Tycoon says paying taxes lets him demand smaller Armed Forces

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
The IJM and Gamuda Berhad founder reportedly blogged that Armed Forces personnel should replace migrant workers in Felda plantations as part of measures to curb a bloated civil service. ― Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Billionaire Koon Yew Yin argued today that he was entitled to criticise the government and call for the Malaysian Armed Forces to be downscaled as he was a taxpayer, ignoring criticism of his bizarre suggestion for soldiers to work in plantations.

Koon, who founded engineering and construction conglomerate IJM and Gamuda Berhad, said that as a taxpayer, he should have a say in how his money should be spent, even as he admitted to being worried about the backlash over his criticism of the country’s military.

Speaking to Malay newspaper Utusan Malaysia, however, he maintained that his six suggestions for the civil service to be scaled back to save money were “good”.

“However, maybe some quarters were not happy with what I said about the MAF,” he was quoted as saying.

“I should have said the armed forces are needed to defend the country during war time. But in times of peace, they should work other jobs to make the economy more productive.

“But as a taxpayer, I have the right to criticise the government for wasting tax money to pay the salaries of the largest per capita civil service in the world.”

Koon was criticised and accused of racism over a blog post in which he claimed the primarily Malay Armed Forces personnel do little besides “except sleeping and eating”, among others.

He also proposed that they instead work in Felda plantations to replace migrant workers.

The remark was part of a controversial post in which Koon vented about the size of the civil service and how he felt cheated as a taxpayer to see “so much of our tax money going towards salaries for a bloated and consequently low-productivity civil service”.

He argued this took resources away from development spending as well as investments in education and skills training.

The tycoon also suggested that the government employ more non-Malays if it wanted more efficiency.

Social media users have interpreted Koon’s remarks as stereotyping the productivity of the Malay community that forms the bulk of the civil service and comparing it to that of the country’s other races.

He published the post on his personal blog two days ago.

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