On GST rollout anniversary, activists mount peaceful rally outside Customs office

A protester holding a placard at the anti-GST protest in Kelana Jaya, April1, 2016. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
A protester holding a placard at the anti-GST protest in Kelana Jaya, April1, 2016. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, April 1 ― A small group numbering 30 people gathered outside the Federal Territories Customs Department office in Kelana Jaya here this morning demanding an explanation on the use of the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced exactly a year ago.

However, the demonstration that lasted just over an hour this time was peaceful, a stark contrast to a similar demonstration in the same spot last year that ended with the police hauling off social activists who refused to leave the Customs premises despite warnings.

Parti Sosialis National (PSM) secretary-general, S. Arutchelvan who led the group thanked the police and Customs officials for allowing them to gather peacefully.

“We are glad that the police allowed us space to gather today to ask how taxpayers' monies are used from the implementation of GST,” he told reporters.

The group had drafted 15 questions directed at the Customs Department, including an explanation for the high prices of goods and services like transportation, despite the large amount of tax collected under the GST.

Kuala Lumpur Customs director Datuk Abdul Gani Othman received the memorandum from Arutchelvan, but said it he had no jurisdiction to answer the questions.

“You are asking me about how monies collected from GST are being used and why cost of transportation and prices of goods are going up...that's not up to me answer and I'm only in charge of KL and not Malaysia.

“You must ask the relevant ministries because they will have the proper breakdown and explanation as to why certain subsidies were removed,” he advised.

Abdul Gani, however, said he would forward the questions to the relevant ministries and later post answers of them in the customs' website.

About a week before the implementation of GST last year, over a hundred people staged a sit-in protest at the same venue to demand answers to 106 questions on the GST.

As many as 79 were hauled off by the police in a melee after they refused to disperse despite warnings.

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