Bankers Pay Hikes And Bonuses During Covid-19

There has been much controversy lately over senior bank officers in Malaysia receiving pay hikes, bonuses and other incentives despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the socio-economic straits it has put our country in, including many rakyat experiencing pay cuts or losing their jobs.

It is not wrong for companies—including government-linked ones—to reward and incentivise their talent, even in times of economic difficulty or crisis.

The question we should be asking rather is whether these benefits are justifiable against the performance of these banks.

It is true most of them turned a healthy profit. But we must also not forget that Malaysia’s banking sector is highly regulated now.

Turning a profit is, logically, the bare minimum in terms of how we judge the “performance” of our bankers.

So, what did they do to deserve these magnificent sums?

Also, the fact that the banks were able to pay out benefits like bonuses is surely empirical proof that the 2020 MCO loan moratorium had a negligible impact on the profitability of the banks.

Indeed, the moratorium arguably also helped stave off a deluge of non-performing loans (NPL) from their balance sheets.

As such, it is very strange that the banks and the current administration, particularly the Ministry of Finance, was adamant that the blanket loan moratorium should have been ended.

Why end it if they could still pay out these bonuses?

Why not—especially for the GLC banks who also have a national mission—be more compassionate and not hurt the livelihoods of millions of the rakyat in the pursuit of additional marginal revenue, whose purpose seems to be to fund high bonuses for the selected few?

Again, these are questions that the Boards of these banks and the Ministry of Finance must answer.


Where Does The PM Stand In Rais Yatim’s Attack On Undi18?

The President of the Dewan Negara Tan Sri Rais Yatim has been spending his downtime scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with frankly laughable excuses over why Malaysia’s voting age should not be lowered to 18.

The so-called “Undi 18” bill to amend the Constitution had been passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2019 via a bipartisan vote and gazetted, although the lowering of the voting age and automatic voter registration will reportedly only be implemented from July 2021.

In his latest broadside, Rais has claimed that the reforms are impractical because it supposedly will take up too much time and resources.

However, the Election Commission (EC) has stated that it is confident it will be able to carry out the processes involved. As such, Rais should not cast doubt or aspersions on the competence of the EC.

He should also realise that the bill that enabled the changes was passed virtually unanimously, including by members of his own party, particularly the MP who is currently the Prime Minister.

It is increasingly clear that Rais, for whatever reason, is simply against 18-year-olds having the vote and appears to be trying to build up a case for the government to not go along with it.

If so, he should have the decency to come out and say so and face the youth of Malaysia who he is attempting to disenfranchise. If he will not do so, he should respect the Constitution as well as the parliamentary process and cease his Quixotic attempts to undermine the lowering of the voting age.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (who as noted, voted for the amendment) should clarify where he stands on Rais’ attacks on the Undi 18 reforms. I also challenge him to commit to not call for elections until the automatic voter registration process is completed and 18-year-old Malaysians are eligible to vote.

I also note reports that as many as 6 states have yet to amend their state Constitutions to lower the voting age for their legislatures to 18.

This should be done as soon as possible to support the strengthening of democracy in Malaysia—and hence, yet another reason for the Prime Minister to expedite the lifting of the Emergency to facilitate this.

Young Malaysians, especially the 18-year-old cohort, should follow as well as judge the actions of these politicians very carefully, to question whether our country’s democracy is in safe hands and vote accordingly—when they are able to.


Vaccinating Legislators: No More Excuse For Emergency And Parliament Suspension

The Prime Minister has announced that Members of Parliament are eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19 during the first stage later this month.

As an MP, I am grateful for this. Personally, I would have preferred for other frontliners like healthcare workers, police officers and teachers to receive the vaccine first but I also understand that we have a responsibility to persuade sceptics amongst the public in order to increase uptake.

Vaccinating our MPs also means the government do not have any excuse to continue with the Emergency and suspension of Parliament. After all, almost all sectors of the economy have been opened.

The same principle should be applied to Parliament, where we can meet to discuss matters of the Rakyat whilst adhering to the strict SOPs as we did before.

The most important part of our duties as elected representatives is to represent our constituents in Parliament by bringing up the issues they are facing on the ground and ensuring that legislation is appropriately debated and passed.


Police Investigation Against Anwar Unjustified

The police investigation against Anwar Ibrahim for his call for an end to the current Emergency is unjustified and unwarranted.

It should be noted that Anwar has sought a judicial review to challenge, not the actions of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, but rather the advice that was tendered by the current government.

The lawsuit is hence against the government and not the institution of the monarchy.

Several other public figures have also filed lawsuits in regard to the current Emergency.

It should furthermore be noted that Anwar’s judicial review attempt mirrors a the challenge PAS had pursued in relation to the 1977 Emergency Declaration in Kelantan.

As such, the courts should be allowed to determine the merit of his legal arguments without interference from any other party.

As a citizen of Malaysia, Anwar has a right to seek legal redress for any wrongs that he believes has occurred in the public sphere.

Using the police force to investigate and intimidate a serving MP and Leader of the Opposition exercising his duty as check and balance of the government runs counter to the principles of democracy.

This remains even during a state of emergency.

As such, the investigation towards him cannot in any way be justified and ought to be dropped.


Federal Territory Day

Today, we celebrate Federal Territory Day. Today, we celebrate Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya—not only these very special cities but also the diverse, hardworking and virtuous people who make them come alive.
This year’s celebrations unfortunately take place during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the on-going Movement Control Order (MCO) and Emergency.
The Prime Minister has spoken and in his remarks outlined the various initiatives his government has undertaken to assist the people of the Federal Territories.
Unfortunately, the fact is that his government’s inadequate, flip-flopping response to both the public health and socio-economic crises triggered by the pandemic has negated whatever good the initiatives he has introduced may do.
Indeed, the lives of Malaysians in the Federal Territories and other urban areas in key sectors—including employment, education, infrastructure, the environment and public safety—leave much to be desired, especially for the B40s and M40s.
The best “gift” the current government can give Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya this Federal Territory Day is to commit to work more closely with its elected MPs and civil society, to listen and implement the mountains of sensible advice given in good faith, including on how to bring the pandemic under control.
This cannot take place while Parliament is not sitting, nor when members of his administration seem determined to take an adversarial relationship with a great many of the FT MPs.
The voices of the people of the FT appear to be ignored, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged such as the young, single parents, the homeless, mentally ill and migrant workers.
The FT needs change desperately. There is no use talking about all the aid given when the MCO—which has yet to show positive results despite several weeks—hurts livelihoods without helping to bring down the soaring infections. There is still time to reverse the perilous course we are still on.
In the longer term, self-governance ought to be returned to Kuala Lumpur, in the form of restoring local council elections in the city. The best way to ensure its continued development as a world-class city will be to allow Kuala Lumpur to be governed in the interest of its residents.
The recent Court of Appeal judgement in the Taman Rimba Kiara case is proof that the Federal Government does not always know best when it comes to the lives of our great cities.
In Setiawangsa, we have the Taman Tiara Titiwangsa case, where the residents have won at the Court of Appeal level.
The Federal Territories can definitely emerge as international hubs that draw people from all over the world. But it must first be able to take care of its own people—to keep them healthy, safe and employed and that requires real leadership that has the people at its heart.
Kuala Lumpur and the Federal Territories are special cities. And their people are special. With wisdom, cooperation and genuine leadership, there’s no reason why it will not be able to recover and eventually, thrive.