Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racism in the church

In a Malaysian context

One of the greatest problems that plagued mankind throughout the ages and continue to do so till today is racism. The Cambridge dictionary defines racism as the belief that people's qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.
A racist is therefore someone who believes that other races are not as good as their own and therefore treats them unfairly. Basically all of us are racists to some extent as this feeling of superiority exists in the hearts all of us. As Christians we must strive to rid ourselves of the inherent racist trait from our hearts to regard all men as equal.

The Catholic Church has been a staunch critic of racism wherever and whenever it occurs, particularly in the administration of the country. Unfortunately the very evil that it condemned has now become one of the major problems confronting the church itself. This could be attributed to the education system that tends to segregate the races from a very young age which had created a generation of Malaysians who are highly conscious of their ethnic origin.
They prefer to regard themselves more as Malays, Chinese and Indians than Malaysians, interacting with those of their own race. They may appear to be living happily together side by side but the differences among them are dividing them more than the commonness that unites them. When we do not understand the cultures and traditions of our ‘friends’ from other races how can we be expected to respect each others differences?

This racially orientated culture has inevitably permeated into our church where it further aggravated the problem by creating the various language groups. In the fifties and sixties when English was the main means of communication there was greater unity among the various races in the church, namely Chinese, Indians and Eurasians. Today there is so much conflict of interest among the various communities that is threatening to split the church into the various language groups.

In fact today in most parishes the three language groups have become so polarized with each working in isolation. Their occasional encounters end up in misunderstanding and even quarrels. Multi-language masses to cater for all three groups have become a trend these days. This so called ‘rojak mass’ does not have any tangible benefits for any particular group. Instead it only unduly prolongs the service but benefits no one.

Whenever a new parish priest takes over there is so much lobbying by the Tamil and Mandarin speaking parishioners to have a priest from their own race. The situation is so serious that when an Indian priest comes the Chinese speaking members “migrate” out to other parishes leaving a largely Indian community in the parish. It is the same with Tamil speaking parishioners when a Chinese priest takes over. This unhealthy trend is becoming more entrenched and is creating so much hate and suspicion of each other instead of love and brotherhood that Christ promoted.

To make matters worse the new generation of priests themselves becomes racially inclined, being closely associated with members of their community. This creates suspicion and ill-feeling among the other community and all sorts of allegations and rumors surface, many of which may be unfounded and mischievous.

From the past we know that a common language will go a long way to integrate the various communities and it has to be either Bahasa Malaysia or English, the latter is preferable for obvious reasons. We have to realize that despite our differences we are all children of God and therefore share a common brotherhood in our Lord Jesus. Ill-feelings, hatred and suspicion for those of a different race are contrary to the very teachings of Christ who advocated love for all including our enemies.

The priests and church leaders too should conduct themselves in a manner that they are seen to be neutral and caring for all regardless of ethnicity. As parents we must show our kids an exemplary behavior that illustrates the right attitude towards our parishioners of different race. In short, what ethnic culture we belong to is not important, what is important is for us to adopt a Christian culture that is color blind which does not distinguish one by his ethnicity but by his comradeship as fellow humans. That is what Christ wants and that is exactly what we must do.

It is unfortunate that we have today a new generation of Malaysians, both priests, parents and the laity in general, who are so racially charged so much so they become very sensitive and intolerant to the comments and criticisms from members of other races. Under these circumstances forging racial goodwill and integration is a difficult task but if we do not start in our church how can we expect our politicians to do so at the national levels where it is far more complex and challenging?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Escalating crime rate alarming

Infuse new blood to fight losing battle

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s warning that the high number of street crime cases should not be taken lightly as it contributed to 17% of the overall crime index is timely. It is appalling that street crimes continue to increase at an alarming rate, being 9.58% for this year. Equally shocking is the revelation by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein that more than 30% of the police personnel’s time is spent on administrative and clerical work, leaving not sufficient manpower concentrate on their primary job of fighting crime.

In recent times the crime rate has reached an alarming level where people are not free to go about their daily chores in peace and security. The people are now living in fear for their safety and that of their loved ones and the government cannot continue to be lackadaisical and complacent on this issue of safety of its citizens. It has to act fast to arrest this escalating crime rate. In this context, the Prime Minister’s resolve to reduce street crime by 20% in the next 14 months is very encouraging although many are skeptical whether he can achieve that with the existing system.

One of the most important measures to reduce crime would be to increase the physical presence of the police throughout the country especially in high crime prone areas. The mere physical presence of uniformed police personnel would deter many potential criminals. Installing more street lights and CCTVs in high-crime areas will also go a long way to prevent crime but technological sophistication without greater human commitment will not take us anywhere.

Rela, Rukun Tetangga, Rakan Cop and other uniformed agencies may be roped in to assist the police to fight crime but the main responsibility lies with the police force that is specially trained for the job.These other groups are not trained to deal with criminals and overdependence on them may be counter-productive and dangerous. On the other hand more young Malaysians must be recruited, trained and deployed in field for anti-crime patrols instead of wasting their skills by being preoccupied with desk and paper work, which can be done by others.

The escalating crime rate is an indication that existing methods used are failing to produce the desired results and it may be timely to review and formulate better and more up to date methods to fight crime, perpetrators of which have become bolder and more sophisticated. When we are losing the battle we cannot continue to fight with same old generals, soldiers and equipment. We need new blood to be infused into this combat, in the form of better, more energetic and committed manpower.

More talented young men and women should be recruited into the police force to combat this national menace, to free our streets and neighborhood of thieves and criminals who are threatening the peace and security of defenseless people, including women and children. I am sure there are enough among our youth who are eager to join the forces to do their bit for the nation if only given the opportunity.

The best must be recruited, the selection being based purely on merit and commitment, not favoritism of any sorts. Denying eligible young Malaysians the opportunity to serve the nation in the police force because of color, creed or political ideology, would be a great disservice to the people and the country. That itself would be tantamount to an unforgivable crime.

Apart from getting more people into the force, the police should also strive to improve its image in the eyes of the people. The police should be seen as an institution that is truly independent, professional, people-friendly and above all one with full integrity ever ready to carry out its duties without fear or favor of any parties. Unless it can create such a positive image in the minds of the people we will always be fighting a losing battle.

The people play a vital role in crime prevention and it is essential for the police to get the cooperation of the public .The police must adopt a more people-friendly attitude to get their full cooperation, without which there is no way they can win the war against crime. Witnesses and whistle-blowers should be protected not persecuted.

Malaysians had united across the ethnic divide to defeat the British colonialists, the Japanese occupation and the communist insurgents of the past. Similarly the people must once again unite behind a rejuvenated and committed police force to defeat the criminals who are bent on destroying our peaceful way of life.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, July 17, 2009

Death in MAAC custody,a real tragedy

MAAC must reveal the truth to clear its name

The mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock, at the premises of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) came as a great shock to all Malaysians. It is unbelievable that such a tragic fate should strike him when he was not even a suspect but only assisting the MACC in its probe into allegations of corruption by several Selangor state assemblymen. In fact MAAC top officials have described him as a "a very cooperative, friendly, good and helpful witness."What had caused the tragic death of this young man on the eve of his marriage?

Teoh must not be been as just an opposition member but a citizen who has willingly come forward to assist the MACC in its investigations. His death is a real tragedy and must not be politicized by any parties because of his political affiliation. The police must conduct a thorough and independent investigation to determine the cause of the tragedy. It is an opportunity for the police to proof they can be professional to dispel the suspicion of their neutrality in the recent cases.

The death of the opposition member may be a loss to the Opposition but it dealt a severe blow to the integrity and credibility of the newly established MACC and the confidence of the people in the anti-graft commission. How will ever people come forward to assist in the fight against graft when their safety is not guaranteed even when under the custody of the agency?

The people are terribly shocked and disturbed at the tragic death of Teoh, particularly as it occurred in the premises of the MAAC soon after a marathon session of interrogation with its officers that extended into the wee hours of the morning. What was the need to question the witness all through the night? Did he get his meals and adequate rest? Was he subjected to undue duress while under the custody of MAAC? Why was he still around long after he was supposed to have been released? These are some of the questions to which the people want answers from the MACC.

As the death had occurred in the premises of the MAAC soon after a prolonged interrogation it cannot not shred off its responsibility in the tragedy. The MAAC must reveal the truth of its involvement with Teoh so that the people will not resort to unnecessary and wild rumors for their answers. Only by doing so will it be able to clear its name and protect its integrity and on independence of the institution.

Of late there have been doubts cast on the impartiality of the MAAC. The MAAC seems to be active in pursuing corruption only is sates ruled by the opposition and not in those under the BN which rules more states than the PR. Does it mean that corruption occurs only in the opposition states?

This selective prosecution by the MAAC and the mysterious death of Teoh, a member of the Opposition team, while in its custody gives a negative perception of the agency in the minds of the people who are more mature, well informed and wiser than ever before, thanks to the alternate cyber media.

The opposition, NGOs,BN component parties and even the Umno Youth chief has called for the set up a royal commission to probe the death of Teoh Beng Hock, saying it's the best way to clear the name of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).The majority of the people are also joining in the chorus calling for such a commission to get to the root of the tragedy once and for all. Unless an independent panel absolves the MACC of any wrong doing, no amount of propaganda will help to redeem itself of guilt.

The government must honor its promises to the people for a clean, transparent and democratic administration where the public institutions are truly independent and politically and racially impartial in carrying out its duties. It must heed the people’s call for the setting of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of Teoh.

The people have seen enough of cruelty inflicted on our citizens by the police and now the MAAC.Their confidence in the BN government to bring change is diminishing by the day. If the present government cannot protect the people from the abuses of the institutions under their jurisdiction, then the people must seriously consider changing the government to one that can. The people will be compelled to say enough is enough and demand change; not cosmetic change to policies but change of government.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, July 13, 2009

English for maths and science

Language switch may be counter-productive

After prolonged debate and uncertainty the Cabinet has finally decided to revert back to Bahasa Malaysia to teach mathematics and science in national schools and the pupils’ mother tongue in national type Chinese and Tamil schools. However it has acknowledged the vital role of English in the world today and promised to increase its efforts to improve the standard of the language.

It has proposed to increase the time for teaching English, recruiting more trained teachers including bringing back retired English ones, improving infrastructure and possibly making it a compulsory subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia(SPM). In fact the government has allocated about RM5 billion towards that aim which is commendable.

The main reason for discontinuing the teaching of Science and mathematics in English was that it had failed to produce the desired results especially in rural schools, where the standard of English continues to remain poor despite the English policy being in force for 6 years.

The decision of the cabinet has not gone down well with the majority of Malaysians who are skeptical of the true motive of the government. They opine that the move is ill advised and would result in a further decline in the standard of the language among the younger generation.

While it is good that the government has considered the welfare of the rural students but how will cessation of English improve its standard in rural schools? On the contrary it is the increased use of the language in reading, writing and speaking that will elevate its standards not decreasing it. Instead of increasing the usage of English in rural schools, it is unfortunate that the government has decided to decrease it by doing away the teaching of the two subjects in the language. This will be counter-productive and detrimental to the students from rural schools.

By discontinuing the use of English, its proficiency in urban schools too may now decline. It is sad that instead of strengthening the use of English in rural schools to raise its standard to be at par with that in urban ones, the government has taken a step that will bring down the standards in the latter to that of the former. What we will achieve is a lose-lose situation in both urban and rural schools that would not augur well for the future generations.

The world that was once a vastly expansive globe has now contracted tremendously due to highly enhanced communication and travel around the globe. In this contracted global world, mastering multiple languages, especially English which is today the international medium for science, technology and commerce, gives one the added advantage in the acquisition of knowledge and skills in these fields. Unless we are fluent in English, we tend to lose that advantage over others.

We have no special love for English or its masters and the fears that mastering English will undermine the importance of the national language is unfounded. All Malaysians accept Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and one has to obtain a credit in order to pass the SPM, the basic qualifying examination for all purposes. Gaining knowledge through English would make one a better Malaysian, regardless of ethnicity, better equipped to face the competitiveness in the global world.

Over the last two decades the standard of English in the country has been on the decline and we are already beginning to feel the effects of that today. Job opportunities for our young graduates are limited as they do not have a good command of English. If we do not check this decline and take proactive measures to improve the standard of the language very soon we may soon become irrelevant among the leading nations of the world.

If we want to bring honor and glory to our nation we do not have any option but grasp all available means and opportunities that will bring progress and development. Under the prevailing conditions today, English is a vital tool in that pursuit of progress and unless we master it we will be final losers.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, July 10, 2009

Najib's first 100 days encouraging

Is he prepared to brace for challenges ahead?

The survey conducted by Merdeka Centre recently produced some encouraging results for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the premier completes his first 100 days in office. His approval rating has gone up to 65% from the 42% when he first took over the premiership. This is definitely a boost for him to continue with his good job and brace for bigger challenges that await him.

While more Malaysians of all races are showing keen interest in Najib’s policies in particular economic liberalization, his attempts to get closer to the people and his 1Malaysia policy, there are still many who are yet to be convinced of his sincerity in wanting changes and his capability to take them through. It may take time but if he persists with his attempts to be more accountable, transparent and people-friendly I am sure he will win over the hearts and minds of the people.

Within the first 100 days, the new PM may have succeeded in raising the hopes of the people for a fair, just and progressive Malaysia but many thorny issues still remain unresolved which continue to cast doubts in the minds of the people whether he has the political will to find amicable solutions to these problems.

The most difficult task remains ahead where his plans for change need to be executed successfully in accordance with the wishes of the people. That would be the real challenge for Najib and the people are watching to see how he handles the major issues confronting them and nation.

There are numerous major issues, some controversial and sensitive, those need to be seriously looked into to correct the negative perception of the government in the minds of the people. These include the political stalemate in Perak, the independence of the judiciary and the police, a greater tolerance dissent, corruption and the deteriorating ethnic relations.

The Internal Security Act( ISA)

The ISA is a another thorny issue that is detested by the majority of people of all races and all walks of life but the government has yet to heed the call of the people to abolish the law that they see as draconian and violates basic human rights. Although Najib has agreed for a comprehensive review of the law but the people have yet to be see any concrete steps towards that aim.

The Perak crisis

In fact the Merdeka Centre survey revealed that the majority of Malaysians want fresh elections to resolve the political impasse in Perak that has brought the state to a standstill. The people have expressed in no uncertain terms that they want to be given the right to choose the government again, why are their voices heeded?

The judiciary

The judiciary has yet to be seen to be truly independent. Its reputation has been further tarnished by the recent judgments in the Perak constitutional crisis, which are seen by many legal experts and past judges of great integrity, to be bias, and contradicts the very laws that it was supposed to uphold.

The police

Despite pledge by the new Prime Minister for an open and more tolerant system of administration, the police have yet to change their hostile attitude towards the opposition and those with dissenting views. Peaceful assembly to express dissent is not allowed and harshly dispersed by the police at times with excessive use of force. Even peaceful candlelight vigils are not tolerated. Deaths in police custody are not subjected professional scrutiny and continue to tarnish the image of the force.

Crime rate

Crime rate has reached worrisome levels where the people are living in exaggerated anxiety and fear of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed. They are unable to go about their daily chores peacefully fearing for their safety and of their family. The police must review the way they fight crime as the measures in use do not seem to produce the desired results. There must be deliberate attempts by the police to be more people-friendly to earn the respect and trust in the force.

Road accidents

Traffic congestion and accidents have reached levels where our roads have become major killing fields, taking the lives of young Malaysians at the prime of their lives. It is time to find a comprehensive solution to the traffic and transportation problem as building new roads and highways alone is not going to overcome the woes, but on the contrary it will only worsen the already congested and accident prone roads.

Disrespect for opposition

With a stronger Opposition the people’s hopes for a better democratic environment were dashed by bitter politicking between the ruling and opposition parties. Our representatives from both sides of the political divide regard each other as adversaries instead of being comrades in their service to the rakyat.The BN as the ruling party must initiate to change its mindset to accept the opposition as an equal partner and treat its members them as duly elected representatives of the people. Every citizen regardless of who he votes is equal constitutionally.

Race relations

Race relations have deteriorated over the last 40 years or so. Once we were proud to regard ourselves as Malaysians but today we have become more Malay ,Chinese or Indians and less Malaysian. After 50 years of self rule we should have attained a state where a leader regardless of his ethnicity should champion the plight of all Malaysians but unfortunately today have gone backwards to call for Malay, Chinese and Indian unity instead of Malaysian unity.

Race not merit continues to the major criterion in awarding scholarships, places in universities, jobs and even political appointments. How can we expect to reach the ranks of the world powers if we continue to use racial considerations to deny the best brains to contribute to nation building? We are now living in a very competitive environment and we have no option but to tap the potentials of all citizens regardless of the ethnicity, believe or political ideology. They are all Malaysians eager to offer their services in whatever way they can, why deny them?


Najib should be commended for coming with his 1Malaysia policy, which the people understand, is aimed at fostering inter-ethnic solidarity to create one united Malaysia from the diverse ethnic populace. He must ensure that it does remain just rhetoric, like many others, but implemented whole-heartedly to unite the people all ethnicity. There is no way 1Malaysia can come about if the different communities are treated unequally.

His aims may be noble but we know achieving that vision is most difficult. He has initiated and we must continue to give him all the support we can to realize that dream. The task may be formidable but not impossible. We need patience, perseverance, tolerance and above all goodwill, to build that 1Malaysia which is the dream of our new premier and all Malaysians.

In the short 3 months Najib may have managed to bring some hope to many who were at the point of despair. It is the wish of every Malaysian that given more time he will be able to bring about the drastic changes that nation needs to uplift itself to the ranks of developed nations, where every citizen, regardless of ethnicity will be proud to call himself a Malaysian.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, July 03, 2009

Kampung Buah Pala : A missed opportunity for Pakatan

Of late the Pakatan rakyat (PR) state government in Penang has is undergoing a severe test of its resilience and patience. The Kg.Buah Pala issue seems to reveal that goodness and righteousness alone on the part of a leader is not enough to overcome the multitude of problems facing the people. What is equally important is political shrewdness and astuteness of the leadership that only comes with experience and maturity. A leader may be good and righteous but unless he has the shrewdness to avoid offending the electorate unnecessarily, he may not survive politically.

The issue of Kg.Buah Pala is not something that sprang up overnight but has been going on for some time from the time of the previous government. Evicting long-staying residents on government land had always been a very thorny problem that is closely inter-twined with social and human rights issues that are easily sensationalized by the media and exploited by opportunist political opponents.

The action of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to allow protest by unhappy residents against his government and his willingness to accept their memorandum is a cordial atmosphere by his representatives must be commended. Such an accommodating stance towards demonstrators was rarely seen before. However the absence of his personal involvement in the crisis was regretted by the people who had high expectations in his new government which they thought would be different from the previous one.

Lim had the opportunity to turn the problem that he inherited from his predecessor to his advantage by paying a visit to the village during the early days of the crisis to express his solidarity with the people there. He should have told the truth of what really happened to their land and the tremendous limitations under which he has to now work to bring an amicable solution. He should have directed the people to turn to the Federal Government in particular its minister who was the former Chief Minister.

Although there may be residents who are out to take advantage of the situation for massive monetary gains, there are those who are genuinely desperate and living in fear of losing their livelihood and homes. It is the duty of the state government to protect the interests of these desperate residents regardless of who caused their hardship and predicament. A simple courteous visit to explain the limitations of his government would have gone a long way to win the hearts of the majority of the residents.

Lim had missed the opportunity that was available to him to show that his government is a government of the people, willing to go out of the way to relief the people’s burden, which was not his making, regardless of race or creed. On the contrary he is being accused as being heartless, cruel, racist and taking sides with the developer for commercial gains over the people’s welfare which we all know for sure is not true. He is being accused of being arrogant for not wanting to meet the residents to listen to their grouses when they came to see him. He is being accused of violating human rights, the very harsh criticism he had for the previous government.

The land that houses the ‘High Chaparral’ has been sold and development project planned by a private developer well before the Pakatan government came into power. From the way the issue had developed we are aware that there is not much the state government can do to save the ‘High Chaparral’ as the proceedings were done legally. Even the Federal Court has ruled in favour of the developer against the residents. The present state government is not being blamed for the crisis but the way the it handled the problem had created a lot of unhappiness among the people who had voted for the Pakatan Rakyat, which they expected to be more people-friendly than its predecessor.

The lesson to be learnt from this issue is that the government should accountable and forthright in its dealings at all levels. The people must be told the truth which at times may be bitter but will finally be accepted. In this case the residents must be made to realise that they are temporarily occupying government land, they have to make way when the land is needed for a reasonable compensation.

The Kg.Buah Pala dilemma may be a political issue for some and a legal or commercial one for others. For the genuinely desperate residents it is an emotional issue that affects their livelihood and the very existence of their homes where they have been living for over a century. The only solution is by way of negotiations, not force, possibly involving the federal government in a considerate, fair and humane manner for a win-win situation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

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