The Royal Malaysian Customs Department is now on a mission to correct the perception that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is the reason for price hikes.
The price hikes were mainly caused by unethical traders who arbitrarily increase the price for profit, said Khazali Ahmad, director-general of Customs.
"Don't blame the government when there is a price hike. It is caused by unethical people in the business," he said.
"When there was an increase in petrol, the traders increased 10 sen on teh tarik. But, why didn't they reduce the price on teh tarik when crude oil price plummeting to US$30 per barrel?" he asked.
Beside this, the depreciation of the ringgit against US dollar and the higher price on imported goods were among factors that led to inflation, he said.
"But, the perception is now GST causes price hike," he said, admitting it will be tough to change the perception.
"This is the issue that we should always play up, so the traders operate with a high sense of ethics," he said when attending the World Customs Day in Kelana Jaya, Selangor, today.
"We will always communicate with the people - telling them the truth. This is the only thing we can do," he added.
The Consumer Price Index released by the Statistics Department showed a jump in price of consumer goods and services since the GST was introduced last April.
Asked to comment how the department was going to balance between collecting GST and the economic downturn so it would not further burden the people, he said the officers would act wisely and take a polite approach.
Customs officers will be 'gentle heroes' when collecting the GST, he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who attended the event, also praised customs officers as heroes for improving the country's economy.
"Are we taking a fierce approach? We can be a heroes with a soft (approach)," he said.
"We are not harassing anyone. We appeal to everyone to fulfil their obligation. This law passed by Parliament applies to all," he said.
He also said the department has made arrangement to have its officers learn from other countries so they'll be better equipped to detect fraud and evasion.