Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year2010 – Will it be another year of hopelessness?

Racial unity is the only way forward

We entered the year 2009 with great hopes after the historic 12GE of 2008 when Malaysians rose above all racial divide to vote for change, a change they hoped will bring greater accountability and transparency in governance. With a stronger and more formidable opposition there were hopes for the first time for the evolution of a two-party system for a better check and balance. There were hopes for the dismantling of racial politics whereby all citizens will be considered as Malaysians without any racial prejudice. These were the hopes of the people that were carried into 2009, many of which still remain to be fulfilled.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took over the reins of power at a time of great political and economical uncertainties. Despite the adverse environment he did try not let the people down. His economic liberalization policies, attempts to get closer to the people and his 1Malaysia policy for the first time in decades raised the hopes of the people for a fair, just and progressive Malaysia. While there are still many who are yet to be convinced of his sincerity in wanting changes and his capability to take them through, nevertheless his initiatives are commendable.

Ethnic relations continue to be thorny issue that is threatening the peace, stability and progress of the nation. It appears to be underlying cause of the numerous problems that were encountered in 2009 and may be continuing to face this year and for some years to come.

Despite all the hype of 1Malaysia, eradication of race-based politics and adoption of meritocracy, no concrete results have come about. The only encouraging fact is that there is general awareness among the people of all races for the need of eradicating race-based policies for the long term well being of the country. The opposition seems to be consistent with its multiracial platform so is Najib trying to with his 1Malaysia policy which pledges to accord equal treatment for all races. Although more and more people are in support of a multiracial approach yet there are still many who prefer to stick to the racial politics of the past.

The race-based policies in education, job opportunities and economy over the last four decades have resulted in the severe brain drain that is affecting the quality of our services and competiveness in the global world where pure merits is what is relevant. We cannot afford to be continuously losing our best talents to others because of some unfair and obsolete policies based on ethnicity. The world is a totally different playground today where inclusion of only the best from all races will stand a chance to win.

It is time for the people to reject racist policies and those who perpetrate them. In promoting the 1Malaysia policy, the government must act tough against those who demonstrate racial or religious extremism of any form regardless who they are and whichever party they belong to. The quicker we get over racial and religious bigotry the better for the nation as a whole. There is no way to a better future for us and our children we put aside racial prejudice and accept one another as fellow Malaysians.

Corruption continues to be a major problem despite the many promises and attempts by the government to eradicate it. The establishment of the MACC with more powers to fight corruption was well received by the people. However the anti-graft body has yet to convince the people of its will and commitment to combat corruption. It seems to have been bogged down with one controversy after another and has been straddled with credibility problems especially with the death of Teoh Beng Hock. The people at large are yet to be convinced of its political impartiality and real commitment to fight graft.

With the new head of MACC, Malaysians hope that the agency will be able to demonstrate a new zeal in fighting graft at the highest level without any fear or favor. The people are watching to see whether under the new chief the MACC will be able to affect major breakthroughs in the investigations of mega corruption scandals that have rocked the nation.

In this fight the people too have an important role. There is the need for the people to reflect on their own attitude regarding corruption. I am afraid they may be accepting it as a norm in politics and business, which is indeed a sad development. With such casual public attitude to corruption how can we succeed in checking this evil that is depleting our national coffers to result in the country going bankrupt?

Meanwhile the nation is going more and more into a state of lawlessness and chaos. There is no respect for law and order. The Federal Constitution is being blatantly trampled upon with little consideration for its consequences. The police, judiciary and the civil service as a whole are clearly seen to be on the side of the ruling party. This was clearly shown in the constitutional crisis in Perak.

The lawlessness is reflected in the high crime rate that is escalating at an unbelievable pace so much so people are fearful of going about their chores in peace. Even staying at home behind heavily fortified walls does not seem to guarantee their safety.

The accident rate too is increasing at a pace that our roads have become major killing fields. Thousands of lives are lost every year in road accidents. Inconsiderate drivers and road bullies appear to have taken control of our roads where the innocent and law abiding citizens become victims.

Immoral behavior especially among the young is threatening to disrupt the value system that we hold so dearly. Family unit is under threat of disintegration where respect for elders is fast declining. We seem to be taken in by a new culture of accumulating wealth at any cause, without respect to established and cherished value systems of the past.

We look around and see many of our friends, whom we lived and played together as children, are leaving in despair to greener pastures. They see no brighter future in the land that they had slogged to build their homes all these years, the land that had made them what they now. Yes, many are leaving reluctantly, with heavy hearts, not for their future but for the future of the children and grandchildren.

There is mounting pressure on us to do the same but something deep our my hearts tell us that we must not give up but stay and battle on to make our nation great again as it used to be. We may be too small to change things in a big way but at least we must try in our own little ways with the power we have, our vote. Deep in our hearts we know there can be no better place for our children than this land which the people of all races toiled to build together.

Despite this gloom we are stepping foot into the second decade of the new millennium with hope that change will come soon to our beloved land. The only reassurance we carry into 2010 is that hope for change. We hope for the increasing maturity and wisdom of the people to reject racism in all its forms. We hope the political landscape will change for the better to a two-party multiracial system.
Only with these two fundamental changes can we break loose from the chains that restrain us from moving forward to build a united and progressive nation where every citizen will be proud to call himself a Malaysian. This change can only be brought about by us alone and nobody else.

Like Martin Luther King, let us all cherish a dream that the day will soon come when all Malaysians can live together once again in peace and harmony without suspicion of one another despite all our differences.

As we gather in mosques, temples and churches on this New Year let us pray that God will make us realize that dream in the not so distant future.

A Happy and Hopeful New Year

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ipoh Express bus tragedy

Improve the quality of drivers

The recent bus crash that killed 10 passengers in Ipoh was a real tragedy that could have been avoided if only certain rules were adhered to by the driver, his employer who owns Sani Express and the relevant enforcement agencies involved in ensuring safety of public transportation. The tragedy also highlights certain weaknesses in the transportation industry that should be remedied if we want to prevent recurrences in the future. It appears that we have not learnt from the experience of the Bukit Gantang tragedy 2 years ago where 22 people lost their lives in a similar accident on our highways.

The 38 year old driver of the ill-fated bus was reported to have a clean record and the bus was new and in good condition. The driver however has admitted that he fell asleep at the wheels at the time of the accident. It is clear that he was too exhausted to drive in the first place let alone handling a double-decker bus in the wee hours. Why did he continue despite feeling sleepy and tired? Why was he allowed to continue without adequate rest? The Transport Ministry has clear guidelines on road safety for express buses including working hours and rest for drivers. Why were these not adhered to?

Double-decker buses are meant more for use within the city and may not be ideal for highway driving as they are generally less stable at higher speeds. Handling of these buses is different and requires more skills than the usual single-tiered ones. The drivers of such buses need special training to handle them especially during emergencies. The transport ministry must come up with proper guidelines for the safe operation of these buses as they have become necessary due to the increasing number of travellers especially during holidays and festive periods.

Low wages is the underlying cause of poor quality of express bus drivers. Financial demands forces them to undertake long working hours which virtually drains them off their physical and mental energy when they report for work especially for late night driving. It is not uncommon these days for workers, particularly from the lower income group, to resort to multiple jobs to boost their income. Relying on income from a single job will not be enough to make ends meet considering the high cost of living particularly in urban areas.

Bus companies must operate their services more professionally and be responsible for the comfort and safety of the passengers. Though profits are important it must not be at the expense of the safety of the passengers. They must recruit drivers with the right attitude and commitment by higher wages and better perks. These would not only attract better and experienced drivers but will reduce their need for multiple jobs or working long hours thereby will be in better mental and physical state when they report for duty.

The government should keep the pressure on bus companies to ensure that safety measures are not comprised for monetary gains. Better wages, perks, regulated working hours and training for them will go a long way to ensure a more committed and responsible fleet of drivers operating the express buses plying our roads and highways.

The job of an express bus driver, like a pilot, is a very responsible one as the lives of many are in his hands. Unless we take it seriously and get only the best for the job there is no way of preventing further tragedies like this. The Ipoh tragedy offers another lesson for the authorities to improve buck up.Whether they learn from it is yet to be seen.

It is time for the government to improve other forms of public transportation as our roads and highways are fast becoming congested and too risky for travel especially during weekends, holidays and festive periods. Even the rest areas are too congested for drivers to take a break even if they is hungry, tired or sleepy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in mutiracial Malaysia

A season of sharing goodwill for unity

As Malaysians of the Christian faith celebrate Christmas it may be time to reflect of its significance in multiracial and multi-religious Malaysia. Like all other major festivals in the country, Malaysians of all ethnicity and religions, must join in the celebrations of Christmas to make it a very unique practice in our multiracial nation. Let us use this occasion to share our goodwill and fellowship with those of different faiths and ethnicity.

Like all festivals today it is rather unfortunate that, Christmas too has become so commercialized to the extent that it seems to be losing its true meaning and essence. It is being portrayed as a season of mammoth celebrations, extravagant shopping, feasts and merry-making. Unreasonably huge amounts of money are channeled into these celebrations to promote sales and attract tourists.

While it may be a day of joy but there is much more than merry-making and feasting to Christmas. It should be also a day to share our joy with others particularly the less fortunate in our midst regardless of race or creed. It is also the time to seek forgiveness from those we hurt and grant forgiveness to those who hurt us. It is a time to bring some cheer to those who need it most; the lonely, the sick and the hungry.

Our nation is undergoing some tumultuous times politically and socio-economically. It is also undergoing some difficult and trying times with regards to inter-racial and inter-religious relations among its people of diverse ethnicity. While there is more maturity and awareness of the people now for the need for racial integration, there is still much more to be done to foster that unity. We must work to create a mindset among our people, especially the young, to accept each other as equal citizens despite our differences in color, creed and culture.

As we celebrate this Christmas in peace let us not forget the millions who are suffering due to religious and racial conflicts all over the world. As Christians we may be a minority in the country but we have our duty to it. We must advocate the concept of a common brotherhood of the human race in our own little ways in our own little world around us in our community. Each of us may be just a tiny drop in the ocean but together we form the ocean itself.

Like all other festivals Malaysians must use Christmas to promote better understanding and goodwill among the various communities. It is a time to put aside our differences and come together to celebrate the day with mutual respect for one another’s traditions and culture. We may be a nation of diverse cultures but we are all Malaysians sharing a common destiny, good or bad.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons in life from an elderly couple

Faithful even in adversity

I had the opportunity to visit an elderly couple recently whom I had not met for many years. The husband, whom I addressed as Uncle, is an elderly gentleman in his eighties but he was physically healthy and fit. His wife is in her late seventies and paralyzed and blind for the last 10 years or so. She lives confined to her room which she shares with her husband.

We made a prior telephone appointment to visit them and as expected Uncle was eagerly waiting at the gate to greet me and my wife. His action was a lesson on punctuality which is rarely seen these days. I was surprised with the radiant smile on his face which reflected the feelings in his heart. I was in for greater surprise on meeting his wife in her room. Although she could not move out of her chair or see us, she was full of cheer on meeting us. She appeared pleasantly surprised at our presence. Their hospitality even in their times of difficulty was unbelievable and it touched us very much.

We talked for a long time about the past and they readily shared their experiences in their lives with us. They are staunch believers in God but they could not understand why He had to ‘punish’ them with such bitter experiences in their lives, ending up by being lonely and handicapped at this advanced age. Although they could not understand why God has led them to the state they are in today but they contend that He knows what He is doing and that He is always right.

The Uncle does everything for the wife, feeding, bathing, attending to her calls of nature and above all keeping her company 24 hours a day without fail, with the aid of a maid who happens to be very wonderful person. He says he is so blessed to have such a caring maid and he is so worried as she will be leaving soon after being with them for seven years. According to the Uncle, his wife looks for him every now and then and he can hardly leave her alone to attend to the household chores.

His ‘job’ demands his full attention day after day throughout the year. There is no such as taking leave to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work like what we do. His greatest fear is what will happen to his handicapped wife if he is suddenly called to the Lord. That fear really makes him shiver with fright and occasionally breaks down and cries. If that happens not all the money and wealth that he may have is going to help her in this cruel world.

It made me reflect on the many foolish things we do in life to accumulate money and wealth much more than we really need. Most of these acts are driven by greed and selfishness in the process we compromise on our principles and lose our compassion for fellow men. We buy huge insurance policies for our spouse and children to make them comfortable when we leave them. But if we end up like these elderly couple, no number of such policies is going to give them the security and reassurance like our own physical presence.

In a world that is driven by greed and lust this elderly couple stand out as a shining example of love and faithfulness between a husband and wife. The husband never complained about having to take care of his disabled wife all by himself. Instead he is taking it in a stride as his sacred duty; he has done it for ten long years and is willing to continue doing so till death does them apart.

Meanwhile his wife despite being bedridden and blind for the past ten years, she is so cheerful and treasures every moment of her life with the man she loves. She is full of praise for her him saying that he never abandons her and never fails to be there when it matters most. She doesn’t curse and swear for the condition she is in but happily accepted it as a ‘blessing’ in disguise from God.

The Uncle then gave me his Ten principles for Peace of Mind which were derived from the various bitter experiences in his life of over 80 years. These are:

1. Do Not Interfere In Others' Business Unless Asked.
2. Forgive And Forget
3. Do Not Crave For Recognition
4. Do Not Be Jealous
5. Change Yourself According To The Environment
6. Endure What Cannot Be Cured
7. Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
8. Meditate Regularly
9. Never Leave The Mind Vacant
10. Do Not Procrastinate And Never Regret

After spending about an hour with this fabulous elderly couple we left rather enlightened that there are much more to learn and endure in life. Life is not about making money and enjoying ourselves but to make others happy even if may your own spouse.

The next day I was surprised to receive an E-mail from the Uncle which read, “Thank you very much for being a special part of our life” and he attached a beautiful and inspiring poem by Rabindranath Tagore in his 'My Philosophy in Life' which a enclose below.

'MY Philosophy in Life'

Go not to the temple to put flowers at the feet of God. First fill your own house with the fragrance of love.

Go not to the temple to light candles at the altar of God First remove the darkness of sin from your heart

Do not go to the temple to bow down your head in prayer First learn to bow in humility before your fellow men

Go not to the temple to pray on your bended knee First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden

Do not go to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you

Rabindranath Tagore

I do not know whether I can ever emulate this elderly man with regards to his attitude towards his paralyzed and blind wife. I do not know whether I can emulate his wife by being so cheerful under the circumstances like she is in. What I have learnt from them is that I must try as that is what being a human is all about.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, December 14, 2009

Let’s fight racism together

Who is not a racist after all?

The recent debate over the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) has cast a spotlight over a much bigger issue of racism than whether the BTN needs a revamp. It was extremely amusing to see senior politicians accusing each other of being racist as though being a racist. The words ‘racist’ and ‘racism’ that were shunned all these years have become the issue of public focus. It is an indication of the people’s maturity in willing to openly debate issues that were previously banned because of their perceived sensitivity.

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 his own and therefore treats them unfairly. Going by the definition we are all racists to a certain degree as we harbor that inherent racist trait to a certain extent.
Institutional racism is when treating people unfairly because of their race has become part of the normal behaviour of people within an organization, party or country. Slavery and the apartheid policy of the past were clear examples of institutionalized racism.

Racism is condemned by all major religions of the world and abhorred by man throughout history. Despite that it was one of the greatest problems that plagued mankind throughout the ages and unfortunately continues to do so till today. Wars, riots and violence due to racial strive may have killed more people than natural disasters and diseases. Race of an individual is believed to be a God-given gift and is beyond our control but it continues to be the cause of misery for millions around the globe.

Malaysia is no different from others and we have our share of racism which rears its ugly head from time to time. The ongoing debate on racism is an indication that finally we may to be getting out of our state of denial and beginning to accept racism does indeed exist in the minds of our people to some extent. This awareness may be the beginning of our people’s concerted war against this evil that is threatening the peace, harmony and progress of the nation.

This could be attributed to the political system that tends to segregate the races in every area of human activity. This has 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.

Our education system too tends to segregate the races from a very young age, as early as kindergarten level. At an age when children of all races should be mingling freely to interact with one another, they are separated for whatever reasons, into their own communal groups and forced to compete for straight ‘A’s in their examinations. When such children grow up in ethnic isolation there is no chance for them to understand the cultures and traditions of fellow Malaysians from other races. How can they be expected to respect each other’s differences?

It is unfortunate that we have today a new generation of Malaysians who are so racially charged so much so they become very sensitive and intolerant to even the most trivial 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 now in our own surrounding how can we expect our politicians to do so at the national levels where it is far more complex and challenging?

Basically all of us are racists to some extent as this feeling of ethnic superiority exists in the hearts all of us. Instead accusing one another as being racist, our politicians should accept that we are all guilty of that evil and make amends to overcome it in whatever way we can.

The great men on whom the major religions were founded rose above racial divide to advocate a common brotherhood of man. Unfortunately although we claim to be ardent followers of these great men in actual fact we are very far away from the ideals of their teachings in our words and deeds.

Being a nation of religiously inclined people who firmly uphold the believe in God we must subscribe to the concept of the brotherhood of the human race. We are all His children regardless of race and creed. As such we must strive to rid ourselves of the inherent racist trait from our hearts to regard all men as equal.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

“A” syndrome detrimental

Balanced education essential for nation building

A friend of mine related an alarming incident during the release of the UPSR results recently. A parent who came with his son to collect the results was so upset that he obtained only 4As and 1B that he left the son in the school without saying a word. The poor boy was so upset that broke down and wept and had to be consoled by a concerned teacher. We can imagine the anguish of the little boy who despite having done extremely well is being reprimanded by the parents. Such incidences are not uncommon these days where parents expect nothing less than the maximum As in every examination.

In this regards we welcome the move by the Education Ministry to improve the teaching standard and quality in primary schools as announced by its minister by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Its plans to do this by deploying teachers who are degree holders may be sound but it must not underestimate the value of experienced and committed non-graduates teachers. However Malaysians in general remain sceptical whether Muhyiddin really means what he says. A lot of talk has been ongoing for umpteen years to revamp the ailing education system but no concrete results have come out of all that.Politicization of our education system has brought disastrous consequences to its standard and quality that was the envy of our neighbors.

While it is right to push for quality education starting from primary schools it must stressed that quality in this case does not mean just obtaining straight As in the examinations particularly in the UPSR. Quality education at primary level should be one that caters for the overall, balanced and comprehensive development of a child during its formative years. It is terribly important to instill good values in the young minds of these children at an age they are most receptive. Passing examinations is important so are the acquisition of an inquisitive mind, good habits and civic mindedness.

It is unfortunate that our education has become so examination-oriented that from the time the child goes to school he/she is pushed very hard to achieve maximum As in school exams and the UPSR. The parents want nothing less than straight As. They spend large sums of money to send them for the best tuitions in town sometimes for multiple tuition. The whole day the child is involved in studies and homework. There is hardly any time for play that must be what a child in primary school should be basically doing.

Children in primary schools should spend time in at play and interacting with one another. This is particularly important in our country with a diverse ethnic population. It is in playing, eating, living or even praying together that they cultivate the close and unbreakable bonds between one another.

Learning should be made more fun by mixing it up with games and informality. It should stimulate their young curious minds and encouraged to ask questions not reprimanded for doing so. Emphasis on character building and moral values should begin in primary schools and continue into secondary levels. The right value system should be taught to all children in primary schools so that such values become deeply embedded in the lives at a very young age.

Our obsession with the ‘A’ syndrome has resulted in our nation losing out in sports at international level which were once our pride. We are producing students who are good in exams but poor in the much-needed skills related to reasoning, thinking, problem-solving and decision- making. Moral values have become irrelevant in the quest for As.

The future of our nation depends very much on what and how we teach our children today. Are our students, including the top achievers, really prepared to face the challenges of the global world where competition is based purely on merit? Are they instilled with the values of moderation and tolerance of inter-ethnic relationship that are so vital for the peace, harmony and prosperity of the nation? Are they instilled with the right passion for whatever career they may take up? These are some pertinent questions for our policy makers, educationists and most important we, parents.

A good and quality education should be able to answer these three questions in the affirmative whereas a system that emphasises only on As will deny the future generations of all these right attributes that are so essential for nation building. That will be detrimental and disastrous to the future well being of the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

BTN revamp right and timely

Patriotism is a right of all citizens

We welcome the decision of the Cabinet to revamp the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) courses to be in line with the 1Malaysia concept of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak. The Prime Minister must be commended for conceding to the wishes of the people in coming to the decision.

Of late BTN has come under severe criticism for its civics courses that are compulsory for civil servants and university undergraduates. The BTN was established to build the physical and mental resilience of the civil servants to boost their patriotism. It also aims to promote discipline and form the character of the civil servants to promote good attitude, values and excellent work ethics. These are undeniably noble aims that must be encouraged but the implementation of them leaves much to be desired.

Although the members of the ruling party and some Barisan Nasional(BN)ministers are adamant that the BTN courses are on tract and achieving the desired aims of inculcating the sense of patriotism among young Malaysians of all races, but the cabinet decision to revamp it is an admission of flaws in its implementation.

On the other hand the Opposition has raised concerns that these courses and closed door sessions are used by the BN to instill racial and religious ill feelings among the various races in the country. Recently a number of former participants which included Pakatan Rakyat(PR) politicians and journalists have spoken of their shocking experiences at BTN camps. They described these courses as racist brainwashing and political indoctrination programmes to ensure civil servants and students back the BN.

There has been increasing calls by many quarters to shut down these programmes as they are creating more negative than positive effects on racial and religious tolerance and integration in the country. The PR controlled states have even decided not to send their employees and students to these courses in the future.

These allegations by the opposition are serious and if they are true then there are very urgent matters to address. The activities of the BTN go against the basic principle of the 1Malaysia concept promoted by the prime minister himself. The government must continue to act to prove that it is serious about integrating the people through that policy.

Patriotism is an inherent feeling of love and pride for one’s country. It should be a commodity of all citizens regardless of their race, creed and political ideology. It cannot be instilled in the lecture room alone but by the experiences of the day to day living in an environment that is gratifying to them. This favorable environment must be created by the government with its policies that are fair to all citizens not by mere slogans and propaganda.

After 52 years of living together as fellow citizens, it is disturbing that there are still many advocating a divisive ethnic policy for the nation. Such policies are obsolete and are a sure way to failure in today’s highly competitive global world. Furthermore it is extremely sad that there still those who look at their fellow citizens of a different race with suspicion and animosity. It is unfortunate that we mistake our own brothers and sisters as enemies when the real enemy is outside waiting to prey on our weaknesses.

If we want to succeed as a nation, there is no option but for all Malaysians to put aside their differences and consider themselves as Malaysians. This is the mindset that we must adopt and instill in our children. All activities whether political, social, economic, civics or even religious must be ethnically inclusive and not divisive as they are now. It may not be easy now but if we do not start now we will never realize our dreams of a united, prosperous and progressive nation as envisaged by our founding forefathers.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Historic Parliament after historic GE14

  New Parliament symbol of hope and democracy Congratulations to all our newly elected MPs. The first session of the 14th ...