Ombudsmen needed in varsities

September 21st, 2018
(File pix) Graduands at the Al-Madinah International University convocation in Shah Alam. Every university administrator must be concerned about the reputational risk from complaints going public. Pix by Faiz Anuar
ACCORDING to the 2017 statistics from the Higher Education Ministry, there are 25,823 international students in public universities in Malaysia. This number does not include the number of enrolments in private colleges and diploma centres.

The complaint handling policy in the education sector for students is contained in the code of practice for programme accreditation, which, in paragraph 4.4.1, states: “There must be a mechanism for students to air grievances and make appeals relating to student support services.”

The complaint handling and dispute resolution policy in the education sector falls short of global best practices.

Academic staff are required to deliver quality teaching. When the service is perceived to be inadequate by a student, he should have the right to complain to the lecturer, head of department or the dean of faculty.

Similarly, academic and nonacademic staff may have reasons to complain about the terms of service. Grievances without appropriate channel to direct them can jeopardise the performance of academic staff, and affect productivity and research output.

The offices of legal advisers or student affairs are the easiest channels to lodge complaints in most universities, but the personnel are rarely seen to be independent and neutral.

Quality control and feedback me chanisms are not the same as having an ombudsman. Feedback mechanism serves the purpose of assessing quality services, while an ombudsman would provide a wider scope for grievance and complaint handling. An ombudsman is seen as independent, impartial and fair.

Confidentiality of information is key. Sexual harassment and misconduct cases involving academics are handled with extreme confidence under ombudsman procedures. Only in rare instances are cases taken to the court. Ombudsman policy can help fix this.

The lack of specific policy direction for university ombudsman implies that stakeholders have options either to do nothing or to do whatever pleases the university.

It is interesting to note that despite the absence of a policy on this issue, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Monash University deem it necessary to have ombudsman offices for grievance handling in line with international best practices.

In 2012, USM created the ombudsman office as a platform for the university’s staff and undergraduates to voice their dissatisfaction on issues. While this is encouraging, it seems that no other public university has seen the need to establish an ombudsman office to handle complaints effectively. The university also leverages this internal policy to protect whistle-blowers.

Realising the gap in grievance handling policy, Monash University in Malaysia made ombudsman procedures operational. The Education Ministry may want to explore this for introduction in other universities in the country.

In Malaysia, although the Public Complaint Bureau (PCB) performs a similar role to the ombudsman, it lacks speciality, independence and transparency, which are essential for the education sector. In addition, for a sector comprising both private and public entities, it is necessary to detach university complaints from PCB.

International best practices in the United States, Canada and New Zealand show that the notion of a public officer for all kinds of complaints is becoming a thing of the past. Ombudsman has become the new face of complaint handling in public, quasi-public and private sectors in many parts of the world, and Malaysia should not be an exception.

Young people find it very easy to complain over the social media on issues which may be capable of resolution by the ombudsman.

University ombudsman with online accessibility or mobile app could be an attractive and user-friendly option for young university students.

Every university administrator must be concerned about the reputational risk from complaints going public. The number of foreign students seeking admission may also be affected in the absence of a clear policy on complaint handling.

To avoid lengthy and cumbersome litigation process, a university ombudsman could be tailormade to suit the nature of complaints peculiar to the sector.

This underlines the need for a clear policy for uniform complaint handling among stakeholders in the education sector.

The policy document is only a framework for complaint handling in the university and could mandate every university in Malaysia to establish an office of ombudsman, which must be separate and independent of the legal adviser’s office.

The ombudsman’s office and its head must uphold independence, neutrality, confidentiality and fairness. The policy must not exclude the right of the complainant from proceeding to court as a last resort.

By Dr Sodiq Omoola.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/09/412777/ombudsmen-needed-varsities

A government for and with the people

September 21st, 2018
(File pix) Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Pakatan Harapan members of parliament at the first session of the 14th Parliament in July. Pix by Aizuddin Saad

MORE important than being seen to accomplish promises in the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto is the fulfilment of the promise of a leaner, cleaner government, working with the people to foster unity, uphold the rule of law, protect and promote people’s wellbeing and ensure a stable, growing economy that benefits all.

Pointing a finger at the previous administration takes as much, if not more, of the new government’s time and effort.

If and where misdeeds have been committed against the nation and people, those responsible must face the consequences.

After all, voters who rejected the previous administration were aware that all was not right.

So, let’s move towards a better and brighter future for all.

To that end, there has to be the overriding priority of running the government professionally. Having served, for almost three decades, with United Nations programmes of assistance in organisational and institutional reform, I am aware that governments often fail to make the right decisions as they set up their systems, structures and relationships from the first day in office.

There is the need to resist temptation to dismantle structures, terminate projects and move people, only to have them reinvented, reintroduced or replaced with others that in the end are costlier, less efficient, unproductive and, hopefully not, fraught with the same or worse deficiencies as their predecessors.

Crucial areas for reform must be identified in each ministry, department and agency.

And there needs to be a critical mass of expertise and experience to initiate and execute that process.

Relying on generalists or those politically or personally connected is a recipe for failure.

Secondly, it is incumbent on the chief secretary to the government, as head of the civil service and the highest-ranking civil servant, to ensure that there is clear understanding, strong support, full commitment and the where-withal across all sectors and levels of the administration to implement the government’s policies and programmes.

There has been talk of a civil service that’s hostile to the new government and past reports of a “bloated and unsustainably costly ” civil service.

This is an opportune time, whatever the facts are, to address those concerns.

It calls for the cabinet and the civil service to sing from the same page, as the prime minister put it.

Not necessarily “yes” men and women, but who through consultation and feedback reach a consensus to implement the government’s agenda in the best interest of the nation and its people.

And as a corollary to working in unison is the need for the coalition of parties forming the government to work to fulfil the change that they pledged to the people who voted them to office.

New ministers and those appointed to assist them need to take the time for inductions and training to help them set priorities and manage the institutions they lead.

Many have limited or lack the experience of working in a major public department.

Simply saying “government must be run like a business” or “like a successful non-government organisation”, one will soon find out it is not true.

And ministers have to think of implementation from the outset.

While it’s critical to have a clear timetable to drive progress, as former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang advised the PH government, it is vital to learn from the mistakes of the previous administration and not ignore audit reports, if it is serious about transparency and accountability, ending leakages and graft and using budgets to meet goals.

It’s in the ministers’ self-interest and the institutions they lead to make sure strategies and structures, timelines and targets, and allocated resources and projected results are challenged and reoriented, and not just by civil servants.

The people who need to make things happen on the ground, and indeed the public who are going to be affected, need to help the administration develop those plans and deliver what will work for their benefit.

By RUEBEN DUDLEY .

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/413351/government-and-people

Is a one-chamber Parliament feasible?

September 21st, 2018
(File pix) Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at the opening of the first session of the 14th Parliament in July. Malaysia’s Parliament comprises the lower chamber (Dewan Rakyat) and the upper chamber (Dewan Negara). Pix by Asyraf Hamzah

EVER since the Federation of Malaya came into being on Aug 31, 1957, our federal legislature (Parliament) has comprised two chambers: the lower chamber (Dewan Rakyat) and the upper chamber (Dewan Negara).

Members of the lower chamber are elected while the members of the upper chamber are appointed, some by state legislative assemblies, others by the Yang diPertuan Agong.

Article 44 of the Federal Constitution states that, “The legislative authority of the Federation shall be vested in a Parliament”, which consists of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Dewan Negara (Senate) and the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives).

We are told that we follow the Westminster model of democratic government. The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the UK Parliament, or British Parliament) is made up of the House of Commons (lower chamber), the House of Lords (upper chamber) and the Queen.

The British Parliament has sometimes been called the Mother of Parliaments.

A good friend, a retired civil servant noted for his interest in politics, asked me recently whether it was feasible for Malaysia to have just one chamber, consisting of just the Dewan Rakyat.

When I asked him why, he said that recent events seemed to show that our upper chamber (Dewan Negara) is no longer relevant.

He reminded me that our state legislature has always (since Merdeka) been unicameral, comprising the Dewan Undangan Negeri (state legislative assembly) and the sultan (ruler).

There is no second (or upper) chamber in state legislative assemblies, he added.

In other countries, the lower chamber is known by various names (House of Representatives, House of Commons, Chamber of Deputies and Federal Assembly), while the upper chamber is also known by equally various names (the Senate, House of Lords or Federal Council).

The lower chamber is usually larger in size than the upper chamber.

According to a study by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the are several advantages of bicameral legislatures (with two houses, or chambers): they are capable of representing diverse constituencies, they facilitate a “deliberative approach” to legislation, they hinder the passage of hasty or flawed legislation, and they provide enhanced oversight or control of the executive branch of government.

The authority of the two chambers in a bicameral legislature varies widely from country to country.

In the United Kingdom, which hasaweak form of bicameralism, one chamber enjoys superior legislativepowers.

The degree of predominance also differs in these countries.

In some countries, the upper chambers has the power to delay or review legislation initiated by the lower chamber, while in other places, their roles are merely consultative.

In the United States, where a strong form of bicameralism exists, both chambers have equal powers, and legislation must be approved by both houses.

Unicameral legislatures are often found in countries structured on a unitary governmental system.

Unlike the federal model of government, such as that found in Malaysia, where power is distributed between the central government and constituent territorial units, power in the unitary system is concentrated in one central unit.

The advantages of a unicameral legislature include the capacity to introduce new legislation rapidly, greater accountability, fewer elected representatives for the population to monitor, and reduced costs to the taxpayers.

Bicameral legislatures exist in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Romania, while unicameral legislatures are found in Costa Rica, Portugal and Hungary.

Instances of countries switching from bicameral to unicameral legislatures can be found in recent years.

Iceland switched from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature in 1991; and Denmark, from a unicameral to a bicameral legislature in 1953. New Zealand did the

same thing in 1950.

In Peru, after the conclusion of a national referendum in 1993, the Senate was abolished and the country moved from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature.

Sweden had a difficult and turbulent constitutional history. It began a four-chamber legislature before it was changed to a bicameral legislature in 1867. The two chambers exercised equal legislative power, like in the US, and this led to unending conflict — the upper house was controlled by a conservative majority and the lower house dominated by a liberal majority.

This ideological divide provoked a legislative stalemate and resulted in political stagnation.

Finally, in 1967, after more than a century of bicameralism, the Swedish legislature became a unicameral body.

Morocco’s legislature began as a unicameral body (House of Representatives) before it became bicameral in 1996 with the creation of the House of Councillors.

Learning from the experience of these countries, it is not impossible for our national legislature to become unicameral, just like our state assemblies, if that is the wish of the people and the government.

By SALLEH BUANG.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/413355/one-chamber-parliament-feasible

Understand, empathise with their woes

September 21st, 2018
(File pix) The recent Malaysia Day celebration at Padang Merdeka, Kota Kinabalu. Inclusiveness and respect for diversity have been an integral part of the people of Sabah and Sarawak for centuries. Pix by Malai Rosmah Tuah

IN reflecting upon the status of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation during a Malaysia Day celebration at Padang Merdeka Kota Kinabalu, on Sept 16, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made some significant observations which should shape our understanding of how the two states relate to Putrajaya.

It is true that Sabah and Sarawak together with Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia were deemed to be four equal partners in the formation of Malaysia in 1963. This was recognised not only in the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 (MA63) but also under the original Schedule 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

However, what the merger of four entities meant in the actual structure of governance and in the delineation of powers within the Federation was not really clear. It was further complicated by the tensions generated by the acrimonious exchange between the national elite under Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Singapore leadership under Lee Kuan Yew starting early 1964 which resulted eventually in the separation of Singapore from the rest of the Federation on Aug 9, 1965.

Partly because of the Singapore episode, the Federal Government became more concerned in the subsequent years with the consolidation of the state. This was more important to the national leaders than giving meaning to the notion of equal partnership in building the nation.

Economic and administrative realities in a sense—as in other similar situations — drove the national leadership in the direction of greater centralisation of power.

It was not surprising, therefore, that in July 1976 under prime minister Tun Hussein Onn, the Federal Constitution was amended to change the status of Sabah and Sarawak. They became states in the Federation like the other 11 states from Peninsular Malaysia.

Of course, they retained the special grants and some of the rights bestowed upon them in 1963 such as control over immigration.

Similarly, various constitutional provisions pertaining to the distribution of legislative powers and the structure of the judicial system remained. It is worth observing that almost all Members of Parliament from Sabah and Sarawak present in the Dewan Rakyat voted for the constitutional amendment. We can safely assume that it will not happen today.

A significant segment of the populace in Sabah and Sarawak appear to be unhappy with the dominance of the centre over the two states in matters such as control over their own oil resource; the administration and management of public education; and the appointment and promotion of state officials in certain spheres.

There is a general feeling that Sabahans and Sarawakians do not have as much say over those aspects of governance that impact upon their lives as they had hoped for at the time of the formation of Malaysia.

These are genuine grievances which have to be addressed. A sincere attempt on the part of Putrajaya to understand and empathise with the woes of Sabahans and Sarawakians would be the key in the quest for solutions.

At the same time, the people in the two states should realise that sometimes in asserting one’s rights one should also be conscious of the need to concede and compromise in the larger interest of the nation as a whole.

When the rights of Sabah and Sarawak are respected and this is translated into tangible policies and programmes that benefit the vast majority of the people, they would begin to feel that they are equal to their sisters and brothers on the peninsula. There would be no need to amend the Constitution to recognise Sabah and Sarawak as equal to Peninsular Malaysia.

It is through improvement in the socio-economic status of the masses, underscored by respect and empathy for the people and their cultures and their heritage that Sabahans and Sarawakians will be bonded to the folk on the peninsula.

In this bonding not only will respect for cultural and religious diversity play a major role; a firm commitment to inclusiveness would be fundamental. Inclusiveness and respect for diversity have been so integral to the value system of the people of Sabah and Sarawak for centuries. These are also values that the majority of Peninsular Malaysians cherish — although sometimes they are pushed to the margins by small groups of exclusivists in different communities. Nonetheless, inclusiveness and respect for diversity hold us together, in spite of the vast expanse of the South China Sea.

By CHANDRA MUZAFFAR.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/413357/understand-empathise-their-woes

We must stand united

September 21st, 2018
(File pix) First prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman said: “After our country’s independence, we are our own master, we control our own security, and our destruction is in our own hands.” Pix by Khairull Azry Bidin

MALAYSIA as a nationstate, was transformed into a statenation or a plural country, in the post-independence era, through the legal mechanism of the Federal Constitution.

A nation-state, has only one “national group.” Like in Hungary, Italy and Japan, “the nation precedes the state, and plays a major role in giving rise to it (Buzan 1991: 72-73).

But a state-nation, with citizens of diverse categories, “plays an instrumental role in creating the nation.”

The above encouraged studies on security to posit that a statenation “has extensive grounds for conflict.”

Malaysia as a plural state, is susceptible to communal-based vulnerabilities, especially racial polarisation, ethnic disunity, religious disharmony and economic discontent, which threaten its political and societal security.

This is because Malaysia has Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras as its subjects. Additionally, Bumiputeras, as the majority population, are also ascribed with the status of core nation.

Conceptually, core nation is defined as “a large number of people sharing the same cultural, and possibly the same ethnic or racial, heritage. Because nations are product of closely shared history, they normally constitute the majority population of some core territory” (Buzan 1991: 70).

Thus, Bumiputeras are ascribed with the status of core nation, because their ancestors lived in Malaysia, within the core territory of Nusantara, in Southeast Asia, since time immemorial.

Malaysian Chinese and Indians, both as Malaysian citizens, are not given the same status, because their ancestral roots are either in East Asia or South Asia. This reality was accepted by leaders of Malays (Bumiputeras), Chinese and Indians, through a social contract, formulated while they pursued their common struggle for our independence.

Therefore, it is grossly incorrect to categorise Bumiputeras as Malaysia’s chosen race, while the Chinese and Indians as second class citizens.

“In fact, the provisions relating to (their) citizenship are to a certain extent, ‘entrenched’ under the Constitution” (Sinnadurai 1979: 93).

“Furthermore, by virtue of the Sedition Act, it is an offence under the Act to question the provision of the Constitution relating to citizenship.”

The above is the testimony, why Malaysians lived in peace and harmony from 1957 to 1963, in the post-independence era.

It is also why, Brock et al. (2012: 17) said, communal-based vulnerabilities can only erupt into violence, “when political entrepreneurs employ cultural identities to sort out friend and foe, and mobilise groups into turning against one another in a process of escalating conflict.”

This is empirically proven. Early narratives on Malaysia were abound with tolerance, compromise and optimism, driven by the spirit of social contract.

Unfortunately, this societal bondage was subverted by communal polarisation, hatred and animosity. Why, who were the actors, what were the driving forces, how was it resolved?

Malaysia’s ethnic relations only turned into intolerance, disharmony and disunity, after a group of political parties launched the Malaysian Malaysia propaganda in 1964.

Although not undemocratic, the timing of its “debut” aggravated Malaysia’s security because of the Indonesian Confrontation since 1983.

This propaganda also pitted Bumiputeras against the others, on their constitutional rights and privileges, although non-Bumiputeras also have their constitutional legitimate rights.

This happened because the crux of Malaysian Malaysia was: “all Malaysians irrespective of race, culture and religion, should be entitled to equal rights and treatment, and be given similar privileges already enjoyed by the Malays” (Ghazali 1990:11).

The above made “Lee’s (Lee Kuan Yew) enemies within UMNO see this as a clever concealment of his plan to remove Malay special privileges” (Ooi 2006: 153).

It also urged Tan Siew Sin, MCA president, to respond: “Malaysian Malaysia is creating a national disorder, to ruin the country” (Utusan Melayu, July 6, 1965).

Tunku Abdul Rahman remarked Malaysian Malaysia “had caused racial feelings to rise almost to flashpoint” (Keith 2005: 188). He said this, after deciding “the situation with Singapore was hopeless. Singapore must go.”

The Malaysian Malaysia propaganda had resulted in two racial clashes with fatal casualties in Singapore in 1964. Hence, Singapore was separated from Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965.

Lee agreed to this “breakaway” because “the alternative offered was rioting, communal violence all over Malaysia, and eventual communist victory” (Lau 2001: 264).

The above points to the fact that politically-driven and constitutionally-motivated communal propaganda is a threat to Malaysia. Certain politicians, however, did not learn from the above. Hence, another communal clash, with fatal consequences, erupted in Kuala Lumpur in 1969.

Comber (1983: 65-68) said, it was because communist elements sabotaged Malaysia’s security through the 1969 General Election.

Additionally, DAP had used “Malaysian Malaysia” as its slogan, Gerakan used “Equality, Justice and Equal Opportunities for All: Our Aim,” and PPP used “Malaysia for Malaysians.”

Parti Perikatan (the Alliance Party) lost several state governments in this democratic tussle, a racial riot occurred, and Tunku Abdul Rahman suspended Parliament for over one year.

As such, communal-based vulnerabilities in Malaysia are not fiction. They threaten the country’s political and societal security.

Conceptually, “political security concerns the organisational stability of states, system of government and the ideologies that give them legitimacy ” (Buzan 1991: 19). But, “the organising concept in the societal sector is identity” (Buzan et al. 1998: 119).

By Ruhanie Ahmad.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/413359/we-must-stand-united

Students look East for a wider perspective, global viewpoint

September 21st, 2018
Malaysian students at Wuhan University pose at the Malaysian Booth at the International Culture Festival to promote the nation’s cultures, costumes and cuisine.

STUDY destinations in Japan and China have seen an increasing number of enrolments from Malaysian higher education students these past few years.

Their affordable fees, the similarity in society and culture, as well as excellence in education and research attract students by the hordes.

There is also an opportunity to master languages such as Mandarin or Japanese during their stay in the countries.

High world university rankings also contribute to the trend. Japan, for instance, has nine universities in the top 200 QS World University Rankings 2017.

A large number of Chinese universities in China are also recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. These include Beijing University, Renmin University of China, Tsinghua University, Beijing Jiaotong University and Beijing University of Science and Technology.

Malaysian students who are interested in furthering their higher education studies in Japan are advised to prepare at least nine months to one year in advance.

Embassy of Japan in Malaysia education attache Sentaro Ishikawa said once students decide to pursue their studies in the Land of the Rising Sun, they will need to research into their choice of programme.

“Take note of application dates and the standardised admission tests as well as admission procedures,” added Ishikawa.

The application period for April 2019 intake is from June through November 2018.

“For courses beginning in September, the application period is usually from December of the previous year through February.”

The student selection for university admission in Japan is a process in which universities independently decide the enrolment through the entrance examination uniquely set by each institution.

The process varies depending on the applicant’s school of choice and the entrance exam commonly consists of one test or a combination such as test of academic ability, interview, short essay, competence and aptitude tests, and Examination for Japanese University (EJU) Examination (evaluates international students’ Japanese language and academic abilities to study at a higher education institution in Japan).

“Students sit the entrance exam by applying directly to the university of their choice and they are advised to check the school’s Application Guideline for International Students for the latest update.”

PATHWAYS

There are three pathways for Malaysian students to further higher education in Japan.

Those with 12 years of formal education and who are proficient in English can apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in English.

Sentaro Ishikawa counselling a potential student on choosing a tertiary institution in Japan.

“They have to submit a certificate of proficiency in English (IELTS/TOEFL), a certificate of academic achievement, scores of a high school graduation standardised examination in the home country and short essays in English in the first round of screening of applications.

“The second round comprises an interview, which will either be conducted in the country or region where applicants live or via an online interview.

“Those who are proficient in Japanese can apply to sit the EJU Examination and apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in Japanese.

“Japanese universities especially the national-type institutions usually conduct their primary assessment of potential international students based on EJU Examination scores,” added Ishikawa.

Malaysian students, who have no knowledge of the Japanese language but wish to apply for a course conducted in Japanese, have to study the language for at least a year in one of the designated Japanese language institutes before applying for admission into higher education institutions in Japan.

“Those who have less than 12 years of formal education are required to do at least a year of University Preparatory Course (or pre-university programme), inclusive of learning the Japanese language at institutes designated by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT, also known as Monbukagakusho) Japan to be eligible to apply for admission into universities in the country.

“Only 25 Japanese language institutes offer the University Preparatory Course. One is located at Kuala Lumpur, the rest are in Japan.”

THREE CHOICES

University of Malaya’s Special Preparatory Programme to Japan is one of the sponsored courses which send students to study in the country, .

Programme coordinator Mohd Norhaswira Hasan said the course aims to equip students with a basic education in Japanese and three core subjects of science — mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Upon completing the programme, they will further their studies at select Japanese universities.

Students are assisted in the selection of university from a list provided by MEXT.

This selection and application process take place in October, and the results are announced in February.

Students will then make their selection (three choices of university and course) in October. In early November, they sit EJU.

The EJU results, which are announced in January, determine the university the student will enrolling in February.

Mohd Norhaswira, who is an alumnus of the Special Preparatory Programme to Japan, said he applied for the course because of his interest in the Japanese language.

He started learning Japanese as his third foreign language from Form One.

“I was motivated by my Japanese language teacher, Zubaidah Ali, during my early years in secondary school,” said Mohd Norhaswira, who studied mechanical engineering at Nagoya University and graduated in March 2007.

GLOBAL OUTLOOK

As Japanese universities have become more globalised, there are emerging programmes at universities and graduate schools where students can obtain a degree by taking classes entirely in English.

The number of Malaysian students who pursue courses offered in English at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels is increasing over the years.

“Of course, they also have the chance to learn Japanese at the university. Therefore, they gain a significant advantage, especially if they wish to work in Japan after graduation.

“Over the years, more companies in Japan are hiring international students with diverse backgrounds, who understand Japanese language and culture.

By Zulita Mustafa.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2018/09/412854/students-look-east-wider-perspective-global-viewpoint

Improved promotion process for govt officers

September 21st, 2018
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a new method would be introduced which was transparent and stressed on integrity. NSTP/AHMAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR

PUTRAJAYA: The government is making improvements to its promotion process for government officers, especially those in the top management group.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a new method would be introduced which was transparent and stressed on integrity.

“This will lessen any form of disatisfaction. This process also involves ministers.

“If they disagree or want to protest (any promotion), they must state their reasons.

“It is not only because one likes or dislikes a person,” he said after the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption (JKKMAR) meeting today.

In this respect, the committee had agreed to form the Public Services Act.

Dr Mahathir also said the committee had agreed with the Foreign Ministry’s request not to fill any of the ambassador posts with political appointees.

“There will be no political appointees for those who have retired to be appointed as ambassadors. We will not allow it.

“This is a strong action against ourselves because there are many members of the government party who want to enjoy life as an ambassador,” he said.

For the existing political appointed ambassadors, Dr Mahathir said they would be called back and their service terminated.

By Azura AbasManirajan RamasamyMohd HusniMohd Noor and Zanariah Abd Mutalib

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/government-public-policy/2018/09/413547/improved-promotion-process-govt-officers

SIDMA College staff Invited to learn Kadazandusun language

September 20th, 2018

Based on the 2010 census, Sabah’s population was roughly around 3.2 million; with around at least 30 indigenous groups speaking more than 50 different languages, with over 80 dialects spoken; which could also be categorised into Dusunic, Murutic, Paitanic and Sama Bajau (Lasimbang 2004), and Kadazandusun speakers formed the largest single language community in Sabah (Lasimbang & Kinajil, 2000).

Recently a local daily reported an incident that during the third and final round of the 2017 state-wide Mr Kaamatan or Harvest Festival Contest, only one of the seven finalists (out of forty-four contestants); Dicky Jerry, representing the Keningau District, responded to the two compulsory questions posed, fluently in his mother tongue language, the Kadazandusun language.

In 2005, UNESCO reported that the Kadazandusun language was classified as an endangered language, spoken by a mere 300,000 people. The language has apparently joined about 7,000 other languages worldwide that are facing the real threat of extinction; and indeed could eventually become a mere literary exhibit in the next fifty years if is left to survive on its own.

In the District of Penampang, where development and transformation are moving at a fast pace relatives to the other districts; the current speakers of the Kadazandusun language are mostly in their fifties and above category. Kadazandusun parents, thinking that their children could learn their mother tongues at home, encourage their children to learn English and Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) hoping for them to gain an advantage in securing jobs in both the government and private sectors.

Since the establishment of SIDMA College Sabah in 2002, Dr Morni Hj Kambrie (Chairman and Founder) harbours his strong desire to intervene the seemingly declining of the Kadazandusun language from its originality. The formation of a Kadazandusun Language Club (and having Dr Morni as Advisor) was the way forward for him to complement and supplement as positive initiatives to revive the language.

Upon the registration of SIDMA College Kadazandusun Language Club by the Registrar of Society on 19 November 2014, various initiatives have been conducted to popularise the language. The major ones being the Kadazandusun Language Storytelling Competition 2016 (Piboi an Mananongon Boros Kadazandusun); Short Stories Writing Competition (Piboi an Monuat Suan Toniboi Doid Boros Kadazandusun) for the secondary school students. The competition was conducted with the cooperation and collaboration from Sabah State Education Department.

The next achievement, being the publication of the book “Inspirasi Anak-Anak Sabah” in Kadazandusun language. The initiative being to complement and supplement the shortage of reading materials in the Kadazandusun language among school children; and to further assist the longing of reading materials by the Kadazandusun language speaking families.

In 2017, the first ever Kadazan Language Public Speaking Intensive Courses; also known as the “Kadazan Language Challenge in 16 Hours” of Public Speaking and Conversational Course” with Ms Juliana  Jimis as the chief facilitator; were held throughout the year. Certificate of attendance was awarded to those who managed to complete the programme.

In its continuous efforts to preserve and ensure the relevancy of Kadazandusun language in this modern era, SIDMA College’s Kadazandusun Language Club, on 19 September 2018, organised a one-day Kadazandusun Language Immersion Conversational  programme to assist the college staff (members of the club) to be able to communicate effectively in Bahasa Kadazandusun. Madam Connie Muslim @ Veronica Masilim, a senior Bahasa Kadazandusun teacher from SM St Peter, Telipok was engaged as chief facilitator for the event.

Dr Morni and Madam Salumah Nain (Chairman 2017-2019) when met after the event thanked Madam Connie Muslim for her time and kind assistance in sharing and giving valuable lesson on the language. They too, congratulated the Project Directors, Madam Janet Jaquiline Jiokis and Madam Jennyca Singau for successfully organising the event. Dr Morni also congratulated the staff for their participation and hope that they can assist in inspiring today’s youth to communicate effectively in Kadazandusun language.

Madam Connie who was quite impressed with the SIDMA College Kadazadusun Language Club for the various initiatives conducted to complement and supplement, to intervene and put the language to a stronger footing. She too congratulated SIDMA College and Dr Morni for being the only institution of higher learning that placed special emphasis on promoting the Kadazandusun language.

Dr Morni also took the opportunity to announce that SIDMA College Kadazandusun Language Club, with the collaboration and cooperation from Education Department Sabah, District Education Officers, Secondary School Principals, and secondary school Kadazandusun teachers will co-organise a Kadazandusun Language Speech Contest (Pialaan Raisol Doid Boros Kadazandusun) for all secondary schools students taking Bahasa Kadazandusun Language as Elective Language. Among some of the attractive prizes up for grabs are cash prizes, trophies and certificates.

Other activities planned for the year are:

  1. Mini Fun Fair

ii          KadazanDusun Language Choir Competition.

iii.        KadazanDusun Language Apps Competition.

The Grand Finale of 2018 events “Sodop Pisompunan 2018” will be held on 30 November 2018 at Shangri-La Resort Tangjung Aru. Tickets for the event will be sold at RM100.00 for members of the club, and RM150.00 for non-members.

For more information, please contact Kadazandusun Language Club, SIDMA College Sabah, Jalan Bundusan, 88300 Kota Kinabalu at 088-732 000 or 088-732 020; or fax at 088-732 019. You can also email to olivia@sidma.edu.my.

Further information on the Speech Contest can also be obtained from Facebook Account  “Kelab Bahasa KadazanDusun SIDMA College” Further details can also be channelled to Madam Brenda; Tel : 016-824 5117.

Read more @ https://www.sidma.edu.my/index.php/all-bulletin

Greater emphasis should be given to safety and health in boarding schools, says Lee Lam Thye

September 20th, 2018
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. (NSTP/IHSAN NIOSH)

LABUAN: More focus should be given to safety and health aspect sat boarding schools, said National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

He said this was because students and most of the teachers and support staff were at the premises most of the time.

The situation in boarding schools is also different from normal schools where students who stay at home would return to their respective houses after classes and co-curricular activities.

“Given the enormous responsibility of the boarding school management, I would like to call for a more efficient occupational safety and health (OSH) management system to prevent any untoward incidents and illness at their premises,” he said.

“Management of such schools should set up a Safety and Health Committee and adopt the concept of ‘Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Risk Control’ (HIRARC).

“If HIRARC concept is practiced, teachers and students will become more aware of risky activities, which may lead to accidents if not properly addressed.

“Boarding schools like SM Sains Labuan should get more attention because students are either in the school building or dormitory most of the time,” he said after launching the ‘OSH in School’ programme at SM Sains Labuan today.

Also present was Niosh Sabah and Labuan regional manager Wan Sarman Sakan, SM Sains Labuan Alumni Association (SAMUDERA) president Suhaili Dikar and Labuan Education Director Raisin Saidin.

Lee said under the OSH Act 1994, the school administration had the responsibility to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all parties at their premises.

He said there have been accidents at schools which involved teachers and students falling from school buildings, being hit by a goal post, fires and gas leaks.

By Kristy Inus.

Read more @ /www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/09/413252/greater-emphasis-should-be-given-safety-and-health-boarding-schools-says

Fiscal deficit is ok

September 18th, 2018
(File pix) Kuala Lumpur skyline. A budget deficit will boost aggregate demand in the economy by compensating for the muted growth in public consumption. Pix by Surianie Mohd Hanif

AS Budget Day draws near, it is the normal practice for the government to take stock of the milieu enveloping the country today. The milieu does not look sunny.

Take the global scene. The world is tilting towards de-globalisation and populism. The global recession, consequent to the 2008 global financial crisis, triggered this tilt. United States President Donald Trump’s trade wars against China, European Union, Canada and Mexico, further fuel this slide to increasing protectionism. They risk eroding the potential gains to global wealth as a result of free trade.

Together, our key trading partners, China, EU and the US, consume nearly a quarter of our exports.

Declining fortunes in these countries can negatively impact on our export earnings and, consequently, our welfare. If it is of any consolation, the depreciating ringgit should boost our global competitiveness. It should keep our exports afloat amid the dampening of fortunes in our export markets.

The increase in petroleum prices recently might seem a relief. At around US$79 (RM327) the price is US$28 more than that which was used to estimate energy revenues for the 2018 budget.

Assuming that the price holds, the government should be able to rake in an additional RM8 billion in revenue next year. Alas, much of it will go to subsidise fuel prices at the pump, leaving barely little, if at all, to finance other public expenditures next year.

On the home front, the government is concerned with the budget deficit and debt management. If these do take precedence over other matters of public finance, then that will only point to fiscal consolidation in the coming year.

From a Keynesian viewpoint that may not augur well to revitalising a slowing economy. Added to this, the elimination of the regressive sales and services tax or GST will punch another RM17 billion hole in the public coffers next year.

The gap would have been even wider if not for the sales and services tax or SST delivering RM27 billion to the government treasury.

All is not lost however. What is loss to the government coffers will be a gain to the public. The increased disposal income should enlarge public consumption and should help grow our economy.

Sadly, that may not be the case. Our household debts, at 88 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), rank as one of the highest in Asia. The increased disposal income may go to reducing household debt, leaving little for spending. Notwithstanding, debt reduction itself is a good thing. It will eventually make the economy healthier.

While we have almost eradicated poverty, our society is still unequal in income distribution. Our GINI coefficient, a measure of inequality, is 0.399. We are too close for comfort to the World Bank’s cut-off point of 0.4, beyond which a nation becomes highly unequal.

Weighed down by auto and housing loans, our bank lending growth has yet to hit double-digit growth to catalyse a moderately growing economy. The population is ageing. By 2030 we willl have 15 per cent or six million people over 60 years. Urbanisation is on the march as well. By 2050, 90 per cent of the population will be urban. These issues make public-policy changes imperative.

It is against this cheerless scenario that we need to assess the concern over budget deficit. Paul Krugman, a Noble-prize winning economist, argues that budget deficits are a necessity. They can reduce unemployment and bring about the needed economic recovery.

Without such pump-priming the economy in times of slower growth, as our country is experiencing now, a country can descend into a recession. There are already such signs looming in the horizon.

That is what happened to the United States in 1937 when then president Franklin Roosevelt prematurely reduced the New Deal stimulus. The New Deal, initiated in the aftermath of the depression in 1933, introduced all manner of programmes to provide economic relief during the Great Depression. Stimulus cutback threw the US back into recession.

In a similar refrain, Richard Koo in his 2015 book The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap argues that budget deficits are not all that bad. Perhaps it was to avert such an apocalypse that Japan’s fiscal policy over the last decade has been expansionary.

Without its fiscal deficits Japan could have suffered a great depression like that of the US.

In our quest to reduce the budget deficit we have often taken the easy way out by cutting development expenditure. As a result, development expenditure as a share of the total annual expenditure has declined some 40 per cent since early 2000s. Budget deficits are not bad if they are meant to finance development to revitalise the economy.

A budget deficit too will boost aggregate demand in the economy by compensating for the muted growth in public consumption.

As such, fiscal retrenchment amid weak demand will be disastrous.

At three per cent of the GDP, our budget deficit is small.

But we must acknowledge that we have been incurring it for nearly 20 years. Hence the enlarged public debt that went to financing them.

By DATUK DR JOHN ANTONY XAVIER.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/412460/fiscal-deficit-ok