Friday, January 29, 2010

Inter-faith dialogue the only way forward

The controversy over the use of the name to address God has been largely magnified and politicized by many quarters for their own benefits. It resulted in the attacks on several churches all over the country and some mosques which was indeed a dangerous turn of events. Our country is going through a difficult time, and this is all the more reason for all peace loving Malaysians to draw closer together, rather than stand apart to thwart the attempts of the minority extremists who are bent on creating chaos and animosity among the different races.

The court may have decided but the dispute is far from over but we are encouraged by the tremendous inherent goodwill that ensued which gives us some hope for a more civil and dialoging society. There has been tremendous support for dialogues sessions between Muslims and Christians that were organized all over the country since the beginning of the dispute. These dialogues were unthinkable before which shows the great maturity of the people.

Disputes of race and religion are rather emotional and sensitive that can only be solved by dialogue in the spirit of goodwill and brotherhood, not in the court which is often insensitive to emotions. What is needed is compromise on the part of both parties which can only come about if we can create such an environment. It is unfortunate that even some religious leaders consider compromise as a sign of weakness when it should be one of strength and fortitude.

The biggest question is whether Malaysians are ready for such a dialogue on issues that are so close to their hearts. The fears and anxieties expressed may be genuine and must be addressed and not exploited for political mileage. What is encouraging is that more Malaysians including Muslims are beginning to accept the fact that dialogue, not confrontation, among the religious groups is the only way to find a lasting and amicable solution.

Many Muslims agree the word has been used by non-Muslims in other parts of the world. However they seem to be alarmed at the thought of it being used here. This anxiety and fear must be addressed by Muslim leaders and appreciated by non-Muslims. There is a need to re-look at the polarized education and political systems that may be contributing to these fears which are largely unfounded.

It is also timely for Muslims and Christians to get together among their own communities in dialogue and debate to find a common middle ground in dealing with each other on this and many other inter-religious disputes in the country. We have a God-given opportunity for us to unite despite the differences among us and we must not be foolish to let it pass.

Religious leaders and politicians involved in inter-faith dialogue must place the interests of the people they represent above all others in whatever course of action they resort to solve religious disputes that they are bound to arise from time to time. It is the people in the final outcome who are affected most by any decisions.

The solutions should not be based merely on legal, historic or theological aspects but on a humane one that takes into consideration the good human values of peaceful co-existence – a considerate and caring attitude that tries to understand and allay the fears and anxiety of one another, however unreasonable they may be, especially those from a different race and creed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Much more to Indian woes than Chennai visit

Adopting a right mindset to work and life

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s historical to Chennai, makes him the first Malaysian prime minister to make an official visit to the capital of Tamil Nadu state in India. While he may have his own reasons for visiting Chennai but what he did was indeed a right move as about 80% of the Indians in Malaysia are Tamils who have close cultural, education and religious ties with the land of their ancestors.

It was right that he made the visit to understand better the complex behaviour and passions of the Tamils in the country, their demands and problems that were highlighted by the Hindraf rally 2 years ago. Many were deeply touched by Najib’s gesture and in particular the trouble he took to call on the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, who is revered by Tamils all over for his contributions to their culture and language.

Now the Prime Minister is to make an historic visit to Batu Caves on the eve of Thaipusam this year to grace the occasion that will bring nearly a million Hindu devotees for the annual celebrations. This again is hailed by the Indian community who are beginning to place their faith in him to deliver them out of their impoverished and marginalised state.

Najib must realise by now that the Indian problem is far too complex and deep seated to be solved by some social visits to their heartland and temples. What is needed is a comprehensive aid policy centred on improving their standard of education and providing more opportunities in education and jobs without discrimination. What the Indians need is to be treated fairly as rightful citizen like they used to be in the fifties, sixties and even the seventies. The Indians hope that these visits may nevertheless be the beginning of such an indiscriminative 1Malaysia policy that Najib has pledged.

Najib’s visits to Chennai and Batu Caves come at a time when the Indians in the country are deeply divided and many not happy with the BN government. The MIC that used to be the main party that represented them has collapsed and there are no signs that it can ever regain its past glory as the undisputed champion of the Indian community. The exceptionally large numbers of Indian political parties that have cropped up of late indicate the greatly divided, weakened and directionless Indian community.

The Indian share of the economy has markedly dropped and continues to decline. Educational and job opportunities are also declining which have resulted in the high unemployment and crime rates among them. Today the Indian community in particular the Tamil community is economically impoverished and socially handicapped to compete with the other races in the country. They need assistance which is far from coming either from the government or private sector which operate along racial lines.

It is time for the Tamil community to take stock of its position today and work to be integrated with the other races in fighting for their needs and rights as Malaysians. Fighting along racial lines as it done for the past 52years has clearly failed to produce the desired results, not only for the Indians but for large section of the Malays as well who continue to live in poverty even in urban areas. Such a racial policy is not going to help the Indian community who from just 8% of the population and with no economic or political power to change things.

What is needed is for the Indian community to adopt a new mindset in keeping with the rapidly changing competitive scenario in a global world where only the best succeed. They must strive to be the best by casting aside their out-dated believes and practises and acquire the new advances in science, technology and commerce. There is no place for complacency, laziness and over-dependence on fate or divine help in this modern era of scientific and technological sophistication.

To master these new skills and techniques they must become competent in English like their predecessors of the sixties and seventies. Unfortunately today English is being neglected as it is seen as a threat to their mother tongue and Tamil culture. Returning to their own culture and language is not wrong but should they do it at the expense of English which is so vital for progress today?

The political landscape in the country has changed where race-based politics is becoming obsolete. The Indians being a minority will always be marginalised if they continue to strive along such racial lines. They must adopt a mindset to consider themselves as Malaysians to fight along with the other races without ethnic distinction. Only such a multiracial platform will guarantee a better future for their future generation.

The Prime Minister’s visit to Chennai and Batu caves may be a boost to the morale of the Indians but there is much more to be done by them if they want to become equal to the other races in this nation of opportunities. Unless they, in particular the Tamils, buck up and change their work ethics and attitude to life, no amount of aid from the government or other parties is going to elevate the socio-economic status to be in par with other communities.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dragon boat tragedy - Casual attitude cost lives

Take safety seriously

The dragon boat tragedy in which six youngsters lost their lives was indeed a sad day for the nation. It was a tragedy that should not have occurred in the first place. We understand the agony the families are undergoing and we deeply sympathesise with them especially the parents of the deceased.

It is the third in a series of such mishaps over a period of months.The first was the bridge tragedy in Kampar,Perak followed by the express bus tragedy in Ipoh.Besides these there are numerous such mishaps on a smaller scales including the numerous fatal road accidents and grievous industrial accidents that occur daily without fail.

The common factor that underlies these accidents is the unprofessional and a casual attitude of Malaysians to established safety rules that govern the various organised activities. It is extremely disturbing that Malaysians in general do not take recommended safety rules seriously because they feel such tragedies are exceptions to the rule as they rarely occur .The attitude “It will occur to others not me” is strongly prevalent among Malaysians giving them a false sense of confidence.

Like other tragedies before, the dragon boat mishap too has created so much finger-pointing as to who is to be blamed. As usual nobody will take responsibility for the incident and after a period of hoo-ha and some compensation is paid everything will cool down and we allow the healing effects of time to take its course. The real cause of the tragedy and the culprits responsible will remain a mystery.

Only after the tragedy we are told the new venue chosen for the race is not suitable as it has strong undercurrents and heavy traffic. Why in the first place was the venue selected when it was unsuitable? Were any experts consulted on the suitability before selecting the venue?

Another factor that is of concern is that some of the participants and the supervising teacher did not know swimming. How can one be allowed to participate in any water sports without adequate knowledge and experience in swimming? Wouldn’t it be proper to include swimming as a criteria for participating in such water sports?

Furthermore some of the participants did not wear life jackets. While life jackets do not guarantee absolute safety, they are the minimum requirement for those involved in water sports. The other disturbing fact was that no proper arrangements were in place to deal with any eventualities that may occur at sea. There was no rescue team on standby to deal with any emergencies if and when they occur.

The dragon boat tragedy must be used as lesson for all to adhere strictly to all safety measures that are stipulated for all activities in schools. Schools must ensure that clear cut rules are there in place and the pupils must be made to adhere to them without fail. Serious attention must be paid to these rules and anyone who breaches them must be severely reprimanded to deter others from doing so.

Mistakes and accidents are inevitable and they do occur despite the most stringent precautionary measures but they must be kept to a minimum by carefully and intentionally adhering to all safety regulations at all times however safe the activity may appear to be. It is equally important is to use such mistakes and failures as lessons to prevent recurrence of similar accidents in the future. What is really disheartening is that we not only don’t seem to be learning from our mistakes but don’t seem to be even bothered to do so.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The woman who lives to benefit others

Her children mean everything to her

Many people pass us by in our lives but often only the bad draw our attention whereas the good people pass by without us noticing them. This is because of the humble nature of the latter. We are too busy with our lives that we fail to pay any attention to them. If only we pause
a while and reflect on their goodness we may be better persons in this world, where the good seem to be rarely appreciated and rewarded. The bad on the other hand seem to be rewarded with one success after another. Every person, big or small, weak or strong, rich or poor, has something to contribute to us, the good must be an example of what we should be and the bad of what we should not be.

Mdm.Q is one such person who crossed my life whom I consider should be an example of what we should all ape. She may not have high academic qualifications, no position of power or wealth but she remains a living example of what a human should be – live to benefit someone else other than your own self and family. She may not have a towering physique but she possesses the great virtues that many of us badly lack – discipline, righteousness and kindness.

Mdm.Q is now in her fifties and lives with her family, a husband and three beautiful children. Since her marriage in her mid-twenties she ploughed her way through life with the man she chose to build a successful and happy family which meant everything to her. Her family was her life and it was the centre of the world for her. She gave everything she had for the well being of her family.

Since she got married she adopted her husband’s family as her own. She never stopped her husband from helping his family but only encouraged him to do more for them. This is a rare situation these days where the daughter-in- law creates a lot of problems for the family into which she gets married, which results in the breakup of a once happy and united family.

In the case of Mdm.Q, she is so close to her in-laws that they confide more in her than their own children. Her late father-in-law had such an exalted opinion of her which he confessed during the final days of his life. To me this speaks volumes of the inherent goodness of Mdm.Q who goes out of the way to offer her services to anyone whom she meets not just her children or members of her own family.

Mdm.Q has a very special love for her children. She takes great pains to ensure all their needs are taken take of – food, clothing, and health and she is particularly a good companion for them. Food has always been a very important component of her love. When she got married she did know how much about cooking but today she is a fantastic cook able to prepare any dish be it Indian, Chinese or Western cuisine. It was all because of her love for the children that inspired her to go all out to learn cooking the hard way of trial and error. Although many have tasted her food there is yet one to say anything negative about her cooking.

She wakes up every day before five in the morning so that breakfast can be ready before the children to go school. She continues to do that religiously day after day without fail for over 20 years. Even the cockroaches and rats which she fears so much could deter from doing that. I am told one can count the number of days when she had failed to get up in time. Such was her discipline and commitment to her children whom she loved so much.

She left her daughter under the care of her mother-in-law as achid as she could not find a baby sitter to satisfy her requirements. When she realized that her daughter was not getting enough of her personal attention, Mdm.Q willingly gave up her job without making a fuss unlike many others.In fact her close friend commended her saying "You have done something which many would like to but not brave enough to do so".

From then on she became a full time housewife to take of her children which she did excellently and continues to do so till today. She often describes her job as a homemaker as more important and challenging than being an income earner which we all will agree.

She slogged day and night to build her beautiful family into a united and tremendously happy one that was the envy of many, friend and foe alike. God was so happy with her but He wanted to reveal more of her goodness for others to follow and so He decided to give her some greater challenges in her life in the form of her children.

He sons did not do that well in their studies as expected in our materialistic, competitive and selfish society. However they were great in ways that are far more important than academic excellence. Their love, obedience and loyalty to her are more valuable than all the As in examinations. Mdm.Q accepted their shortcomings with so much humility and full trust in God believing that He has His strange ways of rewarding people who do good without any ulterior motives. I am very sure the Lord will reward her for this unshakable trust in Him in the near future.

Greater challenge and shock came in the form of her daughter who made a very major mistake in the choice of her life partner.The daughter’s choice breached every principle in life that were so dear to the mother - righteousness, honesty and high morals. The choice upset her so much that she was terribly shaken mentally, emotionally and physically. It is strange and puzzling that despite all the love and sacrifice rendered in bringing them up some children turn out to be disobedient and rebellious. This is the greatest pain that Mdm.Q is unable to endure.

Yet she says she has full confidence that God will bring a change in the daughter for the better. She believes that He will guide her sons to succeed in their lives. She strongly believes that God has His own reasons for trying her. She firmly believes that God will only try the good but will never forsake them when it really matters.

In fact all her children are wonderful in their own ways, being very good and full of love and extremely caring for the mother. They are polite, simple, courteous and always helpful to those in need including the elders, at a time when the young of today have little time for the elderly and infirm. She says she could not have asked for children better than what she has been bestowed. She always has and will continue to have a special place for them in her heart and her only hope is that they too will have one for her in theirs.

The great Chinese philosopher once said “ Do not do unto others what you do not like when done unto you” and Mdm Q is guided by the believe that we must go out of the way to do to others what we would like them to do to us.

Some people are placed in this world to be used as examples for others to admire and follow or despise and reject. Mdm.Q belongs to the former category. She is a classical example who clearly demonstrates my philosophy in life, “Life is a challenge with ups and downs, what is important in this journey is to do the right thing always under all circumstances and God will always be on our side come what may”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Church arson reveals inherent goodwill

Offers hope for a lasting solution if not politicised

Malaysians witnessed some tense and defining moments over the last few days. The arson attacks on Churches following the High Court judgment on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims were indeed sad and dangerous acts. There was great relief that the retaliation over the verdict was not as serious as expected. Even the much feared mass protests did not get the support of the people.

The vast majority of Malaysians including Muslims openly condemned the attacks on churches calling them un-Islamic and uncivilized. In fact many Muslim scholars and leaders had very harsh words for those who carried out these attacks. The Christians on the other hand kept calm and restrained from retaliating thereby avoiding aggravating already the tense situation further.

There was a rare show of mutual concern and love between Muslims and Christians following the firebombing of the churches. In churches around the country Christians gathered to offer prayers for peace in the country. The sermons emphasized on forgiveness and love for fellow Muslims not revenge and retaliation. On the other hand many Muslim groups reciprocated with their gesture of goodwill. They volunteered to guard the churches and offering their hands of friendship to the Christian minority.

Even the politicians across the political divide came forward to condemn the attacks and offered aid in the form of money, security, temporary venues for worship and above all reassurance. On the whole there was an air of repentance and forgiveness prevailed instead of hate and revenge that helped bring the tension down quickly and without major catastrophe.The abundant goodwill that ensued was unprecedented and took Malaysians by surprise .

It must be noted that the moderate majority on both sides managed to take control to deny the minority extremists in their midst to disrupt the peace and stability. Moreover it exposed the inherent goodwill in them by their conciliatory gestures that were unprecedented. These actions of the moderate majority helped pull the country quickly from the brink of chaos. This was a positive development that augurs well for the well being of the future of nation with diverse race and religion if only it is not politicised.

The whole episode demonstrated a high level of wisdom and maturity of the people which was underestimated all these years. This is the second time after the historic 12th General Elections when the people rose beyond expectations to do the right thing for the well being of the nation. They have made it clear that they are not going to allow the few opportunists to undermine the peace and harmony that we have cherished all these years.

It also shows that the people are beginning to accept the stark realities of the need for the people of varied races and religion to coexist peacefully. Whether they like or not the people of all ethnicity have to adapt to this hard reality of life in our multiracial and multi-religious nation. They must not just tolerate but accept and respect the differences among them however great they may be.

The dispute over the use of Allah is far from over but with so much inherent goodwill among the people there is a good chance that it can be solved amicably without politicizing the issue further. There is a need to understand the emotional and legal implications of the issue on both the disputing parties who must compromise to reach an amicable situation. Long-term solution is by means of dialogue and goodwill not legal suits which will only aggravate the already tense situation by playing into the hands of opportunist extremists.

Similar inter-faith disputes are bound to crop again and again. With the increasing maturity of the people I am sure we can overcome all of them amicably. The only way forward is civil inter-faith dialogue which the people have indicated they are ready and it now up to the political leaders to make it happen, the sooner the better.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ensure quality care at 1Malaysia clinics

The government’s decision to set up 1Malaysia clinics to serve the urban poor is a laudable one that would be most welcome especially by those in the lower income group. Like in our countries, urban poverty has now become a major and it time for the government to seriously address the issue.

More planning and funds need to be channeled to provide for the basic needs of this group of citizens who are major contributors to the development of the nation. Neglecting them will only lead to the many social ills in cities and major towns. The 1Malaysia clinic concept is indeed a positive move in caring for the welfare of these urban poor. It comes at an appropriate time when the cost of basic health care is becoming beyond the reach of many wage earners in urban areas who are struggling to cope with the economic downturn.

We already have the hospitals and their satellite health clinics all in major towns. In addition the local city councils also run maternal and child clinics. It would be more appropriate and economical to extend and improve these clinics instead of starting new 1Malaysia clinics to be manned by Medical Assistants (MA) and Staff Nurses (SN). The name itself denotes a political motive in providing health services to the urban poor.

Meanwhile there are genuine concerns from the medical fraternity regarding the quality of care at these clinics particularly when they are manned by paramedical staff and not qualified doctors. Medical Assistants and trained staff nurses may be able to carry out simple treatment like wound dressings, giving injections and screening tests for common diseases like diabetes and hypertension but are they competent enough to diagnose and treat minor diseases? It must be borne in mind that even treatment of minor ailments is not without major complications.

Furthermore there is no way one can stop major medical emergencies from being rushed into these clinics for immediate attention. What arrangements have been made to cater for these cases? Are these clinics properly constructed and equipped according the stringent criteria as stipulated by the Health Ministry to handle such emergencies? Otherwise wouldn’t an unnecessary delay at these clinics be detrimental to the prognosis of these dire emergencies? The ministry must take into consideration all these factors as they also have medico-legal implications as well.

MA and SN have definite and important roles in any health-care system. In fact they had played pivotal roles as ‘holding the fort’ in many hospitals, outpatient and maternal and child health clinics in the past when we did not have many doctors. They had done excellent jobs in providing dedicated and quality medical care.

There are no doubts that many of our senior nurses and MA are adequately trained, capable and experienced enough to treat simple ailments but can we say that of present day MA and nurses who are mainly trained in nursing care? Today the training is very much different; the nurses and MA are trained in nursing care and not so much in diagnosis and treatment of diseases as we have more than enough doctors to do that. Entrusting the treatment of diseases however minor they may appear, will not be a wise move particularly when the people’s expectations are high.

The Health Ministry must do its best to get medical officers to man these clinics as that would provide more reliable and acceptable treatment to the people today. It will be the only way to reduce the number of people going to the hospitals for minor ailments. The reported shortage of doctors is only relative and with better management they can be distributed more evenly to cover these clinics.

The public must be educated not to abuse these clinics, meant for the poor, as a means to obtain cheap medication. Those who can afford should continue to patronize the private clinics and not be selfish to “compete” with the poor for treatment at these clinics. This will also allay the fears of private practitioners who have expressed concerns for their “business” with the mushrooming of these 1Malaysia clinics.

The people are entitled to the best medical care from government facilities regardless of their affordability even for minor ailments. Its quality should not be compromised just because it is provided cheap for the urban poor.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, January 08, 2010

Let Allah be a uniting not dividing factor

Dialogue not courts to solve Inter-faith disputes

The High Court decision allowing the Herald to use the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia edition was received with mixed reactions. The Christians hailed the judgment as a victory for justice and freedom of religious worship. On the other hand the reactions from Muslims seem to be divided. Some acted with anger as they see it as an infringement of their rights and the status of Islam as the official religion. There others, including prominent Muslim scholars and notably Islamic party PAS, did not see the judgment going against the principles of Islam.

Despite strong pressures, PAS and many Muslim leaders from the opposition and some from the ruling party and many learned Muslim scholars have not wavered from their bold and uncompromising stand to uphold truth and justice. All peace loving Malaysians salute them for their high level of tolerance, wisdom and maturity.

However the episode as usual was quickly capitalized by politicians for their advantage so much so it was blown out of proportion to becomes an emotionally sensitive issue. The positive thing that came out was that it opened up a public debate on an issue that was not imaginable before. Thanks to the internet technology and the maturity of the people of all races. Unfortunately the minority extremists on both sides in the dispute are turning a simple issue into a major religious conflict. The moderate and peace loving majority should stand firm not to be influenced to react irrationally by emotions.

Muslims or Christians, we are all Malaysians and must display great maturity and wisdom not do allow anything that may disrupt the peace and harmony in the country. This is our solemn duty to our nation which we must all uphold at all times, at all costs and under all circumstances.

In the first place this dispute on the right to use “Allah” should not gone to the courts as such sensitive religious issues can never be solved by them. It can only be solved by dialogue in the spirit of brotherhood and goodwill as expounded by both Islam and Christianity.

The Home Minister should have invited the editor of Herald for a cordial discussion on the use of ‘Allah’ in its publication instead of arrogantly banning its use altogether with a stroke of the pen. It would have been an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the virtue of love for fellow men which are the basic principles of both great religions. Unfortunately this was not done and we have the undesirable situation we are in now.

Now that the court has decided it is only proper for all parties to accept the verdict in good faith. The party that is not happy should go through the proper legal channels to redress the issue not resort to street protests and threats to obtain their wish. This will be unconstitutional and an act of disrespect to the court.

The vast majority of Malaysians of all races are busy struggling to making ends meet at a time of great economic difficulties and they have no time for politicking or riots. They want a peaceful and harmonious environment to live and carry on their daily routine. It is very sad and deeply disturbing and disappointing to see opportunistic politicians going all out to capitalize on the Allah issue to the maximum. They resort to all sorts of racist tactics to gain support least bothered on the consequences that their actions might have on the security of the nation.

This is not the time to blame one another for the ‘Allah controversy’ and tense situation that it is leading to. It has to be stopped immediately by the fair and firm actions of the police and the government to prevent it from escalating further by the exploitation by irresponsible and extremist elements on both sides.

It is time for a lasting and amicable solution to this dispute and all inter-faith disputes once and all. This can only be achieved by engagement consultation in the form of inter-faith dialogue and not the courts which can only grant temporary solution to such disputes.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has called on all parties to be calm and he promised to settle the problem amicably in a peaceful manner. This is an opportunity for him to demonstrate that he can do that impartially in keeping with his 1Malaysia policy.

Inter-faith dialogues especially between Muslims and Christians are being emphasized at international levels since the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Malaysia being a multiracial and multi-religious country should take the lead in such inter-faith dialogue in our own country. It is an opportunity to show the world how we can promote peace and harmony among the various races and religions by getting rid of our suspicion and hatred for one another by engagement and dialogue.

Let us show the world that we can live together peacefully as children of the one true God, whatever name we choose to call Him. Let Him be the uniting not dividing factor.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The fight over God's name ungodly

God is God whatever name we call Him.

The recent High Court verdict on the use of "Allah" caused a a controversy that may turn ugly if not handled with care.

It calls for tolerance,goodwill and a logic mind among Malaysians off all faith.They must not rush into rash actions that they will regret later.

If one truly believes in God then he/she should stop this fight to own the name to call Him.Allah,Tuhan, Lord or whatever it may be,does it matter to Him whom we consider Almighty and all merciful?

God is God whatever name we call Him.

Let's put this issue to rest once and for all and continue to do what God really wants to - spread His love and goodwill to ALL regardless of race or creed.

If we do the right thing God will always be on our side regardless what we call Him.

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 ...