Sunday, January 07, 2007

Qu'ils mangent de la murtabak*

* title translated as "Let them eat murtabak", copying an infamous remark allegedly stated by Marie Antoinette, Queen of France who, when told the French people had no bread to eat, said "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or "let them eat cake". The notorious statement was meant to demonstrate the French Queen's lack of understanding of the sufferings of the poor.

Now, this is interesting yet at the same disheartening - interesting because there’s something for us to work out the ‘truth’ if there is ever anything such as a truthful ‘truth’ – disheartening because the ordinary people, those who don’t have stuff like yachts to participate in the Monsoon Cup, are hurting badly, but their pains are not heard by the government.

Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Syed Sharir Syed Mohamud said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had never met with MTUC to discuss the plight of Malaysian workers, unlike his predecessor, the big-double M.

According to Syed Sharir, Dr Mahathir used to consult the MTUC, not just once but on several occasions during his premiership.

Syed Sharir emphasized his point: “It’s not only the workers. There are several other groups whom he had never even acknowledged nor responded to their appeals.”

“The government must be proactive in engaging groups who are trying to relay the grouses of the people. Maybe they are unconcerned about whether there is any support for them or not.”

In his speech as a guest speaker at the Bank Employees (NUBE) 1st extraordinary delegates’ conference function, the MTUC chief called on NUBE delegates to move beyond engaging in industrial relation issues and into national issues that affect all workers.

“Toll, electricity hikes, inflation. Who else is going to speak up for you?”

Meanwhile, as an example of the impact of inflation on ordinary folks, Dr Asmawi Tahir is complaining about the rise in the price of chicken feed.

Asmawi holds a PhD in corporate management (perhaps not from Oxford university) but because he couldn’t even get a job in the white collar world of corporations, decided to make something out for himself, in quail rearing and exporting.

But his plans to produce processed quails for export have been severely affected by inflation, because the soaring price of chicken feed has made it no longer worthwhile.

He said: “When I started quail rearing in March, it only cost RM58 for a 50 kg bag of feed but now it’s RM74.”

Nearly 30% rise in price, though still less than the 60% rise in toll charges for the people of Puchong. Now which ministers had said the jump in toll charges and petrol price won't affect goods?

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche?"

He lamented: “On the other hand, buyers are only willing to pay RM2 for each skinned bird” – just a mere 20 sen (11%) addition to the earlier price of RM1.80."

Mana boleh man – cost of feed rise by 30% but his product price only by 11%.

Asmawi had already spent some RM70,000 on his farm. He has a fall-back action which is to switch to exotic birds like peacocks, lyre-birds, etc. But Murphy's Law suggests that there may just be another outbreak of SAR to break this poor man’s heart.

Then, has Syed Sharir been right about a PM who's clueless about the plight of the ordinary Asmawi, Ah Chong and Muthusamy, where they face monumental problems of stuff like a RM16 jump in a 50 kg bag of chook feed or a 60 sen jump in toll charges 'each time' they pass through the milking gate?

Mind you, the government can cast hundreds of millions on a sports centre in UK, another humongous lump of such millions on promoting the Monsoon Cup, probably millions on the Cemerlang-isation ceremony, RM400 million on a palace, RM600 million of pork barrelling, etc etc etc?

Hmmm, but of course we need to be aware that Syed Shahrir also leads the Parti Keadilan Rakyat Kelana Jaya division.

So, was Syed Sharir’s views on AAB coloured by reality or political expediency?

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