Friday, March 12, 2010

Anti-GST protest: 'We need only one hour'

Organisers of the anti-GST protest on Monday are urging the police to give the demonstrators one hour to express their opposition to the new tax, which they said would punish the poor.

“The GST (goods and services tax) is going to affect the livelihood of 85 percent of the population who today do not earn enough to pay income tax,” said said PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan.

azlanHe described Monday's protest to be held outside the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur as “ a common thing in any democratic society”.

“As such, PSM calls upon the police not to disrupt or create unnecessary obstacles to the public on this day.

"The picket is only going to be an hour and the organisers have assured that it will be peaceful and will take all measures on safety...” said Arutchelvan.

“We hope the police would not resort to nationwide roadblocks and other forms of harassment to the public as it would be a working day,” he added.

NONEArutchelvan (left), who is also a member of the Kajang municipal council, was responding to a stern warning issued by Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhd Sabtu Othman against the planned gathering by Protes, a coalition of NGOs and opposition parties.

The coalition, formed in 2006 to campaign against sharp hikes of fuel prices, plan to demonstrate against the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, slated for second reading in Parliament.

Apart from PSM, key members of Protes are grassroots movement Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit), rights group Suaram and the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), as well as political parties, PAS, DAP and PKR.

Monday's demonstration - which is scheduled to kick off at 9am - is organised to coincide with the reconvening of Parliament on Monday, which will begin with the royal address by the king.

Police and home minister told to 'grow up'

Arutchelvan also denounced Sabtu's statement as implying that such gatherings threaten national security, noting that “all previous protests conducted by coalition were peaceful unless disrupted by the police.”

He said that it is high time that the police and the home minister grow up and allow Malaysian citizens to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech.

malaysia parliament parlimen building 050907 frontMembers of Protes have been actively conducting nationwide roadshows over the past months, including Thursday's multi-stakeholder discussion in Petaling Jaya.

Among others, Protes said that the new tax will punish the poor and add up to RM550 to the average Malaysian's expenditure.

The government, however, claims that the average household should expect savings ranging between RM14.52 to RM346.92 per year with the introduction of the tax.

It also argues that prices will drop because the GST rate of 4 percent is lower than the current sales and service tax of 10 and 5 percent respectively.

If the bill is passed, the government will have 18 months to implement the new tax.

Protes organiser Dr Hatta Ramli said 2,000 people are expected to take part in the gathering.

“Everything is set and we are just waiting to gather," said Hatta, who is PAS treasurer-general.

courtesy of Malaysiakini

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