Minimum wage is going up in February. However, questions abound as to whether the government is actually approaching the problem of low wages in the right manner. Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, the cops want a word with Lat Koya, a state assemblyman is nabbed at a party, and folks worry that carriers of infectious diseases may be slipping into the country undetected.

Pay it right

Wage against the machine

Yes, it’s still RM300 shy of what was originally promised (see Promise 34) by Pakatan Harapan in the previous GE. But, come Feb 1, workers in 56 gazetted areas in the country will at least be entitled to a minimum wage of RM1,200.

The 56 areas affected are as follows:

City councils 

Johor Bahru, Iskandar Puteri, Alor Setar, Melaka, Penang, Seberang Prai, Ipoh, Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Terengganu, Kuching Utara, Kuching Selatan, Miri, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, and Seremban

Municipal councils

Batu Pahat, Kluang, Kulai, Muar, Segamat, Pasir Gudang, Kulim, Sungai Petani, Langkawi, Kubang Pasu, Kota Bharu, Alor Gajah, Jasin, Hang Tuah Jaya, Port Dickson, Jempol, Kuantan, Temerloh, Bentong, Manjung, Kuala Kangsar, Taiping, Teluk Intan, Kangar, Ampang Jaya, Kajang, Klang, Selayang, Subang Jaya, Sepang, Kemaman, Dungun, Padawan, Sibu, Kota Semarahan, Bintulu, Sandakan, Tawau, Labuan, and Putrajaya

If you work in any place within one of the areas above, you’re entitled to take home a minimum salary of RM1,200 a month, or RM5.77 an hour. 

Those who don’t work within one of the 56 areas, meanwhile, will draw RM100 less i.e. RM1,100 a month i.e. RM5.29 an hour.

Let’s be clear here. Making it mandatory for workers to get better wage deals (the new ruling applies to foreign workers too, though domestic workers are expressly excluded) is laudable. The B40 group does need to be taken care of. Still, one question that keeps cropping up in discussions on minimum wage is whether the powers that be are approaching the issue of low wages in a holistic manner? 

For a start, one of the major problems with the new ruling is that it only applies to workers in city or municipal council areas. Yes, the government says this is due to the higher cost of living in urban areas. Nevertheless, instead of narrowing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, what the rule does also succeed in doing is creating more disparity between wage earners. In this case between those working in towns and cities, and workers in rural areas.

Another point to note is that the new rule may actually work against rural development efforts. ’Cos really, who’s gonna want to stay in the kampungs if they’re guaranteed to earn less, right?

 

Then, of course, there’s the bigger problem with a minimum wage of RM1,200: it just ain’t enough for folks to get by on. 

Still, if there’s one thing to be slightly thankful for it’s the Finance Ministry’s promise to be friendlier and more considerate in dealing with taxpayers. 

According to Uncle Pennybags a.k.a. Saudara Lim Guan Eng, even though the government needs the moolah, it’s aware of the need to not burden taxpayers. That’s great, of course, considering how Malaysians, who’re already struggling, are bound to feel the pinch even more when fuel subsidies are removed later this year.

Riddle me this, riddle me that

PM Mahathir Mohamad may believe there was nothing wrong with the public airing of audio clips allegedly implicating former premier Najib Razak in a conspiracy. However, the cops aren’t as convinced. And they’re the set to call in Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) head honcho Latheefa Koya to explain her decision to air the recordings.

According to Inspector-General of Police Hamid Bador, questions need answering with regard the authenticity of the clips, their source and possible breaches of certain Penal Code (S.203A and S.218) and Official Secrets Act (S.8) provisions. Which is why Lat’s set to be interviewed.

FYI, the Penal Code sections concern disclosure of information and the framing of an incorrect record by a public servant, while the OSA provision deals with wrongful communication of official secrets. The OSA section is especially problematic ’cos thanks to the broad nature of the Act, virtually anything – yes, even audio clips featuring quinoa-devouring politicians (allegedly, allegedly!) – can be considered an official secret. 

Hamid says the police will also seek the advice of A-G Tommy Thomas on areas of the law where there’s ambiguity, like in the case of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects sources who voluntarily report or reveal information on graft.

Meanwhile, Jibby’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, confirms the former PM will initiate contempt proceedings against Latheefa and the MACC over the release of the clips.

Lat, didn’t directly respond to either the IGP or Jib but issued a statement late Monday in which she claimed the existence of a “criminal plot” to tarnish her reputation, adding that “a lawyer is among the culprits”. 

Who is this lawyer? (It can’t be Shafee, right?). What is the nature of the conspiracy? Who else is involved? We dunno. But what we can tell you is that this is getting really, really interesting.

But, we also really need to point out that a lot of this could’ve been avoided had Latheefa sent the recordings to the police BEFORE holding a press conference to announce it. Why did she do what she did? Attention seeking? Fear that the recordings would be buried? Lack of trust in the cops? A personal vendetta against Jibby and Rosy? Who knows. But it may turn out to bite her in the ass.

One helluva party

First things first. There’s a lot we can’t confirm about this case. But what we do know is that 17 people were nabbed in a raid at a condo in Puchong. And 16 of those 17 tested positive for drugs.

According to IGP Hamid, cops headed to the condo in the wee hours of Sunday after residents complained of noise and promptly discovered a party in full swing. Ketamine, a cigarette containing what’s believed to be marijuana as well as playing cards and chips (the gambling kind, not the kind one has with cod) were seized from the location. 

Hamid has refused to name the persons arrested. However, viral social media messages and certain news reports have implicated Dengkil rep Adhif Syan Abdullah, alongside three political aides.

Adhif, the main fellow reports have fingered, initially claimed he was at home at the time of the arrest. However, the assemblyman, who’s also Selangor Bersatu Youth chief, later changed his story, insisting that he was at the condo simply to engage in a discussion. Yes, a discussion. At 4.40am.

Look, Adhif. You may well have been in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, as you claim. However, can we advise you something, bro? Maybe get your story straight before you meet your boss Maddey, yeah? The Doc’s statement that anyone who breaks the law, himself included, should be jailed, suggests to us that he’s pissed.

At this point, it’s difficult to say how much of an impact the arrests of Adhif and the rest will have on Bersatu and indeed Pakatan Harapan. But one thing is certain: you can expect the Opposition to play this up in the days leading to Kimanis. As a matter of fact, Troll Master General Jib has already started the ball rolling.

A scanner slackly

Back in 2003, about RM10 million was spent on thermal imaging scanners at entry/exit points in the country. It was the height of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and the government wanted to make sure persons carrying the disease didn’t slip into the country.

The way thermal scanners work is by scanning a folks’ body temperature and identifying those running fevers. Thing is, despite the tonnes of money spent on these state-of-the-art devices, there’s concern now that travellers carrying infectious diseases have, possibly, been sneaking into the country thanks to the lax attitudes of officers manning the machines.

The alert was raised after a video clip, apparently taken on Dec 26 last year, showed one officer at a scanning station in klia2 preoccupied with his phone, while another officer napped.

We get it. Sitting around staring at screens all day can be boring as hell. Still, slacking off in a job like this can have drastic consequences. Take, for example, the two “new” polio cases in Sabah that are linked to a virus strain from the southern Philippines.

Malaysia had been polio-free for 27 years until that case in Tuaran late last year. And now, we have three! Could that be ‘cos the officers manning the scanners in Sabah were also sleeping and messing with their phones and allowed carriers of the virus in? 

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has already issued the guilty parties with warnings and called for greater professional standards. However, there’s no guarantee that things will, in fact, change. After all, as this letter from 2016 indicates, security and surveillance at Malaysia’s entry/exit points have always been this slack.

This and that

Here’re are a few other items that made the headlines yesterday:

  • IGP Hamid Bador has admitted to failure in bringing fugitive financier Jho Low home but insists that it wasn’t for want of trying. On the contrary, the top cop says “certain quarters” were determined to stand in the way of justice being done. Who are these certain quarters and why the dark hints instead of just coming out and speaking plainly? If the IGP doesn’t have the courage to out these things, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
     
  • Japanese badminton ace Kento Momota escaped serious injury when the van he was in crashed into the back of a trailer on the Maju Expressway. Momota had just a day earlier, bagged the Malaysian Masters singles title. The driver of the van died in the crash, while three others were hurt.
     
  • Police have given conditional approval for an anti-PSS (Sabah Temporary Pass) rally to be held in Membakut, an area within the Kimanis parliamentary constituency. Former Kimanis MP Anifah Aman is set to speak at the Jan 15 rally.
     
  • An audit director told the court on Monday that she was not allowed to print the final 1Malaysia Development Bhd audit report until Jibby Razak approved it. Meanwhile, in another case, the court dismissed a RM52.6 million suit by carpet seller Deepak Jaikishan against Jib and Rosmah Mansor.

“Put the politicians on minimum wage and watch how fast things change.”

- Anonymous -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Harry and Meghan’s future as part-time royals will be decided in the coming days, Queen Elizabeth says. Meanwhile, Ginger Spice Harry and brother William have rubbished a British newspaper report which suggested that problems within the royal family were due to William’s “bullying attitude”.
     
  • Imran Kassim, the first Singaporean to be charged with terror financing, has admitted to transferring funds overseas to support ISIS. The dude, however, did not plead guilty, noting that there are “exaggerations” in how the terror group is portrayed. Yeah, sure.
     
  • Ocean temperatures hit a record high in 2019. The world’s oceans have been getting warmer and warmer over the past decade and that matters because changing ocean heat means changing rains in some places, which then results in more floods in some places and more droughts and wildfires in others.
     
  • Joker leads the race for the 92nd Academy Awards with 11 nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director (Todd Phillips) and its star Joaquin Phoenix. The IrishmanOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917 are the other close contenders, with 10 nominations each. The Oscars are set for Feb 9.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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