Auntie Anne’s can’t get halal certification over “pretzel dog”?

It is a given that in the Malaysian food and beverage market, you need a halal certificate for you to sell. 

Thus, an absence of such a license could lead to some horrendous public relations issues. Unfortunately for the sector, the licensing comes under the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim). 

Today, news came out of the blogosphere that Auntie Anne’s Malaysia was non-halal. Well expecting a PR blitz from the conservative Muslim population, they issued a post on their Facebook page

In their explanation, the Quality Analysis (QA) executive explains that a halal license has been applied for all 45 branches of the franchise and it needed to instead certify the central kitchens instead of the individual products. 

She adds that these require auditing by zones and will take time, a similar situation that happened with Japanese franchise Sushi King here as well. 

However, it was her third point that got me wondering just how ridiculous Jakim can get. 

“The name ‘pretzel dog’ needs to be changed to something more suitable,” she says. 

Awkward. Jakim has a problem with food names which have the word ‘dog’?

Does A&W face similar issues with its coney dog? What about Ayamas and its hot dogs piled up in supermarket freezers?

Lawmakers, government are also a wastage in public resources, Nur Jazlan

I refer to Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Nur Jazlan’s words that using the authorities to maintain public order in a street protest is a waste of funds. 

It is rather ironic, considering the number of ridiculous investigations being conducted by the authorities which includes how raising a middle finger is now being investigated for “outraging someone’s modesty”. 
But more to the point, if we are talking about a waste of funds in governance and such, there is a lot to talk about in terms of both public and private institutions. Let us start with the most obvious.
According to the compilation published on, public is paying RM16,000 in salaries, RM1,200 for a drivers allowance, RM1,500 for entertainment allowances, RM1,500 for travel allowances, RM900 for telephone allowances and RM200 a day for each of the 222 lawmakers in our current government. 
The prime minister gets an add-on of close to RM23,000 a month, deputy prime minister gets RM18,000 monthly, and the head of opposition close to an additional RM4,000 respectively. All of which is above and beyond the allowances and salaries they already get. 
Considering the costs above, isn’t it considered a waste of public resources for the obvious redundancies? For example, why does everyone get a RM200 allowance for coming to parliament and doing their jobs? 
Plus, why do they need a car if they’re based in Kuala Lumpur when they can use public transport like the rest of us?
Furthermore, isn’t traveling also part and parcel of a lawmakers duty? On top of that, do we really have to fund MPs phones?
In addition to all of this, parliament sessions in Malaysia have been less than 100 days. This is even highlighted on Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong’s blog, dated November 14, 2014. He had asked for more days for parliamentary debates in 2015, from a mere 61 days to 80 days. 
You read that right, our lawmakers are sitting in parliament and debating less than a third of a year, and God knows what else they do with their high monthly salaries and allowances when they aren’t yelling at each other in the Dewan Rakyat. 
As a result, the entire process of lawmaking has been delayed to the point that even now we have yet to have any amendments regarding anti corruption, the use of the AES system, and even the vaping regulations.
In fact, with only so few days to debate acts of law, how exactly is the government going to amend 18 laws for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) by this year end, as mentioned by Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, earlier this year in March?
To cut it short, since lawmakers and ministers are all inefficient and not working to actually make laws as a measure for “wasting public resources”, should we not in the same mindset just shut down our government?
Of course not.
This is because value in having a democratic government, just like the freedom of expression through street protests, that cannot and should not quantified. 
You cannot measure it in man hours, productivity figures, contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) or even the gross national income (GNI).
So if Nur Jazlan truly wishes to talk about the wasting of public funds and start measuring matters relating to governance and efficiency in government, then he should do so to the utmost importance without bias.
And if we do so, then I am certain such a feasibility study will show that our entire lawmaking process, the civil service and even the multiple government agencies would all rationally be said to be wasting public resources, which we can do without. 
Thus, perhaps he should look to his own cabinet ministers and even the government as a whole. Start by cutting the bloat from there while raising the salaries for the cops who have done their duties admirably, instead of looking to stifle democratic rights over cost concerns. 

Video proof that Umno are the Red Shirts 

By Hafidz Baharom

Today, another bunch of red shirted hooligans tried to disrupt the Bersih convoy, this time up north in Alor Setar. Thankfully this time there was a repeated performance of the exceptional performance of our Royal Malaysian Police in maintaining order, as they did in Johor. 
For that, the police my utmost thanks. 
However, video proof shown on Malaysiakini ( is evidence of one item I wrote of recently – that Umno is in fact behind the Red Shirt movement. There is no question about it. The video itself shows hooligans trying to provoke and intimidate the Bersih convoy while wearing red coloured t-shirts with the Umno logo clearly emblazoned on them. 
In other words, these hooligans have themselves shown that their actions are in the Malay nationalist party’s name. 
Can the Umno upper echelon leaders still deny the obvious, or will they take action against the violent actions of their own members which threaten the peace?
If it is not done in Umno’s name, prove it. Take action against them. Heck, Umno can even sue these hooligans for abuse of their trademark logo, they can even send warning letters to every branch to cease and desist provoking a riot, and even offer their own members to counter protest the Red Shirts by barricading the roads taken by Bersih through linking arms and forming a human wall. 
In fact, they have ministers aplenty to tell the authorities to ensure the security of both sides of the divide, red shirts and yellow shirts alike, and subsequently tell the police to be professional in maintaining the peace. 
They could do all this. Why haven’t they?
Well, today is proof. Unless Umno takes action against these perpetrators who insist on physical scare tactics to get their way, then Umno as a party is smearing themselves as racists with violent tendencies against others simply over political difference. 
There is a huge difference between the freedom of speech and expression and threatening the lives and instigating violence. Oddly enough, some cannot seem to grasp the difference between a pogrom of hoodlums and a peaceful protest. 
At the same time, Umno has a history in itself of promoting the latter as a movement against the Malayan Union, and it should embrace it instead of continually promoting this farce that “peaceful protests are not our culture”. 
There is nothing peaceful in wanting and quietly supporting the Red Shirt movement which has now shown that they in fact want to attack others on a physical level. This is that line that makes the difference between the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and speech, and the criminal act that is so defined in our Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) of 2012. 
Of course, Bersih and Opposition parties are not keen to use this law because they don’t agree with it. I personally have no such qualms. 
Thus, Malaysians including Umno’s 3 million strong members have to ask themselves – is the party a breeding ground for the Red Shirt movement? Are Umno members making up the Red Shirt cadres?
Is Jamal as ringleader using Umno contacts to spread his violent ideology? And if so, isn’t that basically using the political party contacts for an act to spread fear across the nation, pretty much like a virus on an IT network?
The solution for Umno is the same. Either quarantine the virus or purge it from the network. And this is why myself – as well as many Malaysians – have the same question. Why hasn’t Umno done any of these steps. 
Perhaps Umno has a special love for the Red Shirts which are using their name, heir cause and even their logo now, to promote violence. 
If Umno’s leaders still refuse to take action even with all this evidence stacked against the party itself, then it is their loss.
It’s now a globally connected world which everyone can see the evidence of the links between Umno to Jamal and his thugs. It is their prerogative on an international scale to care for their own image as the party which has led the government coalition for close to 60 years. 
Umno’s leaders should consider very thoroughly if they are so willing to flush that image down the toilet over one branch leader and their extremist members. 

Greener pastures – Can we replace a brain drain through migrant labour?

The concept of greener pastures is simple – the perception of better conditions overseas leads to migration of Malaysians out of the country, and allowing those from other nations into our country.

It isn’t exactly revolutionary in any sense, since it is actually the idea of globalisation and its impact on the workforce.

Thus, it justifies Malaysians moving for better jobs, better pay, better conditions overseas – while those from less fortunate nations and lower currency rates come to Malaysia for the same purpose.

Yet at the same time, we do limit which areas migrant labour takes. Case in point, we are more keen to bring in cheap labour for jobs in certain sectors and leave executive posts for local graduates and even – separate from migrant labour – “expatriates”.

But what if we liberalise the entire job market? Obviously, Malaysian talent has been accepted worldwide. If not, why are people migrating?

Thus, would it also mean that the accreditations brought forth by foreign nationals should also be accredited here in Malaysia?

This would be a boon for employers who wish to hire more executive posts when the Malaysian talent pool is lacking in soft skills, as highlighted for years through the Jobstreet surveys.

At the same time that we are focused on the lack of Malaysian graduates and their abilities in English, or even in communicating for that matter, other nations have graduates who can cater to these needs should we be open enough to bring them in.

As such, why isn’t Malaysia doing this?

For most part, it is an issue of protectionism by politicians on both sides of the divide – more so for the Opposition, while the government prefers to play the good guy and then sign multiple memorandas of understanding to bring in foreign workers.

Yet at the same time, it is also an issue with demands in salaries and wages. A global workplace demands global salaries. And quite honestly, Malaysia is far behind when it comes to offering better salaries and benefits compared to other countries.

And, of course, it is a matter of currency values as well. Why work in Malaysia compared to working for the Singapore Dollar or even the Sterling for that matter?

Well for one thing, it is easier to get into Malaysia than Singapore or the United Kingdom for work. Secondly, it is the exclusion from migrant workers from being taxed or even contributing to state holdings such as the Employee Providence Fund (EPF).

Not so much their fault, but due to them not earning enough for either as dictated by law. Something perhaps the government is keen to look into considering the amount of outflow for our currency.

But more than this, it is also the fact that employers themselves are willing to cater to the basic needs that migrant labour finds acceptable – sharing a hostel with multiple workers, enough pay to survive here and still contribute what we consider meagre to a family which converts it to enough for an entire months spending and some savings.

The reason they can afford such is the conversion rate and of course, the fact that they don’t pay taxes or even the EPF, and also the fact that they survive through collective living.

But with an expatriate workforce or even to bring in executive level migrant employees, Malaysia might not have the same attraction unless benefits and allowances are aplenty.

This is where Malaysia could in fact, grow, and has been doing for Kuala Lumpur.

Yet, this is not a national movement just yet. The number of executive level foreign workers is few, most of which being in menial labour or upper management (the “expats”).

A few things go into improving conditions for the foreign workforce – including public transport, better urban planning, a greater range of financial services and such – which is making Malaysia more attractive.

Especially, of course, for the richer foreign labour workforce.

And yet, there is a need to consider the following; do we really need to help people who refuse to help themselves?

The Malaysian government can only do so much to fund education of students to the point that it no longer makes sense financially, especially when it comes to soft skills that should be developed by themselves and not through the education system.

The education teaches you English, it is up to you to put it into practice and beyond. Similar to communication and critical thinking. And even common sense for that matter.


Can a congestion charge stop congestion in KL?

There was an announcement today that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is already preparing to implement a congestion charge – or as they call it – “road pricing”, once the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 1 from Kajang to Sg Buloh comes online.

The MRT project is due to be online by end of 2016, thus the question from DBKL is on how much they will charge and also, who will manage it.

However, a larger question would be whether such a cost will impact traffic into Kuala Lumpur, or just lead to increased griping about high cost of living without alternatives, as Malaysians are oft to do.

Similarly, it comes to mind that perhaps the congestion charge will impact multiple services, including taxis, buses, even Uber and GrabCar. Continue reading “Can a congestion charge stop congestion in KL?”

Letter – Malays are now diverse, no longer just Umno’s

Malays are now diverse, no longer just Umno’s

By Hafidz Baharom

In former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail’s memoirs, The Reluctant Politician, his comments on the National Economic Policy’s pro Bumiputera policies are well noted. 

It is a handicap, just like in golf. And thus given time, it will need to be removed. 

This was the mindset in slowly removing the Bumiputera crutch. Unfortunately, it became too politically popular among the Malays as a way to win votes that it was maintained even at the cost of leaving the poor of other races to be taken care of their respective race based parties. 

However, I’m sure it is evident in Umno and even its allies the MIC and MCA that this strategy can no longer appease their respective supporters based on race. 

The truth is, the younger generation are no longer limited by race, especially in the urban areas. As such, urban Malays and other races will continue to be driven away by race based policies and overtones. 

To this point, we now see more urbanite youths joining political parties that are diverse – PKR and DAP being the two obvious ones. 

As such, all Umno can do is resort to name calling, going so far as to call the Malays joining the DAP as traitors to their own race. It is actually the opposite. 

To paraphrase multiple international politicians including the UK’s youngest MP Mhairi Black, the Malays did not abandon Umno, Umno abandoned the Malays. 

In their quest to appease their vote base, Umno decided to abandon their former liberal base in order to counter the growing conservative factions that supported PAS. We have seen this is their legislative agenda as well as the continued support of religious authorities regardless of how ridiculous they may be. 

In order to appease the poor rural Malays, they abandoned the urban Malays by letting the urban poor fend for themselves against the higher cost of living. This is obvious in the poorly constructed welfare programme of Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or (BR1M). 

But more to such an end, Umno was willing to reveal to the Malays that it would cater to the ridiculous, unlawful actions of some, to maintain themselves in power. Street races for Mat Rempits, the abandoning of homeless by the side of highways, the support of a leader who received millions through questionable means. 

These made the Malays, especially the ones that the government themselves manage to educate through tertiary education, to question what the heck is going on. 

At the same time, the government no longer controls the source of informing the public – the Internet allows Malays, many with the ability to read websites in either English or Bahasa Melayu, to come to their own conclusions. 

Subsequently, those who are reading such articles are able to share their thoughts on social media to become influencers.

On top of all this is the issue of age. The median age for Malaysians is now 28.5 years old. Thus, what exactly is Umno doing to cater to the needs and wants of a 28.5 year old Malaysian who has a global viewpoint?

This is a question that all political parties must ask themselves. There is no longer an issue of Malays versus the Chinese and Indians, the Low Yat incident was further proof of that. You had a Malay youth junkie robbing a smartphone vendor, and Umno’s reaction was to create an exclusive Malay marketplace. 

Because somewhere in the twisted mind of Umno, the Malays won’t cheat the Malays. Instead of looking at why a youth became a drug addict, or even why he needed to rob a store of a smartphone rather than buy one – an issue of costs leading to crime, no doubt – Umno found it necessary to use the imperial old strategy of divide and rule. 

The Malays are now diverse, and to cater to it, Umno itself has become schizophrenic. They had a concert targeting youths banned in Sepang, while their president’s son went and stole the spotlight from an international DJ in Zouk Singapore. 

They say criminals should be punished, and yet willingly give Mat Rempits the streets of KL to race on. 

Constantly preach against corruption, and yet today had their own minister admitting that their president took cash from 1MDB – which was initially said to be a donation for whatever cause – I’ve lost track of just how many causes they said it was for. 

The bottom line is this – the Malays are not sheep nor stupid, not all of them at least. And thus, there are Malays who believe in the need for targeted affirmative action based on income groups instead of the entire race including the Datuks, Datuk Seris, Tan Sris and Tuns in the mix. 

Similarly, there are Malays who are liberal, there are those who are conservative, there are those who read articles all the way to the Wall Street Journal while others limit themselves purely to Harian Metro. 

Umno has failed to cater to this diversity. And as such, their loss is everyone else’s gain.

Migrant labour – what exactly is Malaysia’s policy?

While I’m writing this, Malaysia has been taking some steps with regard to migration and labour issues.

First off, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim announced that the government has revoked the UNHCR’s right to issue identity cards for asylum seekers and refugees.

According to Shahidan, this was due to the fact that the number of refugees in Malaysia who are suddenly working in the country has gone over 60,000, mostly from Myanmar. In other words, what Shahidan is saying that people who were smuggled in through death camps like the one in his home state of Perlis, should not be working or even trying to work to earn a living.

Shahidan was also critical of the UNHCR not providing lodging for these refugees and asylum seekers, using the lack of funds as an issue.

I did bring up this matter of allowing more refugees into the country when boatloads of Rohingyans appeared on our shores just last year, in my column on The Malaysian Insider.

Thus, I’ll bring up the issue again – who exactly is supposed to pay for refugees and asylum seekers?

Should it be the United Nations, who ask to permit these peoples into our borders? Or the Malaysian taxpayers, which include all of us now that we have implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?

Of course, we think of the most humane thing to do by letting them in, but what of after?

Do we issue them with identity cards and allow them work?

Yes, we should. After all, we have constantly been talking about ‘3D’ (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs that our Malaysian youth refuse to do, even though they are apparently “starving” in colleges.

But what about lodging, and even placement in hostels?

For the Rohingyan crisis in the late of last year, we placed them in national service camps which were not in use due to this year’s suspension of the programme. But what about future refugees?

Also, how long are we going to keep them in the middle of a camp placed nowhere near any place they can work to earn a living?

In the same breath, we are welcoming Syrian families who have been victims of a civil war in their own country. Yet, very few details are being revealed or asked about just how we will or are already treating them.

They’ve arrived on Malaysian shores two months ago, and yet we have no idea if they’ve been assimilated into the workforce, given proper lodging or even will be paying taxes once they have settled down.

In fact, these are the questions that the government should be addressing in terms of our migrant policy.

  1. Why aren’t we making them pay into the EPF?
    • No doubt, foreign workers are employees and yet they are not required to contribute to our Employee Provident Fund (EPF), something that Singapore makes mandatory with their CPF.
  2. Will they be paying taxes?
    • Foreign workers should be paying taxes for income gained in the country, shouldn’t they? After all, if this government and its ministers are so keen to take money from Uber and Grab, it should be equally keen to make the migrant workforce pay taxes just as equal as citizens.
  3. How much are we putting aside for asylum seekers and refugees?
    • As much as we want to help those in need of it, there must be a figure measured and reserved in which we can assist. After all, this federal government is keen on helping our own citizens, it should have a proper budget for those in our region who require the same assistance.
  4. Who defines refugees, asylum seekers and migrant labour?
    • This requires a lot of thinking, because we don’t recognise the UN Declaration on refugees or asylum seekers. Thus, we actually have no obligation to help them officially, which is a huge issue when it comes to these people being harassed by the authorities, as we saw in the report post Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein’s 6P programme.
  5. Finally, can all these be engraved in stone somewhere?
    • Not to say much, but insofar dealing with foreign workers, asylum seekers and even refugees, Malaysia is extremely whimsical with no proper framework in place. This needs to change as we become a mature nation, if not sooner.

Of course, I personally believe we should take in those less fortunate than ourselves, but it should not be done at the expense of our own poor and downtrodden, nor should it be seen more important than our own citizens’ welfare.

And honestly, it is time we settle this issue and answer our questions regarding what needs to be determined before we face yet another wave of migrants, find another death camp up North, or even find another flotilla of refugees fleeing violence.

If Shahidan is in charge of this issue from now on, then by all means, his ministry and those under his portfolio should think this through now.


Brain fart: Ugh, Malaysians *rolls eyes and sigh*

You have to ask yourselves whether the next generation will be up to scratch.

It is a changed world, with paedophiles grouping together and sharing kiddie porn on Telegram, while kids begin to get into awkward situations that borders being born with a lack of self preservation.

In the last few months, Malaysian kids have found themselves incapable of even using escalators – something the general population has been using for the past four decades and more. Continue reading “Brain fart: Ugh, Malaysians *rolls eyes and sigh*”

Brain fart: On Orlando

I’m starting a new series of articles called “Brain farts”. They are raw, unedited, unscripted writings on current topics.

The mass murder of over 50 Americans in a gay bar located in Orlando is shocking, and should be condemned by the highest level. The actions of the alleged shooter, Omar Mateen, calling 911 and declaring his actions in the name of the Islamic State, makes it an act of terrorism. Of course, it is also an act of homophobia as well.

Can homosexuals be homophobic? Of course they can. Continue reading “Brain fart: On Orlando”

Malaysians and international issues

There needs to be a conversation on just how badly Malaysia is in treating modern issues, because as a people we are lagging in dealing with issues faced by the rest of the world.

Firstly, this is not a “support Western standards” post when it comes to highlighting wrongs in Malaysian policies. This will be a piece on how the same issues faced in Malaysia, are similarly found across the world. Continue reading “Malaysians and international issues”