Archive for April, 2014

Hasmy: More needs to be done on human rights in Malaysia

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: There is still room for improvement in the field of human rights in Malaysia, says Hu­man Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (pic).

“We are doing good. But we can do better. Our state of human rights is patchy and not uniform.

We really need to step up and put emphasis on what is best for the nation,” he said at the launch of Suhakam’s 2013 annual report on Friday.

Hasmy said Ma­­lay­­sia had a poor record in acceding to the core international hu­man rights.

The Government, he added, should begin with the four treaties to which it committed to accede during the 2013 Uni­versal Periodic Review (UPR) which was released last month.

They are the Inter­national Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Interna­tional Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimina- tion; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

He also said Malaysia had accepted 150 recommendations given by United Nations member countries during the UPR.

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US teachers boost students’ English

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

SUCCESSFUL: Pahang schools benefit from Fulbright Programme.

Fulbright English teaching assistant Lauren Parson, 23, using the New Straits Times in lessons with students of SMK Teluk Chempedak in Kuantan. Pic by Afif Abd Halim

KUANTAN: THE command of English among students in Pahang has greatly improved thanks to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) programme.

Pahang education director Rosdi Ismail said young American graduates from universities in the United States involved in the programme had been dedicated educators, who went the extra mile to help students improve their spoken and written English.

He also attributed the state’s increased passing rate for the English subject in major government examinations, to these teaching assistants.

Particularly evident, he added were the confidence exuding from students in rural districts, who now appeared more confident in speaking and writing in English.

“We have seen a marked improvement in the students’ grasp of English and we have also expanded this programme over last few years.

“Schools from other districts have also shown keen interest to participate in the ETA programme and we are trying to accommodate their request.

“The programme has had a positive impact on students as the ETAs help make learning English more interesting by organising outdoor camps, visiting Orang Asli settlements and allocating extra hours after school,” he said.

Former Pahang education department English language assistant director Faridah Abdul Rahman said the ETA programme had also helped create a close bond between the Americans and local students as the teaching assistants treated the students like their close friends.

“Students are no longer shy to participate in activities, including discussions and quizzes.

“I notice that every year, our students would be eager to welcome the ETAs while the teaching assistants themselves seem to enjoy their stint,” she said, adding that some of the ETAs had also applied to return for another teaching stint.

She said the ETAs also had mentors, most of whom were teachers from the same school.

“Their mentors play a crucial role in helping them adapt to the local culture and make their stay here more comfortable

“I was also informed that thanks to the ETA’s, not only are students from Orang Asli settlements picking up the language, their parents and siblings are also learning new English words.

“The lack of facilities at Orang Asli settlements and some schools has never dampened the spirits of the ETAs, as they always make the best of what they have to make teaching the subject interesting.”

SIDMA College, UNITAR Sabah supports the “Let’s Read Together for 10 Minutes” Programme.(April2014)

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

SIDMA College, 300 staff and students of UNITAR Sabah were participants of the “Let’s Read Together for 10 Minutes” Programme (Jom Baca Bersama Untuk 10 Minit) held at the SIDMA Atrium on 22 April 2014 from 10.00 to 10.10 am.

According to Puan Badrinah Suhaimin, SIDMA College Librarian, the event was organized in conjunction with “Sambutan Hari Buku dan Hakcipta Sedunia 2014” and jointly organized by the Council of Directors of Public Libraries Malaysia; as an attempt to get into The Malaysian Book of Records with an entry of one million participants. She further elaborated that the target group for this reading event comprised of schools, universities, private and public sector workers, corporate bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), library users, and the general public.

The programme at the college kicked off with Puan Azlina Ngatimin, Director, Corporate Relations and Development, filling up her forms of participation for the event. She was then followed by staff and students of the college. Everyone has already been distributed some form of reading material before the programme officially started. A bookmark was given as a gift of appreciation to all participants.

As we all know, reading is a wonderful way to transport one’s mind into the imaginative and creative realm. Books stimulate the brain, expand ideas, and may give one a positive outlook in life. Life becomes much more interesting when there are new avenues to be explored. Other than trying for a place in The Malaysian Book of Records, this programme is indeed a unique way of bringing the people together. Yes, it was for only 10 minutes! But, know that in every minute of our day, it is a chance to change one’s life for the better.

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Schoolboy survives ordeal

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Just looking at the photo of the boy which went viral over social media was enough to make netizens grimace but the 10-year-old survived his ordeal rather gallantly, here, Monday.

SK Sacred Heart pupil Huguan Isaac Linus was playing near a drain with a group of friends when one of them apparently stepped on a loose iron rod, which sprang up, went through the boy’s mouth before one end of it exited through his right cheek about 12.50pm.

The three-foot long iron rod was lodged in the boy, who remained calm despite the severity of the freak mishap and the fuss the adults were making all around him, until he got to hospital where doctors had to surgically remove it.

Women and Children’s Hospital Likas Director Dr Tan Bee Hwai said doctors successfully withdrew the metal bar during a 35-minute operation.

“The rod went in through the mouth and punctured through the right cheek,” he said.

Dr Tan said the boy was taken to the operating room at 3.55pm for removal of the metal rod, clean the wound and to stitch the puncture back.

“The boy is now well, stable and awaiting recovery,” he said, adding that the boy is still being warded.

“After surgery we need to check the wound to see whether or not it is clean and see if we missed anything and see if we need to put on the next stitch, all this needs to be reviewed a few hours after the procedure,” he said.

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The economic significance of awqaf

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

There is a positive correlation between private sector participation in the economy and national economic progress.

THE dynamism of the institution and mechanism of awqaf (an Islamic instrument of wealth distribution that can provide perpetual benefit) can contribute significantly to the economy.

Firstly, if the awqaf institution is properly and effectively organised, a huge sum of wealth can be accumulated by the state from the private sector for public purposes.

This voluntary contribution of the private sector can reduce the size of government expenditure, which can eventually reduce public sector participation in the economy.

The public goods made available through the awqaf institution can replace the government’s burden and responsibility.

This voluntary contribution and participation of the private sector due to religious encouragement can act as great impetus for the society to contribute to its stability and development.

Secondly, active society’s commitment to social economic requirements can prevent government borrowing through deficit financing. Deficit financing normally has a negative financial implication for the government.

In the present volatile and globalised world economic condition, it is advisable for the public sector to be involved in less public borrowing.

The previous financial crisis that affected this East Asian region had serious implications for countries which had undertaken huge borrowings by the public and private sectors, particularly from external sources.

Thirdly, through voluntary contributions of the well-to-do for the public purpose, awqaf can have a positive implication on the redistribution of wealth in the society. This voluntary approach has a far more positive reach than redistribution through taxes and government transfer expenditure.

The instrument of taxes has a greater cost implication in its implementation. Sometimes, due to a lack of proper tax formulation, the costs of collecting taxes can be a great burden to the government. A great cost is also involved in the transfer of government expenditure.

In the case of voluntary contribution of awqaf, the costs of collection will be very marginal and in most cases, it will involve no costs at all.

by Nik Mustapha Haji Nik Hassan.

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Mutual respect and tolerance fundamental to all religions, says British politician

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

PETALING JAYA: Respect and tolerance is fundamental to all religions, and Muslims have a duty to protect that right, said a prominent British politician.

“Muslims have a duty to recognise and protect the basic human rights of freedom of religion or belief, a freedom that we ourselves benefit from,” said Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

“Prophet Muhammad himself respected the diversity of different faiths and ethnicity, and enshrined it in the constitution of Madinah,” said the British senior minister of state at the foreign and commonwealth office, during her talk at an interfaith dialogue organised by The Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMM) and the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur.

Warsi, who is also the minister for faith and communities, said that in a modern, globalised world, the respect for dignity and diversity of difference faith and ethnicity was very important.

“When I had the honour to be appointed as the first Asian and Muslim cabinet minister in my country’s history, I was determined to use that position to change things and make the case for faith,” she said.

Warsi added that her agenda was not to promote any particular faith, but to make it clear that the Government supported the right of all faith groups to worship freely and to be protected from intolerance and hate crimes.

“An attack on a gurdwara should be viewed as an attack on a mosque, a church, a temple or a synagogue,” she said.

Warsi envisioned an ideal world where unity between all races was strong, “where Muslims condemn anti-semitism, that Jews fight Islamaphobia”.

Warsi explained that although she was Muslim, she was also shaped by British and Christian values.

“That only makes my faith and identity stronger,” said Warsi, adding that freedom of religion was also important for social harmony.

“When religious freedom works, economic prosperity follows,” said Warsi.

“Creating freedom, openness, and respect for different thoughts and ideas allows you to make the most of people’s differences and harness their full potential,” she said.

Warsi explained that the strength of society correlated to economic strength of the country.

“I see similar ideas at work here in Malaysia,” she said, adding she had seen the economic success the country enjoyed.

Warsi urged Malaysians to “work faster, harder and deeper to build a global momentum of religious freedom”, which she believed could transcend racial divides.

by Suganya Lingan and Victoria Brown.

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Options after graduation: Entering the workforce

Monday, April 21st, 2014

GETTING a job after a degree may be just the most conventional path taken by most graduates.

The Graduate Tracer Study carried out by then Higher Education Ministry found that 30% of first degree graduates were employed with a basic salary of more than RM2,500 in 2012 while the Department of Statistics puts the figure of graduate unemployment at 65,000 in the same year.

In a comparison of which career is the most lucrative, Pharmacy graduates were the top graduate earners in 2013, taking home RM3,640 a month, followed by graduates who worked in corporate strategy (RM3,200) and financial services (RM3,054), according to an online job portal.

Increasingly, graduates are vying for graduate management training programmes offered by multinational corporations. These programmes often allow trainees to rotate between different departments so they can gain different skills.

There are various way to increase the employability of graduates — graduates are advised to brush up on their communication skills as well as clean up their social network profiles when applying for jobs.

As a local human resource recruiter says, employers do screen candidates on social media before making the final cut.

To increase the real-world work experience of students, universities and colleges are making internship a compulsory component in the course module.

Internship is the litmus test for undergraduates to decide whether it is the right career for them.

While it is common to hear of students being given menial jobs during their internship, students should make use of the internship period to network and build their professional contacts.

At the same time, more undergraduates are already working part-time in their chosen fields before sailing on to expand their careers by the time they graduate.

Jesse Pizarro Boga was already employed as a journalist in a local newspaper when he was still a communications undergraduate.

by Kang Soon Chen.

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Don’t let more people die in vain

Monday, April 21st, 2014

THE darkest hours of the night and the wee hours of the morning – it is in these nocturnal hours that death waits at every bend and corner on our roads and highways.

The latest accident near Gua Tempurung on the North-South Expressway that claimed the lives of Karpal Singh and his personal aide, Michael Cornelius, has once again thrown the issue of safe driving at such hours into the limelight.

Those who prefer to drive at night because of the lighter traffic have to contend with the heavy vehicles that are more prominent at such times.

We have heard many stories about how such commercial drivers are overworked and underpaid. Some have been pushed to the limits of their physical endurance, and they may even be “sleeping on the job” at certain points of the journey.

But we must not forget it is not just drivers of public transport vehicles, like express buses and lorries, who have to be alert at such hours.

The individual driver who has not had adequate rest, who proudly boasts that he can travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on the North-South Expressway under four hours, has the potential to create just as much carnage on the roads as any public vehicle driver.

The investigation into the latest accident is in progress and we must allow the police to carry out their work professionally.

But the preliminary information gives cause for concern.

Why was the lorry driver, who was transporting a load of cement, steel and tiles, travelling with his 23-year-old wife and their four-year-old daughter? What are we to make of the initial test on the lorry driver that came out positive for cannabis? What about the traffic summonses linked to Karpal’s vehicle, a total of 29 of which 15 had not been settled?

If we look back at past accidents, we can see striking similarities involving speeding offences, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and known poor driving records.

Every accident, it seems, might not have happened in the first place if proper precautions are taken and danger is not deliberately unleashed on our roads.

The recent accident involving a double-decker bus that crashed in Bentong, claiming three lives, is a glaring example – the driver has since been charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act and is liable to be jailed for up to two years or fined a maximum of RM5,000 or both, if found guilty.

But how did the company get away with allowing the driver on the bus in the first place?

All drivers, whether at the wheels of a commercial vehicle or a private vehicle, are susceptible to fatigue. More so in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning.

Yes, we can identify the killer stretches on our roads and highways. We can call for better enforcement.

But at the end of the day, it will still come up to that moment when, in the blink of an eye, a lapse in judgment by one party will lead to a horrific accident that claims the lives of the innocent.

The Star Says.

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A matter of principle

Monday, April 21st, 2014

No one could stop Karpal Singh from speaking up on what he believed in. He did not care if he was taking on the prime minister or even a sultan. He had taken on all of them.

SOME time in the middle of last year, I received a phone call from Karpal Singh. He offered to appear as a witness in support of me and this newspaper against a suit filed by a senior DAP official.

The veteran politician and lawyer, who saw my career grow from a rookie reporter to the group chief editor, told me not to worry.

The call was most surprising as it was unsolicited, and I had no intention of even fighting the case in court.

It’s an occupational hazard for the chief editor of any media group – he gets to be named as a defendant in many legal suits even though he has no direct hand in the offending story, which would have been written by a reporter and edited by the news editor or other editors.

While the chief editor is expected to take responsibility, it is near impossible for him to be aware of the hundreds, if not thousands, of news stories that appear daily in the newspapers and online portals. In most media groups, the other platforms include radio and television channels.

Karpal felt that the suit was unnecessary and unjustified. But I also didn’t want to be caught in the crossfire involving party rivalry either. If the case had gone to an open court, it would have been most unusual to have two party leaders slugging it out on opposite sides.

Common sense finally prevailed. The suit was withdrawn and the case closed after discussions between the lawyers. But that’s Karpal for you.

He had consistently spoken up against PAS and its objective of setting up an Islamic state and introducing hudud laws.

Not many of his party comrades were prepared to do that, especially before the 2013 general election, as they saw the possibility of Pakatan Rakyat forming the federal government. No one was prepared to put a dampener on Pakatan’s march to Putrajaya.

Both DAP and PKR would not want to make PAS look bad, which was already the line taken by the Barisan Nasional, especially the Chinese-based parties within the coalition.

But no one was going to stop Karpal from speaking up on what he believed in. It was a matter of principle, while others were more interested in political expediency.

by Wong Chun Wai.

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622 HMs get New Deal award

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: They and 566 primary schools rewarded RM23m for outstanding performance.

SHAH ALAM: A TOTAL OF 622 headmasters, 566 primary schools and eight senior assistants of administration have been rewarded for achieving their academic and administrative targets, while raising the academic quality of their students.

Yesterday, they received the Headmasters New Deal (TBGB) Award 2013 amounting to RM23.2 million from Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin, who is also deputy prime minister, emphasised on the wisdom of headmasters as gatekeepers of change to supervise and manage their respective schools effectively in order to achieve all targets under the education development plan.

He said the recipients comprised 209 urban schools, 302 rural schools and 55 remote schools.

“National-type Chinese schools rose from 54 in 2012 to 74 schools, while National-type Tamil schools from 45 schools in 2012 to 54 schools. Of these recipients, 119 schools have received this award four times in a row.

“I would like to draw attention to the success of the only Orang Asli national school, namely Sekolah Kebangsaan Tasik Chini in Pekan, Pahang, which was nominated and won the award.”

He said in line with current needs, people’s wishes and aspiration of the education system, headmasters must embrace the education development plan and execute it in their schools to ensure that the intended outcome is achieved.

“In the context of developing excellent human capital, I hope everyone, be they leaders at the ministry or at the school level, must have the same desired outcomes and understanding as envisioned in the 2013-2015 Malaysian Education Development Plan.

“Developing human capital in the context of the leadership of headmasters is crucial as children from age six to 12 need close guidance and attention from teachers as primary education is the foundation for them to grow further.”

The Bai’ah or New Deal programme acknowledges the headmasters’ leadership that leads to marked academic and administrative improvement in their schools.

Muhyiddin said the sub-National Key Results Area (NKRA) achievement for the headmaster’s New Deal in 2013 increased to 7.31 per cent out of 7,746 primary schools, exceeding the six per cent target set by the ministry.