Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Ex-athletes fought for nation’s glory, current athletes fight for cash incentives

Thursday, December 12th, 2019
Malaysian fencer Hans Yoong lost to Thailand’s Mayakarn Chornnasun in Manila on Tuesday Dec 3. PICTURE COURTESY OF WRITER MICHAEL CHENG

MANY factors have contributed to the decline of sports in the past three decades.

Gone are the days when our sportsmen competed with commitment and love for the country, like the late Isthiaq Mubarak, brothers Peter and Lawrence Van Huizen, Mokhtar Dahari and Punch Gunalan. They received honours only when they had retired.

It is said that the current athletes expect quality attire, state-of-the-art equipment, high-class accommodation, allowances and cash incentives to win global medals.

During the golden era of sports from the 1960s to the 1980s, sports sciences, foreign coaches, overseas friendlies and perks were unheard of yet athletes delivered the goods on the world stage.

The sole satisfaction they derived was to stand proudly on the podium listening to our national anthem being played while our national flag was raised. We were once a powerhouse for football, swimming, sepak takraw and athletics.

I watched them in action at the 30th Sea Games in Manila.

I believe our athletes can perform better if stakeholders and parents work together to bring us out of the doldrums.

The Education Ministry, through the physical and health education (PHE) teachers in schools, should carry out talent identification from Year One to channel our young into sports according to their ability, physique and interest.

Singapore has a headstart by introducing new PHE in schools for the past three years.

The focus of sports associations should be to assist teachers at the district, state and national levels by providing them with the coaches and officials who are competent and self-motivated.

Parents will allow children to participate in sports if the education system allocates three hours for sports practice thrice a week.


Read more @

Get rid of graft: Shafie

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal reminded organisations, be it public or private sectors on the importance of ridding corruption and ensuring that such practice does not spread in their respective department.

Shafie said  corruption would only lead to a negative impact which not only affects the image of that particular organisation but also the production value as well as projects that are being implemented especially at the grass root levels which could only lead to wastage of funds.

“If we are involved in this (corruption) activity, for sure the value of services or projects that we carry out in the interest of the people would drop. For example, roads would be shorter (than originally planned) and it would not last longer and will need more financing for the repairing works.

“But if we could practice an efficient administrative system with integrity and not being involved in any unhealthy activities, for sure this would produce a good service and product as well as projects to the people at grass root level,” he told a press conference after launching the 2019 Conference on Corporate Liability – Section 17A of the MACC Act 2009, here, Monday.

Also present were Suria Capital Holdings Berhad Chairman, Tan Sri Ibrahim Menudin and Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance President Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, among others.

He also emphasised that such action against corruption would also ensure that leakage would not occur and instead the funds could be used for other necessary development that could benefit the people, particularly for Sabahans.

He also said that war on corruption would be a great contribution in speeding up or resuming projects that are being implemented and that there would not be any allocation blockage from time to time.

“So it is very important for all concerned parties to play their roles not only (in terms of) enforcement (but also) Units such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), integrity agencies, civil servant and private sectors to join forces in ensuring that this is an agenda that we succeed,” he added.

Meanwhile earlier in his speech, Shafie assured that the State Government is committed to act professionally, fairly and with integrity in any official projects or business dealing as well as relationship with organisations.

He urged civil servants and officers to be conscientious and conduct transaction in an honest and ethical manner and ban any form of bribery and corruption whether it is being carried out directly or indirectly.

“There is no room for corrupt activities, no room for dishonesty, fraud, extortion, and abuse of public office.

“Tackling it (corruption) is not only a matter of fairness, but also crucial to boost the country’s potential economic growth.

“For instance, foreign investors will shy away from countries with high incidences of corruption as it generates element of uncertainty in the returns to investment and reduces investment profitability, and the people will be at the losing end as it affects our development,” he said.

Section 17A of the MACC Act 2009 introduces corporate liability in Malaysia and is said to be a powerful catalyst to move companies towards establishing necessary procedures in preventing corruption.

It was gazetted in May 2018 via the MACC (Amendment) Act 2018 will come into force on June 1, next year.

By: Jeremy S Zabala

Read more @

Justice for all still a distant dream

Sunday, November 24th, 2019
The Commonwealth countries are dedicated to providing legal recourse to all, especially the poor and unemployed.

ACCESS to justice for everyone in all communities is an important right for building fair and peaceful societies.

But yet this objective has been achieved in few if any nation, and the consequences are damaging for social, economic and political progress.

Studies indicate that of the 1.4 billion people who, for whatever reason in the past two years, felt the need for recourse to law, less than half have had their justice needs met.

Barriers such as cost, complexity and corruption cause people either not to seek redress, or to be defeated by the process.

The 53 countries of the Commonwealth are committed to taking action to right this wrong. Each member country is committed through our Commonwealth Charter to “an independent,
effective and competent legal system” which “is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice”.

While many are fortunate to have a system that can be relied upon to give a fair hearing and resolution, for millions of people around the world, this is sadly not the case.

Our priority has to be to answer the needs of all people, particularly the poor and unemployed, as well as victims of domestic violence whose experience far too often is to feel marginalised by judicial processes.

Poverty affects access to justice in many ways, and discriminatory laws perpetuate disadvantage. Income, gender and location can be factors in people being denied equitable access to justice.

Sometimes, several of these factors combine severely to the detriment of victims or offenders from already vulnerable groups.

Even where equal and progressive laws exist, swingeing cuts to legal aid, or lack of legal aid altogether, can impair access to justice, particularly for the most vulnerable.

Lack of access to justice then leads to further injustice — with people denied their rights or a voice, unable to fight discrimination and prevented from holding public bodies to account.

The result is that progress towards sustainable development at national, community or personal levels is limited, and opportunities for inclusive growth and prosperity are lost. At worst, injustice can be the root of conflict even though people are generally not seeking revenge but recompense and restoration.

Systems should ensure these avenues to resolution are available because, without them, anger and resentment can fester.

Digital resources such as e-courts and interactive information services are helping to improve inclusivity.

Yet, even with such innovative approaches and mechanisms, those same vulnerable groups may continue to experience obstacles to affordable and equitable access. So we need to be aware that the promising solutions technology offers can also prolong existing problems or present new ones.

This means that just as lawbreakers find ever more sophisticated ways of using technology for crime, lawmakers must leverage what technology can do to keep ahead or abreast of such threats.

Our related systems of governance and administration, and the widespread use in our jurisdictions of the Common Law, make the Commonwealth ideally placed as a community to think and act together towards fairer and more inclusive access to justice with improved outcomes.

By learning and gaining encouragement from one another, our member countries are able to accelerate progress towards creating effective national laws. They are helped in this by Commonwealth toolkits that guide on matters such as policymaking and legislative drafting.

The beneficial impact of this cooperation is enhanced through the expert technical assistance provided to member countries by the Commonwealth Secretariat.


Read more @

King and PM have ‘most meaningful’ pre-Cabinet meeting

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Warm reception: The King and Dr Mahathir at Istana Melawati. With them is Ahmad Fadil (second from left). — Bernama

PUTRAJAYA: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s 30th pre-Cabinet weekly audience with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been described as “most meaningful” by Istana Negara.

Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the audience at Istana Melawati here lasted for 45 minutes from 8am.

“The audience was most meaningful because it was the 30th pre-Cabinet meeting with the Prime Minister since Sultan Abdullah was elected the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong in January.

“This shows that Sultan Abdullah is not only very concerned about the administration of the country, His Majesty also takes seriously the welfare of his subjects.

“Sultan Abdullah is also very meticulous.

“His Majesty always scrutinises at length Cabinet notes and memorandums as well as reports a day before the pre-Cabinet meetings, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Ahmad Fadil said the King was very attentive during the audience and jotted down details of the discussion with the Prime Minister.

He said the pre-Cabinet meeting was among the weekly activities or the main routine of His Majesty to discuss and exchange views with the Prime Minister.

Pre-Cabinet meetings are usually held on Wednesdays or Fridays when the Dewan Rakyat is sitting.

The meetings will go on even if the Prime Minister is unable to attend, with the Deputy Prime Minister standing in.

The pre-Cabinet meeting, however, will not be held if it falls on a public holiday or if an official national event or ceremony takes place that day, like when the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition took place in March.

Ahmad Fadil said the King advised the people to be patient and place their faith in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in the efforts to develop the country.


Read more @

‘Respect and love key to solidarity’

Sunday, November 10th, 2019
KUALA LUMPUR: Mutual respect, love and justice based on Islamic principles form the recipe for solidarity and harmony in the administration of the country comprising various religions and races, says Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

In his Royal Address in conjunction with the national-level Maulidur Rasul 1441H/2019 celebration, he said the prophet’s administration emphasised the feelings of love for each other, and could universally be used as a major example to generate solidarity among the people.

Quoting a valid hadis, the King said solidarity would come naturally through the feelings of love and mutual respect among the people regardless of religion, race and ancestry.

“People who love each other would be loved by the Most Merciful. Thus, one should love everyone on earth, so that you would be loved by Those Up Above.

“The Prophet also did not forget and was always in touch with the less fortunate group and the weak to enable them to rise and improve their self-potential and subsequently contribute to society, ” he said at Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Also present were Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof.

Sultan Abdullah said the Islamic religion emphasised universal brotherhood and called for implementation of justice for everyone regardless of religion and race as this would ensure that the rights of the individual and all communities were always preserved.“This is the teachings of the Most Merciful propagated by the Prophet to be used as an example by leaders and the present generation, ” he said.

The King also expressed confidence that the government would always adopt approaches that would preserve the rights of various religions and races besides continuously assisting the weaker group.At the same time, continuous efforts must be made to control radical ideologies and any form of action that could jeopardise national harmony, said the King.

Before concluding his speech, Sultan Abdullah called on all Muslims to appreciate and practise Islamic teachings and make the Prophet their role model in life.

Muslims across Malaysia enlivened the Maulidur Rasul celebrations this year with parades and the reciting of the selawat (salutation to Prophet Muhammad) in observance of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

by Bernama
Read more @

Malaysians top list of overstayers in Australia

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019
Malaysians make up the largest number of visa overstayers in Australia. NSTP
By Mohd Husni Mohd Noor - November 5, 2019 @ 5:24pm

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians make up the largest number of visa overstayers in Australia.

Confirming the matter, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya said Malaysians also made the largest number of applications for both protection visas and refugee status in Australia.

“We have discovered that the people’s personal interests and desire for a better life were among the reasons why this happened,” he said at Dewan Rakyat today.


He said Wisma Putra and the Immigration Department would continue to cooperate with the Australian authorities to monitor cases of applications by Malaysians for protection visas and refugee status.

He said this to an additional question by Datuk Salim Sharif (BN-Jempol) on the recent claim by Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski that 33,000 Malaysians were found to have overstayed in Australia more than the 90 days allowed and were applying for refugee visas.

Goledzinowski had said that the number of Malaysians applying for refugee visas included tourists and students who did not want to return home.

The Australian government was also reported to have received 4,973 applications for protection visas from Malaysians between July last year and April this year.

Marzuki said the Australian government had subsequently set up an immigration agency here to monitor and scrutinise visa applications for tourists who wanted to visit the country.

Refugee visas are for those who have been persecuted in their home countries, while protection visas are for those seeking asylum.

By Mohd Husni Mohd Noor.

Read more @

Catering to all segments of society

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Setting up a 5G ecosystem is among the main targets of the 2020 Budget. FILE PIC

THE 2020 Budget has been receiving a myriad of responses over its effectiveness in solving the country’s economic maladies and its ability to stimulate growth.

The nation’s budget is an important instrument and proof of the government’s earnestness in pursuing the economic and social needs and objectives of society and the people. It is reassuring on the whole to see that this budget is a step closer to the Islamic objectives (maqasid) by adopting the concept of ‘shared prosperity’ and showing in many ways that it will be pursued. Yet, there may be scope for better realisation of maqasid of syariah in certain areas.

Beyond technicalities, it is also important to gauge the budget from the lens of Islamic higher objectives (maqasid syariah) as it does not merely function as a legal mechanism, but more importantly, a guide for holistic socio-economic development.

The allocation of RM1.3 billion to the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) along with a special grant of about RM100 million for the promotion of Islam as a compassionate and peace-based religion is undeniably a mark of the government’s commitment to protection of religion and development (hifz al-deen).

Although it seems to be allocated for Islamic affairs per se, the Rahmatan lil-Alamin approach adopted by the government would actually enable harmonious interactions between Islam and other religions in Malaysia.

The Malaysian@work initiative, which aims to put Malaysians back to work, is not only commendable because it secures the Islamic objectives of property protection (hifz al-mal), but also because it supports the pivotal Quranic objective of securing human dignity (karamah insaniyyah). It is a timely policy since, last year alone, half a million Malaysians were jobless. For the same purpose, the government will also incentivise youths and firms to bolster the work market in preparation for a more challenging situation next year.

The government also took various steps to address the widening income gap by increasing the minimum wage to RM1,200 in major cities and providing various assistance for the bottom-40, and more importantly the bottom-20 of the economic strata. However, improvement in the amount and coverage of the minimum wage increase is crucial to better address the endemic income disparities in Malaysia.

Closing income gaps may not only lead to better social integration but also fulfils a salient trait of the economic system targeted by the Quran that envisions an equitable distribution of wealth: “So that it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich from among you.” (al-Hasyr 59:7)

Despite its relevance, return-to-jobs policies need to be approached holistically to observe the unintended consequences on the family institution, a core emphasis in Islamic objectives, as women who have been focusing on their families are now compelled to enter the job market. Sufficient support systems for women workers, such as flexible working hours and childcare facilities at offices, should be enhanced.

The budget also outlines allocations for environmental initiatives which include the extension of the Green Investment Tax Allowance and Green Income Tax Exemption. There are also specific allocations for the preservation of pristine forests, as well as the peninsula’s tiger species.

While these initiatives are in line with the Islamic objective of environmental protection (hifz al-biah), they are also crucial in mitigating the dire consequences of global climate change. Nonetheless, emphasis should also be given to facilitating social-based initiatives, in contrast to a market-based approach, such as local and urban farming as well as environmental activism.

It is also important to highlight the budget’s introduction of a new category of EPF withdrawal for fertility treatment and tax relief of up to RM6,000 for fertility treatment. This is critical in addressing the threatening fall of the country’s fertility rate recorded in 2017 by the Department of Statistics. As Islam emphasises protection of progeny (hifz al-nasl), this initiative is also most welcome as Malaysia is due to become an ageing nation by 2030.

Experts have said that small and medium enterprise (SME) digitalisation is a pleasant surprise in the 2020 Budget. It is an initiative to enhance business efficiency and expand their export markets amid a challenging economic atmosphere considering the ongoing US-China trade war.

Digital transformation is indeed among the main highlights of the budget which includes the setting up of a 5G ecosystem, e-wallet promotions as well as various incentives for fintech firms and technological startups.

While both laudable and necessary, the focus on automation and technological skills among workers and students need to be supplemented by humanities education as this is likely to serve as a cultural and moral compass, helping us to be the best stewards of technology.

Nonetheless, it would be not enough to conclude that the budget fulfils basic aspects of the five essentials, namely religion, life, progeny, intellect and property. Through a more substantial approach of the maqasid, the budget needs to be analysed in light of four underpinning aspects; purposefulness, multidimensionality, interrelatedness and due observance of future consequences.

With the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 as its core purpose, it is hoped the 2020 Budget will chart a new narrative of sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development that caters to all segments of society.


The writer is a research fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Read more @

Gearing for sustainable lifestyles

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Man and nature are interconnected and interdependent. FILE PIC

IN the dialogue about staying sustainable in environmentally challenging times, there is a tendency to think about earth’s preservation through science. This is as it should be because scientific advances can bring about new and sustainable ways of living. In the automotive industry for example, cutting-edge technology has meant that conventional fuel cars are being replaced by the cleaner, environmentally-friendly electric car.

The replacement of fuel-powered vehicles for cheaper, battery-run vehicles has begun to take place in Europe and China. Yet, for all the scientific advancements, the estimated number of electric vehicles on these roads by 2025 remains unimpressive. European market share for electric vehicles has been estimated to only be at 3 per cent.

Why has fast-paced scientific advancement not brought on the desired transformation towards sustainable lifestyles in equal measure? Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid in his column (New Straits Times, July 24) acknowledged that although having scientific advancement is crucial for solving the problem of scarce resources, a reassessment to see this problem from a cultural and social perspective is called for.

To build on this call, the idea of sustainability as a social and cultural construct must also be located on a historical timeline. Thus, to make it easier to understand, we can look at this concept vis-a-vis past, present and future perspectives.

First, a look into the past. In antiquity, philosophers have long thought about man’s existence in relation with nature. Referred to as natural philosophers, thinkers like Socrates and Aristotle, or Newton and Locke, have contemplated about the relationships that human beings form with nature. For example, the view that reality is ‘out there’ and therefore independent of human interpretation versus reality being a co-construction of human action and interpretation are two opposing views that can shape attitudes differently.

The former view can be thought of as being exclusive while the latter is inclusive. The inclusive view argues for the idea that man and nature are interconnected and interdependent.

This is important to support perspectives that encourage living in sustainable ways. Entomologists and zoologist who hold the inclusive view have empirically documented the powerful connections that underlie man’s use of synthetic chemicals with the balance of insect and wildlife that both populate and sustain our land and seas.

The feminist environmentalist Rachel Carson was pivotal in championing what we see today as the modern, inclusive, environmentalist movement. Thus, from understanding our past, we can trace and follow the path to sustainability which has been charted.

Second and in the present time, the push to address climate change crisis has brought on a focused effort towards equipping children with environmental literacy. Again, this movement is not new because basic to our own science education is the learning of the life and energy cycles. However, what is new is a movement amongst Science literacy instructors i.e. teachers of Physical Science, Biological Science, Chemical Science,

Geographical Science to reclaim the space of environmental education from activists who may not have the pedagogical and technical know-how to impart specialist knowledge. This is important to note because it locates the responsibility of environmental education not just on the subject matter but on the sociocultural ways in which Science specialist teachers share, live and demonstrate their own sustainable living through the subjects they have been trained to teach.

This also means that the revival of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects must be accompanied by the teaching of Social Science and Humanities-based subjects that provide the context for how STEM is applied in new, challenging times. Linguistic, economic and historical knowledge are important building blocks that underpin how scientific knowledge can be best used. In this light, the significance of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education should be the new pedagogical path for ensuring education for sustainable transformation.

Finally, in looking towards the future, the modern notion of sustainability, no doubt popularised by UNESCO’s 17 SDGs can be a new vehicle to further mobilise this long-standing concept of man-nature connectedness. However, merely bandying about catch phrases without asking difficult questions about our attitudes and our lifestyles will not get us very far.

Sustainability is fundamentally, about social and cultural transformation. Key to unlocking this transformation is holistic education that encompasses the Science, Social Science and Humanities.

By Dr Chong Su Li

The writer is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Management and Humanities, Institute of Self Sustainable Building, Universiti Teknologi Petronas

How did we come to this?

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Members of the National Students’ Consultative Council standing to attention while singing ‘Negaraku’ before the start of a meeting. ‘Negaraku’ is the national anthem and not just a song. BERNAMA PIC

IT has often been said that race and religion are the two “biggest” factors behind polarisation in Malaysia.

Perhaps it is true to some extent. Yet it cannot be generalised because there have been many instances and situations ‎that have made us proud to be counted as Malaysians.

The last general election was one such time as most would recall, despite many expecting the worst outcome. What is more when Malaysia holds the record for having the world’s oldest prime minister. And a comeback “kid” at that.

In other instances, some research showed that in rural communities, notably the kampung, the situation is far better than in cities, due to the more cordial lifestyle and attitude.

When it comes to sports and cultural events, or when disaster strikes, Malaysia is often united to present her best, like duck to water. There are many others that go beyond the superficialities of “rumah terbuka” or some specially staged events to gain in popularity.

In other words, the said polarisation is shaped more by the hostile and ignorant attitudes of some Malaysians.

Not too long ago, there were times when racial jokes were considered benign even at a tender age. My school and university days were some of those. Ironically, it brought us closer inter-racially because the laughter that resulted required a very high level of trust and confidence to begin with. Without these, the consequences would have been much like what it is today — tense, rude and intimidating. And worsening when race and religion are turned into a convenient target of hatred for some unexplained reasons.

Lest we forget, the fact remains that even in the most developed and best of democracies, racism and religious supremacy exist. International sporting events are not spared either. So what is new?

In the case of Malaysia of late, the attitudes are more convoluted because there is virtually no common identity that binds them. Unlike in cases‎ cited above where trust exists, the contrast is made complicated because people can no longer express freely and openly in a language that everyone can identify with and understand.

This then gives rise to second and suspicious guessing game, deepening the mistrust. Let us take the national anthem, Negaraku, as an example. How many Malaysians share the same notion of what the word means so as to put us comfortably on the same page? What about “tanah tumpahnya darahku” that follows? Is it merely the “land where I spilled my blood” — literally rendered? Or much deeper than that? How then does it actually shape our attitude beyond the confines of our own race and religion?

Consequently, what is intended by “rahmat bahagia, tuhan kurniakan”? What is “rahmat” when it is linked to “tuhan” (the first article of Rukun Negara)? What level of “kurnia” binds Malaysians further? To adequately respond to most of the points raised, all the related nuances must be amply and comfortably felt within the context of Negaraku to enable one to live by it.

Remember that Negaraku is the national anthem. Not just a song‎ to be mimed while standing to attention and then forgotten as soon as the moment is over. In short, it is instrumental to our identity as Malaysians sharing the very same meaning and values in shaping our attitudes before we can truly share prosperity as envisaged by Shared Prosperity Vision 2030. Otherwise, it all comes to naught since nothing is really “shared”. Instead, only hypocritical lip service as alluded to in Robert Kuok’s best-selling memoir.

Take the word “kongsi” that is loaned from another culture into the mainstream Malaysian community. Yet its translation in practice is vastly different from what is observed in the original language and culture. Another clear reason why race and religion remains alive since the act of “kongsi” is virtually flawed as a dominant Malaysian lifestyle. And this further allows the vacuum to once again be filled with the same old hostility.

It becomes even more hostile when education fails to be a common platform to nurture national identity as one of the six student aspirations stated in the Education Blueprint.

Fundamentally, Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan (FPK or National Education Philosophy) is intended to provide the framework that nurtures the Malaysian identity first and foremost ground up. But as it stands, the FPK is not shared in a systematic way, when actually it is the most logical place to start.

FPK could be the everlasting philosophy to bridge understanding in a balanced way leading to a more inclusive state of affairs which is equitable and egalitarian in nature. There is no room at all for any form of bigotry and narrow toxic thinking. But where is it today? Unless all this is sorted out we will continue to blame everyone except ourselves.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

Read more @

The right and wrong time to protest.

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

THERE seems to be a new mass protest around the world every week, and the issue of appropriateness and timing repeatedly surfaces.

First, a colleague travelling through Barcelona missed her flight connection because of a rally in support of independence for Catalonia.

With traffic paralysed, she tried walking to the airport, and despite finding sympathy from some in the crowd, she missed her flight.Reports suggest that the Catalonian protesters are emulating tactics from Hong Kong, where a few weeks ago, flight chaos was caused when the airport itself was occupied.

How many protesters considered the possibility that travellers were rushing to see sick or dying loved ones, I wonder.

Diplomatic etiquette would normally prevent strong expressions of opinion on the rights and wrongs of popular movements in other countries and the resulting actions of their governments, even if they might seem heavy-handed.

Whatever personal sympathies a politician might have, in our interconnected world, even identifying the “goodies” and “baddies” can be contentious.

For political leaders, economic considerations of the constituents who elected them must surely be taken into consideration when expressing a view on a conflict in another place. What was intended to be courageous may turn out to be asinine.

In some cases, protests can have a more direct impact on diplomacy.

President Sebastian Pinera of Chile, as chair of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation 2019, has just cancelled next month’s Apec Leaders’ Week in Santiago due to anti-government protests.

In theory, individual citizens, businesses and civil society organisations in a democracy are less constrained from commenting on other countries.

However, they will surely be judged for expressing views, and decisions flowing from perceived power imbalances in some relationships can lead to heated disagreement about where the line is drawn.

One pertinent example concerns the United States National Basketball Association (NBA), where an initial tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters by a team’s general manager resulted in a backlash in China, followed by subsequent apologies that were then condemned by the US Vice-President.

It can be said that anywhere in the world, as history repeatedly shows, when people believe that they are not being given sufficient freedoms, they can be extremely passionate in expressing their views.

Disruption to everyday life is, for the protesters, a key ingredient in getting people to notice them and their demands.

But in a nod to the balance between the democratic right to protest and the rights of those not protesting, advance notice to the authorities has become commonplace. (Recall also discussions about whether rallies should be in stadiums prior to last year’s election.)

Citing history, many protesters will also argue that they may eventually be proven right, that future generations will say “we were on the right side of history”.

For some young participants, the opportunity of being a part of history brings huge appeal.

It arguably takes more courage for a single protester to make a stand, and the case of Wong Yan Ke, who unfurled a banner on stage during his convocation ceremony at Universiti Malaya, generated counter-protests and, for a while, risked his degree itself.

People I have spoken to who know the UM vice-chancellor assure me that he is not a racist, but nonetheless his public speeches have to be evaluated by listeners who come to their own conclusions.

I agree with the notion that having a gathering of a single race does not necessarily result in a racist event.

It is the content, not the composition, that matters, and I often point out that generations of the most open-minded and meritorious Malaysians attended a mono-ethnic school: the Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

Further, I also agree that disrupting what is supposed to be a happy and proud day for hundreds of graduates and their families is disrespectful.

Some people have concluded that, therefore, students should not even partake in thinking or debating these issues.

My conclusion is different – I say that if you want to prevent outbursts taking place at formal ceremonies, then you must give students the freedom to express themselves at other times.

Whether you like it or not, young people at universities are going to be introduced to new thoughts, daring actions and rebelling against authority.

If you close these outlets, then naturally students will resort to other means.

Alas, adult protesters can still be reckless. The silliest scene of protest in recent weeks must be the members of Extinction Rebellion – they argue for climate change action and environmental protection – who stood atop London tube trains (an environmentally friendly mode of transport), thus delaying thousands getting to work.

The protesters were duly forcibly dragged down by furious commuters.

Morning rush hour is definitely the wrong time to protest.

By Tunku Zain Al-Abidin

Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is founding president of the Institute for Democra

Read more @