By Sangat Singh, 9M2SS

This is the story of the duty exemption on amateur equipment, and how it was obtained in response to a thread started on the MARTS Blog on 16th September, 2006 onwards.

There were 3 attempts made to obtain the duty exemption. The first one was initiated soon after the MARTS AGM of 1984. The following were the principal officials:

President Colin Richards, 9M2CR
Vice President D. D. Devan, 9M2DD
Hon. Secy. Sangat Singh, 9M2SS

It was decided to explore the possibility of duty exemption on Amateur equipment. During that period we had a good example of Amateur Radio Society of India having just obtained duty exemption vide Gazette of India Notification dated 9th March, 1984. This was the background that gave us the incentive. I was charged with the duty to set the ball rolling.

The first letter dated 9th March, 1984 was written by the President, Colin Richards, 9M2CR and addressed to the Hon. Minister of Finance, Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah. This letter was neither acknowledged nor replied. We sent a reminder on 9th May, 1984 even that was ignored. From then on, I took upon myself to pursue this matter vigorously.

On 1st October, 1984 I sent another letter to the Finance Minister, enclosing all previous correspondence for ease of reference. This time we received an acknowledgement on 5th November, 1984 that the matter would receive attention.

On 30th November, 1984 we received a letter from Customs Headquarter granting an interview, and asked me to present them with the Customs Tariff Codes for items that we wished duty to be waived. I met Director Ramlah Binti Ibrahim and spent the whole morning explaining what we needed. I submitted a few pages of Schedule of Amateur Radio equipments to be admitted duty-free to holders of valid amateur radio licence holders. Unfortunately this surfeit of information was beyond her. She kept on asking for the Customs Tariff Code, even to the extent of asking the name of Manufacturer, Model, and serial number. I did not make much headway as it was not just one piece that we needed to import. On a subsequent visit I asked D. D. Devan, 9M2DD to accompany me in case he was able to drill some sense. We were required to file in a fresh memorandum and included whatever further information was needed.

On 22nd February, 1985 I enlisted the help of Enc. Zakari Che Noo, Director of JTM, to provide a recommendation. This was not acknowledged nor replied. On 12th March. 1985 I got Enc. Zakaria Che Noor to send a reminder to Puan Ramlah. Again there was no response.

On 12th June, 1985 I sent another letter once again enclosing copies of all old correspondence in case they could not trace the file.

On 9th July, 1985 we received a reply by one Enc. Mohd. Amen Bin Cutoff that gave a glimmer of hope, and again asked for the Tariff Codes. This I provided .

On 1st August, 1985 we received Tariff Code and duty thereon. I was shocked as that quoted just the normal duty ranging from 30 – 50 percent + 10 percent on most items.

Only on ICOM IC 751, 745, 730 she quoted inadvertently a duty of 5% + 10%. This was actually a slip.

On 8th August, 1985 I wrote a letter to D. D. Devan, 9M2DD who was then the President of MARTS, quote.

“I am enclosing the missive from Customs. You can see what a mess they have made. I tried to speak to Ramlah but she refused to talk. Clearly this work was beyond her capacity…..”

On 13th January, 1986 we received a letter from Customs that “…dukacita dimaklumkan bahawa permohonan tersebut tidak dapat diluluskan” Thus the first attempt failed.

We did not give up and started the second assault. This was the second attempt. This time I enlisted the help of Y. B Datuk Amar Stephen Yong, Minister of Sains Dan Alma Skitter as I knew him personally and he had visited us when I was the Manager of Ampar Tenang Estate, Dengkil. I got a recommendation letter from him. Added to this I had fresh recommendations from the Director of JTM. Once again we started on the merry go round. Light at the end of tunnel was still not visible.

At this point I enlisted the help of H. L. Cham, 9M2YB. This was on 20th June, 1989. By this time Lee Fook Seng, 9M2LF had become the President of MARTS. According to Cham our application could not be found at the Ministry of Finance. Following his contacts he felt that we stood a good chance. So I started once again to present our case. To quote Cham “The informal reactions I have got to date appear to be encouraging and I will be more than happy to follow through once you have prepared the proposed new letter”. This was our second attempt. I resubmitted our application to the Ministry of Finance.

But this time, something sinister was being hatched. The very people who now claim credit were the ones who were responsible for the failure of the second attempt. It will be opening a can of worms if I were to write about that painful episode. Suffice to say that in 1990 I had relinquished my post as a Secretary of MARTS. Zainal, 9M2ZA became the secretary. I gave him a few pages of handing over report and in it I had specifically mentioned among other things that our application for Duty exemption was in the final stage and required an urgent follow up. No action was taken at all. Thus failed the second attempt.

That was the most chaotic period in the history of MARTS. Zainal, 9M2ZA lasted less then 3 months as the Secretary. Then Yusoff, 9M2FF was roped in but due to his personal problems he too did not last. At last Thiam 9M2CJ was pressed in and again some years later he too was unconstitutionally asked to resign. In a shameful manner, while MARTS talked pontifically about the constitution as being sacred, had a council member who was not even a member of MARTS.

We now come to the 3rd round.

This was I think during the 1996 MARTS AGM at UKM Bangi that the question of duty exemption once again raised its head. It was I think, Ken, 9M2KN who proposed my name and the whole membership raised their hands and vociferously seconded my name. I was tired from previous two attempts and had regressed peacefully as an ordinary member. I was most reluctant to undertake once again the cudgels to combat the authorities. But they wouldn’t listen. I took up the challenge once again. At that time Rashid, 9M2RS became the President and Thaim, 9M2CJ was the Hon. Secretary. I was appointed the Chairman and asked to nominate my own committee. My reply was that the committee should consist of only 2 members of which one should be absent. But I don’t think the staid amanuensis minuted that witticism. At the end it was decided that I would be a one man committee to tackle this question.

Once again, I started that lone and arduous journey and enlisted help of people who mattered. I have their letters of support on my file and am grateful for their generous help. In the meantime, I had made a good contact with the Director of Customs who was sympathetic. I don’t want to list the umpteen letters and meetings I had with them. Then came the day we were waiting for. On 24th October, 1996 I saw the Director concerned and he gave me a privileged packet with a red slip posted on it that read:

Tidak Boleh Disiarkan Sebelum JAM 1600 Hari Jumaat, 25th Ocotber, 1996.

Rest is the history. I never talked or told anybody, nor made any claims. There was not a single cent claimed for anything from MARTS. I just felt pleased that the job was done. My last duty was to write letters of thanks and to the press to thank YB Minister of Finance. These letters did appear in the press.

It was only after this announcement, I felt that the Director of Customs must be thanked. The two appropriate persons were the President Rashid, 9M2RS and Thiam 9M2CJ to thank him for his help. This was the only occasion they ever went to the Customs Headquarters. I am sure they cannot even remember the name of that friendly Director.

This was the sum total of their help. I am not sure who were the others who helped. They should be identified and suitably honoured with a place in the Hall of Fame.

In the following AGM there was just one liner minuted to say thank you Sangat.

Sangat Singh, 9M2SS

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