GEORGETOWN, Nov 14 – The Penang legislative assembly today passed an emergency motion urging the federal government to postpone the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1 next year. Lee Khai Loon (PKR-Machang Bubuk), who tabled the motion, said Putrajaya should hold back the GST until Malaysia achieved the status of a developed and high-income nation.
Calling it a “repressive tax”, he said the country was not ready for it. “It will further burden the people financially, namely the poor and middle-income groups that are usually just making enough to get by. “Many people still do not understand the tax well. Do not tell them GST will not increase prices. Such a statement is a bluff,” he said when tabling the motion this morning.
Lee, a strong critic of the move, also said the GST was an easy way out for the federal government that had “failed to manage the nation’s economy efficiently”. He said Putrajaya should be overcoming problems like leakages first, instead of imposing the tax. Several Pakatan Rakyat reps such as Datuk Mohd Salleh Man (PAS-Permatang Pasir), Soon Lip Chee (DAP-Jawi) and R.S.N. Rayer (DAP-Seri Delima) also spoke in support of the motion, while Muhammad Farid Saad (BN-Pulau Betong) urged them to reconsider.
Farid said the BN federal government was responsible and had studied the GST carefully before deciding to implement it, adding that the tax was already imposed in over 100 other countries. Rayer shot back, saying that if Putrajaya was a caring government, why had it also given funds to Malay right wing group, Perkasa. He was referring to news reports that the federal government had funded Perkasa programmes.
“(Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri) Shahidan Kassim admitted this. I am shocked. Perkasa is a right wing group that has created tension in our diverse society. “The kind of spending by Putrajaya and leakages do not benefit the people. Perhaps the government has misused funds collected from the people,” Rayer said.
Rayer proceeded to blast the government on inconsistencies in its spending, citing its no-ransom policy to free Malaysians abducted by a southern Philippines militant group while allowing sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) to keep money in the Cayman Islands and financing Perkasa. “The wife of one of the kidnapped men went to Parliament yesterday, crying and begging for the government to pay the RM3 million ransom for her husband.
“What was the government’s reply? ‘No way, we will not negotiate’,” Rayer said. He was chided by Farid, who asked Rayer to show proof of his claims against Putrajaya or drop the issue so that the legislative assembly could discuss other matters. Rayer replied that he had raised the issue because it involved taxpayers’ money.
“I am asking what will happen to the money collected from the GST. I am also a taxpayer. Will the money be spent on overseas holidays for ministers and their wives?” he asked. “Maybe the truth hurts … I am calling for the postponement of the GST. I worry the money collected will be used for other purposes,” Rayer said when Farid protested his again. Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang later passed the emergency motion after majority of members voiced their support.