Datuk Adam Rosly amassed so much wealth under scrutiny by corruption agency


Anti-graft investigators looking into the case of Ampang PKR Youth chief Datuk Adam Rosly’s “unusual” wealth are trying to determine how the 29-year-old amassed a substantial amount of cash and property at his age.

Officers who went to Adam’s house, dubbed by many as “Disneyland castle” in Ampang, seized five cars – a Mini Cooper, a BMW 5 Series, a Mercedes C200, an Audi A6 and a Toyota Vellfire.

Eight accounts under Adam and his wife’s name, with money amounting to RM212,461.41, were frozen.

Adam, who was detained after his statement was recorded at the MACC headquarters on Thurs

day, has been remanded for five days to allow the commission to investigate him.

He arrived at the court complex at 9.30am yesterday, clad in the MACC orange lock-up attire and smiled to the waiting cameramen.

Lawyers Nik Zarith Nik Moustapha and Asyraf Othman, as well as his mother, wife, baby daughter and a group of friends were waiting for him in the courtroom.

Magistrate Nik Isfahanie Tasnim Wan Ab Rahman granted prosecutors’ request for him to be remanded until April 18.

The MACC is investigating the case under the Anti-Money Laun­dering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

Adam’s wealth came to the public’s attention after his political opponents questioned how he was able to afford his castle-style bungalow which they claimed cost RM7mil.

The special officer to Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, however, said he bought the house for RM1mil at an auction.

He also claimed that his money came from business ventures and family inheritance.

A source said the big question was whether Adam was actually involved in “proper” business ventures that brought him that much profit.

“Does he really have a business, did he really inherit a substantial amount of money or did he obtain it from ‘brokering’ or some kind of borrowings. We are sure there are ways for MACC to get to the bottom of this,” said the source.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Azam Baki said officers were still investigating the case.

“They are still finding more evidence and going through documents.

“Let them probe and we will see what comes out of it,” he added.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Weeding out the worrying graft and corruption among Malaysian youths and politicians!


MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil

MACC reveals ‘worrying statistics’

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 50% of those arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the past three years were aged below 40.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil expressed concern over the finding and said it as an “alarming situation”.

Of the 2,329 people arrested since 2014, 1,267 were below 40.

“People in this age group are supposed to be nation’s backbone, who will shape the future of our country,” he said in his keynote speech at a public forum organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) yesterday.

Shamshun said about 982 investigation papers were opened, 932 people were detained and 258 charged by the anti-graft body last year.

“MACC plans to engage with youths this year. The Gen-Y group always finds an easy way. We have to guide them from young and create awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.

On MACC seeking more allocation, Shamshun said the extra funds were for them to implement what they planned for the year.

“We need more whistle-blowers who can voluntarily come forward to report or provide information on corruption activities.”

He said such individuals will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, that shields informants from action. – by Ashwin Kumar thesun

Weeding out graft among youths

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) will push on with efforts to eradicate corruption in the civil service in the face of budget cuts, says its deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) told reporters that the commissions’ plan for 2017 would be to focus on Government agencies, as well as arresting the growing trend of corruption among youths.

Responding to questions on cuts to the MACC’s budget, he said it was an issue faced by all agencies, though the commission had appealed for more funding to carry out its plans.

“We can’t do everything at once because of (MACC’s) strength and budget. But my concern is also about how many of those arrested are under 40 years old,” said Shamshun Baharin, adding that 54% of those arrested (1,267 of 2,329 cases) were under 40.

He attributed the trend to the generation’s environment and wanting to take shortcuts, which MACC aimed to combat with the establishment of a corruption prevention secretariat in higher learning institutions.

During his keynote address at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) forum titled ‘Supporting the MACC in the fight against corruption’, Shamshun Baharin said 2016 had been a successful year for the commission.

He revealed that arrest numbers had gone up from 841 (2015) to 932 (2016), of which 258 suspects had been brought to court, as of Dec 15 last year.

At the event, IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan launched a signature drive under its #NyahKorupsi campaign, to support the MACC.

“Our goal is to have more Malaysians come out in support of the MACC because it has made more investigations and arrests of corrupt top officials. There may be a time when they will need our help,” he said.

He said IDEAS would collect as many signatures as possible before delivering it to MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad.

To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/p/sokong-sprm-perangi-rasuah.

The other forum panellist included Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akbar Satar, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism executive director Cynthia Gabriel, Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang and Sinar Project co-founder Khairil Yusof. – By Qishin Tariq The Star/ANN

Just you wait, MACC boss warns corrupt politicians

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has warned corrupt politicians to “be careful”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, in a live television interview yesterday, said he had previously stated that he would take action on anyone involved in corrupt practices, including “politicians of any rank”.

“On my 100th day as MACC chief, I said that I will not be stopped from taking action against politicians.

“Tonight, I would like to say to corrupt politicians, just you wait (tunggulah),” he said.

Dzulkifli added that the MACC was not worried about “protected individuals” who committed systemic corruption.

“There is no issue about them being protected, I can guarantee that all those who commit corruption will not be left alone. I will take action against them without fear or favour,” he added.

But Dzulkifli admitted that the MACC had its limitations in terms of logistics.

“There are only 2,900 members and officers in the whole of the MACC, of which only 900 carry out legal enforcement as others are in the prevention and education departments, among others.

“Now if you look at the civil service alone, there are 1.6 million of them, so that is one.

“Besides that, is budget, that has been cut, and it is at its lowest since 2013,” he said.

Dzulkifli, however, added that he would not allow the limitations to stop the anti-graft body from carrying out its duties.

The Astro Awani interview is Dzulkifl’s first ever live interview since his appointment in July last year.

Dzulkifli, a veteran in the civil service, was the head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers before being appointed chief commissioner.

He took over from Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, and his tenure is until July 31, 2021.

– By D. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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Thinking Liberally

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely
the writer’s own.

Young adults in developed countries rent, we buy houses for good


While young adults all over the world are renting homes, successful Malaysians and Singaporeans prefer to own homes instead of cars, as soon as they get their first pay cheque.Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malaysians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable. “Like everything else, it’s cyclical. “The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public transportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – The Star/Asia News Network

Demand from first-time buyers still strong despite affordability challenge

PETALING JAYA: Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malay­sians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable.

“Like everything else, it’s cyclical.

“The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public tran­sportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – By Christina Chin The Star

A pricey priority

 

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.

“Many are unrealistic. They want their ideal home in the ideal place. Of course that’s unaffordable. Most affordable homes are in up and coming townships, not prime locations.”

The experience of getting his own place was a “blur” because it happened so fast, he says, though he does recall that, “because it’s affordable housing, I had to fulfil a number of requirements including proving that I’m a bachelor”. While the RM700 monthly mortgage payment is doable, he’s still nervous about being “tied down”.

Writer Teddy Gomez, 29, doesn’t think people have given up on owning property but sees a new trend emerging.

“Buying property is still big here but I see more renters because it’s cheaper and more flexible,” says Gomez, who got “a little help” from his dad buying a 83sqm apartment in Kuala Lumpur last year. Although the cosy RM400,000 unit is “not really affordable”, he says it’s time to leave the nest.

Like Gomez, a blogger who only wants to be known as Robyn, 24, thinks it’s nice to have your own space. She’s moving into an apartment in Petaling Jaya soon. The fresh graduate admits being lucky because her dad’s the owner. She’s getting the three-room unit for less than RM140,000 although it’s valued at over RM750,000.

“For the next three years, I’ll pay the RM3,800 monthly loan instalments. Now, I’m only contributing RM2,000 because I just started working. Dad’s helping until I can afford to take on the full amount myself.”

She knows she’s better off than most her age and is thankful for her family’s support – many of her friends are also looking for properties to buy but are resigned to living outside the city in places like Bangi and Kajang in Selangor. Still, with a RM200,000 budget, they’re willing to travel and own property rather than pay rent indefinitely.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says it’s unfair to tell consumers to live on the outskirts of city centres because public transportation is still a problem in the Klang Valley. Unless the homes are accessible, living far away from the workplace isn’t practical.

National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong sees a very strong demand for affordable properties in Malaysia because of our young population and urban migration.

For instance, the Government’s First House Deposit Financing (MyDeposit) scheme that was launched on April 6 received more than 6,000 online registrations within a week, a sure sign that Malaysians are still keen on owning property.

Fomca’s Selvaraj says property is a priority for most Malaysians because it’s a sound investment. They just can’t afford it in most urban areas.

“If you’re living on bread and water after paying your loan, then the house is unaffordable. For most young families, RM300,000-plus is affordable but it’s RM600,000 homes that are being built.”

Property is the best hedge against inflation so demand will always be strong, says HBA’s Chang. But there’s a “serious mismatch” between what’s classified as affordable by developers and the rakyat’s definition. To developers, an affordable property for first-time buyers is RM500,000. For upgraders, it’s up to RM1mil. Definitions on the ground are much lower. First-time buyers deem RM150,000 to RM300,000 affordable while those looking to upgrade can only pay between RM300,000 and RM600,000.

But if you can afford it – with family help, perhaps – M. Rajendran, 53, says invest early. The air traffic controller got his double-storey home in Kajang 21, Selangor, years ago for RM146,000. It’s worth at least RM600,000 now.

“If I hadn’t bought it then, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford it now with the financial commitments I have. And at my age, no bank is going to give me a loan. Buy when you’re young because it’s cheaper and you can settle your loan faster.”

However, he warns that current economic challenges could result in a rise in the number of abandoned projects, so those looking at new properties should be cautious and do their homework.

“Scout around. Choose locations with infrastructure and amenities so that the potential for property prices to appreciate is higher.” – By Christina Chin The Star

Don’t bank on the banks

 Chang Kim LoongRELAXING lending conditions won’t help more people buy their own homes. It will only worsen the situation as developers increase prices further to match the lending surge, predicts Chang Kim Loong, honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA).

Datuk Paul Selvaraj also doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association secretary-general says home ownership is a right, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to make it a reality. The Government, he stresses, must either build more affordable housing or force developers to cater to the neglected market. It’s wrong to force banks to take bigger lending risks by calling on them to relax lending conditions, he feels.

“Banks will only lend money if they can get it back. It’s unfair to expect them to do otherwise. Also, if the borrowers cannot pay, they themselves will end up with a big headache.”

Banks are rightly stringent as times are uncertain, says Wong Kok Soo, an adviser to the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia and consultant to the HBA.

Lenient policies encourage purchases that are beyond one’s means and are not a good idea; instead, the margin of financing should be increased or the loan tenure extended, for first home buyers. For existing loans, there should be some flexibility in extending tenures and adjusting debt servicing ratio, he feels.

Last year, housing in Kelantan, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor, as well as Kuala Lumpur, were listed as severely unaffordable by market experts. Nationwide, only Malacca made the affordable category with housing in the other states deemed either seriously or moderately unaffordable.

Bank Negara’s “Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2015” showed an increasing supply of homes above RM500,000 while those priced below RM250,000 accounted for less than 30% of the total launches in the first nine months of last year.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique has since called on developers to build more houses priced at RM300,000 for Malaysians.

The next generation won’t be able to own property without financial help from their parents unless concrete measures are taken to increase the supply of properties costing between RM150,000 and RM300,000 and to stem the steep rise in existing property prices due to excessive speculation, says HBA’s Chang.

A Khazanah Research Institute report reveals that Malaysia’s housing market is considered to be “seriously unaffordable”, with a median house price of more than four times the median annual household income. This problem, Chang notes, surfaced a little under a decade ago but if prices continue to soar, the situation could worsen.

Not that there aren’t affordable schemes and funding plans in place to help – in the last 50 years, scores have been introduced but information on them is scarce, he observes. Details of projects by developers, state agencies and federal bodies must be available in a public database, he suggests. And a single umbrella body under the Federal Government must coordinate the distribution and availability of such units.

Chang stresses also that there’s no place for racial profiling when it comes to housing. Whoever deserves a house must get a house, he insists.

There’s never a wrong time to buy property but one must balance the risk of buying with renting, he advices. Owning a house is riskier as buyers take on enormous debts, sign multi-year loan agreements and become responsible for homeowner costs, he cautions.

“Flip through the newspapers – you’ll see many proclamations of sales of units for public auction that are below RM50,000. Some even dip below RM10,000. On bank websites, you’ll find property foreclosure cases.”

A list of properties put up for auction by CIMB bank showed 35 units in Selangor at reserved prices of less than RM42,000 – that’s the price of a new low-cost unit, notes Chang.

Low-cost units auctioned off for half of the purchase price is an alarming trend, he says. Unfortunately, there aren’t any official statistics on how many low income earners have lost their homes or are struggling with their monthly loan commitment. Where do these homeowners and their families end up living, Chang wonders.

Foreclosures can devastate a family’s economic and social standing, possibly leaving them poorer than before they bought the property. Financiers, local authorities and communities benefit from homeowners being better informed of their rights and responsibilities as borrowers. Ensuring that lower income households have sufficient personal financial management skills and support is crucial.

It’s not enough just to provide homes for the low- and medium-income group. Chang recommends that a homeownership education programme be set up to raise financial literacy and prepare households for the responsibilities of owning a home.

“Manuals, advice or information given via telephone, workshops or counselling to help households maintain their homes and manage their finances must be given before first-time buyers sign the sale and purchase agreement. Public housing schemes are only successful if buyers can hold on to their property.”

Specifically, Chang says education should cover:

> Pre-purchase period – understanding the various types of available housing, the process of buying a house, loan process, and financial preparation needed; and evaluating household needs.

> Post-purchase period – budgeting monthly expenses; making payments promptly; avoiding loan defaults; living within a community; social responsibility; property taxes, assessments, insurance, service charges and sinking fund; home maintenance; and handling problems with the property.

Educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others to avoid being disappointed or, worse, becoming “house poor” (when most of your income goes towards home ownership), Chang advises. Aspiring buyers must get something that’s within their budget. It could be an older or smaller unit but start small and slowly increase your property portfolio, he says.

“Don’t let friends or family influence you into getting something that’s above your budget, as home ownership is a long term investment. You must be able to service the loan while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.”

The majority may prefer to rent while waiting for the market to soften but it’s better to have your own shelter, says HBA consultant Wong.

The average Malaysian, he insists, can still own property. Consider buying at auctions. Research is a must, though, as inspections aren’t allowed at auctions. It’s an “as is, where is” bid, he stresses. Find out about the surrounding units and the neighbourhood, he suggests.

Better to own but…

PROPERTY investment helps maintain our socioeconomic well-being and must be encouraged, says Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar, president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda).

Property – a wealth-creation instrument without the volatility of stock markets – has consistently out-performed traditional investment options like bonds, he points out.

But to invest, one must study the property and its market potential. With the right location and strategy, property can be a very profitable investment. The value will appreciate over time, he says.

To many, the most important aspect of owning property is to secure a home. In current conditions, most developers are coming up with attractive packages to close the deal, so it’s a good time to buy. Securing a bank loan now, though, is one of the biggest barriers, he says.

Rehda’s recommendations to the Government and Bank Negara are:

> Encourage innovative home financing packages like the developers interest bearing scheme (better known as DIBS).

> Allow flexible or accelerated tiered payments (longer loan tenure so you pay less now but more later when your salary has increased).

> Relax loan approval criteria with higher financing margins (up to 100%).

Also, banks, he says, shouldn’t just focus on a loan applicant’s current net income; future prospects of higher salaries and other incomes and bonuses must be taken into account.

He dismisses talk that the average Malaysian has been priced out of owning his or her first home.

There’s still a range of prices and options in both the primary and secondary property markets, he says.

With new launches, developers usually offer special incentives, rebates or discounts that will help buyers reduce their initial payment. In the secondary market, however, what you see is what you get. Depending on what you’re looking for, factors like location, surroundings, facilities, transportation and infrastructure will help you decide.

“Property prices in city centres are high because of land value but there are many cheaper options in less-urbanised areas. There are many affordable houses, including those by PR1MA (the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme). The average Malaysian can definitely afford these.

“With an improving transportation system and connectivity, these places are now easily accessible from city centres.”

We are paid enough

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

WAGES are rising in tandem with the country’s consumer price index (CPI), which is a broad measure of inflation and our productivity.

Both criteria are used to determine wages here, says Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

While Malaysians lament how their salaries aren’t enough to cope with soaring costs of products and services, their grouses aren’t reflected in the low CPI numbers, he says.

“Measured against the CPI, our average salary growth isn’t lagging. In the region, our salaries are second only to Singapore. Of course, you must consider the currency exchange. Singaporeans earn an average of S$3,000 (RM9,000) while Malaysians take home RM2,800 monthly.

“But bear in mind that the productivity of Singaporeans is 3.8 times higher than ours. Their per unit cost of production per employee is lower than us. In the United States, the productivity level is seven times higher than ours. So when you say we aren’t earning enough, you have to consider our productivity level too,” he states, pointing to how in some of our neighbouring countries, the average salary is less than US$100 (RM400).

However, he acknowledges that houses are beyond the reach of most – and fresh graduates in particular – and adds that even when both husband and wife work, they still may not have enough for the down payment and are forced to rent.

It’s tough, he admits, even for those who have already been working for a decade, to own a house now without financial support from parents.

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The iron lady of the last survivors of Japanese occupation in WWII Part 4


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The Last Survivors: Yap Chwee Lan
How Japan Forced Women Into Sexual Slavery

AT the age of 15, girls were pretending to be boys during the Japanese Occupation in Malaya, but Yap Chwee Lan was bravely rescuing the people of Kampung Baru, Johor, all because she could speak Japanese.

“Every night, about seven or eight young girls from the neighbourhood would come to my house to sleep because they felt safer there. They knew I could speak Japanese,” recalled Yap, now 90.

“The Japanese soldiers would come knocking on our door to ask for young girls and I’d respond in Japanese, ‘ Why do you need women? You need housekeepers?’. They were shocked I could speak Japanese.”

Yap learnt the language from her former Japanese employer, who was a hairdresser in Johor. The then 13- yearold picked up the language quickly, and was even treated well by his family.

Yap’s fluency in their language granted her favour in the eyes of the Japanese, and this ordinary girl found herself holding extraordinary power – the ability to save people.

She managed to save those who lived in her town, Kampung Baru, Johor, by identifying them – in Japanese – to the soldiers who would have killed them on suspicion of aiding the resistance.

And we were there to capture her experiences as the R. AGE crew brought her around Johor to film at locations that hold significant memories during the Occupation. This is for The Last Survivors, an interactive online documentary project that aims to raise awareness to youths about the importance of preserving Malaysian World War II stories.

Listening to her stories when he was growing up, one of Yap’s grandson Sebastian Chew, 18, is glad he didn’t have to experience WWII and the Occupation as he thinks it will haunt him throughout his life.

“I can’t imagine going through everything – from the bombings, hiding, living in fear and when the Japanese made the people dig their own graves in one of the fields and killed them. I don’t know how my grandma did it,” he said.

“That’s why I think it’s important for young people to know about these war stories so they can prevent anything of this sort from happening in the future. It’s cruel and heartbreaking.”

In her teenage years, Yap, whose father passed away when she was seven years old, had to work because her family was living in poverty.

She got married when she was 15, and lived with her husband Chiew Seng Leung at his laundry shop, Kedai Dobi Shanghai, in Johor Baru. Twenty days after their wedding, the Japanese started bombing Singapore.

Japanese fighter jets, based in Johor, would fly across to Singapore twice a day to bomb the neighbouring country. As the Japanese was attacking Singapore, lots of people walked over to Johor for safety. Yap and her family evacuated to Tampoi.

“We packed food and clothes, and placed them on my husband’s bicycle. As we were walking to Tampoi, we were stopped by a soldier because he wanted our bicycle. I told him in Japanese that it was ours and he let us through,” said Yap.

“The soldiers would leave you alone if they knew you could speak Japanese because it was like you were one of them. They’ll have more respect for you.”

Once they were in Tampoi, they sought refuge in a temple along with about 50 other refugees, but soldiers came looking for comfort women. Yap not only told them there were none, but also said she was part Japanese, hoping they wouldn’t come back.

But the next day, the Japanese returned. This time, they were with their general.

Yet, Yap wasn’t afraid. “Strangely enough, I wasn’t scared. He was impressed that I could speak Japanese and praised me, saying it was good because I could help the Japanese soldiers,” she said. He proceeded to ask Yap if they had enough food and made sure they did by sending them rice, sugar and flour so they could cook.

He also offered her a job in Singapore as a liaison officer between the Japanese and the locals. She took the job after the island was invaded, but later learned that the Singaporeans she had liaised with were all eventually killed.

The distance was too much for Yap to handle as well, as she didn’t know if her family was well and alive. She returned to Johor one week later, and things were unfortunately similar to what was happening in Singapore.

Chiew’s boss had been arrested, along with a bunch of other people.

“There were black flags all along the streets,” Yap recalled. “It meant everybody was to stay home, because the Japanese would arrest anyone on sight.”

Those who were arrested were taken to a house in Jalan Abdul Samad, behind what is now the Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, to be held before being taken to Dataran Bandaraya, where they would be executed.

“When I got to the house, the people were kneeling on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs with thick wire as the Japanese soldiers pointed bayonets at them,” said Yap.

“A lot of them called out my name, begging me to save them. Then the Japanese asked if I knew these people.”

“I said, ‘ Yes, I do’. A lot of them lived in my neighbourhood. When I identi- fied them, they were freed.”

The rest, whom she couldn’t identify, weren’t so lucky. Her mother’s friend’s son was one of the unlucky ones.

“I didn’t see him there, I was devastated when I found out. His mother was crying in the street,” said Yap, recalling the horrors of wartime Malaya.

Those remained were brought to the field. They were asked to dig holes in the ground, sit at the edge of the holes and were shot with machine guns. As the bodies fell in, those who were merely injured were kicked into those holes they had dug themselves and buried alive together with the dead.

While a great number of people died during the Occupation, many more owe their lives to Yap.

Her family, though, remained safe, thanks to Yap.

“Before I went to Singapore, the Japanese general gave me a permit for my family,” she said. “He told me, ‘ If anybody disturbs your family, ask them to report to one of my officers’.”

Today, Yap and her family still live in Johor, where some of the survivors’ descendants still recognise her.

“I was walking around town and suddenly someone called out, ‘ Ah Ma!’. They told their kids that I saved their grandfather or grandmother,” Yap said with a laugh.

By VIVIENNE WONG The Star

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Last man standing in Penang under the Kempeitai during WWII Part 3


Working under the Kempeitai in Penang during WWII haunts James Jeremiah to this day.

While filming an episode of Jeremiah brought the crew back to the Wesley Methodist Church in Penang, where he would hear the screams of those torutured there by the Japanese. He had not been back to the church in over 70 years. — HAFrIZ IQBAL/ r. AGE

STARING out to sea on Fort Cornwallis, James Jeremiah cuts a lonely figure.

“Before the fighting started, we were so excited to shoot the Japanese. We had never seen war; we had only seen it in the movies,” said Jeremiah. “But the first time I heard a real bomb, I was scared to death.”

That was at the old Bayan Lepas Airport, where Jeremiah witnessed the beginning of the Japanese invasion of Penang. He was 18 at the time, and a member of the Eurasian “E” company of Penang, a volunteer force similar to the British Home Guard.

“We thought the Japanese would fly in from Batu Maung in the south, but they came in through Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi. I think they knew we were focused on the south.”

The tactic worked. The volunteers mistook the Japanese planes for British fighters, a mistake that almost cost them their lives.

“They turned out to be Japanese Zero fighters. They starting bombing and machine gunning us. Shrapnel was flying everywhere. I cannot even describe the fear we had in our hearts.”

Although they were trained to some extent, the Volunteer Forces ( VF) were not hardened military men.

After the bombing, it was only a matter of time before Japanese ground troops arrived.

Even then, the volunteer forces regrouped at their headquarters on Peel Avenue, and did their best to maintain order.

With the British gone and the Japanese at their doorstep, people were looting ruined houses and bodies were strewn everywhere from the bombing.

“We carried the dead bodies away, assisted the wounded and stopped all looters.

“It’s no joke when you’re in that situation – we just didn’t know what to do,” said Jeremiah.

Things quickly got worse when the Japanese arrived. The Volunteer Forces were rounded up, and the Europeans and fairskinned Eurasians were sent to Singapore to be held as prisoners of war.

“My father had rather dark skin, which I inherited. I think it saved my life!” said Jeremiah.

The remaining VF members were used by the Japanese as guides. Jeremiah’s work ethic as a guide caught the eye of a member of the Kempeitai, the feared Japanese military police.

“Colonel Watanabe took me to his office and asked what work I could do, so I said anything. He asked me to make tea, coffee, polish his boots – things like that.”

The Kempeitai office was located in the Wesley Methodist Church on Jalan Burma. Although he was a mere office boy, the experience was terrifying.

He still lives on Penang island today, a mere 20 minutes from the church – but he has never gone back to the church in over 70 years, until he brought R. AGE there last month to shoot an episode of The Last Survivors ( rage. com. my/ lastsurvivors).

“I used to see people being arrested. I don’t know how, but they were ‘ interrogated’. I used to hear screams, cries… I couldn’t take it,” he said in the video, which is part of a series documenting the stories of Malaysia’s WWII survivors.

Although the brutality of the Kempeitai has haunted many, including Jeremiah, not all the Japanese were cruel overlords.

Watanabe was educated in the United States, and he saved Jeremiah’s life a few times.

The Japanese would hold “trials” at public spaces – including Padang Kota Lama next to Fort Cornwallis – where their local informants would expose other locals who were working against the Japanese.

“( The informants) wore hoods when they pointed people out. The minute they point at you, you’re finished, gone,” said Jeremiah. “The Japanese would round up the public so the informants could point people out.”

Jeremiah thanks Watanabe for saving him from attending the trials, where he believes he could easily have been singled out for execution. “Watanabe protected me. I was so lucky, he was very good to me.”

Some of the informants flaunted their special privilege with the Japanese, according to Jeremiah.

“They would say ‘ don’t mess with us’, so we kept quiet. I remember a famous Eurasian doctor, Doctor J. E. Smith, who was done in by them and, I think, beheaded.”

Even with Watanabe’s protection, the atrocities being committed at the Kempeitai office was too much for Jeremiah to bear, and he asked to be transfered to the railways. The colonel relunctantly agreed.

Watanabe continued showing kindness to Jeremiah even after he started work as a locomotive driver, putting in a good word to his new boss and General Yamashita himself, the mastermind behind the invasion of Malaya. Yamashita had defeated the combined Australian, British and Indian force of 130,000 soldiers with just 30,000 troops.

“Yamashita was riding the train along with Tadashi Suzuki ( an infamous samurai sword- wielding executioner), but I couldn’t understand what they were saying as it was in Japanese,” said Jeremiah. “They noticed that my new boss’ boots were shining, and Watanabe said I was the one who polished them.”

The general made a lasting impression on young Jeremiah, who said the very sight of him made everyone afraid.

“He was very fierce and very dynamic, though very big and chubby. Everyone was afraid. I didn’t dare look him in the eye.”

While many struggled for food during the Occupation, Jeremiah said he was lucky to be paid in both “banana money” – the Japanese currency – and food.

“I used to get about 30 dollars a week, sometimes more. I saved the bread for my parents and if I wanted an egg, I’d ask Watanabe.”

Had he been caught smuggling eggs, the colonel would have beheaded him.

The horrors of the Occupation were a far cry from his pre- war days.

Jeremiah was rotated around a few places, including Fort Auchry ( now a Malaysian army camp), Fort Cornwallis and Batu Maung.

He remembers watching the Europeans and Eurasians boarding ships at Swettenham Pier heading to Singapore, where they believed they would be safe. Winston Churchill had insisted Singapore would not fall.

He was also posted at Batu Maung, a British fort which the Japanese turned into a torture chamber.

He brought the Last Survivors crew there during filming. The original fort remains, but the land is now a privately owned museumcum- theme park, with plastic “ghosts” hanging everywhere and a paintball field attached.

“Everything has changed,” said Jeremiah with a laugh. “I don’t remember any of this being here!”

Jeremiah spent the rest of the war as a locomotive driver. After the war, he worked at the Batu Ferringhi reservoir, where he would retire as a superintendent.

While he experienced many horrors during the war, something beautiful did come out of it. He met his late wife, a former Miss Thailand, during his time on the railways.

“I travelled all the way to Bangkok after the war to find her,” said Jeremiah with a wide smile.

“All I had was her name, as her letters never had a return address.”

Though he lives on, happily surrounded by his children and grandchildren, Jeremiah said young Malaysians need to find out about their grandparents’ experiences.

“War is something that hurts everyone – it’s not like what you see in the movies. They should find out; they need to be told what happened.”

Today, he has outlived all 18 members of the “E” Company, all five of his siblings, and one of his children.

“All my friends and colleagues are now gone. I am the last survivor.”

By Natasha Venner-Pack, The Star

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Old and ageing abused by their own Children


PETALING JAYA: When his son left him at a bus station, John (not his real name) waited patiently for him to return. Five hours later, he was still waiting. Passers-by noticed him and called the police.

The 72-year-old man has dementia and was sent to hospital. Medical social workers managed to get him to recall his son’s telephone number.

When they called John’s son, he did not want to take his father home.

People like John are vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and he is not eligible for government shelter for the elderly because he still has a family.

John is among many Malaysian elderly folk who are facing abuse and neglect. According to a study, one in 10 urban elderly Malaysian is abused, with financial abuse being the most common.

The survey by a team of researchers from the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine under Universiti Malaya’s Medical Faculty said psychological abuse was the next most common followed by physical abuse.

“A pilot survey was done among the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 involving 291 individuals above the age of 60. There were elders living in low-cost government-subsidised flats. Of the total, 9.6% said they experienced one or more forms of abuse within the last 12 months of the survey,” said Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi.

By S. Indramalar The Star/Asia News Network

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Dr Noran is leading the Prevent Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative (Peace) with her colleague Dr Clare Choo.

The team also found that one in 20 rural elders have experienced abuse based on a survey they did among 2,000 respondents in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan.

The most common abuse reported among rural elders is psychological followed by financial.

Anita (not her real name) is a subject of financial abuse. As she has arthritis, she found it difficult to go to the bank. Her son persuaded the 68-year-old retired clerk to give him the authority to handle her finances.

Soon after, he got his widowed mother to sign over her house to him.

“I didn’t want to, but I was bullied into signing my house over. He kept accusing me of not trusting him.

“At first, everything was all right. But then he began investing my money in all kinds of ventures. I have no say in what he does with my money. When I ask him, it gets unpleasant.

“But I am worried what will happen when my money runs out,” laments Anita, who lives with her son in Petaling Jaya.

Still, she would never report her son because elder abuse is not a topic Malaysians discuss openly.

Deputy Women, Family and Com­munity Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun admits that reported figures do not paint the actual picture.

“These are only the cases that come to us. There may be more that we do not know of,” she said.

Most of elder abuse cases go unreported as many see it as a “family problem” which can be dealt with behind closed doors.

Only 23 cases of elder abuse and neglect were reported in the past three years, according to statistics from the ministry.

The study, however, shows it is far more prevalent.

“The Peace study is the first of its kind in Malaysia and it corroborates prevalence rates of elder abuse and neglect in other Asian countries which range from 14% to 27.5%,” added Dr Noran.

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The freelance generation


Freelance generationYoung people are finding typical nine-to-five office jobs less appealing, while companies are also realising the benefits of freelancers – more savings on office space and employee benefits.

 

Full-time jobs? Pfft. Who needs ’em when you can freelance at home in your jammies?

ONCE upon a time, it was only natural to seek and secure a stable job after you graduate, preferably with an established company where you can build your resume based on the reputation of the company.

But now, with the culture of the modern workforce, where demands are high and speed of work is essential, we are seeing the rise of “independent workers” – aka freelancers.

Malaysian Emoployers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said there has been a “rapid growth” in freelancing in Malaysia, especially with work that can be done online.

He said: “Freelancers have more freedom and flexibility. For some it is about following their passion and being their own boss, while at the same time earning some income.”

According to a PC.com article earlier this year, since Malaysians started using the Freelancer.com website in 2009, over 27,000 freelance jobs have been posted, and over US$851,000 earned by freelancers.

Most of the jobs originate from the Klang Valley, with Malaysian employers mainly hiring freelancers from South Asia. In line with the growth of ICT industries, the most popular projects are software architecture, MySQL and software testing.

The freelance generation

For graphic designer and videographer Zermi Ng, 25, being a freelancer had not only helped him become more productive, but also given him more free time.

“As a freelancer, I usually take about two to eight days to complete a film, and whatever time I have left is usually free for me to do what I want,” he said.

Ng said he could spend just a week to deliver a production and get the same monthly salary he would with a nine-to-five job with five days a week in the office. “The only problem is you might not get a job every month,” he said.

Shamsuddin said: “People who don’t want to be bound by the strict 9am to 5pm working hours would usually choose the freelancing path. But not all jobs can be done by freelancers.

“They usually are professions in the creative field like designers and copywriters, as well as IT or enginering professions.”

He pointed that more companies are now attracted to this new form of hiring and moving away from traditional employment.

The benefits for employers, he said, is they can “save on benefits and statutory payments” while maintaining a lean workforce and meeting bursts in demand.

“For example, a company who specialises in food and beverage will not need to hire a full-time web developer just to set up a website. In fact, the web developer doesn’t even need to show up to the office.

“By hiring full-time staff, there is space reduction, and more budget spent on benefits. If you hire a freelancer, it’s a win-win situation. Freelancers get the freedom they want and companies don’t need to spend on office space.”

According to Sam Haggar, the Malaysia country head of human resource consulting firm ManpowerGroup, freelancing is becoming a trend because more young people like the lifestyle that comes with it.

“The lifestyle of being able to be anywhere at any time while working is becoming more and more of a trend. There is also no geographical boundary when it comes to delivering their work.”

Fashion photographer Bibo Aswan, 24, started his freelance career in fashion photography and potraiture while studying in Form Two. Before he even graduated with his diploma in photography, he already had a handful of clients to start with.

Freelance fashion photographer Bibo Aswan may work with a photography studio in the future to gain more professional experience to further his career in photography.

Freelance fashion photographer Bibo Aswan hopes to work with a photography studio in the future to gain more professional experience and gain access to better equipment.

 

Even during his internship with a photography studio, he found that he preferred a more flexible working schedule. “I could actually continue to work with the studio full-time, but I chose not to. By freelancing, I don’t actually have to work everyday.”

A price to pay

It is important to note that there is a difference between freelance and part-time workers. Part-timers are employees who are entitled to all company benefits and social security like EPF and Socso, but with a lower level of commitment.

But of course, freelancers usually enjoy more freedom and flexibility. In the eyes of the law, however, they have very little leverage against their employers. And on top of that, their income is rarely as stable as that of a full-time or part-time employee.

“Freelancers are paid for their work but they have almost no benefits and have no rights of employment apart from a contract between the employer and the freelancer,” said Haggar.

According to Shamsuddin, there also have been cases where freelancers were scammed and cheated for their services. “There are ‘companies’ and ‘employers’ out there targeting freelancers. They ask for your services and then disappear without giving you payment.”

Shamsuddin said freelancers ought to be careful in dealing with their employers as they might encounter bogus companies or scams. It is vital for a freelancer to request for a civil contract, and also to check the employer and company’s background before committing to a job.

Through both freelancing and working as an employee, filmmaker Joshua Chay, 27, discovered what he wanted to achieve in his career.

Filmmaker Joshua Chay took his freelance career to the next level by starting his own film company called The Spacemen.

Filmmaker Joshua Chay took his freelance career to the next level by starting his own production company called The Spacemen.

“I didn’t see myself working for a company because I wanted to be my own person. In that way I’m able to produce the kind of work I like and I’m passionate about,” said Chay.

Although Chay pursued a freelance career in filmmaking, he was working with many types of clients – including some he didn’t particularly enjoy working with.

“The biggest thing about my freelance career was that it was growing, and fast. But through the jobs, I realised what kind of work I didn’t want to do. So from there, I began to pick my clients and produce the type of work I enjoy and am actually good at,” said Chay.

Haggar added: “That’s one of the great advantages freelancers have – they get to choose their clients and enjoy their work.”

The path to entrepreneurship

Eventually, freelancing became a stepping stone for Chay to venture into something bigger – starting his very own company. He realised the importance of expanding his services, as well as presenting a higher credibility to clients, which is why he founded his own company, The Spacemen, with two other friends.

Ng had also taken steps to expand his services by starting his own company, Mime Studio. “Starting a company will attract more clients, and it makes it easier for us to convince them,” he said.

But on the flipside, despite the liberty freelancers have, Haggar said they often lose out on the mentorship you get from having a superior, and learning from other colleagues. “This form of working may cause young freelancers to be less business-savvy and structured, because they are without guidance.”

Because of this, Bibo plans to work with a professional photography studio in the near future. “I want to do that so I can learn the business side of things. Plus, a professional studeio would also have better resources, like proper production equipment.”

That’s one of the reasons why Chay spent around three years freelancing before he started his own company. He wanted to learn everything from scratch, from the top to the bottom of the production industry.

“Because I started out doing everything on my own, I had to learn everything. And I realised after a while that starting a company was the right move. Multi-national companies may not work with freelancers, but they might if you’re a legit company,” he said.

Freelancers may have the liberty to work when, where and how they want,but they lose out on full-time benefits and social security.

Contributed by  by Kevin Tan The Star/Asia News Network

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