By Dyana Sofya
COMMENT: Recently, our social media timelines were flooded with complaints about massive toll increases, following the announcement that toll rates for 18 highways would be raised by significant amounts, with some going up by more than 100%!
Some have tried to rationalise the tolls by linking them to an overall effort to reduce traffic congestion in urban areas, yet this is not reflected by the fact that many of the increases affect highways that provide critical links to suburban areas with no proper public transport system. At the same time, the existing public transport infrastructure is hardly an efficient alternative, especially with the MRT and LRT extensions still under construction.
Worse, the Prime Minister even warned that if the toll rates are not raised, there would be less funds for other things, including the BR1M welfare payments. Is the Prime Minister effectively saying that highway-users are subsidising BR1M? What about those ineligible for BR1M but punished with the rising cost of living? I suppose they should just tighten their belts, wake up earlier or take alternative roads, going by our cabinet ministers’ logic.
If rising fuel costs, higher toll rates and the implementation of the 6% GST this year is not bad enough, the icing on the cake must surely be the performance of the ringgit, from just over 3.0 to the US Dollar two years ago to about 4.5 today and performed badly against many other currencies. This is one of the main reasons that petrol prices continue to increase – because we buy our oil in US dollars.
Yet instead of taking responsibility for our economic misfortunes, which many analysts including Bank Negara have attributed to the loss of public confidence following the multi-billion-ringgit 1MDB scandal and the Prime Minister’s suspicious personal financial transactions, the government continues to pull the wool over the rakyat’s eyes.
In the recent Budget 2016 presentation, the Prime Minister sang praises about how the GST will save the country from bankruptcy with an estimated RM39 billion worth of collections next year. Has he forgotten where this RM39 billion will actually come from? It’s not money out of thin air, it is from a tax on the rakyat. If GST did not exist, the RM39 billion would in fact be circulating within the economy and being productive instead being channelled to the government, which does not seem to be doing a good job keeping finances in order.
When the Mahathir era ended more than 10 years ago, many thought we had seen the end of crude and oppressive politics. Unfortunately, we have fallen deeper into the abyss.
This year, we have seen the suspension of The Edge and Sarawak Report, both of which have been unrelenting in their exposés of 1MDB.
Not too long ago, the government amended the Sedition Act to sharpen its claws, extending the maximum jail sentence to 20 years from three years and to establish a minimum three-year jail term. Laws have also been passed to allow the authorities the detain people without trial.
Last September, Dr Azmi Sharom lost his constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act. It baffles the mind to think that a law lecturer is facing criminal prosecution for comments he made about a constitutional crisis. If academics cannot even comment on areas that they are supposed to be experts in, then our nation is facing a serious crisis that goes all the way down to our roots.
Bersih organiser Maria Chin Abdullah was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act, despite the fact that the Bersih 4.0 Rally was, for all intents and purposes, a peaceful demonstration.
To make matters worse, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang has been suspended for six months for questioning the Speaker’s role in preventing the Public Accounts Committee from holding its meetings to investigate 1MDB. Kit Siang is merely the latest in a line of victims that includes the former Deputy Prime Minister and former Attorney-General. Tony Pua has now been officially warned not to partake in a public debate on the 1MDB issue, or risk his place in the PAC.
Malaysia is in a state of unprecedented flux. The economy is struggling, investor confidence is low, academics, civil society leaders and politicians are being silenced, and even the Conference of Rulers have found it necessary to voice their concerns.
Questions are being asked by all and sundry, yet answers remain scarce. Meanwhile, the one person who is supposed to answer them continues to remain silent, fiddling while Rome burns.
So tell me again… why is Dato’ Sri Najib Razak still the Prime Minister? – FMT
Dyana Sofya is a DAP member and an FMT reader