‘Money/cash is King’ comes back to bite Pakatan


Politicians using cash to buy power and votes has created a culture in  Malaysia in which people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty. 

THE enduring potency of the ringgit caused by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “Cash is King” regime came in for much ridicule in the last election campaign, much to the chagrin of the perpetrator of this philosophy.

In all his speeches and media interviews in the last two years before 2018’s 14th General Election, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad never failed to hammer home the point that Najib told him this when he asked why he was giving out cash hand-outs in so many forms to the people, and very freely too.

His intended message to the voters was that Najib used this tactic to “buy” votes, as Malaysians will eventually be beholden and grateful to the man who dishes out cash. Whether those receiving it deserved it or not did not matter, everyone wanted the money and many did not care where it came from.

For a long time, money and power worked like a firewall around Najib and his Cabinet, which made him believe cash was indeed king as they blithely went about plundering the nation.

It has been established or is being established at Najib’s on-going corruption trial involving the alleged siphoning of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, that money was freely dished out for political support, popularity and reverence, among others.

Mahathir’s campaign was direct and simple, that it was borrowed money and stolen funds from the people that was being given out, and this campaign strategy worked. It thus showed that anti-corruption is an easy sell and proved that most Malaysian voters did care about abstract ethical issues like corruption.

Unbelievably, even many of the beneficiaries of Najib’s largesse had obviously voted against Barisan Nasional while some others became turncoats shamelessly, leaving the flagging party.

But one year after dismantling the Cash is King mantra, it somehow appears to be coming back to bite Dr Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan leadership. The new mantra among many Malaysians now is that they don’t seem to have enough money all the time.

True, the cost of living never came down substantially after the abolition of the GST (goods and services tax), but we cannot deny that it did lower shopping bills in places like hypermarkets as there was no SST (sales and services tax) levied at such outlets.

RON 95 petrol, which is currently used by most motorists, is capped at RM2.08 a litre which is about 40 sen lower than the actual price it would have been if the old managed float system based on global crude oil prices was in place

Not very tangible for the average Malaysian, right? Do they even care to understand the intangibles that they are benefiting from as a result of several new policies and taxes? No! Looks like Malaysians are not prepared to ask what they can do for the country, it is always what the country must do for them.

Nearly every person I meet seems to have just one thing to say: nothing has come down. All prices have remained the same while some have only gone up. And that Pakatan has not delivered or is slow in keeping its promises.

And strangely, I have been noticing a pattern where those providing certain home services like courier and telecommunication technicians actually volunteer to say that times were better under the Barisan government as they had more money to spend.

“It is very difficult now, we have less money to spend compared to last time when BN was in power. Pakatan Harapan is not keeping its promises,” a Pos Laju staff told a friend of mine without being asked.

I’m one who views surveys by certain groups and parties, especially the random ones, warily as the respondents do not necessarily reflect the actual feelings on the ground. So I make it a point to talk to strangers about this subject whether in public stations or while in a queue waiting to pay something.

What I notice is that while people may be a tad bit sympathetic when I tell them they have to give Pakatan more time because of certain extenuating circumstances, generally, they are unhappy.

The bottom line of their unhappiness now is all about cash. They are receiving less money from the government, never mind what they were enjoying in the past was stolen or borrowed money.

This group of people don’t seem to be outraged, which we all should naturally be, at past leaders who had virtually abused their power to rob the nation’s coffers, a fact which has emerged or is being exposed in many key institutions.

They claim that the BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) payments are now lower and many recipients have also been removed from the list as they do not qualify under the minimum household income requirement. So what is wrong with that? Why do you want money that does not belong to you or you don’t deserve?

Yes, it’s true that the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH, as BR1M is now called) has been reduced by RM200 to RM1,000 but Pakatan has made sure that only really needy Malaysians get such welfare aid, as it had been greatly abused in the past.

And to make sure those really in need receive more help, the government is giving out an additional RM100 for each child below 18 years of age whose guardians are BSH recipients, for a maximum of four children. And if the child is disabled, it is for a lifetime, no age limit. So if a BSH recipient has four children below 18, he or she gets a total of RM1,420. This is higher than before.

Malaysia has thrived because of a culture of opportunity that encourages hard work in the private sector. Of course, the social restructuring policy, which was aimed at giving a hand to the have-nots to give them a lift, played a role.

But this should not go on forever, the number must reduce eventually as those benefiting should finally be able to help their families to grow away from this dependency.

The growth of this form of welfare state funded by projected or borrowed income — or worse still, by funds siphoned from government coffers — is turning Malaysia into a land where many expect, and see no stigma attached, to receive regular financial support.

I find this a growing and dangerous trend, when undeserving Malaysians sit back idly and wait for these cash hand-outs as an entitlement instead of a privilege. And what’s more distressing is to see politicians feeding this cancer as a way of continuing to stay in power.

The actual meaning of the phrase “Cash is King”, as most of us know, is a term reflecting the belief that cash money is more valuable than any other form of investment tool for businesses. For individuals, it is meant to be a fund which is easily accessible for urgent expenditures or purchases.

It is not a phrase that politicians or others use to indicate that they can buy power and votes so that they are able to be in absolute control of the nation for as long as they want. Unfortunately, though, many have done this and it has created a culture in Malaysia in which the people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty.

Cash is not king when it is stolen from others or, worse still, from public funds placed under your trust or control. That is called cashing in. It is surely not king if it is obtained by unfair trade practices or it is beyond a fair deal.

In this context, something that Dr Mahathir said about two years before the last election shortly after he decided to re-enter politics stands out in my mind. He had said: “You see the collapse of moral values in Malaysia is terrible. In the future we are going to be like those countries where bribery is a part of daily life — you can’t do anything without bribery.”

This is what he is trying to dismantle after he came back into politics at the age of 93, so we should give our wholehearted support to him and Pakatan for a better and cleaner Malaysia for all.

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Expect the unexpected from Dr M – Analysis

 

 

Mediocre future? If selection at the matriculation level is not based on meritocracy, the quality of our tertiary institutions will be …

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The Pakatan government has little choice
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WHAT a difference a y

 

Crime and cost of living are top concerns for Malaysians – Ipsos Global Research

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Dialogue of civilizations can iron out cultural creases


lustration: Liu Rui/GT
The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will be held from May 15 to 22 in Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the event and deliver a keynote speech, officials said at a press conference on Thursday. #AsianCivilizations #XiJinping

 

The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will kick off in Beijing soon. It is China’s attempt to promote understanding among different civilizations, inclusive development, and to respond to the theory of the Clash of Civilizations with the philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

During the just-concluded second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China defined the future of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a route that brings together different civilizations. It reflects China’s ample confidence in the initiative to enhance civilizational exchanges, mutual understanding and civilized coexistence. Through BRI, countries can understand, respect, and trust one another.

Differences do exist between China and the US – the two most influential powers in the world – in terms of civilizations. Some in the US are even prejudiced about China’s culture and disagree with the country’s development path and value system.

China has always advocated mutual learning between civilizations. The country needs to strengthen its power of discourse and show Chinese civilization’s unique charm to the US, the West, and the entire international community. The dialogue between Chinese and American civilizations, an important part of the dialogue of global civilizations, is of great significance in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Over the years, China and the US have already explored quite a lot in this regard. At the Mar-a-Lago summit between Chinese and US leaders in 2017, the two sides agreed to establish high-level dialogue mechanisms, including social and people-to-people contact. In addition, Chinese and US scholars organized the Sino-American Dialogue on Core Values as early as in 2011. The Foreign Affairs magazine published an article titled “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations” in 2017.

Surprisingly, recent reports by the Washington Examiner and Voice of America indicate that the US State Department is developing strategies in response to the “clash” with Chinese civilization.

The Clash of Civilizations is a theory proposed in 1993 by Samuel Huntington, a well-known US political scholar who teaches at Harvard University. He argued that the clash of civilizations, instead of ideological and economic clashes, will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. He conjectured that the core of international politics will be the interaction between Western and non-Western civilizations.

Huntington predicted that the clash of civilizations would be especially manifested in Western-Islamic conflicts after the Cold War. It is puzzling that US officials are now turning to China.

The Clash of Civilizations theory targeting China seems to be gaining traction among anti-China forces in the US. The National Security Strategy issued by the White House in late 2017 labeled China as a strategic competitor. The US adverse policies toward China have created obstacles in the path of smooth China-US relations.

If the US Department of State continues to promote policy measures against China based on the Clash of Civilizations, ties will be further hurt, and more specific steps taken. Not only that, the US may also take advantage of this theory and force other countries to follow its lead in containing China.

However, such attempts by adversarial US forces will eventually fall flat.

Their argument of Clash of Civilizations, violating mainstream American values based on pluralism and inclusiveness, has already triggered heated debate inside the US. Some senior US experts studying China have criticized the view for lacking understanding of China.

It will be tough if the US attempts to lead the West to a civilizational battle with China. The damage caused by the “America First” theory has yet to heal. Describing US competition with China as the clash of civilization may once again create contradictions and panic. Dialogue of civilizations is needed rather than a cold war.

By Xi Laiwang Source:Global Times

The author is a senior reporter and an observer of international issues. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Related post:

Yes to Belt and Road – Everyone will benefit from BRI

 

Crime and cost of living are top concerns for Malaysians – Ipsos Global Research


Global market and opinion research spec

PETALING JAYA: Corruption is no longer the top concern for Malay­sians as crime and the cost of living have taken over as more pressing issues, says an independent market research firm.

Ipsos Sdn Bhd, in its What Worries The World survey, found that the top five concerns of Mal­aysians this year were crime and violence (39%), inflation and the cost of living (34%), corruption (32%), poverty and equality (31%) and unemployment and jobs (28%).

The survey noted that corruption, which was ranked as a top concern among those in the central region, non-bumiputras and those with a household income of more than RM5,000, had fallen to third place due to significant measures made by the government to address the issue.

Inflation is the “biggest concern” of urban Malay­sians, particularly youths and those in the low household income bracket.

“Corruption has dropped significantly by 15%. Now, only 32% feel that corruption is their main concern.“For crime and violence, it is only the positioning but it has remained the same between what it was now and before,” Ipsos managing director Arun Menon (pic) said during a press conference yesterday.

Founded in France, Ipsos is a global research group with offices in 89 countries delivering insights across various specialisations.

Among other studies Ipsos has conducted in Malaysia are the What Worries Malaysia: Post-GE 2018 survey in August 2018.

It had tracked the sentiments of Malaysians bef­ore and after GE14, as well as 100 days following the change of government.

The What Worries The World survey is Ipsos’ international monthly poll of 20,000 adults under the age of 65 in 28 countries, including Malaysia.

A total of 1,500 Malaysians were asked about their perception of what worried the nation the most.

The survey also found that Malaysians believed the country was headed in the wrong direction, with the figures increasing from 25% in June last year to 43% in March this year.

“Between March and last month, the people who are most upset about the country’s direction were the younger generation across different incomes, specifically people of the middle and upper education,” Menon said.

The survey also noted that the perception of the country heading in the wrong direction was gaining mom­entum and that Malaysia was getting closer to the global average.

The poll said the global average of people who thought their country is on the wrong track was at 58%.
What Worries the World – March 2019

New global poll finds four concerns top the world’s worry list: financial/political corruption, poverty/social inequality, unemployment, crime/violence. Meanwhile, in most countries surveyed (22 of 28) the majority think that their nation is on the wrong track.

The Ipsos What Worries the World study finds the majority of people across the participating 28 nations feel their country is on the wrong track (58% on average), with South Africa (77%), France (77%), Spain (76%), Turkey (74%) and Belgium (74%) recording the greatest levels of apprehension. There are, however, wide-ranging disparities in scores across the globe.

“What Worries the World” is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

Right Direction

    • China (94%) inspires the most confidence about its national direction. More than 9 in 10 Chinese citizens say that China is moving in the right direction.
    • Saudi Arabia (84%) is once more in second place followed by India (73%) and Malaysia (57%).
    • India and Sweden are the are nations with the greatest month on month increase in positive sentiment of all 28 countries, with both reporting an 8-point increase in those seeing the nations as heading in the right direction.
  •         Notable rises in citizens considering their country as headed in the right    direction are also seen in China (94%) and Hungary (28%) – both reporting a 6-point increase.


Wrong Track

    • At the other end of the spectrum, South African, French, Spanish, Turkish and Belgian nationals have the greatest apprehension about the direction taken by their country. Just 23% of South African and French citizens consider their nations to be heading in the right direction, followed by 24% in Spain and 26% in both Turkey and Belgium.
  •          Mexico (56%) has seen the biggest fall in optimism— with a reduction of 12% from a positive sentiment spike reported last month (68%).There are also 6-point falls in both Italy and Canada.

The four major worries for global citizens are:

  1. Financial/ Political corruption (34%). South Africa (69%) has the most citizens apprehensive about this issue, followed by on Peru 63% and Hungary on 60%. Canadians (30%) have the greatest month on month increase in this concern, with a rise of 11 percentage points. Germans (9%) are the least worried citizens along with Great Britain (14%) and Sweden (15%).
  2. Poverty/Social Inequality (34%). The greatest levels of anxiety are held in Russia (58%), Hungary (56%) and Serbia (54%). Sweden (19%) and Saudi Arabia (20%) are the least concerned nations in this area followed by the US (21%). In terms of trend, we observe a strong 8-point increase in concern in this area in Hungary.
  3. Unemployment (33%). The highest levels of worry are seen in Italy (69%), South Korea (66%) and Spain (61%). Turkish citizens (+7%) and Argentinians (+6%) are the nations which have recorded the greatest month on month increase in this issue. The US public and Germans (11%) are the least concerned, followed by citizens in Great Britain (14%) Sweden (15%) and Poland (15).
  4. Crime & Violence (31%), The highest levels of worry in this issue are seen in Mexico (64%) – closely followed by Peru (62%) and Chile (59%). China (22%) records the largest increase in anxiety with an increase of 11 percentage points from the previous month. There are other increases in Chile (+9), Malaysia (+9) and Turkey (+7). Concerns around crime are lowest in Russia and Hungary (8%), and Poland (11%). The greatest falls in this issue come from Poland (-10) and Serbia (-9).

Top five global issues

  1. Financial/ Political corruption (34%)
  2. Poverty/Social Inequality (34%)
  3. Unemployment (33%)
  4. Crime & Violence (31%)
  5. Healthcare (24%)

The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The 28 countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. 20,019 interviews were conducted between February 22nd, 2019 – March 8th, 2019 among adults aged 18-64 in Canada, Israel and the US, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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What Worries the World – March 2019

 

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Vanishing Jobs Growth Spells Deep Trouble for South Korea


 

 
Not-so-nice figures: Moon has seen his popularity slide amid criticism that he’s hurting employment by
aggressively increasing the minimum wage. — AP

Unemployment and jobs growth in South Korea haven’t looked so bad since the wake of the global financial crisis, undermining President Moon Jae-in’s economic agenda.

Data released Wednesday show the unemployment rate jumping to 4.2 percent, the highest since early 2010, and much greater than any economists forecast. Jobs growth slumped to just 3,000 last month, also the worst figure in more than eight years.

Moon, who came into office pledging to create jobs and raise incomes for regular workers, has seen his popularity slide amid criticism that he’s hurting employment by aggressively increasing the minimum wage.

While pay hikes planned for this year and 2019 are here to stay, Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said the government would consider adjusting some policies.

He conceded that the jobs market wouldn’t improve much anytime soon.

Disappearing Jobs Growth

  • Number of jobs added: South Korea added just 3,000 jobs in August, the least since 2010

Source: Statistics Korea

Moon’s administration points to the fallout from corporate restructuring and the shrinking working-age population as the source of the problems in the labour market. Businesses counter that hiking the minimum wage 16% this year, with another bump of almost 11% to come next year, has made job layoffs inevitable.

Small business owners in particular, from convenience stores to fast-food franchises, have shed workers.

Adding to the economic unease in South Korea is the risk that US President Donald Trump may hit car exporters with auto tariffs, even after Seoul agreed to renegotiate its trade deal with the US.

Unemployment Spike

South Korea’s unemployment rate in August reached the highest since 2010
  • Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate
Source: Statistics Korea

South Korean bonds climbed and the won fell after jobs figures, which appeared to squash any near-term prospect of the central bank raising interest rates.

The finance minister said economic policies that are geared toward wage-based growth are moving in the “right direction”. Yet the government also acknowledged the need for more communication and market analysis in order to gain trust from companies and the people, he said.

The presidential office described the recent increase in unemployment as inevitable pain that accompanies a change in the structure of the economy, Yonhap News reported.

Like many other countries, South Korea is experiencing a widening gap between the rich and the poor. It’s confounding policy makers and exacerbating political divisions. — Bloomberg

DAP’s ‘king vs king’ strategy will rob the community of the worthy talents


GE14 will be about race, warn analysts |

‘The outcome of such a strategy will deprive the Chinese community of some good politicians’ – Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah

Leaders against rocking the boat

This Saturday’s nomination day, DAP is facing increa­sing pressure from Chinese so­­cie­ty to drop its strategy to jiao mie (wipe out) outstanding Chinese lea­ders within the Barisan Nasional.

In the past two weeks, several Chinese guilds – which claim to be apolitical – have come out openly to oppose this DAP stunt which will see the DAP fielding its strong candidates against leading Chinese po­­liticians from Barisan’s MCA and Gerakan.

Many commentators within the community have also published their views in Chinese media ­ar­­guing against the DAP plan.

Most Chinese newspapers have also voiced their stand against this strategy.

In essence, many see this “king versus king” plan advocated by DAP as wiping out the limited number of outstanding political talents within the community.

Whoever wins or loses in the election, the Chinese community will lose a talent and the ultimate loser is the community, they argue.

The decision by DAP to transfer its political strategist Liew Chin Tong from Kluang to the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat to collide head-on with MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Seong has not been well received from the start.

Neither is the move to send Perak DAP chief Nga Kor Ming from Taiping to Teluk Intan to rock the parliamentary seat held by Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

Among the Chinese associations that have made their opposing stand known are the Federation of Chinese Guilds in Malaysia (Hua Zong), the normally low-profile Federation of Kwang Xi clans and the Federation of Heng Hua clans.

Hua Zong’s president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah tells The Star: “We cannot interfere with DAP politics, but as a community leader I hope DAP can consider our views to change this election strategy.

“The outcome of such a strategy will deprive the Chinese community of some good politicians – ­whe­ther they are from Barisan or Opposition, and this is a loss to the community.”

Last Monday, Pheng issued a media statement to this effect. But in response, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng alleged that Hua Zong was an “external organisation” of MCA.

Lim, in justifying the DAP strategy, said it would help the Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to win more parliament seats so as to take over Putrajaya to rule the country.

It appears that DAP is unlikely to change this unpopular strategy.

While Lim can ignore Pheng and the other Chinese community lea­ders who are not voters in Ayer Hitam and Teluk Intan, he should listen to the voices on the ground.

A professional in Ayer Hitam, who was my high school classmate in Batu Pahat, told me in my recent trip down south: “I normally support the Opposition, but this time I am going to vote for Wee Ka Siong.

“He is a good minister and has done so much work for the people. Everybody here can see.”

His feelings are shared by my other former Batu Pahat high school friends.

Prominent commentator Tang Ah Chai, who is normally more pro-Opposition in his analysis, has warned DAP to handle the discontent from Chinese society with caution to avoid backlash in the coming election.

“The Chinese community is worried that if there is little or no re­pre­sentation in government, their aspirations and voice cannot be effectively channelled to the top and their interest will be undermined. They experienced this when MCA did not join the Cabinet,” Tang commented last Friday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has warned that there will be a cut in the number of Chinese ministers, in the event Barisan wins the election, if Chinese support for MCA and Gerakan dwindles.

While Pheng does not expect Lim to change DAP’s strategy, which has also been employed in Sarawak, other leaders hope Lim can turn a page on DAP history.

“Look at what happened in 1982 when Seremban sent a strong ­message that voters wanted MCA leader to stay on,” said one.

In the 1982 general election, in response to a taunt by DAP to contest in a Chinese-majority area, the then MCA president Tan Sri Lee San Choon contested in Seremban to face DAP chairman Dr Chen Man Hin, who had held that parliamentary seat since 1969.

Not only did Lee win in the battle, MCA scored a landslide victory – winning 24 out of 28 parliamentary seats and 55 out of 62 state seats it contested.

DAP was nearly wiped out in that general election.

One of Lee’s projects that have benefited many Chinese is TAR College to expand tertiary education opportunities for the Chinese at the time.

While the 1982 election has come to pass, the sentiment of Chinese against “king versus king” is still present.

by Ho Wah Foo The Star

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5,000 Malaysians are illegals in South Korea, lured by higher pay, living underground !


A tough life: Malaysians seen working at a vegetable farm near Seoul. 

SEOUL: An estimated 5,000 Malay­sians are working and staying illegally in South Korea, with the less fortunate ones forced to live like refugees and always on the run from the authorities.

Lured by job advertisements that claimed they could make money hand over fist in the land of K-pop and Descendants of the Sun, they paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered the country on tourist visas.

Unfortunately, many of them have been left in dire straits after finding out that reality did not match up with the promises.

Star Media Group’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online sent a team to South Korea to look into their plight and found many of these Malaysians stranded and destitute.
These 5,000, based on figures that volunteer aid workers pieced together from Malaysians and recruitment agents, are part of an estimated 251,000 illegal foreign workers in the country as reported by The Korea Herald.

Their problems, first highlighted by the portal in a series of special reports in association with The Korea Herald in January, ranged from suffering permanent disability after workplace accidents to being left broke and homeless when they were fired by their employers.

Among the locations the team visited were Itaewon in the central region and Daeso and Muguk in Eumseoung district, about 80km from Seoul.

A Malaysian who wanted to be known only as Farhan said he and two of his friends have been homeless for more than two months since they were fired without pay after working at a seaweed processing company for just one week.

“I was fired because I came down with fever a week after starting work. We have to rely on our friends for food,” he said, adding that sometimes they only had biscuits to eat.

The 24-year-old said that on weekends, they would sleep at the Seoul Central Mosque, while on weekdays, they would stay at a friend’s house.

Visiting the mosque, the mStar Online team found several bags in the corridors, believed to belong to the foreign workers who sleep there.

Another Malaysian, who did not want to be named, said she had to live in one house with 18 others.

The woman, who works on an onion and sweet potato farm, said the house is so overcrowded that some of them have to sleep in front of the toilet or on the kitchen floor.

She and her housemates said there had been cases of Malaysians being physically abused if they did not work fast enough.

Their story was echoed by others the team interviewed, as well as those who came forward in the earlier reports in January, and because of their illegal status, they are often exploited, made to work long hours without rest and barred from talking to their colleagues.

The risk of accidents is also great because they are seldom given briefings or safety equipment and protective gear.

After such hardship, their labour sometimes even goes unrewarded because of employers who, taking advantage of their workers’ illegal status, hold back their pay in the belief that they would not dare report it to the authorities.

As a result, many suffer in silence for fear of being detained by the authorities, and are ignorant of their rights as workers.

Winter in South Korea will come to an end later this month. Without money, shelter or a way home, these stranded Malaysians can only wait it out, and hope for new job opportunities that will be available in the spring.

Source: The Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Malaysian workers ‘living underground’ 

Some of them are forced to live on the streets.

SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.

The lucky ones

These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.

Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.

Those who overstay

There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.

Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.


• The unemployed and homeless

On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.

Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.

• Waiting for spring

Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.

Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.


• Accident victims

There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.


• Those on medical visas

Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.

The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.

And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.

Malaysians lured by higher pay

Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.
Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysians who brave the perils of working and staying illegally in South Korea do so because of monthly salaries advertised in the range of RM6,000 to RM12,000.

In fact, recruitment agents say, they choose to go even after being told of the risks involved.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Malaysians have gone there since 2016, to work in factories producing kimchi, cosmetics, calendars, furniture, auto spare parts and aluminium, among other items.

When the big pay they expected does not materialise, usually because of workplace accidents or exploitation by unscrupulous employers, they often find themselves homeless and broke.

An mStar Online team probing their plight spoke to one agent who said about 800 Malaysians had used his services last year alone.

The agent, who asked to be known only as Nasir, said he charged each customer RM2,800.

The amount covers securing the job, a return air ticket and a South Korean job agency’s fees.

According to The Korea Herald, there are about 251,000 illegal workers from various countries working in South Korea.

This group is highly exposed to occupational hazards and is at risk of being duped or exploited by employers because of their immigration status.

Local agents as well as aid volunteers in Seoul said Malaysians made up about 5,000 of the overall figure.

Taufik, another agent, said he knew of about 20 others who were in the same line.

“I personally handled trips for almost 100 Malaysians to South Korea since 2016,” he added.

He said not all agents were responsible enough to inform their clients of the risks.

Taufik said he was honest in his dealings and made sure those who used his services were fully aware of the risks they faced as illegals working in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to see that all these potential problems did not deter a single one of his clients from going to South Korea, which reportedly had the highest household income in Asia.

“There are agents who do not give clear information, but I tell my customers about the real situation and ask them to think carefully before going.

“Among the most important things they must have is a strong spirit.

“This is just my side job. I have my own business. I don’t depend on their money,” he told mStar Online.

Taufik claimed he only pocketed RM500 to RM600 of the RM2,500 fee he charged clients.

Based on surveys and from talking to agents and their clients, the team learned that an agent stood to make up to RM15,000 for every batch of recruits – ranging from 10 to 30 per group – sent to South Korea.

Another agent, Azhar, said it was easy to get through immigration checks there as the job seekers posed as tourists.

To prove they were just visiting, Azhar said he would provide them with fake return tickets to show to South Korean immigration officials.

His package, priced at RM2,500, includes one night’s accommodation, a prepaid T-Money payment card, job arrangement charges and transport to the workplace.

Source:Star by nadia shaiful bahari

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Tycoon Robert Kuok stands tall amid the bashings from Umno leaders


Well-regarded: Kuok in his office in Hong Kong. Picture taken from ‘Robert Kuok: A Memoir’.

 

DURING the two week-Chinese New Year celebrations, with the tossing of yee sang for better times ahead, the key topic of conversation among the Chinese revolved around the general election.

But the sudden eruption of high-level political attacks on Robert Kuok last weekend sent shockwaves through the community. Since then, the richest man in Malaysia has been the talk of the town.

The onslaught could not be taken lightly as Kuok is not just any ordinary businessman but someone of stature held in high esteem not only in Malaysia and China, but also by the global Chinese community.

It is a known fact that Kuok helped to lay the groundwork for the end of communist insurgency in Malaysia, played a role in easing racial tension after the May 13 racial riots and contributed funds to Umno and MCA during elections.

His generous donations have benefited the poor and rich.

Kuok has always stood tall among everyone.

Dubbed the “Sugar King of Asia”, Kuok has set up a huge international empire with businesses spanning from commodity trading to hotels, sugar and oil palm plantations, wheat flour milling, property development and entertainment.

In Malaysia, he retains control of Shangri-La Hotels and the wheat flour business after selling his sugar and property businesses.

Hence, the Chinese community here feels hurt to see their business icon being smeared based on hearsay. They see grave injustice done to this man whose loyalty and commitment to the country is being questioned.

However, due to suspicion that the whole episode could be a politically driven scheme ahead of GE14 for various reasons, Chinese community leaders only spoke up after Kuok defended himself.

While many are aware that Kuok’s recent memoir had irked some quarters due to his disdain for the New Economic Policy (1971-90), they are perplexed by the timing of this smear campaign.

Kuok’s political revelations in his book have also earned him brickbats from some people.

This round, the criticisms against the tycoon were based on three articles posted by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on the online portal Malaysia Today.

The most startling allegation made by the controversial blogger, who has a record of stirring up racial hatred towards local Chinese in past writings, was that Kuok had donated hundreds of millions to the DAP in a bid to overthrow the Umno-led government.

Without verifying the content, Malay critics and senior Umno politicians told Kuok to be grateful to the Government as the tycoon had built his early sugar, rice and flour empire based on his good ties with Umno leaders.

The remarks by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz were particularly scathing, as crude and offensive words were used. In addition, he told Kuok to surrender his citizenship.

The critics might have misconstrued earlier statements by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who had said that some of the richest people, including Kuok, owed their success to opportunities created through government policies.

“If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Robert Kuok, who gave him the key to become the rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling government,” said the Prime Minister at an event in Selangor on Feb 24.

“Yes, he is driven, hardworking, industrious and disciplined – but that is not enough. Everyone still needs the key to creating these opportunities,” he added.

Although DAP leaders promptly denied receiving money from Kuok, this failed to stop the tirade of aspersions cast against Kuok.

It was obvious that Kuok had to defend himself. He issued a statement last Monday, saying all allegations against him were “untrue, unjustified and amounted to libel”.

The 94-year-old Kuok, who moved his business headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong in 1975, denied funding The Malaysian Insight portal or opposition parties to overthrow the Government.

He also denied that he was anti-government, a racist or a Chinese chauvinist.

While Kuok’s hint of instituting libel suits might have some deterrent effect, the proposal by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter could have shut the mouths of Umno leaders.

Liow tweeted: “I have conveyed the feelings of the Chinese community to the PM. We hope that the PM will intervene to put this issue to rest. Mr Kuok has contributed greatly towards the development of the nation.”

If the vicious attacks on Kuok were allowed to continue, the first casualty in GE14 could be MCA and Gerakan, and ultimately Barisan Nasional, as angry Chinese could be provoked to vote against the coalition in GE14.

And the unintended winner from this latest episode could be the opposition side.

The question now is: Faced with so many challenges in the coming polls, could Barisan afford to sow a new seed of discontent and allow it to germinate unchecked?

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement, saying Kuok’s success is “an inspiration” for other entrepreneurs.

Though this brief statement and its “cooling effect” came a bit late in the political sense, it was better than nothing.

In addition, a tribute to Kuok posted by Najib’s brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak on Instagram is also a comfort to the Chinese.

“I may not agree with all his views but he (Kuok) is a patriot, the icon of Malaysian business and a first-class gentleman,” said Nazir, the chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd last Wednesday.

However, the injustice done to Kuok on such a scale is unlikely to be forgotten soon, as this incident has also stirred up some debates.

Is there any hidden political agenda to vilify Kuok before GE14? Do successful businessmen owe their allegiance to ruling political parties? Is it morally wrong to change your political stand?

Dr Oh Ei Sun, former political secretary of Najib, offers some explanations to Sunday Star: “Robert Kuok has shown his contempt for the NEP in his book. This may be seen as questioning Malay supremacy and this attitude must be nipped in the bud.”

He adds that Kuok may not be forgiven for stating the obvious, which many Chinese have wanted to voice out but could not for fear of losing business opportunities.

In his memoir, Kuok stated that although the Chinese have played a significant role in the economic development of Malaysia and other South-East Asian nations, many did not receive just and fair treatment.

Sin Chew Daily, quoting unnamed Barisan sources, says the bashing of Kuok also carried a warning message to the business community to think twice before they contribute election funds to opposition parties.

“These attacks also sent a message to the Malay community that they must be united to support Umno, which is being ditched by others it has helped to prosper,” said the Sin Chew report last Thursday.

Although a life member of the MCA, businessman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew believes people owe no loyalty to political parties.

He tells Sunday Star: “A businessman is expected to be loyal to his country, not to ruling parties. Politicians and political parties come and go.

“Whoever becomes the government has a duty to create a conducive environment for the people to prosper and live harmoniously. If politicians are not worthy of support, people are free to switch their political stand in a democracy.”

Apart from ordinary people, the business community is also watching developments linked to Kuok with concern.

“If the issue on Robert Kuok is not handled properly, there will be a negative impact on the sentiment of investors. We are all following these developments,” says a businessman at a CNY dinner.

by Ho Wah Foon, The Star

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