Archive for December, 2016

Farewell to one long sigh of a year.

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

LIKE many other years, 2016 was personally a year of ups and downs. The highlight of my year was secu­ring this column; allowing me to continue writing following the closure of an online portal back in March that used to feature my articles.

There are many things to be grateful for, yet there are also many sad occasions. The loss of The Star’s Executive Editor, Soo Ewe Jin, after barely six months of my working with him, made me feel robbed of time and opportunity to know good people, good Malaysians.

2016 was dubbed “the year the 80s died”.

As I write this column, my newsfeed is filled with condolences for Carrie Fisher, most famous for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars.

I was quite impacted by this, seeing as Princess Leia was a role model in what was a boys-only movie franchise in my childhood.

Fisher’s passing came barely two days after the world learnt of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day. It is bittersweet to imagine there’s an afterlife superstar-studded concert featuring Michael, Bowie, Prince, and many other greats the world lost this year.

What I consider a new low for this year was Donald Trump being democratically elected as the next President of the United States. From my own experience as a US State Department Fellow in 2015, I am fearful, anxious, and still uncomfortable that Trump will follow President Barack Obama.

Then there is the news from Aleppo, Palestine, and Rakhine state. It somehow seems hypocritical of us Malaysians, who are willing to rally and demonstrate for these causes, but are not willing to learn from the lessons of such wars.

While solving wars or genocides seems complex, there is no denying that those affected are human lives and those of us with power to make things better or with potential solutions, should strive to do so. While those of us whose actions potentially hinder progress should learn to sit quietly.

2016 also saw a few frustrating news items doing their rounds on local media. The exposé of online paedophilia by The Star’s R.AGE team should not just increase public awareness, but also push the public to demand action, either through pushing for comprehensive sex education at an early age or for implementation of anti-grooming laws.

The law on child marriage in Malaysia needs to be revisited. While there has been a push from women’s rights groups over the years, there still exists the loophole for child marriage under syariah law (where a child under the age of 16 can be legally married with permission from State authorities) that unfortunately, more often than not, is abused.

2016 also proved a confusing time for most Muslims in Malaysia. In addition to the tabling of the 355 Act – now to be tabled as a Government Bill in the next parliamentary sitting after being originally a Private Member’s Bill by an opposition party, Muslim Malay­sians saw our intelligence challenged over the use of the word “pretzel dog”. That is, after we had fought over which chocolates are halal.

We also saw a widowed mother of three being detained with no clear charge for her offence(s). Meanwhile, a tweet stating one’s opinion could result in a police raid at our private residence in the wee morning hours.

In her commencement speech at Monash University’s recent convocation ceremony, Jo Kukathas broke down the reality for the graduands in two simple words: “Be afraid.” While I agree that we all need to be pragmatic when it comes to living our lives, being afraid should not make us ignorant, uncaring or vengeful.

After all the lows that 2016 brought, we should take Michelle Obama’s advice to go high. If Trump indeed goes on with his plans to have Muslims “registered” or build his wall around the US, we should respond by showing to him and the world that a moderate Muslim-majority country can be great and inclusive.


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CNY House of Happiness package is back

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

PETALING JAYA: Chinese New Year is a month away, so Chinese language radio station 988 is going on the road to spread the joy with the 988 CNY House of Happiness 2017 album.

The album would be distributed free of charge to 988 listeners and fans during the nationwide 988 CNY House of Happiness roadshow, which kicks off at 3pm today at the Aeon Kinta City in Ipoh.

For the upcoming Year of the Rooster, 988 has released a premium package that comes with a CD featuring six original Chinese New Year songs, a DVD containing four short films and four music videos, plus a set of postcards and ang pow packets.

“The key message in this year’s four short films is encouraging people to stay positive when facing life’s many challenges,” said 988 general manager Timmund Lim during the album’s recent launch.

Also present were Star Media Radio Group chairman Datuk Dr Mohd Aminuddin Mohd Rous and CEO Calvin Kan, chief marketing officer Lam Swee Kim, Osim brand development senior executive Jozseph Loh, and Power Root marketing manager Chan Rui Woon.

After its first stop in Ipoh, the 988 CNY House of Happiness roadshow would move on to other parts of Malaysia throughout the month of January.

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Come ‘buang sial’ at KK beach before it is closed

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: Tonight may be the last chance to take part in the annual custom of buang sial or removing bad luck at the famous Tanjung Aru beach.

Each New Year’s Eve, thousands of people throng the beach in the belief that a midnight dip in the seawater will wash away their bad luck.

But with Tanjung Aru due to be closed in March next year to make way for a development project, an environmental group is urging the public to gather there tonight for what they said could be their last buang sial midnight dip.

“We don’t know if we will have the opportunity to spend time at the Tanjung Aru beach with our family and friends anymore after this, especially after it is closed to the public come March.

“So we urge the public to go and experience their last memories and midnight dip there this New Year’s Eve,” said SM Muthu, a representative of Open Space Kota Kinabalu, which campaigns to protect and conserve all urban and residential green areas.

The beach, which is popular among residents and tourists alike, will be closed to facilitate the Tanjung Aru Eco Development project which aims to revitalise the 1.35km Tanjung Aru beach and Prince Philip Park.

The project features commercial and residential units as well as a marina and a golf course.

Divided into four phases, the project is expected to be completed near the end of 2019.

Muthu said environmentalists and concerned citizens had been trying to save the beach from being redeveloped.

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Do you … know when different communities celebrate their New Year?

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

> New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar): Observed on Jan 1, it is the day celebrated internationally as the start of the new calendar year. Revellers will hold parties before and after the countdown. Resolutions are made, friendships are renewed and let bygones be bygones. This Sunday will be the beginning of year 2017.

> Islamic New Year (Al-Hijrah): The new year begins on the first day of the first month (Muharram) of the Islamic calendar. The first Islamic year begins in 622AD with the emigration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. Awal Muharram was observed on Oct 2 this year. It will be observed on Sept 22 next year. It is a day of prayers and reflection.

> Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year; Spring Festival): Celebrated at the start of the Chinese calendar, it is a day of much gaiety for the old and young alike. Families will have a reunion dinner on the eve and catch up with relatives close and far. Red packets of money (known as ang pow in Hokkien or hong bao in Mandarin) will be handed out to children and unmarried people. The Chinese will greet the Year of the Rooster on Jan 28-29 next year.

> Tamil New Year (Puthandu; also known as Varusha Pirappu): Tamil New Year is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai, which falls on April 13 or 14 every year. Tamilians celebrate the day with greetings, prayers and feasting, with a positive focus on the coming year. Beautiful kolams are also drawn to decorate homes.

> Sikh New Year (Vaisakhi): The day also celebrates the founding of the Sikh community, known as the Khalsa, in 1699. It started out as a harvest festival in Punjab before it became the community’s most important festival. It is observed on April 13 or 14. Sikhs will wake up early, don new clothes and visit gurdwaras to take part in a prayer, and meet and greet one another

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Traffic woes haunt KK residents daily

Thursday, December 29th, 2016
The worsening traffic congestion is of great concern to residents, especially those commuting to workplaces. — Bernama photo

The worsening traffic congestion is of great concern to residents, especially those commuting to workplaces. — Bernama photo

KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu’s traffic has experienced much change over the years and today traffic congestion is a daily nightmare especially for the residents living in the city centre and neigbouring areas.

Spending 45 minutes or even up to two hours to get to work in the city and back is no longer unusual for those living outside the city, except during school holidays.

Radio segments on traffic in Kota Kinabalu and surrounding areas have become indispensible for city dwellers in planning their journey each day.

Looking back, though there were less alternative routes in the past, traffic congestion in the city was still under control.

Today, its different, an abundance of vehicles on the road and inefficient public transportation are just some of the contributing factors of this problem.

The view of the ever-expanding Kota Kinabalu from Signal Hill. — Bernama photo

The view of the ever-expanding Kota Kinabalu from Signal Hill. — Bernama photo

According to residents, the traffic situation in the city and itssurroundings with almost one million people is becoming more critical by the day.

Lecturer Khairunnisa Islami said traffic in the areas of Sepanggar and Tuaran heading towards Kota Kinabalu builds up as early as 5.30 am.

“During school holidays, however, traffic is under control,” she said.

Meanwhile, civil servant Fairuz Saidi spends between 45 minutes to one hour to reach home although her office is only seven kilometres away from a house in Indah Permai, Manggatal.

Charlie Luke from Tamparuli leaves home by 5.00am to skip the congestion and get to his office in Donggongon, Penampang, early.

“Now more people live outside of Kota Kinabalu but work in the city. Despite our growing population, we still don’t have a reliable public transportation system,” he said.

Mohd Ikram Aidi from Papar, said improving intercity public transportation and train facilities could help reduce traveling time.

“This way the people will opt for public transportation, which reduces travel costs compared to using private cars,” added the civil servant who works in Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) Traffic and Public Transport Department director Kalvin Liaw said traffic flow and the number of vehicles entering the city today is unlike 16 years ago.

Statistics recorded in 2000 showed only 77,000 vehicles enter and leave the city in a day.

Now, an estimated 140,000 vehicles ply the city’s streets daily based on cumulative calculations especially looking at the fact there has been three to four percent increase in car ownership each year.

The increase in vehicle ownership is the reflection of people’s improving affordability as well as more aggressive car sales marketing and attractive offers.

Furthermore, city residents feel that taking their own car is morecomfortable, faster and more efficient than taking public transportation.

“If people continue to choose to drive, traffic congestion will continue,” he added.

However, integrated cooperation from relevant agencies is needed in resolving traffic woes as not all roads are under the jurisdiction of the DBKK and most main roads are under the Public Works Department, continued Kalvin.

Commenting further, Kalvin said it would be difficult to resolve traffic congestion in a developing city if plans were focused on conventional approaches such as road widening and flyovers.

Kalvin forsees that these mechanisms are not the best answer for the present era, though it can lessen the impact of traffic congestion especially at junctions.

“When population increases, so does the car ownership. To tackle this, we need to look at other approaches and not just conventional methods like road widening and building flyovers.

“These are only short-term solutions. Traffic may be smooth for about a year after the road and flyover is ready, but then congestion will appear again soon after.

“Road widening and flyovers are necessary, but we will come to a point that there is no more room for infrastructure development,” he said.

Therefore, for Kalvin, a balanced and proactive town planning approach is needed as the desire to buy and own personal cars could not be curbed.

The city hall had realised that there is a need for a balanced approach for a conducive traffic flow in Kota Kinabalu, which will also improve the Kota Kinabalu’s image as a first-class city.

To make this happen, emphasis should be given to improving the quality of public transportation services to attract more users.

“Currently, the traveling time of public transportation such as buses is not coordinated and there are also too many bus operators plying the same route.


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Choice of supermarket driven by low prices, says parents

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

SANDAKAN: With less than a week before the new school year begins, supermarkets here have been enjoying brisk business from parents buying all that is required for their children to begin school again.

A survey found many parents chose to patronise the supermarkets where the prices are more affordable when compared to other outlets.

Banana fritter seller, Andi Hermani, 43, said he found the supermarkets had better prices and quality of school uniforms after making comparisons with other shops.

“I normally go to a few shops in town to compare prices and this is even more important now because the prices have all gone up,” he said.

However, he cautioned that cheaper did not necessarily mean better because the quality might be compromised. “In some cases, the items may be the same but the price difference is a lot! That is why it is important to compare prices and quality. We must spend wisely,” he advised.

Andi has four school-going children and he needs at least RM1,000 to purchase school uniforms, shoes, bags and stationery items.

Suriati Najmi, 27, from Perkampungan Pulau Berhala said she came to town yesterday after discovering some shops offered low prices due to year-end sales.


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Parents tighten belts when shopping for new school year

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

JOHOR BARU: Parents are resorting to recycling and reusing last year’s school items for their children to cut down on expenses.

Bus driver Sonny Tiew, 45, said it would be costly to purchase new items for his four children, aged between eight and 14 years old, for the following school year.

He said his children were only given new pairs of socks and some stationeries while old items like school uniforms and bags would not be replaced.

“I always advise them to take good care of their belongings because we cannot afford to have new things all the time as a way to educate them about the value of money,” he told The Star yesterday.

Housewife Nurul Aslilayati Othman, 39, who was at a shopping centre in Pasir Gudang with her family, said the school items were more expensive compared to last year.

“We started shopping for school items last week and spent about RM300 on two school bags and four pairs of shoes.

“I spent another RM250 on new school uniforms for my two younger boys. My other sons, aged 13 and 14, will be using their old uniforms as they are still in good condition,” she added.

Masturah Mazlan, 30, a housewife, said she was also shopping for school uniforms and tudung for her eldest child Norliana Jasni who starts Primary One next year.


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Deciding Where To Go After Pt3

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama) — With just a few more days left till the new school year, those who sat for the recent Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) evaluation will have to finalise their academic choices for next year.

Over 400,000 students will have to decide whether to pursue the science or arts stream and whether to opt for boarding school, technical school or a vocational college.

The PT3 results were announced only recently, on Dec 19, but by then many would undoubtedly have made up their minds on where to pursue their upper secondary education.

Clear on their path:

This was certainly the case with many of the students at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Putrajaya Presint 8(1).

The writer had a chance to speak with them when visiting the school during the PT3 announcement recently.

One of them was Aqmar Batrisyia Zakaria.

“I would like to become a linguistic expert because my passion lies in anything to do with languages. I may have scored 8As and 2Cs and I know that I could easily choose the science stream, but that is not where my heart is,” said the 15-year-old to Bernama.

Her decision to not opt into the Science stream resonated with the results of her Psychomestric Assessment (PPsi), which she received alongside her PT3 results.

“The (PPsi) test measures my interests and capability. The results state the three fields and career choices that are most suitable for me.

“I found that my ambition to become a linguistic expert corresponds with the results of the assessment,” said Aqmar Batrisyia, who spoke fluent English and could converse in Korean and Japanese as well.

On the day students receive their PT3 results, they will also receive another three sets of result slips which are the school assessment, psychometric assessment and a sports assessment.

Schools will then decide, based on all four assessments, which stream a student is best suited for thus helping parents and students make a more informed decision on the selection of streams.

Based on her results and interests, her parents decided to send their only child to a private school known for its focus on languages next year.

Better Decided:

The writer could not help but compare Aqmar Batrisyia’s certainty in a decision concerning her future with that of the students during her time, circa 1998.

After the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) results were out, many of us were still at a loss on what to do next.

Those with excellent results and scores of A on their PMR result slip would typically opt for the science stream or boarding school.

Those whose results were less than stellar would be placed in the arts stream or sent to vocational schools.

Many of the students back then had trouble identifying personal interests and strength, even up until SPM. In fact, some only realised of their poor interest in the field they pursued months after entering university.

This has resulted in the waste of precious resources, especially time.

However, not many of the 15-year-olds today have the same problem, thanks to the PBS system.

Despite their age, many are certain of their interests and strengths and the corresponding path to pursue.

In fact, many who achieved excellent results for their PT3 chose to not pursue their education in the Science stream.

Not Academic Based:

With the PBS system, the method of determining the most suitable form of upper secondary education is no longer based solely on academic results.

Starting 2014, students’ success is no longer measured by how many As they can score. Instead, the focus is now on identifying their potential and how best to polish it so that they can utilise their talents and ability to build a career in which they have an interest it.

The new PBS system was implemented in stages in secondary schools nationwide, starting with Form 1 students in 2012. The students went on to become the first batch to undergo the PT3 assessment in 2014.

The Malaysian Examination Board’s Development and Policy Management Sector Head Dr Rahimah Adam said that PBS was seen as the more holistic approach because it assessed the cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspects of a student, in line with the National Education Philosophy.

On the day the PT3 results are announced, students would not only receive the PT3 results slip but three other results that could be used in determining the stream they should pursue.

“PBS covers four components namely the school assessment, the central assessment, the physical activity, sports and co-curriculum assessment as well as the psychometric assessment.

“However, many are still focusing only on their PT3 results, ignoring the importance of the results of the other assessments,” she said.


For Rahimah, PBS was designed not only to polish students’ academic potential but their co-curricular achievements as well.

The main focus, however, is to produce excellent students who are able to judge their abilities holistically.

As Aqmar Batrisyia has shown, the PPsi evaluation was instrumental in determining the preference of a student, helping them make informed decisions.

The Form 3 PPsi test covers their Career Interest Inventory based on ‘Holland’s Typology’ and the Multiple Intelligences Inventory. The former measures the interest and career inclinations of a student while the latter measures their abilities and intelligence on a detailed level.

“PPsi will be handled by the school’s counselling teachers through the methods provided by the Examination Board and it can be used by parents and teachers to evaluate the best stream for a student.

“However, the results need to be read together with the other results to better assess if the inclinations of a student matches up with his or her abilities,” said Rahimah.

Quality Assured:

However, the school assessment is an academic process that evaluates a student’s progress starting from Form 1 to Form 3 and is handled fully by the teachers and school.

It is aimed at observing the individual abilities of a student through projects, tests and exercises prepared by the teachers.

The central assessment, meanwhile, is a joint responsibility of the examination board and the school. The scoring system and instruments used are provided by the board while the administration, examination and reports are done by the school.

The quality of implementation of PT3 at schools is determined by the school as well as an external assessor appointed by the examination board.

by Sakini Mohd Said.

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Enjoying a merry and bright Xmas

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: There is no white Christmas in the country but it’s a case of “may your days be merry and bright”, as the song White Christmas goes.

People had a good time at various events held throughout the country to celebrate Christmas.

Christians also spent time at the churches such as the century-old St John’s Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur.

Many Filipinos and foreign wor­kers of the Catholic faith filled its compound for Christmas mass.

“I have been working for six years in Malaysia. Every Christmas morning I would come here to celebrate,” said domestic helper Ivy Salazar, 36, of the Philippines.

Some Malaysians subscribed to the belief that there is no greater joy than to give.

About 100 volunteers spread Yuletide cheer to the homeless in Kuala Lumpur.

Led by Kembara Kitchen founder William Cheah, 44, and his wife Chan Yi Lyn, 33, they set up a makeshift base set in Jalan Hang Lekiu and provided food to some 500 underprivileged people.

With roast lamb, barbecued chicken, spaghetti bolognese to Malaysia’s favourite cendol in their bellies, the homeless left with broad smiles on their faces.

Some of the volunteers belted out Christmas tunes while Santa Claus gave out cookies.

For many other Malaysians, it was a time to enjoy the weekend break.

If surreal is the word of the year, then perhaps lepak (hang out) is the word for Malaysians every year.

Many of them relaxed at malls with their family or friends and many couples were seen strolling about.

Teacher Priscilla Michael, 34, said she was at the mall with her relatives.

“We had a nice, quiet time with the family celebrating Christmas. Now, we are here for some retail therapy,” she quipped.

For nature lovers, they preferred outdoor activities.

Sgt Sazlina Mohamad, 36, from Sentul police district headquarters, took her daughter and sisters for a walk at Taman Botani Perdana.

“My duty requires me to be away for long hours and I hardly have time to spend with my daughter. Even during school holidays, I am unable to take her anywhere,” she said.

Sazlina, who is from Sarawak, said she had brought her daughter and younger sisters out to Batu Caves and Ulu Yam waterfall ear­lier.

“There are many attractions that I haven’t explored in Selangor despite staying here in the peninsula for many years,” she added.

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Defend rights of Sabahans as per MA63 — Council of Churches

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Council of Churches has called on the Sabah State Government to stand steadfast and take authority in defending the rights of true Sabahans in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Its president Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing, pointed out that the Federal Government’s policy of determining one’s citizenship and religious identity through the National Registration Department has caused chaos to the demographics of Sabah.

“Firstly, the spirit of the provision for ‘Citizenship’ under the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC) and MA63 is that the Federal Government’s policies must not discriminate the inhabitants of Sabah. Secondly, the choice of religious belief and identification of our people should be the sole discretion of the individual himself as per MA63,” he said in a statement recently.

Jerry stressed that Sabahans are united in their stand against any deceptive attempt that challenges their  guaranteed religious freedom under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Under this Agreement, secularism is guaranteed. Sabah and Malaysia are secular nations.

He also said that the recent amendment to the Income Tax Act 1967 that seeks  tax donations for non-Muslim religious bodies had caused lots of confusion.

“We urge the Prime Minister to explain the rationale behind the amendment, define clearly the intended targeted bodies and clarify why it involves only non-Muslim religious bodies.

“As Sabahans are intensively seeking the truth of MA63 and embracing our rights and inheritance as a sovereign nation under the same, we look to the future with hope for our people and our land. We do not ask for more than what we have been promised. All we ask is for the truth to be established and justice restored in accordance with MA63…”

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