Monday, June 22, 2009

One-day compulsory rest for domestic maids

Will it solve their abuse?

The recent spate of domestic maid abuse cases that led to the threat by the Indonesian government to temporarily halt sending their domestic helpers to Malaysia is a blow for our reputation as being friendly, kind and hospitable particularly to foreigners.

To demonstrate its grave concern for the welfare of these foreign workers, the government had introduced a number of new regulations for potential employers, the latest being the compulsory weekly one-day rest for all maids. Its motive for introducing the compulsory day off may be good and commendable but it is not the main contention in the issue of maid abuse as most would agree that adequate rest must be given to the maids. However indiscriminate enforcement of this rule may create unnecessary inconvenience and disadvantages to the majority of employers who are considerate and caring for their maids.

Maid abuse by employers is a serious offence that must not be condoned whatsoever but it must be remembered that the vast majority of Malaysian employers treat their maids reasonably well and take good care of their welfare. We know that there are many employers who treat them like members of their own families, being caring, kind, considerate and humane. These employers must be given some leeway to manage their maids in the way they see it as best for them. By implementing a blanket one-day rest rule for all maids the good employers may be unfairly punished whereas the errant ones may find their way out to escape the effects of the law.

It is very sad that many of our maids are lured into the country with false promises. Many are made to believe that they will be employed as factory workers and not as domestic maids. They react with anger and resentment when they realize the truth on landing on our shores. They just wait to escape at the slightest opportunity they get. Who will take the financial and legal responsibility if these maids run away?

It must also be remembered that the vast majority of our domestic maids come from very poor socio-economic background with low literacy rate. Many of them are ignorant on managing their meager income and I am afraid that by allowing them day off will result in overspending leaving with no savings when they leave the country on completion of their contract. Many employers go out of the way to act as financial advisors to help their maids to save as much as they can while they are with them.

Giving them a day off and allowing them full freedom to go will only be subjecting them to unnecessary risks like robbery, assault, rape and cheating. Some of them could easily be lured into immoral activities that expose them to all forms of diseases, drug abuse and crime which the employer can least afford to be involved. As an employer is directly responsible for the safety of his maid, it would be grave injustice if a good employer is dragged into such problems of his maid which is no fault of his. Wouldn’t it be better if the employer is allowed some freedom and discretion to provide what is best for her?

Education not compulsion is the key to overcome the problem of maid abuse. The maid and the employer must be educated on their rightful roles and duties. They must be educated to realize that they should be engaged for mutual benefit and the terms of their employment agreement must be adhered to strictly at all times. A rest day may be given if the maid chooses to have it but she must remain in the vicinity of the watchful eyes of the employer. However if she opts for monetary compensation then it should be granted if the employer needs her services on the rest day.

Human Resources Ministry must conduct an in depth study into the issue of compulsory one-day off rule before implementing it indiscriminately. It should get the feedback from the employers, maid agencies and other relevant bodies before coming to any conclusive decisions. Although there are advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule, there seems to be more negative repercussions than positive ones.
There are good and bad employers so are domestic maids. What is important is to ensure that the majority who are good should not be punished because of a few bad hats. The latter be it employers or maids must be sought out and punished in accordance with the laws.

Over sixty years ago Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Today it may be more apt to say that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its citizens treat their fellow humans regardless of race, creed and social status.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father’s Day 2009

Are we the right role models?

On this Father’s day I would like to share an invaluable advice that was given to me by an elderly father in his eighties prior to his death recently. This gentleman, was once a senior government servant, spent his final days of his life in an old folk’s home, lonely and homeless.

According to him, his father was so strongly against bribery and his advice to him was, “If you are dire need of money, you may borrow or even beg for it but never accept bribes however desperate you may be”. As a young government servant he followed his father’s advice very strictly to the extent he could not afford to own his own house and lived in government quarters all his life.

At the age of 86, he was alone and physically fit, but he did not have a place to call home and had to settle for an old folk’s home as his abode. It was the price he had to pay, which he did not regret, for being steadfast in submitting to his father’s stand against corruption.

This simple but true story made me realize the tremendous influence a father could have on his children. There are many like this old man who hold steadfast to the example and advice of their fathers. If only all fathers could influence their children in the right way, the world would be a much better place for all.

Similarly all our fathers too would have left behind some legacy that we as children treasure till our final days in life. We may not follow their advice to the fullest but their words get deeply imprinted in our minds and remain as a conscience in our hearts for years to come. Consciously or otherwise we are guided by the words and deeds of our fathers in whatever we do.

My late father, although he didn’t have much wealth or power, impressed on me that we should never compromise on our principles for the sake of material gain. His simple advice and examples in life remains vividly in mind till today. Although they did not mean much when I was young but today, being a father myself, I seem to appreciate them much more and likewise I am sure my children will also be looking up to me.

Today corruption, disregard for law and order and racial intolerance are the greatest evils facing our country. People from all walks of life, from the top politician to the ordinary man on the street, are willing to do anything for monetary gains. Selfishness and greed seem to have taken the upper hand in ruling the hearts of men. In this pursuit of material wealth there is no place for compassion and empathy for fellow men.

It is undeniable that our fathers had played a very important role in shaping our destiny and for being what we are today. We too likewise may shape the future of our children and the nation. On this father’s day as we express our love gratitude to our fathers, it may be equally important to reflect on our own role as fathers. Are carrying out our responsibilities as a good and exemplary father? Let us ponder on the legacy that we may be leaving behind. What we do today goes a long way to shape the future generation. Let us ask ourselves whether we are the right role model for our children. Are we setting the right examples for them to emulate?

Our nation has reached a critical stage in race relations that has deteriorated over the years. As fathers we can help to arrest and reverse this unhealthy trend by sowing the seeds of sound values, morality, goodwill and love for fellow men in the hearts of our children. Let us show them by our words and actions that we, despite our racial and religious divide, are all Malaysians and must learn to live together in peace and harmony, sharing the common brotherhood of our nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony
June 15,2009

Father's Day 2009 : Video - What is that?

An inspiring video about a father and son.

HAPPY FATHER"S DAY

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Compulsory one-day rest for maids

In-depth study needed



The Human Resources Minister Dr.S.Subramaniam’s concern for the welfare of these foreign workers is highly commendable. His motive for introducing the compulsory day off may be good but he must study the proposal in detail before implementing it in toto. Indiscriminate enforcement of this rule may create a lot of inconvenience and disadvantages to the majority of employers who are considerate and caring for their maids.

Maid abuse by employers is a serious offence that must not be condoned whatsoever but it must also be remembered that the vast majority of Malaysian employers treat their maids well and take good care of their welfare. We know that many employers treat them like members of their own families, sharing their food, providing proper clothing; shelter and adequate rest. There are also those who even pay for their medical bills when they are ill.

By implementing a blanket one-day rest rule for all maids will be unfair to these employers who take good care of their maids. What is needed is some degree of flexibility so that only the errant employers are punished and not the good ones. The latter must be allowed and encouraged to manage their maids in the way they see it as best for them.

It is very sad that many of our maids are lured into the country with false promises. Many are made to believe that they will be employed as factory workers and not as domestic maids. They react with anger and resentment when they realize the truth on landing on our shores. They just wait to escape at the slightest opportunity they get. Who will take the financial and legal responsibility if these maids run away?

It must also be remembered that the vast majority of our domestic maids come from very poor socio-economic background with low literacy rate. Many of them are ignorant on managing their meager income and I am afraid that by allowing them off will result in overspending leaving with no savings when they leave the country on completion of their contract. Many employers go out of the way to act as financial advisors to help their maids to save as much as they can while they are with them.

Moreover giving them a day off and allowing them to go out freely will only be subjecting them to unnecessary risks like robbery, assault, rape and cheating. Some of them could easily be lured into immoral activities that expose them to all forms of diseases, drug abuse and crime which the employer can least afford to be involved. As an employer is directly responsible for the safety of his maid,it would be grave injustice if a good employer is dragged into such problems of his maid which is no fault of his. Wouldn’t it be better if the employer is allowed some freedom and discretion to provide what is best for her?

The maid and the employer must be educated on their rightful roles and duties. They must be educated to realize that they should be engaged for mutual benefit and the terms of their employment agreement must be adhered to strictly at all times. A rest day may be given if the maid chooses to have it but she must remain in the house under the watchful eyes of the employer. However if she opts for monetary compensation then it should be granted if the employer needs her services on the rest day.

Human Resources Ministry must conduct an in depth study into the issue of compulsory one-day off rule before implementing it indiscriminately. It should get the feedback from the employers, maid agencies and other relevant bodies before coming to any conclusive decisions. Although there are advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule, there seems to be more negative repercussions than positive ones.

There are good and bad employers so are domestic maids. What is important is to ensure that the majority who are good should not be punished because of a few bad hats. The latter be it employers or maids must be sought out and punished in accordance with the laws.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, June 12, 2009

Traffic congestion on highways intolerable

Far sighted policy needed

I was appalled by the large volume of traffic on the PLUS North-South highway between Penang and Kuala Lumpur during the last weekend. It may be due to long weekend that fell during the school holidays. In fact during holidays, long weekends and festive season driving along the highway becomes a real nightmare due to the exceptionally heavy traffic.

The highway itself was congested with cars, buses, lorries, motor-cycles and people throughout the day and night. All the rest areas were so packed with vehicles that one could hardly pass through let alone parking, stretching, easing himself and having some food or drink. These areas may be designated as R&R but there is hardly any space for rest and recreation. I dread to imagine how the situation will be in a few years time at the rate the traffic volume is increasing.

The government may be putting in a lot of effort and spending huge amounts of money to build new highways, upgrade and maintain existing ones to cater for the increasing number of travelers.These efforts of the government may be praiseworthy but will these alone reduce the congestion on our roads and make road travel safer and more comfortable? How long can we continue to increase the highways if the volume of vehicles continues to escalate uncontrollably?

It appears that roads have become the main means of transportation in the country, both between and within the major towns and cities. Instead of developing a comprehensive and coordinated public transport system that involves roads, rail and air transportation, we have overemphasized on just the road transport which has become overcrowded and congested. The safety and comfort of travelers is greatly compromised with this chaotic traffic congestion of these highways and rest areas. Most of these rest areas are too small to cater for the increasing number of travelers especially during weekends and long holidays.

Train service that used to be a popular means of intercity transport is now become too infrequent and unreliable to be effective in attracting travelers. What has happened to the various express train services that we used to have in the eighties? Intercity shuttle flights that used to be popular in the eighties too have become less frequent despite having more airlines operating .Moreover airports are located far away and are poorly connected to the city centre which adds to the inconvenience to commuters.

With an increase in population the increase in vehicles is inevitable but what is important is to have a more effective plan to keep this increase to the minimum by improving other alternate means of transportation. We need to formulate and implement a better, more efficient and foresighted policy to cater for traffic increase for the next few decades. Greater emphasis should be placed on reducing the overdependence on roads by developing other alternate services.

Trains and railway tracts must be up-graded and modernized and all major towns and cities must be interconnected by such a rail network. All major cities should also be connected by frequent shuttle-flights. These services must be reasonably frequent, reliable, efficient and affordable if they are to be successful. The people with right attitude, capability and integrity should be picked, purely on merits, to manage these services with greater efficiency so as to make them profitable and economically viable.

Our leaders should go down to the ground to see for themselves the chaotic traffic situation on our roads particularly during holidays and festivities. By doing so only can they appreciate the risks, inconvenience and agony of the people who have no other better choice but to hit our congested highways. Driving during these periods is no more a pleasure as it used to be but a chore that poses tremendous risk to one’s life.

Travel and tourism have become important economic activities that are major sources of income for many nations. Unless we remain competitive with better and more comfortable, reliable and efficient internal transport system, we risk being edged by our neighbors.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, June 05, 2009

Heartless loan sharking : decay in morals

Getting to the root of loan sharking

The recent revelations of the operations of loan sharks (Ah Longs) is very flabbergasting and bring shame to all Malaysians who cherish goodwill and kindness as their way of life. Pictures of men displayed in the mainstream media who were abducted and held captive by being chained like criminals is very disturbing. These remind us of the days of slavery. It is unbelievable that Malaysians who are generally known for their friendliness and kindness can resort to such cruel acts against desperate fellow citizens. What has gone wrong with us?

Loan sharking has wrecked many individuals and their families at the prime of life. It has to be stopped before more become victims of the menace which is a form of modern-day slavery. The problem of loan sharking is getting worse with borrowers having to pay extremely high interest rates and to face unethical modes of collection.

It is heartening to know that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is taking the problem of loan sharks rather seriously with his decision to go all out to hunt down and bring these culprits to task. However it is not enough for the police to capture and punish few cruel loan sharks each time their atrocity is highlighted in the media. What is needed is a whole-hearted, dedicated, full time and lasting commitment of the police force to fight this menace. More money, time and energy must be spent to fight crimes like this that brings tremendous hardship to the people.

Greed and the get-rich-quickly attitude that is prevalent among us today contribute greatly to the flourishing trade of loan sharks. In the pursuit of wealth and more wealth there is no place for compassion and empathy for fellow humans who are desperately in need. Ironically our materialistic system today seems to encourage such a culture where the rich and powerful are glorified, idolised and put on high pedestals regardless of how they acquired their wealth and status.

Punitive action against a few Ah Longs and borrowers may deter some but will not solve the problem altogether. What is needed is to get to the root cause of this menace and come out with a comprehensive plan that includes education of the populace regarding financial management and prudence, the disasters of excessive borrowing, social and moral responsibility to society. There must be deliberate attempts to bring change in the Malaysian mindset which blindly pursue material gains that can be detrimental to the well-being of the society.

Poverty, either absolute or relative undoubtedly, is a major factor that contributes to the flourishing of loan sharking. There is no way we can succeed in fighting loan sharking without a concerted effort of all parties to eradicate poverty in our midst. It is not the rich and powerful who resort to Ah Longs but the poor and helpless in society who are forced into the arms of unscrupulous loan sharks who in turn exploit them to the maximum. Although the major responsibility in on the government, all citizens have a role to play in eradicating poverty among fellow citizens regardless of race or creed.

The government must look into the setting up of a loan scheme for those in dire need for financial assistance but with no fixed income to prevent them from resorting to loan sharks. The unreasonable requirements imposed by big financial institutions and non-helpful counter officers often make their applications for even a meager loan almost an impossible feat. Loans and other forms of financial grants must be made available easily to those who really deserve and are eligible, without favoritism and unreasonable collaterals.

Borrowing and lending of money are acceptable and healthy practices that have been in existence for ages. However those involved must comply with to some acceptable norms in this trade. There must be mutual respect and appreciation by those involved in this activity as it benefits both the borrower and lender alike.

Dr.Chris Anthony

"IF WE COULD SEE INSIDE OTHERS' HEARTS"

"IF WE COULD SEE INSIDE OTHERS' HEARTS" Often we tend to be judgemental from what we see.hear and feel especially o...