Taxing morally

October 28th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion One Response
Taxing morally

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published as “Tax system should not discriminate ” in The Star 28 October 2014

In my column two weeks ago, I wrote about how taxes are a form of coercion by the government against the people. Since then, I received many comments saying that it is not fair to blame Barisan Nasional for everything.

I want to start this column by clarifying again that when I use the word ‘government’ I do not refer to any political party. A government is the entity that is tasked with governing. It can be at federal, state or local levels. And it can be made up of people from any party. I am not talking about Barisan Nasional government or Pakatan Rakyat government but simply the entity of the ‘government’ generally.

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Paying it backwards

October 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion No Responses
Paying it backwards

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun 17 October 2014

AMIDST the media frenzy that surrounds the budget each year, not many pay attention to the supplementary budgets. Did you know that the government spends billions of ringgit that is outside the main budget, which is only requested for in supplementary budgets many months later?

Consider this. The budget for 2011 was first tabled at RM211.3 billion, but the two supplementary budgets tabled later (for that particular year) came up to a whopping RM23.48 billion, forming more than 10% of the original total.

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You will pay for everything

October 14th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion 2 Responses
You will pay for everything

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published as “How our money is spent” in The Star 14 October 2014

The Prime Minister delivered his Budget Speech last Friday. The speech started very well. I like Dato Sri Najib Razak’s admission that “The biggest challenge I face in administering Malaysia … is how to balance between policies that are populist in nature as compared to those policies based on economic and financial imperatives.”

This is the reality of politics. Politicians must be and must remain popular. Someone who does not worry about popularity shouldn’t even think about entering politics. Acknowledging that shows that Najib is a realistic politician, unlike some others who are extremely populist but always deny it.

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Open up the government

September 30th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Open up the government

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published in The Star 30 September 2014

The Administration and Diplomatic Officers (Pegawai Tadbir dan Diplomatik, PTD) Alumni Association held their international conference on 9th and 10th September in Kuala Lumpur.

PTD officers are the pillar of Malaysian civil service. Not everyone in the civil service belongs to the PTD category and usually many top government posts, in Malaysia and abroad, are held by PTD officers.

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Inspirations from Raja Aziz Addruse

September 26th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Inspirations from Raja Aziz Addruse

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Malay Mail 26 September 2014

Raja Aziz Addruse was best known for being elected thrice to the Presidency of the Bar Council, founding the country’s first human rights NGO, and dealing with profound constitutional issues. To me, he was also a family friend: I knew him only as Uncle Aziz and only later realised his role in fighting for our democracy.

As Malaysia’s foremost constitutional lawyer, Raja Aziz rejected the notion of parliamentary supremacy, arguing that “the fundamental principle which applies under a written constitution is that it is the Constitution itself, and not Parliament, which is supreme”, lamenting the 1988 constitutional amendments that subverted this. Today, the basic structure of our Constitution is under threat from several angles, and there are those who deliberately reinterpret basic premises of our Constitution, citing key articles out of context as justification.

Raja Aziz also wrote on issues such as the independence of backbenchers, freedom of speech, the 1993 constitutional amendments that removed the Rulers’ legal immunity, the mandatory nature of the death penalty, the use of police firearms, apostasy, single-spouse conversion of children, detention without trial and of course the Sedition Act.

His ominous words reflect a general state of cynicism towards politics and government in Malaysia today. Amongst the chattering classes there is no shortage of cynicism to describe the health of our democracy. Institutions are seen to have been compromised by personal or party interests, to the extent that it becomes difficult even for ethical individuals to contribute: several respected NGO and corporate figures have lost credibility simply by becoming cabinet ministers. The prevalent view is that individuals will be corrupted by the system, instead of the system being cleansed by individuals.

This situation has been aided by an intentionally deficient teaching of history which omits the presence of concepts such as rule of law, separation of powers and limits to authority in ancient Malay polities. Even post-Merdeka history is distorted, as the political successors of Dato’ Onn Ja’afar, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman are speciously presented as their ideological successors too. Their attitudes towards authoritarian legislation in the context of a communist insurgency are forgotten, so too their ability to socialise with political opponents. But today, simply supporting a different party leads to accusations of treason.

In such an atmosphere, what hope is there for rule of law and morality? How do we break the cycle of institutional destruction? We cannot rely on political forces alone, as we have seen by recent political shenanigans on both sides.

Rather, we need to cajole political forces into a consensus, to re-forge a shared understanding of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. There were aspects of this during Tun Abdullah Badawi’s administration: democratic space opened up that enabled the strengthening of civil society; his acceptance of the 2008 general election results while others bayed for blood proved that peaceful transitions were possible; the Royal Commission of Inquiry into police reform produced a valuable proposal even though it wasn’t fully implemented; and his attempt to reform the judiciary, accompanied by a statement of regret about the 1988 constitutional crisis, was a step in the right direction in recalibrating the relationship between judiciary, executive, and public.

So there are things that morally courageous can do to realise Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision of “a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice” – but where moral courage is absent, it is up to civil society to show that the pillars of the Rukunegara can be upheld without the insincere hectoring of the state.

Today, Raja Aziz’s point about the elasticity of the definition of ‘seditious tendency’ in the Sedition Act is prescient. But there is a way out, if the National Harmony Bill can assuage those who are outraged by the recent spate of arrests as well as those who fear that racial and religious slurs will be used to incite violence.

Raja Aziz was a national hero, as attested by the multitude of accounts that remember him, such as: “The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary were to him not mere clichés or fancy words to be uttered at the appropriate time and to be forgotten when it becomes inconvenient. Raja Aziz believed in these values.”

Perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that, despite the 1988 constitutional amendments, there remains a contestation between the supremacy of Parliament and that of the Constitution. The battle that Raja Aziz fought throughout his career can still be won, but only if the Malaysian judiciary successfully asserts its independence and ultimately wins the respect of the people.

This is a summary of a speech given by the author at the 3rd Raja Aziz Addruse Memorial Lecture. Full text is available at Click here to download the full text

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Govt and civil society: The gap widens

September 25th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Govt and civil society: The gap widens

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun 25 September 2014

AN Asian civil society summit I attended in Jakarta recently discussed the often times tenuous relationship between government and civil society in countries within the region.

Civil society in many of our neighbouring countries face great challenges. Lack of funding, accusations of being anti-nationalist, or worse, anti-government, imprisonment and sexual harassment were some examples cited by colleagues from India, Myanmar, Cambodia and elsewhere.

Throughout the two days of discussing the governance of civil society, what became clear though was that all participants agreed there ought to be a more enabling environment to create a safer space for civil society to operate in. With greater freedom to push for more open, transparent and accountable government, this would ultimately allow for improved public service delivery.

The Indonesian example may be useful to cite in this instance, where there is an official government policy to encourage civil society to engage with them through partnerships, and have even set up a “democracy trust fund” to strengthen civil society organisations. On this count, the government itself has demonstrated its willingness to support civil society in building its capacity.

One of the more brilliant examples was a mobile application developed by the government itself, called “Lapor” (Report), which allows citizens to submit reports of any public nature, accompanied with photos or documents, using their hand phones. The receiving government office would then forward the report on to the relevant agency or ministry in charge of the complaint, to take immediate action.

While this is certainly encouraging, there is also a unique balance that civil society must strive to maintain in its relationship with government: being able to contribute to participatory decision-making requires a level of partnership with government (whether local, state or federal), but at the same time there ought to be a reasonable distance away from government such that the organisations are still deemed as independent and not co-opted into the agenda of government itself.

In fact, one question raised during the event was whether or not the government should make it compulsory for civil society organisations to register officially.

In some cases, governments can wield their powers in requiring NGOs to register, and by so doing, set up high barriers to entry in the “civil society marketplace”, regulating them strictly and in the worst case, controlling them. In which case, it is far better not to require societies and NGOs to register. Should people not be free to set up organisations without being officially registered and regulated?

Back home, the Registrar of Societies (ROS) has called up several steering committee members of Negara-Ku, a national unity movement whose charter has been endorsed by more than 80 NGOs, for questioning.

Among the questions asked is why there has been no application for the movement to be registered. Apparently, in Malaysia, your organisation can be called up by the ROS for questioning whether or not you are registered.

And this is just one example in a slew of a recent clampdown by the administration, which seems to be targeted to repress freedom of expression. In recent weeks, more than 20 individuals have been hauled up under the Sedition Act, the latest of whom has been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. NGOs have responded by launching an “Abolish the Sedition Act” movement.

This is all to be expected from civil society in Malaysia. There will be movements, and there will be marches, peaceful protests, or demonstrations, call it what you wish. This is all part and parcel of activism, in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world.

The very nature of non-governmental organisations is that they represent the interests of the non-governmental individuals and stakeholders, and many (if not all) times this may be in direct conflict with the opinions of the powers that be.

The difference lies in how government chooses to react.

As I sat back to listen to the Indonesian President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4, which is similar in set-up to Pemandu in Malaysia) wax lyrical about civic engagement, open online platforms, and the need for citizen participation through technology and innovation, I could not help but wonder whether this sort of language would one day arrive at the doorsteps of our bureaucracy.

The reverse seems to be happening on our shores. There is a widening gap between the government and civil society, or at least one segment of civil society. Is it possible for this gap to narrow?

What set the groundwork for Indonesia’s eventual adoption of the Open Government Partnership – a government-led initiative and commitment to openness – was the enacting of the Freedom of Information Act. This is one step that our government could consider if it wants to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability.

But before that, government officials, ministers, and civil servants must be encouraged to eventually step out of their comfort zones, stop viewing civil society as an evil force, and learn to engage them for their own benefit. In the long run, this is the only scenario that would result in a better quality of life for us all.

– - -

Tricia Yeoh is the chief operating officer of IDEAS

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Liberty and justice in practice

September 16th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Liberty and justice in practice

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published by The Star 16 September 2014

Today is Malaysia Day. Malaysia was formed 51 years ago, bringing together Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore under one federation, as one country.

When Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed the formation of Malaysia, he repeated the same words when Malaya was proclaimed as an independent country. He proudly announced that this nation was founded upon the two principles of liberty and justice.

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We stand with Dr. Azmi Sharom

September 5th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
We stand with Dr. Azmi Sharom

We, the 300 undersigned academics and concerned individuals, stand united and in solidarity with Dr Azmi Sharom, whose only alleged ‘crime’ is to think and to publicly share his considered opinion on matters related to his professional expertise as a law professor.

Reportedly, all Dr Azmi did was to caution the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat to not resort to the Court of Appeal’s ‘landmark’ ruling of effecting a transition of government and Menteri Besar in the Perak case but to revert to the universally accepted convention of testing its support and its candidate for Menteri Besar in a vote of confidence in the state assembly. What is so seditious about that?

Charging Dr Azmi Sharom with ‘uttering and publishing a seditious statement’ only shows up the hypocrisy of this government. After all, does not this same government also employ Dr Azmi to teach students about our legal system, to undertake research, to study judicial pronouncements and to opine what constitutes justice within a democracy? Does it not defeat the very purpose of his work and indeed the work of thousands of other academics within a nationwide university system if he is to be summarily hauled up for merely doing his duty as an academic?

Charging Dr Azmi Sharom with ‘uttering and publishing a seditious statement’ for his informed views reveals the lack of respect this government has towards the universal principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. By its actions, this government reveals it is led by politicians who are unable to appreciate civilised democratic values nurtured by enlightened universal education. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s on-going mantra of commitment towards academic excellence, democracy, government and economic transformation rings hollow.

We are of the view that, as long as one does not espouse violence or promote hate, there is no law in our modern world that can justify the criminalising of thought and public speech. Indeed, the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948 under which Dr Azmi is being charged only indicates a painful irony, namely after 57 years of Merdeka we remain shackled and oppressed by the very government that claims to have freed us from British colonial rule.

There is no place in a modern, progressive and democratic Malaysia for an archaic, backward and oppressive law that is the Sedition Act 1948. It is a repugnant law and must be repealed. It runs afoul of the fundamental liberties as enshrined in the federal constitution. It runs afoul of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it runs afoul of our nature as enlightened human beings with thinking minds.

Free Dr Azmi Sharom from this perversion of justice! Free Malaysia!

4 Sept 2014


1 Andrew Aeria Academic Kuching
2 Lee Hwok Aun Academic Kuala Lumpur
3 Faisal Hazis Academic Kuching
4 Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid Academic Penang
5 Ahmad Fuad Rahmat Academic Shah Alam
6 Aishah Knight Academic Penang
7 Amanda Whiting Academic Melbourne, Australia
8 Aznijar Ahmad Yazid Academic & PKAUM Klang
9 Chai Ming Hock Academic Kuching
10 Chiew Thiam Kian Academic Kuala Lumpur
11 Chua Hang Kuen Academic Penang
12 Datin Dr. Sameem Abdul Kareem Academic Kuala Lumpur
13 Dato’ Chatar Singh Physicist & Academic /Retired Penang
14 Dato Dr Toh Kin Woon Research Fellow Penang
15 Dato Dr.Sharom Ahmat Academic/Retired Penang
16 Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa Academic Kuala Lumpur
17 Dr Jeff Tan Academic London
18 Dr Lai Suat Yan Academic & PKAUM Kuala Lumpur
19 Dr Lee King Siong Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
20 Dr Mavis Puthucheary Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
21 Dr Mohd Faizal Musa Academic Bangi
22 Dr Mustafa K Anuar Academic Penang
23 Dr Nur AfifahVanitha Abdullah Academic Kuching
24 Dr Ooi Kee Beng Academic Penang
25 Dr Subramaniam Pillay Academic Kuala Lumpur
26 Dr Tessa J. Houghton Academic Semenyih
27 Dr Wong Chin Huat Academic Penang
28 Dr. Bridget Welsh Senior Research Associate Kuala Lumpur/Taipei
29 Dr. Cecilia Ng Academic Penang
30 Dr. Corinne Hyde Academic Baton Rouge, USA
31 Dr. Khoo Gaik Cheng Academic Kuala Lumpur
32 Dr. Koo Yew Lie Academic Kuala Lumpur, UK & Australia
33 Dr. Lee Chai Peng Academic/Retired Petaling Jaya
34 Dr Lee Su Kim Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
35 Dr. Leong Yueh Kwong Ecologist Penang
36 Dr. Lim Mah Hui City Councillor Penang
37 Dr. Lim Teck Ghee Policy Researcher Kuala Lumpur
38 Dr. Lucy Bailey Academic Semenyih
39 Dr. Patricia Anne Martinez Academic Petaling Jaya
40 Dr. Rajeswari Kanniah Academic putrajaya
41 Dr. Rusaslina Idrus Academic Kuala Lumpur
42 Dr. Tan Liok Ee Academic/Retired Penang
43 Dr. John Whalen-Bridge Academic Singapore
44 Edmund Terence Gomez Academic Kuala Lumpur
45 FK Phang Academic Kuala Lumpur
46 Francis Loh Academic/Retired & Civil Society Activist Penang
47 Goy Siew Ching Academic Kuching
48 Gregore Pio Lopez Research Fellow Perth, Australia
49 Helen Ting Academic Kajang
50 Ho Sinn-Chye Academic Penang
51 Ivy Loo Academic Penang
52 James Chin Academic Kuala Lumpur
53 Jayaeswari Sangaralingam Academic Penang
54 Jenny Chew Saw Chin Academic Penang
55 Joanne Lim Academic Selangor
56 Jonathan JS Kovilpillai Academic Kuala Lumpur
57 K.Thiruchelvam Academic Petaling Jaya
58 Kam Suan Pheng Academic Penang
59 Kamal Salih Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
60 Kamal Solhaimi Fadzil Academic Kuala Lumpur
61 Khoo Ying Hooi Academic Kuala Lumpur
62 Kua Kia Soong Academic Kuala Lumpur
63 Law Tzuo Hann Academic Taiping
64 Lee Hock Guan Senior Research Fellow Singapore
65 Lim Hong Sheng Academic Johor Bahru/Oxford
66 Loh Kong Ken Academic Kuala Lumpur
67 Loh Wei Leng Academic Kuala Lumpur
68 Loo Hong Chuang Academic Kuala Lumpur
69 maimuna hamid merican Academic Kuala Lumpur
70 Mary Varghese Academic Petaling Jaya
71 Molly NN Lee Academic Penang
72 Ng Kah Chuan Academic Kuala Lumpur
73 Ng Mei Peng Academic Petaling Jaya
74 Ngo Sheau Shi Academic Penang
75 Ngu Ik Tien Academic Kuala Lumpur
76 Noraida Endut Academic Penang
77 Paul Lim Academic/Retired Taipei
78 Petra Gimbad Academic Kuala Lumpur
79 Phua Kai Lit Academic Shah Alam
80 Por Heong Hong Academic/Independent Researcher Kuala Lumpur
81 Por Lip Yee Academic & PKAUM Kuala Lumpur
82 Professor Abdul Rahman Embong Academic/Researcher Bangi
83 Professor William G. Tierney Academic Los Angeles, USA
84 Professor Andrew Harding Academic Singapore
85 Professor Khoo Boo Teik Academic Tokyo
86 Professor Maude E Phipps Academic Petaling Jaya
87 Professor Surichai Wungaeo Academic Bangkok
88 Rafidah Md. Noor Academic Kuala Lumpur
89 Raja Ariffin Raja Ghazilla Academic & PKAUM Kuala Lumpur
90 Richard Mason Academic Kuala Lumpur
91 Rokiah Alavi Academic Kuala Lumpur
92 Rom Nain Academic Selangor
93 Rosli H Mahat Academic & PKAUM Kuala Lumpur
94 Rosli Omar Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
95 Ruhana bt. Padzil Academic Kuala Lumpur
96 Santhiram Raman Academic Penang
97 Shamsul AB Social Anthropologist Seremban
98 Sharifah Muhairah Shahabudin Academic Petaling Jaya
99 Sharon A. Bong Academic Petaling Jaya
100 Sharon Kaur Academic Petaling Jaya
101 Soon Chuan Yean Academic Penang
102 Sue Khor Academic Penang
103 Sumit Mandal Independent Scholar Petaling Jaya
104 Suresh Narayanan Academic Penang
105 Tamir Moustafa Academic Burnaby, Canada
106 tan beng hui Academic Kuala Lumpur
107 Tan Ka Kheng Academic Kuala Lumpur
108 Tan Sooi Beng Academic Penang
109 Tan Sri Dato’ Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan Academic Penang
110 Thock Ker Pong Academic Kuala Lumpur.
111 Ting Su Hie Academic Kuching
112 Too Shaw Warn Academic Semenyih
113 VGR Chandran Govindaraju Academic Petaling Jaya
114 Wan Chang Da Academic Penang
115 Wan Manan Academic Kota Bharu
116 Wang Lay Kim Academic Penang
117 Wei Keong Too Academic Semenyih
118 Wong Mun Loong Academic Kajang
119 Wong Soak Koon Academic/Retired Kuala Lumpur
120 Yap Tuan Gee Academic & Medical Doctor Kuala Lumpur
121 Yeoh Seng Guan Academic Kuala Lumpur
122 Yuen Kok Leong Academic Kuching
123 Zabdi Zamrod Academic/Retired Penang
124 Zaidi Razak Academic & PKAUM Kuala Lumpur
125 Zawawi Ibrahim Academic Kuala Lumpur
126 Aerleen Justim Concerned Citizen Petaling Jaya
127 Ahmed Bin Chee Engineer Penang
128 Aidan Yang Concerned Citizen/Retired Petaling Jaya
129 Alex Heng Bank Manager/Retired Penang
130 Al-Mustaqeem M Radhi Writer Kuala Lumpur
131 Altaf Deviyati Ismail Researcher Penang
132 Ambiga Sreenevasan Lawyer Kuala Lumpur
133 Anas Alam Faizli Project Management Professional Kuala Lumpur
134 Ang Hiok Gai Educator Petaling Jaya
135 Angela Tan PR Consultant Kuala Lumpur
136 Angeline Loh Writer Penang
137 Angie Santhanam Teacher Kuala Lumpur
138 Anil Netto Freelance Writer Penang
139 Anna Har Mei Yoke Filmmaker and Producer Kuala Lumpur
140 Anne Lasimbang Social/Community Activist Kota Kinabalu
141 Annette Vijiarungam Web Administrator Kuala Lumpur
142 Annie Lim Administrator Penang
143 Anwar Fazal Social Activist/Concerned Citizen Penang
144 Basil Fernando Attorney At Law Sri Lanka
145 Ben Rethual Concerned Citizen Kuala Lumpur
146 BK Ong Social Activist Kota Kinabalu
147 Boon Kia Meng PhD Candidate Kyoto, Japan
148 C.L.Chan Concerned Citizen/Retired Kuala Lumpur
149 Charles Hector Lawyer, Human Rights Defender and Writer Temerloh
150 Chi Too Artist Kuala Lumpur
151 Chia Che Hieng Engineer Singapore
152 Chin Khuan Sui Teacher Penang
153 Chitra Alagan Manager Penang
154 Chok Pit Yuen Secretary Kuala Lumpur
155 Chong Wui Howe Business Analysis Manager Ipoh
156 Chow Chee Keong Principal Penang
157 Chua Ai Ling Advocate & Solicitor Penang.
158 Chua Sieh Mann Lawyer Petaling Jaya
159 Chua Tee Tee Educator Petaling Jaya
160 Chung Tack Soon Marketing Manager Kuala Lumpur
161 Clare Rewcastle Brown Journalist London
162 Colin Kirton Artist Subang Jaya
163 Colin Nicholas Indigenous Rights’ Activist/ Researcher Petaling Jaya
164 Daniel John Jambun Civil Society Activist Kota Kinabalu
165 Daniel Soon Social Care Giver Penang
166 Datin Fakhitah Mohd. Darus Welfare Officer/Retired Penang
167 Dato VL Kandan Lawyer Kuala Lumpur
168 Dato’ Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
169 Dorathy Benjamin Civil Society Activist Subang Jaya
170 Dr SP Choong Medical Doctor Penang
171 Dr Yolanda Augustin Medical Doctor London
172 Dr. Beth Baikan Environmental Consultant Kota Kinabalu
173 Dr. Carol Yong Independent Consultant & Researcher Kuala Lumpur
174 Dr. Regina Lim Legal Researcher Kota Kinabalu
175 Dr. Thomas Mason Consultant Kuching
176 Edda de Silva Publisher/Retired Kuala Lumpur
177 Engku Kamanurrull Zahara Bt Engku Kamarudin, Legal Assistant Kuala Lumpur
178 Esther Gauri Project Manager Kuala Lumpur
179 Esther Yew Sales & Marketing Kuala Lumpur
180 Evelyn Tang Administrator Penang
181 Farida Jivamala binti Md Ibrahim Teacher Petaling Jaya
182 Gebril Atong Indigenous Peoples’ Activist Miri
183 Geh Cheng Lok Advocate & Solicitor Penang
184 Gerard F. Robless Concerned Citizen/Retired Penang
185 Gurdip Singh, Concerned Citizen/Retired Ipoh
186 Haris Ibrahim Activist Kuala Lumpur
187 Harrison Ngau Laing Lawyer Miri
188 Ho Yock Lin Social Activist Kuala Lumpur
189 Honey Tan Human Rights Activist Kuala Lumpur
190 Ibrahim Suffian Researcher Bangi
191 Ineke Roskam Nurse Petaling Jaya
192 Ir. Lam Kar Keong Engineer Kuala Lumpur
193 Ir. Lim Thean Heng Engineer Penang
194 Ir. Tan Keng Tong Engineer Penang
195 J Hoon Lawyer Penang
196 Jacqueline Ann Surin Journalist & Editor Selangor
197 Janarthani, A. Social Activist Penang
198 Janet Pillai Independent Researcher Kuala Lumpur
199 Jayanath Appudurai Concerned Citizen/Retired Kuala Lumpur
200 Jeffrey Wei Concerned Citizen/Retired Kuching
201 Jerald Joseph Human Rights Trainer Kuala Lumpur
202 Joan Shori Economist Penang
203 Joe Sidek Festival Director Penang
204 John Kim Lean Hwa Social Worker/Retired Penang
205 Jonson K.W. Chong Educator Petaling Jaya
206 Josef Benedict Campaigner Petaling Jaya
207 Josephine Ho Secretary Klang
208 Josie Fernandez Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
209 Jude Manickam Technician Bukit Mertajam
210 Julie Wong Community Organiser/Facilitator Kuala Lumpur
211 Julitah Palalun Lawyer Kuala Lumpur
212 Kavitha Rajan Lawyer Singapore
213 Khoo Salma Nasution Editor Penang
214 KJ John Columnist/Civil Activist Petaling Jaya
215 Lau Chee Boon Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Seremban
216 Lee Cheng Tue Engineer Petaling Jaya
217 Lee Chin Chuah Teacher/Retired Kuala Lumpur
218 Lee Kiong Hock Concerned Senior Citizen Washington DC
219 Lee Soo Wei Social Activist Kajang
220 Lee Soon Ching Teacher & School Principal /Retired; Writer Ipoh
221 Lena Hendry Social activist Kuala Lumpur
222 Leong Yew Kee Concerned Citizen/Retired Ipoh
223 Lim Kah Cheng Company Director/Lawyer
224 Lim Kai Shen Teaching Assistant Petaling Jaya
225 Lim Poh Yan Concerned Citizen Petaling Jaya
226 Loh Cheng Kooi Civil Society Activist & Executive Director Penang
227 Loo Ah Hooi Investor Ipoh
228 Low Ai Yun Concerned Citizen/Retired Petaling Jaya
229 Low Siak Kheang, Concerned Citizen/Retired Penang
230 Lucia Lai Admin Clerk Penang
231 M Shanmughalingam Managing Director Kuala Lumpur
232 M. Nadarajah Consultant Penang
233 M.Jaya Gobi Consultant Petaling Jaya
234 M.Sujata Lawyer Petaling Jaya
235 Magdalene Tang Geologist Kuala Lumpur
236 Mark Bujang Indigenous Peoples’ Activist Miri
237 Michael Quah Teacher /Retired Penang
238 Mohamed Kamar Managing Director/Retired and Environmentalist Petaling Jaya
239 Nicholas Chan Researcher Penang
240 Nicholas Mujah ak Ason Indigenous Peoples’ Activist Kuching
241 Nimai Bhattacharjee Financial Consultant Ipoh
242 Noor Mahnun Mohamed Artist Kuala Lumpur
243 Noraini Dhiauddin Concerned Citizen/Student Bangi
244 Noreen Ariff Legal Counsel Johor Bahru
245 Noriah bt Abdullah Teacher/Retired Penang
246 P.Ramakrishnan Teacher/Retired & Civil Society Activist Penang
247 Pan Choi Yen General Manager Petaling Jaya
248 Peter John Radio Journalist/Social Activist Kuching
249 PY Wong Social Activist Kuala Lumpur
250 R. Mageswaran Lawyer Petaling Jaya
251 Ragahavan A/L Annamalai Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
252 Ramesan Navaratnarajah Consultant Gynaecologist Petaling Jaya
253 Ramon Navaratnam Civil Servant/Retired & Author Bangsar
254 Rayner Sylvester Yeo Civil Society Activist/Writer Kuala Lumpur
255 Robert Cheong Eng Tick Concerned Citizen/Retired Kuala Lumpur
256 Robert Foo Wealth Management Consultant Kuala Lumpur
257 S. Arutchelvan Social Activist Kuala Lumpur
258 Santalia Deane-Johns Student Sydney
259 Sarah Karmila Benedict Lawyer Kuala Lumpur
260 Sarajun Hoda Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Port Klang
261 Satish Chand Bhandari Federal Inspector Of Schools, Ministry of Education/Retired Penang
262 Selvaratnam Saba Concerned Citizen/Pensioner Kluang
263 Sharaad Kuttan Journalist Petaling Jaya
264 Sharifuddin Abdul Latiff Freelance Media Specialist Kuala Lumpur
265 Sheila Pakiam Counsellor Penang
266 Siah Sy Jen Lawyer Kuching
267 Sivin Kit Doctoral Researcher Kristiansand
268 SK Tio Concerned Citizen/Retired Penang
269 Sophie Marie Helene Chao Environmentalist Jakarta
270 Susanna George Organisational Consultant Petaling Jaya
271 Suzanne Tan Gaik Leng Decorative Painter Kuala Lumpur
272 Syerleena Abdul Rashid Social Activist Penang
273 T.S. Gill Consultant Engineer Petaling Jaya
274 Tan Gaik Hoon Accountant Petaling Jaya
275 Tan Hwang-Ee Lawyer Penang
276 Tan Keat Chooi Executive Secretary Penang
277 Tan Paik Sim Concerned Citizen Ipoh
278 Tan Pek Leng Researcher Penang
279 Tan Pong Soo Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
280 Tan Seng Keat Researcher Bangi
281 Tan Yew Sing Entrepreneur & Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
282 Tengku Idaura Concerned Citizen/Retired Penang
283 Teo Ann Siang Social Activist Kuala Lumpur
284 Terry Ch’ng Hwa Lian, Concerned Citizen/Pensioner Alor Setar
285 Thomas Jalong Indigenous Peoples’ Activist Miri
286 TK Fong Concerned Citizen Kuala Lumpur
287 Tricia Yeoh Public Policy Analyst Kuala Lumpur
288 Vicky Chan Webmaster Petaling Jaya
289 Vijaye Jayanath Engineer Kuala Lumpur
290 Wan Saiful Wan Jan Researcher Kuala Lumpur
291 Wong Hoy Cheong Researcher Petaling Jaya
292 Wong Siew Lyn Freelance Writer Petaling Jaya
293 Yap Swee Seng Social Activist Petaling Jaya.
294 Yee Lai Wan Researcher/Retired Penang
295 Yew Wei Lit PhD Candidate Hong Kong
296 Yin Shao Loong Researcher Kuala Lumpur
297 Yoong Chew Hing Teacher/Retired Kuala Lumpur
298 Yow Chee Keong Software Engineer Sydney
299 Yow Lee Fung Education Activist Kuala Lumpur
300 Zaid Kamaruddin Civil Society Activist Kuala Lumpur
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It’s time to walk the talk

September 2nd, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
It’s time to walk the talk

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published in The Star 2 September 2014

There seems to be a huge disconnect between what is being said by those in power and what they actually do.

THE official line is that the Merdeka celebration on Sunday was a great success. Malaysians from all walks of life gathered at Dataran Merdeka and various other places across the country to celebrate the auspicious day.

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Shedding lights on public procurement

August 20th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion No Responses
Shedding lights on public procurement

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun Daily 20 August 2014

ONE of the many criticisms against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that Malaysia is negotiating to sign alongside 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region is that procurement by government and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) would be opened up to foreign companies.

This has raised ire among local firms that fear their bread and butter contracts were being taken away, since foreign companies would be allowed to bid on similar terms as locals for goods, services and projects.

This is especially so given that government procurement formed an estimated RM1 trillion worth of projects in 2013, which makes up 23% of that year’s GDP. Naturally, it is a significant market size within which greater competition would affect the inefficient, and therefore weaker, players.

The government has responded by saying that it is negotiating for greater carve-outs, namely that Malaysia has carved out build-operate-transfer projects from its scope of commitments in the TPPA, although the threshold for construction services has not yet been determined. In fact, the government’s position is that certain areas of interest to the bumiputra business community and small and medium enterprises, as well as certain domestic operations of SOEs have been excluded.

While it is understandable that there are fears that local companies will no longer receive government assistance through national treatment, procurement is in fact one of the areas in which the TPPA could possibly bring about greater openness, transparency and competitiveness in the way our government handles its public procurement system. In short, value for money as a principle by which the administration handles its contracts.

Of course, the country need not necessarily sign the TPPA just to ensure its procurement is better managed, but the reality is that reforming government procurement is a long and arduous task. Without external factors, one would have to depend entirely on internal political will to push through change, and trends have shown this is a tough nut to crack.

A series of policy papers that our organisation IDEAS has published throughout the year on promoting transparency in public procurement provides several proposals on how reform can be pushed through, with or without the TPPA. And it was shown that by implementing a transparent public procurement system, the government could save up to RM4.5 billion a year, assuming that 50% of current public procurement is in fact non-transparent in nature.

Some of the recommendations include improving the procurement process itself to improve transparency and accountability, for example including evaluation criteria and weightage within tender documents, which is currently not the case.

We also recommended that preferences given to bumiputras should always be stated in the tender documents, even if the weightage is zero. Under the TPPA, the government has said there should be carve-outs for the bumiputra community, and although preferential treatment based on ethnicity does not help national development in the long run, perhaps a phasing out period over a fixed number of years would be ideal.

Having independent observers sit in to attend bidding evaluation meetings may seem unusual, but this would actually allow for more independent monitoring of how contracts are awarded.

The Ministry of Finance has responded positively to calls for greater openness in recent months, for instance publishing directly negotiated contracts on its website, MyProcurement, but to date there are only 64 contracts listed, and several details are still left out, making it difficult for the public to track. The awards themselves should be accompanied by publishing the criteria for choosing successful bidders and whether or not this would be further sub-contracted.

One might argue that the annual Auditor-General’s Report already reveals a host of compromised deals made by ministries, many of which centre on problematic procurement, but which have not led to any prosecution. Indeed, stronger investigative processes and punitive action should be carried out. Individuals making compromised contracting decisions must be held responsible for their misdeeds.

A rather ironic situation is that although our public administration was one of the first in the world to embrace online platforms, today it lies in an alphabet soup of sorts. Just for public procurement alone, there exist five procurement portals managed by different ministries (ePerolehan, MyProcurement, Government Information Procurement System, ePerunding and National e-Tendering Initiative). Much effort would be needed to consolidate these into one central platform.

Surely this would make it easier for government officers, suppliers and the public, to keep track of contracts.

So whether or not the TPPA is implemented, there are steps that the government can immediately take to assure the public of its commitment to greater transparency to make its procurement systems more productive. Of course, signing the TPPA may speed up this process, but this would come with a host of other challenges that are not discussed in this article.

Although there have been briefings by the government on the TPPA status, the information could still be more forthcoming. For instance, although they have said that state and local governments will not be subject to government procurement rules, the exact thresholds – which are, understandably, still under negotiation – at the federal level have not been specified.

There has been much public disquiet about the TPPA namely because many stakeholders (the most affected parties like farmers, manufacturers of generic medicines and so on) likely feel that information from the government has only been general at best. Perhaps the ministry concerned could produce policy factsheets that demonstrate the magnitude and scale of how each interest group would be affected. Until then, the arguments for and against the TPPA will continue to take place in a vacuum, with asymmetric information.

Tricia Yeoh is the chief operating officer of IDEAS

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