Archive for June, 2017

Lean government ensures better service

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
The armed forces and police force make up close to 20 per cent of the 1.6 million civil servants. (File pix)

GOVERNMENTS worldwide have taken steps to limit their expenditure — by doing more with less, seeking efficiency and borrow borrowing tools such as “Lean” from the private sector to streamline the business of government — as a potential solution to increasing costs in education, healthcare, infrastructure; increasing demands for services; and decreasing economic resources to support this growth.

At its core, Lean, which refers to the lean production principles and methods to provide services, is a systematic approach to solving problems and reducing the overburden and employees in an organisation by streamlining processes, which includes eliminating wasteful steps and seeking more effective ways to achieve outcomes.

One of the reasons why the Lean approach is successful is the focus on the customer — “Customer is King”. The customer defines the value. If the customer is not willing to pay for a feature of a product, then that feature has no value and should be eliminated. In terms of government, the customer is the public. Lean for government focuses on serving the public with respect and improving service delivery, with a culture that holds a customer orientation in management as well as clearer accountability for results in the public service.

The results include such as less reduced waiting time for access to services (in hospitals, court hearing and licence applications) and efficiency in policing. The targets are: more transparency, more efficiency and more quality at reduced expenses. The “Customer is King” approach resonates well into our aspirations for Government Transformation Program (GTP) that aimed at increased productivity with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) that aims at increasing productivity with less, and to change the way public services are delivered.

Achieving thea Lean government entails a long process of government engineering.

Of utmost importance is the sustainable management of resources. The concern is on centres on the 1.6 million civil servants, the ratio of which is 1 for every 19.37 MalaysianMalaysians, widely viewed as bloated by international standard, and critics. Critics make two arguments about it. First, they contend that the state bureaucracy is enormous. Civil servants made make up 5% per cent of Malaysia’s 30 million population, higher than Indonesia (1.9% per cent) South Korea (1.85% per cent) or Thailand (1.06% per cent). Ratio wise, Malaysia has more state bureaucrats than the neighbouring countries, for example Singapore is 1 to 71.4 people, Indonesia 1: 110, Korea 1:50 China 1: 108, Japan 1: 28; and even Russia that underwent a bureaucratic revolution during Trostky and Stalin’s era in the twentieth century and later bureaucratic reform under Boris Elt’sin in 1998, currently stands at 1: 84 and other western countries such as Britain, 1: 118. and Japan 1: 28.

Even in Russia, which underwent a bureaucratic revolution during Trostky and Stalin’s era in the 20th century and later bureaucratic reform under Boris Yeltsin in 1998, the ratio stands at 1: 84. In Britain, a Western country, it is 1: 118.

Second, the issue of ballooning cost.

It was reported that in 2003, the pay for public servants totalled RM22 billion and the pension of civil servants was RM5.9 billion. By last year 2016, the pay increased to RM74 billion and the pension payment RM19 billion.

The salaries, pensions and gratuities forms about a third of the budget every year. Determining the right size of the civil service can be a complex matter. Although many countries are used as comparison due to colonial similarity of post similarities in post-colonial era civil service structure, there are also stark disparities. As outlined in Article 132 of the Constitution, the public service comprises the following components: (1) the armed forces; (2) the judicial and the legal service; (3) the general public service of the federation; (4) the police force; (5) the railway service; (6) the joint public services; (7) state public service; and (8) the education service.

Out of the 1.6 million employees, teachers, including university academics, madke up 37% per cent of the public employees; the armed forces and police force close to 20 per cent; nurses 5.0 per cent; the judicial and legal service, 1.0 per cent; while the rest are in the railway service, and public service.

by  Prof Dr. Nik Rosnah Wan Abdullah.

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Parents, kids read books together

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

HELPING children learn the English language is not the sole responsibility of one individual but a shared responsibility. Parents, children, teachers … every person has a role to play.

The challenge, of course, is engaging everyone to take on that responsibility. Teachers have to teach, children have to learn, but what should parents do? Well, they can encourage and help create an environment where their children want to learn.

The Education Ministry is continually engaging with teachers, students and parents to help create such environments.

The “Highly Immersive Programme” (HIP) is such an example to support the learning of English by children across Malaysia.

An easy way to start creating that immersive environment is with storybooks and reading.

In May, 100 excited parents and children from both SK Bandar Utama Damansara and from SJK (T) RRI Sungai Buloh came together in SK Bandar Utama to draw, guess, dance, read and listen to fun stories in English.

This was the third community event of the Selangor Literacy Project, which has brought parents and children together to read and learn English hand-in-hand, in an interactive and fun environment.

The schoolteachers were responsible for designing and running the event, with facilitation from British Council trainers while children and parents were responsible for getting involved and having fun.

This event is part of a wider project run by the British Council in partnership with the ministry’s School Management Division, together with the support of the Selangor Education Department, and is funded by HSBC.

“Creating immersive environments for learning English is a long-term task and needs a sustainable approach.

“This project focuses on building the skills of teachers to teach literacy in an engaging way, and of parents to invest time and energy in encouraging their children to read and learn English,” said British Council Head of English in Education Systems Keith O’Hare.

One of the biggest outcomes of the community event at SK Bandar Utama Damansara was to give parents the ideas and confidence to encourage and support their children to read at home; a responsibility many seemed happy to take on.

According to Rezuan Ahmad from the ministry’s School Management Division, parental engagement is one of the fundamental elements of the Malaysia Education Blueprint.

“I am pleased to see so many parents getting involved in the fun and interactive workshops and activities. “We cannot emphasise enough the importance of parents’ participation in their children’s education,” said Rezuan at the community event in SK Bandar Utama.

The Selangor Literacy Project falls under the banner of the HIP programme and runs for eight months. Within the project, 49 English language teachers from the six selected primary schools are given monthly training workshops; high quality and attractive storybooks from the United Kingdom are placed into the school libraries; and three half-day community events are run for parents and children to get immersed in reading and learning English.
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A teacher has many roles

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

The role of the teacher has indeed evolved over the years.

NOW think about this seriously. In all honesty, how do you feel each time the term ‘21st century learning’ is mentioned?

Does it instantly get you into education transformation mode, all fired up, eager and rearing to go into classrooms to implement the latest strategies?

Does it make you go the other way perhaps, where you suppress a sigh and grunt inwardly, “Not again – not another new-fangled method of pedagogy with a fancy name which sounds vaguely familiar? Then there are other words that have been making the school education circuits in the past few years — words like “collaborative learning”, “learner centred classrooms”, “digital teaching” and “higher order thinking skills.”

In all likelihood, many of you are now so used to these terms that you can’t even recall a point in your teaching life when they did not exist. But perhaps there are still some who are grappling with it, wishing that at least some of it would fall off and that school life could go back to the way they used to know it. Even so, there is the simultaneous coming to terms with the truth, the slow realisation that no matter how hard you wish, the changes are not going to go away.

Among the modifications which have become integrally and almost unavoidably associated with 21st century learning is the redefining of the role of teacher.

One teacher who had just attended a seminar on the ongoing transformations in the education system had mixed feelings. “I found many parts relevant,” she said, “and I guess it’s true that our roles may have changed in many ways. But,” she added a little wryly, “I just couldn’t agree with the closing statements of one of the speakers. He suggested that with all the changes and redefining of roles, the label ‘teacher’ may not even be relevant anymore and that we should rebrand ourselves accordingly. He said we should call ourselves facilitators, not teachers.”

Another teacher who had also attended the seminar said: “So after having been trained as a teacher and after 25 years of teaching, I am now no longer to be known as teacher. I am now ‘facilitator’! I support most of the changes, but please don’t call me anything else but ‘Teacher’. It’s a teacher I started out as. And that’s how everyone knows me.”

She looked a little distraught — but in a strange way it was heartening to know that the label of “teacher” meant so much to her, and in a way the word “facilitator” never could.

The role of the teacher has indeed evolved over the years and in the 21st century learner centred classrooms, the emphasis on teachers to facilitate the learning experience for their students is even more pronounced than before. Teachers are also expected to facilitate the creation of productive learning environments where students can develop the skills they need for the 21st century global workplace.

Still, to many in the teaching service, the word “facilitator” doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it as the word “teacher”.

“We are teachers who facilitate learning,” quipped one teacher and that simple phrase hinted at the depth behind the word ‘teacher’. “We are all that is required of a facilitator of learning and more besides.”

It is true that teachers are now to be perceived more as “guides on the side” who provide direction and help students to take ownership of their own learning.

Teachers are also called on to provide opportunities for students to lead, collaborate, discuss and even assess themselves and their peers. Instead of direct instruction, teachers are now encouraged to use questioning to allow students to discover their own knowledge. Apart from managing the classroom environment and facilitating the students’ learning, the teacher of today needs to be keenly aware of the group dynamics in the classroom and make the necessary adjustments in the learning scene. At different points, the teacher also becomes the walking resource, the coach, prompter and assessor.

Are all these really new things? Many teachers would be quick to say “No”. I remember some of my own teachers in the 60s and 70s whose lessons had many of the essential features of 21st century learning. Nevertheless there were and probably still are many others whose teaching technique consisted mainly of standing in front of the class and delivering information or instruction for the whole period — definitely not the way to go in the 21st century.

Still, there is something to be said about a teacher who can stand in front of the class and impart knowledge in such a way that students are completely engaged and imaginations are made to soar above and beyond the classrooms. Although this form of “teaching” where the teacher is his only and own resource, may not be recommended in classrooms of today, there could be much value realised when the limiting of teaching resources causes minds to expand beyond what is tangible.

I remember sitting in classrooms where the teacher’s compelling personality and oral presentation skills made the pages of literature, and history come alive in our heads. We formed our own images and heard the voices of the past in our minds, made our own mental associations and devised personal methods to store information. Many of these things we were thus taught without the aid of external visuals or resources have lasted till this day. In fact, looking back I am not sure whether the presence of more resources would have enhanced or impeded our personal discoveries.

I think that even now, despite the changing needs of students of this century there has to be some place for the sage on the stage. If we consider differentiated needs in students’ learning, there could possibly be students who learn best by listening first, asking their own questions and internalising the content and skills later. There is a time for collaboration and cooperative learning but there also needs to be sufficient time for individual thinking and personal reflection. We are after all individuals first before we become groups.

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Lee Lam Thye: Underreporting hinders efforts to tackle industrial accidents.

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
PETALING JAYA: The underreporting of industrial accident cases will affect the effectiveness of the Government’s medium and long-term plans to tackle the problem, said Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman said that was because the Government’s plans would be drafted based on inaccurate data.

He said the number of accidents reported to the Social Security Organisation (Socso) and to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Dosh) differed significantly by 97.49%, based on a study by researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

“The research shows that although 31.347 accidents in the construction sector were reported to Socso from 2009 to 2014, the number of cases investigated by Dosh was only 787.

“The huge gap between the cases compiled by Socso and Dosh may suggest that the actual number of accidents in the construction sector is much higher,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

He added that many accident cases in the construction sector were not reported by employers, especially non-fatal accidents or less severe cases.

The study entitled “Malaysian Construction Industry: Trends of Occupational Accidents from 2006 to 2015″ was published in the latest Journal of Occupational Safety and Health 2016.

Lee said the lack of accurate data would have a negative impact on the safety and welfare of workers in the construction industry, which has the highest risk of fatality compared with other industries in the country.

“The victims or their next-of-kin would normally lodge a report with Socso in order to claim for the benefits after the occupational accidents had occurred.

“There is a possibility that accidents in the construction sector were much higher as most of the workers were foreigners, including those who had worked without or with expired permits.

“Socso’s figures only cover those who have contributed to its fund and the data is incomplete since there is no available statistics on unregistered local and foreign workers in the country,” he said.

Lee stressed that a nationwide awareness campaign is necessary to urge all employers to report every single accident and near miss that have occurred at their workplaces.

He said many employers were unaware that it is compulsory to report such cases under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994.

The construction sector recorded 751 deaths caused by occupational accidents from 2007 to 2016.

In 2016 alone, there were 2,880 accidents and 55 deaths.

The second highest number of deaths were recorded in the manufacturing sector (370), followed by agriculture, forestry, logging and fishery (337); transport, storage and communication (134); utility (81); mining and quarrying (64); financial, insurance, real estate and business services (55); public services and statutory bodies (30); wholesale and retail trade (19), and hotel and restaurant (6).

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A platform for a better world

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
The United Nations headquarters in New York. The world body will be observing Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Public Service Day and the 72nd anniversary of its founding over the next few days. File pic

A NUMBER of important events are coming up next week. Uppermost in everyone’s mind is, of course, the Eid-ul Fitr, or as Malaysians term it, Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

This Muslim celebration is not only celebrated worldwide, it is also marked by the United Nations itself and declared a public holiday for UNHQ and its agencies worldwide.

This in itself is nothing short of a phenomenon for the UN, especially when you consider that other religious holidays are not official public holidays for the world body.

Of course, Christmas is observed, as is Good Friday, but the other “holidays” with religious underpinnings — Yom Kippur, Deepavali, Wesak, Gurpurab — are optional for UN staff members who celebrate them. Which means that they can go on leave, but not others.

I remember fondly our defence adviser in New York, a Chinese Malaysian colonel from the Malaysian Army.

In all the time I knew him as a colleague, he had the worst luck possible in terms of holidays.

Chinese New Year, though observed by the Malaysian Mission to the UN, is not a UN public holiday, so the standing rule was that as long as there were no meetings to attend, he would be free to observe Chinese New Year.

Sure enough, every year, without fail, there would be an important meeting on Chinese New Year, and one which he could not afford to miss.

In terms of recognition, the UN’s declaration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri as an official UN holiday is a massive show of recognising the Muslim community and states within the United Nations and elsewhere. Incidentally, the other major Muslim celebration — Eid-ul Adha — is also a public holiday for the UN.

This was not always the case. Prior to 1998, neither Eid were declared as public holidays for the UN. In January 1998, however, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 52/214 and decided that “henceforth, the two holidays of Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha shall be observed as official holidays” of the UN and its bodies.

In late 2010, a large snowstorm swept through New York City — big enough to leave two feet of snow for pedestrians to wade through, but not big enough to fully incapacitate the city life.

Nevertheless, many schools and offices declared themselves closed for the day. Not so the UN.

Those of us who were still in the middle of negotiations and had meetings at the UN still had to trudge through the snow in our boots, only to change into heels and shoes once inside the building. That was how begrudging the UN is when it comes to declaring days off, much less public holidays.

Closer still is the second event on June 23, when the UN will celebrate Public Service Day. This year’s Public Service Day — as designated by the United Nations — falls on the Friday before Aidilfitri.

As the largest employer of international civil servants, it is only fitting that the UN celebrate its many employees around the globe by declaring a day for them.

Though the UN Public Service Day is not a holiday, it is still a recognition of sorts, and has been since the Day was first observed in 2003.

Malaysia used to have a civil service museum (Muzium Perkhidmatan Awam).

It was to house not only the story of the Malayan Civil Service and its successor, the Administrative and Diplomatic Service, but to also showcase the men and women who made a difference to the country and, of course, the service itself.

When the dream finally became a reality, the museum found a home near the Lake Gardens, right in the middle of the tourist route of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, the museum is no more.

The third international event within this week falls on the second day of the Aidilfitri.

On June 26, 1945, the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco, formally establishing the world organisation.

Officially, however, the UN Charter only came into effect on Oct 24 of that same year. Even though UN Day is celebrated in October, the signing of the Charter on June 26 is also seen as a milestone event and observed accordingly.

Malaysia itself joined the UN in Sept 17, 1957, a mere two weeks after gaining independence. Since then, the UN has been a mainstay of the country’s foreign policy. Despite criticism and disappointments over the years, it remains the single largest organisation that we have to tackle most of the world’s ills.

Academician Andrew Guzman once described the UN as an anomaly. States, he argued, would only create an organisation that they could effectively control for fear of the Frankenstein effect.

This is why many international organisations are limited in their mandate or reach, or both, unlike the UN, which covers every single topic under the sun and has a universal membership of states.

Whatever the case may be, this year marks 60 years of Malaysia’s membership in the world body. And “60” just happens to be one of those numbers that trigger a response with people.

It is the age of retirement for many civil servants, the number that most countries use to define senior citizenship, and the number for which official designation in terms of anniversary celebrations is no less than a diamond.

Even Malaysia’s international dialling code is 60.

So, 60 is a big deal in international affairs, at least for Malaysia. Wisma Putra’s Diplomacy@60 exhibition celebrates that fact, as it does the country’s involvement in the UN, and the many civil servants who have walked the hallowed halls of the ministry.


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Culture of dialogue should be preserved without prejudice

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
A Philippine soldier standing on a tank in Marawi City on Sunday as government forces continue their assault against insurgents. Southeast Asia was rudely reminded that even the holy month of Ramadan was not sacred to extremists. (REUTERS PHOTO)

AS Ramadhan welcomed Muslims to its embrace, and peace, prayer, and reflection were eagerly anticipated, Southeast Asia was rudely reminded that even the holy month was not sacred to extremists.

Late last monthin May, our region came under the spotlight as a military siege transpired in Marawi City, in the, southern Philippines, in response to attacks prompted by the Maute group, a splinter cell of the bigger Daesh Islamic State satellite network in Southeast Asia.

It has been the ambition of IS Daesh to set up a secure wilayat in this region since losing grip in its their main strongholds of Iraq and Syria. It seems that with the arrest of three Malaysians who sought to gain safe passage to Marawi from Sandakan and with the reported involvement of 38 Indonesian militants in the Marawi conflict, the appeal of IS Daesh and its propaganda remain appealing.

Despite hundreds of meetings and millions of dollars of investment in countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives, questions still arise. Why is extremist propaganda still attractive to many? Who do we blame? How can we put this extreme influence to an end?

Greater democratic space in society has opened the doors to more common conversations about identity in the public domain. Often, these interactions gravitate around the sensitive premises of one’s’ ideology, culture, and faith. At times, discussions can turn sour as the call for tolerance is misunderstood as a demand for absolute compromise. AS WELL, The acceptance of different interpretations of history and cultural norms is also no longer highly valued by certain factions of society — flagging an early and potential sign of radicalism. This search for, and in some cases assertion of, the individual identity against the backdrop of a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society has coincided with the recent rise of right- and left-wing extremism globally.

Traditionally, CVE recognisesd two central approaches — the hard approach, which is largely tended to by conventional security agencies, and the social approach, which that is mostly organised by civil society groups and local communities. In Malaysia, these defined efforts generally flow in a rather fluid manner with no higher authority to govern players and initiatives in within a defined programmatic structure of CVE.

On the one hand, this situation could propel CVE efforts into an unanchored direction as these efforts can require considerably large resources, as well as some form of guidance to keep its momentum going, hence, the rationale of centralisation by way of entrusting a higher mandate of agenda-setting to a well-resourced and legally accountable entity.

Yet, this same authorised body could find itself in a dilemma, caught between vested interests that seek to control CVE narratives and allowing freer conversations to take place.

The question of whether CVE narratives would be more effective through a centralised or decentralised approach should be considered, particularly against the now -accepted wisdom that CVE is better off as a whole-of-society effort. Crucially, in order to send and project the right messages, CVE narratives should be sensitive to the evolution of how conversations in society are shaped and influenced over the course of time.

Some of these conversations are more one-way than a genuine exchange. Whether out of cultural courteousness or deference to hierarchical structures, trust is sometimes conferred on others to decide what is best, even on the most mundane of subjects, according these parties a greater influence on how issues are thought through than they may sometimes be deserving of.

In this instance, a centralised approach to narratives may prove limiting in effect and perhaps even backfire on the overall CVE effort, depending on the message conveyed, messenger, and the end goal. Even if this approach is preferred, it is imperative for stakeholders to ensure that checks and balances remain intact and that the culture of dialogue is preserved without prejudice.

The exchange of ideas should flow with minimum and careful restrictions in gauging the reality on the ground. Although sometimes to controversial effect, well-known, private, technology platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have on numerous occasions assisted, facilitated, and provided CVE campaigns with the online space for information to flow. Until now, these channels have allowed members of society to forge frank, sometimes even blunt, interactions, allowing players from various sectors to recognise complexities on the ground and collate real-time raw data for future designs of inclusive counter-narratives.

by Nurul Izzati.

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Have a good mix

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Gender diversity in the workforce leads to better creativity.

A good gender balance in decision-making positions makes good business sense say speakers at a gender diversity forum.

IN every aspect of life, there must be balance. In the workplace, the same principle applies.

Having an equal number of men and women in decision-making positions will ensure more creativity and innovation, improved problem-solving skills and a better understanding of the market, all of which gives a company a valuable edge over its competitors.

Gender diversity is an approach that can really pay off for companies which implement it.

Workplaces should reflect the society in which they function and obviously our society is not just made up of men, says Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, socio-political activist and writer.

“If everybody in the workplace thinks the same way, chances are their approach to a problem would also be the same. In other words, in a homogenous workplace, you are not going to find much creativity in your employees,” she says.

Marina, who was the keynote speaker at the “Diversity Event: Building A Strategy for Gender Diversity” on March 23 organised by Wong & Partners, says it’s crucial and wise for companies to have a good gender balance in their workforce.


If, for example, a company is involved in designing and selling products or services targeted at women, how can they effectively create these products if women themselves are not involved in the process or have no opportunity to provide their input?

In today’s work environment, having a gender-balanced workforce makes good business sense because women can bring a whole new set of ideas to the table and offer alternative methods to approaching an issue or solving a problem.

Marina says that in the United Kingdom, for example, the banking industry doesn’t just look for banking and finance graduates. It is also interested in philosophy graduates because philosophers understand that there are many different ways of thinking and won’t stick to traditional ways of thought when faced with a problem.

Similarly, in the fast-changing world that we live in today, we need creative thinking more than ever and we are not going to get it in a homogenous workplace made up mainly of men.

According to the World Bank, for a country to progress economically, the percentage of women in the workforce should be around 70 per cent.

This is because women tend to use their incomes to benefit their families and communities and not just themselves, so their involvement in the workforce would have an enormous ripple effect on the economy.

In Malaysia, in 2015, the number of women in the workforce stood at only 54.1 per cent.

But Marina stresses that we also need to look at what exactly these women are doing in the workforce.

She says that according to a report by the Penang Institute, the number of women in the workforce increased from 4.3 million to 5.6 million between 2011-2015 and 55 per cent of new jobs created during that time were also taken up by women.

Unfortunately most of those women took on less productive, poorer paying, unstable jobs.

“Basically, what we have is a pyramid in the workforce where the lower levels are populated by lots of women and their numbers become less and less as we reach the peak. Women are truly pinned to the ground, so to speak.”

A report released by professional services firm Grant Thornton in conjunction with International Women’s Day this year also indicated that only 24 per cent of senior business roles were held by women in Malaysia and more than a third of businesses in the country (34 per cent) had no women in senior management positions.

This put Malaysia in the last place among the four Asean countries included in the survey.

Senior women can mentor others to reach the top.


Marina says gender diversity is not just a matter of having more women on the boards of companies but also about making the work environment friendly and encouraging for women to contribute towards productivity.

She adds that even if we promote women to very senior positions, unless the environment in which they operate become less hostile, there will still be many women who will be discouraged from aspiring to these positions.

“It’s not just about having a token woman or two at the top but about developing, nurturing and sustaining a pipeline of women going to the top of their careers until it becomes a very normal pattern.”

To achieve this, women who are already at the top have a responsibility to mentor and nurture more women to be their successors.

They should make it easier for other women to also reach the top by sharing their experiences and strategies and providing advice on how to cope with the pitfalls.

Julia Chong, co-founder and CEO of the social enterprise The Truly Loving Company Sdn Bhd and another speaker at the forum, says women need to be more confident of their abilities and speak up to their superiors about wanting to be considered for a promotion or handling of a project.

by Meeera Murugesan.

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Tuberculosis still a threat in Sabah – doctor

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: About 40 per cent of 10,000 people screened last year showed no symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB) in the state, said Sabah State Health Department (TB/Leprosy) principal assistant director Dr Richard Avoi.

Dr Richard said the key strategy to TB control is to ensure the general public are aware of the deadly disease and know that the TB situation in Sabah is still not under control.

He added that compared to other infectious diseases, the airborne TB is actually the main disease to tackle.

“One of the main activities to control this disease is to diagnose it as early as possible. Those with the disease must take the medication and get cured from the disease. Now the challenge is to diagnose the disease as early as possible. That is where the awareness comes in,” said Dr Richard, who is also Sabah Anti-Tuberculosis Association (SABATA) medical advisor.

“One of the activities done is mobile TB screening through our mobile bus X-ray. We have screened more than 10,000 last year and we picked up a number of TB cases through these activities by doing X-ray among the high risk group population.

“What I found from our data so far, of the number of TB cases detected through these activities, about 40% do not have the symptoms but they have TB. That is why it is important that, even though you do not have symptoms, you must come forward for TB screening, especially if you have history of exposure to TB,” he stressed.

Dr Richard disclosed that a total of 4,953 newly diagnosed TB cases were detected in Sabah last year, which is 19 per cent of the national 25,739 figure.

From January to May 2017 there were 1,875 newly diagnosed cases, only 109 short of the 1,984 within the same period last year.

“It is almost the same. That means if the trend continues, at the end of the year, we will hit almost 5,000 cases of newly diagnosed TB cases (in Sabah),” he said.

“You see the burden of TB cases in Sabah is still high. Therefore a lot of activities must be carried out to control TB in the state.

“If people don’t come forward to check, the detection will be late. People must come forward as soon as possible if they experience chronic and prolonged cough for more than two weeks, that is the standard.

“Once diagnosed, they must take medication for at least six months without interruption as failure to do so would not cure them from the disease and they will continue to be the source of infection for other people,” he explained.

Dr Richard said 1,264 foreigners and 3,689 Malaysians were diagnosed with TB last year, and 255 foreigners and 732 Malaysians were found TB positive between January to March 20 this year.

He noted both foreigners and Malaysians alike have resisted coming forward to get tested for TB in the past.

“We have experienced a contact of a TB patient who did not want to come forward for check-up. We have to beg and tell them to come but yet they refused.

“The more activities we do to find TB cases, the more cases we pick up. It just means there are still a lot of TB cases out there that had not been detected, so the detection activities must go on.

“From our experience, to control TB among immigrant population is very challenging. I think most people know they are not coming forward and majority of them, once they are diagnosed, are not able to complete the six-month treatment because either they are sent back home or they just disappear and you cannot trace them, especially those with the status of illegal immigrants. These are the group of people who will not come forward until the disease become very severe and they have no choice but to come to us for check-up. We have seen a lot of situations where the patient ends up dying because of the late detection,” he disclosed.

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Opening our hearts, minds

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Hari Raya open house celebrations represent the epitome of good resolutions for a new beginning, for a better year ahead. File pic

TIS the season. One of Malaysia’s best liked and most embraced traditions — by locals and foreigners alike — is upon us: the Hari Raya open house season is here.

We open our houses and gardens to friends, friends of friends, neighbours and even strangers. Nice!

But do we open our hearts, our minds to them also?

Madame Harum makes the best beef rendang ever, while the lemang at the Hassan open house is not to be missed. The ladies of the house smile in humble pride over these well-deserved compliments, yet coyly divert the conversation when asked about their secret recipes.

Like many traditions, this one is rooted in very old customs; customs that evolved out of necessities. Sharing food being the most basic human necessity, along with peaceful social interaction, Hari Raya open house celebrations represent the epitome of good resolutions for a new beginning, for a better year ahead.

As much as open houses are about celebrating food and friendship, their objective is equally about fostering harmony and better understanding among people. Sadly, as we prepare for these festivities of harmony and understanding, news of youth bullying and even killing their peers redouble in the daily headlines. How can these two extremes co-exist? Where do these feelings of rage and this utter lack of empathy towards others’ life choices originate?

Bullying, intimidation and forcing one’s ideologies on others is not a new phenomenon. Countless articles, research papers and educational programmes have tried to get to the bottom of it.

Are some children born evil? Is an ever-strong sense of competition at school responsible? Can we blame poor role models in international politics? Do our young fail to develop social skills due to their interaction through electronic media instead of face-to-face communication?

Certainly, these factors play an important role in teens’ irrational behaviour, but new studies on the subject show what we have known all along. Children take their cues from one source more than any other: their parents. This is not to say that parents are solely and forever responsible for their offspring’s iniquities.

It does show, however, that parents need to stay emotionally connected, to keep the communication channels open with their teenage children. Spending quality time with one’s children during Hari Raya presents a unique opportunity to do just that.

Adolescence represents a highly volatile decade. Young minds are taken over by raging hormones; the gap between social interaction and social skills seems abysmal at times.

Sensitivity to peer opinion, social and scholastic stress, anxiety and a near-constant feeling of inadequacy are met with almost non-existent coping strategies. A parent’s seemingly trivial comment can easily lead to tears, door-slamming or the dreaded silent treatment by progenies.

As recent studies led by researchers at Leiden University of the Netherlands show, the second half of this challenging decade is frequently fuelled by unreasonable risk-taking behaviour. Teens typically feel invincible. Warnings, by peers and parents alike, are blown into the wind all too often. A surge of dopamine and its ensuing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction become almost irresistible.

This explosive mixture of social pressure, anxiety and a hormon-induced high, paired with poor coping mechanisms and a lack of strong role models can easily lead to devastatingly wrong choices.

Haywire hormones and unbalanced brain development rooted in evolutionary needs can’t be helped. A lack of sound parenting and strong role modelling, on the other hand, can be. And where better to remedy this than in a mixed crowd at an open house invitation?

Inadequacy is not a teenager’s prerogative, however. Just when parents hope to be able to take a step back, to give their teens some space to find their own place in society, their guidance is, in fact, required more than ever.

Typically, parents of teenagers feel that they are preaching into empty space, that their children’s blank stare means that their efforts go unheard. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like toddlers imitate their elders’ speech patterns and demeanour, teenagers’ concepts of tolerance and empathy towards others, or their lack thereof, are also borrowed from their predominant role models.

While celebrities in show business, politics and sports captivate young minds and seem worthy of adoration and emulation, parents and teachers remain an adolescent’s first and foremost source of guidance.


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SIDMA College Iftar Jama’ie 2017 (Communal Fast Breaking) for Staff and Students.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Ramadhan is the greatest month for the Muslim Community and the best time for self-regulation and self-training. In conjunction with Ramadhan 2017, SIDMA College through the collaboration of SIDMA Islamic Student Club (GAMSIS) and the Student Representative Council (SRC) as well as SIDMA staff organised a Communal Fast Breaking Dinner (Iftar Jama’ie) for SIDMA staff and student at SIDMA Atrium on 21 June 2017.

The organiser of the event specially invited Ustaz Syahar to head the various activities of the day, as well as to share his perceptions and knowledge regarding the way of life, Ad-Din, as responsible students of SIDMA College in a multicultural society, and in line with their respective field of knowledge and skills.

The event started off with Communal Prayer (Solat Asar Berjemaah), followed by various other religious activities. Around 4 p.m.Encik Azwie bin Ahamat (Ex-President of GAMSIS 2015/2016) led the Al-Quran Recitation (Majlis Khatam Al-Quran). Upon completion of the recitation, Special Tazkirah (admonition) on the topic “If this is my last Ramadhan” shared by Ustaz Syahar (Ex-president of GAMSIS 2012/2013). This was followed by a special performance by Kumpulan Qasidah Ar-Raudah from Papar, performing their Qasidah (an ancient Arabic word and form of writing poetry) led by Mr. Muhammad Safwan Bin Bayah.

When the Maghrib Azan (Call to prayer) was performed by the appoint Bilal (muezzin), everyone present regardless of religion and status break their fast together and enjoyed the special delicious delicacies sponsored by SIDMA College. After the Solat Maghrib. Ustaz Syahar then re-took the stage and had some sharing on life as a Muslim and the deeds done by us as believer while waiting for the Solat Isyak and Tarawih.

Dr Morni (Chairman and founder of SIDMA College) was given the honour to give a motivational talk to the student. A video shooting led by Dr Morni on Takbir Raya was taken to celebrate the 2017 Hari Raya. The whole event ended around 11.00pm.

Also present during the event were Madam Azlina Ngatimin (Director Corporate Relations and Business Development), Managers lecturers and staff of SIDMA College indicating the bonding that they have with the students.

SIDMA College would like to take this opportunity to convey in advance their warm Hari Raya Aidilfitri greetings and wishes to all lecturers, staff, students and friends.


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