SEPTEMBER 30 — William Munny stares icily at Sheriff Little Bill Daggett lying in a pool of blood, bullet-riddled and dying. The kill shot is forthcoming. Little Bill goes, “I don’t deserve this.” Munny replies, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it,” before ending him.
The climax of Oscar winner Unforgiven relates eerily to the Malay Right’s demand to monopolise local freight forwarding.
Reason, fairness and honesty are unnecessary when the Malay elites — sorry, the rich Malay elites — want more. Everyone should step aside and let them thrive further. Those luxury cars and watches are not going to move out of the showrooms on their own, are they?
By the end of 2022, local freight forwarders must be Bumiputera. The rest, over the next 15 months, can sell or liquidate.
The oft repeated line to this development, raise Bumiputera equity to 51 per cent of said firms, masks that such alteration results in ownership transfer.
The ministry of finance and its minister decided this without the need to make valid arguments. Apparently, there was a schedule and review, and the third of Malaysians undeserving of Bumiputera status, should soon in the name of distributive justice not compete in this trade.
What would they do after, to stay legitimately in the industry?
They can work in a logistics company, share decades of experience and knowledge, they just cannot own one. There is a chance to get a performance bonus if things go well. From owner to star employee.
Freight forwarding — carrying commercial items — in a major trading nation like Malaysia in a major region like Asean is enormous in size and profit. It is also the classic opaque industry. Which is why the Mafia and gangsters have always been associated with freight forwarding in the movies.
And who benefits with this equity change?
There are almost a thousand and ninety members in the Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders (FMFF). The numbers are now due to shrink as the vast majority must exit. One division, the Malaysian Bumiputera Logistics Association, will reap the most from the situation.
Presently, FMFF is heavily dominated by those without the Bumiputera status. Not so in a year’s time.
However, it is not forgotten that the members of the FMFF, Bumiputera or not, are all capitalists.
The company employees — the many manual labourers, drivers, boat crew, repairmen and the rest — are only wage earners regardless of owners. Regardless, if they are Bumiputera.
My dad was the night-shift driver at Muthu Taxi, a KL cab company with a small fleet of cars. All Malaysian Indians but none make the error to mistake Muthu, the boss who dictates, with the full-time and part-time drivers who serve. Capitalist and his labour force.
I am not unclear about the capitalist fervour of freight forwarders and their own monopolistic past to benefit at the expense of customers and consumers.
However, the “grab as you like” nature of this forced change leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and wrecks the scales of justice.
In discourses about shifts in policy and approaches, there are arguments for both sides but this move, this brazen action has no balance. It is the very definition of imbalance.
It is akin to the local gangster taking over the store you built over the years with blood, sweat and tears with the excuse it would really improve his bank balance.
And why are these Bumiputera freight forwarders not prospering enough as it stands?
Or Bersatu, Umno and PAS together in government have raised the cumulative number of party supporters requiring guaranteed paths to commercial success?
Malaysians are well taught on equity adjustments.
This is the land of overnight firms formed on the back of political guarantees and legacy firms adept in creative readjustments to reposition themselves however the policies shift. The only thing they lose is the respect they have for the system.
Meaning, if the government wants to pass more to the Malay elites, the displaced turn into sub-contractors.
The cost is passed back to consumers eventually. The general consumer rarely gets to own more, only the privilege to pay more.
Is this a massive win for Malaysia, a sincere effort to fix wrongs?
The answer is self-evident, even if the resolve to do right is missing.
I have wondered how these rent-seekers sleep at night. It’s dawned on me — belatedly — that they are indeed vampires who do their mayhem in the cover of night. How about sleep? They let us labour over that, and when they need it they’ll just take it.
After all, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.