Archive for August, 2014

Getting historical facts right

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

I’m proud that Sabah was one of the countries to form Malaysia, as opposed to joining Malaysia.

ON Twitter, in a tweet in which I was tagged, someone asked the Government to take action against Sabahans wearing black T-shirts as part of a campaign to make known historical facts to Malaysians.

Tangkap penghasut dengan segera! No Mercy. Kembalikan ISA (Arrest the agitator immediately! No Mercy. Bring back ISA),” said the tweet that included a photograph of the offending T-shirt.

On the back of the T-shirt was written: “We must know. 31 August 1963: Sabah independence. 31 August 1957: Malaya independence. 16 September 1963: formation of Malaysia (Malaysia Day).”

I replied: “Factually correct.”

Historically cornered, the twitterer tweeted, “Kamu dah kibar bendera jalur gemilang ke belum?” (Have you flown the Malaysian flag yet?)

Victorious but magnanimous, I decided not to entertain the historically challenged twitterer.

That twitterer probably got agitated when he saw, “31 August 1963: Sabah independence”. He probably thought that it was seditious to make that claim. He didn’t know that on Aug 31, 1963, the British granted self-government to North Borneo. Two weeks later, on Sept 16, Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya formed the Federation of Malaysia.


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Ending education inequity in M’sia

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Each of us have a role to play in solving the country’s education problems, says Teach For Malaysia’s Abel Cheah.

Cheah conducting an activity at the Afterschool in Segambut.

Cheah conducting an activity at the Afterschool in Segambut.

TEACH For Malaysia’s Abel Cheah draws parallels between the battles in the country’s march for independence with the problems faced in education today.

“When I think about the Spirit of 57, I think about the fighting spirit that our forefathers had. Sure, we no longer have the same enemies that we had 57 years ago, but we’re still fighting for freedom,” he said.

“We need to recognise that our enemies today look very different: education inequity, racism and prejudice. If we don’t deal with them and overcome them now, they will rob us of our country’s freedom, so to speak.”

Cheah believes that TFM, an education outreach initiative to address the problem of education inequity in Malaysia, embodies the Merdeka spirit in its own way.

“TFM’s philosophy is really simple – it seeks to address education inequity in the belief that your education determines your outcome, which in turn, determines your life quality.

“In the schools that our fellows are sent to, the students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Studies have shown that these students are more prone to be stuck in a cycle of poverty and education inequity as they’re less likely to receive a high quality education,” he shared.

“TFM’s vision is to see all children obtain the opportunity to a quality education by creating equal opportunities for every student, in spite of their background.”

Cheah completed his two-year fellowship under TFM, teaching at a high-needs school in a rural, secondary school in Gemas, Negri Sembilan. He subsequently joined TFM as their talent acquisition assistant manager.

The 26-year-old believes that anyone can contribute to ending education inequity in our country.

“It’s really not just a teacher’s job! It has been left too long to the teachers alone to solve our country’s education problems. It takes a community to do it, on top of a change in mindset.

“All of us have a role to play in education: we can all start with just talking to the next guy at the bus stop. Likewise, the best way to combat racism is by opposing it and TFM fellows are really fortunate to have the opportunity to do that everyday in the classroom.

“My classes had a good representation of students from many races, which allowed me the opportunity to go beyond the moral textbooks to inculcate this unity that we often talk about,” said Cheah.

Re-igniting love for the land

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

PETALING JAYAMalaysia, here where love grows – there could not be a better reminder than this year’s Merdeka theme for the nation as we celebrate our 57th year of Independence.

And as many young Malaysians agree, it’s time to re-ignite that simple love of the land and each other, as exemplified by our founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman who once said, “No matter what we are, we are all Malaysians.”

We need to remember that Merdeka belongs to all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, said lawyer Azira Aziz, 27.

“Malaysia was created through a memorandum, so everyone played a part. It was a consensus.”

Universiti Malaysia Pahang final year student S. Shravanya believes moderation is the key to uphold the spirit of 57.

“Merdeka is the reflection of the unity in our country, but now our forefathers’ struggles to achieve independence are marred by racist remarks uttered by certain politicians and narrow-minded Malaysians.

“Although we are different in skin colour, we should be always united as Malaysians,” said the 24-year-old who hails from Merli­mau, Malacca.

Penangite Kyle Chan, 19, who is pursuing his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, agrees that living in a multi-cultural country, it’s always important to practise moderation and work towards a common goal.


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Khazanah unveils 12-point plan for MAS

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Khazanah's MD Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.

KUALA LUMPUR: Khazanah Nasional Bhd has unveiled a 12-point plan to enable Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to achieve sustained profitability within three years of de-listing, by the end of 2017.

Its managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said the plan involved a comprehensive overhaul of the airline.

“At its core, the plan involves the creation of a new company, (NewCo) which will house the ‘new MAS’ and the migration of the right-sized workforce and work practices and contracts into NewCo,” he told reporters at a special briefing at Khazanah headquarters on Friday.

The plan, entitled “Rebuilding A National Icon – The MAS Recovery Plan”, has four categories which are governance and financial framework, operating business model, leadership and human capital, and regulatory and enabling environment.

Azman said this plan followed a review of all relevant aspects of MAS’ operations and operating environment that commenced in February this year.

He said current MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya would continue to lead the old company during the transition period over the next 10 months to July 1, 2015.

“Khazanah has commenced the search process for the CEO of NewCo and we envisage that the conclusion of this search will be announced in due course, expected to be before the end of 2014,” he said.

Azman said it was estimated that NewCo would require a workforce of approximately 14,000, representing a net reduction of 6,000 or 30% from the approximately 20,000 current staff.

He said Khazanah would invest in a Corporate Reskilling Centre to address the reskilling of the appropriate MAS staff who did not migrate to NewCo.


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Independence Day of Malaysia

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Hari Kemerdekaan is the Independence Day of Malaysia. It is a national holiday which is celebrated on 31 August every year. It is to commemorate the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule on 31 August 1957. In a wider context, it also celebrates the formation of Malaysia.

Although Sabah and Sarawak gained their independence on 31 August 1963, Hari Kemerdekaan is a significant date throughout Malaysia. On this day, Malaysians from all backgrounds, race and religion celebrate together in a harmonious way. Traditionally, a grand and colourful parade is held at the Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur, where people can attend and celebrate. Various government agencies and private sectors join together to participate in the parade. They will march in front of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (the King), ministers, special guests and a sea of spectators. Similarly, other parades are also held in different states.

Each year, there will be a different theme for the Merdeka celebration. For 2011, the theme will be “1 Malaysia, Transformasi Berjaya, Rakyat Sejahtera” (1 Malaysia, Transformation Success, People Peace). This theme is in conjunction with the concept of 1Malaysia, touted by the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak. All Malaysians are urged to embrace the concept of transformation which brings about a meaningful process of innovation that can benefit the people.  It will also help continue the process of producing a vibrant young generation.

This year’s celebration will mark the 54th anniversary of Malaysian independence. During the Merdeka month, the Malaysians will also show their patriotism towards the country by raising the Malaysian flag wherever possible – along the streets, houses, office premises and also vehicles.

A Brief History of Malaya Independence

The effort for independence was spearheaded by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. He led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya in negotiations with the British officials in London for independence, along with the first president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), Tun Tan Cheng Lock and fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), Tun V.T. Sambanthan.

Once it became increasingly clear that the Communist threat posed during the Malayan Emergency was petering out, agreement was reached on 8 February 1956, for Malaya to gain independence from the British Empire. However, for a number of logistical and administrative reasons, it was decided that the official proclamation of independence would only be made the following year. Tunku arrived home from London with the good news that independence would finally come to Malaya.

Between the years 1955-57, the Tunku and his cabinet prepared the Malayan Constitution, discussed the administration of justice, cemented racial harmony in the country and resolved to beat the Communists. Finally, Tunku Abdul Rahman led the nation when he shouted “Merdeka” seven times at the newly-built Merdeka Stadium on 31 August 1957.

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National Day / Merdeka Day 2014

Friday, August 29th, 2014

31 August 1957 marks the day that the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British colonization, forming what we know of today as Malaysia. Hence, 31 August is a National Public Holiday to commemorate and celebrate the freedom and independence gained.

This day is also known as Hari Merdeka in the Malay language and that is why the celebration of Independence Day is incomplete without the seven shouts of “Merdeka!”. This gesture was initiated by the First Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman back in 1957 at Dataran Merdeka.

Although it is only a one day public holiday, the celebration builds up from a month before right up to Malaysia Day which is on the 16th of September.

During this whole month of August, also known as the Merdeka month, you will see most Malaysians express their patriotism and love towards their culturally unique country by raising the Malaysian flag on their vehicles, balcony of their homes and even along the streets! It is also during this time that government buildings all over Kuala Lumpur and most shopping malls are hoisted with the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang.

Merdeka Day

The whole build up towards Malaysia’s Independence Day is celebrated with pride and joy where competitions and parades will be held; sometimes school children practice for performances which will be presented during Independence Day itself.

Every year there is a specific theme for Independence Day. Previous years, the themes were “My Glorious Malaysia”, “1Malaysia: Transforming the Nation”, “55 Years of Independence: Promises Fulfilled” and etc. These themes will be reflected in the decorations and focus for Independence Day that year.

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Figuring out what Malaysians want

Friday, August 29th, 2014

AS Malaysians commemorate Merdeka Day this weekend, it should be useful to mull over what Malaysians want.

Student volunteers rehearsing for the Merdeka Day parade at Dataran Merdeka yesterday. As Malaysia and its people mature, there is a growing desire for things other than the material. Pic by Wan Faizul Marzuki

This can be a rather tricky proposition given the cacophony of voices crowding our public spaces, particularly in cyberspace. But the loudest and most prominent voices are not necessarily representative of ordinary Malaysians, the so-called silent majority.

It should be safe to say the silent majority in every country wants basically the same things. The ability (freedom?) to carry on with ordinary daily lives will be near if not at the top of the list of what people everywhere want.

All Malaysians, it can be safely assumed, want nothing more than to live in a country at peace with itself and its neighbours, a country that is safe to live in, where a decent-paying job is readily available, and where they can have reasonable access to such basic amenities as affordable food, clean water and fresh air, uninterrupted electricity supply, cheap and efficient public transportation, affordable quality housing, education and universally-available healthcare.

These are the fundamental material needs that all Malaysians readily identify with and relate to. And in all of these, we can also reasonably assume that Malaysians are, by and large, content that their needs are rather well taken care of.

It follows, therefore, that Malaysians will express that sense of contentment by electing and re-electing more or less the same Federal Government from the very first day that we attained Merdeka.

But as the country and its citizens mature and take for granted many of the material things that other countries, which won their independence about the same time as Malaysia, still struggle to attain, it is perhaps only natural that Malaysians strive for other things, too.

by John Teo.  

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The meaning of nationhood

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Let’s remember the sacrifices and guiding principles of the country’s founding fathers this Merdeka.

THREE days from now, we will mark the 57th anniversary of Merdeka in a year that will go down in history as one of the most painful for Malaysians.

Two tragedies involving Malaysia Airlines flights within four months have left most of us shocked and anguished and the run-up to the usual Independence Day celebrations has been rather subdued.

But amidst the gloom, Malaysians have come together in sharing the grief of those who lost their loved ones.

Tragic as they were, the disasters rekindled our sense of unity that has been strained by racial and religious bigotry over the years.

As one who was born before Merdeka and grew up in the country’s formative years, I have always held much reverence for Aug 31 and also for Sept 16, when Malaysia came into being with the addition of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore in 1963. Singapore, of course, was expelled two years later.

Sept 16, by the way, happens to be Lee Kuan Yew’s birthday although it is not certain whether Tunku Abdul Rahman’s decision to set the date had anything to do with it.

Merdeka used to be a special occasion for Malaysians of my generation for it reinforced the measure of our belonging, however diverse we were in terms of economic standing, ethnicity or religious backgrounds.

But that feeling of oneness has gradually eroded away, leaving zealotry and dissension in its place, no thanks to misguided policies introduced from about three decades ago.

Like many of us, I often wonder what became of the belief of nationhood felt so meaningfully then. The common ground that we stood on appears to have slipped away.

With the amount of hate and distrust in our midst, as compared with the acceptance, mutual respect and optimism in the past, it seems like we are barely a nation now.

As French philosopher Ernest Renan defined it, a nation must have a soul or spiritual principle made up of the past and the present.

In his famous essay ‘What is a Nation?’ in 1882, he described it as a large-scale solidarity, constituted by feeling of sacrifices that people had made in the past and of those that they are prepared to make in the future.

“More valuable by far than common customs posts and frontiers conforming to strategic ideas is the fact of sharing in the past, a glorious heritage and regrets and of having, in the future, a shared programme to put into effect, or the fact of having suffered, enjoyed, and hoped together,” he wrote.

Looking back at events leading towards Merdeka, Malaysia’s founding fathers must have been guided by similar principles.

Last week, I had the opportunity of finding out a bit more about our pioneer group of nation builders, over tea with Toh Puan Uma Sundari Sambanthan.

She may be 85 and not in the best of health, but the widow of Tun V. T. Sambanthan, one of the signatories of the Merdeka agreement, remains sharp in mind and memory.

by M. Veera Pandiyan.

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Time to recognise true history of Malaysia

Friday, August 29th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Effort to achieve “Satu Bangsa Malaysia”, where citizens across the nation share the same spirit of oneness and mutual respect towards each other, must begin with telling and recognizing the true history of Malaysia and how this great federation of nations was born.

Distortion of facts, misinterpretation of history and simple ignorance about Sabah and Sarawak among the vast majority of citizens from Peninsular Malaysia have long been a huge stumbling block and source of dissatisfaction among the east Malaysians.

This growing dissatisfaction, according to one forum speaker, Zainal Ajamain, could one day throw the country into chaos and instability if not addressed urgently.

“Our history has been told from an alien perspective, not our own. Almost 51 years have gone by since we formed Malaysia together with Sarawak, Malaya, and Singapore who have left the federation. We don’t have much time left to tell our side of history, our truth.

“History, if not told after two generations, will be forgotten. One generation represents a period of 30 years, which leaves us only nine years to get things done, to tell and document the history of Malaysia the way it should be told,” he said.

Zainal, who was the first speaker at the Progressive Institute of Public Policy Analysis Sabah (PiPPA) public forum here on Wednesday evening, said it was time for the people of Sabah to find their voice and speak of their rights as an equal member of the federation of Malaysia based on facts and the actual history of the formation of the country.

“The problem is, most of us don’t know our own history. I’m not blaming our people for not knowing. When they (Malaya) talk about Malaysian history, they are actually telling us the history of Malaya, not Malaysia.

“Until today, they are still telling us that this year is Malaysia’s 57th independence day when in fact Malaysia did not exist until only 51 years ago,” he said, adding that many other facts, which are simple but of significant importance need to be corrected, such as Sabah did not join but jointly formed Malaysia.

Zainal said it was also a fact that all Malaysians in Sabah and Peninsular should accept that the federation of Malaya was on the brink of bankruptcy and wanted Sabah and Sarawak to join the proposed federation of Malaysia because the two states have abundant natural resources that would save them financially.

Another fact that should be recognized is that the Malaysia Agreement, which led to the formation of Malaysia, is an international agreement that could only be signed by sovereign countries, and by implication Sabah and Sarawak must have been sovereign countries when they signed the document.

The forum, entitled “Dilema Sabah Dalam Persekutuan Malaysia” is a three-part talk and expected to resume tonight after the second part ended last night with four other panelists deliberating a different topic.

Meanwhile, political maverick Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who also presented his talk during the opening night, said Sabah was unhappy being in the federation as there were huge gaps between what was expected when the country was formed and what is reality today.

“We were promised a merger, a partnership but this is not what we get. Malaya did not fulfill the requirement to form a federation. We are unhappy because we feel that the formation of Malaysia was more of a takeover manoeuvre, not a joint formation of a new country,” he said.

Word of advice from Everest climber: Dream high

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

“Dream high!” that’s the advice by solo Mount Everest climber Ravichandran Tharumalingam to youngsters.

“Don’t be afraid to have dreams and look for a change in life.

“When we are still young, start making your dreams to reality, explore your dreams, manage it well, organise it so that life would be more interesting,” said the 48-year old.

Ravi who started climbing 16 years ago, realised that life was dull and is not complete without chasing dreams.

“I had a boring life then, all I did was to focus on my personal life, career.

“Back then, there was no motivation for us to pursue our dreams but then it made me realise I had to change,” he said.

“Then I started ice climbing in 2000 and began with climbing up to the Everest base camp,” he told NST Online.

He added that the young generation are too afraid to step out from their comfortable zone and blamed it on the culture.


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