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Cabinet tomorrow should decide whether it is prepared to endorse and adopt the “RM22,500 fines for selling Milo at RM1.80” rule as the yardstick to punish the corrupt among the high and mighty to restore integrity and good governance in public life in Malaysia
(Parliament, Tuesday) : The Cabinet tomorrow should decide whether it is prepared to endorse the “RM22,500 fines for selling Milo at RM1.80” rule as the yardstick to punish the corrupt among the high and mighty to restore integrity and good governance in public life in Malaysia.
This follows the very high-handed action of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement officers penalizing a mamak restaurant in Kuala Terengganu, Restoran Nasi Kandar Tanjung, issuing compound fines of RM22,500 for charging RM1.80 for a glass of iced Milo.
The Ministry enforcement officers also seized food and drinks worth about RM750 and they also tore down the shop’s signboard.
Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh was full of praise for the high-handed enforcement action, which had been criticized as overzealous and unwarranted, saying that it was high time such severe action be a lesson to all food outlet operators who flouted the law.
Are the RM22,500 fines for charging RM1.80 for a glass of iced Milo defensible? Absolutely not, as they are not only high-handed, overzealous, unwarranted but gross abuses of power.
I fully endorse actions by enforcement officers against food operators or traders for indiscriminate price increases, but one power abuse cannot justify another even more heinous power abuse.
I am all for the deterrent principle, as contained in the Chinese saying “to kill a fowl to frighten the moneys”, to curb exorbitant profiteering but this cannot justify gross abuses of power which undermines public confidence in good governance in the country.
On the specific case of the mamak restaurant in Kuala Terengganu, there is dispute about the facts – with the accusation on the one hand that it had overcharged about 20 sen to 30 sen more than the usual price and the defence by the 35-year-old operator of the restaurant in Jalan Hiliran, Kuala Terengganu that he had started charging RM1.80 for the drink ever since he started his business early this year and it had nothing to do with the recent civil servant salary increase.
Without being bogged down by the facts, I agree as a matter of principle that strong deterrent action should be taken against the mamak restaurant if it had been guilty of unscrupulous profiteering by charging RM1.80 for a glass of iced Milo, after the government had announced a salary increase for civil servants of between 7.5% and 35% effective from July.
The issue is whether the mamak restaurant should be given compound fines of RM22,500 even if it is true that it had unscrupulously increased the price of a glass of iced Milo from 20 to 30 sen?
Fine it up to 1,000 times of the unscrupulous profiteering of 30 sen or up to RM300, and nobody would accuse the enforcement officers of gross abuse of power. But to impose RM22,500 fines, which is more than 70,000 times of the unscrupulous profiteering if any – where is the sense of proportion and justice?
I am shocked that the Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk S. Veerasingam could justify such gross abuse of power by his enforcement officers on the ground that under the Trade Descriptions Act 1972, an individual can be fined up to RM100,000 or three years’ jail, or both, for selling an item at a price higher than what is displayed.
Is Veerasingam seriously suggesting that the mamak restaurant operator could be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed for three years for overcharging an iced glass of Milo by 30 sen? If so, then Veerasingam is not fit to be Deputy Minister in the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, or the whole government is rotten to the core!
The “RM22,500 fines for selling Milo at RM1.80” fiasco has raised an important question among many Malaysians – why the double standards in law enforcement?
This is the reason for my call to the Cabinet tomorrow to declare whether it is prepared to endorse and adopt the “RM22,500 fines for selling Milo at RM1.80” rule as the yardstick to punish the corrupt among the high and mighty to restore integrity and good governance in public life in Malaysia, requiring corrupt Ministers and public servants to be penalized by over 70,000 times for their corrupt and ill-gotten gains?
If the “RM22,500 fines for selling Milo at RM1.80” rule is to be applied strictly without fear or favour, then action should be taken instantly against Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Chief Ministers and Mentris Besar who have amassed fortunes completely disproportionate to their known means of income, and their ill-gotten gains should not only be confiscated, they should be penalized by over 70,000 times their ill-gotten gains.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman