Archive for the ‘New Year Resolutions’ Category

Pinning hope on a much better year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021
Former cycling coach Azmy Mohamad hopes the New Year will bring stability  and for all to be able to get back to a life of normalcy.  PIC COURTESY OF AZMY MOHAMAD Former cycling coach Azmy Mohamad hopes the New Year will bring stability and for all to be able to get back to a life of normalcy. PIC COURTESY OF AZMY MOHAMAD

PETALING JAYA: The year 2020 can be summed up as one of the most distressing periods in recent times, following the global spread of Covid-19 which changed the lives of the world’s population.

The world, as the people know it, is no longer the same.

However, the change which saw tragic deaths, severe economic setback leading to billions in losses as well as massive job cuts, has influenced the resolution of many as they stride into 2021 with optimism.

Azmy Mohamad, 42, is still struggling to make ends meet for his family after losing his job as a cycling and fitness coach last year. But the hardship did not leave him wallowing in despair.

As a freelancer, among others, he held online fitness classes and took up delivery jobs to ensure a steady flow of income and financial stability.

He hardly celebrated his birthday, which was on Saturday, as the jobs kept him busy.

Shahir AliShahir Ali

“It was the toughest year for me. The gyms had to close because of Covid-19 and I became a freelancer overnight.

“I had to do anything I could to put food on the table. I am also taking care of my elderly parents.

“I started doing deliveries using my motorcycle. But the last couple of months have been a boon for me, as more movement was allowed.

“I have also resorted to using my social media channels to engage with those interested in online fitness classes and coaching. It is not easy but I am persevering, nonetheless.”

Azmy expressed hope for the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, that are expected to be made available soon.

“Although I am still struggling to pick up the pieces after all that has happened, I pray for the vaccines to work, so I can return to my former job and take care of my parents better.”

As for Shahir Ali, 43, he hoped for Malaysian companies to prioritise local talents who were desperately looking for jobs, instead of relying on highly-paid expatriates.

The father of two school-going children with an extensive background in local and foreign theme park attractions close to 20 years, Shahir had been doing odd-jobs to help supplement the household income.

“I lost my job last year because theme parks had to close indefinitely. Thankfully my wife is still working.

Shahir Ali hopes Malaysian companies will prioritise local talents over expatriates during the pandemic. BERNAMA PIC Shahir Ali hopes Malaysian companies will prioritise local talents over expatriates during the pandemic. BERNAMA PIC

“I have been doing odd jobs here and there to help out with the bills and living expenses, which we had reduced.

“I am continuing the job search in any segment or industry. I realise that job opportunities are limited, especially for those like me at my age. But I’m not fussy and will grab just about anything that crops up.”

Ashleigh Lim, a former marketing head in the retail sector who was retrenched last year, said she was determined to realise her new year’s resolution, which entailed improving financial management and skills for future jobs.

“I haven’t landed a full-time job as the market has also shrunk severely.

“For this new year, I resolve to strive to succeed on my own since I have started freelancing for some months now.

“I will continue to reduce my expenditure and look for bargains for just about anything and everything to ensure that every ringgit is stretched.

” I plan to take up online learning and upskilling courses that are free so that I am better equipped and a more attractive prospect when it comes to hiring.”

Lim remained positive despite the ongoing difficulties.

“I also strive to be more proactive. Perseverance is key in accepting that there will be much more rejections to stomach before success can be achieved.

“I just hope that this new year will turn out to be a much better and brighter one for all of us.”

By Azdee Amir.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2021/01/654605/pinning-hope-much-better-year

Learn from 2020’s challenges, step into 2021 with greater resolve — PM

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday called on the people to learn from the challenges and trials of 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and urged them to step into 2021 with renewed spirit and determination.

“For the new year 2021, I would like to call on all everyone to continue to strengthen our resolve, commitment and our efforts to jointly curb the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in his 2021 New Year message aired on television channels.

Muhyiddin went on to share his deep concern for the trials and tribulations faced by the people during the Covid-19 pandemic, including those who lost their jobs and had to tighten their belts just so to ensure there is food on the table for the family as well as in enduring other forms of hardship.

He said the government was working hard to ensure the people were safe from the threat of the deadly virus.

“Nevertheless, we ourselves need to be responsible and vigilant because this virus is already in the community around us. God willing, armed with the experience we faced throughout 2020, we can all ensure that the pandemic situation continues to be under control,” he said.

The prime minister also assured Malaysians that the government will put the interests of the people above other matters, adding that their welfare is the top priority of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

“In facing the various challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the PN government leadership has taken into account all aspects, including the people’s welfare in our economic, health, education and social sector plans,” he said.

He said this policy is not merely a slogan, but encompasses the entire formation and mindset of the PN government and its policies, up to the stage of implementation and delivery.

The prime minister also expressed his appreciation to Malaysians who have been united in facing the challenges of the pandemic with great determination.

“Despite being faced with obstacles one after another throughout 2020, Malaysians have shown a positive attitude and strong resilience, which is something to be really proud of. Thank you, Malaysians,” Muhyiddin said.

While reminding the people to continue to comply with the standard operating procedures set, and not be complacent with the flexibility given, Muhyiddin hopes 2021 will open a new chapter for Malaysians, especially in terms of public health, socio-economy, racial unity and national integration.

“2020 has been a very difficult and challenging year, but I believe as human beings and the people of this blessed land of Malaysia, there are still many blessings that we can be grateful for.

“Let us all mobilise the strength and tenacity shown throughout 2020, to move into 2021 with stronger spirit,” Muhyiddin said.

The PN government, he added, will continue to uphold Islamic principles by fulfilling the demands of the Maqasid Syariah which protects religion, life, intellect, lineage and property without denying the rights of other religions in a situation where the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.theborneopost.com/2021/01/01/learn-from-2020s-challenges-step-into-2021-with-greater-resolve-pm/

King, Queen express hope Covid-19 will be defeated in 2021

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Pic source: Facebook/IstanaNegaraOfficialPic source: Facebook/IstanaNegaraOfficial

KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, and the Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, have expressed their hope that the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine can flatten the pandemic curve and break the virus’ transmission in Malaysia.

Comptroller of the Royal Household for Istana Negara Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah also hope that the people will remain patient and resolute in facing the Covid-19 pandemic; and are praying for the country’s recovery.

“Their Majesties also take this opportunity to express their gratitude to the Almighty who has bestowed Malaysia with peace and unity even though, throughout the year 2020, the country we love was hit by various tests,” he said in a statement, today.

Extending 2021 New Year greetings to all Malaysians, Their Majesties advised the people to always ensure the safety and health of themselves and their families by complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/12/653488/king-queen-express-hope-covid-19-will-be-defeated-2021

New ways to fete New Year 2021

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR : Among the most awaited moments by Malaysians with only one more day to go before the New Year 2021, especially city dwellers, are the massive celebrations and fireworks displays in public areas such as Dataran Merdeka, KLCC compound and Dataran Putrajaya.

But this year, the still rampant COVID-19 pandemic had stunted plans to hold large-scale New Year’s Eve celebration, let alone such large-scale assembly activities which were not allowed by the government.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Monday stressed that events or activities via gatherings were still prohibited as stipulated due to difficulty in controlling physical distancing.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Prasarana Malaysia Berhad told Bernama that the bus and rail transit  network service hours would not be extended until early in the morning as usual on Jan 1.

Therefore, in order not to disappoint the public celebrating the year 2021, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) came up with its difference this year by holding the 2021 New Threshold Virtual Concert.

DBKL, through its official website, said the COVID-19 pandemic attack forced it to switch to new methods in the implementation of various aspects of work.

“Not an exception is the DBKL’s Kuala Lumpur Orchestra (OKL), which all these while has been proudly providing live entertainment on stage as well as being the musical backbone for hundreds of celebrities performing since 1988.

“Now OKL will continue to play for city residents but virtually through online broadcasts in conjunction with the 2021 New Threshold Virtual Concert,” it said.

The virtual concert would be posted on DBKL’s official Facebook and Bapakku.FM Facebook on Dec 31, 10 pm with the theme ‘City Folks Continue to Presevere’ as an analogy to the COVID-19 situation that befell the country and the world.

Meanwhile, it is understood that only Sarawak would be organising a new year celebration event at the Kuching Indoor Stadium by following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) set and only 1,000 invited guests would be allowed to attend.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was reported to have said that the organisation of the event had been approved by the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN), but the committee would always be vigilant taking into account every SOP outlined.

However, there would be many Malaysians who would prefer to spend time at home or take their families on outings while complying with the SOP which would simultaneously be seen as complying with government directives that prohibited New Year celebrations in large gatherings.

Najihah Akhmal Madiki, 24, who lived in Shah Alam, planned to go on holiday to Pangkor Island with her family compared to last year’s celebration which held en masse at Dataran Putrajaya.

“For the new year celebration this time, my family and I plan to stay at a hotel and bring our own food while picnicking on the beach to avoid congestion at restaurants there,” she said when contacted today.

A food entrepreneur in Perak, Mohammad Nasharuddin Md Noor, 24, said he and his family would only fete the new year by having meal events at home, just like last year’s celebration.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.theborneopost.com/2020/12/31/new-ways-to-fete-new-year-2021/

Challenges that have shaped 2020

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
A boat sails in front of the Opera House in Sydney on December 30, 2020, as authorities work to suppress a growing cluster of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Australia's most populous city. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)A boat sails in front of the Opera House in Sydney on December 30, 2020, as authorities work to suppress a growing cluster of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Australia’s most populous city. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

AS we prepare to look back on 2020, it is interesting to compare and contrast the experiences of different countries.  The two countries that I know, and think about the most, are Malaysia and Australia.

In Australia, this year started badly — and then it got worse.

As the most destructive fires in our history swept through the country, we learned new respect for those we called our “frontline heroes”. At that point, the term was used to describe our firefighters, rather than health workers.

We put our faith in disaster management experts and in each other. Communities pulled together. This turned out to be good practice for what was to follow.

We were not forgotten by our friends either. The Malaysian government offered assistance, as did Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. In the end, the coming of rains meant we didn’t need to call on Malaysia’s help. But, the offer was there and was deeply appreciated.

When Covid-19 hit us, Australia and Malaysia both found themselves in crisis (for us, it felt as if one crisis had been replaced by another, with hardly a break).  Both governments took early steps to close borders, secure personal protective equipment and begin testing.

Both countries have effective public health systems and competent administrations. As a consequence, Australia and Malaysia have each done well in managing the pandemic, although not without mishaps along the way.

In fact, our trajectories have been so similar that, by my calculations, our infection curves have crossed each other no fewer than 14 times during the course of this year!

I will never stop thanking Malaysia for keeping me and my family, my staff, and all Australians in Malaysia healthy and safe. While Covid-19 was the defining challenge of 2020, there have been others.

In a democracy, no political party or government’s fortunes are ever guaranteed. In past years, Australian politics has seen sudden leadership changes and even minority governments.  But, of late, we have settled into a more predictable pattern.

As an Australian diplomat, I am a neutral, but very interested, observer of Malaysian politics. And I’ve come to appreciate that Malaysians tend to follow politics with the same sort of passion that Australians reserve for sport.

Diplomats from countries whose leaders are directly elected (or unelected) must have scratched their heads at the dramatic developments in February this year. As a parliamentary democracy ourselves, we thought we understood a little better what was going on. But, I am always ready to be educated and/or corrected about Malaysian politics!

It is in the nature of democracy to be often untidy, and natural sometimes to crave political stability. But, in my opinion, even the messiest of democracies beats a well-ordered and rigid authoritarianism, because democracies are well placed to learn and change.

One of the “gifts” of 2020 is that we have had the chance to know ourselves better. The lockdowns have tended to reveal our weaknesses but also our strengths. I have been struck by the patience and good humour with which Malaysians have endured the hardships of this year.

In Australia, too, people have risen to the challenges. We’ve learned to work together in clever new ways, and some of these we won’t forget. We’ve been reminded that our most valuable assets are our people.

In a similar way, Covid-19 has put a mirror up to our societies. It has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on how we treat those among us who have the least power. And taught us that their hardship can also be a source of vulnerability to us.

Not all the challenges in 2020 came from within. Many of the rules and norms governing international behaviour have come under pressure in recent times. In our own region, territorial, maritime, digital and economic sovereignty are now routinely tested. Malaysia and Australia have each stood up to these challenges, as we must. And, as friends do, we exchange information and ideas as we go forward.

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a tough year. And few of us will be sorry to see it pass. But I can’t help thinking that we may end up look back on this period in a kinder way than we do now.

Maybe it’s been the support I’ve received from my friends and colleagues. Maybe it was His Majesty the King’s Christmas message of peace and unity. But, for whatever reason, I find myself ending this strange year in a slightly more optimistic mood than when it started. I hope others feel the same. Happy New Year Malaysia and best wishes for 2021!

By Andrew Goledzinowski.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/colunists/m2020/12/653299/challenges-have-shaped-2020

A global chance to build back better

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Governments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. - NSTP/FATHIL ASRIGovernments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. – NSTP/FATHIL ASRI

SO, a year like no other has finally drawn to a close. A year when most of us were home-bound and earth-bound, as closed borders everywhere meant we were grounded; aeroplanes being likewise mostly grounded, laying waste to a peripatetic lifestyle most of us had hitherto taken for granted before 2020 dawned.

The advent of vaccines against the Covid-19 virus raises high hopes that 2021 will be better for almost everyone on Planet Earth. Certainly, a path towards pre-pandemic normalcy can finally be sketched out.

During the year-end holiday season, it is heartening to witness here in Kuching, for example, how the malls, restaurants and coffee shops are packing in the crowds again, offering encouraging signs that resilient people everywhere will bounce back with a pent-up vengeance as soon as circumstances allow.

Governments the world over must be hoping that this is the case, giving the depressed global economy a much-needed kickstart early in this new year. Still, there is no denying the huge toll the pandemic has extracted, both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.

Seems like everywhere one sees in town, amidst shops showing an early sign of returning vitality, for-rent notices pockmarking boarded-up ones nearby. A local real-estate investor friend worries aloud that existing businesses or new ones are not biting even with attractive rental offers just yet. He worries that this will linger for as long as Sarawak remained closed even to out-of-state domestic travellers.

Uncertainty remains the order of the day. A Kuala Lumpur-based university student who spent most of 2020 taking lessons online in Kuching while working on the side in a coffee shop is suddenly unsure again of his immediate plans now that movement-control measures in place in the federal capital have been extended for a further two weeks.

Another big uncertainty carried over into this new year is political. A state election in Sarawak, constitutionally due by the middle of the year, has been held in abeyance for the time being. Will it be timed together with a snap general election, given the continuing volatility of the national political scene?

Even after a widely anticipated general polls, will the country ever revert again to the long-accustomed path of a government with a secure majority affording us political stability for a full five years of each election cycle? Or are we condemned to fractious and highly malleable governing majorities with all the governance uncertainties ensuing, going forward?

Internationally, will a newly elected American president usher in much-welcome global leadership once again or will we witness a continuation of Sino-American rivalry that, if it exacerbates, will have nations in this region in particular being put in the extremely uneasy and uncomfortable position of having to choose sides?

All told, the havoc to our normal lives caused by the pandemic may have some redeeming features we may sorely miss with any return to “normalcy”. As normal in-class schooling was noted largely for its absence in 2020 and as organisations instituted work-from-home arrangements, our usual traffic-clogged urban roads took a breather. Driving through smooth-flowing traffic may be a luxury we will soon miss.

As our collective carbon footprint shrank drastically with most airliners the world over grounded, Planet Earth must have breathed a lot easier too in 2020. That surely must have had an appreciable impact in mitigation against an otherwise headlong march towards climate-change disaster.

Every cloud supposedly has a silver lining and one as ominous as that formed by this pandemic ought to have several. As some businesses, industries and indeed even lifestyle choices die away, they will surely trigger creative destruction of the sort that encourages new lifestyles and activities in its place. Human ingenuity will soon kick in to bring in its wake new products and services to cater to these new lifestyles and activities.

That is how renewal happens. Crises and silver linings create new opportunities. Dare we hope that a greener and more sustainable earth will become likelier?

Let 2021 be the new beginning so the world can collectively build back better.

By John Teo.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/12/653303/global-chance-build-back-better

Mega UN meetings may herald ’super’ year for nature

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020
Courtesy handout picture taken on November 12, 2019 and recently released by Venezuelan researcher and documentary maker Jose Manuel Romero for its first publication showing a view of the Humboldt Glacier partially covered with snow, at the National Park Sierra Nevada of Merida, Merida State, in the Andes Mountains in Venezuela. - The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has scheduled its 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, a summit that will serve as a de facto deadline for countries to increase their 2030 goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. (Photo by Jose Manuel Romero / Jose Manuel Romero / AFP) Courtesy handout picture taken on November 12, 2019 and recently released by Venezuelan researcher and documentary maker Jose Manuel Romero for its first publication showing a view of the Humboldt Glacier partially covered with snow, at the National Park Sierra Nevada of Merida, Merida State, in the Andes Mountains in Venezuela. – The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has scheduled its 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, a summit that will serve as a de facto deadline for countries to increase their 2030 goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. (Photo by Jose Manuel Romero / Jose Manuel Romero / AFP)

TWO United Nations (UN) mega meetings on biodiversity and climate change next year are expected to set new targets and reaffirm old pledges.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has scheduled its 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, a summit that will serve as a de facto deadline for countries to increase their 2030 goals under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Meanwhile, talks are underway on revised global targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), scheduled for agreement in Kunming, China, at the 15th meeting of the convention’s member nations (COP15).

The Covid-19 pandemic had upended these critical meetings originally scheduled for fall, 2020. Notwithstanding those delays, towards the end of this year, we saw many activities that help prepare a strong foundation for progress next year.

In the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September and the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement on Dec 12, significant new commitments to climate action were made by high-emitting countries like China and from leading subnational actors like California.

United States President-elect Joe Biden has committed to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and restoring American climate and environmental leadership. In the nature arena, the UN Summit on Biodiversity, on Sept 30, underlined the need to establish a successful and ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the CBD’s COP15.

Like the Paris accord, such an agreement will contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and put the global community closer to realising its agreed Vision for Biodiversity, “Living in harmony with nature”, by 2050.

During the virtual summit, leaders expressed concern that while many of the 60 elements within the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010 were achieved, no target was fully met worldwide by this year’s deadline, with millions of hectares of forest lost since the decadal targets were agreed, and a million species now facing extinction.

In the last 50 years, vertebrate populations have declined by more than two thirds. To continue is to lose not only natural riches, but also security of food and water supplies, livelihoods and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events.

Summit participants noted that more than half of the world’s gross domestic product — US$44 trillion — depends on nature. According to the World Economic Forum, “biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse” ranks among the top five threats facing the world today.

UNGA president Volkan Bozkir called on member states to build political momentum for a strong new framework under the CBD.

Kunming, he said, must do for biodiversity what Paris did for climate change in 2015, elevating discourse on the subject to mainstream society and placing it firmly on the political agenda.

Many summit participants pointed to the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, signed to date by 92 countries and the European Union, as a promising sign of gathering momentum for an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Signatories commit their nation to a transition to sustainable production and consumption, mainstreaming biodiversity, ending environmental crimes and strengthening implementation. The High Ambition Coalition, led by Costa Rica and France, called for the protection of 30 per cent of the planet by 2030, with a similar target for oceans advocated by the Global Oceans Alliance.

However, the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature is missing the signatures of leaders from megadiverse countries, including Australia, the US, China, Brazil, India and Asean members. Some suggested this is due to the pandemic, but it may also be because the issue remains a hidden crisis.

Its direct and irrefutable links to the pandemic, with stark warnings of more to come more frequently, are not yet widely recognised or appreciated. Covid-19, like Zika, Ebola and the human immunodeficiency virus, is just the latest in a series of infectious diseases that originate from animal populations under environmental pressure. Experts say 60 per cent of such illnesses originate this way.

After all we have been through this year, we cannot allow another pandemic to happen before accepting the warnings and activating the political will required to create adequate, science-based protections of nature and avert a comparable catastrophe.

That’s why, with the two UN meetings next year, it is hoped they will herald a “super” year for nature.

The writer is former chairman of CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, ambassador and science adviser to the Campaign for Nature, and a senior fellow of Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

By Zakri Abdul Hamid.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/12/653079/mega-un-meetings-may-herald-super-year-nature

NST Leader: How we wronged 2020

Monday, December 28th, 2020
Never has a year been sent to humans as a test on such a global scale before. In every nation and territory around the world, men failed the year. - NSTP pic, for illustration purposes onlyNever has a year been sent to humans as a test on such a global scale before. In every nation and territory around the world, men failed the year. – NSTP pic, for illustration purposes only

THERE are only three days left in the year we want to so hurriedly get away from.

Truth be told, there is nothing wrong with 2020. It is we who have made it an “annus horribilis”.

Never has a year been sent to humans as a test on such a global scale before. In every nation and territory around the world, men failed the year.

Yet, like humans often do, we blame 2020 for all our misdeeds. The year 2021 will be no different if only the year changes and not our errant behaviours.

Mankind’s misdeeds are aplenty, but let’s consider just three. Firstly, the misdeed that led to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to jump species.

From what is known thus far, the coronavirus may have jumped to the first human host in Wuhan in China from bats or pangolins through an intermediary animal host, a civet cat.

The coronavirus was said to have been found in a wet market in Wuhan. To be fair, the evidence in what has come to be called the Wuhan who dunnit isn’t conclusive, but what is incontestable is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from an animal host.

How do the animals get so close to us? This happens in two ways. First, some of us bring wildlife, hosts of zoonotic diseases, to our dining tables.

This is like handing over the key to the door of our human cells to the coronavirus. This must stop. So must our encroachment on the habitats of our wildlife in the name of development.

Environmentalists and medical scientists have long warned of the danger of zoonosis, the process by which the virus makes the leap from animals to humans, that is being hastened by our relentless encroachment on wildlife habitats.

An article in the North Carolina State University’s website quotes Dr Roland Kays, a Research Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, as saying that six out of 10 infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic.

The main culprit? Illegal wildlife wet markets. Some of the worst diseases have emerged from there, says Kays.

Puzzlingly, last December wasn’t the first time a coronavirus made such a leap. Even before the first SARS-CoV made its appearance in 2002 in Guangdong in China, there have been a handful, according to The Economist. Secondly, is our mistreatment of planet Earth.

As the years stack up, so does the waste on planet Earth. The Washington Post, quoting World Bank researchers, says the world produces 3.5 million tons of solid waste a day, 10 times the amount a century ago.

If we do nothing now, the figure will grow to 11 million tons a day. The Earth is drowning in garbage and so are we. It needn’t be so.

If the National Geographic magazine is right, between 75 and 80 per cent of all household trash is organic matter and can be composted into soil.

Such lifestyle changes are a must if we want to save the planet and the people on it. Finally, is our misdeeds against our fellow men.

“Othering” didn’t begin with former United States president George W. Bush. Neither did it end with him.

Sadly, racism isn’t just an American problem. It is an European and Asian mess as well. Worryingly, in some countries, “othering” is being done on the pretext of national security.

Annus mirabilis is not made thus. For the year to be good, humankind must first be good.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2020/12/652569/nst-leader-how-we-wronged-2020

2020 certainly not the best of times

Thursday, December 24th, 2020
A police and army roadblock in Subang Jaya in April this year.  On March 20, three days after  the Movement Control Order was implemented, Covid-19 cases had crossed the 1,000 mark. -NSTP/File pic A police and army roadblock in Subang Jaya in April this year. On March 20, three days after the Movement Control Order was implemented, Covid-19 cases had crossed the 1,000 mark. -NSTP/File pic

It was Charles Dickens who wrote these famous words in his classic book A Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

2020 has most (if not all) of those elements. February saw the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government. The ensuing months revealed the nasty face of politics — grab for power, treachery and broken alliances.

With March came the Movement Control Order (MCO) as cases of Covid-19 started to rise in the country and elsewhere, heralding a global pandemic.

On March 20, three days after MCO was implemented, cases crossed the 1,000 mark. It was a black Friday, as we were no longer allowed to attend Friday prayers in our mosques – which never happened before.

On April 1, the long-awaited Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill was tabled in Parliament. Many of my colleagues asked “Is it not too little, too late?”

May was eventful. First, the government announced the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), hoping to restore normalcy. Second, on May 14, Riza Aziz was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA). Third, on May 18, the official opening of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament took place, creating many “firsts”.

It was the best of times for Pas leader Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who succeeded Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Kedah’s new Menteri Besar on May 18.

He soon issued several statements (regarding a Hindu temple, water dispute with Penang and his plan to mine rare earth), which displeased several quarters — but that is another story.

On June 9, former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman was acquitted and discharged of all 46 criminal charges preferred against him. He was set free after the prosecution told the court that it is withdrawing all the charges against him.

On July 28, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was convicted of seven charges of corruption and money laundering, and sentenced by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million.

Meanwhile, former Felda chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad is still in hot water.

On June 16, the prosecution had proved a case against him on all nine bribery charges, but set him free on the CBT charge. Also facing an uncertain future is Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. According to a media report, he is facing 87 charges.

History was created on Oct 25 when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong rejected a bid to declare a state of emergency. His Majesty’s decision had been hailed as a mark of “royal wisdom”. Surprisingly, a young lawyer had filed a judicial review to challenge it.

A “winter of despair” awaits the family of the late Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, who died of massive injuries sustained in a riot at a Hindu temple on Nov 27, 2018. In September last year, coroner Rafiah Mohamad declared that Adib’s death was due to criminal action of unidentified individuals.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin told Parliament on Nov 14 that the “results of investigation” would be made known shortly. Adib’s father, Mohd Kassim Abdul Hamid told the media that his family had been waiting for a long time to “see the face” of his son’s killer in court.

This month saw the arrest of several senior Immigration officers (suspected of being involved in human trafficking and migrant smuggling) and a celebrity youth preacher (charged with rape and other sexual offences). Could this be what Dickens meant by an “age of foolishness?”

The month also saw the passing of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid, and the sweet victory of the PN-led government in getting its 2021 Budget approved in the Dewan Rakyat, albeit with a thin majority.

The Public Accounts Committee announced that it would be calling Zahid to answer questions relating to the delay in the RM9 billion littoral combat ships project in his capacity as the former defence minister.

According to media reports, the project was commissioned in 2014, RM5.9 billion had been paid, but none of the ships had been built to date — another sad picture of Malaysia’s broken procurement regime.

To summarise, 2020 indeed seems to be “a season of darkness, at times the spring of hope and also the winter of despair”.

By Salleh Buang.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/12/651831/2020-certainly-not-best-times

We may not miss 2020, but we’ll remember what it taught us

Monday, December 21st, 2020
The truth is, it will take a long time before our lives become as they were before, if ever. - AFP pic, for illustration purposes only
The truth is, it will take a long time before our lives become as they were before, if ever. – AFP pic, for illustration purposes only

I WOULD say that everyone would agree that this past year has been interchangeably “challenging”, “different”, and to a certain extent, “life – changing“.

Even if you are the type who does not travel, the 12 weeks Malaysia was under lockdown was a difficult time, with schools suspended and most commercial businesses restricted.

Eight months on, things are not back to “normal”, at least not the normal that we know. “Back to normal” is a mantra that we need to tell ourselves.

The truth is, it will take a long time before our lives become as they were before, if ever. I was in Washington D.C. when 9/11 happened.

I remember how things almost seemed to change overnight: security at the airport became almost fortress-like. Everyone who was getting on a plane was seen as a potential security threat.

20 years on, in February 2020, before the pandemic was declared a pandemic, security at the airport was as tight as ever. Can you imagine how much of an impact this global pandemic would have on travel, on contact, on our social lives?

If nothing else, 2020 has been a teacher of sorts. It has taught us that no matter how powerful you may be, you can be brought to your knees by the smallest of creations, much like the lesson in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. For Malaysia, 2020 was to have been the year that we became a developed country, the culmination of all that we had aspired to, worked for, and dreamed of.

I would still say that we achieved Vision 2020, though in a more philosophical way. We now understand that perfect vision doesn’t have to mean seeing very far. It can also mean seeing and acknowledging the smallest of particles around us. This year was also to have been our second attempt at a Visit Malaysia Year.

In 2014, we had to scrap all the plans and promotions when one plane went missing, and another was shot down. If before, there were those of us who counted it a personal achievement not to lose bags in their multitude of travels, this year we count it a major achievement if we have not lost anyone we know to the pandemic.

This year has tried to teach us to appreciate our own company more. The quarantine period gave us time for ourselves. Family members who saw each other only on weekends and at night now found themselves spending days on end closeted with each other.

Books that never got read, movies that never got viewed, and articles that never got written, found themselves the centre of attention.

All of a sudden, getting to work on time was not the be-all and end-all it was before. Ensuring that we actually had work to go to, became paramount. And we found out that the rest of the world could actually live without us.

Many found that they had to change their mindset about what was important in their lives. Families separated by distance and different areas relied even more heavily on technology to strengthen their bonds, while long-lost friends finally found the time to say “hello” to each other.

We have always been taught the highest form of calling is when you put others before yourself, and nowhere nor at no other time was this more apparent than when frontliners left their families to answer the call of duty.

Travel came to a near absolute halt, but only in the physical sense. It did not stop us from dreaming, from aspiring, and from envisioning.

Social media was awash with #throwback or #flashback, trips down memory lane of a poignant and much-cherished vacation.

Employees found different ways to execute work. Online businesses boomed, from home cooked meals delivered daily, to zoom yoga, and to online masterclasses. Those who could not adapt soon found themselves going under.

Captains of the hospitality industry found themselves challenged to be more innovative to generate revenue. Witness the Flight To Nowhere, hotel Staycation packages, and limited seminar mixed with webinar packages.

The herd mentality of doing business — doing without thinking — is quickly becoming a thing of the past. At no other time can we actually say, “What a year it has been”, and actually mean it, as a global collective.

Goodbye 2020. We might not miss everything about you, but we will certainly remember most of what you taught us.

By Dr Shazelina Zainul Abidin.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/12/650993/we-may-not-miss-2020-well-remember-what-it-taught-us