Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Lean government ensures better service

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
The armed forces and police force make up close to 20 per cent of the 1.6 million civil servants. (File pix)

GOVERNMENTS worldwide have taken steps to limit their expenditure — by doing more with less, seeking efficiency and borrow borrowing tools such as “Lean” from the private sector to streamline the business of government — as a potential solution to increasing costs in education, healthcare, infrastructure; increasing demands for services; and decreasing economic resources to support this growth.

At its core, Lean, which refers to the lean production principles and methods to provide services, is a systematic approach to solving problems and reducing the overburden and employees in an organisation by streamlining processes, which includes eliminating wasteful steps and seeking more effective ways to achieve outcomes.

One of the reasons why the Lean approach is successful is the focus on the customer — “Customer is King”. The customer defines the value. If the customer is not willing to pay for a feature of a product, then that feature has no value and should be eliminated. In terms of government, the customer is the public. Lean for government focuses on serving the public with respect and improving service delivery, with a culture that holds a customer orientation in management as well as clearer accountability for results in the public service.

The results include such as less reduced waiting time for access to services (in hospitals, court hearing and licence applications) and efficiency in policing. The targets are: more transparency, more efficiency and more quality at reduced expenses. The “Customer is King” approach resonates well into our aspirations for Government Transformation Program (GTP) that aimed at increased productivity with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) that aims at increasing productivity with less, and to change the way public services are delivered.

Achieving thea Lean government entails a long process of government engineering.

Of utmost importance is the sustainable management of resources. The concern is on centres on the 1.6 million civil servants, the ratio of which is 1 for every 19.37 MalaysianMalaysians, widely viewed as bloated by international standard, and critics. Critics make two arguments about it. First, they contend that the state bureaucracy is enormous. Civil servants made make up 5% per cent of Malaysia’s 30 million population, higher than Indonesia (1.9% per cent) South Korea (1.85% per cent) or Thailand (1.06% per cent). Ratio wise, Malaysia has more state bureaucrats than the neighbouring countries, for example Singapore is 1 to 71.4 people, Indonesia 1: 110, Korea 1:50 China 1: 108, Japan 1: 28; and even Russia that underwent a bureaucratic revolution during Trostky and Stalin’s era in the twentieth century and later bureaucratic reform under Boris Elt’sin in 1998, currently stands at 1: 84 and other western countries such as Britain, 1: 118. and Japan 1: 28.

Even in Russia, which underwent a bureaucratic revolution during Trostky and Stalin’s era in the 20th century and later bureaucratic reform under Boris Yeltsin in 1998, the ratio stands at 1: 84. In Britain, a Western country, it is 1: 118.

Second, the issue of ballooning cost.

It was reported that in 2003, the pay for public servants totalled RM22 billion and the pension of civil servants was RM5.9 billion. By last year 2016, the pay increased to RM74 billion and the pension payment RM19 billion.

The salaries, pensions and gratuities forms about a third of the budget every year. Determining the right size of the civil service can be a complex matter. Although many countries are used as comparison due to colonial similarity of post similarities in post-colonial era civil service structure, there are also stark disparities. As outlined in Article 132 of the Constitution, the public service comprises the following components: (1) the armed forces; (2) the judicial and the legal service; (3) the general public service of the federation; (4) the police force; (5) the railway service; (6) the joint public services; (7) state public service; and (8) the education service.

Out of the 1.6 million employees, teachers, including university academics, madke up 37% per cent of the public employees; the armed forces and police force close to 20 per cent; nurses 5.0 per cent; the judicial and legal service, 1.0 per cent; while the rest are in the railway service, and public service.

by  Prof Dr. Nik Rosnah Wan Abdullah.

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A platform for a better world

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
The United Nations headquarters in New York. The world body will be observing Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Public Service Day and the 72nd anniversary of its founding over the next few days. File pic

A NUMBER of important events are coming up next week. Uppermost in everyone’s mind is, of course, the Eid-ul Fitr, or as Malaysians term it, Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

This Muslim celebration is not only celebrated worldwide, it is also marked by the United Nations itself and declared a public holiday for UNHQ and its agencies worldwide.

This in itself is nothing short of a phenomenon for the UN, especially when you consider that other religious holidays are not official public holidays for the world body.

Of course, Christmas is observed, as is Good Friday, but the other “holidays” with religious underpinnings — Yom Kippur, Deepavali, Wesak, Gurpurab — are optional for UN staff members who celebrate them. Which means that they can go on leave, but not others.

I remember fondly our defence adviser in New York, a Chinese Malaysian colonel from the Malaysian Army.

In all the time I knew him as a colleague, he had the worst luck possible in terms of holidays.

Chinese New Year, though observed by the Malaysian Mission to the UN, is not a UN public holiday, so the standing rule was that as long as there were no meetings to attend, he would be free to observe Chinese New Year.

Sure enough, every year, without fail, there would be an important meeting on Chinese New Year, and one which he could not afford to miss.

In terms of recognition, the UN’s declaration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri as an official UN holiday is a massive show of recognising the Muslim community and states within the United Nations and elsewhere. Incidentally, the other major Muslim celebration — Eid-ul Adha — is also a public holiday for the UN.

This was not always the case. Prior to 1998, neither Eid were declared as public holidays for the UN. In January 1998, however, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 52/214 and decided that “henceforth, the two holidays of Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha shall be observed as official holidays” of the UN and its bodies.

In late 2010, a large snowstorm swept through New York City — big enough to leave two feet of snow for pedestrians to wade through, but not big enough to fully incapacitate the city life.

Nevertheless, many schools and offices declared themselves closed for the day. Not so the UN.

Those of us who were still in the middle of negotiations and had meetings at the UN still had to trudge through the snow in our boots, only to change into heels and shoes once inside the building. That was how begrudging the UN is when it comes to declaring days off, much less public holidays.

Closer still is the second event on June 23, when the UN will celebrate Public Service Day. This year’s Public Service Day — as designated by the United Nations — falls on the Friday before Aidilfitri.

As the largest employer of international civil servants, it is only fitting that the UN celebrate its many employees around the globe by declaring a day for them.

Though the UN Public Service Day is not a holiday, it is still a recognition of sorts, and has been since the Day was first observed in 2003.

Malaysia used to have a civil service museum (Muzium Perkhidmatan Awam).

It was to house not only the story of the Malayan Civil Service and its successor, the Administrative and Diplomatic Service, but to also showcase the men and women who made a difference to the country and, of course, the service itself.

When the dream finally became a reality, the museum found a home near the Lake Gardens, right in the middle of the tourist route of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, the museum is no more.

The third international event within this week falls on the second day of the Aidilfitri.

On June 26, 1945, the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco, formally establishing the world organisation.

Officially, however, the UN Charter only came into effect on Oct 24 of that same year. Even though UN Day is celebrated in October, the signing of the Charter on June 26 is also seen as a milestone event and observed accordingly.

Malaysia itself joined the UN in Sept 17, 1957, a mere two weeks after gaining independence. Since then, the UN has been a mainstay of the country’s foreign policy. Despite criticism and disappointments over the years, it remains the single largest organisation that we have to tackle most of the world’s ills.

Academician Andrew Guzman once described the UN as an anomaly. States, he argued, would only create an organisation that they could effectively control for fear of the Frankenstein effect.

This is why many international organisations are limited in their mandate or reach, or both, unlike the UN, which covers every single topic under the sun and has a universal membership of states.

Whatever the case may be, this year marks 60 years of Malaysia’s membership in the world body. And “60” just happens to be one of those numbers that trigger a response with people.

It is the age of retirement for many civil servants, the number that most countries use to define senior citizenship, and the number for which official designation in terms of anniversary celebrations is no less than a diamond.

Even Malaysia’s international dialling code is 60.

So, 60 is a big deal in international affairs, at least for Malaysia. Wisma Putra’s Diplomacy@60 exhibition celebrates that fact, as it does the country’s involvement in the UN, and the many civil servants who have walked the hallowed halls of the ministry.


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Culture of dialogue should be preserved without prejudice

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
A Philippine soldier standing on a tank in Marawi City on Sunday as government forces continue their assault against insurgents. Southeast Asia was rudely reminded that even the holy month of Ramadan was not sacred to extremists. (REUTERS PHOTO)

AS Ramadhan welcomed Muslims to its embrace, and peace, prayer, and reflection were eagerly anticipated, Southeast Asia was rudely reminded that even the holy month was not sacred to extremists.

Late last monthin May, our region came under the spotlight as a military siege transpired in Marawi City, in the, southern Philippines, in response to attacks prompted by the Maute group, a splinter cell of the bigger Daesh Islamic State satellite network in Southeast Asia.

It has been the ambition of IS Daesh to set up a secure wilayat in this region since losing grip in its their main strongholds of Iraq and Syria. It seems that with the arrest of three Malaysians who sought to gain safe passage to Marawi from Sandakan and with the reported involvement of 38 Indonesian militants in the Marawi conflict, the appeal of IS Daesh and its propaganda remain appealing.

Despite hundreds of meetings and millions of dollars of investment in countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives, questions still arise. Why is extremist propaganda still attractive to many? Who do we blame? How can we put this extreme influence to an end?

Greater democratic space in society has opened the doors to more common conversations about identity in the public domain. Often, these interactions gravitate around the sensitive premises of one’s’ ideology, culture, and faith. At times, discussions can turn sour as the call for tolerance is misunderstood as a demand for absolute compromise. AS WELL, The acceptance of different interpretations of history and cultural norms is also no longer highly valued by certain factions of society — flagging an early and potential sign of radicalism. This search for, and in some cases assertion of, the individual identity against the backdrop of a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society has coincided with the recent rise of right- and left-wing extremism globally.

Traditionally, CVE recognisesd two central approaches — the hard approach, which is largely tended to by conventional security agencies, and the social approach, which that is mostly organised by civil society groups and local communities. In Malaysia, these defined efforts generally flow in a rather fluid manner with no higher authority to govern players and initiatives in within a defined programmatic structure of CVE.

On the one hand, this situation could propel CVE efforts into an unanchored direction as these efforts can require considerably large resources, as well as some form of guidance to keep its momentum going, hence, the rationale of centralisation by way of entrusting a higher mandate of agenda-setting to a well-resourced and legally accountable entity.

Yet, this same authorised body could find itself in a dilemma, caught between vested interests that seek to control CVE narratives and allowing freer conversations to take place.

The question of whether CVE narratives would be more effective through a centralised or decentralised approach should be considered, particularly against the now -accepted wisdom that CVE is better off as a whole-of-society effort. Crucially, in order to send and project the right messages, CVE narratives should be sensitive to the evolution of how conversations in society are shaped and influenced over the course of time.

Some of these conversations are more one-way than a genuine exchange. Whether out of cultural courteousness or deference to hierarchical structures, trust is sometimes conferred on others to decide what is best, even on the most mundane of subjects, according these parties a greater influence on how issues are thought through than they may sometimes be deserving of.

In this instance, a centralised approach to narratives may prove limiting in effect and perhaps even backfire on the overall CVE effort, depending on the message conveyed, messenger, and the end goal. Even if this approach is preferred, it is imperative for stakeholders to ensure that checks and balances remain intact and that the culture of dialogue is preserved without prejudice.

The exchange of ideas should flow with minimum and careful restrictions in gauging the reality on the ground. Although sometimes to controversial effect, well-known, private, technology platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have on numerous occasions assisted, facilitated, and provided CVE campaigns with the online space for information to flow. Until now, these channels have allowed members of society to forge frank, sometimes even blunt, interactions, allowing players from various sectors to recognise complexities on the ground and collate real-time raw data for future designs of inclusive counter-narratives.

by Nurul Izzati.

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Integrity — non-negotiable value in workplace

Friday, June 23rd, 2017
(File pix) A person who has integrity lives their values in their relationships with co-workers, customers, and stakeholders.

I AM writing this week’s column in Vienna.

I am here partly on vacation with my wife. We come to her home country, Austria, every year in the summer. This year however, we are both also here on a work assignment as consultants for the World Branding Forum.

The inaugural World Branding Awards Animalis Edition was held, here, on June 21 .

We both really like Austria’s capital city. Vienna is a heady mix of the old and new. It was the seat of the Habsburg Empire for centuries, and as such it is steeped in tradition, culture and amazing architecture.

More importantly, for the eighth year in a row, this year, Vienna has been rated the world’s most “liveable” city.

The survey by renowned consulting company Mercer, looks at various factors including the political, social, and economic climate as well as more practical things like medical care, education, and infrastructural conditions such as public transportation, power and water supply.

I find that the people of Vienna stylish, urbane, and quite erudite. They are laid back, and yet they seem thoughtful about things. They take proper living very seriously. This must be why they came out top of the class.

There was something else really interesting that caught my eye these past few days.

I used the U-Bahn or the subway a few times as it is an easy mode of transport. For €7.60 (RM36.30), you can buy a 24-hour ticket. This ticket is valid on all public transport means in the city, including trains, the subway, the over-ground tramway, and city buses.

In itself, there is nothing unique about this. Most cities with good public transportation infrastructure have such integrative systems, and at comparable prices. What is distinct though, is the way tickets are policed in Vienna.

The first time you buy your ticket, you put it through a franking machine, and activate it. The ticket gets marked with a time-stamp. From that moment on, your ticket is valid for exactly 24 hours.

As I went in and out of the U-Bahn stations, I looked for validation points, like entry and exit controls. This is something I am used to in Malaysia, and in other parts of the world. But, there were none.

I then figured that in some cities like Melbourne and Manchester, there were regular ticket inspections on board trains and trams. Again in the three days I used the system, there was none.

I investigated further. It turned out that they do have checks. Apparently, plain clothes ticket inspectors patrol the public transport network at all times.

If you are caught without a valid ticket, you will have to pay a penalty of €103, and this includes a free trip to the nearest police station, if you are unable to show the ticket inspector a valid passport or any official ID.

But in reality, these checks rarely happen.

Fundamentally, the entire system operates on trust. The residents of Vienna understand that they have a civic duty to pay for public transportation. And, they seem to have no qualms about this.

To be honest, I have not verified the efficacy of this system. I do not know if the Vienna Metro is losing money because of fare dodging.

But, I can verify that I see lots of people paying for tickets. And, I can confirm that the system operates exceedingly well. It is clean, efficient, and the trains, trams and busses are very comfortable.

Perhaps, the people of Vienna understand the value of integrity. And, perhaps this is what makes this city so liveable, making it, literally the best in the world!

A city is nothing without its people.

Likewise, a company is nothing without its people, either. And, its people must exhibit strong core values.

In my experience as a consultant, a management trainer, and an executive leadership coach, there are specific core values I look for in an employee.

But the first criteria, is always whether they are able to demonstrate integrity, or not.

Integrity is a fundamental, and non-negotiable value, I look for in a person.

My early failings in life were because I did not demonstrate sufficient integrity. I am not so proud that I cannot admit I had to learn this the hard way; through failed businesses, disastrous relationships, and botched friendships.


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There should be no extra punishment

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Once a sentence has been pronounced, it should be carried out according to the book and without any additional measures.

WHEN a person is found guilty of a crime in Malaysia; what are the usual punishments?

It depends on the type of offence, of course, but generally the worst possible punishment is death by hanging, followed by whipping, incarceration and finally a fine.

Personally, I think the death penalty should be done away with.

This is not because I believe that it is wrong in principle, but because no legal system is perfect and therefore if there is a risk, no matter how small, that an innocent person may be found guilty, then it is unconscionable that there should be a punishment as final as death available on the books.

Whipping is, from my point of view, a form of torture and torture is clearly against international customary law. Thus, it should also not be part of our legal system.

Furthermore, to make matters worse, the death penalty and whipping are being used for crimes that in my view do not merit such harsh and cruel penalties.

Drug offences should not carry the death sentence as it does nothing to stop the drug problem and it is also always used only on the small fry at the very bottom of the illegal drug trade, and these are often desperate or ignorant people.

Whipping as a punishment is also used for inappropriate offences like immigration crimes.

I think there can be absolutely no justification of beating someone simply because they do not have the right papers on them.

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Research team to promote culture, arts, and development in BIMP-EAGA region

Friday, June 2nd, 2017


STB general manager Gordon Yapp entertaining Roberto, Zenaida and Caren during the courtesy call

KOTA KINABALU: A research team gathering information for the preservation and promotion of culture, arts and its development in the BIMP-EAGA region has been launched.

The research project is also designed at developing an ‘Inventory and Mapping’ of BIMP-EAGA region artists and to establish connectivity among the artists in the region.

“Being the lead country, the Philippines is conducting the data collection process for the inventory and mapping and to explore the cultural industry, particularly cultural institutions and organizations,” its project director Dr Roberto Torres said after paying courtesy call to Sabah Tourism Board Manager Gordon Yapp yesterday.

He said details of cultural programmes, activities and resources likewise cultural talents and skills of individual artists are also included in the ongoing research work.

“We hope to achieve at the end of the research project profile of artists across BIMP-EAGA region; compare the mapped-out profile of cultural institutions, cultural programmes, resources and artists across countries and to highlight the key contributions in relation to socio-cultural cluster development among BIMP-EAGA member countries,” Roberto stressed.

The project director said the primary aim out of the project is a directory and map of cultural institutions, organizations and individual artists of BIMP-EAGA member countries.

Robert who is also assisted by lead researcher Carmen T. Ramos and Association of Creative and Performing Artist of Zamboanga Inc (ACPAZ) President Zenaida A. Torres said selected data will be inserted into a printed directory and map.

He said copies of the directory and map will be made available to all the parties concerned for the promotion of the respective culture of arts; boost closer friendly relation and connectivity among artists and countries; and propagation of cultural exchanges and sharing of talents in the BIMP-EAGA region.

Roberto and his other team mates will be leaving for Kuching today (Friday) for the same purpose, after visiting Kuala Lumpur and Labuan.

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Fasting, working hours and productivity

Thursday, June 1st, 2017
The fasting month is not only about avoiding sin or performing acts of worship, but also in applying the same consciousness to what we eat, how we sleep, what to focus on and how to manage our time optimally. AFP PIC

WE are nearing the end of the first week of Ramadan. Some of my friends have settled into a new routine, having made changes to their working arrangements and lifestyle. Among them, there are those who have turned down offers of overseas travel during the month and those that stretched into the Raya period. Some even frowned upon others who do travel during Ramadan as if it is an unthinkable thing to do. There are those who have rescheduled meetings, even important ones, until after Raya.

The government and some companies have shortened the working hours (lunch-break hours are reduced) to accommodate those having to go home early to prepare break-of-fast meals for the family and then rush to the mosque to perform the terawih prayers.

So, with this and more, Ramadan is perceived to be a month of reduced working hours and productivity.

In fact, a 2013 Harvard Kennedy School of Government research by Filipe Campante and David Yanagizawa-Drott had established causal evidence for a negative effect of Ramadan fasting on economic growth in Muslim countries. Their findings indicated that religious practices can affect labour supply choices in ways that have negative implications on economic performance.

But, an earlier survey by Dinar Standard and ProductiveMuslim Ltd in 2011 showed that 77 per cent out of 1,534 working professional respondents said they try to maintain the same level of work productivity during Ramadan as they do outside of Ramadan. They also feel that work should continue uninterrupted.

The survey was marketed in five Muslim-majority countries (Malaysia, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) as well as five countries with sizeable Muslim minorities (the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada, and Australia).

One key implication of this finding was that people do not expect adjustments to their work hours. Only 15 per cent of the respondents thought that work should not be a priority while three per cent responded that nobody works during Ramadan.

The survey also showed that 72 per cent of the respondents agreed that their company’s productivity did not suffer during Ramadan, and that it was business as usual. This response was stronger from non-OIC-based respondents (81 per cent vs 61 per cent from OIC-based respondents). Also noteworthy was that 26 per cent of OIC-based respondents did think their company’s productivity does unnecessarily suffer during Ramadan.

For those countries which average two hours workday reduction (Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Pakistan and Egypt), the total hours lost were approximately 40, which was essentially equivalent to one week of economic productivity. Percentage-wise, this averaged to a 7.7 per cent loss in such a country’s monthly gross domestic product (GDP) value. For those which averaged a one hour workday reduction (Indonesia and Malaysia), the total lost hours were 20, which averaged to a 3.8 per cent loss in those economies’ average monthly GDP value.

Dinar Standard said although a detailed analysis of economic impact would have to be undertaken to understand the full complexity of the Ramadan dynamic, the above assessment showed that the economies suffered roughly four per cent in monthly GDP per hour of work reduction per day.

“Undoubtedly, no dollar value can be placed on spiritual gains and divine blessings of increased worship during Ramadan, but the fact that there are different approaches to work-hour reduction and adjustment do suggest that governments should evaluate whether their Ramadan policies maintain the right balance of work responsibility and spiritual flexibility during Ramadan,” it said.

ProductiveMuslim, in its article “The Ramadan Debate: Spirituality vs Productivity”, said having a productive Ramadan is neither about focusing on the spiritual side of Ramadan only and neglecting (or even ignoring) productivity and work performance, nor the opposite.

“A productive Ramadan is about asking oneself the critical question: How can I be the best version of myself — spiritually, physically, and socially during this blessed month?

“If enough Muslims ask themselves this question and follow through with practical implementation of the latest productivity science that helps them be productive, healthy and balanced human beings, then perhaps in a few years we might get a different result from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government research, one that will say Ramadan not only improves subjective wellbeing among followers, but also improves economic performance and productivity,” it added.


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Moving beyond tolerance

Monday, May 29th, 2017
Be kind: Shahreen says Malaysians need to work harder at being civil to each other. — SHAHANAAZ HABIB/The Star

Be kind: Shahreen says Malaysians need to work harder at being civil to each other-SHAHANAAZ HABIB/The Star.

IF the state of Malaysian society could be likened to a set of traffic lights, it’s the yellow caution light that is blinking now, says Dr Shahreen Mat Nayan, 42.

“I don’t see a red or green light but a yellow one, and that is a warning sign if we don’t nip things in the bud. It means we can still live in this environment but we shouldn’t let it get worse,” says the Universiti Malaya senior lecturer who teaches journalism, rhetoric, and current issues and does research on inclusivity, diversity, and women activism.

She says Malaysians need to work harder at being civil to each other. Civility, she explains, means politeness and having empathy and the willingness to be open and listen to what the other person is saying and where he is coming from, even though you may disagree with his point of view.

What is uncivil are incidents such as the one in which comedian-actor Sulaiman Yassin (aka “Mat Over”) slapped filmmaker David Teo in front of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during a Transformasi Nasional 2050 dialogue session earlier this month.

‘‘It was an open platform. People went to listen and ask questions. Isn’t that what dialogues and meetings with leaders are for? The fact is that guy (Teo) was trying to ask a question so he was just playing his role as a citizen.

‘‘If you (Mat Over) think he (Teo) was rude and being disrespectful to the Prime Minister, there are better ways to voice your dissatisfaction. You (Mat Over) can go up to him and tell him to calm down, to tone down his voice and not be rude. Malaysians need to learn to disagree with maturity.

‘‘You shouldn’t resort to physical force and slapping him. That is totally unnecessary. If we want the younger generation to deal with conflict in a more mature way we need to set a good example.’’

Shahreen says it is good that, after the altercation, Mat Over and Teo made up and put in an appearance at another function the PM attended a week later where they sat peaceably next to each other.

That even drew Najib’s attention, and he said he does not want quarrels and wants people of all races and religions in the country to get along and help each other so that the country can be peaceful and prosperous.

Shahreen says it is good that the PM took the time to highlight the civility and that the two men are “friends” again.

“We shouldn’t make just controversial issues ‘news’. Good actions and anything that highlights progress should also be made news. We should balance the narratives so that not only one – especially not the negative – dominates.”

Shahreen says she finds it rather troubling that two days after the slapping episode, the Terengganu State Government had Mat Over as a guest and a youth icon at a function in the state.

‘‘What kind of message are they trying to send there? There are so many other people who can be role models for youth. Why use someone so controversial?” she asks.

Even if the invitation had been issued to Mat Over before the slapping incident, Shahreen feels it should have been withdrawn.

‘‘It’s a bit like advertising. When a company chooses a spokesman for their product, as soon as that person messes up, you can bet that the company is going withdraw its sponsorship. It doesn’t matter if you are Jennifer Aniston. I think that needs to apply in this context as well.

‘‘If you are going to present someone as a youth icon, you have make sure it is someone with a clean record who youth can identify with and who can set a good example.’’

It is now essential to redefine what a ‘‘hero’’ is, she says.

“Just because someone is in the spotlight, has his 15 minutes of fame on YouTube, and looks macho and gung-ho, it doesn’t mean that he deserves to be called a hero. We need to set higher standards for what we consider a hero.’’

It also concerns her how people tend to view incidents such as the Mat Over-Teo scuffle through a race-based lens.

When you want to criticise a person, make sure the criticism is about something within his control that he can change, like a behaviour or attitude, she says.

‘‘Don’t bring race into the issue. We did not choose to be born a Malay in Malaysia or a Chinese in Malaysia. So don’t vilify a person for things that cannot be changed like race. Nobody should have to apologise for being born a Chinese, Malay, Indian or whatever.’’

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Caring for all creatures great and small

Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Jom Sayangi Haiwan Kita presenter Nurul Najwa Adzme explaining more about the characteristics of cats to students.

VAMPIE. What a cute name! His beautiful sharp fangs protrude out even when his mouth is closed, making him look quite comical. He’s sitting next to me, doe eyes looking straight into mine. Gently, I couldn’t help caressing his cheeks with my fingers and just like that, my heart melts. Any thoughts of pushing him off my handbag vanish as he begins to meow softly.

This adorable cat is one of the many furry felines at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Jalan Kerja Ayer Lama in Ampang, Selangor, where I’m spending my Saturday morning, in preparation for my story. He’s a long tailed black adult cat who’d been fostered by someone before being taken to SPCA. He’s dewormed, vaccinated, neutered and ready to be part of a loving home. I really hope that someone will adopt him.

That said, to adopt a cat is not a walk in the park. It comes with great responsibility. Both adults and children need to know the do’s and don’ts of owning a pet so cases of abuse and neglect can be prevented.

“Ignorance is at the root of many animal neglect and mistreatment cases,” explains SPCA’s Kelvin Cheah on why people abuse animals. Cheah has been working for five years under the SPCA’s Inspectorate unit, handling cruelty cases and, according to him, SPCA receives an average of 57 cases of mistreated and neglected pets every month. The number, he adds, used to be higher.

Pets are not Toys:

My trip to the SPCA certainly left me with plenty to ponder. And attending today’s talk by Mars Petcare on responsible pet ownership will no doubt give me more food for thought.

Mars Petcare is reaching out to the pupils of SK Seafield 3 in USJ, Selangor, to encourage responsible pet ownership through the Jom Sayangi Haiwan Kita programme. Initiated in 2015 and anchored by Whiskas in Malaysia, this global initiative aims to raise awareness of the importance of taking care of pets, particularly cats.

“Owning a pet can be very rewarding for both parents and children. It’s a good family bonding activity. But the most important thing for parents to remember is don’t get a pet for your child out of excitement,” begins Ong Chiek Ming, Mars Petcare Country Director (Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines) during our chat at the school.

Pets are not toys, they’re a lifetime commitment, she reiterates, adding: “That’s why it’s important to educate children from young about the responsibilities.” Eyes shining with pride, she shares that the programme which started three years ago with just 15 schools in the Klang Valley has been receiving positive feedback and is extending its reach to Penang, Perak and Johor.

Caring for Cats:

The bell rings. Recess is over for the pupils. But for some Standard 4 and 5 pupils, they don’t have to return to their classes. Instead, they’ve been selected to join the one-hour interactive session on how to care for cats conducted by Whiskas presenter Nurul Najwa Adzme.

The oohs and aahs can be heard echoing in the hall as they discover the wonders of cat characteristics as well as nuggets of interesting facts about the felines, such as how cats have fur all over their body except on their nose and paws, how their whiskers can detect obstacles in the dark, that their hearing frequency is three times higher than humans (so don’t make so much noise around cats), and that they’re 10 times more sensitive towards smell than humans.

The children also got the opportunity to learn “cat language”. Your cat needs attention if it starts brushing its body against you. If it’s wagging its tail, the cat is excited about something. “If its ears are down and tail straight up, the cat is angry so you better run,” jokes Najwa, making the kids laugh hysterically.

There are three important things to provide when caring for cats — the right food, love and affection, and healthcare. Dr Susan Wan Mei Ki, a veterinarian who’s been working with Mars Petcare for almost 15 years explains: “Cats are generally active as they’re carnivorous, thus they need more protein — meat — in their diet. They can’t be vegetarian. They need specific nutrients to reduce the risk of getting clinical condition. If you give the wrong food, your cat may get sick.”

She also explains how cats like to be by themselves. “They’re not sociable. They do enjoy the company of people but not all the time. If they want to play, they’ll come to you. Otherwise, they’ll ignore you. They’re happy on their own.”

One also needs to understand the importance of providing a conducive environment for cats, Susan continues.

“Hunting is in their nature. That’s why they’re always on the prowl, always running. It’s normal and you can’t change that. So it’s important to enrich their environment so they will love to be home and can still be active.”

by  Zuliantie Dzul.

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No country for old and sick people.

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

WE are getting old. The statistics show Malaysia’s inevitable march towards a difficult milestone – that of an ageing nation.

An ageing society is defined as having a minimum 7% of its population aged 65 and older, while an aged nation has 14% or more in that age group.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s 2016 population data sheet shows that as of last year, Malaysians aged 60 and above comprise 9.5% of the population.

This is projected to increase to 14.4% in 13 years’ time and nearly a quarter of the population (23.5%) by 2050. So, it is sooner rather than later that we will become an ageing or aged nation.

In fact, Malaysia’s march towards this milestone has been an accelerated one. Most developed nations take almost a century to reach this mark.

France, for example, took 115 years to move from being an ageing society to an aged one.

For Malaysia, it should take us just 25 years.

In effect, such numbers reflect one of Malaysia’s success stories – healthcare.

It has been 60 years since independence and during that time, we have managed to increase our lifespan by about 20 years.

Improvements in primary public healthcare such as sanitation, food safety and protection against infectious diseases via vaccination have all contributed to this increased life expectancy.

As of last year, the average life span of a Malaysian is estimated at 74.7 years; in 2000, it was 72.2 years.

Unfortunately, living longer has not translated to better quality of life.

The rates of infectious diseases may have gone down, but the number of those afflicted with lifestyle/non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer has risen and more worryingly, continues to rise.

This is evident from the various National Health and Morbidity surveys carried out in the country.

The National Health and Morbid­ity Survey 2015 revealed that obese Malaysians make up 17.7% of the population, while those categorised as overweight make up 30%.

The obesity rate for 1996 was 4.4%, and 14% in 2006.

The same survey found that about 3.5 million or 17.5% of Malaysians aged 18 and above have diabetes. In 2006, this figure was 11.6%; it was 15.2% in 2011.

One thing is clear from these numbers – more Malaysians are having to live longer in ill health.

There may be some spending the last 25 years of their lives having to cope with diabetes and hypertension, and their complications.

All this takes a toll on the healthcare system, with the Government having to allocate increased monies to help provide treatment to people living with such conditions.

Will the country be able to cope with the increasing number of the elderly and ill?

The proposed Aged Healthcare Act is a start, though its aim is better regulation and monitoring of aged healthcare centres in the country.

But more needs to be done.

It is true that we need to look at the delivery of healthcare to the aged. Support services, infrastructure, laws that safeguard elders and community engagement prog­rammes – these are some of the areas that will need to be reviewed.

And while the Government should be fully prepared for the needs of an aged nation, communities need to play their part.

We need to develop an age-friendly culture that embraces the elderly instead of isolating them.

After all, this is a pool of people with a wealth of life and work experience, and we should tap into that.

The Star Says,
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