Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Open reply to Dr M’s ‘Why I criticise the PM’

Norman Fernandez
Malaysiakini,Oct 31, 06

Dear Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, I have read your letter addressed to the ‘citizens of Malaysia’. It is not often a commoner writes a letter addressed to all Malaysians. But then you are different, I suppose. Since I am a recipient of your letter, permit me to reply.

For a start, your letter seem to be cast a picture of a man who believes that he has been victimised and finds that all his avenues to seek justice have been closed. Believe me, many Malaysians have experienced this. At least you have the Internet as an avenue, all thanks to the Instrument Of Guarantee signed by your administration guaranteeing no censorship of the Internet. Malaysians can read about your plight. Many Malaysians never had this opportunity.

I note that you have signed off the letter as a ‘Malaysian citizen and a commoner’. But judging from your regular tirades and ripostes against the present administration, it gives the impression that you either have difficulty accepting the fact that you are no more the prime minister or you continue to believe that you are omnipotent.

You have had the luck and privilege of being chosen as prime minister. For 22 years you lead Malaysia. You have been credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernisation. Malaysia’s physical transformation is obvious. After all, you presided over a period of phenomenal growth and at the end of your tenure, Malaysia bristled with concrete symbols from a gleaming airport to an impressive skyline.

Internationally, for 22 years you made your voice heard and the world was your stage. Your acerbic comments made you a spokesman for the Third World and your tirades against the West meant that Muslim countries could not have found a better friend than you. Now, it is for the people and history to judge your legacy and the present political climate does allow the people to judge and freely express their opinions.

There are many policies of your administration which have benefitted Malaysia and Malaysians. Similarly there have been many policies and actions of yours which Malaysians found to be despicable and reprehensible and pray may never happen again.

Reading your letter, it would seem that your main grouse and as clearly stated in your letter is that ‘the questions and issues raised have not been answered’. Having acknowledged that you are a ‘commoner’, it is then well worth remembering that the government of the day owes no duty to respond to your demands for explanation.

At least this was what your 22 years in office has taught the common citizens. You claim that a climate of fear has enveloped this country and, allegedly, that Malaysia has become a police state. All because supposedly, in your opinion, no one is allowed and dares to criticise the prime minister. You claim that the mainstream media are not allowed to admonish the prime minister and public functions that may involve criticising the prime-minister are harassed, threatened by police and government leaders. But wasn’t this the hallmark of your 22 years of administration?

Surely you have not forgotten the reason why Musa Hitam left office. Remember the pliant media which became your hatchet men? Which during the tussle for the Umno presidency highlighted a certain headgear worn by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (never mind you had worn a similar headgear in the past)? Remember how easily you got offended and roused a national anger simply because then Australian prime minister Paul Keating criticised and called you ‘recalcitrant’?

You allege that under the present administration people are being detained and interrogated repeatedly. Lest you forget, Oct 27 was the 19th anniversary of the infamous Operation Lalang? And remember the Anwar Ibrahim ‘black eye’ incident which you diagnosed as self-inflicted? Yet you have the temerity to call Pak Lah’s administration a ‘police state’!

You demand the right to speak and the space and forum to criticise and more importantly demand that the present administration answers your questions. This is strange coming from a person who used all available apparatus to silence dissent. The willful silence by the majority of the population to comment, criticise or oppose you was because of the climate of fear you had created. The heavy price paid by the brave who stood up to you made many to keep quiet and apolitical.

Now that you have retired as prime minister, no one is asking you to just fade away. Having acknowledged that you are a commoner, live and experience life as a commoner. Only then you will realise what life for the commoner was for 22 years when questions were aplenty but answers were never forthcoming.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Youth must be exposed to the challenges in life

30 October 2006

Provide challenges for youth

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar’s says schools may expel students who take part in illegal motorcycle races or join Mat Rempit groups. This, I am afraid may not be the right move and in fact may be counterproductive.

It is the flaws in the education system over the last two decades or so that has given rise to a new culture among youths that has manifested in the form of Mat Rempit.This has to be recognized and accepted as a fact.

These misguided youths need education and rehabilitation and there is no better place to do that other than in schools. By expelling these wayward students would be alienating them from the means that could be used to provide these services to our young men and women.

What is needed is the revamping of our education system so that our schools become instruments of wholesome education not a place to collect A’s as it is now. More emphasis must be placed on extra-curricular activities, sports, moral and civic education. Religious and cultural activities are important but care must be taken not to over emphasize on them. Doing so may be counterproductive as it tends to be an obstacle to the curious and experimenting young minds.

Our youth from schooldays must be allowed to freely compete with one another without favouritism.They must be forced to strive among the best for excellence based purely on merit. Without this unbiased competition, there is no real challenge in the lives of our youngsters. They become confident that they will be given everything without any genuine effort on their part.

Outside schools more recreational activities should be made available. Sports and social activities which were the passionate among the youth in the sixties and seventies are not available freely to our youth today.Excellance in sports is no more glorified as it used to be. There are no real incentives and no great rewards for those who perform superbly in sports and social and literary activities.

As a consequence of this lack for the need to strive, they have a lot of free time which they idle away doing nothing. This is an important cause of resorting to undesirable activities like illegal racing and formation of Mat Rempit gangs.

There is a dire need to create a culture of work and healthy competition for our young men and women and reward those to succed.Unless we can provide that environment, engage them in healthy and fair competition, they will be devoid of the real challenges in life and ultimately succumb to undesirable activities to the detriment of the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

.
30 October 2006

Let's train ourselves to more tolerant

I refer to the report “PM: Be more tolerant to boost multi-racial ties” (Sunday Star Oct.29).

The call by the Prime Minister on Malaysians to learn to be more tolerant so that race and religion will no longer be sensitive issues in the future is very encouraging and must be taken seriously by citizens of all race and creed.

It is disturbing to note that after almost 50 years of attaining independence, racial and religious issues continue to be very sensitive and create a lot of anxiety among the people. In fact there is general acknowledgement that race relations over the years has become worse and is continuing to deteriorate further with time.

In fact our younger generation today seems to be less tolerant of racial and religious diversity as they are not exposed to communal living with others.They live cocooned within their own community and have grown up ignorant of the sensitivities of communities other than their own.

We must accept that this is a manifestation of the failure of our political system, especially the education system, which has failed to instill the comradeship among the various ethnic groups.In fact by segregating the races for whatever reason,we have only succeeded in instilling suspicion and even hatred among our people of various races,even as early primary school age.

This is very unhealthy and we must take immediate steps to rectify the unfavorable situation before it does irreparable damage.

Instead of confronting and solving the problems related to race and religion in a civil and unemotional manner through dialogue, they are shunned and pushed under the carpet, only to resurface later with greater magnitude.

Of late at least there is some acknowlegement by our leaders of the existence of serious inter-ethnic probems in the country which may be a good sign.Recognising the problem alone is not enough, it is more important to take steps to overcome them amicably by discussion and dialogue.

Our children from young must be taught the importance of living together in peace and harmony. They should be made aware of the sensitivities of other ethnic groups and must learn to tolerate them. As parents and teachers,we must drill into them the concept that all races are here to stay and have an equal stake in the good and bad of the nation. Poverty and ill-health in any one community would ultimately affect the peaces and stability of all.

Let us also share the Prime Minister’s hopes that the people will train themselves and their children to become more tolerant so that issues pertaining to race and religion will no longer be sensitive in years to come. This is not only a responsibility of every citizen but also the most important act of patriotism to the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Singapore’s success story a fact

I share with Dr Chris Anthony the sentiments expressed in his letter Universities: Boost national pride to reap success.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad rebutted Lee Kuan Yew’s apology letter on the marginalisation issue to our prime minister, blaming LKY for being ‘too proud’. After Anthony’s letter, I can’t help but to agree with Dr M that LKY is indeed proud of his country’s achievement and if our country could achieve the same results as Singapore, I certainly think Dr M would feel proud too. Don’t we wonder how can a small country of a population of 4.4 million peoples can achieve so much? Not to mention that it does not have our abundant resources of oil and gas and land mass.

A recent issue of The Economist said that Singapore reserves stands at US$130.7 billion while Malaysia only has US$79 b. This shows how well they manage their country’s financial affairs. In the same issue of the magazine, under the title ‘A survey of talent’, Singapore’s education policy was explored.

I quote: ‘One of the most successful schools at getting students into American Ivy League universities is Raffles Junior College in Singapore’. And this is just one of their 17 junior colleges in Singapore. I was told by a friend who studied in UK that for the past many years, Cambridge and Oxford received the most students from a single country, Singapore, and not from where we would think, China or India.

And given the fact that Singapore sends her best students to the best overseas universities, I would think that only their second best students study at National University of Singapore. Even so, the NUS can achieve an international ranking of 19, on par with Tokyo University and only behind Beijing University.

The NUS is one of the top three universities in Asia! Look at the position of Singapore Airlines and MAS. SIA doesn’t even have space for domestic routes yet it is flying high, competing internationally and recording profits year after year. How can they do it?

Dr M always looks down on our neighbour, talk downs to them about being a small country. Yet just look at the above few real life examples and results on who can actually stand taller, at least in the eye of international community. The facts stand out very clearly

Anonymous
Malaysiakini OCT.26 2006

Univesities: Boost national pride to reap success

Dropping standard of MU

In World University Rankings 2006 published by the Times Higher Education Supplement and conducted by
QS Quacquarelli Symonds, UKM rose by 105 places to break into the top 200-ranked universities for the first time, climbing from 289 last year to 185.

UM, however, continued its downward spiral, by dropping a further 23 places to 192. Its ranking fell from 89 in 2004 to 169 last year, causing a national debate on the status of the premier university and the validity of the criteria used for the rankings.

There has been all round applause on the improved ranking of UKM. We must give credit to all involved in the better performance of UKM but ranking 185 is not something to shout about. Instead of questioning the validity of the criteria used for the ranking it would be wise if we on then quiet work harder to achieve a much better ranking, probably among the top 10, in the years to come.

It is really disappointing but not surprising that UM is continuing to drop further from 89 to 192 within two years. As a former graduate of the premier and oldest university, I am indeed embarrassed of its standing.

In the seventies UM had many prominent academicians of international recognition but today we are not able to name any such personalities.UM at its inception was at par with NUS but the latter is now far ahead at number 19 spot. In fact if we compare more closely, at all levels we are no where near NUS. What has gone wrong with our once premier university?

Our leaders and the relevant authorities are genuinely not at all perturbed by the deteriorating standard of our institutions of higher learning. They question the ways of grading these institutions and always blame others, especially the West, for conspiring and being bias against us.

The failure to practice real meritocracy in staff affairs and intake of students is the main causes of the dismal performance of our universities. Brain drain is a regrettable accompaniment of this policy.

Many of our lecturers have left for the so-called greener pastures overseas due to very shoddy treatment they received at local universities. Their talents are not tapped and rightfully rewarded. Rightful and well deserving promotions are denied and given to more junior and less capable ones. It is a strange situation where our own intellectuals are better recognized in foreign countries than in their own motherland.

Intake of students too is far from ideal. The best of the matriculation students are given scholarships and sent overseas, a practice that is not only detrimental to the standard of our own universities but an insult to them as well. If we do not hold our institutions with high esteem, who else will?

Many students with maximum possible results in the STPM examination are not offered the courses they seek. In the end only mediocre students are admitted to pursue studies at our own local universities. How we compete with prominent foreign institutions with such a myopic practice?

The great national pride and patriotism we had are slowly but surely being eroded and replaced with patriotism and pride for ones own race and religion. We prefer the prosperity of our own community than that of the nation.

The talents of all Malaysians must be tapped fairly without prejudice. Only this will reverse the present trend to place national pride above all other interests. Unless we actively do that the future may not look encouraging.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Slamming the brakes on interreligious dialogue

Aneel David Kannabhiran
Malaysiakini,Sep 22, 2006


“Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus - with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

Excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept 12 speech at the University of Regensburg.

The first reaction by most Catholics in Malaysia on reading about the fallout over the Pope’s speech was most likely: “Why did he have to say such a thing?” Many would also ask that, if he wanted to drive home the point that religion and violence are incompatible, could he not have used Catholic examples - the Crusades for instance?

The Pope’s statements regarding Muhammad and Islam are ill-conceived, insensitive and ill-timed only because Muslims, from present and past evidence, believe that their religion must never be criticised or questioned - even by their fellow Muslims, more so by those of other religions.

Therefore it would not take any stretch of the imagination what their reaction to the Pope’s comments on their Prophet and religion would be. Churches in Palestine have been fire bombed and a nun in has been murdered in Mogadishu (possibly in relation to the controversy). Protests in India and Pakistan have turned violent.

The Muslim reaction, ironically, bore testament to the Pope’s reference: Muslims will not stop at violence to defend their religion. The sabre rattling by Malaysian parliament insisting that the Pope retract his statements and apologise is also typical of this ‘attack mentality’.

The only surprising response came from Indonesian clerics who urged non-violence and forgiveness. Calculated risk One could speculate that Benedict’s speech was a calculated risk to test if they would react in typical fashion or practice the peaceful, tolerant approach of ‘true Islam’.

This would lead one to conclude that the Pope is either very shrewd or very foolish. The pontiff’s limited apology is probably as far as the Vatican will compromise. In their minds, presumably, any further bowing to the Islamic world’s pressure will only show that Christianity can easily be cowed by another religion.

The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has hopefully put the matter to rest by accepting the pontiff’s amends. If, as Benedict later explained, the true meaning of his address “was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect”, is it any wonder that any efforts at dialogue or interfaith understanding is met by reluctance, suspicion and summary rejection? The pontiff should re-think a more appropriate approach if ‘dialogue’ is indeed his objective.

One gets the impression that Benedict is far out of touch with realities on the ground. He spends most of his life amongst his own kind and probably never in his life had to live in a Muslim majority community. However, if one were to read and comprehend the full text of the pontiff’s lengthy and somewhat complicated speech, one would discover that it was essentially about the weaknesses of the Western world, its irreligion and disdain for religion and that both Christianity and Islam share a commonality in rejecting the linking of religion and violence.

The reason for the references to the 14th century emperor’s contentions, although not directly expressed by the pontiff, could have been to demonstrate that the current (mis)perception of Islam by Western Christians has existed since then. Non-Muslim perception is based on what is reported - most of what one reads about Islam in newspapers are terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims in the name of their religion. The only jihad that is reported is of the ‘holy war’ variety.

Thus, can one blame non-Muslims, especially those in the West for perceiving Islam as a violent religion? Lip service Religious leaders from every faith repeat that terrorism in the name of religion is a violation and betrayal of any religion, but stop short at naming Muslims as the most prevalent perpetrators of such violence. Pope Benedict XVI is probably the first non-Muslim leader to dare say this publicly.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who is also Chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in his speech, ‘Dialogue, the Key to Multireligious, Multiethnic and Multicultural Societies’ at the 2004 World Council of Churches, spoke of those “who practise their faith in absolutist terms” and “misinterpret the very religion that they profess”. Badawi went on to admit that “Muslims are responsible for a number of terrorist acts committed today”, and further reiterated that, “the Palestinian issue or the conflict in Iraq are not just Muslim grievances. These are problems of universal concern”.

Therefore, the contention by some ‘analysts’ that America and its involvement in the Israel-Palestine-Middle East crises is the ‘root cause’ of each and every terrorist attack worldwide is beginning to sound pathetic. Every time a terrorist attack occurs, the Muslim moderates will repeat yet again that “Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and non-violence”.

If this is the belief of the majority of Muslims, how is it the extremists in minority seem to be having the upper hand? Isn’t it time for Muslims to engage in intra-religious dialogue with the extremist elements within their faith? This question was put to Indonesian professor of Islam and Comparative Religion Syafa’atun Almirzanah in the September 2004 issue of CANews, who agreed, but pointed out that because Islam is a poly-interpretable religion it was difficult to arrive at commonality. “It is much easier to initiate dialogue between Christians and Muslims, than to initiate dialogue between progressive, liberal Muslims and our hard-line fundamentalists.

We invite the most extreme fundamentalist leaders for dialogue, but they often either decline outright, or become argumentative during the dialogue,” she said. OIC’s role Thus it would take an Islamic organisation with more clout to bring all Islamic denominations to the dialogue table. The OIC could very well be such an organisation. The OIC has to use all its power to compel all Muslim nations to participate in a hard intra-faith dialogue.

The objective of this dialogue must be: i) to compel all Muslim nations to rein in and control the extremist factions within their faith, urging them to relinquish their single-minded focus on the ‘holy war’ aspect of jihad, and subsequently arrive at an unwavering and demonstrative consensus that Islam is indeed “a religion of peace, tolerance and non-violence”, and, ii) to conscientise Muslims toward being more open-minded, rational and less sensitive when faced with questions and constructive criticisms from non-Muslims.

Until such a time, all attempts at dialogue between the major religions and Islam will have to be put on hold.

ANEEL DAVID KANNABHIRAN is a Malaysian, committed to the reform agenda of various human rights and social justice issues including that within the various religious institutions.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another blow for inter-racial harmony

It is another sad day in the history of our nation.Malaysians Hindus were given another blow. Takaful Malaysia has called on Muslims not to greet Hindus Happy Deepavalli.Is it a surprise? No, definitely not. We know it is coming but did not expect it to be so fast and not from an top official from the Muslim business community.

Such statements would normally come from over enthusiastic upcoming young politicians.
What is more frightening is that none of the top leaders dare come with strong condemnation of this official who has gone overboard in issuing such directive to his staff. It is a very serious matter but being treated in such a trivial manner.

The trend towards Islamisation started in the seventies when Muslim girls have to wear the “tudung” in the name of religion. Since then there was no turning back and slowly but surely rules were introduced in the name of religion. The Muslims were segregated from non-Muslims by their strict dress code. Even for sporting activities they were not allowed to adorn the standard sports attire.

Then came the issue of “halal”.Muslims would not consume the food prepared by non-Muslim friends however close they may be. Today they refuse to visit their non-Muslim friends at their homes.
Common celebrations like “kongsi-raya” and “deepa-raya” are now forbidden as they are considered “ haram”.

Non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed near the vicinity of mosques and suraus.Some of these temples and churches which were there for more than a century were demolished or re-sited to less prominent places to “hide” them from the sight of Muslims.

What is in store for the future of the inter-ethnic relations in our multi-racial and multi-religious country which we claim is a model nation for the world? Definitely it is not going to stop here and we all are only too familiar that anything is possible in our bolehland.

Where are our leaders? Why aren’t they saying nor doing anything to stop the progression of religious fanatism and deviationism?

We are already been classified as infidels and should not be taken by surprise, if in the near future, we are told that talking to infidels is haram. Following that a time will come that the sight of infidels will also be haram.

It may be a polite way of asking us to leave. But where are we to go?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Let's make Malaysia a truly model nation

I refer to your reports “Fauzi says sorry for e-mail” (Star Oct.18) and “Festive greetings all right” (Star Oct.19).

It is indeed a happy piece of news that Takaful Malaysia Syariah head Mohd Fauzi Mustaffa has apologised for his e-mail advising his colleagues against wishing Hindus Happy Deepavali.
Statements like these are the least required in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like ours.

While we welcome and accept his apology, we hope Fauzi made it on his own free will for the benefit of the nation as a whole. We sincerely hope it was not made out of force or for business advantage.

There may be many more such people who could have such misconceived ideas about religious tolerance. This thought is rather disturbing. People like Fauzi, in high positions, whose ideas could have tremendous influence on their subordinates must be very cautious in making statements that could be detrimental to national unity and harmony.

Our leaders should themselves come hard on those who make irresponsible statements that could undermine the racial harmony in the country which is already under strain of late.

Our younger generation today seems to be less tolerant of racial and religious diversity as they are not exposed to communal living with others. As a result they have grown up ignorant of the sensitivities of communities other than their own. We must accept that this is a manifestation of the failure of our education system which has failed to instill the comradeship among the various ethnic groups. We must take immediate steps to rectify the unfavorable situation before it does irreparable damage.

Our children from young must be taught the importance of living together in peace and harmony. They must be taught that all races are here to stay and have a stake in the good and bad of the nation. Poverty and ill-health in any one community would ultimately affect the peaces and stability of all.

Children of all races and religion should be made aware of the sensitivities of other ethnic groups and must learn to tolerate and live together harmoniously. The parents and teachers play a very important role in this teaching of the young.

It is reassuring that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has come strongly against those who are so myopic in their thinking as to be against extending greetings to fellow Malaysians who are celebrating their respective festivals. He has also rightly pointed out that it is perfectly right to join in the celebrations of those of other faiths. It fact it should be encouraged at all levels as it could cultivate inseparable bonds of friendship among those of diverse cultures.

We hope his views would be taken seriously by all, especially leaders at all levels of the administration, so that such misconceived attitudes and believes like these will not surface in future.

We claim that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate, as far as ethnic relations are concerned, sure enough it should be. But in actual fact are we truly a model nation?

We have all the great religions in our country, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduisms and Christianity. All of them are unanimous in their teachings - to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

In order to truly make our country an example for the world, we must rid ourselves of our suspicious attitude towards other races and share what we have with the less fortunate, regardless of ethnicity, in accordance with our religious inclinations.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Star Online > Nation

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Malaysian PM backs mixed festivities by Muslims, Hindus

KUALA LUMPUR: Multiracial Malaysia's prime minister on Wednesday defended joint religious celebrations by the country's Muslims and Hindus.

"A joint celebration does not mean that Muslims and Hindus have to mix their religions.
"Everyone has their own beliefs and faith,'' Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in a speech.

"It does not in any way tarnish one's religion.''

The comments were apparently aimed at ending a controversy over whether Muslims should send holiday greetings to Hindus for their religious celebrations including the festival of lights, Diwali or Deepawali, which will be marked this Saturday.

Diwali will be followed next week by Eid-al-Fitr - known in Malaysia as "Hari Raya'' - the main Muslim holiday at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The two lunar calendar holidays often occur back to back and are celebrated together in a weeklong holiday, nicknamed "Deeparaya.''

Abdullah was speaking at a ceremony handing out gifts to civil servants to mark both festivals.
But controversy erupted this year after the religious chief of a government-linked Islamic finance group, Takaful Malaysia, advised its Muslim employees not to wish Hindus "Happy Diwali.''

In an e-mail to employees, Mohamed Fauzi Mustaffa described Hindu festivals as being against Islamic tenets because they involve idol worship, considered blasphemous in Islam.

Takaful Malaysia, which is majority-owned by Malaysia's Bank Islam, later apologised after Hindu groups, many Muslims and government ministers expressed outrage at the comments, describing them as a narrow interpretation of Islam.

"The issue at hand is about ... creating a sense of unity among all the races in the country and one identity that we are all Malaysians,'' said Abdullah, a respected Islamic scholar.

"I do not want any confusion in all this ... I want to set the record straight that this does not in any way go against the faith of Muslims in the country,'' Abdullah said.

The government has carefully nurtured racial harmony between the three races since deadly race riots in 1969, and the country is often hailed as a model of coexistence for other multicultural nations. - AP

© 1995-2005 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Come hard on those out to create chaos

I refer to the report “Takaful apologises”(Star ,October 14).

It was a relief to realize that Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd, has apologised for any confusion that has arisen from the misinterpretation of its recent e-mail banning the company’s staff from wishing Hindus Happy Deepavali.

It was even more gratifying to know that the matter was seriously taken by Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin who rapped the officer who issued that directive to his staff. He was very right when he said that as a progressive company in a free economy, such matters should not have cropped up, especially in a multiracial society. An educated man should not have expressed such an opinion.

His sentiments were also echoed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Mohamed Zin and Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia director-general Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al Attas.
It is disturbing that of late a number of such irresponsible and rather dangerous statements have been made by educated high ranking officials. This has caused a great deal of anxiety among the various races.

Since independence our forefathers have sacrificed so much to foster and develop inter racial harmony and peace in the country. We should all treasure and cherish this harmony among the people. We should not allow those with selfish and narrow-minded approach to destroy all that have been built over these years.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other top leaders should come hard on those who use religious and racial sentiments to gain support. They must vigorously condemn those who are there to create anxiety and chaos. To build trust is difficult but to destroy it is easy.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Another blow for inter-racial harmony

Sad day for inter-religious harmony

It is another sad day in the history of our nation. Takaful Malaysia has called on Muslims not to greet Hindus Happy Deepavalli.Is it a surprise? No definitely not. We know it is coming but did not expect it to be so fast and not from an official from the Muslim business community. Such statements would normally come from over enthusiastic upcoming politicians.

What is more frightening is that none of the top leaders dare come with strong condemnation of this official who has gone overboard in issuing such directive to his staff. It is a very serious matter but being treated in such a trivial manner.

The trend towards Islamisation started in the seventies when Muslim girls have to wear the “tudung” in the name of religion. Since then there was no turning back and slowly but surely rules were introduced in the name of religion. The Muslims were segregated from non-Muslims by their strict dress code. Even for sporting activities they were not allowed to adorn the standard sports attire.

Then came the issue of “halal”.Muslims would not consume the food prepared by non-Muslim friends however close they may be. Today they refuse to visit their non-Muslim friends at their homes.
Common celebrations like “kongsi-raya” and “deepa-raya” are now forbidden as they are considered “ haram”.

Non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed near the vicinity of mosques and suraus.Some of these temples and churches which were there for more than a century were demolished or recited to less prominent places to “hide” them from the sight of Muslims.

What is in store for the future of the inter-ethnic relations in our multi-racial and multi-religious country which we claim is a model nation for the world? Definitely it is not going to stop here and we all are only too familiar that anything is possible in our bolehland.

Where are our leaders? Why aren’t they saying nor doing anything to stop the progression of religious fanatism and deviationism?

We are already been classified as infidels and should not be taken by surprise, if in the near future, we are told that talking to infidels is haram. Following that a time will come that the sight of infidels will also be haram. It may be a polite way of asking us to leave. Then where are we to go?


Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Illegal immigration must be checked at all costs

Don’t only blame illegals

I READ with interest your report, “So long, farewell, illegals” (The Star, Oct 14).

Illegal immigrants have been told to go home during the upcoming Deepavali and Hari Raya festivals before the authorities launch a major nationwide crackdown next year.
Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said they should return home using “the way they came in” and not come back.

It is alarming to note that on average about 70 to 80 illegal immigrants are arrested daily while 800 to 900 foreign workers arrive at the KL International Airport daily.
This is to say that about 10% of immigrants are illegal. What about the number of those who go undetected?

It speaks a great deal of the effectiveness of the mechanisms we have to check the influx of such illegal people into the country.

Undeniably the presence of these immigrants in large numbers has already caused so much social problems in the country, including a rise in immoral activities and crime.

This is not the first time such warnings of severe reprisal were issued on illegal immigrants. Similar nationwide crackdowns have been carried out on numerous occasions before, but these illegal immigrants keep coming back.

Despite all the punishment meted out why are they coming back? It may be due to the loopholes in the laws but, more importantly, it must be checked to see whether the existing laws are properly enforced.

Unless there are some unseen factors that encourage these illegal immigrants into the country, it would not be possible for them to enter via the back door.

Severe action on these immigrants may help in the short term. We must remember that many of these poor people are brought into the country in dubious ways.
Many are stranded without passports, jobs or money. Punishing them may not only be inhumane but also unfair.

The factors and the root cause behind this national menace must be identified and severe action taken against those involved.

The enforcement agencies entrusted with the task of checking the influx of illegal immigrants must act without fear or favour.

In the end, as in all other national problems, it comes down to whether we have the will to do it.
DR CHRIS ANTHONY,

Friday, October 13, 2006

Marginalisation in Malaysia

10 October 2006

Are we marginalised?

The Minister Mentor of Singapore accused the Malaysian government has systematically marginalized her citizens of Chinese origin. This was vehemently denied by the Malaysian government including its own Chinese Ministers in the cabinet. Since then there has been considerable debate on this issue of marginalization.

What is marginalization? Is it true that certain communities in the country are being marginalized? The Oxford Dictionary defines marginalization as 1.relating to or a situation at or in a margin. 2. of minor importance.

Therefore when we say a community is marginalized it means it is pushed to the periphery and given minor importance. In accordance with this definition we can safely say marginalization is a universal practice of the majority against the minority.

In a truly democratic state the minorities are protected by law against blatant abuses and discrimination against them. The ruling majority is entrusted to ensure that the minorities are really protected. The political system, the judiciary, police and armed forces are in place to ensure that the rights of the minorities are protected in accordance with the laws of the country. This is practiced more satisfactorily in most developed democratic nations of the West as compared to developing and under-developed nations.

Let’s analyze what is taking place in our own multiracial and multi-religious country which our leaders acclaim to be a model for other multi-ethnic nations to emulate.

At birth

The first act after a child is born is the registration of its birth which requires one to state the ethnicity and religion of the child. So even at birth Malaysians are categorized as Malays, Chinese, Indians or others. Why can’t we do away with just stating we are Malaysian instead of mentioning our ethnic origin?

In school

When the child goes to school, again he is repeatedly asked to state his race and religion in all registration forms. Even streamlining of classes is based on race. It is not uncommon to group all Malays into one class and non-Malays into others. The reason given for this is to facilitate religious instruction for Muslims and moral for non-Muslims. Religious instruction for children should be encouraged but it should be for all, regardless of religion. Moral classes, emphasizing universal values, should also be common for all, Muslims and non-Muslims, alike. Why are Malaysians at such a tender and innocent age exposed to separate moral and value systems?

Prayer sessions in schools, before important functions and examinations are held only for Muslims. The non-Muslims are left to idle away during these sessions. Isn’t this segregation of our children in schools for religious purposes amounts to discrimination?

Selection of students for posts as prefects, heads of clubs and sports are again based on race.Non-Malay students unless possess extra-ordinary skills,are not selected to represent the school or state.

Teachers, who are predominantly Malays, these days don’t even know much about the background of their pupils of other races.

Then there is different dress code for Muslims and non-Muslims which further segregate the kids even at primary level.

At university level

Entry into public universities which is based on two totally different examinations, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia(STPM) and Matriculation, is profoundly unfair. There is widespread perception that the selection process for university entrance favors the matriculation over the STPM students. Less than 10% of the matriculation seats are offered to non-Malays. As STPM carries less weight for entry into public universities, many of the non-Malay students, even those from poor background, are forced to shun away from this once popular local examination in favor of A-levels, which is apart from being a foreign examination is also very costly. By this unfair practice, slowly but surely the non-Malays are systematically eliminated from being considered for courses in public universities. Why can’t all races sit for the same common exam?

Every year we see numerous non-Malay students with maximum results in STPM exam being blatantly denied places in public universities for critical courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Law and Engineering. Many of these students are from extremely poor financial background. Scholarships are not awarded to them based on merit as claimed. What do we expect them to do? Can we blame them if they resort to criminal activities to earn a living?

The vast majority on non-Malay students, including the brilliant ones from poor families, are forced to further their education in private institutions at exorbitant costs. Many poor parents have to mortgage their houses and properties to finance them. Highly precious EPF savings are utilized leaving the parents at the mercy of their children at the twilight of their lives.

Job opportunities

After completion of their studies job opportunities are also hardly available to non-Malay Malaysians. The posts in civil service, police, armed forces and even government linked companies(GLC) are “reserved” for bumiputras leaving the private sector highly competitive for the non-bumiputras.Forty percent of the population are given less the 10% of jobs in the government sector. If this isn’t discrimination what is it?

For those few, who are lucky to be employed in these services, promotions by truly merit are difficult to come by. Heads of departments, state directors of the various departments, director generals, state secretaries and chief secretaries of ministries are all for bumiputras.

Religious segregation

During the sixties and seventies, school and office canteens sell food for all races. Today these canteens cater for Muslims only. Chinese and Indians are not allowed to sell their food even if halal.

In the years following independence Malaysians of all races mix freely, playing, eating and even praying together. They celebrate all the festivals together true spirit of muhibbah.Today each community celebrates its own festival among the members of its own community. In fact these days our Muslim friends are reluctant to dine in the homes of non Muslim friends.

Although Malaysia is a secular country where the federal constitution guarantees freedom to practice ones own religion, this freedom of religious worship, in actual fact, is greatly impeded. Local authorities are reluctant to approve the building of churches and temples let alone providing funds for such projects. There is blatant disrespect for non-Muslim faiths.

Civil laws are being replaced by Syariah laws that are slowly becoming the supreme law of the land. There seems to be 2 sets of laws in the country, Syariah for Muslims and civil for non-Muslims. Inter-faith problems are sensationalized and dialogues to solve them are denied. The non-Muslims are denied recourse to their problems that involve Muslims.

Conclusion

Don’t all these considerations amount to marginalization of the non-bumiputra minorities? If not then what are they?

Lee Kuan Yew said the Chinese are marginalized in Malaysia and in return the Malaysian government claims that the Malays in Singapore are marginalized. Both these may be true but what is also true is that the Indians in both countries have been pushed out of the margins, a situation we call elimination, which is more extreme than marginalization.

We claim that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate as far as ethnic relations are concerned, sure enough it should be.
We have all the great religions in our country, Islam, Christianity, Hinduisms and Buddhism. All of them are unanimous in their teachings - to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources and there is plenty of wealth for all its citizens. All we need is to be true followers of our respective religions and share what we have with fellow countrymen, regardless of color or creed.

Until and unless we get rid of our selfishness in accordance of our religious teachings, we will never be a model nation for the world.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Declining university standards

7 October 2006

Boost national pride to reap success

In World University Rankings 2006 published by the Times Higher Education Supplement and conducted by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, UKM rose by 105 places to break into the top 200-ranked universities for the first time, climbing from 289 last year to 185.

UM, however, continued its downward spiral, by dropping a further 23 places to 192. Its ranking fell from 89 in 2004 to 169 last year, causing a national debate on the status of the premier university and the validity of the criteria used for the rankings.

There has been all round applause on the improved ranking of UKM. We must give credit to all involved in the better performance of UKM but ranking 185 is not something to shout about. Instead of questioning the validity of the criteria used for the ranking it would be wise if we on then quiet work harder to achieve a much better ranking, probably among the top 10, in the years to come.

It is really disappointing but not surprising that UM is continuing to drop further from 89 to 192 within two years. As a former graduate of the premier and oldest university, I am indeed embarrassed of its standing.

In the seventies UM had many prominent academicians of international recognition but today we are not able to name any such personalities.UM at its inception was at par with NUS but the latter is now far ahead at number 19 spot. In fact if we compare more closely, at all levels we are no where near NUS. What has gone wrong with our once premier university?

Our leaders and the relevant authorities are genuinely not at all perturbed by the deteriorating standard of our institutions of higher learning. They question the ways of grading these institutions and always blame others, especially the West, for conspiring and being bias against us.

The failure to practice real meritocracy in staff affairs and intake of students is the main causes of the dismal performance of our universities. Brain drain is a regrettable accompaniment of this policy.

Many of our lecturers have left for the so-called greener pastures overseas due to very shoddy treatment they received at local universities. Their talents are not tapped and rightfully rewarded. Rightful and well deserving promotions are denied and given to more junior and less capable ones. It is a strange situation where our own intellectuals are better recognized in foreign countries than in their own motherland.

Intake of students too is far from ideal. The best of the matriculation students are given scholarships and sent overseas, a practice that is not only detrimental to the standard of our own universities but an insult to them as well. If we do not hold our institutions with high esteem, who else will?

Many students with maximum possible results in the STPM examination are not offered the courses they seek. In the end only mediocre students are admitted to pursue studies at our own local universities. How we compete with prominent foreign institutions with such a myopic practice?

The great national pride and patriotism we had are slowly but surely being eroded and replaced with patriotism and pride for ones own race and religion. We prefer the prosperity of our own community than that of the nation.

The talents of all Malaysians must be tapped fairly without prejudice. Only this will reverse the present trend to place national pride above all other interests. Unless we actively do that the future may not look encouraging.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 06, 2006

Reducing speed limit not the solution

5 October 2006

Roads choked with vehicles

The festive season is around the corner and so is our fear of the tragedies on our roads. Every year hundreds of lives are lost in fatal road accidents throughout the country during every festive season. Soon the OPS SIKAP XI will be launched in an attempt to reduce the alarming rate of accidents on our roads.

The police want to reduce the speed limits for federal and state roads for the coming festive season of Deepavalli and Hari Raya. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan says this is to reduce the road accidents and the fatalities associated with it. Since its announcement there have been number of opinions expressed by various quarters.

Will reducing the speed limit on such roads by 10km/hr effectively reduce the road fatalities during this festive season? I do not deny that speed contributes to accidents but it is not the only cause as there are a number of other causes that are more important. I do not see how it can reduce the fatal accidents when speed is not the main cause of these mishaps.

The two main causes of fatal accidents are firstly an exceptionally high number of cars and motorcycles on the roads and secondly the inconsiderate and selfish attitude of our motorists.
With the present volume of traffic,cars, buses, lorries, other huge vehicles and motor cycles, coking our roads, especially the trunk roads, we would need supernatural powers to avoid accidents. There is simply too many vehicles on the roads resulting in chaos especially during peak hours. Whatever measures we take will not be effective with the huge volume of traffic suffocating our roads.

Some of these vehicles are so old that they are not at all roadworthy. They too are plying our roads at fantastic speeds. The motor cyclists zigzag between cars and lorries posing great danger not only to themselves but to other innocent road users as well.

The inconsiderate and selfish attitude of Malaysians in general is reflected by the high number of unhealthy incidents on the roads. There are blatant disregard traffic laws and those who abuse them often go scot-free while a careful law abiding driver, who occasionally exceed the speed limit on a clear stretch of the road, is quickly pounced upon by the enforcing authorities and slapped with a heavy fine.

To Malaysians life has become so materialistic that even roads accidents are also being commercialized. Every accident, even those fatal ones, are business opportunities for many, the tow truck operators, insurance agents, motor workshops,medical treatment providers, legal agents and even hearse operators. Injuries and death seem to be the least concern.

We have to take drastic measures to educate the public to change the mindset and attitude towards life. At the same time genuine efforts must be made to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. It is worthwhile considering separate lanes for motor cyclists wherever possible.

These may be formidable tasks but we must start now, otherwise many more lives will continue to be lost on our roads, the Malaysia’s killing fields.

Dr.ChrisAnthony

Let’s discard the “plastic hearts” in us

4 October 2006

The festive season is around again. Our Muslim and Hindu friends have begun preparing for celebrating their Hari Raya and Deepavalli respectively.Soon there will the Christians and the Chinese with their Christmas and Chinese New year. There is much excitement and joy in preparing for these festivals,

A large amount of money is spent on food, clothing and home decorations. Many of us buy new cars and houses during this time In fact many spend more than their means and end up in debts after the festivities.

With our preoccupation with celebrating our festivals, we forget the less fortunate among us. Many of them are in agony and awaiting death to separate them from their loved ones forever.

This true story may be of help to remind us of these unfortunate people around us and make us reflect on how we should celebrate our own festivals and successes in life.

Mr.Z (not his real name) is a 36 year old unskilled worker from Bangladesh. He has been employed in the same company for the last 8 years. He is now paid a basic salary of RM500 a month and if he works hard enough he could take home just over RM1000 after all his overtime claims. He sends most of his earnings back home for his wife and son.

For the last 5 months he has been unwell, seeking treatment at various government hospitals. He now presented with acute complications and has been found to have advanced colon cancer which has spread all over. Surgery is not possible and all that can be done is to palliate his symptoms. He just has a few months to live.

On realizing that he has been inflicted with a deadly disease, he broke down and cried incessantly, saying “Please send me back to Bangladesh. I want to see my wife and son”.

He continued to weep, saying repeatedly “ I don’t want to work, I don’t want the money, I just want to see my wife and son. Please send me back”.

It was a pathetic state watching the young man crying bitterly over his totally wrecked life. Money and wealth did not matter to him anymore. All he wanted was to be united with his loved ones. Only that would bring him solace in the remaining days of his life.

According to Z, during his eight-year tenure, he went back to Bangladesh just once three years ago to get married. After just 2 weeks with his wife, he left her to return to Malaysia to continue with his job. His repeated requests for leave to visit his wife in subsequent years were rejected by his manager, whom he described as a “man with a plastic heart”, because according to him, the boss was devoid of any feelings of compassion for the workers. Even when his son was born he was not allowed to return home for a short visit. His son is now 2 years old and Z has yet to see him.

Little does he know that soon he is going back to his son for the first and last time in his life? His young wife too had just spent 2 weeks with him soon after their marriage. In a matter of months he will have to bid them the final farewell.

All we could do is to send him back to spend his final days of his life with his loved ones. This we managed to do with the help of his concerned new superior officer. Z touched me by his gesture to come to bid farewell to me on the eve of his departure. As I shook his hands to wish him luck, I felt sad as I know I will never see him again.As a doctor I stand helpless to watch this young man slowly dying as the cancer takes its course. How I wish I could cure him of his illness. All I could do is to heal his soul of pain and agony. Not everyone can die cured but at least we can let them die healed. That was exactly what I tried to do.

It is very pitiful that many of us, also contribute to this inhumane treatment of fellow men. There are many Z’s in our midst. It is our “plastic hearts” that have caused so much agony to them. We often acclaim Malaysians are kind and generous, but in actual fact are we? All of us possess this “plastic heart” at some time in our lives.

As we prepare to celebrate our festivities let us discard these “plastic hearts” of ours and try to cultivate some compassion for fellow men, irrespective of race or creed.

As for Z, we hope and pray that God will grant him peace in love during his final days.

Dr.Chris Anthony

"IF WE COULD SEE INSIDE OTHERS' HEARTS"

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