Justice gone wrong: Jailed for graft, ex-magistrate shares his story

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 6ed7db5240276a10bb7de77cde80de53.jpg

“I WAS A CORRUPT MAGISTRATE”

Today, I salute Firdaus Ramlan (photo), a former magistrate who paid the price for corruption, for his courage and honesty to tell the world – “Yes, I was a corrupt magistrate”.

But not a single politician, including those convicted of swindling millions, had ever admitted – “I WAS A CORRUPT POLITICIAN”.

Why are we not surprised? – fs

By FAISAL ASYRAF

Firdaus Ramlan, who was a magistrate in Kelantan, found himself on the wrong side of the law when his corruption was exposed more than a decade ago.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, the now 39-year-old Universiti Teknologi Mara graduate spoke about how his life went downhill in the hope that it would serve as a lesson to others.

Firdaus became embroiled in graft when serving in the Gua Musang Magistrate’s Court. Prior to this, he had worked as a legal adviser for the Klang Municipal City Council and senior registrar at the Kota Bharu High Court.

“At that time, the corrupt system was already in place. I had inherited it. This was an open secret,” he added.

Conceding that he was not forced to accept bribes, Firdaus recalled how “brokers” were among those who greeted him when he reported for work as a young magistrate.

“These are the middlepersons between me and the crooks. When I reported for duty for the first time, they paid for my meals and secured a place for me to stay,” he added.

At the time, Firdaus’ L41 grade netted him a monthly income of RM1,500.

However, the former magistrate said he did not touch a single sen from this because he could earn as much as RM10,000 per case on the side.

“Imagine how much I would earn if there were three or four cases in a day?” he explained, adding that the temptation was too great to resist.

Firdaus revealed that he had splashed the money on luxury goods such as expensive watches and designer shoes.

“When you start making money, it is your turn to treat the brokers. I also sent money to my parents,” he added.

How the deal was sealed

In 2009, Firdaus presided over a case involving a drug offender who was earlier charged under Section 6 of the Dangerous Drugs Act. By then, he was well-known among certain circles as a corrupt magistrate.

The accused offered to pay RM5,000 to be released on bond instead of being sent to prison.

Explaining how the deal was sealed, Firdaus said the accused would express his intention to police personnel attached to the court and this was referred to as a “spark”.

The police personnel would then pass the message to his immediate superior, who is a chief inspector. The latter would then approach the accused to confirm the deal.

Once confirmed, the chief inspector, who meets the magistrate every morning, would relay the offer to Firdaus.

If the deal is sealed, the chief inspector would hire a lawyer to appeal for a lower sentence before the magistrate.

“We would take our cut when the job is settled,” Firdaus said.

However, in this case, the accused did not keep his end of the bargain after being released on bond, and this is what brought the corruption to light.

“The chief inspector threatened the accused that he would appeal and reinstate the prison sentence. But the accused lodged a police report and exposed all of us.

“The accused was protected under the MACC Act as a whistleblower,” the former magistrate added.

Contemplating escape

Firdaus was arrested on Oct 11, 2009, and was soon found guilty. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their first child.

He confessed that he had contemplated escape when the matter was heard at the Court of Appeal.

“I knew it was game over. I looked at the name of the panel of judges that included Abdul Wahab Patail and Jeffrey Tan. My lawyer was prepared but the case (against me) was strong. The judges won’t be fooled,” he said.

Firdaus said he took his car keys and was exiting the building through the back door when he bumped into his lawyer.

“He asked me where I was going, I told him that I am going to make a run for it. But he advised me to confront the problem and I listened to him.

“As expected, the judges upheld the conviction. I remember the sad look on the faces of my wife and mother-in-law,” he added.

At the time, Firdaus said he was still mourning the death of his mother, stepfather and brother, who perished in a car accident.

“My mother’s body was completely charred. I couldn’t help but think that I had fed my family with illegal proceeds,” he added.

Firdaus was to serve three years in prison but was freed on parole after 19 months for good behaviour.

A shot at redemption

In June 2014, Firdaus bumped into the MACC officer who investigated his case and this time around, it ended on a positive note.

“I saw him at a restaurant. He recognised me when I introduced myself as the ‘corrupt magistrate.’

“I told him that I wanted to share my experience with other government servants to prevent them from suffering a similar fate.”

With the help of the officer, Firdaus met the state MACC director to pitch his idea.

“The director liked the idea. My first sharing session was with the teachers’ institute in Kota Bharu. That got the ball rolling. This is what I do now,” said Firdaus.

Asked if he missed the legal profession, he replied: “If I could turn back time, I would become a magistrate who upholds justice, not one who is corrupt.”

– Malaysiakini

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | 1 Comment

Working with Dr M again – yes, with conditions

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT It is true that there are certain quarters within Pakatan Harapan who have never given up the idea of teaming up with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, yet again.

That is, if the tie-up with the nonagenarian and his Pejuang four is able to secure victory, either in GE15 or a majority vote in Parliament, for Harapan. At least, that is what observers are made to understand.

It is also true that Harapan leaders are deeply divided on this. DAP and Amanah are believed to be more receptive while PKR is understandably opposed to taking the Mahathir route again.

However, of late, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has turned diplomat. As he must be seen to be a magnanimous and inclusive supremo, Anwar has stated that Harapan was prepared to work with all, including Mahathir, but stressed that any future cooperation must be reform driven.

This open-ended stand/policy of Harapan (some may call it indecisiveness) is probably why some political analysts believe that Harapan would team up with Mahathir again.

On Feb 2, Free Malaysia Today carried an article titled “Need to win can cause PH to embrace Dr M again” in which two academicians, Kartini Aboo Talib of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Azmi Hassan, formerly of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, speculated that Harapan would not shun Mahathir if he could help it win the next general election.

Kartini acknowledged that Harapan might see its 22 months of working with Mahathir as a bitter experience, but she said the coalition’s leaders were aware of his ability to attract voters, as seen in GE14.

Azmi said that “Harapan and PKR have always been wary of Mahathir, but their political tie-up was a way of using one another”.

Both were commenting on former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ revelation that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had wanted PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah Ismail to be the interim prime minister at the height of the Sheraton putsch last February. They felt that Harapan would ignore Mahathir’s behaviour for the sake of political expediency.

Mahathir had since clarified that Thomas’ take on the matter was untrue as the king had not spoken about appointing Azizah as the interim premier.

So, who do we believe? It’s Thomas’ word against Mahathir’s.

What I can say here is that even if the king did not mention Azizah as interim PM, Mahathir could have made that suggestion as Azizah was the deputy and constitutionally in line to step into the role.

That is, if Mahathir was genuinely sincere in seeing that Harapan continues to rule in its five-year term as mandated by the rakyat.

Former deputy PM Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (left) and former PM Mahathir Mohamad

At this crucial time, the king was still relying heavily on Mahathir’s advice and suggestions. He could call the shots with the palace as he was still the Harapan leader. Muhyiddin Yassin and Perikatan Nasional were not even in the picture at this point.

But Mahathir being Mahathir was only thinking of coming back as prime minister of a new unity government where he could have absolute control. According to Thomas, Mahathir thought he had the support of all 222 members of Parliament.

Talk of a man crazy for power, this is one!

But alas, that was never to be. Let us hope, with the utmost respect for our 95-year-old statesman, that he has learnt the lesson of his life here.

He did not see it coming

In my review of Thomas’ memoir, I have written that Mahathir miscalculated and blundered because he was overconfident and in self-denial. He refused to accept that loyalty and allegiance of his allies and cohorts were never permanent.

He thought that a man of his stature would never lose grip of power, only to realise too late that was his main folly. Mahathir just didn’t see it coming – the backstabbing and betrayal from within his own flock.

This incident should make it clear to all in Harapan to think aloud whether they should still embrace Mahathir just to regain power.

If Harapan wants a non-partisan view, I say accept Mahathir and his Pejuang 4 as part of the opposition coalition but with conditions.

Should Harapan win GE15, Mahathir will only play an advisory role in the new government. He has no right to object to anyone Harapan chooses as the prime minister.

If Anwar is nominated as PM candidate going into GE15, let it be known early to all. Harapan should also nominate Mukhriz Mahathir as one of the two deputy prime ministers.

To ensure that these conditions are honoured, it’s advisable to put everything in black and white. Politicians are not known to be men of honour with mere words.

If Mahathir is unable to accept such terms, Harapan might as well go its own way instead of following the old man’s highway again.

Mahathir’s politics has always been a game of moves and false moves, like chess. Do not be bitten by the grandmaster again.

If Harapan leaders are still unable to beat Mahathir in his chess game, then they do not deserve another opportunity to govern the nation.

Be decisive. Tell Mahathir loud and clear – take it or leave it!

Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of ‘Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan’. Obtain autographed copies from sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on Working with Dr M again – yes, with conditions

Old-school honesty in Thomas’ memoir

COMMENT I believe it is true that many of us had long pointed our fingers at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the main player responsible for the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government last February.

Well, Dr Mahathir was the prime minister and supreme leader of PH then. So, he has to shoulder the bulk of the blame. His abrupt and unilateral decision to resign as prime minister at the height of the Sheraton putsch was widely believed to be the trigger point for PH’s implosion.

Now, we can claim we were not wrong to blame Dr Mahathir. The latest revelations by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas on Dr Mahathir’s conduct in the final days of the PH government just about say it all for us. His sequence of actions, including the blunders, fingers him as primarily responsible for PH’s untimely demise.

Several news portals have started publishing excerpts of Thomas’ just-launched memoir, the content of which does not augur well for the legacy of the former two-time premier.

Let me look at Thomas and his new book in this manner. I would not describe it as an attempt to vilify or disparage Dr Mahathir in any manner.

No, Thomas has no reason to demean the man who appointed him the AG in the first place. In one instance, Thomas says it pained him to make certain revelations about Dr Mahathir given his overall respect for his former boss.

To me, there is a rare, old-school honesty in the memoir. As the ex-AG, Thomas was not shooting blanks in the dark. He was personally involved, with direct links to the prime minister and others in the corridors of power.

It is also important for Thomas to shed light on some previously unknown facts that were crucial to understand the significance of the Sheraton putsch and its aftermath. And that should be recorded for posterity and accounts of history must be true and factual.

We must also bear in mind that Thomas is not a politician and I doubt at his age today, he is keen to embark on a political career. A respected legal eagle in private practice like Thomas does not need politics to survive.

On that count, I want to believe that he does not owe any political leader any favour. This is crucial for anyone to speak and write with integrity and honesty and without fear or favour.

I have often said that I derive no pleasure in criticising our 95-year-old elder statesman. Whatever his weaknesses and failings, Dr Mahathir deserves that much reverence from even his worst detractors.

However, Thomas’ revelations of some of Dr Mahathir’s actions have laid bare the former premier’s fickle mindedness, his racist streak, doublespeak personality and even the untrustworthy character in him.

Dr Mahathir miscalculated and blundered because he was over-confident and in self-denial. He refused to accept that loyalty and allegiance of his allies and cohorts were never permanent.

He thought that a man of his stature would never lose grip of power, only to realise too late that was his main folly. Dr Mahathir just didn’t see it coming — the backstabbing and betrayal from within his own flock. 

To ask Thomas to resign on the very first day of his appointment as AG because of strong Malay resistance exposed the racist streak in Dr Mahathir. Then, to allow Thomas to continue in the job the next minute “because PAS has no objection” showed his fickle mindedness.

Twenty months later, Dr Mahathir told Thomas to step down again as his departure as AG was a condition from PAS in agreeing to a new national unity government which never materialised.

Wasn’t Dr Mahathir swaying like a lalang?

Someone wrote that “the fox was outfoxed”. This is a fact. Dr Mahathir was clearly played out in his own game by his PPBM colleagues plus Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and his co-conspirators.

Dr Mahathir resigned and was summoned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. When the King requested him to reconsider, Dr Mahathir would not retract it.

However, when the King wanted Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail as interim prime minister, Dr Mahathir quickly put his own name forward. Thomas was understandably bewildered. Who wouldn’t be? What on earth was Dr Mahathir thinking?

Had Dr Mahathir been able to think and act rationally then, Malaysia would have its first woman prime minister a year ago. Many would be more than happy to give Dr Azizah a chance to lead. I would too.

That would also mean that PH could possibly govern till GE15 in 2023 and we would not be stuck with an illegitimate backdoor government today.

Alas, that was not to be because of the insistence and persistence of one old man who must have it his way or the highway.

It’s well and good that Dr Mahathir has now been put in his place. In politics, no one is invincible forever. Let no politician forget that.

Thomas’ memoir, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, is published by GB Gerakbudaya. It was launched last Saturday. 

New Sarawak Tribune

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. Feedback can reach the writer at sirsiah@gmail.com

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on Old-school honesty in Thomas’ memoir

MY EARNEST APPEAL TO SARAWAK POLITICIANS

Francis Paul Siah writes…

I wish to appeal to Sarawak politicians from both sides to stop taking pot shots at each other. Politics should not be about gunning each other down all the time.

Bear in mind that no one is perfect and all have weaknesses and failings. Fault-finding, in most cases, is childish and pathetic.

The real enemy now is Covid-19, not our political opponents.

What is important now is for all of us to cooperate and fight this invincible deadly virus together.

With the worsening pandemic and more deaths reported daily, who cares about politics and power.

I like to believe that we, Sarawakians, are more sane and responsible. Let’s put a stop to political wranglings and toxic politics.

Politics and elections are of no priority at this time.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on MY EARNEST APPEAL TO SARAWAK POLITICIANS

Sarawak should appeal to lift emergency

Covid-19 has been used to justify Parliament being delayed, shortened and void of any debates. Now it is to justify declaring a state of emergency. But the power and authority in today’s government have been adequate to deal with the pandemic.Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

COMMENT It is understood that when a national emergency is declared, the whole nation is covered. Like it or not, the Borneo territories of Sabah and Sarawak are also affected.

However, under the Federal Constitution, certain “concessions” are permitted. I have read the statement from Constitutional Law expert Prof Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi and trust that he is legally accurate on the issue at hand.

Among other things, Shad pointed out that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has to amend the existing ordinance within the emergency period to allow Sarawak to have its state election this year.

“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the power to consult with the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak to order an election as soon as possible, after he has amended the ordinance to allow election in the state,” he said.

I have also noted with interest the statement from Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing on the emergency and the state election.

Last Friday, Masing revealed that the Sarawak cabinet had discussed informally a plan to appeal to the king to lift the emergency order in Sarawak if the state can bring the Covid-19 situation to a manageable level.

He said if the appeal is favourably considered, it would pave the way for the 12th state election to be held as the term for the current State Legislative Assembly ends in June.

What is important to note here is that under an emergency, Parliament and all the state legislative assemblies are suspended, meaning they do not have to meet. Elections are also suspended. Absolute power is in the hands of the federal government.

Malaysia’s 15th general election is only due in 2024; so the emergency scheduled till August this year has no bearing on GE15.

However, in the case of Sarawak, that is a different story. The current term of the state government ends in June this year and state polls must be held latest by August.

Thus, the GPS government’s plan to appeal to the king to lift the emergency in Sarawak is understandable. I envision that Sarawak leaders want a leeway as to when they should call for the election without being tied down till August.

I support the proposal. I also think that GPS should appeal to the king to lift the emergency in Sarawak as soon as possible without waiting for the pandemic to subside.

Why? In the first place, an emergency is not necessary in Sarawak as we have done fairly well in managing the pandemic over the past 10 months.

I have voiced my protest against dragging Sarawak into the emergency mode from Day One — on Jan 12 to be exact, the first day the emergency was proclaimed.

That day, I registered my displeasure on social media questioning the necessity by Putrajaya to drag my homeland into this emergency, which I thought was preposterous.

At that time, Sarawak recorded less than 2,000 cases. The Pasai Siong cluster was just discovered. I stated then that “an emergency for the whole of Sarawak, just because of a few significant clusters, is just outrageous”.

I maintained to this day that the MCO and CMCO announced earlier should suffice. It must be noted here that the emergency was declared, as stated by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to contain the pandemic.

According to him, the “calm and stability” from the emergency would help spur the Covid-19 stricken economy.

Not surprisingly, the opposition Pakatan Harapan leaders did not agree with Muhyiddin’s emergency and MPs have started appealing to the king to lift the emergency. Whether they succeed or not in their quest is left to be seen.  

Similarly in Sarawak, the local opposition has also started bashing GPS, accusing it of being impatient to hold the state elections without regard for the lives of Sarawakians.

We are only too familiar with such political salvos. I am not a politician and I will not assess or judge the issue from the political angle.

As a Sarawakian, I am against the emergency because it is unnecessary and unwarranted. Neither do I think the state election should be held when the pandemic curve does not allow it. No sane government would call an election now and I believe the GPS government would do the right thing.

I hope I can trust in the wisdom of my fellow Sarawakians, from both sides, to act responsibly and honourably in handling the two main issues at hand — the pandemic and state election.

GPS and the opposition have to listen to the “voice of reason” from Sarawakians who are not interested in their political wrangling, particularly during such crucial times.

Taking pot shots at each other and toxic politics must stop. Politics is not about gunning each other down all the time. Let us understand that honest people can have honest differences.

There are also consequences of political interference in good intentions. Politicians should bear that in mind.

Meantime, let’s work together to contain the pandemic. Politics and elections are of no priority for Sarawak now.

New Sarawak Tribune

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. Feedback can reach the writer at sirsiah@gmail.com

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on Sarawak should appeal to lift emergency

TIME FOR MUHYIDDIN TO STEP DOWN

We are facing two major crises – a seemingly unbeatable devil virus in front and extreme political tension lurking behind. Both just refuse to go away.

We need a new leader, a more capable prime minister and one made of sterner stuff, to pull the nation through these tumultuous times.

With due respect to Muhyiddin Yassin, I don’t think he is the right man to helm the nation today. The tasks are too monumental for him to handle.

Even with 32 ministers and 37 deputy ministers (what a bloated cabinet!), Muhyiddin has not been able to deliver. The past year has proven that he is not PM material. Perhaps, he never was.

The political polemics within his Perikatan Nasional coalition, plus the little support from tired and weary Malaysians, will not put Muhyiddin in the right frame of mind to govern effectively.

Using the Emergency to cling on to power is the last straw Malaysians could possibly take. No country has declared a national emergency to fight the pandemic. Only Malaysia!

Perhaps, it’s time for the prime minister to do the honourable thing – make a graceful emergency exit.

Let me respectfully inform Muhyiddin that judging from public feedback over the past year, he and his PN coalition do not have the support of the majority of Malaysians to continue leading the nation.

To fellow Malaysians, when a leader fails us, we have to vote him (if not force him) out, irrespective of which coalition he represents.

That is our sacred duty as responsible citizens to ensure that democracy remains the shining beacon for our nation.

– FRANCIS PAUL SIAH, 26th JANUARY 2021, KUALA LUMPUR

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on TIME FOR MUHYIDDIN TO STEP DOWN

Two weeks on, but emergency not helping the pandemic

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT By and large, Malaysians have been obediently and responsibly adhering to the standard operating procedures and directives from the health authorities.

I have stated elsewhere that if we get infected, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we are still not able to learn anything over the past year of the Covid-19 pandemic and take the necessary precautions, then God help us.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has a thankless task. The increasing number of ministers, lawmakers and their aides being tested positive is an indication that they have not been heeding his directive that “even VVIPs are not permitted to gather or hold meetings”.

Ismail has to seriously crack his whip. He must not compromise, even with his cabinet colleagues if they run afoul of the law. Spare no one the rod. Show everyone that you really mean business, Ismail.

What I actually find disturbing is that two weeks into the national emergency, touted as the ultimate weapon to contain the pandemic, things have not improved an iota. In fact, the situation is getting worse.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had declared on Jan 12 that the emergency was for the specific purpose of fighting the coronavirus as the situation has reached a critical point.

According to him, the “calm and stability” from the emergency would help spur the Covid-19 stricken economy.

Well and good. Whether we supported the emergency or not then, we all waited for some welcoming news about the pandemic.

Surely, the prime minister must have some grand plans ready (or so we thought) to wipe out the pandemic that warrants the unprecedented and serious act of staging a national emergency. (Seriously, I have not heard of any other country declaring an emergency to fight the pandemic. Have you?)

Two weeks in, we didn’t hear any good news from the prime minister. Instead, the pandemic has got worse each passing day, with record-breaking numbers of positive cases and deaths taking place all over the country.

The recent statement from Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah that “the Health Ministry has done its best, yet the situation is not getting any better” was also of no comfort.

Then, the complaints voiced by doctors on the frontline that they were forced to work very long hours due to the shortage of medical staff, plus the lack of personal protective equipment in public hospitals, are also worrying.

We must ask where the billions allocated in Budget 2021 to fight the pandemic are and how has the money been spent so far. Is the government taking its time in dispensing the necessary funds to the health authorities? In this case, there is no time to lose.

Health experts have long implored the government to allocate more people to assist the Health Ministry with contact tracing.

Unless this is expedited, they say the Covid-19 pandemic will only worsen.

Why is the government not listening to these health experts? It is clear that these extra hands are needed urgently.

Muhyiddin must set his priorities right. Why spend RM35 million to build three community halls in Pagoh, Johor, now? The money can be used to hire thousands to assist in contact tracing. And who needs community halls at this time?

There are many more questions the prime minister has to answer. We have heard enough of his repeated assurance that the emergency will open more doors for the government to fight the pandemic.

I must ask. Two weeks in, Mr Prime Minister, what doors have been opened? If certain doors have been opened, tell us what they were. Perhaps the worsening situation is an indication that the so-called doors are totally ineffective.

I do not think declaring an emergency is necessary to compel more hotels to allow their premises to be used as quarantine centres. That could easily be resolved by negotiating with the cooperative hoteliers in the country. Even budget hotels are more than happy to participate as quarantine centres.

From public feedback, it is quite clear that the majority of Malaysians lack confidence in this government to tackle the pandemic.

It is also apparent that many Malaysians are not in favour of the emergency. Their main worry is the likelihood of power abuse linked to it.

Not surprisingly, opposition MPs have initiated plans to appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to lift the emergency. The Sarawak government has also discussed such an appeal to the king to lift the emergency in the state.

With due respect to the prime minister, I believe this is a task too monumental for him to handle. The political polemics within his Perikatan Nasional coalition, plus the little support from tired and weary Malaysians, will not put Muhyiddin in the right frame of mind to govern effectively.

Perhaps, it’s time for the prime minister to do the honourable thing – make a graceful emergency exit.

Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of ‘Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan’. Obtain autographed copies from sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on Two weeks on, but emergency not helping the pandemic

Ministers, YBs should take a hefty pay cut

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT I have been waiting for quite a while to touch on this subject and was hoping someone in power would have the right sense and decency (not for political expediency) to make the first move.

So, yesterday’s announcement by Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari that the state has proposed pay cuts for executive council members, assemblypersons and the heads of state GLCs was exactly what I have long been waiting for.

So, kudos to Amirudin and Selangor. Right move.

Truth be told. I was actually waiting for Sarawak ministers to take the pay-cut lead and kick off this pandemic generosity. I am a little disappointed that did not happen.

Why? Sarawak lawmakers had voted for a three-fold hike in their monthly remuneration in 2013. This included the salaries and allowances for the chief minister, his cabinet and all state assemblypersons.

In normal and good times, no one will complain or say anything. Let them enjoy their salaries and perks. But in bad and difficult periods like now, we expect them to do what is decent and necessary – be generous and giving, make an effort to share your humongous income with the suffering public.

Taking a pay cut is a way of showing solidarity with the less fortunate and this would be a significant gesture. It would surely be appreciated by all, including those who do not benefit at all from such acts of generosity.

This message is meant for all elected representatives in the country, not just in Sarawak.

Yes, I am aware that in March last year, the prime minister, ministers and deputy ministers had contributed two months of their salaries to the Covid-19 Fund.

It has been 10 months since and all of them are now enjoying their full salaries. I hope all of them feel good about that, even as thousands of Malaysians, including their constituents, are suffering.

Do not get me wrong. Like many Malaysians, I am grateful for their generosity and sense of obligation. However, I also feel that they should do more than just a one-off act of donating two months of their salaries to the pandemic fund.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had stated then that “this step shows the earnestness of the government to assist those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Now, the pandemic has spiralled out of control and our health system has reached a breaking point. The economic downturn has adversely affected all levels of society in varying degrees.

Thousands had lost their jobs, businesses or had their salaries cut. Many have been driven into poverty and this has given rise to mental stress, leading to an increase in suicide cases.

For Muhyiddin and his 32-member cabinet and the 38 deputy ministers (what a bloated cabinet!), this is the opportune time “to show your earnestness to assist those who have been affected by the pandemic”. Donating a two-month salary is just too little. It’s nothing compared to what you guys are taking from the public coffers every month.

I have a suggestion for Muhyiddin and his cabinet. For the next seven months of the Emergency, what about volunteering a 50 percent pay cut?

I don’t think I’m way off to say that many of the ministers and deputy ministers are not actually “working” now – either they are infected, in quarantine or staying home. Civil servants are the ones running the various ministries and the government.

Tell me, what work are the three Special Envoys with ministerial status doing now? Are not all international borders closed? I loathe to use this term, but isn’t this what we call “Gaji buta”?

So, when ordinary workers are laid off or forced to take a pay cut, why must politicians be treated differently? Don’t we all still have to survive and ensure that there is food on the table for our kids? This is not the time to distinguish a VIP from Joe public. A government which claims to be caring and responsible must know what to do and its leaders have to be exemplary.

Have we not heard of a certain minister caught flouting the SOPs upon his return from a trip abroad who ‘donated’ four months of his salary as retribution for his ‘sin’? I doubt he was being generous. I think he could easily forgo his salary for four years, let alone four months.

And didn’t we hear of a former minister, now on corruption trial, who declared nonchalantly that two million ringgit to him is pocket money? Are we surprised that many of our so-called political leaders are just filthy rich?

A minister and a deputy earn between RM40,000 to RM50,000 (or above), including allowances and perks. Take a cut of 50 percent, they still have between RM20,000 to RM25,000 a month. Isn’t that still a lot of money?

Ministers should be honest and come clean. Most of them do not deserve what they are being paid now. There is not much official work to do. Do not think you are paid with taxpayers’ money for politicking.

So, do the right thing. Do not be a burden to the very government that you are part of.

To Menteri Besar Amirudin, why not take another lead and propose the hefty 50 percent pay cut in your Selangor administration?

Surely, you will receive another generous round of applause from Malaysians.

Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of ‘Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan’. Obtain autographed copies from sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on Ministers, YBs should take a hefty pay cut

SDMC makes the right moves

I have refrained from returning to Sarawak over the past four months because like a “good, obedient boy”, I am listening to the advice and instruction from the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

Sarawakians living outside the state have been advised not to travel home unless there are urgent and pressing matters to attend to. So, I’m staying put where I am.

But I must concede that I am also putting off my trip home for ‘selfish’ reasons. I don’t look forward to the two-week hotel quarantine which I find unbearable nor the Covid-19 swab test which can be uncomfortable.

The first and only time I was swabbed was at Kuching International Airport last August. The throat swab was okay but the poke into the nose is another matter. What happened was that my reflex action in withdrawing at the initial nose swab compelled the nurse to take another one. So, it was double discomfort in my case.

My advice to those having to take the swab is to be very relaxed. If you want to avoid it, be a good boy like me (ha ha) — stay home and don’t travel. 

Well, most of us had willingly followed SDMC directives since the pandemic because we know it’s for our own good. Sarawakians are also aware that exercising discipline is necessary over this crucial period.

Lest we forget, it is also our responsibility to help the authorities flatten the pandemic curve. To do that, we have to extend our full cooperation, listen attentively to SDMC’s instructions and abide strictly by the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

At any time, we feel tempted to lapse because we have grown fed-up of following SOPs, take a quiet moment to spare a thought for the doctors, nurses and other frontliners who had put their lives on the line over the past year to save others, including you and me.

Are they not facing a more strenuous and difficult time than us? Yet, they continue and persevere daily in their struggle to heal the sick and prevent fatalities.

Imagine those attached to the intensive care unit (ICU), attending to intubated patients. It must be very emotionally draining for them every time they lose a patient. 

For us, we only have to follow SOPs and stay home. So, let’s stop complaining. At least, we are alive and safe in the comfort of our own home. Many others do not have that luxury.

I am glad and I am sure many Sarawakians are too, with the many decisions taken by SDMC and its quick action in managing the various stages of the pandemic.

Sarawak had done well in the later months of last year. Cases had dropped drastically and economic activities were allowed to resume.

Then disaster struck over the past month and Sibu and Miri were classified red zones. Cases shot up again and new clusters were detected.

A salute to SDMC chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah is in order for announcing that Sarawak has been placed on state-wide conditional movement control order (CMCO) by the state government without waiting for Putrajaya’s directive.

I think this quick-thinking move is in the right direction. It is the only logical and sensible step to take. My view is that Sarawak should always do what is necessary in the interest of our people without relying too much on Malaya.

The Ministry of Health and Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah have had their hands full as the situation in the country has reached breaking point. Sarawak understands and we have to help ourselves in the best way possible.

In this fight against Covid-19, we have no time to lose. Every minute and hour can be a matter of life and death. It is also my firm belief that Sarawak leaders know best what to do during such critical times.

So to Uggah, the Sarawak Health Department and the whole SDMC team, I salute you all for making the right call. It was a very important and urgent one.

I must also thank Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian for his regular updates on the situation with his detailed posts on Facebook.

Yes, Dr Sim, I am heeding your advice and will only be celebrating Chinese New Year at home next month. Why fret? If we are alive and healthy, there will always be future New Year festivities to indulge in.  

Meantime, let us all stay positive. Covid-19 can and will be defeated. It only requires our collective action, discipline and forbearance.

Be good boys and girls, everyone. Be obedient. Stay home and be safe.

– New Sarawak Tribune

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.         Feedback can reach the writer at sirsiah@gmail.com

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on SDMC makes the right moves

O ye hypocrites, listen to Sultan Nazrin

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT No, we do not need a PhD – the kind espoused by Umno’s Ahmad Maslan – to understand that hypocrisy is also arrogance and tyranny posing as righteousness.

I believe that most of us don’t just hate hypocrisy because of the contradiction from saying one thing and doing another. That can be annoying. I think what is most irritating about hypocrisy is the arrogance behind it for it brings hypocrisy to a new abhorrent level.

We see hypocrites and hypocrisy everywhere. As long as we are human and if I may add, not mentally handicapped, there is hypocrisy in all of us. It’s only the level of hypocrisy and the extent of hurt or harm inflicted on others as a result of this evil deed, intentionally or otherwise.

Surely, we must have come across people who are very ‘professional’ in giving life advice when their own is a total train wreck. There are those who talk endlessly of compassion, but they are intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. People also scream and rant about justice, but if someone they dislike is denied justice, they will turn a blind eye.

I noted with glee the recent message from Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah on the subject of evil and hypocrisy. I am taking a cue from the sultan with this article.

On Jan 12, he reminded Muslims not to give their trust or hand over responsibilities to those with an evil and hypocritical image, with low morality, tainted by corruption and abuse of power, as well as are untrustworthy and insincere.

That’s quite a mouthful from the sultan. Among the royalty, Sultan Nazrin has stood out as very outspoken and has often delivered hard-hitting messages to his listeners.

I am sure the sultan had done his homework and must have received plenty of feedback before he unleashed yet another no-nonsense reminder to politicians a week ago.

Now, my all-important question. Why is it that none of the Malay politicians, clearly the target of Sultan Nazrin’s reminder, followed up on the sultan’s message?

The eerie silence is conspicuous. No one commented. Is it because what the sultan said strikes at the very core of their guilty conscience? Surely, all of them are very much aware of what the sultan said couldn’t be further from the truth. They just refuse to acknowledge their past sins, faults and wrongdoings.

This is the same Malay crowd who would be shouting at the top of their lungs to protect with their lives the 3Rs – race, religion and royalty.

But when a royalty, in this case the Perak Sultan, told them off, they would not utter even a squeak. Being unwilling or unprepared to concede that we have done wrong is a sin in any religion. But no, they were just too proud to admit guilt probably for fear of losing the support of their constituents.

They are also quick to choose when to show loyalty to royalty, as and when it suits them politically. For example, when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong recently suggested that Budget 2021 should be allowed to pass, all of them invoked the king’s name in Parliament, turning a suggestion into a decree. What sort of behaviour is this? Isn’t that arrogance and tyranny posing as righteousness?

With Sultan Nazrin’s important message, the silence is deafening. That is what I would describe as the action of first-class hypocrites.

Ahmad Maslan

By the way, in case Ahmad Maslan is unaware, Sultan Nazrin has a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. So, shouldn’t Ahmad quickly tell his Umno colleagues that Sultan Nazrin must surely understand what he is talking about, just as those with PhD would understand the need for an election now (as Ahmad has stated)?

Let me say this for a fact too. It is unfair to blame only Muslim politicians for being corrupt and abuse their power. I think that Sultan Nazrin’s reminder should similarly apply to politicians of other faiths as well.

I am a Christian, and I will not be hypocritical and shelter those of my own faith. There are also Christian politicians who are equally greedy and corrupt, including some from my homeland, Sarawak.

Where are those Sarawak ministers and lawmakers now who had promised to struggle for their downtrodden community when they first stood for election? Most are now living a good life, either in Kuala Lumpur or overseas, while the majority of their own race are still trapped in where they were three decades ago.

A year or so ago, we heard of a Christian minister allegedly building a RM20 million palatial home in Kuching. If true, how did he afford it? And why the need to display ill-gotten wealth in just fashion?

I am just scraping the surface here of the misdeeds of Sarawak politicians. I have not mentioned Malaysia’s biggest thief who is a Sarawakian for quite a while now.

So, Muslims or Christians or others, let me tell you this. When you get into trouble with your mischiefs or misdeeds in politics, do not insult your Maker by invoking His holy name with the typical over-used “God is my judge”.

Live and work with your conscience, and you will not be branded a hypocrite.

It will also do you good to constantly bear in mind Sultan Nazrin’s important message.

Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of ‘Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan’. Obtain autographed copies from sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak) | Comments Off on O ye hypocrites, listen to Sultan Nazrin