Its December 2017 and within two weeks, we will all be singing Auld Lang Syne and wishing everybody Happy New Year.
Amidst the merry-making and the revelry, there will be parents busy making last-minute preparations to ready their school-going children for the start of the new school calendar and at the same time, getting into the groove at their respective jobs, be it in the private sector or the public sector.
Busy also are the elected representatives, be it at state level or federal level, with finding ways and means to help out their not-so-well-off constituents in making preparations for their children’s new school calendar.
After all, school uniforms don’t come cheap. And so are school bags. New writing materials and exercise books need also be bought. It would not be surprising that expenses per child can easily amount to a few hundred Ringgits.
Multiply that by the number of school-going children in the household, and there goes a big chunk of their parents’ combined monthly salaries.
Luckily the purchase of school text books has been taken off the menu, with the Federal government relieving parents of the burden by making school books, from Primary 1 to Secondary 5, available to all school going students free of charge, regardless of their respective parents’ financial standing.
Nevertheless, all these financial issues do prey on the minds of families who struggle to put food on the table, pay for household bills, pay for the roof on top of their heads and the clothes on their backs.
Programs have been put in place by the Federal government, despite opposition from the Opposition, to alleviate these concerns, either through one-off financial grants called BR1M (either for families, the young as well as they who are pursuing tertiary education), or exemption of Goods and Services tax (GST, 6% as is currently) imposed for products and services that are considered basic needs for the lower-income, as a matter of example.
But no matter what is being put in place or done, the fact remains that these issues will be amongst the many issues, real or imaginary, that will be played up during the next general elections, GE14, despite the Federal government not being a manufacturer, retailer, a trader or transporter of goods and products.
It is, by now, common knowledge that the 14th Malaysian General Elections and the respective state elections must be held by August 2018. In accordance with the Federal Constitution, no less, with the sole exception of the state of Sarawak who already had their state elections.
Thus far, no announcements have been made as to when the Malaysian registered voters will be going to the polls to exercise their rights.
That being the case, and for so long the date of the elections remain unannounced, it will remain high on the list of things to be speculated.
And when there is speculation, there is probability and when there is probability, there is chance. And when there is chance, there is, ultimately, betting.
The trouble is, in Malaysia, betting and gambling, although allowed in deference to the wishes of non-Muslims, do not cover important landmarks like the dates of general elections or even the results of football games.
So it goes to reason, when one wants to place a wager on, say results of the English Premier League games or World Cup games or even when the general elections are called, punters will always go where odds are given, and the best odds are always given by the illegal betting syndicates.
Illegal betting syndicates are not unknown throughout the world but it seems that in this part of the world, it is almost as if they are part of the furniture. And where betting is legal, they, the illegal betting syndicates, add to their attraction by offering better odds.
It is not uncommon to hear of betting syndicates, from this part of the world, influencing or trying to influence football games, be it the World Cup, European Championship, European Champions League and the English Premier League, never mind the Malaysian Super League and the Singapore S-League.
In the good ole days before satellite TV became the rage, I use to watch telecasts of football matches at the local watering hole (whereas but the local Mamak restaurant, but of course).
There, it never ceases to amaze and at the same time, sicken me when the guy at the next table tells you, during the halftime break, with the confidence of a person in the know, which team will win and by what score.
It makes you wonder, just what the hell is going on, especially when the final whistle goes, the scoreline is exactly as what was mentioned.
You do wonder. After all, these players are supposed to be professionals and are themselves financially well-off in their own right, with some recognized as millionaires with their smiling images plastered all over billboards or seen on the telly, endorsing and extolling the virtues of this or that or this and that product.
Professional pride and the desire to win, that’s what drives these players, we were told. And we believed it. After all, this is not WWF.
But sometimes you do wonder and that’s when you start to feel physically sick in the stomach especially when the gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you that it just might actually be true.
Sickening as the thought that football matches might actually be fixed, it is even more sickening when you learn that illegal gambling does not only cover football matches, but also ‘other things’ like general elections, which party will win the election, who the candidates are, who is going to win in which seat etc etc, then that is when you know that the problem is a very serious problem. A really really serious problem.
It is not unknown to overhear conversations at coffee shops about who-is-going-to-win-what during election time, but what’s more unnerving is when they even take bets on the voting spread.
Seriously, is nothing sacred any more? Is nothing taken seriously any more?
The very thought that the fate of the country can be seriously influenced or even decided by punters and illegal betting syndicates, who are more concerned in profits rather than anything else, makes you sick and angry at the same time.
If that is the case, with the general elections GE14 just around the corner, the ugly head of the illegal betting syndicates will and can be expected to make an appearance again.
To the layman, it seems highly improbable that intel pertaining to the activities of illegal betting syndicates with respect to the placement of bets on outcomes affecting the general elections is not known to the enforcement agencies eg the Royal Malaysian Police or even the Election Commission. Especially, when the effectiveness of the organs of the enforcement agencies were never in question.
It goes without saying that the hope of all concerned citizens that law enforcement agencies take steps to stop the spread of this disease before it becomes cancerous, not only to our national institutions but more importantly, the people’s faith in the validity and the legality of our national institutions. And they don’t come any higher nor nobler than the federal and state assemblies.
It is when we begin to have doubts on the validities and the legalities of our august houses, then the peace that we are experiencing now will be in endangered.
That coupled with the veracity of fake news and unwarranted provocations making their rounds with impunity before, during and after the general elections, through the misuse and abuse of social media, it will definitely impose a heavy toll on the patience of concerned citizens everywhere.
And patience is fast becoming an expensive commodity.
Date : 17 December 2017