Temple fracas: Not new for Selangor, but…

The supposed temple issue in Selangor is not a new one. In fact, ever since a Pakatan Harapan government took root in the state under Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, there have been continued issues with the relocation of Hindu temples.

 

Case in point, the temple move in Shah Alam early in the days of the new government in 2008 almost reached a boiling point when a public hearing almost led to chair throwing. It was the same time that Khalid Samad had his picture trampled in the grounds of the state mosque. It was the same period as the cow head protest march towards the State Secretariat (SUK) building.

 

So in this sense, nothing new.

 

Even on the basis of having instigators paid for to march, it isn’t new – refer back to the cow head march a decade ago.

 

What is new, however, is the fact that this time around, there was damage to private property. What is new, is that the instigators are allegedly from a law firm based in Malaysia, paid for by the company who wants to take the land away.

 

What is also new, is that the government has now detained 30 people to assist with the investigation, a member of the Malaysian Fire Department was critically injured, and that the temple had received RM1.5 million in compensation and is now refusing to move.

 

The Selangor state was right in considering the Mid Valley Solution, where the temple continued to remain on the grounds of the development. However, when the developer has legally settled the issue with a payout and the temple committee backs out of the deal without offering to return the money, we definitely have a problem.

 

So, perhaps a few things need to happen here – the temple needs to return the money, the developer needs to reconsider a Mid Valley Solution, and everything else is just irrelevant if the two issues are settled.

 

If neither side believes in returning back to the negotiation table, then there will continue to be an issue of unrest just waiting to happen.

 

Since the courts have ruled for the developer, there really is no legal basis for the temple to remain there other than a mob defending it. What happens when they decide to just go ahead and demolish it?

 

Is the government going to continue to post police right near the temple to maintain the emotional mob even then?

 

And while Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed has announced that future houses of worship will require local council approval – does he understand what he is asking?

 

Consider Malaysian Christian shoplot churches or Chinese roadside shrines – are you truly going to now tell them that they need to go and file a document with the local council on whether they can do so or not?

 

And what if they don’t? Will they then see their worship under threat, closed down by local authorities, play the injured martyr and subsequently have the rule of law make an exception over and over again?

 

Then why bother with the registration at all?

 

The problem with half baked thoughts made into regulations and laws which in the end, end up being enforced and subsequently ignored, is that Malaysia has plenty of them. Thus a different solution needs to present itself to ensure the local community and the worshippers of whichever deity or religion are secured.

 

One way to handle this is not to have a registration with local councils, but also to make it mandatory for any house of worship to hold a public hearing for the community within the area particularly the residential associations.

 

While some may argue this will put the right to freedom of religion at threat, it does no such thing. All it does is ensure that local communities have a say and are informed of the establishment of religious institutions and raise their concerns while removing the threat of later issues.

 

The second thing to do will be a bit technical and would require the government to intercede. The government needs to establish a land trust for all religious institutions – particularly temples.

 

The issue with such establishments, particularly temples and suraus, is that it is established by communities without proper land titles or any protection from developers. Having it placed under a trust would allow the government to intercede with the issue of temples, churches, and even suraus and mosques built by local communities to be protected.

 

When government reconsiders and understands that worship is organic, usually by the demands of the community at one point in time which later on either thrives or withers, it allows the issuance of measures to ensure whether or not the established house of worship needs to move, or will remain protected.

 

And this will later on ensure that the government (either state or federal) gets a handle on dealing with the matter before it blows up to window breaking and midnight marches torching cars.

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Stick with it!

Yet another person came up and said that they were disappointed with the way Pakatan Harapan is running the country. And yes, these are people who openly admit they voted for Pakatan Harapan.

Which I think is odd, seeing as how the new government has only been in power for…86 or 87 days, at the time of writing this?

It seems that there are those who miraculously thought that a change in government would lead to some form of certain revolutionary change taking place as soon as possible.

Then again, we are in the age where a thought is shared every second, every waking hour and people being more connected than ever before in history. News used to come daily, is now updated at the minute on social media, and on average every 15 minutes by the media.

That being said, to those who are voicing out their disappointments – chill.

Yes, there are things they promised to be implemented in 100 days, and they are in the midst of doing it or finding new impediments to their thoughts.

Yes, more hereditary issues are being brought up with the need for urgent solutions.

And yes, they are talking about really dumb things in the midst of getting work done as well, particularly as a diversion as to how slow government and public policy works.

More than that, they are facing real issues in hiring their workers and political appointees, with the Public Service Department highlighting where the process has been slowed down.

Yes, there are hiccups in implementing policy in terms of the EPF deductions for wives because they didn’t read the law before coming up with a proper framework.

Yes, they really should be talking about real education reform rather than be bitching about wanting black shoes so that students can “read more books” – though I personally think it’ll just free up more time to be spent gaming or on social media.

But more than that, there are good ideas, bad ideas, good reforms, and of course the same old, same old thing happening in certain areas.

This is what government is, if you haven’t noticed throughout your entire life span. It is a machine run on red tape, with legal jargon to read and a lot of “what ifs” to cover in coming up with policy and reforms, lest you break the entire system or create legally grey areas all around.

That being said, the decision towards open tenders is admirable, but it will instead create longer timespans in getting work done – I do hope the government and the people know this much especially when they’re calling for urgency in reformation.

This is the sacrifice you make when wanting transparent government.

Similarly, there has been very little word on legal reforms, particularly a focus on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that should be passed to encourage transparent government.

Also, with the Social Security Act (Sosma) now becoming 50-50 with some ministers saying it should be maintained while others want to keep the promise of abolishing it, there is a need for some clarity on the matter.

All in all, they are doing what you voted them to do, even if you are not happy with the urgency they are working on it – but that just shows how much and how fast you expect transitions to take place. This is admirable, but folly.

After all, this is the first government transition in a nation that has never seen such a change. Keep that in mind, and expect things to move slower than you think it should.

 

Domestic flight price ceiling? Glad someone is reading

On March 5, I wrote a column in The Sun Daily asking that the government consider lowering the price of air fare between Peninsular and Borneo.

The lack of controls in fares which made flights to Sabah and Sarawak sometimes higher than flights overseas, was brought to my attention by a friend on Facebook.  Continue reading “Domestic flight price ceiling? Glad someone is reading”

Column – Why settle study loans

Why settle study loans

BEFORE we talk about the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN), let’s understand that it is primarily a rolling fund. This means it can only dish out money that it gets back.

Thus, if borrowers don’t pay or service their loans, it will reduce the amount available for the next batch of students. In other words, those paying their PTPTN loans are not just servicing a loan, they are also putting a freshman through college.

In March 2017, 660,000 Malaysians had not paid a single sen of their PTPTN loans. And by last November, PTPTN announced that 410,500 Malaysians had not paid a single sen, amounting to RM6.84 billion.

For last year until Sept 30, the amount collected was RM12.13 billion, instead of the full amount of RM18.97 billion. This means there will be less for students this year. Thus, with more student pursuing tertiary education with less funds for loans we will see more households bearing more costs.

This was made worse by announcement of a further extension for repayments to 12 months during the tabling of Budget 2018. Also announced was an extra RM200 million for the Bottom 40 (B40) group of households.

We were also informed of a tax exemption of up to RM6,000 for those saving in 1Malaysia Education Saving Scheme.

There was an announcement for discounts and rebates for people to pay back their loans. All of these will further erode the ability of PTPTN to cope with increased costs of students to eke out a living, perhaps even triggering another starving student (Mahasiswa Lapar) movement.

Pakatan Harapan manifesto has a promise to allow Malaysians to start servicing their student loans when they earn RM4,000 a month. This raises a few questions.

First, for the period between a student’s graduation and the time he gets a job and earns RM4,000, will the PTPTN loan be subject to compounded interest per annum?

Will there be an increase in minimum payments to cope with the increased amount in their loans?

What’s the duration for a working class borrower to start earning a RM4,000? I ask because that is how long we will be exempting more Malaysians from paying a single sen and reducing funds for students.

So a Pakatan Harapan government will delay PTPTN repayments and regularly inject funds into it to allow future batches of students to gain access to the loans.

If it is yet another government backed loan, injecting more funds will increase national debt, and while the compounded interest on the loans to students working to earn RM4,000 will also increase individual or household debt.

The manifesto will also allow Malaysians to buy a car without getting flagged by bad credit scores, get assistance from the government to buy a house, and fly overseas without being blacklisted.

Consider a few things that come to mind.

First, how do we view debt? Do we see it as something serious to the point that we consider it something that must be paid as a monthly cost, or do we see it as an elastic cost that should only be paid when you have disposable income?

Should debt be elastic without a time period, without penalties? After all, you can’t take back a graduate’s degree or diploma to make them repay their loans, can you?

What’s your stance on debt?

Now, if you have answered that question, I will put forward another?

Do we believe PTPTN should assist students who don’t have parents with high incomes – the middle and lower-income groups, at no added costs to manage the debts, payouts and paybacks, or even interest rates which will eventually allow the funding of future students?

Or, do we believe in the government pumping in more money to fund future students while allowing debtors to not have to pay their dues for three or four years?

Or, do we believe in writing off billions and let the government foot the bill and making tertiary education free?

Have a hard think.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Regarding public transport and KL

Regarding public transport and KL

By Hafidz Baharom

Before we begin looking at what manifestos should promise, we need to know what is already in place for Kuala Lumpur and the Greater Klang Valley.

We have two Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines, and an additional line to link Bandar Utama to Klang by 2021 – the LRT3 Line currently in the initial stages of development.

We have the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, with two more lines already under construction connecting KL to Putrajaya – which will hopefully be cheaper than the Express Rail Line (ERL). Continue reading “Regarding public transport and KL”

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

By Hafidz Baharom

In the last two weeks, this has been the campaigns leading up to the 14th General Election. It was initially to call us using the #undirosak hashtag as “immature, brain damaged, treasonous” and even going so far as “committing suicide”.

Since then, we have learned that our largest apolitical critic being the chief of the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) is joining politics under the PKR banner and allegedly offered a “safe seat”.

Thus, the clean is now clearly about to get muddy.

Continue reading “From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?”

Is “confusion” a good excuse to ban books? And where does it lead?

Is “confusion” a good excuse to ban books? And where does it lead?

by Hafidz Baharom

This question still lingers, since the whole “Ultraman” ban in 2014 by our authorities here in Malaysia. Apparently because someone wrongly translated a character in the comic as “the Allah’s of Ultraman“, it got banned.

And this use of one word to describe God has led to yet another charge of how using such a word, and defining it, will somehow lead to “confusion”.

In today’s case, the people from the Selangor Religious Department (JAIS) testified that Ezra Zaid’s translation of Irshad Manji’s book titled “Allah, Liberty and Love” into Bahasa Malaysia, was “confusing” and wrongly describing God, therefore the cause to take him to court.

He is facing a maximum RM3,000 fine, a 2-year prison sentence, or both. Continue reading “Is “confusion” a good excuse to ban books? And where does it lead?”

Is our private data really private?

In the middle of last month, I received a phone call from a so-called “Institut Minda Selangor”, which was doing a poll to gauge support for Selangor’s Pakatan Rakyat/Harapan state government.

Now, one would think there would be no problem with just answering a few questions and submitting to a poll, but this is different.

Some details – the phone number I have is a prepaid SIM card purchased from Maxis by my younger brother as a birthday present ages ago. In fact, it could have been close to seven or eight years ago.

And thus, he registered it under his name. It works just fine, other than the fact that the whole “birthday treat” comes in August and confuses me once a year – it’s a good reminder though.

Thus, when the pollster calls up and mentions my brother’s name instead of my own, we do have a problem. You see, only three people would know that this phone number of mine is registered under my brother’s name – myself, my brother, and the telco itself.

So, where would the pollster have gotten the information?

I decided to take this case to Facebook, and as such, the telco provider has given feedback that their system is secure without a breach. However, they couldn’t provide an answer as to how the pollster could have gotten the details known only to three parties, two of which are pretty much secure and would never reveal that information.

Thus, at this point, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that someone is leaking phone numbers, private information, to pollsters. As to who is doing it, perhaps it can be found out by finding the pollsters since telcos are all convincing that their data handling – from initial registration of buying a SIM card from a kedai runcit or even 7-Eleven, is secure and without a leak.

To those who got the same phone call, perhaps it is time to take note that your data has been sold off to would be pollsters, promoters, and maybe even fraudsters, and perhaps it is time to think about where they got it from.