Driving excellence in Muslim world

June 20th, 2018
Universiti Malaya is one of only three universities from Muslim-majority countries in the top 200 of the QS World University Rankings. FILE PIC

THE news that Universiti Malaya has achieved 87th place in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University Rankings is a cause for celebration for Malaysians. With Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at 184th, Malaysia now boasts two top- ranked universities in the Muslim world.

Despite these achievements, the fact remains that the academic performance of universities in Muslim countries lags behind the rest of the world.

At this time of contemplation for all Muslims and the dawn of a new era for Malaysians, it is appropriate to ask “why?” Here are some reflections.


No. Muslims represent a quarter of humanity. Based on population, there should be around 50 universities from Muslim countries in the top 200 QS ranking. But, there are only three (King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia is ranked 189th).

Perhaps Muslims don’t really have an academic tradition of scholarship?

Nonsense. While most students are dazzled by the antiquity of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, they remain unaware that the first universities were founded in Asia and Africa, predating European universities often by hundreds of years. Which Muslim student knows that the University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in Morocco in 859 AD by a woman (Fatima al-Fihri), is the oldest existing, operating and degree-awarding educational institution in the world?

Western mathematicians and scientists owe a debt to the Islamic scholars who helped Europe emerge from the Dark Ages.


Not true. Muslims are among the richest people on Earth. Based on per capita income, six of 25 richest countries are Muslim countries — here at least we meet our quota. Of course, individual wealth in a few small, rich countries is not a measure of the wealth of our resources. But, here again, we have no excuses.

From the fossil reserves of the Middle East to the biodiversity of Asia, Muslims can claim more than their share of the planet’s bounty. Malaysia alone hosts five per cent of the world’s plant species, and some of the richest sources of terrestrial and marine biodiversity on the planet. Muslim countries span a “fertile crescent” from Senegal (further west than Ireland), Kazakhstan (further north than Denmark) and Indonesia (further east than Japan and further south than Brazil).


True, but even if we ignore the blunt tool of university rankings, research from Muslim countries is less cited than from elsewhere. No author in the 100 most cited papers in the prestigious journal, Nature, was from a Muslim country. Despite forming the majority population of 57 nations and citizenship of most others, only three Muslim scientists are among the more than 900 Nobel Prize laureates.

Muslim countries rarely
feature in metrics of research performance, spending or scientific discoveries.


Really? Almost half of the global poor live in the Muslim world. Sixty per cent of Muslims are aged below 30 and most of them live in rural poverty. Unemployment is often high, especially for women and youth. At the same time, many Muslim countries depend on food imports since they cannot feed their own people. If we built a “Trumpian Wall” around the Muslim world, many of us would starve.


By themselves, they won’t. For too long, scientists have been encouraged, indeed rewarded, for working in narrow disciplinary silos with a single objective — to publish. It is easier to follow the “publish or perish” maxim than to cross its boundaries. Cited publications remain the currency of academic success.

However, to solve existential challenges (such as climate change), scientists must increasingly work in multidisciplinary, multinational teams. They must welcome contributions from colleagues who neither look nor think like them, but bring new perspectives to a common challenge. This means that we must share, and not compete for, resources, welcome new ideas and encourage debate. We must ask whether our research is relevant to the challenges facing our communities and learn lessons from elsewhere. Publications will not empower communities, shared experiences may.


Islamic finance offers unique instruments to build climate resilient communities. Its principles and modus operandi bring a different perspective to sustainability. For zakat funds to be used for their purpose, an additional condition needs to be met, that is, the beneficiaries must be poor. The institution of waqf can help communities cope with humanitarian crises resulting from climate change. Waqf foundations can directly engage in provision of goods and services related to climate mitigation and adaptation.

Islamic Green funds and Green Sukuk can contribute to research on climate change. While the principles of Islamic finance can support climate change research, it is researchers who must work with communities to deliver climate resilience.

By Professor Sayed Azam-Ali.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381066/driving-excellence-muslim-world

Protect Melaka’s turtle nesting sites

June 20th, 2018
Pulau Upeh’s close proximity to the Klebang land reclamation project site has degraded its once-pristine beach, robbing turtles of warm sand to nest and lay eggs. FILE PIC

I REFER to the report “Melaka orders halt to sand mining, forest product harvesting” (NST, June 11) and would like to applaud Chief Minister Adly Zahari’s endeavour to ensure the quality and sustainability of the state’s environment.

The new cabinet, with 13 federal ministers from Pakatan Harapan (PH), was sworn in late last month, but the absence of a natural resources and environment minister stirred anxiety among the environmental non-governmental organisations.

Although environmental protection is not one of the top 10 priorities in the first 100 days of the PH administration, Adly’s decision to cease sand mining and logging in Melaka is indeed encouraging. It shows that PH is earnest about its promise to balance economic growth and environmental protection, as stated in Promise 39 of its manifesto.

Given Adly’s enthusiasm towards environmental protection, I wish to highlight the issue of turtle conservation in Melaka.

There are 10 prime hawksbill turtle nesting sites in Melaka that contributes 400 to 450 nests annually: Pulau Upeh, Padang Kemunting, Balik Batu, Kem Terendak, Tanjung Bidara, Pasir Gembur, Teluk Belanga, Tanjung Serai, Tanjung Dahan and Meriam Patah.

Pulau Upeh once had the highest number of turtle landings and nesting sites. Due to its close proximity to the Klebang land reclamation project site, rapid coastal erosion degraded the once-pristine beach, robbing turtles of the warm sand to nest and lay eggs.

Fewer turtles landed to nest in Pulau Upeh over the years.

While promising economic growth and development, land reclamation has caused extensive environmental catastrophes. It is, therefore, vital to study the sustainability of land reclamation projects for development in Melaka.

In March, former chief minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron announced a RM20 million project to redevelop Pulau Upeh into a top tourism destination in Melaka.

With turtle landings one of the major attractions, Pulau Upeh should attract about 51,000 tourists upon completion of the redevelopment project next year.

In an interview last month, Adly also expressed an interest to turn Pulau Upeh into a turtle rehabilitation zone. Given the environmental degradation in Pulau Upeh, however, Adly should perhaps reconsider this move.

Beach restoration will likely incur a heavy financial burden and there is no guarantee that turtles will return to nest in Pulau Upeh.

Instead of saving a sinking ship, the state government should turn its focus to other prime turtle nesting beaches in Melaka, especially Padang Kemunting and Kem Terendak.

In November 2016, Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Datuk Md Rawi Mahmud proposed gazetting an 800m stretch of the Padang Kemunting beach as a turtle sanctuary.

Although it pales in comparison to the Sabah government’s gazetting of 898,762.76ha in the northern seas of Sabah as the Tun Mustapha Marine Park in May 2016, Rawi’s proposal, if approved, would have given Melaka its first turtle sanctuary to better protect nesting turtles

Almost two years have passed since, but no turtle sanctuary has come into existence.

Now that PH has taken over the governance of Melaka, why not immediately gazette Padang Kemunting as the first turtle sanctuary in Melaka to demonstrate the new administration’s commitment to environmental protection and sustainability?

Such a sanctuary will serve as a significant stride towards a greener Melaka.


Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381852/protect-melakas-turtle-nesting-sites

Malays should preserve sanctity of ‘adat’ and ‘adab’

June 20th, 2018
‘It is the Malay adat and adab that have kept the Malay world intact for centuries. It is the adab raja-raja that keeps the respect for the monarchy sacrosanct. It is the adab that makes us great diplomats. It is the adab that takes foreigners by surprise when they arrive and allow grudging respect to grow.’ — Ninot Aziz (File pix)

MALAYS have lost our belief in the idea of a Malay ideology. A way of life. A philosophy.

Without this core, nothing else comes together — politics, economy, education, race, thought and leadership.

What is this core, really?

It is the Malay adat and adab that have kept the Malay world intact for centuries. It is the adab raja-raja that keeps the respect for the monarchy sacrosanct. It is the adab that makes us great diplomats. It is the adab that takes foreigners by surprise when they arrive and allow grudging respect to grow.

It is the adat merantau that sends us in search of knowledge and wisdom, makes us great seafarers, charters of stars, readers of the sea, traders, warriors and the learned. All this, hundreds of years ago.

It is the adat of appreciating beautiful things that makes our artisans great craftsmen — brass, wood, bamboo, rattan, gold, silver, pewter, textile and herbs. It is through adat that we enjoy our beautiful culture — tari-tarian, bunyi-bunyian and lakar-lakaran.

It is our understanding of nature that makes us perfect guardians of the forest, and caretakers of gemstones and minerals within.

It is our appreciation of the surrounding mountains, valleys, rivers and seas that allows us to build beautiful homes that are one with the elements.

Why do the most beautiful resorts mimic the Malay house? YTL’s Pangkor Laut and Tanjung Jara Resorts? Terrapuri, Terengganu? Bon Ton, Langkawi

As our religion changed and we anchored ourselves in Islam, we kept our core intact, being flexible, but never sacrificing adab and adat.

Our raja-raja’s respect for knowledge allowed the scribes of thousands of manuscripts to pen our knowledge. Hidden histories as wisdom for future generation; hikayat and literature so that we have beautiful souls. Yet, we turn our back on this very knowledge we garnered by burying jawialive in our curriculum.

Today, we ridicule adab and adat as hocus pocus, never giving it the respect it deserves, unlike the Chinese and Indians who revere their cultural background.

We ask ourselves, “What have we lost? What have we lost?”

By Ninot Aziz.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/381856/malays-should-preserve-sanctity-adat-and-adab

‘A single multiracial party to strengthen GPS’

June 20th, 2018
Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) suggestion to form a single multiracial party is meant to build a strong political foundation for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS). (File pix)
By Goh Pei Pei - June 20, 2018 @ 12:51pm

KUCHING: Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) suggestion to form a single multiracial party is meant to build a strong political foundation for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Its Youth publicity chief Andy Lawrence said his party president Tan Sri James Jemut Masing believed it was crucial to further strengthen the local parties while GPS was still at its infancy.

“We accept the fact that it has to be finetuned and respect Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg’s notion that it is an evolution.”

PRS, however, did not mean to dictate GPS’ structure instead it was merely giving suggestions.

“Our president (James Masing) was putting up a bold, realistic and constructive suggestion for the betterment of GPS and Sarawak as a whole,” Andy said.

“We believe to challenge or change the current status of the political environment shouldn’t be viewed as a negative move.

“We need to come out from this scenario as changes are necessary in this new political landscape,” he added.

“Although making changes would be tough, it is necessary to continue to stay relevant.”

He said a recent call by certain quarters for PRS to change its president was uncalled for.

By Goh Pei Pei.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2018/06/381918/single-multiracial-party-strengthen-gps

That world of the World Cup returns.

June 17th, 2018
Great show: Diego Maradona celebrating Argentina’s victory in the 1986 Mexico edition.

Great show: Diego Maradona celebrating Argentina’s victory in the 1986 Mexico edition.

THE hits just keep coming. Malaysians have never had it so good (or so bad, depending on your perspective) since the seismic events of May 9.

The change of government, politics, exposures of corruption scandals and the fulfilment of election promises have ensured a never-ending news cycle for the majority of us.

No other news event, with the possible exception of the Trump-Kim summit, has dominated local headlines. But that is about to change.

For one glorious month, starting last night, the eve of Hari Raya, Malaysians will be glued to the biggest sporting event in the world.

The World Cup always brings back happy memories. Fans my age will remember Adidas Rummenigge and Puma King boots, the Panini album, Gillette rulebooks, Sunshine bread cards and Ovaltine stickers.

We don’t have any of that stuff now, but the cheesy anthems and Vuvuzelas from previous editions are still around. I know a friend who has taken a month off (the final is on July 15) to watch EVERY single match.

Most of us don’t put our lives on hold like that, but I do know of friends and colleagues who have taken leave to catch some key matches from the 64 games that will be played at 12 venues.

And of course, there are the lucky few who have obtained tickets and will be heading to Russia to join the hundreds of thousands.

There should not be many spotting red eyes turning out for work in this World Cup as a large number of matches will kick off between 8pm and 11pm.

There are a few starting at 2am.

Nevertheless, the difference in time zone is certainly much better compared to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when Malaysians had to stay up till the wee hours to catch games.

Russia has set aside a budget of US$12-US$14bil (RM47.8bil-RM55.8bil) to stage the event, making this the most expensive World Cup ever.

But the bookies around the world are expected to make a bigger killing. Malaysia is no different because bookies are extra busy during this period.

The exact figure is in dispute, but industry insiders believe that illegal bookies taking bets on the greatest show in the world rake in more than RM1bil in one month!

Punters love the World Cup because of the endless betting possibilities and the bookies are laughing all the way to the bank because it’s a one-month sporting extravaganza that nets them the most amount of money.

The competition has already drawn the interest of the police who are keeping a close eye on bookies and illegal betting.

Despite the best of policing, it will be impossible to wipe out illegal sports betting. No thanks to technology that has given the average bookie a new lease of life.

If in the past bets were taken over the phone via scraps of paper (evidence that the police look for), now punters do not even need to meet their bookies.

Everything – from the moment you place your bet to collection of money – is done electronically.

As usual, technology also has its upside.

In this respect, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system made its World Cup debut yesterday. Despite its controversial introduction in club football, I believe it is the least disruptive way of settling disputes on the football field.

Its scope is limited to correcting the clear and obvious error in four categories: goals, penalties, red cards and issues of mistaken identity.

It can only address issues when the referee’s interpretation becomes subjective and possibly flawed.

It would be interesting to speculate how the game’s history would have been different if VAR had been introduced before 2018.

Every World Cup is unique, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had a really great final. The last, truly memorable final was in 1986 when a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina beat West Germany.

But would Argentina have actually made the final if VAR had confirmed Maradona’s blatant handball goal in the quarter-finals match against England?

Nostalgia has hit me big time and like the hundreds of millions of fans around the world, I’ve been bitten by the football bug. Who will win the cup?

That’s the beauty of the event because in theory, all 32 teams have the chance of lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15.

Three teams stand out when it comes to ruling the rostrum – Brazil, Germany and Italy. They have held the world champion mantle 13 out of the 20 times the competition has been played. Italy, though, are out of the world Cup this time.

by Brian Martin
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/on-your-side/2018/06/15/that-world-of-the-world-cup-returns-for-once-every-four-years-planet-earth-will-revolve-around-a-bal/#LFIIsK6bGQ1rTXER.99

Looking East with a twist

June 17th, 2018

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) has announced that Malaysia is renewing, or to be more precise, upgrading the Look East policy he adopted as a foreign policy 30 years ago.

It was unveiled after he came to power in 1981 and now, as the premier for the second time, he has picked up the pieces of his past and repackaged it.

His inclination to Japan then was understandable since the country was the rising star of Asia.

Although Look East included South Korea and Taiwan, it basically meant Japan.

I think any Malaysian who has visited Japan can vouch for the people’s work ethic, honesty, orderliness, politeness, punctuality, cleanliness, precision, dedication to excellence, innovation and good manners.

Malaysians in Japan feel safe – they rarely get cheated despite being tourists, which is more than can be said for many countries.

Personally, Japan remains my No. 1 holiday destination. Like Dr Mahathir, I have the highest admiration for the Japanese. They are certainly exemplary, and that is indisputable.

Dr Mahathir has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

His Look East Policy shocked and confused the Malaysian foreign ministry, with many officials viewing it as undefined and vague.

The Ministry being left in the dark about the Prime Minister’s move led to it being unaware of how to implement the policy.

Fast forward to 2018. It’s likely that his new batch of ministers were also caught off guard with the revival of the Look East policy, more so when the Foreign Minister has yet to be installed.

Without doubt, Japan is an important partner to Malaysia because we have more than six decades’ ties with the country.

In 2016, Japan ranked Malaysia as its fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade standing at RM120bil.The strong trade and investment relations between the nations are also underpinned by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The latest Malaysia-Japan collaboration includes the Bukit Bintang City Centre project, which has managed to attract the leading real estate group in the Land of the Rising Sun, Mitsui Fudisan Co Ltd, to invest in what will be the mega project’s RM1.6bil retail mall.

But Dr Mahathir’s choice of his first foreign visit to Japan as PM has raised many eyebrows. Perhaps it was just the coincidental timing of the annual Nikkei Conference, which he attends without fail.

I was told that his office had informed the Chinese Embassy here, as a matter of courtesy, to avoid reading into the matter, given the long, bitter rivalry between the two nations.

Dr Mahathir was also visiting Japan after a series of announcements, calling for the review, if not cancellation or postponement, of several mega Chinese-driven projects in Malaysia.

The method of repayments with China, involving huge amounts of money, has, of course, been called into question and condemned. One critic even described the terms as “strange.”

It’s apparent the situation is delicate now, and we need to tread carefully because we are dealing with a global leader.

Powerful alliance

The PM admitted that his government was “dealing with a very powerful country. As such, matters affecting both parties will require friendly discussions”.

Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said that Malaysia will carefully handle business contracts with China made by the previous administration.

In an interview with The Star, Daim admitted that the economic superpower is a friend to Malaysia.

“China is very important to us,” the Council of Eminent Persons spokesman said.

“We enjoy very close relations, but unfortunately, under the previous administration, a lot of China contracts are tainted, difficult to understand and the terms are one-sided,” said Daim.

There is plenty at stake here. The world has also changed, and Malaysia needs to be mindful of its diplomatic move. These are sensitive times, and to the Chinese, the issue of “face” is an important one.

Whether we like it or not, the whole world is looking towards China because this is where the fundamental building blocks of a future global digital economic model is being curated and built.

Japan’s economy, on the other hand, has been in regression over the last two decades, and open data is easily available to prove this point. Just google it.

That aside, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in Asean, especially after Malaysia-China bilateral transactions rose as much as 28% to RM139.2bil in 2017’s first half.

The Chinese government has been very positive with bilateral relations with Malaysia over the years, and this great foundation is what we must build on. It doesn’t matter who the Malaysian Prime Minister is now.

With Ali Baba and Tencent coming to Malaysia, SMEs – which comprise more than 95% of Malaysian business entities – exporting to China will be a huge foreign trade opportunity.

Of all the Asean nations, Malaysia has the largest pool of businessmen who speak the relevant Chinese dialects and understand the culture. But it’s not just the Malaysian Chinese businessmen who stand to benefit, but other races too.

Let’s not forget that China will be under steady stewardship for the coming decade since Xi Jinping has strengthened his position as the premier. And with Dr Mahathir rightfully announcing that Malaysia will be a neutral country, this will mean a stable foreign policy which is crucial for the rules of engagement.

The same can’t be said of Japan, though, as it has a history of turbulent domestic politics, with frequent changes in leadership.

Truth be told, China has outperformed Japan. The republic has become a model of socio-economic reform that connects, not only the past with the present, but more importantly, can rewrite the history of human development into our common future.

The One Belt, One Road initiative is the future. It was also reported that China has overtaken Japan in global patent applications filed in 2017 and is closing in on the United States, the long-standing leader, the World Intellectual Property Organization said in a report.

With 48,882 filings, up 13.4% from a year earlier, Chinese entities came closer to their American counterparts, which filed 56,624 applications. Japanese applicants ranked third with 48,208 demands for patents, up 6.6% from a year ago, the report, released Wednesday, revealed. According to the Geneva-based institution, China will likely overtake the US as the world’s largest patent applicant within three years.

“This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation,” WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

The overall filings in 2017 were 243,500, up 4.5% from a year earlier.

Data indicates that China and Japan were key drivers of the surge in applications.

“This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia,” Gurry reportedly said.

Two Chinese firms topped the list, led by Huawei Technologies Co with 4,024 patent applications and ZTE Corp with 2,965 submissions. Intel Corp of the United States is placed third with 2,637 filings, followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp with 2,521.

China has also declared its ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030.

If there is a single country to take a cue from, then it can only be China. Look at its growth since 1957, 1967, 1987, 1997 and 2017, and see the strides it has made in the shortest time. Remember, China was once poor and backwards. Many Malaysian Chinese used to send money back to their families in China, especially in 1950s and 1960s, and even 1970s. But look where the country is now.

Malaysia is in pole position to take advantage since our neighbour Singapore has always been perceived to be too US-centric. It will be a waste if we let politics get in the way, as no one can dispute that China now plays a respected and vital role.

By Wong Chun Wai
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/on-the-beat/2018/06/17/looking-east-with-a-twist-japan-may/#7wEkKcCOKDFuJTCF.99

Open house by TYT, state leaders stayed to celebrate Raya with crowd

June 17th, 2018

Head of State, Tun Juhar bin Mahiruddin (centre) and Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Hj Mohd Shafie bin Hj Apdal greeting the crowd that turned up at the annual Hari Raya open house hosted by the Head of State and his wife, Toh Puan Norlidah binti Tan Sri R.M. Jasni at the Istana today.

KOTA KINABALU: It was a gesture that touched the hearts of the people and Head of State when Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie Apdal and several of his cabinet ministers stayed to celebrate Hari Raya mingling with the crowd at the Istana today.

Earlier, the Chief Minister and his cabinet attended the annual Hari Raya open house hosted by Head of State, Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and his wife, Toh Puan Norlidah Tan Sri R.M. Jasni.

The event was held in two sessions starting from 10am to 11am for VVIPs and 11am to 1pm for the public.

Appearing relaxed and in fine mood, Tun Juhar extended his best wishes to the new government.

“This is the first time the Chief Minister and some of his cabinet ministers have joined me for the second part of the open house to celebrate this happy occasion with the people. It proves they are with the people and for the people. I am very glad they’re with me,” he said when addressing the crowd.

Cabinet ministers who remained for the second session of the open house were Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Christina Liew, Minister of Health and People’s Well-being, Stephen Wong and Minister of Youth and Sports, Frankie Poon.

After his brief address, Tun Juhar rendered two songs – One Night by Elvis Presley and Angin Malam that was made popular by Indonesian singer Broery Marantika.

He dedicated One Night to his wife and everyone present at the event.

Accompanying the Head of State on drums was his son, Al Hambra and the Sabah Cultural Board Combo.

Read more @http://www.theborneopost.com/2018/06/16/open-house-by-tyt-state-leaders-stayed-to-celebrate-raya-with-crowd/

Do not deprive kids of freedom and fun

June 17th, 2018
(File pix) A student being taught how to tie a climbing harness during a camping trip. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

WHEN I read about the ‘failings’ of the Malaysian education system, I strongly wanted to rebut with a ‘No’.

My school years were my best learning experience.

I do know a few things about learning experience because developing learning experience is what I do for a living in the United Kingdom. I have designed courses for clients such as the UK Ministry of Justice, analysed learning gaps for a top UK car company, trained an international non-governmental organisation, as well as developed compliance courses for the UK authorities.

Learning experience is the most important aspect in education.

Whichever pedagogic and andragogic approaches we choose, the key is learning experience. I think it is connected with stimulating the “happy ” chemicals in the brain — endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

My best learning as a child was in Malaysia. When I reflect on the learning experience of my children in the UK, I can sincerely say that their learning experience could not match mine. Yes, they have more opportunities in the UK. They went on field trips organised by the schools. They visited Spain, Switzerland and France. They have state-of-the-art equipment, dedicated and knowledgeable teachers, and nice lunches, too. They have meetups and parties with their friends.

But, something is missing. If I were to put a word to this type of

learning experience, it is “benign”.

Where is that supremely important, energy-bursting sense of adventure? I know that things have changed. School environments have changed. People and policies have changed. However, what child or adult doesn’t like a sense of adventure?

Perhaps that is why developmental psychologist Peter Gray stresses the importance of free play: “Children are designed by nature to teach themselves emotional resilience by playing in risky, emotion-inducing ways. We deprive children of free, risky play, ostensibly to protect them from danger. In the long run, we endanger them far more by preventing such play than allowing it. And, we deprive them of fun.”

My primary and secondary schools were a sanctuary where dreams were created, friendships fostered, ideas implemented and arguments lost with friends. In this world, teachers were bystanders. As long as we didn’t burn the school down, they were fine. We spent more than 10 hours there, even on Saturdays.

We owned our school. We raised funds through food sale to visit Penang and Pulau Pangkor. We collected funds to paint our classrooms and we did not even think of getting permission.

We just turned up on a Saturday morning with buckets of paint.

We listened to our head teacher, who taught us the most ludicrous way to swear (we were teenagers, you see) and for years, my colleagues were perplexed when I kept muttering shoes, shoes, shoes!

And, that freedom starts with the recognition of children’s right to education, trickling down to national legislation, shaping policies and guiding organisations (schools, colleges, nurseries, universities and the ministry ) in setting up their governance, functions and technical measures.

Despite the changing learning environments, one aspect of my learning remains to this day: freedom.

From freedom (we were free to paint our classes and organise events and trips) came empowerment (we raised funds and collaborated with other schools), and from empowerment we created (yes, we not the teachers or schools) our own learning experience and that experience became our foundation to be who and what we are today.

We are ordinary people. Are we millionaires? Chiefs of this and that? Prominent people? I suspect many of my friends are like me, ordinary people.

But the impact of fabulous early learning experience created an insatiable desire to learn — after completing my PhD in law, I ventured into project management, policy development, research, and human rights consultancy.

By Dr Suziana Shukor.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/379448/do-not-deprive-kids-freedom-and-fun

New hope to fight graft

June 17th, 2018
(File pix) Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking after chairing the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption meeting in Putrajaya on June 8. With him are Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Centre on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed. Bernama Photo

THE reactivation of the Cabinet Committee on Integrity in Governance as the Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption is an important step.

One of its first decisions was to establish the Centre on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC), which will report directly to the prime minister.

GIACC will also encompass human rights. The Department of Integrity and Governance, the Institute Integriti Malaysia, the Public Complaints Bureau and the Integrity Commission on Enforcement Agencies will be placed under GIACC.

The aim is to reduce duplication and public expenditure as the government intensifies the fight against corruption.

A national Anti-Corruption Plan is going to be formulated. Ministries will be asked to identify three weaknesses related to laws, policies and procedures that should be reviewed to reduce corruption. They have been given a month to submit their findings to GIACC.

The government is planning to introduce a law that will enable punitive action to be taken against officers who cause wastage and leakages or are extravagant in the administration of public funds.

Ministers right down to political secretaries will be prohibited from accepting gifts.

A more important measure is the promulgation of a law on political financing. A proposal on this exists, which makes it so much easier to expedite this legislation.

In announcing these initiatives, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ministers would have to declare their assets to him and to present the same report to the anti-graft authority.

This is not what groups have been campaigning in the last few decades.

The declaration of assets and liabilities of ministers and deputy ministers, and menteris besar, chief ministers and executive councillors, should be made public.

The Penang and Selangor governments have been doing this since they came to power a decade ago. Three ministers in Dr Mahathir’s cabinet from Parti Amanah Negara — Mohamad Sabu, Salahuddin Ayub and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad — inked statutory declarations which detail their assets and their debts.

These declarations are accessible to the public. The Amanah leaders and the Penang and Selangor governments should be commended for setting the right example.

Political leaders and public officials declaring their assets and liabilities to the public is a principle of accountability that has gained tremendous momentum in the last three or four decades.

It boosts people’s trust in their leaders. It not only gives citizens an honest picture of the financial worth of their leaders, but also deters those who wield power from using their office to accumulate wealth at the expense of the people.

Different societies have evolved different mechanisms for making their leaders’ financial status known to the people. In our case, declarations of assets and liabilities at federal and state levels can be lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which will verify the information before posting it on a website accessible to the public.

Leaders and officials will be required by law to update the information on their finances at regular intervals.

A bold and brave move of this sort is imperative at this stage because of what the nation has gone through in recent times.

The magnitude of the betrayal of the people’s trust is so horrendous that confidence in the elite will be restored and sustained only if it demonstrates that it has the moral courage to put into practice principles of integrity and accountability.

In similar vein, our constitutional monarchs should, in accordance with their position, allow their emoluments and other perquisites to be made known to the people. In a genuine constitutional monarchy, there would be hardly any dissension about such a practice.

Indeed, it is a practice that will boost people’s love and affection for their monarchs.

There are other proposals that have been made over the years by some of us to strengthen accountability and integrity that should be rearticulated at this stage in the hope that the government will respond positively.

To strengthen accountability in our nation, we should bar the kin of ministers or executive councillors from bidding for government projects or contracts; eliminate agents and proxies in procurements involving the state; ensure open tenders across the board with some exceptions linked to defence purchases; and make MACC answerable to Parliament.

For a nation that was the first in the global south to enact a law against corruption and to establish a separate agency to fight the scourge, we have sadly fallen into the abyss.

Only a leadership and a people driven by a single-minded passion to combat corruption can lift us out of this morass.

By Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/379826/new-hope-fight-graft

Wild animals have equal right to life

June 17th, 2018
An elephant crossing a road in Kinabatangan, Sabah, this week. (PIC COURTESY OF READER)

I REFER to a recent incident where an elephant was killed in an early-morning crash with a trailer at Batu 13 in Jalan Mersing-Kota Tinggi, Johor.

Investigations found that the incident happened when the driver of another car switched on his high beam when he saw elephants crossing the road.

His action startled a female elephant, which charged at an on-coming trailer travelling from Terengganu to Singapore, resulting in the elephant’s death.

On Aug 25 last year, two tapirs were killed when they were hit by a car while attempting to cross the Gebeng bypass road near Kuantan.

On Aug 23, a 10-year-old elephant bull died after it was struck by a bus in the Gerik-Jeli Highway. The incident occurred about two months after an elephant calf was killed when a car collided with it in the same area near the Royal Belum State Park.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department said from 2012 to last year, 2,444 wild animals were killed by vehicles. These incidents happened despite signs warning motorists about wildlife crossings.

Wildlife and vehicles just do not mix and the construction of more roads in wildlife habitats means that more animals may be killed.

The authorities must tackle wildlife roadkill.

Human behavioural change will reduce roadkill.

There must be public education and awareness efforts to encourage the public to appreciate wildlife.

Road users should never provoke wild animals by honking or turning on their high beam to avoid startling them.

Sites must be identified to enable more animal crossings to be built across highways and roads that pass through animal habitats or migration routes

Speed bumps and speed cameras should be installed as well as light-coloured roads in wildlife-rich areas to reduce roadkill.

Authorities should follow the solutions introduced in advanced countries to reduce roadkill, including installing detectors that will trigger flashing signs when animals are detected near roads.

In South America, reflective stickers are placed on GPS collars on tapirs so that the animals are easily spotted in the dark.

Tapirs and elephants are at risk as they cross roads to look for food.

With the help of IT experts, the authorities could develop an app that worked with other apps, such as Waze and Google Maps, to warn drivers about wildlife.

Human behavioural change is crucial to avoid crashes with animals as not all wildlife will use viaducts or crossings.

Like humans, wildlife have a right to co-existence.

I support the Sabah hovernment’s decision to review logging concessions in critical areas where dead pygmy elephants have been discovered recently.


Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/06/380253/wild-animals-have-equal-right-life