Archive for September, 2017

Al-Mughni Welfare and Orphanage Organisation for the loves of Humanity.

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Al-Mughni Welfare and Orphanage Organization, the Orphanage Charitable organization operated by SIDMA College Sabah whose primary objective of its establishment is for the love of humanity: the caring, sharing, nourishing and nurturing of the young and deprived local children. It was initiated and launched by Dr Morni Hj Kambrie (Founder and Chairman of SIDMA College as well as Chairman of the Organization) and the late Tuan Haji Ali Ghafar at Kampung Lubok, Weston, on 27 May 2013. It was also part of Dr Morni’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); a way to give back to the society a portion of the college’s earnings by sharing it with the deprived, neglected and needy children.

The humble launching ceremony was also attended by Azlina Binti Ngatimin (SIDMA Director, Corporate Relations and Business Development as well as Advisor to the organization), Azizah Khalid Merican (CEO and Deputy Chairman), Rukidah Binti Ruddin ((Finance Manager and Treasurer), Noradilah Binti Mohamaddia (Secretary), Abu Said Safwan Bin Ali (Assistant Secretary), as well as all the committee members; The orphanage’s registration was approved by the Registrar of Societies Malaysia on 21st February 2013.

At present, Pertubuhan Anak Yatim AlMughni has adopted seven (7) children whose age ranged from 5 -12 years old from the districts of Weston, Sipitang, Penampang and Putatan. They are from families whose parents were financially deprived (monthly income below RM800.00). Although these children were still staying with their uncles or aunts or grandparents, Dr Morni announced that a monthly allowance of RM 100.00 as well other assistance such as school uniforms, stationeries and pocket Monies are allocated to each of the child since April 2013.

Dr Morni said the orphanage plans to take in more orphans in the near future. Recently the organization rented a building located at Taman Merpati, Lorong 1, Jalan Bundusan, Penampang for the orphans, but due to some technical difficulties with the relevant certification authorities, it is yet to be used as an orphanage. The association has also engaged a caretaker who now looks after the building, to ensure that it is constantly being taken care of, and that it is ready to be used as an orphanage upon getting the necessary approval from the relevant authorities. More staff will be engaged once the orphans moved into the building.

Other than running the orphanage, the organization also provides financial assistance to victims facing acute natural disaster such as flood or fire, as well other emergency cases. Being a self-funded non-government welfare organization, the initial funding of the organization has been from Dr Morni’s personal earnings as well as from SIDMA College. SIDMA College and UNITAR Sabah successfully conducted two unity runs to raise fund is from the general public for the organization. On 30th April 2016, a Charity Dinner “Dining in the Dark, Sabah” was held at Padang Merdeka, Kota Kinabalu also for similar purpose. Dr Morni and the Management of Al-Mughni Welfare and Orphanage Organization, SIDMA College would like to thank the general public for their generosity by donating generously to the orphanage fund now.

Meanwhile, the Management of the organization sincerely invites generous donation from the general public to assist the running of the organization. Donations can be made in cheque addressed to  Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Pengurusan Anak Yatim Al-Mughni or through online payment at Bank Islam, account number 1005 2010 0043 03. For more information about Al-Mughni Welfare and Orphanage Organisation, or donation to the organization, please call Dr Morni Hj Kambrie (013-810 620), Ms Noradilah Mohamaddia (088-732 000 / 732 020),  or Mr Abu Saied Safwan Ali  (088-731 291).

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Harsh lessons from fire

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
Firemen removing a body from the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. PIC BY ROSDAN WAHID

A TERRIBLE fire occurred at a religious school in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, at 5.15am last Thursday. The blaze killed 23 people — 21 students and two teachers. Six people were rescued, with three still in critical condition and warded in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Fire and Rescue Department officials described the fire as unusually “raging” when they arrived at the scene.

In the first 24 hours after the tragedy, attention was focused on fire and safety issues. Initially, the fire was perceived as an “accident” that could have been prevented. Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the school did not have a valid permit from the department although “it was in the process of applying for one”. He instructed the department to conduct checks on all religious schools in the country “to ensure that they abide by safety guidelines”.

The public who watched the news of the fire in the electronic media or read about it in the print or social media) could see the permanently-fixed window grille at the top floor of the building which had prevented its occupants from escaping. According to reports, the building had one fire exit only on the third floor (where the fire started).

However, in the second 24 hours after the tragedy, the public was made aware of the possibility that the fire was not an accident but arson.

This came about after police detained seven teenagers, aged between 11 and 18. Police believed the boys had (six of whom were found to be positive for ganja) set fire to the school “following a spat between them and the students”.

City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said the suspects had intended to burn down the building “in an act of revenge over a name-calling incident that took place a few days earlier”. He believed the suspects had taken drugs before they started the fire. Investigations revealed that the suspects had used two cooking gas cylinders and a hydrocarbon accelerant (petrol) to commit the offence. The suspects had taken the cylinders to the top floor to start the fire.

He said the case was being investigated under Sections 302 (for murder) and 435 (mischief by fire) under the Penal Code. Section 302 carries the mandatory death penalty, while Section 435 carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and a fine.

What was not mentioned is that if these suspects are charged under Section 436 (mischief by fire to destroy a building used for education), the penalty upon conviction is higher — a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine.

Section Two of the Fire Services Act 1988 (Act 341) provides a detailed definition of the term “fire hazard” as including, inter alia:

ANY unlawful alteration to a building as may render escape from any part thereof in the event of fire “more difficult”;

ANY removal, or absence from any building of any fire-fighting equipment or fire-safety installation that is required by law to be provided in the building; and,

INADEQUATE means of escape from any part of the building to any place of safety in the event of a fire.

Under Section 8, if the Fire and Rescue Department director-general (D-G) is satisfied that a fire hazard exists in any premises, he “may serve” the owner or occupier a fire hazard abatement notice within a period stipulated in the notice. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 10, punishable with a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or prison term not exceeding three years, or both.

Section 33 of the act states that: “Where there is no fire certificate in force in respect of any designated premises, the owner of the premises shall be guilty of an offence.”

Under Section 35, if the D-G is satisfied, in regard to any premises, that the risk to persons or property in the case of fire is “so serious that, until steps have been taken to reduce them to a reasonable level, the use of the premises ought to be prohibited or restricted”, he may, by a complaint, apply to the court for a prohibitory order. Upon receipt of the complaint or application, the court shall serve the appropriate notice to the owner or occupier of the premises calling upon them to show cause why a prohibitory order should be made. If cause is not shown, the court can then issue the order. The penalty for contravening the order is a fine not exceeding RM10,000, or a prison term of not more than five years and/or both.

In the religious school fire tragedy, based on what has been said by several parties, it would appear that the school building had not been issued with a fire certificate. There are circumstances indicating that the existence of “fire hazard” in the building that would constitute a valid reason for the D-G to take steps under section 8 (issue a fire hazard abatement notice). If the notice is ignored and the fire certificate has not been issued, and the risk of fire is “serious”, he could (and should) have applied for and obtained a prohibitory order under Act 341.


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Rights of a child suspect

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The death of 23 students and teachers of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz in Jalan Datuk Keramat in a fire has shocked the nation.

At the time of writing, City police Chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh has informed the public in a press conference that seven people aged between 11 and 18 have been arrested in connection with the fire.

It would appear that the suspects are mostly children, and according to the police the fire was a deliberate arson attack arising out of a disagreement between the suspects and some students from the tahfiz.

Yet, even before the press conference, alleged details and photos of the suspects were already circulated on WhatsApp and social media platforms.

Regardless of our own personal feelings about the tragedy, we must remind ourselves that at this juncture the seven teenagers are still just suspects. They are not even charged for any offence yet at the time of writing.

We must remember that most of them are still children in the eyes of the law.

The Child Act 2001, amongst others, provides for the rights of a child offender and the procedure when it comes to a criminal charge against a child.

According to the Act, a child who is alleged to have committed an offence shall not be arrested, detained or tried except in accordance with the Act.

When a child is charged in Court, the child will be charged and tried in a Court for Children. If the child is jointly charged with adults, the case may be heard by a Court other than a Court for Children, but that Court is to exercise all powers relating to the child as a Court for Children.

A Court for Children consists of a Magistrate who is assisted by two advisors, one of whom must be a woman. The role of the advisors is to inform and advise the Court for Children with respect to the child.

The Court for Children has the jurisdiction to try all offences except offences punishable by death. Unless the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case are charged with murder, it is likely that they will be charged and tried in the Court for Children.

There are also additional protections for a child offender at the stage of sentencing. The Court for Children must consider a probation report of the child. Child offenders also cannot be sentenced like an adult.

The Child Act prohibits the media when reporting about criminal investigations or prosecution of a child from publishing the photograph or reporting the name, address educational institution, or include any particulars that can lead to the identification the child.

The Act also prohibits the publication – which includes sharing on social media -  photographs of any child suspect in a criminal investigation. Anyone contravening these provisions may be charged for an offence under the Act. Those who spread the photos and details of the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case may have committed an offence by doing so.

In any society, members have a responsibility to protect the weakest amongst the ranks. Children would most certainly fall within that category.

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No need finger pointing, learn from tragedy

Monday, September 18th, 2017
(File pix) Family members of 10-year-old Muhamad Aidil Aqmal Mohamad Zamzuri, one of the victims in the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school tragedy. Pix by Salhani Ibrahim
By EMBUN MAJID - September 18, 2017 @ 4:32pm

ALOR STAR: No need to point fingers, as what is more important is lessons learnt from the tragedy.

That is the response from Zakaria Darus, 59, the grandfather of 10-year-old Muhamad Aidil Aqmal Mohamad Zamzuri, one of the victims in the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school tragedy.

Although he is devastated upon learning that the fire was an arson attack by a group of teens, Zakaria stressed that what more important is for all quarters concerned to learn the lessons from the tragedy.

“We all already know now that the cause of the fire was arson attack, but what more important now is the important of improving safety aspect at tahfiz school.

“Another important lesson from the tragedy is that schools must comply to safety requirements set by the authorities,” he said in a phone interview.

The retired Army sergeant, who resides in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur said he was disgruntled and shocked when he first learnt that the fire was set up by a group of young children.

However, he declined to comment on suitable punishment for the perpetrators and leaving it to the authorities to decide.

“It is wiser to let the police to complete their investigation on the case and if the teenagers are found guilty for the offence, suitable punishment should be meted out on them,” he said.

Zakaria said Aidil Aqmal was one of his five grandchildren.

Aidil Aqmal was among the 21 students of the tahfiz school in Kampung Dato’ Keramat, Kuala Lumpur who perished in early Thursday fire which destroyed the hostel located on the third floor of the three-storey building.

Also killed were two hostel wardens.

Police solved the case within 48 hours of the incident after rounding up seven teenagers aged between 11 and 18 in Keramat area.

Investigation revealed that three of the teenagers were directly involved in the attack, which was triggered by misunderstanding with some of the school students.


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More than 60,000 attended Malaysia Day celebration

Monday, September 18th, 2017


One of the performances during the celebration.

KOTA KINABALU: More than 60,000 people celebrated Malaysia Day at the Likas Sports Complex on Sept 16.

From a dignitaries list comprising the who’s who in public office to the man in the street, the celebration was considered by some to be the biggest and most elaborate since the day was declared a public holiday a few years ago.

The celebrations kicked off with stage performances by a slew of Malaysian artists, and concluded with spectacular fireworks that lit the city’s night skies.

The festive atmosphere started well before the 8pm arrival of the Head of Sabah State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and his wife Toh Puan Norlidah R.M Jasni. The Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman, Sarawak State Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar and VIPS of the Federal government and governments of Sabah and Sarawak, were on the specially erected stage earlier to await Tun Juhar’s arrival.

Also present were the Minister of Communications and Multimedia Datuk Seri Dr. Salleh Said Keruak who was also the chairman of the event, and his wife of Datuk Raya Erom and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun.

A highlight of the event was the signing of the 2017 Malaysia Special Note Day declaration by Najib, Musa and Mohamad Asfia, followed with the cutting of a cake decorated with Negaraku Sehati Sejiwa logo by Yang Dipertua Negeri Sabah.

“I am happy and very proud of being part of this historic celebration,” said Zuraidah Ahmad, one of the performers from the Ministry of Information who participated in the Jalur Gemilang (national flag) march. “I am happy to contribute my idea and also energy together with my friend during the Jalur Gemilang march.”

Around 30 people participated in the march led by Haji Suwadi Guliling the Sabah Information Department Director, and his deputy Supian Musa.

Meanwhile, Azhar Tahir, 55, said that Malaysia Day ‘is about the freedom that we now have with our independence’. The retiree, who once ran a printing shop, came all the way from Perak just to be part of the Malaysia Day celebration.

“For me, Malaysia Day is a symbol of hope and freedom. It is up to us what we want to do and the freedom to make our own decisions,” he said.

Azhar lamented that the younger Malaysians do not seem to possess the level of patriotism that his generation possessed.

“It is a shame that some of the young people today are embarrassed to even wear a patriotic shirt or admit that they are Malaysian,” he added.


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Embracing unity in varsity

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Left to right: Mohd Nizamuddin Fauzi, 20, Valentina Tiong, 20, Maryanne Telen Aba, 21, Noryanti Tarawis, 21, Azwa Azwana Khairul Akhmal, 21 and Mohammad Faizurie Abang, 20.

Left to right: Mohd Nizamuddin Fauzi, 20, Valentina Tiong, 20, Maryanne Telen Aba, 21, Noryanti Tarawis, 21, Azwa Azwana Khairul Akhmal, 21 and Mohammad Faizurie Abang, 20.

SARAWAKIANS Mohammad Faizurie Abang, Valentina Tiong, and Maryanne Telen Aba, and fellow Universiti Malaya (UM) undergraduates from Sabah – Mohd Nizamuddin Fauzi, Noryanti Tarawis and Azwa Azwana Khairul Akhmal, are fine examples of who we should aspire to be as Malaysians.

Clicking instantly despite meeting for the first time, they shared the chemistry of long-lost friends. The six, who are in their 20s, say the closeness is a result of their East Malaysian upbringing.

Inviting their counterparts from the peninsula to “visit us more often”, they say the unity among East Malaysians has always been understated, but unshakeable.

It’s a bond they want all Malaysians to share. Since coming to study here, they’ve learnt to better appreciate how Sabahans and Sarawakians respect each other’s differences.

Introducing themselves as either Sabahan, or Sarawakian, they find race-centric questions from new friends, surprising.

Speaking to each other in a colourful blend of Bahasa Melayu, peppered with a healthy dose of colloquialism and accents, they say speech is the only real difference between those hailing from the two states, and those from the peninsula.

Come, get to know us

How did you get here? Do you wear a loincloth? Do you live on trees? What race are you?

This is just part of the stereotyping the group’s had to put up with since coming here to study. Smiling, Mohammad Faizurie says they harbour no hard feelings now, but initially, found such comments insulting and hurtful. “It felt like Malaysians from the peninsula have never been to Sabah or Sarawak. But we understand there’s no malice intended,” he reasons.

Maryanne, who often gets mistaken for a Filipina, shares how a Grabcar driver once asked if she got here by boat when she told him she was an Orang Ulu from Sarawak.

“Recently, my team won a water activity at the pool. And someone quipped: ‘Of course they can swim well. They’ve got rivers behind their houses.’ But I live in a town and I’m not a good swimmer.”

Before packing up for the big city, Noryanti wondered whether she would be accepted by her peers.

“I had so many questions and was worried about whether I would be perceived negatively by students here. But once I made up my mind to come, I prepared myself mentally.

“So, although I was asked many funny questions initially, I chose to be open minded and to address them without taking things to heart,” she says, crediting her positive attitude for being able to fit in easily.

Like Noryanti, Mohd Nizamuddin feels like he belongs. He treats stereotypes like jokes. The bubbly character doesn’t take for granted the hospitality and love of his friends at UM because not everyone has had the same welcoming experience.

“UM is very open, so, we feel at home. But how we react and adapt is also important.”

Recalling her first impression of KL, Azwa Azwana, who’s a Dusun like Noryanti, marvelled at the city’s LRT, MRT, tolled highways, and skyscrapers. And, because of her features, people often spoke to her in Mandarin. ‘Sorry I’m not Chinese’ was a phrase she’d utter every other day.

“When I tell them I’m from Sabah, I sometimes get perplexed looks. Some even ask if Sabah is in Indonesia or Thailand.”

Describing it as “a bit of a culture shock”, she says the hot weather was unlike back home.

“I kept getting sick here. In Sabah, it’s cooler because we have so many trees. Our buildings aren’t as tall. And the night sky is always full of stars. In my first month here, I was hunting for stars every night before finally spotting one,” she recalls, laughing.

For Valentina, the culture shock had nothing to do with the environment. It was the people. She was upset at how race-centric and cliquish some of her peers were.

The daughter of an Iban mother and a Chinese father, she’s been called a “banana” – Chinese who are unable to speak Mandarin.

“I felt so sad. Back home, everyone just sits together and chats.

“The race and religion question never gets asked. It’s irrelevant. That’s our way of life.

“When I came here, I didn’t know who to mix with because those of the same race tend to stick together. I didn’t want to offend anyone, yet I could click with everyone.

“One day, a friend asked why I mix with the Malays more than the Chinese. I though it was a joke. Then I realised it was a serious question.”

Dumbfounded, she ended up inviting her friend to visit Sarawak to see how the communities there interact with each other.

“I have a Chinese surname but I’m Iban. We’re a mix of so many races but some people just want to pigeon-hole us.”

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Warming up to HOTS

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

HIGHER order thinking skills (HOTS) questions are starting to make a positive impact among Malaysian students.

HOTS questions are part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which was implemented into the school system to spark a new trend in the way young Malaysians learn and acquire knowledge.

Private companies are also putting efforts to develop necessary skills and competencies in students to enhance their future marketability.

One such company is HRCA Mega Events Sdn Bhd, a firm that emphasises on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths) education.

It organised a science competition for upper secondary school students in July.

Participants were required to answer 30 multiple choice HOTS questions on Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Additional Mathematics within a time frame of 20 minutes.

Thirteen students from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) (SMK BUD 4) took part in the challenge, winning the school a total of six medals – three gold and three silver. They were among 782 students from local schools who took part in the event.

The SMK BUD 4 participants, said they enjoyed the competition, which incorporated mostly HOTS questions.

“Though more challenging, HOTS questions stimulates ideas and opinions, making me think outside the box,” said Esther Chew Li-Wen.

The 16-year-old added that the competition was a good experienceas she had to prepare for it by reading up to gain more knowledge. It also exposed her to a variety of HOTS questions.

Sulaiman Redza Suhaimi said that the competition taught him something new that he had not learnt in school.

“It makes me think harder as the questions are not easy. The emphasis was more on my ability to understand and explain.

“It prepares me to face future exams that could be even more difficult than what I had just sat for.

“HOTS questions give students an opportunity to answer questions in a different manner, something you can give your own elaboration to rather than a textbook answer,” said the 16-year-old who added that the competition was an “eye opener”.

Another participant Wendy Lee Xiu Teng shared Li-Wen and Sulaiman Redza’s sentiments.

Describing HOTS questions as “interesting”, she said it involved knowledge and information that was not always taught in class. “It also expands my knowledge on the English language because there were so many words I have not come across. It is a ‘revelation’ when you find out the correct meaning and answers later on,” she added.

“The competition also tests us on how we perform under pressure. In the real world, you have to work with deadlines,” she said

The school’s Science teacher Datin Sunita Devi Om Prakash Sharma, who won HRCA’s Best Teacher Award, said she spent time in encouraging her students to join extra-curricular events.

“Out-of-school competitions and activities bring out the best in students as they have to use their own ideas creatively withoutrelying on their textbooks alone, she said. .

The school’s head of department for Maths and Science Ravinderan Veloo Nair said HOTS questions have helped students develop critical thinking skills which in turn enabled them to think out of the box.

“We always encourage students to take part in competitions as they provide good exposure and platforms for them to try out new things other than school-based education.

“It also encourages and gets them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), which is rapidly dropping in popularity,” he added.

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‘Child sexual abuse cases must be handled with care’.

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: There is still a culture of permissiveness on matters pertaining to child sexual abuse within families, Suspected Abuse and Neglect (Scan) team head Dr Zahilah Filzah Zulkifli said.

“We tend to believe that the abusers will change and their partners also feel they need to give them a chance to change, but people don’t change that easily,” she said.

Dr Zahilah said while it was possible for people to change, it has to be facilitated in a structured manner with the help of experts.

“There’s a huge process in rehabilitation, it has to be done properly. You can’t just label someone as being rehabilitated and be done with it,” Dr Zahilah, a panel member at Monsters Against Us (MAU) Child Predator Symposium, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the latest U-Report Malaysia findings presented at the symposium showed that 11% of Malaysians said they would not report an incident of child abuse if they witnessed it while only 7% said they might.

U-Report is a mobile-based communication platform that enables young people, called U-Reporters, share their ideas and opinions on social issues in their community, through polls and social media engagement.

Officially launched by Unicef in 2012, it has over two million users in 22 countries in four continents.

Asked why they would not report the abuse, an anonymous respondent said: “Because I have no power or authority to stop it.”

Another said that it might harm the child and the informer.

“So I’ll let the authorities take the actions needed.”

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Key moment in Singapore’s history

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
President-elect Halimah Yacob (C), Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (2-R) and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon enter the state room before the presidential inauguration ceremony at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore. AFPpic

President-elect Halimah Yacob (C), Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (2-R) and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon enter the state room before the presidential inauguration ceremony at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore. AFPpic

IN August 1954, a girl was born in her family home in Queen Street. She was named Halimah Yacob.

Months later, Singapore held its first legislative assembly election. Of the 75 candidates who ran in 1955, only two were women. Both were Chinese, and both lost their contests. And of the 25 men elected, just three were Malay.

What were the odds, then, that a Malay girl, born in August 1954, could one day set foot in Parliament, become Speaker and ultimately be elected Singapore’s president? Very long odds, indeed.

When Halimah was sworn in as president last Thursday, history was made.

It is important to acknowledge the controversy: There is a sizeable segment for whom an election reserved for candidates of one race is fundamentally flawed. The lack of a contest compounded the issue for this group.

The changes to the elected presidency, and the timing of the changes, have been debated. The Government has explained the need for the change. The debates will continue for a while longer.

But none of this should take anything away from the momentous nature of Halimah’s election and her remarkable journey.

Imagine a country that makes it through the qualifiers of the football World Cup for the first time in history. Defying all predictions, it then goes all the way to the final.

In the final, after 90 minutes of nail-biting play without a goal, the referee, in the games dying seconds, awards that country a penalty kick, in a 50-50 call that could have gone either way. The team scores. It lifts the World Cup in its maiden outing.

The contention over the penalty will not go away easily. Pundits will argue its merits, maybe for years. But such discussions do not detract from the remarkable World Cup run achieved by that country.

And so it is with Halimah’s historic election. The changes to the presidency were hotly debated, but they were also somewhat beyond her control. Indeed, she knew of the risk to her own reputation, given how some disagreed with the changes, but she chose to step forward anyway.

Halimah has faced formidable obstacles at every stage of her life. She worked hard to overcome them. Any number of things could have led to a different outcome. She could have dropped out of school to supplement the income of her widowed mother, who sold nasi padang to raise five children on her own.

As a woman lawyer in a labour movement dominated by blue-collar men, she could have been taken less than seriously. As a headscarf-donning Muslim politician, she could have found it harder to connect with the non-Muslim majority. As Speaker of Parliament, she could have shunned the public scrutiny of a presidential run.

At each stage, her unique qualities saw her through. These included her determined nature, her personal warmth, her genuine concern for the weak and her heart to serve the public.

In a parallel universe, Halimah could so easily have not become president. But she has.

Not a long time ago as recently as 2012 there was no woman in Cabinet. Today, there are two: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo. Now, there is also President Halimah Yacob.

As we pause to reflect on the import of this moment, we should, as a nation, challenge ourselves further: How long do we have to wait for a woman to be prime minister, or for someone from a minority race to be prime minister?

When that day comes, every child boy, girl, Malay, Indian, Chinese, or of any race can grow up believing that anything is possible under the Singapore sky.

Meanwhile, the fight to shatter glass ceilings continues.The fight involves individuals waking up each morning and doing their best to realise their potential. But the fight also involves ensuring a level playing field.

The reserved election is at times framed as a compromise of meritocracy in order to advance multiracialism. But if one accepts that the nature of Singapore’s elections is unmeritocratic to begin with, because voters systematically discriminate against minority candidates, then affirmative action is not a compromise of meritocracy. It is in fact a desirable and necessary move to enable a truer meritocracy.

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Anas: Corporate leaders must do more to promote harmony.

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Celebrating Malaysia Day: Anas (left) looking on as Suria FM radio announcer DJ Lin cuts a cake during the closing ceremony of Zubedy Sdn Bhd’s SaySomethingNice campaign 2017 at The School, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya.

Celebrating Malaysia Day: Anas (left) looking on as Suria FM radio announcer DJ Lin cuts a cake during the closing ceremony of Zubedy Sdn Bhd’s SaySomethingNice campaign 2017 at The School, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya.

PETALING JAYA: The business community should make it an agenda to promote unity among Malaysians, says a businessman-social activist.

Anas Zubedy, managing director of Zubedy Sdn Bhd which has made it a top priority to promote unity and harmony, said business and corporate leaders should “jump onto the unity bandwagon”.

The staunch advocate of unity believes it would be “economically smart” for the country’s business community to also promote unity among the people.

“You cannot only depend on one race to do business successfully in this country.

He said a depressing reality about present-day Malaysia was that children were growing up wit­hin their own racial community.

“Our children are growing separately. You don’t see multicultural situations in schools… and we are living separately so our kids do not have a chance to mingle with each other,” he said, adding that it was only at work that Malaysians began to mingle. As such, Anas said the business community sho­uld ensure that promoting unity was a part of its overall agenda.

The job of cultivating unity should not be just shouldered by politicians, he added.

The #SaySomethingNice campaign 2017, which started on National Day and ended yesterday on Malaysia Day, has seen over 60 projects initiated under the campaign by various organisations and individuals working with Zubedy.

One of the fresh efforts this year was #RukunNegaraSomet­hing Nice, which Anas described as going back to the spirit of Rukunegara to promote unity among the people.

“We tend to forget that there is also the cita-cita (ambition) behind Rukunegara, which encourages the move towards being a progressive nation, a democracy, and liberalism, so how do young people bring forth this ambition?” he asked, adding that it was also the first time that the #SaySome­thing Nice campaign, which was in its seventh year, was collaborating with the National Unity and Integration Department.

Tetap Tiara Sdn Bhd managing director Charles Wong agreed with Anas’ call for the business community to embrace unity. “It makes perfect sense to do it, as what make and shape a business are the people who work in the organisation, the different races and outlook that they bring.

“It’s smart economics at the end of the day,” said Wong, whose company joined hands with Zubedy for the #SaySomethingNice campaign for the fourth time.

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