Archive for the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Category

Malaysia Hall a home away from home

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
One of the most distinguished names to have walked through the doors of Malaysia Hall was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (front row, fourth from right). FILE PIC

MALAYAN and subsequently Malaysian students who studied in the United Kingdom in the 1950s until 2004 will remember the 44/46 Bryanston Square, fondly known as Malaya or Malaysia Hall, as a home away from home.

On June 2, 2004, Malaysia Hall became part of Malaysian history in the UK when the keys of the hall were handed back to the landlord, Portman Estate.

At the handing over of the keys ceremony, the then Malaysian commissioner to the UK, Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed, paid tribute to Bryanston Square that had served princes, prime ministers and ordinary people so well in its life of service.

He signed the first page of the farewell book and said it was time to turn over a new page in history.

He then removed the plaque from the door and handed it to the last director of the Malaysian Student Department, Datuk Dr Kamarudin Mohd Nor.

As a student in the UK in the late 1960s, Malaysia Hall was a place to read Malaysian newspapers and catch up on our studies.

The lounge was where music students played the grand piano. The hall was a student-centred place which saw the setting up and establishment of diverse student-led organisations.

These included the nationalist Kesatuan Melayu United Kingdom, the socialist Malaysia Singapore Student Forum, the Malaysian Student Islamic group and Umno.

The hall was also where the country’s independence movement architects used to meet and discuss political events, which led to the country obtaining its freedom.

One of the most distinguished names to have walked through the doors of Bryanston Square was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

It was reported that when he returned here fresh from negotiations with the British to break the news of Malaysia’s independence, the residents carried him around the building, once home to him when he was a student.

Others that frequented the hall included Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Tun Dr Ismail Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew.

Another aspect of Malaysia Hall that was very dear to students was the canteen at the basement of the building. The food served there was perhaps the cheapest Malay food in the UK.

It was also where most of the students and Malaysians gathered to catch up on the goings-on in the UK and back home.

I remember there were times when some students had to help out in the kitchen, especially when the then cook Encik Hashim was absent.

There were no complaints throughout, perhaps as the food served was subsidised by the Malaysian Student Department.

Let we forget, the memories of having lived and frequented Malaysia Hall during our student days, walking to the Marble Arch tube station, Oxford Street and Hyde Park will be cherished for as long as we live.

by DATUK ABDUL MUTALIB RAZAK.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/11/534974/malaysia-hall-home-away-home

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 @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/11/534982/how-did-we-come

We need to encourage truly multi-racial politics

Thursday, October 31st, 2019
So who is that Adenan-like national leader to calmly carry us forward? FILE PIC

“WE must sink or swim together. When I’m in trouble, you help me, when you are in trouble, we help you.

“This is what the federation is all about.”

So said the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Sarawak’s fifth chief minister.

In three short years before he died in early 2017, he inspired awe, admiration and respect across the communal divides with his often-witty one-liners.

Ordinary Sarawakians of all ethnicities wept at his funeral.

It is fair to say that his powerful message of social inclusiveness backed up with decisive action resonated beyond Sarawak and across the entire federation.

It is worth being reminded of Adenan’s unrivalled statesmanship at moments such as now with a certain mood of melancholy currently enveloping the nation.

Recall that Adenan won a fresh landslide mandate in May 2016 and breathed new life into the previously almost moribund Sarawak United People’s Party against a highly energised Sarawak DAP precisely because of his highly authentic message of inclusiveness.

His political victory despite over three uninterrupted decades under his immediate predecessor was the precursor to the New Malaysia we ushered in two years later.

How sadly short-lived the very idea of a New Malaysia appears to be now, with the return of overt racially-tinged discourse in our national life.

What is tragic is not the unsurprising fact that racial sentiments reaffirming such a discourse (from all racially extremist sides, it must be stressed) still exist but how easily they ignite or rather reignite deep passions of mutual loathing and perhaps even hatred of fellow Ma-laysians.

It strikes me as particularly sad how Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s typical and valiant call for those harbouring racial sentiments (and let’s face it, such sentiments are almost second nature to all but perhaps a too-tiny segment of truly enlightened, non-racial Malay-sians) to look inward within our own respective groups rather than to blame “outsiders” is all but drowned out in the very predictable and angry recriminations-following-accusations routine of our racialised political debate.

Reactionary political forces may be as inevitable as night follows day over such early days under New Malaysia but, for the sake of our collective future, there is little choice but for fair-minded, non-political or apolitical Malaysians to firmly resist and deny the reactionaries their admittedly still powerful capacity to suck all the oxygen out of any nascent alternative political narratives emerging.

And exactly what could such narratives possibly be?

The most obvious answer is encouraging truly multi-racial politics and political parties.

However, our record thus far on this score is anything but inspiring or encouraging.

The reason why multi-racial politics is having such a hard time making headway is, perhaps ironically, precisely why racially-based politics still holds such widespread appeal: multi-racialism is viewed by a good cross-section of Malaysians as merely a ruse or even a plot by those representing economically powerful minorities to gain a monopoly on power (political and economic) in the country.

If not true multi-racialism in politics, what then?

A national leader in the mould of Adenan Satem may be a pre-requisite stepping stone in a possibly slow, evolutionary process towards the eventual ideal of non-racial Malaysian politics.

As with Adenan, such a national leader must, almost out of the political necessity of the moment, emerge from a political party currently representing the majority racial group in the country.

Without political buy-in from the majority group, any national political leader espousing all-encompassing inclusiveness, as Adenan did, may not realistically prosper.

The nation, to be sure, faces grave perils, particularly in the economic sphere.

A global trade war rages as nations turn increasingly and worryingly insular and protectionist.

Our high national debt, despite being pared down, is a deadweight which we must do our utmost to break free.

Meanwhile, we may be staring the dreaded “middle-income trap” in the eye unless we can fairly quickly find new
economic drivers that afford us the leap to high-income-nation status.

We can thus ill-afford being stuck in the rut of endless political navel-gazing, held hostage to a narrative which cries out for some serious updating, at minimum.

The world will otherwise likely just pass us by. We either sink or swim together, as Adenan reminded us.

So, who is that Adenan-like national leader to calmly carry us forward?

Irony of ironies, it may be the one who acted as the midwife to New Malaysia. Yes, Dr Mahathir. But, of course, we all know that he is 94 years old. A Malaysian Dilemma indeed!

By John Teo.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/10/534463/we-need-encourage-truly-multi-racial-politics

Promote unity because you want to, not for incentives, says Dr M

Monday, October 21st, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Make it a Bangsa Malaysia because you believe in it, not because the government gives you tax-free exemption for the idea, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

He said Malaysians are too dependent on subsidies for everything, even when promoting national unity among themselves.

“If we want unity, the people must show it and not because the money is given to you to show it.

“It is always the same in Malaysia; everything you want to do, the government must do something.

“If you really feel that this country should only have one nationality, then people should be passionate about it, not because the government gives some tax-free incentives etc.

“Everybody is talking about subsidies. Without subsidies, this country will not work. I think it is about time we forget about subsidies and start thinking about our objectives as being honourable and good, and then work towards it,” said Dr Mahathir.

He said this at a question and answer session at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISI) Praxis Conference 2019 on Monday (Oct 21) here.

He further pointed out that Malaysia is unique, as it is unlike any other multiracial countries.

“We are not like the other multiracial countries where they have many races, but they are not considered multiracial, because they have one language, one culture and they then will root for their own adopted countries.

“In Malaysia, we choose to retain our past, and we not only want to retain that but see physical proof that we are from somewhere else and because of that, we allow in the setting up of schools that are non-national. We are quite generous to listen to the people,” said Dr Mahathir.

He was responding to a question from the floor on why the past two national budgets did not have an tax-exemptions for national unity efforts.

KUALA LUMPUR: Make it a Bangsa Malaysia because you believe in it, not because the government gives you tax-free exemption for the idea, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

He said Malaysians are too dependent on subsidies for everything, even when promoting national unity among themselves.

“If we want unity, the people must show it and not because the money is given to you to show it.

“It is always the same in Malaysia; everything you want to do, the government must do something.

“If you really feel that this country should only have one nationality, then people should be passionate about it, not because the government gives some tax-free incentives etc.

“Everybody is talking about subsidies. Without subsidies, this country will not work. I think it is about time we forget about subsidies and start thinking about our objectives as being honourable and good, and then work towards it,” said Dr Mahathir.

He said this at a question and answer session at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISI) Praxis Conference 2019 on Monday (Oct 21) here.

He further pointed out that Malaysia is unique, as it is unlike any other multiracial countries.

“We are not like the other multiracial countries where they have many races, but they are not considered multiracial, because they have one language, one culture and they then will root for their own adopted countries.

“In Malaysia, we choose to retain our past, and we not only want to retain that but see physical proof that we are from somewhere else and because of that, we allow in the setting up of schools that are non-national. We are quite generous to listen to the people,” said Dr Mahathir.

He was responding to a question from the floor on why the past two national budgets did not have an tax-exemptions for national unity efforts.

By Zakiah Koya.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/10/21/promote-unity-because-you-want-to-not-for-incentives-says-dr-m

Multiculturalism is our greatest asset

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

IT has been 62 years since independence but many are still ignorant that it was the compromise or “historic bargain” among all races that brought our independence. One needs to wind back the clock to understand the present scenario.

Malaysians at large do not seem to understand the position of the Malays in the country.

The accusation that Malays were pendatang like the Chinese and Indians is preposterous. Before the Chinese and Indians arrived in Malaya in big numbers from the early 20th century, the British had already been dealing with the Malay rulers.

Treaties signed with rulers recognised local Malays as native inhabitants and guaranteed their protections vis-à-vis the non-Malays.

As Tunku Abdul Rahman said, “The Malay’s only chance of keeping their identity in this country alive is to insist on the retention of their inherent rights guaranteed by the Federation of Malaya Agreement, by treaties made between the British Government and the Rulers”.

Before World War II, both Indians and Chinese had not yet even developed permanent interests with the country.

The Indians tended to sympathise with developments in India. The Central Indian Association of Malaya, formed in 1937, purportedly to champion the interests of all Indian immigrant communities, was evidently India-oriented.

During World War II, plantation workers volunteered to Subash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army for Indian independence.

The Malayan (now Malaysian) Indian Congress (MIC) was formed to take up Bose’s call for bolstering patriotic sentiment among Indians in Southeast Asia.

As for the Chinese, their struggle during the Emergency led to the formation of the Malayan (now Malaysian) Chinese Association (MCA), which was primarily concerned with the social welfare of the community.

However, many today are not aware of the help rendered by the Malay rulers to settle the Chinese in new villages on lands reserved for and owned by the Malays. These lands eventually became permanent possession of the Chinese who used it to improve their socio-economic status. Meanwhile, the Malays were suffering in the kampungs.

During the 1955 federal elections, non-Malay members of the Alliance won largely because of political support from the Malays. Tunku in his speech over Radio Malaya on April 22, 1956, said: “17 non-Malay candidates were returned by an electorate the vast majority of whom were Malays and without the loss of a single seat”.

It was based on this mutual understanding that the three races cooperated to finally achieve independence in 1957.

There was also a gentlemanly understanding that whatever enjoyed by the non-Malays under the British will be retained by the independent government. This was clearly stated by Tunku in a speech to the Federal Legislative Council on July 10, 1957: “A formula agreed upon by which it was decided that in considering the rights of the various people, no attempt must be made to reduce such rights which they have enjoyed in the past. As a result you find written in the constitution rights of various peoples they have enjoyed in the past and new rights accorded to new people whom it was the intention to win over into the fold of the Malayan Nation”.

It is pertinent to also register this remark by Tunku: “Under the changes visualised by the new constitution, the Malays were prepared within reason to share those rights with others who owe loyalty to this country. I must ask non-Malays to be fair and be considerate and not to make unreasonable demands, for it is well to remember that no natives of any country in the world have given away so much as the Malays have done. No natives have been friendly to immigrant people as the Malays have been. Nobody need have any fear as to their future well-being in independent Malaya”.

However, in recent years, non-Malays fear there is an agenda to deny significant aspects of their heritages in order to highlight Malay and Islamic elements.

The teaching of jawi in school is the latest contention, but it has its own history which also saw compromises.

When the country got its independence, Alliance party decided to make Malay the national language and the scripts used are jawi and rumi. Tunku could have insisted on jawi but he opted for both. For him rumi could be easily learnt by the non-Malays and they are used to writing roman characters.

He felt this is one of the ways to encourage the non-Malays to learn the language.

The international scenario too was taken into consideration. Indonesia had decided to use Malay as its official language and to use rumi only. Turkey is another Muslim country that has recognised the rumi script.

Non-Malays also find their historical heritages inadequately highlighted in secondary school history textbooks, museums, archives and other cultural domains.

This was surely not what Tunku would have wanted. As rightly pinpointed by Prof Abu Talib Ahmad from Universiti Sains Malaysia in his work Museums, History and Culture in Malaysia, “Islam did not displace Indian or indigenous elements;

the latter have become part of Malay society. In fact, many non–Islamic elements survived the post-Lembah Bujang period well into the 20th century, although from 1979 onwards there were efforts to purify Malay culture as advocated by various quarters, notably religious officials and Malay scholars”.

Before independence, the British had felt the history of the country was a reflection of all communities and not of one particular race.

It is within this context that Malaysians should understand the existence of vernacular schools.

Article 152 of the Federal Constitution clearly provides the constitutional provision for mother tongue education: no person is prohibited from teaching and learning his own mother-tongue; every person has the right to use his own mother-tongue for non-official purposes and; the government has the right to preserve and sustain the use and study of the mother-tongue of any other ethnic minority communities. Why then is the existence of vernacular schools criticised as a disuniting factor?

However, since independence, vernacular schools have been unfairly treated in terms of budget allocation and priorities in planning and policy.

The Chinese community has been taking care of Chinese schools without much financial assistance from the government, relying on donations and other resources. Dr Kua Kia Soong, a proponent of vernacular schools, rightly said that it is the Chinese who have been contributing in subsidising Malaysian education.

What is not known is that 100,000 non-Chinese students are attending 1,350 Chinese primary schools. These schools are nurturing productive human resources for the country. It is therefore regrettable there is petty name-calling of Chinese educationists.

In the case of Tamil schools, it is very unfortunate that higher allocation only began from 2008.

The allocations under Malaysia plans from 1990 until 2010 were low (within the range of RM10-50 million).

It was only in 2008 that the government allocated RM440 million for the period 2008-2012.

In 2000, 50pc of the total 523 Tamil schools were built of wood and lacked basic facilities.

The low level of performance among Tamil school students and high level of dropouts could be associated with the social problems faced by the community. This should not happen in a country that has been upholding inclusive development since 1957.

It is vital for non-Malays to understand the historical position of the Malays and for the Malays to understand that the non-Malays have contributed in equal measure to the building of the Malaysian nation.

As rightly pointed out by Sir Gerald Templer, the British high commissioner when he launched the Malaysian Historical Society in 1959, “a nation which does not look with pride upon its past can never look forward with confidence towards its future”.

Prior to independence, all races had also participated in events organised by the British without harbouring any ill-feelings.

Racial harmony was considered to be Malaya’s most precious heritage. Multiculturalism is still our greatest asset. We should continue to nurture and celebrate it harmoniously.

by Associate Professor Dr Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja, heads the Department of History, University of Malaya.

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read/3246/multiculturalism-is-our-greatest-asset/

Focus on eradicating poverty, not causing disunity, says Bersatu leader

Friday, October 4th, 2019
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia disciplinary board chairman Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas says political bickering and backbiting will only distract Putrajaya from addressing the issue of poverty. PIC BY INTAN NUR ELLIANA ZAKARIA

LAWYER and veteran politician Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas stressed the importance of the people’s economy and wellbeing for any nation to progress.

“Economy, economy, economy,” he said in an interview with the New Straits Times, when asked on the three things that any politician should focus on.

He said political bickering and backbiting between the government and the opposition would only distract Putrajaya from its main focus, which was to eliminate poverty and boost the economy.

Citing the recent United Nation’s report on Malaysia’s poverty rate, he said it was high time the government had a clearer picture of the situation in the country.

“Last Ramadan, I went to visit my village and I was shocked to see that there were poor people there.

“That’s the reality on the ground, and this include Sabah and Sarawak.

“I agree with the UN’s report that we have understated our poverty problem.

“We cannot have Malaysians who do not have enough to eat because it will only give the impression that we are a poor country.

“This (eradicating poverty) should be the focus instead of fighting religious and racial issues.

“How is playing up the drama helping our people?”

In August, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, disputed Malaysia’s assertion that it had nearly eliminated poverty, saying that official figures were vastly inaccurate and did not reflect realities on the ground.

Najmuddin, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia disciplinary board chairman, urged the government to resolve the income disparity to elevate the poor into the middle-income earners’ bracket.

Asserting that the poor were mainly the Bumiputeras, he said anyone who spoke up on empowering the Bumiputeras should not be labelled as racists.

“The government must focus on the bigger picture. The macro, not the micro.

“All political parties should work together on eradicating poverty and see it as a problem because it is real and depressing.

“Stop playing the racial card or asking (Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to step down.”

He said this in response to former PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali, who recently called for Dr Mahathir’s resignation, allegedly accusing the Bersatu chairman of being power hungry.

Najmuddin said as an older person and experienced politician, Syed Husin should have known better than playing up sentiments that could divide Malaysians.

“We have people who barely have enough to eat and here we are playing divisive politics.

“Are you prioritising politics or helping people to deal with problems?

“You have to have focus. Be patient and let the people in power do their job. Enough with the politicking. You can’t expect Dr Mahathir to perform a miracle in one year.”

FOOD SECURITY

Najmuddin said the government should focus on improving food security as a way to boost the economy.

At the moment, he said, efforts being made in the area were underwhelming.

He said a proper plan should be in place to get the younger generation involved in food production, such as farming.

“If you go to villages today, you will see that there are mostly old people around (doing agricultural activities) because the youngsters have migrated to towns and cities to earn a living.

“Our food production is receding because the old people are not able to look after their farms anymore.”

He said initiatives to resolve food production issues should take precedence over short-term economic solutions.

“We import almost everything, including sugar, flour, beef and salt.

“The only things we don’t import are poultry and cooking oil. But you can’t eat cooking oil.”

Najmuddin cautioned that issues surrounding food security needed to be resolved soon, as the people could face a serious problem if any untoward events occurred.

“Imagine a war erupting. What will happen? Will we be starving like how it was during the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)?”

As the 2020 Budget draws near, he expressed hope that the government would address the people’s issues by providing more jobs instead of handouts.

“It boils down to the adage, ‘if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime’.

“There must be a workable economic structural model to help them boost their income, because by doing so we can ensure that the people can be proud of earning their own money.

“The begging syndrome (through handouts) is embarrassing. Islam teaches us to stand on our two feet and work hard.”

RACISM AND DISUNITY

During the interview, the former Umno Disciplinary Committee member said his biggest concern was disunity among Malaysians, adding that politicians who continued to play the race card would destroy the country.

Najmuddin billed the recent merging of opposition parties at the Umno-Pas Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah as unhealthy, adding that the alliance of the two strange bedfellows could signal a “dangerous game”.

A week after the event, it was announced that four universities and one non-governmental organisation would hold a congress to promote unity among the Malays, called Kongres Maruah Melayu (Malay Dignity Congress).

With Dr Mahathir scheduled to officiate the event at the Melawati Stadium in Shah Alam this Sunday, Umno leaders had claimed that the congress was an attempt at copying the Umno-Pas initiative.

When asked about this, Najmuddin said: “Let’s not play fire with fire by saying I am more Malay than you.

“Let’s just fight poverty and make that our priority.”

He urged Malaysians to steer clear of racial issues and rejoice in the fact that the nation was built on the tenets of unity.

“We are in this together.”

“I appeal to all politicians and the people to stop playing the race and religious cards because you will doom us all.”

He recalled the May 13, 1969 race riot tragedy, which happened when he was a student.

“The younger generation did not go through May 13, 1969. I remember because I was a student when it happened.

“It was during the semester break.

“During the riots, I was in Ipoh. I remember taking my father’s shotgun to go to sleep at night so that I could protect my family. It was terrifying and we were living in fear.

“Please don’t let this happen again. Stop all the blame game. We are all Malaysians.

“We are polite people and are not racists.

By Arfa Yunus.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2019/10/526966/focus-eradicating-poverty-not-causing-disunity-says-bersatu-leader

We should always identify ourselves as Malaysians first

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
It is a right and responsibility of Malaysians to want a better Malaysia. FILE  PIC.

WHAT is patriotism? We can define it as love and respect for our homeland.

It is pride in one’s country that drives people to work hard for the development of the nation, protect its heritage and culture, and safeguard the country from being destroyed by external or internal forces.

Former United States politician Adlai Stevenson once said: “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Patriotism implies a sense of belonging that binds people together. It is symbolised by flying the flag and respecting the national anthem.

Under the Jalur Gemilang, Malaysia attained independence and we built our lives harmoniously.

But patriotism comes in various forms. When we speak up and defend our country, it is a patriotic act. When we refrain from committing vandalism on public property or littering in public places, we are being patriotic.

When we contribute to making our community free from crime or protecting and preserving our environment, we are being patriotic.

Being patriotic also means contributing one’s views and opinions to areas that can bring good to the country. It is a right and responsibility of Malaysians to want a better Malaysia.

Patriotism should be instilled from childhood because when children love their homeland, they will grow up appreciating their heritage, diversity and history.

Patriotism can be instilled in students through awareness, education and knowledge.

The education system should inculcate pride and belonging to the nation in students. Only through a sense of belonging can Malaysia’s younger generation be moulded into responsible and mature citizens as well as future leaders.

The younger generation must be made aware of the importance of unity as it is the cornerstone of the nation’s success. It is imperative that they forge closer relations despite differences in race, culture and religion.

Fostering unity should begin in schools where efforts can be made to instil interracial harmony, unity and peace in students.

Principals and teachers need to be creative to get students to participate in activities that boost racial integration. They must encourage students to understand one another better.

Parents need to cultivate and practise positive values to inspire their children to emulate good behaviour.

Values such as honesty, integrity, tolerance, diligence, fairness, respect for elders and civic consciousness must be upheld.

After 62 years of independence, Malaysians should be more united as we share the same dreams and aspirations for a better Malaysia.

We should identify ourselves first as Malaysians. I have always believed that to be Malaysian does not make a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban.

History has proven that Malaysia was able to overcome challenges if the people are united.

Our diversity is our strength and it is the recipe for achieving development and socio-economic progress.

By TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/08/517165/we-should-always-identify-ourselves-malaysians-first

A Merdeka wish for peace

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
It is our fervent Merdeka hope that violence and aggression be better handled and reduced. File Pic

I REMEMBER reading a research done in Indonesia some years back that science st‎udents are more readily radicalised to commit violence and extremism compared with their non-science counterparts.

One of the reasons cited was because science is a more rigid — black or white — discipline with few grey areas in between. As a result, science students are more inclined to decide on one or the other.

Whereas the humanities students are more used to choosing the “in-betweens” and feel comfortable with it. Although they may later gravitate towards violence but there is also a chance they may do otherwise.

In other words, religion may not be the main cause for violence per se.

That said, many were relieved to learn from the International Seminar on Religious Values in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism held last week at International Islamic University Malaysia that religions are indeed innocent bystanders‎ being (mis)assigned the malicious blame.

There are many factors that drive someone towards extremism. According to an expert on religion-state-society studies,‎ geopolitical or economic influences are more likely to be the cause, although religious labelling are more often used which then makes the issues more complex. At times politicians are the culprits by using religions for their vested interest.

Professor Mark Woodward said religious leaders instead have a crucial role and responsibility to play in stopping violent extremism. Together with politicians, religious leaders should refrain from using religious hatred as political tools to advance their own interests.

Policy makers are, therefore, ill-advised to use theological orientation as a factor in assessing the violent potential of Muslim movements and organisations, he writes. Instead more attention should be paid to variables that measure political attitudes and behaviour.

In line with this, the United Nations Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) urged states “to consider ‎ways to have a more inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism”.

The seminar thus recommends the formation of a coordinating body, i.e. a secretariat, to facilitate the National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) under the purview of the Home Ministry.

This is to consolidate government resources towards actionable response on PCVE issues and to also involve other stakeholders and acquire expertise from educational, civil society organisations and the private sector.

As it is, a survey of existing PCVE programmes across various ministries and agencies, such as the Department of National Unity and Integration under the Prime Minister’s Department, indicates that there are significant efforts at engagement and capacity building for PCVE.

However, there are also overlapping and duplication of efforts and responsibilities of these different government agencies which may prevent effective and cost-efficient enforcement of policies. By having a national secretariat, better optimisation of resources and best practices can be achieved‎. ‎In addition, it also recommends the development of a PCVE programme package for Malaysian youths for national implementation.

This will be ascertained through a pilot study and identification of existing best practices across government ministries and agencies.

The principles of public health provide a useful framework for PCVE using capacity building especially in terms of research, collaboration, advocacy and engagement as part of more general nation-building efforts and also target segmentation of those considered to be at risk of radicalisation and violence.

By rigorously understanding the causes and consequences of violent extremism and terrorism via research and instrumentation, a more general but relevant primary prevention programme, policy interventions, advocacy; and a more focused countering of violent extremism programmes can be created.

Before all those, it also recommends that outmoded aspects of PCVE be reformed and expanded in the so-called post-ISIS period, by giving focus on the threat of far-right extremism and other religious and ideological radicalism, and the dynamics of their exchanges intra and between communities that threaten local and global peace.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/08/517427/merdeka-wish-peace

NST Leader: Celebrate our diversity

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD)

MALAYSIA is 62 today. As an independent nation that has seen 14 general elections, been served by six prime ministers and two political coalitions, how have we fared? Have we achieved Merdeka in its truest sense?

Merdeka is not just about celebrating independence or flying the Jalur Gemilang. True Merdeka is about preserving a nation’s unity — the unity that guarantees the survival of a nation. Malaysia is said to be a melting pot of different cultures, races and religions; in essence it is still a young and growing nation. After more than six decades, our journey is far from complete.

As a nation, we seem to have come full circle, and the old demons that we thought we had vanquished post-independence have resurfaced, such as disunity, the race issue, income disparity and a depressed economy (although this is mostly external).

Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. Muhibbah was the theme in the campaign for unity after our dark moment in history — it was a time when camaraderie and the bond of friendship was strong among the people, and where the young were taught values of nation-building and the meaning of Merdeka. Those were Malaysia’s summer years.

Physically and economically, Malaysia has grown — reportedly, economists forecast Malaysia’s economy to grow at 4.5 per cent this year to RM1.51 trillion from last year’s RM1.45 trillion, despite the uncertainty from the prolonged US-China trade war. We have a national car, buildings and skyscrapers, but all these would mean naught if we are not united.

Things have become complicated today. Malaysians tend to forget this is a country that was built on the blood, sweat and tears of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Bidayuh, Murut — all those races. We appear to have lost all sense of respect for each other.

In recent weeks, we have seen incidents of flags flown upside down, insults and slurs exchanged over the introduction of khat in schools and a fender bender turned racial. Issues have been blown out of proportion, and rumours, slanders and lies have become the norm. Rightly, we have to ask ourselves how much do we love this country and are we patriotic enough to protect our sovereignty from internal and external threats. Let’s reflect and ponder.

Building a nation is like growing a family — good parents grow a family that will always be one because each member knows he belongs. Bad parents, seen to favour some over others, usually can’t hold a family together. Leaders, therefore, must set the course, chart the direction wisely and become exemplars.

Today is Merdeka — let’s celebrate our diversity, warts and all. We have inherited a beautiful and peaceful country from our forefathers; as patriotic citizens we have a responsibility to guard this Shangri-la at all costs and make it better for future generations.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/08/517433/nst-leader-celebrate-our-diversity

Celebrating our uniqueness

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

With six days to go before Malaysia marks her 62nd year of independence, schools and universities are showing their patriotic spirit by celebrating the diversity and colours that unite us. StarEdu finds out what students in the Klang Valley are doing for this Merdeka season.

DESCRIBING herself as Malaysian to the core, Dr Mahaletchimi Balakrishnan always chooses to fly Malaysia Airlines when visiting her daughter who is studying in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I would always choose our national carrier whenever I travel overseas. Although I can see from the map that the plane has left Malaysia, I’ll still feel like I’m home (on the plane), ” she said.

The true-blue Malaysian is SMK Rawang’s senior assistant of co-curricular activities and Bahasa Malaysia teacher, who wanted to share her love for the country with her students and teachers in the school.

(Standing from left) Nurul Arianna, Chean, Teejes, Syahirah Medinna, adviser Navitra G. Selvakumar and Chalani with a preview of their video at Taylor’s University.

“We wanted to do something special for National Day. That’s why the biggest Jalur Gemilang in Gombak project was born, ” said Dr Mahaletchimi who has been teaching for 30 years.

“We roped in students from all races to help paint the giant flag that measures three metres in height and 10 metres in length. They started during the last week of July and completed it on Aug 2.

The purpose of the project, she added, was to ignite the spirit of patriotism when students see the gigantic flag that has been hung above the stage for all to admire during the school’s national day celebration week launch on Aug 5.

The school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which was very supportive of the activity, donated the RM1,000 needed to fund the project.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and  create an awareness on recycling.Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and create an awareness on recycling.An appreciative Dr Mahaletchimi said she hoped the youth would grow up to be kind and responsible Malaysians who would continue to live peacefully among one another.

“Don’t get influenced by politics. Just do our part as Malaysian citizens. Our duty is to love the country and support our leader, ” she noted.

Norliza shared Dr Mahaletchimi’s sentiment.

“What makes us uniquely Malaysian is our multiculturalism and acceptance of each other, ” she said, adding that organising the National Day celebration in school was important to raise the awareness of merdeka among the young.

Usually a “silent member” in co-curricular activities – especially those held during the weekend – Tan Cai Yin, 15, made an exception for the Jalur Gemilang project.

“It brought us (students) closer together, ” said Cai Yin.

A strong believer in “live and let live”, the third former said that forgiveness and exchange of cultural information can boost understanding among races to create a more harmonious society.

Jafni Zafirah Mohd Bustamam, 17, who was involved in painting the giant flag, said showing love towards the country was the duty of Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a peaceful place with citizens who adopt good values as well as respect and help each other.

“The flag is a significant symbol and identifies us as Malaysians. Celebrating National Day in school is important because it reminds us to be proud Malaysians, ” said the fifth former.

Loshiny Ganesan, 16, who volunteered for the project, said it was carried out seamlessly.

“All students involved were cooperative and worked well together, ” she said.

Better me, better Malaysia

Dressed in a red-gold coloured cheongsam for the first time was a special moment for Mellody Nizam, 18.

“I like the cheongsam as its patterns and colours are so pretty!” said the Lower Six student from Chong Hwa Independent High School, Kuala Lumpur.

She was dressed up for Chong Hwa’s National Day celebration that was inspired by Star Media Group’s Raise The Flag campaign.

Themed “Better me, better Malaysia”, Chong Hwa’s Raise The Flag Campaign – which the school started conducting in 2017 – was organised by its English Language Department with the aim of boosting the patriotic spirit among students, teachers and staff within the school.

It was held in conjunction with the country’s 62nd National Day as well as the school’s

100th anniversary.Mellody said the national day celebration served as a reminder to all about the country’s achievements over 62 years.

The student whose parental lineage includes Filipino, Dutch, Sabahan, Sarawakian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani, said she was fortunate to be born in a place where people from different racial backgrounds and cultures could live in harmony.

“Being a Malaysian is to be able to live in a peaceful country with friends that I can make from other race

Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.

“I believe the most important is to be open-minded, learn and respect each other, ” she said.

Chong Hwa principal Cheong Moey Lian said during her opening speech that Malaysians should be proud of how far the country has come.“Building a forever home is possible only when you belong to a country. We must continue to live united and harmoniously – which creates a safe haven for citizens to thrive, ” she said.

Celebrating National Day, said Cheong, would ignite the spirit of patriotism among school staff, teachers and students – the future leaders of the country.

“We started this Raise The Flag campaign in 2017 when The Star was doing it and we have continued it since then, ” she said.

English Language head of department Tan Choon Moi who is in charge of the campaign, was delighted with the positive response from students.

“Students were proactive and took their own initiative to prepare for this year’s Raise The Flag campaign. They came back during the school holiday to start preparation for it, ” said the Johorean who has taught English in Chong Hwa for two decades.

Elegantly dressed in a crimson red saree, an elated Poh Jing Jie, 17, was radiating excitement on the campaign’s launch day.

Fondly known as Ginger among her friends and teachers, she said this was the first time students were allowed to come to school in traditional clothing.

“I was always envious of my sister who studies in a national school as she always gets to dress up in a variety of traditional clothing for school events. Now its my turn!” said Ginger, pointing out that people take simple things like wearing traditional clothing for granted.

“National Day, to me, is a celebration of all things in my country. It’s my home and I really love it – its culture, the warm-hearted people and delicious food!” said the fifth former.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

Malaysia remains the best place in her heart, added the student who has been to Japan, Spain, Vietnam, Australia and other places.

Maria Puspa Sari Dewi Rokk, 18, whose father is Malaysian-Indian and mother is Indonesian, described Malaysia as the “best place ever”.

“Besides the awesome food, the people are Malaysia’s prized treasures, ” said the student who was dressed in a colourful saree.

Patriotism through art

Students from UCSI University spent a week to decorate a mannequin with recycled paper that replicated the national flower, the hibiscus, to celebrate Merdeka.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin to signify the spirit of unity as well as to create an awareness on recycling. The mannequin is currently placed at the lobby of the university’s block G.

Project leader cum event coordinator, Lucas Lim, said the initiative was to encourage students to play a pivotal role in inspiring patriotism through art.

“We want to remind our staff and students that the five conspicuous petals of the national flower champion the five principles of the Rukun Negara.

“And that the vibrant colours of the flower symbolises the courage and vitality of the people. By using recycled paper, we hope to encourage recycling, ” he said.

One word for Malaysia

It’s easy for Malaysians to describe what unites them with their fellow countrymen.

Give them a minute and they can give you enough fodder to fill a chapter on this topic.

The Taylor’s Tradisi Club from Taylor’s University are on a mission to summarise this uniquely Malay-sian characteristic in just one word.

They are creating a video featuring the university’s students expressing what they believe unites Malaysians using just one word.

Tradisi Club member Chalani Ganeson, 23, said tradition is what unites Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, ” she said, adding that having all these cultures and embracing them make us uniquely Malaysian.

Her sentiments are echoed by Nurul Arianna Fadzil, 19, who believes embracing different cultures is something special to Malaysia.“We can learn one another’s traditions through something like dancing. Even if we don’t understand the language, we can still move to the beat, ” she added.

Nurul Arianna said she will be part of the club’s cultural event and will perform a Hindi dance.

Fellow club member Syahirah Medinna Saiful Bahri, 20, said love is a big factor in uniting Malaysians.

Even though she grew up in an urban environment, she said her Chinese and Indian neighbours would often bring food for her family.

“Not just on festive occasions, ” she said, adding that her family sends food over to her neighbours’ homes as well.

A-Levels student Chean Sweet Chiao, 18, said that being Malaysian is about being inclusive while Teejes Gopala Krishnan, 19, believes that food is what unites Malaysians.

Learn from history and show strong fighting spirit in their pursuit of excellence. As students, your greatest contribution to the nation is to ensure that the benefits and opportunities given to you are fully utilised, said Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim.

He also reminded students and staff to be more vigilant with what they see on social media.

“Academics and intellectuals must safeguard and not take for granted the unity and harmony that we are very proud of as Malaysians.

“We are the gatekeepers in ensuring that our culture and values as a community are preserved and able to overcome obstacles so that we can continue to enjoy the peace that we have today, ” he said during the launch of the Aug 1 varsity-wide programme to commemorate the country’s 62nd Merdeka Day.

Events will be carried out in 36 UiTM campuses nationwide. Also present was National Laureate Datuk Baha Zain, whose famous works include “Dalam Lingkaran” and “Topeng-topeng”.

By LEE CHONGHUIREBECCA RAJAENDRAM and CHRISTINA CHIN
Read more @
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2019/08/25/celebrating-our-uniqueness#kzhtD8fp1QAJOBpf.99