Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year 2009 - a time for change

Let's unite to face the challenges of the new year

We have come to the end of 2008,a year that was historic is many ways to Malaysians.It began with the historic elections on March 8 when people put aside their racial and religious differences to vote for a stronger opposition thereby denying the Barisan Nasional(BN) its 2/3 majority in parliament for the first time in over 50 years. They also gave the opposition Pakatan Rakyat(PR) control of five states.These results were not only unprecedented but unexpected that shocked the ruling BN, the opposition and the people and to some extend even the world.

With the results the people’s hopes were raised for a better performance in the 12th Parliament with the presence of a stronger and formidable opposition.There were hopes for the evolution of a two-party political system that would provide a better check and balance governance.There were hopes for the dismantling of of racial politics whereby all citizens will be considered as Malaysians without any racial prejudice.

However with the unfolding of events in the subsequent months, these hopes of the people seem to be slowly eluding us.The most miserable disclosure was the failure of our parliamentarians to meet the high expectations of the people.They failed to realise that they have a wiser and more mature electorate who want greater openness and accountability in all undertakings. They want a more intellectual and democratic debate in parliament on all issues that affect them.In short they expected a parliament similar to those in first world countries Regrettably our wakil rakyats have failed to rise up to these expectations so far.

Instead of rising up to meet these expectations of the people, our parliamentarians were happy to resort to the same old tactics. They indulged in petty squabbles just like before instead of focusing on more important national issues like rising crime rate, unemployment, inflation, falling standards of education, increasing racial polarisation and the impending economic crisis. Even lewd remarks and gestures are becoming common among our MPs.What message are they sending to the younger generation?

The ruling and opposition MPs refuse to unite to confront the common problems facing the nation. On the whole our wakil rakyats, from both parties have failed to live up to the expectations of the people and that does not augur well for our democratic system of governance.

Even the political parties are in deep crisis with petty squabbles among the members that is threatening to tear then apart.The PR governments have yet to prove their capabilities and maturity to rule. They have yet to come to terms with their new roles in Parliament and the State Assemblies. It may take a much longer period to settle down and the people may have to be patient hoping the people whom they elected will not betray them for whatever reasons.

Meanwhile there seems to be no end to racial politics as it raises its ugly head from time to time. Instead of trying to quench the tensions that arise from racial disputes it is sad that there are those who fan these racial sentiments for political mileage.When will the time come where Malaysians will not be guided by colour and creed in dealing with one another?

Despite the pledge by the government to fight corruption, there are yet any concrete steps taken to combat this national menace. The establishment of Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) may be significant positive moves but there is much more to done to convince the people of the government’s determination to fight graft.The political will to fight this evil is sadly missing at all levels of administration.

Economists have predicted a gloomy period in the coming year and we Malaysians must brace ourselves to meet these challenges ahead. This is not the time to fight over our political, racial and religious differences but to cast them aside and unite as Malaysians to overcome the numerous problems that will soon be knocking at our doors.

Amidst all these political and economic encertainties we are in for leadership change at the highest level in March 2009.We hope the new leadership will be able to realise the aspirations of the people for a peaceful, democratic and united Malaysia where despite our ethnic and political divide we are given equal opportunites to come together to contribute to the development of the nation in all fields.

It is a tradition for Malaysians of all faiths to gather at mosques, temples and churches on the eve of the New Year to pray for peace and prosperity in the coming year. As we implore for Divine help,let our prayers be sincere and come from the depths of our hearts for the well being of not just ourselves, our families and communities only but for all Malaysians, in particular the poor, regardless of race and creed.

What the nation needs is change,a change in political mindset which appears to be remote under the present circumstances. Only Divine inspiration can influence our leaders to bring about the positive changes that the nation badly needs.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Privatisation of IJN

IJN privatization not in the interest of the rakyat

The proposed privatization of the National Heart Centre (IJN) met with very strong opposition from all segments of the people. The government’s move to suspend Sime Darby’s take-over pending further in debt study was indeed a right move although it falls short of the expectations of the people, who want the idea to be shelved for good.

The immediate and widespread strong public outcry to the news of the possible privatization that led to its postponement is an indication of the people’s awareness and maturity, which the government should be mindful not to underestimate.

Even with the present system of operations, the real poor are having difficulty in getting immediate treatment at the IJN even for urgent cases. The delay in appointments had resulted in major complications, at time fatal ones, which could have been prevented.

With privatization the poor would the ones most badly affected. The government’s assertion that with privatization more people would benefit from its services may be true but it would be those who can afford the treatment who would benefit most not the average Malaysian who is struggling to make ends meet. How can he cope with the escalating cost of medical care? What about the hard-core poor? Where do they go for sophisticated cardiac treatment?

The rich have many highly specialized private centers to seek treatment but the poor have nowhere except the government centers which are often underequipped and managed by junior doctors and nurses. Despite its limitations, the IJN is one of the few government owned centres that provides excellent care for all.

Built by the government, IJN and its team have slogged to build its reputation as the premier heart centre in the country and the region, capable of carrying out sophisticated procedures and surgeries including heart transplants. This was no easy task and credit must be given to all those who have contributed to elevate the centre to its present status. It has also built up a strong network of patients from the government and private hospitals throughout the country.

Apart from providing treatment to patients from all over the country, the IJN also provides training for doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff and to develop cardiac units in all Government hospitals in the various states. Privatization will erode this important role that is so vital for the future of cardiac care in the country.

It would be unfair and morally wrong for the government to hand over such a ready made centre, developed with the taxpayer’s money to serve the rakyat, to the private sector knowing well that it would be operated, like all other privatized services, on a profit motivated basis. Under such circumstances the services of the centre will in time become beyond the reach of the vast majority of ordinary Malaysians.

Health care is a basic necessity of the people and it the duty of the government to ensure it is available to all its citizens at an affordable cost failing which would amount to neglecting its duty to the people who voted for it.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fighting graft, a national menace

Getting the right people for the job

The passing of the bills to set up the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) aimed at ridding any misconception of the integrity of the two important institutions in the country was truly a feather in the cap of the Barisan Nasional Government as described by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

These bills, together with the proposed the Witness Protection Bill are all tools in the fight against corruption that has been promised by the Prime Minister. Abdullah must be commended for his personal involvement in successfully pushing through these bills which had met with some resistance from some lawmakers within his own party.

The Opposition however has declared that these bills are not adequate in the fight against graft as they fall short of their expectations to give total autonomy to the respective agencies. It claims as these commissions are still very much under the jurisdiction of the ruling party, they can never be totally independent. The onus is now on the government to demonstrate its seriousness in tackling corruption in the weeks and months ahead and prove the Opposition and other critics wrong. More importantly it has to act seriously to correct the negative perception of the judiciary and the anti corruption agency in the minds of the people.

It is very distressing that corruption seems to be rampant at all levels of our society and is threatening to become an accepted national culture. It is encouraging to see that the government has recognized the importance curbing corruption and is taking moving rightly in that direction but there much more to done than just enacting new laws. Will these laws by themselves prevent corruption that has become deeply rooted? Will they give the police, ACA,AG and judiciary the much needed independence to carry out their functions without fear or favor?

While these new laws are necessary and important in the fight against graft, it is equally important to ensure the human factors in this fight are also in place. Laws are only as good as those who are tasked to implement them. It is of utmost importance to get the right people to head the various commissions that are being proposed, people who are not only capable but of high integrity and fully committed to eradicate corruption. They must be politically non-partisan and act decisively and aggressively against anyone who is corrupt regardless of the status and political ideology. Selection of members of the commissions must be purely on merits and transcend racial and political divide.

The police and the anti-corruption agency must be free to investigate without fear or favor and the AG to prosecute likewise regardless of who the alleged perpetrators of this vice may be. Informers who come forward to expose corrupt practices must be protected at all costs and not punished for doing so especially if their information is found to be not true. Finally the judiciary must be fully independent and free from political pressure to mete out judgments in accordance with the laws and nothing else.

The government has triumphed in getting the bills in the fight against graft. It must now actively go forth with the formation of various commissions, selecting the right people for the tough but important job to free the nation from the crutches of graft. Unless it can form commissions that are highly credible and independent it cannot gain the confidence of the rakyat in its genuine intentions to fight this national menace that transcends all social,racial and political divide.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

National schools and racial integration

National schools must be appealing to all

Of late there has been a great deal of focus on vernacular education. There are those who say that they should be closed as they believe that these schools are a hindrance to racial unity. On the other hand the proponents of these schools are vehemently vociferous in defending them as they claim that denying them of such schools would breach the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

The role schools is to provide wholesome education to our children from a moldable age, which includes just not striving for academic excellence but instilling good moral and social values. In a multiracial and multi religious country goodwill, tolerance and a spirit of sharing among the various races is of paramount importance and education is one of the most important tools for instilling these values which will forge unity among the races.

Having children of all races to freely mingle under one roof will definitely go a long way to promote unity among them but the environment under which they are must also be favorable to nurture this unity which is so badly needed. Unfortunately such a favorable environment does not seem to prevail in our national schools, like it used to, during the time of English-medium schools of the fifties and sixties when people of all ethnicity preferred these schools.

Education is the most important commodity for the progress of an individual and the nation. The people in general want quality education at an affordable cost, an education that can take them through the challenges in life. Are our national schools living up to these expectations of the people?

The increasing demand for private and international schools today may be an indication that our national school system may be failing in its obligation not only in uniting the people but providing quality of education as well. People from all walks of life are willing to pay a hefty sum for quality education for their children elsewhere being convinced that our national schools are not capable of providing such education.

Closing down vernacular schools would an unwise move as it may not only be unconstitutional but such actions would only create a lot of ill feeling, anger and unhappiness among those who patronise these schools. This is the last thing we need at a time of increasing inter-ethnic tensions in the country.

What needs to be done is to make our national schools more appealing to all communities.It is not the medium of instruction that is deterent but a lack of dedication among those entrusted with educating our children. In the past our English-medium schools enjoyed the patronage of all races because of their high standards that was responsible for producing many highly talented and capable leaders in many fields. However due to politicization of our education system, over the years our national schools instead of reflecting the aspirations of all Malaysians have unfortunately become more Malay and Islamic for the comfort of the non-Malay, non-Muslim Malaysians. At the same time, most Malaysians would agree that the standard of education, discipline, morals and sports in our national schools schools too have declined over the years.

Politicization of our education must stop and drastic measures taken to improve the standard of our national schools to make them the premier schools in the country. This can be done with the recruitment of more dedicated and racially balanced number headmasters, teachers and other staff. Nobody with a sound mind would want to shun national schools if they provide an exceptionally high quality of education.

There is no doubt that there can be no genuine inter-ethnic unity unless the children of all races study,play,eat and even pray together under the same roof. This can only be achieved if they all go to the national schools which must strive to be truly national to attract the children from all races.


Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Making national schools the choice of the the people

National schools must change to attract all

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s reassurance that vernacular schools will not be abolished is very timely and may help to allay the fears and anxiety of many who choose to send their children to such schools.

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s call to check racial polarisation and enhance unity among the people is commendable but to suggest that it could be achieved by abolishing the vernacular schools is absurd and misleading. Putting children of all races under one roof will definitely go a long way to promote unity among them but the environment under which they are must also be conducive to nurture this unity. Unfortunately such an environment does not prevail in our national schools, like it used to, during the time of English-medium schools of the fifties and sixties.

The role of schools is to provide a wholesome education to our children from a moldable age, which includes just not striving for academic excellence but instilling good moral and social values. This is particularly important in a country with a multiracial and multi-religious population where goodwill, tolerance and a spirit of sharing is of paramount importance. These do not depend on the medium of instruction but the commitment of those tasked with the responsibility to instill these values in the young minds.

Education is the most important commodity for the progress of an individual and the nation. The people in general want quality education at an affordable cost, an education that can take them through the challenges in life. Have our national schools lived up to these expectations of the people? Regrettably not only our national schools but even the vernacular schools seem to have failed in this endeavor.

This failure is reflected in the increasing demand for private and international schools that are mushrooming all over the country. People from all walks of life are willing to pay a hefty sum for quality education for their children elsewhere being convinced that our national schools are not capable of providing such education.

Closing down vernacular schools is not only unconstitutional but such actions would only create a lot of ill feeling, anger and unhappiness among those who send their children to such schools. This is the last thing we need at a time of increasing inter-ethnic tensions in the country.

There is a need to restore the confidence of the people in national schools as to make them more attractive to all communities like the English-medium schools of the past which enjoyed the patronage of all races. These schools were responsible for producing the many highly talented and capable leaders we have today.

Most Malaysians would agree that the standard of education, discipline, morals and sports in schools have declined over the years. This is mainly attributed to the politicization of our education system. If the government can stop this politicization and strive to improve the standard of these in our national schools with the recruitment of more dedicated headmasters, teachers and other staff, and being equipped with better facilities, there is no reason for people to shun them for vernacular and international schools, which they perceive to be better.

Moreover over the years our national schools instead of reflecting the aspirations of all Malaysians have unfortunately become more Malay and Islamic for the comfort of Malaysians of other ethnicity and faiths.

There is no doubt that there can be no genuine inter-ethnic unity unless the children of all races study, play, eat and even pray together under the same roof. This can only be achieved if they all go to the national schools, which must strive to be truly national in form and substance to attract the children from all races.

Instead of being preoccupied with abolishing vernacular schools it would be more fruitful to elevate the standard and quality of our national schools so as to make them the premier schools in the country. Education is not only a basic necessity of the people but is also the most important tool for forging inter-ethnic unity. It will be a national disaster if it is allowed to be continually toyed around and politicized for whatever reasons.


Dr.Chris Anthony

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