‘NO FAULT CLAIM’ – CASSA CAUTIONS BANK NEGARA! (Part 2)


‘NO FAULT CLAIM’ – CASSA CAUTIONS BANK NEGARA! (Part 2)

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

It always shocks me how government organizations and other key ministries or institutions fail by ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ by sheer arrogance or worst, incompetence!

The Malaysian demograph is today crying out for participation in government policy issues and rightfully so.

But sadly, in this case of the ‘no fault claims’ or call it whatever you want – again, the glaring absence of grouping all stakeholders before drafting the script of change is grossly visible!

There is a rumor that two law firms are to be asked to participate?

I must advice Bank Negara again that if this rumor is true, asking two law firms to provide an opinion paper is not consultation with stakeholders!

The two law firms are not stakeholders for the Consumers, the Malaysian BAR, the Trade Unions, the civil society, the Attorney General’s Chambers and others who have interest in this matter!

My humble request is Bank Negara should organize an all stakeholder conference to deliberate on the issue, set up a select committee thereafter to steer the issues involved in an organized manner!

I am sure Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak would welcome such a move and deliberation rather than one that is done in a ‘cloak and dagger manner’  which will escalate into a full blown controversy and backlash when the nation is already riddled with so many massive political bush fires and now risk creating another!

More so, if it is the intention of the federal government to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the Malaysian demographs?

I sincerely hope that Bank Negara officials are not so insensitive as not to know that public/consumer sentiments on the ground towards any radical change of policies affecting them will bring resentment, drastic opposition and a groundswell of dissatisfaction towards the federal government!

Bank Negara – You have been warned!

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‘NO FAULT CLAIM’ – CASSA CAUTIONS BANK NEGARA!

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

My humble advice to Bank Negara is to refrain from any ‘acts or omissions’ that may be seen as being extremely cordial to the insurance lobbyists and their cronies at the expense of consumers!

Malaysia is not the US, Australia, New Zealand, countries that are part and parcel of the European Union where they are either ‘welfare states’, or there are social ‘safety nets and parachutes’ to protect consumers, accidents victims and families – their short and long term interest!

It is sad when public policy is initiated without the involvement of the civil society and the various stakeholders participating. – Dr Jacob George

‘NO FAULT CLAIM’ – CASSA CAUTIONS BANK NEGARA!

I am surprised that despite the highlighting of this issue by the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (CASSA)-  nothing has come out in a public statement from Bank Negara towards addressing a joint meeting of all stakeholders who will be affected by the outcome in the event the much speculated ‘no fault claim’ proposal becomes a reality!

I sincerely hope that Bank Negara officials are not so insensitive as not to know that public/consumer sentiments on the ground towards any radical change of policies affecting them will bring resentment, drastic opposition and a groundswell of dissatisfaction towards the federal government!

In fact, to fast track such a policy move without first addressing the core issues and analyzing other countries that had earlier incorporated the same and regretting would be politically suicidal!

Many countries are now distancing themselves from the same policy that they rooted earlier for and lessons should be learnt from this!

Even the much touted ‘Japanese model’ has its flaws!

It is sad when public policy is initiated without the involvement of the civil society and the various stakeholders participating.

I am aware that many groups have requested for a briefing from Bank Negara on the issue of the ‘no fault claim’ but sadly this has yet to materialize!

Why the fear and why the uneasiness to facilitate such a joint discussion with stakeholders and the civil society?

One must understand in today’s political landscape it is all part of good governance and accountability and public policy initiatives should always be transparent!

If there is secrecy, it becomes fodder for allegations that the insurance lobbyists and Bank Negara are in a sine biotic relationship of sorts?

Consumers and stakeholders will then be justified to feel that the ‘hidden agenda’ is to protect the insurance industry and their players at the expense of Malaysian consumers and others who are also stakeholders holding various responsible portfolios on behalf those who will be affected by any change in the way this scheme operates.

We cannot pretend that there is no such scheme based on the 2010 budget speech!

There are rumors that this may be implemented in the middle of 2010!

But I am advised there are no proposals to amend several statutes which includes the Road Transport Act 1967, the Civil Law Act 1956 with particular reference to ‘personal injuries’ and Court of Judicature Act in the next few Parliament sittings which will be fundamental for this new ‘no fault claim’ to take root!

I am certain it will be foolhardy to also try to rush the very sensitive Attorney General who is extremely professional in these matters taking cognizance of consumer and public sentiments!

Attempts to use the ‘Prime Minister’s name’ to fast track this matter will also back fire badly on Bank Negara!

If this is mismanaged this will hurt the ‘Najib administration’ very badly at a time the Prime Minister is working at breakneck speed to bring the country’s constituents together with policies that will protect their rights and interests!

My humble advice to Bank Negara is to refrain from any ‘acts or omissions’ that may be seen as being extremely cordial to the insurance lobbyists and their cronies at the expense of consumers!

Malaysia is not the US, Australia, New Zealand, countries that are part and parcel of the European Union where they are either ‘welfare states’, or there are social ‘safety nets and parachutes’ to protect consumers, accidents victims and families – their short and long term interest!

In view of this – this matter must be first deliberated in an atmosphere of cordiality and free flow of information so that no demograph will be sidelined or their interest and grouses discarded!

Bank Negara must be seen with the consumers and their stakeholders who protect consumer rights not with the bourgeoisie in silk suits representing the industry or worse, their lobbyists!

I hope our friends in the senior administration of the central bank will facilitate our concerns without delay!

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TOYOTA RECALL – LESSONS TO BE LEARNT!

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

‘But knowing their work ethics I am certain they will bounce back strongly!

They have the dedication and commitment and are strong willed unlike ‘subsidy chasing and gravy train licking communities!’

They did well in addressing the recall and did not split hairs or attempt a cover up as many companies, even our ‘Malaysia Boleh ones’ usually do!’ – Dr Jacob George

TOYOTA RECALL – LESSONS TO BE LEARNT!

It was highly unimaginable that a Japanese product would see such a massive recall!

Really – by over 8.5 Million vehicles!

But, that was what happened to put it mildly!

Now as the dust tries to settle, one thing is obvious, Toyota has done what General Motors, Ford and other automakers have failed to accomplish for decades: Erase the perception that the Japanese automaker’s cars are of much higher quality than those of its rivals.

I am advised now that Toyota’s stumble after its sales soared will now benefit other carmakers across the board!

I am now certain that other brands that include Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai and Honda will make big gains!

What is shocking are the allegations in a report that 27 percent of new car shoppers who were considering a Toyota before the recall are no longer contemplating the brand.

Or that nearly half of the buyers who have defected from Toyota say they may never consider the brand again and if this is true Toyota has plenty of work on their hands!

But knowing their work ethics I am certain they will bounce back strongly!

They have the dedication and commitment and are strong willed unlike ‘subsidy chasing and gravy train licking communities!’

They did well in addressing the recall and did not split hairs or attempt a cover up as many companies, even our ‘Malaysia Boleh ones’ usually do!

Interestingly, they have also courted feedbacks from professionals like us in the consumer protection platform!

This is welcome and more companies need to start treating the consumerists as partners rather than foes!

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FAST FOOD ENDORSEMENT – LESSONS FOR CONSUMERISTS!

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

‘Of late there has been a strange inexplicable and subtle endorsement of certain corporate business interests or worst the involvement in business by those of us who are in the business of consumer protection!

I am aware that today some consumer associations and the leaderships behind some of them are certainly controversial when they either indulge in business or hold sine biotic relationships and endorsements with business interests!’ – Dr Jacob George

ITALY’S MINISTER UNDER FIRE FOR FAST FOOD PROMOTION!

I was not surprised that there was brickbats and severe condemnation for the Italy’s agriculture minister who defended his sponsorship of McDonald’s new all-Italian burger amid criticism that he is selling out to a multinational corporation and sacrificing Italy’s culinary reputation in the process.

The minister in that controversy was none other but Luca Zaia who had argued that McDonald’s new McItaly burger – using all Italian beef, Asiago cheese and artichoke spread – will pump euro3.5 million ($4.8 million) more a month into the pockets of Italian farmers grappling with tough economic times.

But this man forgot so quickly that for Italy – a country that gave birth to the Slow Food movement a quarter-century ago and prides itself on its varied, delicious and healthy cuisine, Zaia’s enthusiastic support of McDonald’s has been hard to swallow.

Worst there was public outcry when certain groups challenged Zaia and McDonald’s to back up their claims of helping Italian farmers with a kilo-by-kilo accounting of how much farmers are actually getting paid out of the deal.

And they chafed at Zaia’s suggestion that the all-Italian menu would “globalize the identity of Italian agriculture.”

The opposition Democratic Party has also slammed Zaia’s use of an official government seal of approval for the new burger.

This was because there was a seal on the McItaly’s promotional material saying “Under the patronage of” the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry – a highly coveted government endorsement that is more often seen on museum exhibits and cultural initiatives than fast-food containers.

So as we all say one cannot but ask whether this Italian Minister was working for Italy or McDonalds?

There are lessons here for us Malaysians be we politicians, government servants, the civil society or consumer association managements!

Of late there has been a strange inexplicable and subtle endorsement of certain corporate business interests or worst the involvement in business by those of us who are in the business of consumer protection!

I am aware that today some consumer associations and the leaderships behind some of them are certainly controversial when they either indulge in business or hold sine biotic relationships and endorsements with business interests!

Many things have indeed changed since my early years in the 70’s and we do not produce the kind of consumer advocates who led these civil society groups as before as today there are pretenders and opportunists holding many a leadership positions, using this for political posturing and agenda, some even creating monopolies and strategic alliances with both business and private interests!

A betrayal no doubt!

To me this is a sell out, a blatant compromise of the founding principles of consumerism, ethics, objectivity and impartiality and all that my mentors both ‘Papa S.M. Mohd Idris and Uncle Anwar Fazal’ (above left) have taught me in my growing up years in consumerism in Penang!

This Italian example perhaps serves us as a reminder that many things have changed for the worse and need to be put right!

MAY GOD HELP US TO BE FAITHFUL AND TRUE TO OUR CALLING!

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FOOD HANDLERS ACT – A MUST FOR MALAYSIA!

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

TIME FOR A FOOD HANDLERS ACT IN MALAYSIA!

Yes, I sound like John the Baptist – a voice crying in the wilderness urging, appealing and screaming for a comprehensive Food Handlers Act in Malaysia!

The reasons are aplenty from the ineffectiveness of the Food Act 1985 which is outdated, to the sorry, corrupt and ineffectiveness of our enforcement and total invasion of this sector by foreigners from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Africa, Middle East and West Asian countries to our own Malaysians!

With the reemergence of many once eradicated diseases – we need to question and seek answers to the present problems brought about by apathy, incompetence, corruption and sheer lack of political and professional will!

So if my appeal for a Food Handlers Act is favorable –

What do they cover?

The Regulations apply to all types of food and drink and their ingredients.

But some businesses – generally manufacturers of products of animal origin, such as dairies or wholesale fish markets – follow their own product specific regulations. These regulations are listed

Identifying and controlling food hazards

As the proprietor of a food business, you are expected to:

  • make sure food is supplied or sold in a hygienic way;
  • identify food safety hazards;
  • know which steps in your activities are critical for food safety;
  • ensure safety controls are in place, maintained and reviewed.

Controls do not have to be complex. There are systems that can be used by food businesses to ensure that hazards are identified and controls are in place.

For example – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is one of a number of such systems.

The Regulations aim to set out basic hygiene principles, which are generally not new. But their emphasis is different from previous regulations. They focus more strongly on how to identify and control food safety risks at each stage of the process of preparing and selling food.

Rather than simply following a list of rules, the Regulations let you assess the risk to food safety and then apply controls relevant to your own situation.

This will work provided you are accountable and ethical!

But in all fairness – not all the requirements for the structure and equipment of food premises will apply to you.

Some are followed by the words “where appropriate” or “where necessary”.

For example, one provision states that, “where appropriate” floors must allow surface drainage. But where you have a system to ensure water does not build up, so that there is no risk to food safety, actual floor drains may not be necessary. So there is no absolute requirement to have them.
Basic requirements for food businesses

Food premises should: (and where *Malaysian food outlets fail!)

  • be clean and maintained in good repair;
  • be designed and constructed to permit good hygiene practices;
  • have an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water;
  • have suitable controls in place to protect against pests;
  • have adequate natural and/or artificial lighting;
  • have sufficient natural and/or mechanical ventilation;
  • provide clean lavatories which do not lead directly into food rooms;
  • have adequate hand washing facilities;
  • be provided with adequate drainage.

Rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed should generally have surface finishes which are easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This would, for instance, apply to wall, floor and equipment finishes. The rooms should also have:

  • adequate facilities for washing food and equipment;
  • adequate facilities for the storage and removal of food waste.

Of course, many of the Regulations are basic minimum hygiene standards which apply to every food business. But how they are applied still depends on the situation. For example, every food premises must be kept clean. But how they are cleaned, and how often, will be different for a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals than for a bakery selling bread or even fast food outlets!

Supplies of raw materials

Do not buy or supply any raw materials if you think that even after sorting or processing they could make food unfit for human consumption. Any material which you suspect or know to be infected or contaminated with parasites or foreign substances to this extent should be rejected.

Quality of Water in food

There must be an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water, to be used whenever necessary to ensure food is not contaminated. In the vast majority of cases, this is supplied via the public water supply. But if there is any doubt about the quality of a water supply, you should seek advice from your local council Environmental Health Services.

Personal hygiene for food handlers

Anyone who works in a food handling area must maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness. And the way in which they work must also be clean and hygienic. Food handlers must wear clean and, where appropriate, protective over-clothes. Anyone whose work involves handling food should/must:

  • observe good personal hygiene;
  • routinely wash their hands when handling food;
  • never smoke in food handling areas;
  • report any illness (like infected wounds, skin infections, diarrhea or vomiting) to their manager or supervisor immediately.

If any employee reports that they are suffering from any such illness, the business may have to exclude them from food handling areas. Such action should be taken urgently. If you have any doubt about the need to exclude, you should seek urgent medical advice!

Employers must not send them to work fully knowing that they are ill as many do today!

Preventing food contamination

Food handlers must protect food and ingredients against contamination which is likely to render them unfit for human consumption or a health hazard. For example, uncooked poultry should not contaminate ready-to-eat foods, either through direct contact or through work surfaces or equipment.

Training and supervising food handlers

Food handlers must receive adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene. Each food business must decide what training or supervision their food handlers need by identifying the areas of their work most likely to affect food hygiene.

Many of the guidelines in this guidance apply equally to food businesses trading from temporary or occasional locations like those under the tree, stalls, by hawkers, entrenched sites, canteens and so forth.

But because not all of them will be practical, there are also some slightly different requirements. However, wherever food is sold, two basic rules always apply:

  • there should be adequate facilities to prepare and serve food safely; and
  • food handling procedures should avoid exposing food to risk of any contamination.

Even some fast food and high end outlets are guilty of this from consumer feedbacks and our observations.

I have repeatedly asked those operating under such licenses to read again the conditions of their franchise from the mother company in the United States, the UK, and Spain, Germany or the cold terrains of the North Pole!

Let us say – No to any more food poisoning incidences or worst the continued increase of diseases we had at one time eradicated!

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