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

What is there to be surprised?

As you are reading this update – Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (CASSA) officials and senior members of the Malaysian Bar are handing over a joint memorandum and briefing the Barisan Nasional MPs on their concerns about this controversial industry driven scheme by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to cover third party bodily injury and death!

You can expect ‘fireworks’ because certain ‘little Napoleons’ have not learnt the new script prepared by none other but reform minded and proactive Premier, Najib Tun Abdul Hj. Razak where primarily importance is given to Malaysian consumers (the Rakyat)!

Some demography has forgotten that today it is about winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of Malaysian consumers through proactive accountable and transparent consultation as against unilateral, clandestine, covert and unilateral initiation of schemes that will have a major impact on all Malaysian Consumers!

Gone are the days of ‘hunting with the hounds and running with the hares!’

Gone are the days of high powered arrogance and ‘I know best syndrome!’ and gone are the days you take for granted the need to include the NGOs, the civil society and the grassroots in policy issues and its formulation!

And why are we addressing this issue in the manner we are doing?

Let us recap:

(a)  A new motor insurance scheme is proposed.  This would have an effect on every road user (which means, practically every Malaysian);

(b)  It appears that BNM seeks to implement this proposal in the 2nd half of 2010.  This would be July 2010 which is just 3 months away;

(c) It also appears that BNM has established working committees on the proposal.  However, my fear is these working committees may comprise solely representatives from the insurance industry.  You do not have to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to know then that this exercise could very well mean that any proposal would be very much in favor of the insurance industry and at the expense of the ordinary motorists/road user;

(d) From the onset, I am upset because it is my contention that any new proposal should involve discussions and deliberations with all concerned stakeholders. This would include the regulatory authorities, consumer associations, the Bar Council and the insurance industry.  However, this has not been the case to date;

(e) But then again – only very recently after I went ‘berserk’ in my blog, and aided by several letters to the newspapers (in late January 2010 in the Star, February 18, 2010 and March 3, 2010 in the NST and Malaysiakini) and a memorandum and press statement by the Bar Council on March 6, 2010 has BNM indicated that it will call the ‘stakeholders’ for a meeting. This meeting is scheduled to be held in April 2010?

(f) My irritation and anger is justified arising from the manner they went about pursuing this and the concern that BNM may seek to put in place a scheme which follows existing schemes in other countries.  But these other countries are welfare states – where an accident victim and his family can also rely on existing medical, health, employment and educational benefits available.  For the record – the last time I checked (please do so too!) no such similar benefits are available to Malaysians;

(g) My colleagues and I are concerned that the new proposal may seek to limit compensation payable (which is already limited following amendments made in 1984 to the Civil Law Act).  And require motorists/road users to take additional PA Insurance coverage if they require additional coverage.  In short, the ‘insurance industry rascals and fat cats’ stands to benefit by making lower payments and having additional premium payable on the additional coverage that may need to be taken;

I am aware that the quantum for damages for personal injury claims is seriously limited under the Civil Law (Amendment) Act 1984 and we note that there has been vast improvement of the current court system under Chief Justice YAA Tun Dato Seri Zaki Tun Azmi which has resulted in speedy resolution of disputes, clearance of backlog of cases, mediation in courts, the establishment of dedicated courts for accident cases and the introduction of guidelines on the quantum of awards to enhance consistency and as such there is no need for such a draconian and controversial change!

(h) My contention – in fact, any reasonable man/woman’s feeling is that any major change in the motor insurance scheme should involve all concerned stakeholders.  They should be involved in the discussions from the beginning and not after BNM (together with the insurance industry) have formulated their proposals.

You will remember that a similar situation arose in relation to the proposed 2 tier petrol price scheme and the imposition of the GST.

What happened?

The public was not adequately represented/consulted in the discussions.

Many trusted the ‘spin master’s in the main stream media but the end result was wasted time, effort in putting forward proposals which were not acceptable to the public and an embarrassing retreat!

Are the ‘little Napoleons’ at Bank Negara Malaysia planning another embarrassment for the federal government?

Bank Negara you have been warned!

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