Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ebola Fatalities Continue to Rise

According to figures published Wednesday, 1,803 people have died since the haemorrhagic Ebola virus was recorded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on August 01 last year. 

This number includes two deaths in Goma, a border city that is home to over 2 million, located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda. 

The first death was on July 16 and on Wednesday, the second death occurred. 

Neighboring Rwanda is said to be ready for any eventuality. They know tens of thousands of people cross the border from Goma to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi each day. These people will have their temperatures checked, wash their hands, and listen to Ebola awareness messages. 

About 3,000 Rwandan health workers in high-risk areas have been vaccinated as a preventative measure, including more than 1,100 in Gisenyi. 

As long as the outbreak continues in the DRC, there is a very real risk of it spreading to neighboring countries especially Rwanda. 

Celtic on Tuesday put in another two goals – thus, completing their comprehensive 7-0 aggregate win over Nomme Kalju. 

Next, they will play Romanian side Cluj in the Champions League qualifying third round. 

A tough test – but I remain optimistic.

It won't be long now!

Confirmed: The Perak MB is Stupid

Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu (left) persists in showing to Malaysians his accursed stupidity – when he keeps denying the existence of Orang Asli customary lands in the state.  

On Monday, he had said that if an NGO claims the need to fight for indigenous customary land, one could potentially expect the same demands from other ethno-cultural groups including the Mandaling Malays or the Javanese. 

I won’t even respond to that idiotic comment – but suffice to say, yesterday, Ramkarpal Singh (left), the DAP national legal bureau chairperson told Ahmad Faizal to seek his state legal adviser’s counsel before spewing nonsense. 

He also said the menteri besar’s remarks of the state constitution not recognizing customary land was shocking, and reflected ignorance on his part over such matters. 

“There can be no doubt that the Orang Asli have both common law and statutory proprietary rights in the Aborigines Peoples Act 1954, protected by the Federal Constitution which mandates for proper compensation to be made to those with such rights who are evicted from their land”. 

The Bukit Gelugor MP added: “It has also been recognized that state governments have a fiduciary duty to gazette areas which are known to be occupied by the Orang Asli since time immemorial to protect their rights thereon. Failure to do so can result in legal recourse against the said governments”. 

Ramkarpal also urged the menteri besar to take steps in improving the welfare of the Orang Asli in Perak, and that it is certainly wrong to not recognize customary land which is a misperception he ought to correct sooner rather than later. 

It is good to see the DAP continuing to speak up for those who have no voice. 

Ahmad Faizal’s stupid statement gave the impression that the Orang Asli in Perak have no proprietary rights and that the state government is not interested in protecting their welfare which is completely contrary to Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.

BTW, he gave logging companies the green light to trespass into Orang Asli's ancestral lands. And the Temiar people of Kampung Tasik Asal Cunex in Gerik found themselves at the raw end of a deal that is everything to do with profits over people.

I know there are stupid people everywhere – but why must we inherit more than our fair share? Sigh, that’s not fair! 

Worse, many of them are politicians. The country needs to move forward, to become more inclusive – but stupid politicians are impeding our progress. 

Ahmad Faizal is from Bersatu – that explains it, I suppose! Think Maszlee Malik, Syed Saddiq and Rina Harun and Malaysians will understand why we are still stuck in a rut.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

France's Digital Services Tax

On July 24, 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron signed the Digital Services Tax into law. 

As his finance minister Bruno Le Maire (right) said: “It’s in all of our interest to move toward a just taxation worldwide for digital companies”. 

This law requires tech companies to pay a 3 percent tax on revenue generated by digital services in the country – which would include companies like Facebook, Alphabet-Google, and Amazon. 

This promptly drew a rebuke from Donald Trump (left). “We tax our companies, they don’t tax our companies”, he insisted as he threatened to retaliate. 

The tax, retroactive to January, impacts companies with at least €750-million in global revenue and digital sales of €25-million in France. 

According to The Washington Post, that would affect nearly 30 companies around the world – and not just firms from the United States, but also include Chinese, German, British and French companies. 

France isn’t alone among European nations in arguing that internet companies aren’t paying their fair share into public coffers. Because they’re often domiciled in other countries – including low-tax jurisdictions, e.g. Ireland or Bermuda – and shift money seamlessly across borders, companies that sell online can easily avoid paying taxes in nations where they nevertheless make significant sales. 

France argues that the structure of the global economy has shifted to one based on data, rendering 20th-century tax systems archaic. According to 2018 figures from the European Commission, global tech companies pay a 9.5% average tax rate compared with 23.2% for traditional firms. 

While France is the first EU country to impose such a levy, it had said it would still prefer an EU-wide digital tax. 

[Note: France did push for a European Union-wide digital levy – it was scrapped when four countries: Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland declined to sign off on it]. 

Now, other European countries and even Asian and Latin American countries are considering similar levies. 

If implemented, these proposals have the potential to shift billions of dollars from tech companies to local economies – and which is a good outcome to have. 

Besides, we should expect tech companies to pay their fair share of taxes because they have profited massively, given today’s digitalization of the global economy. Fair's fair!

Day 44: Jho Low Calls Najib Razak 'Big Boss'

Fugitive businessperson Jho Low referred to Najib Razak (left) as "Big Boss”, according to a witness in the former prime minister's trial on Monday. 

That was Joanna Yu, a former AmBank relationship manager who was being cross-examined by the accused's counsel Harvinderjit Singh. 

Certainly, I won't dispute it because Najib always fancies himself as the guy who calls the shots. (Check out my previous post Day 27: Najib Called the Shots published June 19, 2019). 

And even now, in disgrace, he had audaciously labeled himself "Bossku".

One quirky disclosure that had me feeling bemused was Low making references to food items when detailing transactions, e.g. "50 satays" (meaning RM50 million) or "this 15 American pies incoming". 

He had ascribed satay to Malaysian ringgit, pies to US dollars and chips to British pound sterling!

I attended the SJMC Toastmasters meeting last evening and presented an assignment Let Me Introduce – after a respite of eleven days. This represented my 778th project todate.

Anyway, thanks to Wong Kenglan for arranging my speaking slot.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Drugs Snare Police Officers and Students

The Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador (right) again caught my eye when he declared that the drug epidemic is reaching critical levels in Malaysia.

He asserted that the country could become a major narcotic haven unless serious efforts are taken to combat the menace. 

He even admitted that, since January, 30 police officers have been nabbed for drug abuse. 

Calling for a more holistic approach to drug law enforcement, Hamid said he is in talks with the government for an effective solution. 

He said it was no longer sustainable to keep up the war on drugs with the present arsenal of resources, saying the police’s repeated raids on drug dens and laboratories must be supplemented with other measures. 

Police have reported increasingly larger drug seizures over the years but illicit narcotics continue to be freely available in the country. 

“We are very serious, we cannot go on with operation after operation, my men are so tired”, he lamented. 

Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamman (left) had revealed that a shocking 3.2 million Malaysians are living in areas considered ‘high risk’ due to rampant drug trafficking and abuse. 

And the number of drug seizures by authorities also rose dramatically in the past year: in 2017, only RM292.2 million worth of drugs were confiscated, but this rose to RM516.3 million last year (New Straits Times, February 22, 2019). 

The Kelantan government had already acknowledged that drug abuse among schoolchildren in the state, especially with regard to ‘pil kuda’ (methamphetamine), is rampant. In 2017, 279 students from government schools had tested positive for drugs (New Straits Times, November 21, 2017). 

The IGP is spot on – drug abuse in this country is at a breaking point. 

Liverpool’s penultimate pre-season friendly on Sunday ended in defeat as Napoli crushed us 3-0 in Edinburgh, Scotland. I don’t think we ever got into the game at all – and we gamely capitulated. 

 And the 2019-20 season is just around the corner. I should worry.

Hong Kongers Are Losing the Plot

Hong Kong continues to hog headlines with its citizens persisting with their anti-China protests. Along with the vitriol against China, a call for a “return” to democracy. 

Wait a sec! Didn't they know that Hong Kong has never had complete democracy?! 

Besides, no Hong Konger had demanded democracy for Hong Kong in 156 years of British colonial rule. If they had, they may just have a legitimate basis for demanding democracy today. 

So, when protesters foolishly unfurled the Union Jack and call for reverting to British rule – they forget that reaching out to a former colonial master exposes their hypocrisy. 

Oh, let me also refresh Hong Kongers’ memory that under current law, any unlawful assembly can be deemed a riot if anyone taking part in it commits a “breach of the peace”. 

[The Hong Kong Universal Periodic Review Coalition, an alliance of local civil society groups that delivers human rights status reports to the UN, has previously pointed out that prosecutors have wide discretion to define an act as a riot]. 

In fact, the use of the “riot” label is laid out in the colonial-era Public Order Ordinance, which is prone to being misused against protesters as many of its provisions are vaguely defined, say civil society and legal advocacy groups. The ordinance was enacted in 1967 following riots that year against British colonial rule. The last time a protest in Hong Kong was designated a riot was 2016, during the so-called Fishball Revolution in the city’s Mong Kok district. And prior to that, a 2005 protest against the World Trade Organization was labeled a riot. 

So, Hong Kongers who face rioting charges, please blame it on the British! 

Worse, it was criminal to have unfurled “Old Glory” too and made a call for American intervention during a US-China trade war. With trade a major basis of Hong Kong’s survival, it was political madness. 

Hong Kongers forget Hong Kong is not the same anymore. It is already eclipsed by China’s spectacular rise and there is no turning back the clock. 

This video clip featuring Martin Jacques offers a refreshing insight on today’s Hong Kong:
It’s time we look at the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China in an entirely different light. 

And only then will we become acutely aware that demonizing China won’t help Hong Kong at all. 

Methinks, the protesters have lost the plot.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Armed Support for Perhilitan

The Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador has rightly committed 500 police general operations force personnel to support the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in tackling poachers. 

The GOF battalion committed to this arrangement is based in Senoi Praaq, Bidor, Perak – and another battalion is on standby. 

Abdul Hamid said the GOF are experts in tracking and are used to the forest’s surroundings. 

“The GOF battalion will assist Perhilitan personnel, who had always faced challenges in keeping the poachers out, while their lives are also threatened by the poachers”. 

This is one commendable initiative to tackle the rampant encroachment by poachers trespassing our national/state parks, e.g., Taman Negara, Royal Belum rainforest and Endau Rompin National Park. 

It’s good to know our IGP is putting well-trained resources to good use. God knows, Perhilitan will need all the manpower they can muster to win the war to protect our endangered wildlife. 

Apart from this joint action force, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister, Dr Xavier Jayakumar reportedly said his ministry plans to propose amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act to double the fines and jail terms related to wildlife offences. 

The above is long overdue – but I guess, it's better late than never.

Sanctuary of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam

I was in Bukit Mertajam in Penang on Thursday – and it was the perfect time to be there because of St Anne's Festival. 

It’s a 10-day (July 19-28) celebration of St Anne, the patron saint of mothers and minors and incorporates prayer rituals and a 3 kilometre long candlelit procession before mass on the feast day itself, July 26th. The procession includes a float bearing the statues of St Anne and her daughter, the Virgin Mary. 

[Note: Although St. Anne is not mentioned in the scriptures – the Catholic church has acknowledged her as the wife of St. Joachim and mother of Mary]. 

The festival is unique not only in its size but also its length – very few events in the Catholic calendar are celebrated over multiple days. 

I was there for a couple of hours only and I captured these photos of the Sanctuary of St Anne:

I have read that the origins of St. Anne's Sanctuary can actually be traced back as early as 1833, when Chinese and Indian migrant workers first came to the area – although I could not locate more information on it. 

Anyway, the earliest records of Church of St. Anne parish are said to have started in 1846 – and the first chapel was built on top of the hill. As the Catholic population grew, a new church was built and opened in 1888. This is the church which is now called St. Anne’s Shrine. (Photo above: The white church on the hill). 

In 2002, another new church that could accommodate 2,200 worshipers was built. It had an interesting architectural approach, with Minangkabau-styled roofs and walls and columns built in the style of the old churches and monastaries of Rome: