white flour act a lot like sugar once the body starts to digest them. Therefore, just like sugar, refined starches interfere with glucose control and they are equally bad for you!!

So why didn't Najib abolish rice and flour subsidies too? Why are they untouched?  

I was at Uptown 5 in Damansara Utama on Monday where I attended the Phoenix Toastmasters meeting. I was the General Evaluator there and I found the speeches and evaluations to be respectable. Yup, overall a good meeting and I would score it a 6 over 10. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Unpropitious 2014 Budget

Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled his government's budget for 2014 on Friday, purportedly to address a large fiscal deficit, shrinking current account surplus and growing debt pile that are sources of concern for investors and ratings agencies.

Nope, Najib didn't quite address these issues. He took the easy way out. Therefore, I didn't think it was a good budget. Going into the specifics, I shall only highlight three features of the 2014 Budget that stand out like a sore thumb. Two items will have wide ramifications on Malaysian income earners and the third will benefit me marginally – only because I am a taxpayer.

Firstly, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be implemented on April 01, 2015 – seventeen months from now at a fixed rate of six percent. It’s the same rate as the present sales tax – tell me, what's the diff? I didn't mention this previously when I said I supported GST but according to CIMB Research, given the poor enforcement culture in Malaysia, the implementation of GST is likely to contribute to a 5% increase in inflation – and this is bad news for many people.

Secondly, personal income tax rates are to be reduced by 1 to 3 percentage points for all tax payers. This is quite insignificant because it will only put back a couple of extra bucks back into my pocket.

Thirdly, the subsidy program is to be "gradually restructured" and the sugar subsidy of 34 sen was effectively abolished the following day itself. This means we can expect food and beverage prices to go up again in 2-3 months' time!

Yesterday, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed that sugar tycoons in the country, mainly the politically connected Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary's Central Sugar Refinery, can chalk up profits of RM1 billion as a result of the government's cessation of the sugar subsidy in the 2014 Budget, [Central Sugar and Malaysian Sugar Manufacturing (owned by Felda Global Ventures) currently hold the monopoly over the sugar industry in the country].

Anwar said that the rise in profits would be caused by a strengthening in the two above-mentioned companies’ monopoly in the sugar industry. He asked for the government to remove the monopoly in order to allow a “free market mechanism” to take place.

Anwar is right. “What becomes the question here is why must corporations get so much profit due to the removal of sugar subsidy while the people are burdened with the increased sugar price, questioned Anwar.

The 2014 Budget is bad for the poor and the lower-middle class wage earners. But does Najib even care?

I was in Ampang to be part of the Youth Leadership Program (October 25-27, 2013) with other fellow Toastmasters from MIMKL (and also Satu Hati). This was organized for the teenage residents of Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd (PKGS) as part of the club’s CSR initiative and I am glad to have helped out on two of the three days.

Note: To safeguard the identities of the eighteen participants, we were not permitted to take photos – instead, I am putting up snapshots of some of the facilitators and other innocuous objects seen at the center.

PKGS is a not-for-profit organization – founded and operated by the Good Shepherd Sisters – a worldwide Congregation of women religious present in 73 countries in six continents – and since 1960, its focus is to reach out to “those who are marginalized and broken, especially women, girls and their families, restoring in them their worth and dignity”.

For this particular YLP that we conducted, the participants were girls between 13 to 18 years of age.

Below, I have uploaded “Aku Suka Dia” performed by Ainan Tasneem – this song was featured in Marcella Sweetie’s speech. She was one of the participants and she has a dream to be a singer.

Certainly, it was an enriching experience for all of us who were there. I found it personally rewarding.