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Just for the sake of condemn NST

These so-called “smugglers” are in fact taking a big risk of breaking the law to facilitate the exchange. Rather than being condemned, they should be congratulated for helping lower the cost of living for those residing at the border.

Another empty talk from the academia. Lim is taking every opportunity to attack NST after his removal from a lucrative job in the government think tank.

The hard fact is the border smuggling benefits more to big syndicates who are residing in the big cities like Kuala Lumpur. I know a kampong folk is super rich from his rice smuggling syndicate.

The losses of tax in border smuggling will be compensated by higher tax collection in other sectors like car. May be those people in the border are still using bicycle to support Lim’s lower the cost of living theory.

Another take on border smuggling
Lim Teck Ghee

These so-called ‘smugglers’ should be congratulated for helping lower the cost of living for those residing at the border.

Recently the New Straits Times ran a front-page article on brazen smuggling at our borders with Thailand and Indonesia.

In its report, an NST team which joined several Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) covert surveillance operations found that agencies tasked with foiling smuggling attempts were closing an eye to the movement of price-controlled goods by foreigners and Malaysians.

According to the paper’s report, this is costing the government hundreds of millions of ringgit annually. Goods smuggled ranged from diesel, petrol, liquefied petroleum gas to sugar, cooking oil and flour.

The “exposé” was followed by another front-page article the next day with the screaming headline “For RM10, smugglers can breeze in and out” (Jan 3, 2012) and the sub-headline “Corruption is rampant among law enforcers at border checkpoints”.

There has been no response yet from the higher authorities to these sensational reports. But if the NST editors are expecting Malaysians to pat them on the back for being a crusading paper, they are hopelessly wrong.

Let me provide another point of view.

What is NST’s real agenda?

Highly placed officials and politicians have confided to me that the NST is getting out of control by running these articles which are calculated to bring the government agencies and top brass into disrepute.

Their job should be to focus on bringing down Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition parties, not to invite attention to minor and trivial issues.

I fully agree. In addition, I have to point out that what the NST has described as smuggling is technically correct but a view taken from a biased perspective. A more holistic political economy approach is needed to explain the activity before jumping to rash conclusions.

What we are seeing at the border can be characterised as an adaptation of the long established and traditional people-to-people economic exchange, without the repressive hand of the state to extract duties and taxes.

According to the American social scientist, James Scott – whose acclaimed book, “Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance”, incidentally, was based on work in the Muda area of Kedah – “the Brechtian or Schweikian forms of resistance… are an integral part of the small arsenal of relatively powerless groups”.

The said forms of resistance include such acts as foot-dragging, dissimulations, false compliance, feigned ignorance, desertion, pilfering, smuggling, poaching… and so on. “These techniques, for the most part quite prosaic, are the ordinary means of class struggle. They are the techniques of ‘first resort’ in those common historical circumstances in which open defiance is impossible or entails mortal danger.”

These so-called “smugglers” are in fact taking a big risk of breaking the law to facilitate the exchange. Rather than being condemned, they should be congratulated for helping lower the cost of living for those residing at the border.

As to the damage to the Malaysian economy, let’s have a more enlightened view.

Many of the beneficiaries are our Muslim brothers and sisters living on the other side of colonial borders arbitrarily imposed on us. If the British, French and Dutch had not concocted their nefarious slicing up of the region, we may be living with those now on the other side of the border as one big happy family.

Now that colonialism has come and gone, if we can help our Thai and Indonesian kin have access to cheaper goods, why not? Can we not close one eye, especially as these are poorer folk than us? Why begrudge our Narathiwat and Pattani or north Kalimantan relations especially when they are already feeling the oppression of their own central government?

If we close both eyes to this activity, Malaysians will not only be seen as charitable neighbours but we can also proudly claim to be doing more than our fair share for the common Asean good.

Beating up customs officers

The NST articles also went to great lengths to beat up our Jabatan Kastam Diraja officers. Come on. This is not only unpatriotic but also unfair. These customs officers receive only a few ringgit of duit kopi for standing in the sun the whole day to help facilitate this exchange.

Let’s also not forget that these same officers also facilitate the cheap influx of fragrant beras Siam, fruits and other Thai commodities into our country without having the taxman extract his pound of flesh, and having the Defence Ministry appropriate the revenue to buy Scorpene submarines.

Without them, we will not be enjoying our nasi lemak special at bargain prices. So let’s appreciate these men in brown who have to put in long hours at isolated and faraway border outposts protecting our national security. Let’s not carp about the couple of hundred ringgit extra taken home that comes with their job.

Yet another perspective

According to one friend, I and my highly placed Barisan Nasional and civil servant colleagues have missed the entire point of the NST exercise. This is because the two articles are a smokescreen to distract readers’ attention away from the large-scale bribery and looting of the country’s resources that is taking place.

According to him, enormous sums of money amounting to millions and billions of ringgit – not the paltry sums mentioned in the NST article – exchange hands. These vast sums are not slipped furtively hidden between customs papers in the scorching heat at god-forsaken spots but openly in cool air-conditioned coffee houses and hotels in Kuala Lumpur or outside the country at some luxurious resort.

Mainstream media have never highlighted these scandals and never will. But they are making up for this failure to live up to Clark Kent investigative journalism by going after the ikan bilis and making readers think that the NST is really a “people’s paper”.

The friend who believes I missed the point of NST’s exercise made the final deflating rejoinder that my academic background has led me to over-intellectualise the smuggling activity and to overlook the most important reason for the two articles. On further thought, he may be right.

Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives.

The nkkhoo.com comment board with Facebook account.
niceguy says:

“Their job should be to focus on bringing down Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition parties, not to invite attention to minor and trivial issues.”

“The NST articles also went to great lengths to beat up our Jabatan Kastam Diraja officers. Come on. This is not only unpatriotic but also unfair.

“Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives.” ??!!! What?

Good morning, Mr Khoo. May I know the source of the above article?

I’m just a lay-man, and I think every bit helps, whether big fish or not was targeted, in fighting corruption.

IMHO, when the general public thinks it is okay to close an eye and it is alright for small scale corruptions to happen right before their eyes, corruption is already too widely integrated and too late to battle against it.

Every bits helps in fighting corruption. Whether it is a shout out by a MSM or blogs; or you and me not giving bribes.

nkkhoo says:

The source is free Malaysia today.

niceguy says:

Thank you.

“According to one friend,…large-scale bribery and looting of the country’s resources that is taking place… enormous sums of money amounting to millions and billions of ringgit… exchange hands… openly…”

According to my none-existing-and-imaginary S’porean friend, he would say “Stop talking cock!”.

I don’t know who is the author, but he had just lost credibility. My take is that one stand up or shut up. No point in making allegations.

Manja says:

The plundering of the natural resources of our country by the cronies is detrimental to the future of the future generation! Our oil is depleting. all the 1Initiatives are basically ‘gadai’ our future. Think hard of all the goodies you could be receiving from 1PM as you are actually taking away the future of your children who will have to bear the debt incurred by the 1Government.

Velusamy says:

NST – free also nobody with right mind would want to read. All BN propaganda!

nkkhoo says:

I still read NST travel online section.

AJ says:

You can be subconciously been BTNized there!!!

Fanny says:

Why waste your time with NST?

nkkhoo says:

NST Travel section is better than other newspapers.

Mushi Abdullah says:

Cuti-cuti Malaysia atau curi-curi duit Malaysia?
Itu promosi NST?