New anti-graft plan after slew of scandals


PUTRAJAYA: Amid the slew of financial scandals seen since the change in regime last year, such as the ones involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Haji and the Federal Land Development Authority, the Pakatan Harapan government yesterday launched a five-year action plan to stem similar misdeeds in the future.

During his opening speech, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed to the previous National Integrity Plan introduced in 2004, aimed at inculcating a culture of integrity among the people, which he said did not really help in curbing corruption.

“In fact, the problem became worse between the time the plan was introduced and a few years ago when the country was perceived as a kleptocracy, a very shameful label, which means that the government was being led by the corrupt and thieves that exploited the country and its people’s resources for personal gain,” said Dr Mahathir.

“While the new government has taken action to bring the corrupt to justice, subsequent measures need to be taken to ensure the widespread culture of bribery and corruption does not continue. This is the context in which the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) has been created,” he said.

In formulating the plan, the government assessed various data, including reviews by the United Nations Convention against Corruption, global anti-corruption models, corruption perception surveys, data from various government agencies, input from stakeholders and the public and recommendations from other entities such as Asean Development Bank and Transparency International Malaysia.

The NACP outlines 115 initiatives to be implemented by 2023, as the government looks to root out corruption over the next five years.

The plan is largely focused on the public sector, in line with the findings from surveys by Transparency International and the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC), which found that about half of Malaysian respondents perceive lawmakers, government officials, local councillors, tax collectors and police officers as the most involved in corruption.

Meanwhile, 23% of respondents said they had bribed public officials in public schools, hospitals, utilities services, the police force and courts over the course of a year, while the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission highlighted that 63.3% of corruption complaints involve the public sector.

“It can be said that the civil service is a segment that is exposed to bribery, especially those that are involved in the delivery of public service and procurement. A study found that civil servants have a lack of understanding of bribery.

“We hope that the NACP can improve the image and quality of public service as well as the perception of the people towards the civil service,” said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar.

Key initiatives to be implemented

Out of the 115 initiatives, the plan highlighted 22 priority initiatives aimed at addressing six key areas where corruption is rampant, namely in political governance, public-sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement and corporate governance.

Under political governance, the government intends to introduce new legislation on governing political funding which will include an offence on lobbying as well as to implement a proper asset declaration system for members of the administration and members of parliament.

Other initiatives include a better policy on acceptance of gifts and the prohibition of the issuance of supporting letters by members of the administration or any highly influential persons for any projects or applications.

To address issues in public-sector administration, the government’s plans include the strengthening of the mechanism in enforcing mandatory job rotation for public servants holding sensitive posts and the management of the involvement of senior government officials as directors and chief executive officers of all state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies.

A transparent guideline on the appointment of special officers, political, private and media secretaries for ministers and deputy ministers will also be implemented.

In terms of procurement, the NACP seeks to ensure that all departments and regulators execute projects based on the advice and recommendation of technical departments such as the Public Works Department and to create accountability and transparency in defining the powers of a minister in legal provisions.

For the legal and judicial system, the government wants to promote a clear separation of powers and impartiality, such as the separation of the powers of the attorney-general and the public prosecutor, as well as to prioritise for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are experienced in such cases.

In terms of law enforcement, the key initiatives include the integration of relevant agencies to improve border control and the transformation of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission into the Independent Police Complaints and Misconducts Commission to address integrity issues among the members of the Royal Malaysia Police.

All of these initiatives are expected to be implemented within one to five years’ time with the GIACC acting as the secretariat, evaluating the yearly performance and effectiveness of the initiatives.

The NACP’s 22 key initiatives


Political governance

1. New legislation on governing political funding

2. A proper asset declaration system for members of the administration and parliament

3. Policy improvement on acceptance of gifts, entertainment and payment by members of the administration

4. Prohibition of supporting letter issuances for projects or applications

5. Introduction of a prime minister’s directive in governing demarcation of power between ministers and secretaries-general

6. Policy on appointing politicians as chairpersons or members as directors of statutory bodies, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government established companies limited by guarantee (CLBGs) based strictly on academic and professional qualifications

Public sector administration

7. Strengthening the mechanism to enforce mandatory job rotation for public servants holding sensitive posts

8. Managing the involvement and appointment of senior government officials as directors and CEOs in all SOEs and statutory bodies

9. Strengthening the process of integrity vetting for public officials holding positions with high risk or responsibility

10. Introduction of a guideline on appointment of special officers and political, private and media secretaries for ministers and deputy ministers

11. Governing the power of any highly influential person on local authority performance and decision-making

Public procurement

12. Ensuring all client departments and regulators execute projects based on the recommendation of technical departments

13. Creating accountability and transparency in defining the power of ministers as stipulated in legal provisions, especially in procurement and the financial system

14. Introduction of standard clauses in undertakings of project procurement to protect the government’s interest in projects and contracts

Legal and judicial

15. Promoting clear separation of powers and impartiality

16. Prioritisation for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are trained or experienced in such cases


Law enforcement

17. Integration of relevant agencies for better border control

18. Improving the existing foreign workers’ centralised management system

19. Transforming the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) into the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to address misconducts among members of the Royal Malaysia Police

20. Introduction of a new provision in the MACC Act for offences against any commercial organisation or person selling off a government project or tender to another party for monetary gains without undertaking the project or tender

Corporate governance

21. Introduction of the integrity vetting requirement as a selection criterion of top management positions in statutory bodies, SOEs and CLBGs

22. Imposition of a conditional approach on the purpose and utilisation of funds provided by the government to all statutory bodies, SOEs and CLBGs

Source: National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023

 

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Corruptions, Conflict of interests, politicians and Malaysian bloated civil service

Ministers may face conflict of interest, says Tunku Abdul Aziz: 

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers”

 

‘With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

‘To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and Britain (1:118).’

To keep graft in check, politicians should not be appointed to run government-linked companies, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission advisory board chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim (pic).

He said politicians holding GLC positions may face conflict of interest leading to abuse of power and responsibility.

In an interview with Bernama, he said: “Many appointments are made for political reasons. If you are appointed to a position with unanimous power, there are decisions you have to make on a daily basis, weekly, monthly and whatever.

“And in making these decisions, there will be some demands made on you because of your connections, your relatives, your friends and also your cronies.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said this trend of abusing power because of conflict of interest has been happening since long ago, and may be stopped if the appointment for a top post in a GLC was conducted with “proper selection and screening”.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said the selection process must include going through the candidate’s background and track record.

He said there were always people out there who wanted special treatment, to have the advantage over their competitors.

“They don’t care how it is done (as long as they get the job)… This is where corruption starts.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said that proper recruitment procedures and techniques could help achieve transparency and accountability, which are essential for top management.

“We can make corruption unprofitable business by making it more difficult to put your hand in the till.”

He believes that corruption is now taking place at the operating level.

“Ministers cannot sign or award contracts. But directors in some departments can do it. This is where abuse of power takes place,” he said.

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers (in awarding contracts),” he said.

He noted that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was now catching a lot more “big fish” than before the appointment of Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad as the new head in July last year.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said MACC was a dedicated highly professional team focusing on the root causes of corruption while catching the crooks.

— BERNAMA

 

Time to trim the civil service

FINALLY, the Government has itself described the civil service as bloated.

To his credit, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani openly and honestly stated that the civil service, although bloated, will not be reduced but will instead be made to multi-task to improve productivity. This statement is serious but also worrisome.

We now have one civil servant serving 19.37 people. The ratio is 1:110 for Indonesia, 1:108 for China, and 1:50 for South Korea. We won’t compare ourselves to the low ratio of 1:71.4 in Singapore because it’s a small island with hardly any rural population.

But why is our civil service so bloated? Firstly, we recruited rapidly to give jobs to the boys when the output from the education system expanded. We even had an “Isi Penuh” programme at one time. That is we rushed to create jobs and filled them fast!

Secondly, unlike the private sector, we rarely retrench staff even in bad times. We hardly sack anyone for inefficiency and even wastage of public funds.

Thirdly, the civil service has become a sacred cow that has to be handled gingerly for fear of reaction against the federal and state governments at the ballot box!

Life is relatively comfortable especially at the lower levels of the civil service. Salaries are better than before, pensions are secure, health provisions are generous, and the drive to be more productive is soft. In fact, there is now a strong manja-manja attitude towards civil servants.

The demand to join the civil service is high but the supply of jobs is slowing down considerably.

The Government should decide to reduce the size of the civil service to prevent the strain on the budget deficits, especially in the future.

Salary and pension bills are going up whereas productivity is not publicly perceived to be improving. Those who deal with civil servants often tell us more about the undue delays, corruption and “tidak apa” or lackadaisical attitude shown on the ground towards the public.

The Government should appoint a high-level task force, if not a royal commission, to examine ways and means of trimming the civil service to an efficient and reasonable size.

To start with, the Government should revise its stand on not reducing “the 1.6 million strong bloated civil service.” If it finds it difficult to reduce the civil service, then please freeze recruitment or make it more sparing and definitely more selective. Please go for more quality rather than quantity!

The civil service is huge because the public sector has been designed to be inordinately large. This has evolved because the private sector has been denied and deprived of greater opportunities to serve the public.

There are many government services, facilities and works and supplies that can be provided more efficiently by the business sector. In fact, this could be the way forward for more bumiputra contractors and other races to participate more actively and competitively to serve our society better.

The cost of maintaining the civil service, at RM74bil in 2016 for salaries and allowances, is not sustainable.

The pension bill of RM19bil per annum, without any contribution to the GDP by retirees, is also unbearable in the longer term. At the same time, according to Johari, revenue from palm oil and other commodities have been falling drastically. So where do we go from here?

It is basic economic and financial logic that we cannot afford to cope with rising salary expenditure and lower revenue. It is much more difficult to raise revenue than to cut expenditure.

The Government has said that our fundamentals are strong. Indeed, they are reasonably healthy at this time. But at this rate of a growing civil service that is now acknowledged as bloated, we cannot afford to assume that the economic and financial fundamentals can continue to be strong for much longer.

My appeal then is for Government to more actively seek to reduce the size of the civil service and to act without undue delay. Our good economic fundamentals are being seriously threatened and we must preserve and protect them from further risks.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM , Chairman Asli Center of Public Policy Studies

An effective civil service does not burden Govt

Civil Servants

IN a recent interview with a vernacular newspaper, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani brought up a matter that is seldom highlighted publicly – the size of the Malaysian public sector.

He said the country’s 1.6 million government employees formed “the world’s largest proportion of civil service”.

With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and Britain (1:118).

Johari was making the point that a major challenge for the Government was the rising costs of running the public service system.

This is particularly tough when there is a decline in the taxes and other receipts collected from the oil and gas and palm oil industries.

However, he added that there were no plans to reduce the civil service head count.

The minister has won praise for bringing attention to an issue that many have long felt deserves public awareness and discussion.

Emoluments are by far the biggest component of the Government’s operating expenditure, and that cost has kept expanding.

Back in 2006, emoluments totalling RM28.5bil made up 26.5% of the operating expenditure. A decade later, the percentage is estimated to be 35.7%. To pay its employees this year, the Government has allocated RM77.4bil, which is 36% of the budgeted operating expenditure.

And let us not forget the retired civil servants. According to the Public Services Department, there were 739,000 public service pensioners in 2015, and every year, 23,000 people join this group.

In 2010, the Government spent RM11.5bil on pensions and gratuities, accounting for 7.6% of the operating expenditure. In the Budget 2017, retirement charges will come to RM21.8bil, about 10% of operating expenditure.

Although Johari did not appear to use the phrase in the interview, others were quick to talk about the “bloated civil service”.

It should be pointed out that measuring and comparing the sizes of the public sector can be tricky and misleading. There are different ways of defining a civil servant. And the width and depth of a public service system is very much determined by the country’s prosperity and policies.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development looks at public sector employment as a percentage of total employment. In 2013, the average among its members was slightly above 19%.

In Malaysia, civil servants represent 10.8% of our labour force. Perhaps, the public sector is not bloated after all.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that the number of government employees is growing faster than the country’s labour force.

But we cannot discuss quantity and ignore quality. The issue here is not about how large our public service system is; it is whether the system is larger than necessary.

No matter how big, the numbers make sense if they yield excellent results and lead to robust revenue growth.

At a time when the Government is pushing hard in areas such as innovation, productivity and good governance, the civil service ought to lead by example.

There are already ongoing efforts to transform public service in Malaysia and surely the hope is that these initiatives will result in greater transparency and accountability, enhanced competitiveness, and a high-performance culture,

What is also absolutely clear to us is that the Government’s financial obligations are increasingly heavy, and much of this has to do with the emoluments and pensions it pays.

It is realistic to expect the Government to be more prudent in its hiring of new employees. It cannot afford to be the country’s default employer and young people are wrong to blame the Government if there are no civil service vacancies for them to fill.

The public sector’s primary role is to serve the country’s needs effectively and efficiently. It cannot do that if it is a burden to the Government and ultimately the people. -The Star Says

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Bloated civil sevice in Malaysia must cut down the size and salaries

 
The Malaysian government can make further spending cuts if it reduces the size of its “bloated” civil service, an economist said. File picture shows Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi meeting civil servants during a Workers’ Day gathering in Penang. May 5, 2015. — Picture by KE Ooi: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/economist-putrajaya-can-tighten-spending-further-by-trimming-bloated-civil

Economist says there is need to cut down further on emoluments

<< Rosario: ‘The size of the Malaysian civil service is that there are five civil servants for every 100 people.’

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has to eventually deal with the issue of the bloated civil service to avoid repercussions later on, said Deutsche Bank’s economist Diana Rose del Rosario.

“Operating expenditure accounts for at least 80% of total expenditure (in the budget) and a big part of it comes from emoluments which account for 26% of total operating expenditure,” Rosario said at the Budgetary Priorities in a Challenging Economic Environment forum hereyesterday.

“The government has actually already tightened spending in this area: it used to grow around 10% year on year between 2010 and 2014. Growth here has since fallen to 5% year on year in 2016 to 2017.

“Success has been there in terms of tightening this area but there remains a great need to (further) cut down on emoluments,” she added.

Rosario said that the bloated size of the civil service in the country is much higher than the average in the Asean region.

“The size of the Malaysian civil service is that there are five civil servants for every 100 people. This is a lot higher than the average in the civil service of the rest of the region with an (average) of around two for every 100 people,” she said.

“There is an urgent need for this government if it continues in the path of fiscal consolidation to strive for a lean and efficient public service,” she added.

Rosario also said that there may be some “upward pressure” from debt service payments under the emoluments section of the expenditure as interest rates are poised to rise due to the stance taken by the US Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, she also said that the retirement pension charges that are poised to rise by 15% next year should be looked at from a wider perspective.

“Although we are not worried that it is driven by a surge in retirees, but if you look at the pace of growth in the younger population the labour force as projected by the United Nations – the younger ones are expected to decelerate at a sustained deceleration in the next five years,” she said.

“This does not bode well for tax collection or domestic demand. There is a need then to boost wages through a boost in productivity to facilitate domestic demand and tax collections,” Rosario said.

At the same event, secretary-general of the Treasury Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar said contingent liabilities by the government are backed by sound assets and companies.

“There may be some pressure by contingent liabilities by the government but those entities that the government provides guarantees for are all strong and credible ones which can pay off their dues.

For example, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Prasarana and MRTcorp (have borrowed) for their big capital items,” he said.

“Although there is pressure but there is no worry in terms of default,” Irwan said.

Commenting also on the issue on jobless graduates and productivity, Irwan said that universities in Malaysia should supply manpower for what is needed for the industries in Malaysia.

“Some of the industries are too reliant on foreign workers.

“We can’t change this overnight and we need more technology here. We should not have universities which do not provide for certain industries that are in demand,” he said.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

Bloated Malaysia Civil Service Presents Headache for Najib

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Photographer: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

Public workforce large relative to other Asian peers

Civil servants indispensable support base for Najib’s party

Malaysian Nor Mohamad loved her job with a major Western tech company. But she gave it up after two years, tired of bickering with her parents who felt she’d be better off in the public service.

“It’s boring but stable,” said the master’s degree holder, who is in her thirties and asked not to be fully identified, citing government policy. “Even though I’m not so in love with the job, I’m thankful that in this economic situation there’s no bad impact to my career.”

Malaysia’s civil service employs 1.6 million people, or about 11 percent of the labor force. The jobs provide stability and security, including for ethnic Malays who are the majority of the population. Now the bloated bureaucracy presents a challenge to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib, whose ruling coalition Barisan Nasional has been in power for nearly 60 years with the help of the Malay vote, has pledged to gradually narrow a budget deficit the country has been running since the Asian financial crisis. The commodity-driven $296-billion economy is expected to grow at the slowest pace in seven years in 2016, with lower oil prices eating into revenue.

But trimming the public workforce to improve the government’s coffers is difficult. While Najib has survived a year of political turmoil over funding scandals, he needs the support of Malays to win the next election due by 2018. His party, the United Malays National Organisation, has for decades propagated policies that provide favorable access to education, jobs and housing for Malays and indigenous people, known collectively as Bumiputeras.

“The civil service in Malaysia is intricately jived in with the ethnic policies” of the government, said Jayant Menon, an economist at the Asian Development Bank. “This is a form of ensuring not just employment, but relatively attractive employment.”

About 79 percent of the civil service was made up of Malays as of the end of 2014, with over 11 percent from indigenous Bumiputera groups, the official Bernama news agency reported in March 2015, citing a government minister. About 5.2 percent of public servants were Chinese and 4.1 percent were Indian.

Malaysia’s civil service relative to population is large, at more than double the average in the Asia-Pacific region by some measures, according to Menon. The cost of maintaining it is draining resources at a time government revenues are falling.

Salaries, pensions and gratuities account for about a third of the budget every year, the biggest expenditure item. The government doesn’t regularly publish data on the size of the public service.

Najib has weathered a year of graft allegations over hundreds of millions of dollars that appeared in his personal bank accounts before the last election in 2013, with the claims putting some pressure on his leadership. He denies wrongdoing and was cleared by the country’s attorney-general earlier this year.

Najib’s office didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the civil service. The office of the chief secretary to the government also did not reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Malaysian officials have previously defended the size of the civil service, which includes teachers, doctors, soldiers and police. Idris Jala, then-minister in the Prime Minister’s office, said in 2014 that it wasn’t bloated even though it could be made more efficient to save the government money.

Najib’s government spent 1.1 billion ringgit ($275 million) to raise salaries for civil servants last month — the biggest rise since 2013 — and increased their minimum starting pay to 1,200 ringgit a month. Like in previous years, public employees received a 500 ringgit special allowance just before the Eid al-Fitr holidays in July, a celebration marking the end of the Muslim fasting month.

‘Support Base’

“The civil service forms an important support base for the government and can usually be counted upon to show up and vote for the ruling party during elections,” said Chia Shuhui, an Asia analyst at BMI Research in Singapore. “The government is not going to cut benefits to their support base, and therefore it is unlikely to make significant changes in terms of its expenditure on the civil service.”

The government has been taking steps to streamline the civil service and improve the efficiency of the public sector as part of its long-term efforts, Chia said.

Given that nothing much could be done to the civil service because of political and ethnic sensitivities, the government should focus on cutting its business exposure through the government-linked corporation divestment program to increase revenue, the ADB’s Menon said.

While UMNO has worked to retain Malay voters, the opposition has also sought to support the bureaucracy. The opposition-controlled Selangor state government pledged a 1.5 month bonus to its civil servants to mark Eid.

In neighboring Thailand, the ruling junta gave the nation’s two million civil servants and soldiers a four percent salary increase in December 2014 at an expected cost of 22.9 billion baht ($659 million). Many civil servants took part in anti-government protests that led to the May 2014 military coup and the junta has since emphasized the need to give bureaucrats greater power over elected officials.

“Civil servants are indeed an indispensable support base for Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO specifically,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Hence the need to constantly improve their welfare.”

By Pooi Koon Chong Bloomberg

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Call on the Government to downsize the country’s bloated civil service

Sheriff: ‘Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy

KUALA LUMPUR: One of Malaysia’s former top civil servants has called on the Government to consider downsizing the country’s bloated civil service, while it still can.

Malaysia has the highest civil servants to population ratio in the Asia-Pacific, employing 1.6 million people or 11% of the country’s labour force.

And that could be a problem Malaysia may not be able to sustain if it runs into a financial crisis, said Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, the former Finance Ministry secretary-general and Economic Planning Unit director-general.

He said if the Government was really set on keeping the national deficit at 3%, it needed to look at retrenching employees, particularly in the lower levels of the civil service, to cut spending.

“Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy. There are just too many rules and regulations that the public and private sector have to live with,” he told a delegation of economists, politicians and government officials at the Malaysian Economic Association’s forum on public sector governance.

He advised Malaysia to begin downsizing the civil service, “better sooner than later” if it wanted to avoid running the risk of falling into a Greece-like crisis, where the European country had to cut salaries and was unable to pay pensions for its civil service.

Drawing examples from the recent Malaysia Airlines restructuring, where 6,000 people were retrenched, Mohd Sheriff said it was better to let staff go now and compensate them with retrenchment packages while the Government can still afford it.

“It may cost the Government a heavy expenditure now but it is worthwhile to do it now while we can still afford it and not until we are forced into a financial crisis like Greece.

“We don’t want to be in that situation. I think we should do it gradually. It is kinder to do it now with incentives than to suddenly cut their salaries and pensions at a time when they can least afford it,” he said.

Malaysia is expected to spend RM76bil in salaries and allowances for the civil service this year, on top of another RM21bil for pensions. Efficiency and corruption dominated talks on the civil service at the forum, held at Bank Negara’s Sasana Kijang.

Mohd Sheriff, who is also former president of the Malaysian Economic Association, said these issues have been around since his time in the civil service decades ago though not much has changed due to a lack of political will.

In jest, he suggested Malaysia emulate United States President Donald Trump’s idea on downsizing the US civil service by closing down two departments of the Government if it wanted to open another one.

He also suggested that Parliament create a committee to monitor the performance of top civil servants and give them the ability to retrench these officers if they fail to meet their marks.

“In many countries, even Indonesia, they have committees to hold Government leaders to any shortcomings on policy implementations and projects.

“These are the kinds of checks and balance we need to make our civil servants aware that they are being monitored for their work and they can be pulled out at any time,” he said.

Finance Minister II Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani had said Malaysia’s ratio of civil servants is one to 19.37 civilians and that the high number of Government staff had caused expenditures to balloon yearly.

As a comparison, the ratio in Indonesia is 1:110, in China it is 1:108, in Singapore it’s 1:71.4 and in South Korea the ratio is 1:50.

Despite this, Johari said there were no plans to reduce the number of civil servants.

By Nicholas Ccheng The Star

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

New Malaysia’s civil servants must keep it civil of multi-racialism !

Brave new world: The civil service needs to get used to the New Malaysia approach while our ministers need to snap out of the Opposition mode and get down to work.

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons

by dinobeano

August 16, 2018 Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons by Dr Amar-Singh HSS http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com These Civil Servants pledge to feather their own nest We need to get rid of the culture of censuring those in the civil service who speak up when they see wrong being done. I found the courage to write this […]

Keeping it civil: The civil service makes up the backbone of any nation, yet the concept of its implementation continues to elude some of the powers that be.

IT’S often said that ministers come and go, but civil servants stay forever. And the good old government machinery runs as before, a fact some of our new ministers will probably be clued into by now.

Ministers who have no experience at state government level may have pre-conceived notions of the privileges they enjoy, like unlimited authority and knowing what they decree would suffice to overrule the bureaucrats.

And that is the biggest mistake they could make as newcomers to Putrajaya, because nothing exemplifies shooting oneself in the foot more than putting down civil servants – they run the ministries, after all.

Making its rounds on the grapevine these days is how some ministers put down their secretaries-general at meetings, believing they know better, or quite possibly, that they can do a better job at improving the performance of their charges.

Some of our ministers were probably not born when British sitcom Yes, Minister (which later became Yes, Prime Minister) aired on BBC Two, and on RTM, from 1980 to 1984.

Set principally in the private office of a British Cabinet Minister in the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in Whitehall, it follows the ministerial career of the Right Honourable Jim Hacker.

In it, he attempts, or rather, struggles to formulate and enact laws or effect departmental changes and meets with resistance from the civil service, in particularly his Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby.

The obstructions (sabotages, some would say) were often carried out so deftly that the minister would often rarely know what hit him or possess a trail of evidence to prove insubordination.

In fact, the delays (such as total rejection of policy) were cited to impress upon the minster that the shenanigans were for the benefit of his political mileage.

But of course, the sitcom was totally fictional and in real life, not all civil servants could get away like that.

Respected banker and commentator Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid wrote that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had put together a Cabinet with a mix of races and genders, and a range of ages, which is unprecedented in the political governance of our country. However, except for a handful of ministers, the Cabinet falls short on experience.

Dr Munir urged Pakatan ministers to get out of “Opposition mode” so they can function and deliver with all the advice and support available.

“They would need to get the government machinery – the civil service – to implement their decisions effectively.

“Here, there is another problem. The largely Malay civil service is not used to having political masters committed to a multi-racial Malaysia and a no-nonsense regime,” he wrote.

That simply means our ministers, who have been used to merely delivering fiery speeches, now need to roll up their sleeves and get down to work and show the fruits of their labour. They can only blame the ills and corruption of the previous government to an extent.

A few ministers, and even the Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, must now grapple with all the documents being in Bahasa Malaysia, unlike in the private sector where the medium of communication is English.

Their staff would most likely be entirely Malay, except for their aides, who are political appointees. Directives would be issued in an entirely different way, obviously reflected by the work culture and style of communication.

That is just how the civil service works, so, they simply need get used to it. Of course, stories of all this being a culture shock for some have surfaced recently.

Dr Munir reminded that “there is still some way to go to arrive at a New Malaysia in terms of multi-racialism. After two generations of ‘Malay First’ and subsequently ‘Malay and Muslim First’ political ethic, there is a mountain to climb to make it New Malaysia.”

The reality is that about 75% of the Malay electorate in GE14 voted for Umno or PAS, in comparison to 95% of the Chinese voters who voted for Pakatan Harapan (an increase from the 85% who supported the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat coalition in 2013). About 70% – 75% of Indians voted for PH, the figures show.

It has been reported that only 25% – 30% of Malays voted for PH, according to figures from Merdeka Centre. Apparently, 35% – 40% of Malays voted for Barisan Nasional while 30% – 33% supported PAS.

The findings displayed that although a higher percentage of Malays voted for Pakatan Harapan in Johor and in west coast states such as Melaka and Negri Sembilan, the coalition’s overall Malay support was diminished by its weak performance in Kelantan and Terengganu.

It’s no secret that as the new government reaches its 100-day mark, some ministers are still struggling to assemble their offices.

It’s just as well that some have yet to meet the press or make statements, because they are still learning to juggle the workload as others continue their scramble to find the ideal personnel.

The job has been so overwhelming that they have been unable to meet their key officers to solidify plans and directions.

With no appointments in sight, some staff are wondering if they are being snubbed, or simply that the ministers are too busy with other engagements. It doesn’t help that they don’t even reply messages.

But the civil service needs to accept that this is New Malaysia. There is no turning back. The culture of openness, accountability, engagement and success must take centre stage, with any form of prejudice left by the wayside.

The strategy of using race and religion to stir emotions seems hollow now.

Millions of ringgit were stolen from the people by those in power, and as the facts have revealed, they weren’t Chinese, Indians or Christians, contrary to what these politicians still want the Malays to believe.

And certainly, the civil servants who sniffed out the moral decay under their very noses knew exactly what was happening.

Clean, trustworthy and competent ministers, and a loyal, non-corrupt and efficient civil service will make Malaysia great.

After all, as the saying goes, it doesn’t matter what colour the cat is, as long it catches the mice.

In this context, what’s important is surely them being good Malaysians.

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star

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The price we pay to axe East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


KUALA LUMPUR: Loss of jobs, harm to diplomatic ties with China, damage to the economy plus a RM20bil compensation are awaiting Malaysia if the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is cancelled.

The billion ringgit 688km long track linking Selangor, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan is already 20% completed, says MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong on the trail of potential damage if the project set for completion in 2024 is axed now.

The Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament who issued an open letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet Ministers on the matter, said he earnestly hoped the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing the project.

The ECRL project whose construction contract was awarded to China Communications, Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and financed by China is a hot topic in the past few days, and its fate is expected to be made known officia­lly this week.

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will be “impoverished” if the government proceeds with the ECRL project.

While not confirming that the project has been scrapped, Dr Mahathir said paying compensation is cheaper than bearing the cost of the project.

Below is Dr Wee’s letter in full:

An open letter to YAB Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers

The cancellation of the ECRL project and the bickering between two Cabinet ministers over the issue has become the talk of the town. I foresee this issue to be a hot topic in the Cabinet meeting this Wednesday (Jan 30).

Whether the cancellation of ECRL was discussed in previous Cabinet meetings or not, I earnestly hope the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing this project.

Take a moment to consider factors such as the friendship between the people of both countries, jobs and economy, diplomatic ties and the reputation of Malaysia.

On the bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, I can safely say that putting a stop to the ECRL project will harm the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China.

If we put ourselves in China’s shoes, we will surely respond negatively as well if our overseas investment is treated as such.

A nightmare looms should China take any retaliatory action, such as reduce or even halt the import of commodities (palm oil in particular) from us.

If that happens, Felda, Sime Darby and other big corporations will be the first to feel the heat.

The livelihood of some 650,000 smallholders and their families will be directly affected.

From the economic perspective, the ECRL project is likely to boost the GDP growth of three east coast states by 1.5%.

It will also spur the development of the east coast, enhance connectivity between the east and west coast, and close the economic divide between the two coasts.

Through bridging the rural-urban divide, the overall development of Malaysia will be more balanced and comprehensive.

The rail link is 20% completed, with several tens of billions paid to the contractor.

On top of that, Malaysia will be penalised for cancelling the RM30bil loan from the EXIM Bank of China.

We will have to repay the loan and compensation within a short period of time.

From my experience in administering engineering projects, any breach of contract will result in a hefty penalty. The compensation for cancelling ECRL could reach RM20bil.

Financial losses aside, scrapping the ECRL will also bring a negative impact to Malaysia’s reputation in the international arena and erode Malaysia’s trustworthiness.

Judging from my past experience dealing with China and its officials, as well as the friendly gestures displayed by China so far, I can conclude that China is willing to achieve a win-win solution instead of situation where both sides lose out.

The Malaysian government can consider restructuring the project timeline or reducing the project scale, which are alternatives that work in Malaysia’s favour while maintaining the amicable ties between Malaysia and China.

The government should also keep the small and medium enterprises in mind.

Business owners in 150 related industries, including tens of thousands of contractors who have taken a loan to purchase equipment, will suffer greatly should ECRL be cancelled.

China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, with bilateral trade figures reaching US$100bil. Business linkages and people-to-people exchanges have also flourished over the years.

Products such as palm oil, bird’s nest, Musang King, white coffee, etc, are exported to China, while people from both countries visit each other for vacations and academic exchanges, benefitting Malaysians of all races.

All these have contributed to the income of various communities and brought in foreign exchange earnings for the country.

It takes years to build a bilateral relationship, and only seconds to destroy it.

The Malaysian government should appreciate our friendship with China and try its best to achieve mutual benefits and common prosperity with China.

Prioritise the economy and the livelihood of the people, and put an end to the political game to discredit your opponents.

For the sake of the people in the east coast as well as the whole of Malaysia, the government should not cancel the ECRL project.- The Star

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China demands U.S. to drop Huawei exec’s extradition as the latter don’t have law on their side


https://youtu.be/yqodKOkWRYQ

Huawei CFO has strong arguments in extradition case: Canadian diplomat

 FM urges Canada to make right choice 

China urged Canada to “make the right choice” on Thursday, after Canada’s ambassador to China John McCallum reportedly said the Huawei executive arrested in Vancouver at the request of the US has a strong case to fight extradition.

“Any one with normal judgment can see the nature of the incident, and we hope the Canadian side makes the right choice and not to ‘pull someone’s chestnuts out of the fire,'” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing on Thursday.

Hua’s remark comes after McCallum told reporters earlier this week that Huawei’s chief finance officer Meng Wanzhou has a “strong case” to fight an extradition request.

“I think she has quite good arguments on her side,” said McCallum, CNN reported.

“One, political involvement by comments from US President Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case; and three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions which are involved in her case, and Canada did not sign on to these sanctions.”

Echoing McCallum, Huang Feng, director of Beijing Normal University’s Institute for International Criminal Law, noted that the US extradition request has no merit as it does not follow the basic extradition principle of double criminality.

Double criminality states that a suspect could be extradited only if similar laws one breaks exist in the extraditing country. However, Canada has no such sanctions, said Huang.

Analysts stressed that even if the US files an extradition request at the last minute, it does not mean Meng would be extradited to the US, noting that every side has to weight their choice.

Such a request has to be reviewed and approved by Canada’s judicial department and local court, and though Canada’s judicial departments are unlikely to refuse the extradition, Huawei’s legal teams could exhaust every means of judicial remedy in Canada to stop the extradition.

The US government alleges that Meng helped Huawei dodge US sanctions on Iran and has indicated it will file a formal extradition request by the January 30 deadline, CNN reported Thursday.

Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Center for American Studies, told the Global Times that if Canada does agree to extradite Meng to the US in the worst scenario, bilateral ties will face unprecedented challenges.

The extradition will cause “downgraded diplomatic relations” between China and Canada, Wu said.

It will set a precedent of enterprises facing the harshest legal punishment for alleged misconduct they are charged of in a foreign country, said Wu.

US enterprises may face similar consequences in China, he said.

The current status of China-Canada relations does have a huge impact on bilateral exchanges and cooperation, but China is not responsible for that, Hua said.

The Canadian side has to take China’s concerns seriously and correct its mistakes to change the situation, she said.

US extradition mirrors Iran sanctions: just don’t have law on their side’ on Huawei case 

The US request to extradite Huaiwei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou goes against international law and mirrors its unilateral sanctions on Iran, which is opposed by the international community, Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

The US extradition request mirrors US sanctions on Iran. However, as everyone knows, Huawei has repeatedly stated its compliance with all applicable laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates, said Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hua noted that China opposes unilateral US sanctions against Iran outside the UN Security Council framework. The sanctions are not in conformity with international law and have met with international opposition, including US ally Canada,she said.

Hua’s comments came after the US Justice Department said on Tuesday it would continue to pursue the extradition of Meng and would meet all deadlines set by the US-Canada Extradition Treaty, Reuters reported, citing a statement released by US Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi.

Huang Feng, director of Beijing Normal University’s Institute for International Criminal Law, told the Global Times this accusation is farfetched because she was allegedly accused of bank fraud at HSBC, a UK-based banking giant, not a US one, and Meng’s activities were outside the US.

Canada’s Department of Justice said an individual can be extradited if the alleged activity in question is recognized as a criminal in both countries.

Huang said that the extradition request cannot be passed by Canada unless the US offers solid evidence to prove that Meng violated the laws of Canada and the US.

The US action goes against international law and is unjustified, said Hua, noting that it is part of the country’s political agenda to bully Chinese hi-tech firms and contain China’s rightful development.

Huang also noted he found it strange that the Canadian ambassador announced the US request before the US formally send its extradition request. “Normally, none would publish relevant information unless it’s formalized. So it seems like Canada is bluffing.”

Ren Zhengfei, Meng’s father and Huawei founder, said in an interview with foreign media on January 15, “I trust that the legal systems of Canada and the United States are open, just, and fair, and will reach a just conclusion,” Ren said, according to a transcript Huawei released to media.

Meng case to further complicate China-Canada-US ties

Editor’s Note:

The US has reportedly said to formally seek extradition of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Since Meng was arrested on December 1 in Vancouver, the deadline for the US to file a formal extradition request is 30 January, 60 days after the arrest. What is the implication of Washington’s move? How will it influence China-US-Canada relations? Global Times sought the opinion of two experts on the issue.

Li Haidong, professor with the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University

US President Donald Trump has been deeply troubled by the government shutdown and the Russiagate investigation

As the deadline nears, Washington may be too busy coping with the shutdown chaos to consider Meng’s case and make the formal extradition request. Ottawa is urging Washington to take the action.

Extradition is a strict cooperative law enforcement process between two jurisdictions. The US’ filing a request does not mean that Canada must immediately send Meng to the US. Canada has to conduct a judicial review procedure to weigh the request, during which Meng’s appeal will also be taken into account.

At least in the legal sense, if Meng’s appeal is credible and convincing enough, there is a good chance that Ottawa would hesitate to transfer her to Washington.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that Meng’s case is political in the garb of a legal procedure. If law is the only factor to be considered, I believe Meng will win the lawsuit; but when the political factors come into play, there would be increased uncertainty.

Meng’s case is a long-running battle. As long as it is not resolved, it would be tough to iron out China-US-Canada relations.

Washington is unwilling to see any of its allies strengthening relations with Beijing, but China-Canada ties should not be affected by the Meng incident. Canada should abandon its role as a US puppet to sully China’s image. The right thing for Ottawa to do is to immediately correct the mistake.

Chen Hongqiao, researcher at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies

Washington tends to make important decisions at the eleventh hour. It is used to taking a wait-and-see approach toward the two or more sides of the game, and then determine what measures to take.

In Meng’s case, the US has its own strategic requirement. It needs to observe the interaction between China and Canada to make up its mind. If China takes a tough stance, the US would act prudently. If Canada requires support, the US will provide it.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the US on January 30 and 31 for the next round of US-China trade negotiations. The US may proceed to file a formal extradition request for Meng just days before Liu’s visit as a leverage to exert pressure on Beijing to pursue its interests in the trade talks. But the US side will not bring it up during the negotiations with Beijing.

According to Reuters, US President Donald Trump stated he would intervene in the Justice Department case against Meng if it is in US national security interest and US-China trade talks. His words signal that before Meng is extradited, he could apply the president’s diplomatic prerogative to intervene. The US has a system of separation of powers and its judiciary branch is independent. If Meng is extradited to the US, it would be difficult for Trump to exercise his influence.

Canada claims to be a country with the rule of law, and will deal with the US request based on laws and will not hand over Meng without careful consideration. In fact, Ottawa has been disappointed with Washington, complaining that the US is competing with China at the expense of Canada. On the surface, Meng’s incident is a legal issue, but politics and diplomacy play an important role.

Prepare for protracted game over Meng

The US Department of Justice confirmed on Tuesday that it will “meet all deadlines” to seek extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, signaling an extraordinarily high probability of the US filing a formal extradition request before January 30.

Washington’s move will undoubtedly further intensify the dispute between the US and China over Meng’s case. China must not bear any illusion and should prepare for more complicated games.

The Chinese government and media should continue to disclose and condemn that Washington and Ottawa have violated the basic legal spirit. Their sophistry must bear diplomatic and public pressure, and not to be left unimpeded in the international arena, as if Huawei did commit serious crimes.

Arresting Meng is obviously part of the US actions to crack down on Huawei. Anyone with a brain can clearly see Washington’s intention to stop rising Chinese high-tech companies in the name of the law.

One thing should be made very clear: If Ottawa successfully assists Washington in the extradition of Meng, Beijing will retaliate against both of them without doubt.

The US’ official request for extradition does not mean an immediate transfer of Meng. The Canadian court will then have a month to hear the US evidence and weigh the request before making judgment. Meng can also defend herself and appeal. This process may last a few months, or even years.

As a private company, Huawei is incapable of confronting the US and Canada’s national system, but it can do its best to prolong the extradition process at most.

There has been a political purpose from the very beginning when news of Meng’s case broke. Since Washington and Ottawa have vowed to declare that this is a 100 percent legal procedure, this political persecution must be strictly tested by their legal system.

Ottawa is stuck in the middle of Washington and Beijing, and involved in the whirlpool of geopolitical disputes. Being a US puppet is not easy. Canada may realize that it bears the blame for its ally. Its emphasis on acting by law is only a self-spiritual support in the current predicament.

Canadian public opinion is sensitive to any evidence of political persecution in this case, which can provide a potential favorable factor for Meng’s defense and appeal.

Canada is a legal state under normal circumstances, and especially attaches importance to procedures and evidence. Although disguised as legal procedure, Meng’s case, a case of injustice, is bound to have loopholes. Huawei has already shown its confidence in the upcoming litigation process.

China-US ties may also undergo certain subtle changes at any time which might dilute US political motives for persecuting Meng. We should never abandon such hope.

Meng’s case has set an execrable precedent. Beijing’s reaction will shape the world’s understanding of China’s national strength and will. Beijing must not be furious or cowardly.

We should take corresponding actions step by step in resolute and orderly manner, and show the world that Chinese are with reason and with restraint.

Any countries and forces that persecute Chinese citizens and infringe on China’s interests will pay a heavy price. Global Times

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Ottawa is now as sensitive as a frightened bird. A few words by the ambassador should not have posed any impact on court decisions. Nonetheless, judging from the reactions of many politicians and journalists in Canada, McCallum’s remarks are like a dreadful monster.

 Canadian envoy’s apology shows ‘political correctness’ subverts rule of law

Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum admitted on Thursday that he misspoke on the case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by suggesting that she had a strong case to fight extradition to the US.

5G competition a new arms race?

It’s hard to accurately understand the potential of 5G technology and its significance nowadays. More imagination should be encouraged. However, referring to 5G competition as an arms race and attaching so much importance to the dominance of the technology is typical American thinking.

Huawei unveils core 5G chipset, secured 30 5G commercial contracts worldwide 

China’s Huawei Technologies launched the world’s first core chip specifically designed for 5G base stations on Thursday in Beijing, securing its leading position for 5G deployments in spite of political pressure.

The Point: Is a Chinese-made subway new victim of espionage hysteria?

https://youtu.be/WbsOkFUXhD0

Malaysian Securities Commission to weed out virtual scams


SC innovation, digital and strategy executive director Chin Wei Min said those who have identified themselves to the commission can operate up to March 1. “Even if they don’t want to be in this business anymore, whatever they are holding, whether it’s money, crypto assets or digital assets, should be returned to their clients. Otherwise, we will take action.
KUALA LUMPUR: All companies engaging in digital assets will have to make themselves known to the Securities Commission (SC) by Friday, even if they have decided not to carry on once the regulatory framework comes into force.

This includes operators who are not registered with Bank Negara under the anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism – digital currencies (sector six) and those operating “underground”.

The SC will reserve the right to take action against those who fail to identify themselves by Friday on grounds of breaching the securities law.

SC innovation, digital and strategy executive director Chin Wei Min said those who have identified themselves to the commission can operate up to March 1.

“Even if they don’t want to be in this business anymore, whatever they are holding, whether it’s money, crypto assets or digital assets, should be returned to their clients. Otherwise, we will take action.

“The reason we also allow people to continue with their withdrawals and sell down is to ensure that there is an orderly market.

“The last thing we want is to cause confusion, and hopefully, there are no untoward fraudulent activities that people will capitalise on in this transition period and take advantage of investors,” he told a media briefing here yesterday.

While the regulation does not affect operators who are not incorporated in Malaysia, the SC can still take action against them under the Capital Markets and Services Act 2007 if the products are marketed, sold, or its operations exist in Malaysia.

Operators who identify themselves to the SC must state their intent, whether they want to resume their activities, of which certain obligations have to be met, or whether they want to wind down their business.

The SC will put up a list of operators and companies that have registered and received a letter from the commission for investors to check if their monies are with legitimate sources.

Chin also reiterated that operators are not allowed to accept new investors, list new products or conduct any sales and marketing activities during this period.

A statement by the SC last Thursday said platform operators would not be allowed to accept new investors and are only allowed to facilitate the withdrawal or transfer of client assets with the written instruction of investors.

They are also not allowed to conduct any initial coin offerings (ICOs) without prior authorisation.

Chin called on all ongoing ICOs to cease activities and the monies or digital assets to be returned to investors until the operators apply for authorisation and after they understand the SC requirements.

The guidelines are expected to be released by the end of the first quarter this year.

“If you are looking at the ones that are out there currently, the standards of the white paper are of low quality. It is important that this falls under regulated activity.

“We recognise that this is an alternative fundraising avenue. The idea here is to allow us to take out all the scams and fraudulent activities and at the same time, provide a platform for our early stage entrepreneurs to raise money,” said Chin, adding that the SC did not want people to take advantage of this as investors are pumping in money on the other end.

This is a high-risk investment and Chin also hinted that there could be a certain threshold for investors.

The Capital Markets and Services (prescription of securities) (digital currency and digital token) order 2019, which kicked in last Tuesday, will see those operating unauthorised ICOs or digital asset exchanges facing up to a 10-year jail term and up to a RM10mil fine.

The Finance Ministry said it viewed digital assets as well as its underlying blockchain technologies as having the potential to bring about innovation in both old and new industries.

By royce tan The Star

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Truth be told: It’s not wrong to tell the truth


Two things could make the controversial Sedition Act fairer: It’s OK if you tell the truth, and it’s OK if you want to stop injustice.

A COUPLE of weeks ago, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad talked about the Sedition Act. He calmly explained to all Malaysians that it isn’t meant to avoid criticisms about wrongdoing, it isn’t meant to shackle whistleblowers, and it’s completely not sedition if you tell the truth.

“If you say something factual, you cannot be punished for it,” said Dr Mahathir, “But, on the other hand, if we shut the mouths of everyone, to the point that people cannot even speak up against acts of crime, then there will be injustice in the country.” (“Be clear on what insult means”, Nation, The Star, Jan 11; online at tinyurl.com/star-insult.)

Basically, it sounded like he could have been talking about anything – except the Sedition Act. Now, the Sedition Act is not unfamiliar to Pakatan Harapan. In its own manifesto, PH said that it would revoke the Sedition Act if it came to power, giving the reason that it is a law “inherited from the British colonial era without amendment to improve weaknesses”. And then after PH formed the government, it seemed to kind of casually forget this.

I have written about the Sedition Act before (“Lost in translation?”, Contradictheory, Star2, March 29, 2015; online at tinyurl.com/star-sedition). If you’re not reading this column online, here’s a summary of what I said then: I pointed out the problem that you can be guilty of sedition even if all you are doing is repeating what somebody else has said. And to top it off, it doesn’t matter if what you said was true, nor does it matter if you said it with the best of intentions. It’s like saying somebody’s dress is figure-hugging, and hearing them answer, “Are you saying I’m fat?”

It’s all there in the Act. The Act talks about whether “things” have a “seditious tendency”. These include actions, speech, words and publications, for example, and whether they influence people to feel hatred, contempt or disaffection for the Rulers or the government. Whether the “things” are true or not doesn’t matter.

The Act also says, “The intention of the person charged at the time … shall be deemed to be irrelevant”.

Why is it interpreted like that? It’s hard to say, but I think it does make it easier for the authorities to manage anti-government sentiments.

For example, it’s possible to be selective with the truth to manipulate a situation. So, technically, what somebody said might be fact, but might also be misleading.

Secondly, intent is something that can be very difficult to establish. You have to get into the mind of the accused and tease out what he or she intended by what he or she said or wrote.

For example, if all you wrote on a Facebook page is that somebody should be investigated for doing a Very Bad Thing, then you have sown the seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience. You might argue, I didn’t know it wasn’t true, I just wanted to see justice being done. What, people got upset by what I wrote? I didn’t know that would happen.

This is precisely the sort of annoying thing I have to face on social media almost every day. Somebody re-posts or retweets a rumour en masse to others with two button clicks and when you ask them why didn’t they just check it first, they shrug and say, “I just wanted people to know – just in case”.

(That’s really what we should have a law against: Indiscriminate and irresponsible retweets. The penalty would be to copy pages of Wikipedia by hand for the local library.)

But the thing is, it should be hard to put somebody in jail.

The system of justice we have now focuses on the presumption of innocence. In other words, people have to gather evidence and prove to the court that you are guilty. And people should be entitled to the best possible defence, and saying I am normally a good person who does good things should be taken into account.

Intent matters. The difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. Intent is the bedrock of whether we are kind to others because we want everyone to thrive, or because we want to later take advantage of them.

If we want to be able to prosecute people for saying hateful things that disturb society, you must show intent. Either make clear the context or show a pattern of previous behaviour. It’s the difference between an Internet troll and Karpal Singh.

The Sedition Act, in a way, does try to at least cover situations where you are trying to right a perceived wrong in society. But in a case like when artist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque) drew cartoons making fun of alleged crimes in the previous government, it is clear there is still much leeway for interpretation there.

The facts do matter. In this world where politicians more than anyone seem to believe they can skate by on allegations, people who say horrible things should be forced to stand by their words and prove them. It’s an opportunity for the truth to shine instead of hiding out.

There are many who blame the PH government for being hypocritical for not keeping its election promise and maintaining the Sedition Act. I don’t disagree.

But the fact is that Dr Mahathir touched on the two things that perhaps could potentially make the Act fairer. He said it is OK if we told the truth. And it is OK if we want to stop injustice.

And I can’t think of why any Malaysian wouldn’t want to do both.

The facts do matter. In this world where politicians more than anyone seem to believe they can skate by on allegations, people who say horrible things should be forced to stand by their words and prove them.

star2@thestar.com.my Dzof Azmi

Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions. Write to Dzof at star2@thestar.com.my.

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Contradictheory: The Truth About History Depends On Context

SC to regulate digital assets


Good move: Lim says many people have bypassed Malaysia because the policy was not clear about digital assets

Move seen to spur growth in digital currency sector

Regulatory oversight of digital currencies and tokens, which kicks in from today, offers timely clarity and transparency to various players in the fledgling industry.

Omni Capital Partners Sdn Bhd managing director Scott Lim said everything would be above board with the regulation and governance under the Securities Commission (SC).

“Digital assets in Malaysia have been underwhelmed mostly. A lot of people have been bypassing Malaysia because the policy was not clear about it.

“Certainly, now that this is regulated by the SC, it’ll be good. We shall wait for the guidelines,” he said.

Celebrus Advisory co-founder Edmund Yong said the regulation is very much welcomed and one which is needed, as it would spur growth in the industry.

Celebrus is a compliance-first blockchain consultancy firm.

He added that the statement by the Finance Ministry was very accommodative with the intention to use tokens and the recognition of it as a fund-raising tool.

“In fact, it can be an indirect source of foreign direct investment, a borderless method to raise funds.

“But from now until March 31, there will be a twilight period. Many activities will be stopped in their tracks because they don’t know where they stand.

“Some would possibly even move offshore because of the draconian RM10mil and 10-year imprisonment punishment,” said Yong.

He said digital tokens could also be for points in computer games or reward points, and it too would be quite draconian if it is all painted with the same brush.

The Capital Markets and Services (Prescription of Securities) (Digital Currency and Digital Token) Order 2019 kicks in today and any person operating unauthorised initial coin offerings (ICOs) or digital asset exchanges faces up to a 10-year jail term and up to a RM10mil fine.

Digital currencies and digital tokens are collectively known as digital assets, which will now be prescribed as securities.

The SC is putting in place relevant regulatory requirements for the issuance of ICOs and the trading of digital assets at digital asset exchanges in the country.

This is expected to be launched by the end of the first quarter this year.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the offering of such instruments, as well as its associated activities, would require authorisation from the SC and needed to comply with relevant securities law and regulations.

“The Finance Ministry views digital assets as well as its underlying blockchain technologies as having the potential to bring about innovation in both old and new industries.

“In particular, we believe digital assets have a role to play as an alternative fund-raising avenue for entrepreneurs and new businesses, and as an alternative asset class for investors,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Any person offering an ICO or operating a digital asset exchange without the SC’s approval will face an imprisonment term not exceeding 10 years and a fine not exceeding RM10mil.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad mooted the idea of the Harapan Coin last year, which would be the world’s first political fund-raising platform using blockchain and cryptocurrency technology.

In November last year, shareholders of Country Heights Holdings Bhd approved the company’s plan to conduct an ICO to issue its own cryptocurrency, called “horse currency”.

Country Heights founder and chairman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew had said that the company would like to be the first to launch cryptocurrency in the country when the regulations are ready.

The company’s plan is to eventually issue one billion horse currencies backed by RM2bil worth of physical assets held by the holding company, with an initial 300 million open to the public for circulation.

StarBizBy ROYCE TAN roycetan@thestar.com.my

Related:

 

Guan Eng: SC to regulate digital currencies starting tomorrow 

 


Securities Commission to regulate offering and trading of digital assets ..

 



SC to Regulate Offer & Trade of Digital Asset | Focus Malaysia

 


SC to regulate cryptocurrencies from tomorrow | Free Malaysia Today


 

BNM, SC say drawing up rules on digital assets | Money | Malay Mail

 

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Soil erosion mitigation plans ignored, waters from stream identified as main cause !


 

A drone picture of the collapsed beams along Jalan Tun Sardon leading to Balik Pulau on the left while Jalan Paya
Terubong on the right leads to Relau.— CHAN BOON KAI/The Star
(Above) A closer view of the collapsed beams. (Right) The affected section of the project overlooking Jalan Paya Terubong heading to Relau in the background.

https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Arqv95pp-dBiC3tzP.html

Tragic Situation: (Top) A landslide at the construction site in Jalan Bukit Kukus, Paya Terubong, caused four containers to be covered with mud – Bernama,  Closed call:(Right below) Survivors of the landslide surveying the scene

 Checks show projects did not follow SOP

GEORGE TOWN: As the search and rescue operation for seven buried foreign workers at a construction site in Paya Terubong is going on, shocking information has surfaced that not a single construction site in Penang is following the soil erosion mitigation plan stipulated in their project approvals.

The Star has learnt that the state government has launched Ops Lumpur shortly after the general election, requiring enforcement officers from the local councils to inspect and report on every construction site in all five districts in the state.

A consultant civil engineer familiar with Ops Lumpur claimed that every single construction project did not observe the soil erosion mitigation plan.

He said Ops Lumpur was overseen directly by state exco members and enforcement officers were required to visit the sites.

“Their reports shocked the state exco members. Every contractor failed to do soil erosion measures in every site.

“Now you know why streams near construction site are always yellow when it rains,” he said.

The consultant engineer said the state went after developers who claimed they were not aware and blamed the contractors.

“Civil engineers are often disgusted when they do site visits because it is common for us to see that the soil erosion mitigation plans are never followed,” he said.

The consultant said it was easy to inspect construction sites and check on the progress and questioned whether state government agencies regularly conducted scheduled and surprise visits.

“How often do they conduct spot checks? How strictly do they conduct enforcement rounds on construction sites? If we keep contractors on their toes all the time, we might not have so many landslides,” he said, referring to the latest landslide in Bukit Kukus, the site of a hillside highway from Paya Terubong to Bukit Jambul is being built.

A teh tarik-coloured stream was observed flowing between Jalan Paya Terubong and the barred entrance to the highway construction site yesterday.

It has been raining almost every day in Penang this week.

In yesterday’s incident, rescue team found one survivor and two dead bodies. At press time, seven are still missing.

The Fire and Rescue Department received a distress call about the landslide at 1.56pm.

An Indonesian worker who only wished to be known as Endo, 36, said three of his relatives from Sulawesi were trapped in the landslide and he was working in another nearby construction site.

“It rained all night (Thursday). The rain stopped at 9am (yesterday) and resumed at 1pm. At my site, all of us stayed in our quarters and didn’t work because of the rain.

“I got a call from others that my relatives are missing. So, now I’ll just wait,” he said.

Last Thursday, 14 concrete beams measuring 25m long each, crashed down from an elevated section of the highway.

No injuries were reported and a stop-work order was issued pending investigations of the collapse.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who visited the site with several state exco members, said he reminded rescue workers to be wary while searching for the missing victims because the rain could have rendered the slopes unstable.

“All work has stopped here and the contractor was about to send in its report on the collapse of the concrete beams on Oct 11,” he said, adding that the place where the beams collapsed was far from the landslide. – The Star by arnold lohlo tern chern

Water from stream identified as main cause of landslide

GEORGE TOWN: Water flow from a stream on the hilly area in Jalan Bukit Kukus, Paya Terubong, near here has been identified as among the cause of the landslide.

Azhari Ahmad, who is Mineral and Geoscience Department (JMG) director for Perlis, Kedah and Penang, said the finding was made based on its inspection and monitoring since Saturday.

“The JMG team identified several factors that caused the landslide, resulting in all containers on the hill slope to slide down with the earth.

“The main factor that caused the landslide is the water flow from a stream near the slope and heavy rain since Friday morning caused the water to overflow,” he told reporters yesterday.

Azhari said the department had taken immediate measure by diverting the flow of water from the stream elsewhere to avoid worsening the situation, especially during the search and rescue (SAR) operation.

He said further inspection conducted at 7.30am yesterday found the water flow on the slope was lesser but the department would continue to monitor the situa­tion with equipment from the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team to ensure the safety of SAR personnel.

He said based on observation and inspection at the scene, the department found the location of the landslide to be at the concave slope which easily collected water.

“But we do not rule out the possibility of a follow-up landslide in the area due to the soil structure and there is still water flowing that can cause landslide.

“We have also advised the rescue team to stop operation immediately if it rains as it could cause another landslide,” he said.

Azhari said the department was assisting the rescue team in the SAR operation and did not rule out the possibility of it conducting further investigation to determine the ac­­tual cause of the landslide.

“We hope for fine weather and no rain so that the SAR operation can be continued until all the victims are found,” he said.

The landslide occurred at about 1.30pm last Friday.

The tragedy occurred following heavy rain in the state from Thurs­day afternoon until noon the following day, causing the landslide at the container and kongsi area at the Bukit Kukus paired road construction site.

Source: Bernama, Reports by LO TERN CHERN, N.TRISHA and R.SEKARAN

 

Related stories:

 

Zairil: Contractor to face action if accident due to negligence – Metro

 

 

Wake up and stop the landslides, state govt urged – Nation

 

Wake up and stop the landslides, state govt urged – Nation

 

 

DOSH: Builders told to stop work, but did not – Nation

 

CAP urges Penang govt to issue stop work order on hillside

 

October and November turning into ‘disaster season’

 

‘Put safety measures into place at construction sites’

Related post:

Precarious situation: The collapsed beams along Jalan Tun Sardon which fell and broke after being knocked down. https://www.thestar.c

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