Archive for December, 2017

An eventful year for education

Sunday, December 31st, 2017
Idris (sixth from right) posing for a ‘Soaring Upwards’ group photo with representatives from various private higher learning institutions. With him are Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Mary Yap (fifth from right), director-general Dr Siti Hamisah (third from right) and secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur (eighth from right).

Idris (sixth from right) posing for a ‘Soaring Upwards’ group photo with representatives from various private higher learning institutions. With him are Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Mary Yap (fifth from right), director-general Dr Siti Hamisah (third from right) and secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur (eighth from right).

TODAY is the last day of 2017. While this is the time to make New Year resolutions, it is also the time to reflect on happenings that affected both young students and their parents.

The year started off with 435,882 pupils nationwide starting Year One on Jan 1 for states with Friday weekends, and on Jan 3 for the rest.

Another 441,569 students entered Form One, according to figures from the Education Ministry.

January ..

This came after the Chinese press raised concerns that the schools had not received the RM50mil allocation from the 2016 Budget.

A JPJ enforcement officer reminding students on the need to strictly observe road safety rules and procedures before using their vehicles.

A JPJ enforcement officer reminding students on the need to strictly observe road safety rules and procedures before using their vehicles.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid announced there was a slight shortage in the allocation of budget for the schools.

However, the ministry managed to sort out the issue with the help of MCA before the end of January.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon had on Jan 20 said the RM50mil was ready to be disbursed to all Chinese schools, and that the ministry had already set the amount that each of the 834 schools would get.

The allocation has since been distributed to schools state-by-state.

Dr Siti Hamisah was appointed the Higher Education Ministry director-general in January.

Dr Siti Hamisah was appointed the Higher Education Ministry director-general in January.

Meanwhile, Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir was appointed Higher Education Ministry director-general effective Jan 16 taking over from Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail who was appointed vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh congratulated Dr Siti Hamisah on her appointment, saying he was confident her 30-year experience in higher education as well as leadership will carry Malaysian higher education into the future as the ministry embarks on its “Redesigning Higher Education” agenda.

February …

Mahdzir announced that all schools must provide a complaint box for tip-offs on student misconduct and criminal activity.

In partnership with the ministry, the police wanted to improve its monitoring in all 1,187 schools statewide with school liaison officers (PPS) conducting visits twice a month through the Jom Ke Sekolah programme.

Separately, the Education Ministry started drafting laws on cyberbullying and was also looking at similar laws in other countries to see how best it could be applied here, according to Chong who said it is a must for cyber bullying to stop.

Bully victim Nhaveen died on June 13 after being beaten up and sodomised by a group of teenagers.

Bully victim Nhaveen died on June 13 after being beaten up and sodomised by a group of teenagers.

In an attempt to strengthen the usage of English in the country, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education And Development Trust (CMEDT) signed a letter of intent to launch a pilot project called Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs).

The issuing of visas to foreign students within the new 14-day target will no longer be a problem with the increase of immigration officers in the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) – a one-stop centre for foreign student enrolment that was set up by the Higher Education Ministry.

March

The Health Ministry published the results of Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma), a first-of-its-kind study, which revealed the shocking truth that one in every five boys below 18, smokes.

The study conducted on 14,833 students from 138 schools in 15 states showed that four in five knew that smoking below the age of 18 was an offence under the law.

More than half said they weren’t prevented from buying tobacco products, which they easily obtained from supermarkets, grocery stores and roadside stalls.

On e-cigs and vape, the survey found that most students have heard about it, and one in five has tried it.

Zulfarhan Osman, the navy cadet officer was found murdered because of a dispute over a laptop.

Zulfarhan Osman, the navy cadet officer was found murdered because of a dispute over a laptop.

Chong said the ministry would intensify anti-smo­king campaigns in schools, while relevant authorities must step up their enforcement efforts to curb the sale of cigarettes to students.

Separately, Road Transport Department (JPJ) officers visi­ted nearly 40 schools nationwide to advise teenage motorcyclists on the importance of adhering to the law, as it emerged that many below the age of 16 – the legal age to apply for a motorcycle license – were riding without a licence.

Meanwhile, RM18mil was secured to build the 528th Tamil school in the country – SJK(T) Taman Keladi – located in Sungai Petani. MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, who broke the news, said the Education Ministry at the time already issued the letter of approval for the new school which will have room for 200 pupils along with other facilities.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya (UM) retained its position as the best performing Malaysian institution in the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject – ranking 23rd for electrical engineering, moving up 14 positions from the previous year.

UM also rose from the 51-100 band for mechanical engineering (now 33rd), chemical engineering (now 38th), and education (now 41st). In total, it ranks in the top 50 for five subjects, compared with two last year.

April ...

After a round of budget cuts, public universities were in need to find ways to secure some much needed funds.

Fortunately, the institutions were allowed to bank on foreign students pursuing medicine, dentistry and pharmacy at public universities to bring in additional income after the Higher Education Ministry announced they were allowed to take advantage of the five per cent placement offer to foreign students.

Idris said foreign students who study medicine, dentistry and pharmacy at public universities would be charged the full fees of between RM400,000 and RM500,000, while local students pursuing the same courses at these universities could enjoy subsidised fees of between RM15,000 and RM30,000.

The ministry also announced students from eight public universities were allowed to start taking a gap year to explore opportunities via the ministry’s gap year 2017 programme.

Higher Education Ministry director-general Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the gap year programme is a new concept in Malaysian higher education institutions that allows students to take a year or two semesters off their formal education for personal growth.

Mohamad Rasyidin had his first experience in putting out a fire assisted by a fireman during a fire safety and rescue demonstration at a tahfiz school.

Mohamad Rasyidin had his first experience in putting out a fire assisted by a fireman during a fire safety and rescue demonstration at a tahfiz school.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry said dilapidated schools in rural areas will be transformed into community centres under the Government’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS).

Mahdzir said the initiative, called My New School, involved upgrading and renovating certain schools to equip them with modern learning facilities to benefit students.

May …

Not all private Tahfiz schools are registered under the Education Ministry. Since religion falls under the state’s jurisdiction, such schools are mostly registered under the state Islamic departments.

There are currently about 270 religious schools registered under the ministry.

However, the ministry and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) worked together to draw up guidelines for the registration of tahfiz schools.

Mahdzir said the guidelines included the teachers’ qualifications and the number of classrooms, based on the existing terms of reference for private schools.

The Higher Education Ministry targets that by 2020, 15% of students who are in the midst of pursuing higher education will venture into entrepreneurship while five percent of them will become entrepreneurs upon graduating.

Dr Amin is the new Education director-general taking over from Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof.

Dr Amin is the new Education director-general taking over from Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof.

The ministry also said engineering courses at public universities will be redesigned to reflect current industry demands.

Idris said rapid development created hybrid or new engineering fields like biomedical engineering – a fusion of medicine and engineering that would create new jobs for the future.

The Education Ministry announced it will be working with experts on early childhood education to improve the preschool education plan for government schools.

Mahdzir said the entire system will be studied, including the subjects taught and the time spent on each subject.

Separately, he said Internet facilities would be upgraded in 6,000-odd schools, bringing the total number of schools to more than 10,000 because high speed Internet access “does not only improve teaching and learning in schools, but is also beneficial for teachers and other staff in discharging their duties.”

Chong announced making English a compulsory pass subject for SPM is being considered again.

June ...

The deaths of two young students shocked the nation this month.

Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, the navy cadet officer from the Malaysian National Defence University (UPNM) was found murdered because of a dispute over a laptop.

He was allegedly bound, beaten and burnt with an iron before he died on June 1.

Thirty-six students were arrested in connection with the death. Five students were charged with murder, while another five were charged for abetting.

T. Nhaveen, 18, died on June 13 after he fell unconscious being beaten up and sodomised by a group of teenagers believed to be ex-schoolmates with helmets and fists.

Four teens were charged with murder, but their trial has been postponed twice till next year, causing dismay for Nhaveen’s family.

On a more positive note, the nation’s five public research universities – Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) – have been listed in the top 1% universities worldwide.

Mahdzir Khalid said the Dual Language Programme is not a policy, but an option for schools.

Mahdzir Khalid said the Dual Language Programme is not a policy, but an option for schools.

From this year, students at the 15 government matriculation colleges nationwide will only get the RM250 monthly allowance if their parents have a combined income of less than RM10,000 a month.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/12/31/an-eventful-year-for-education/#zjF0cg7aqFmvcUoh.99


Cultivating national unity

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Cultivating national unity is an uphill battle for any country, the slope becomes steeper for countries which are much more diverse like Malaysia. When I was in primary and secondary school, we recited the Rukun Negara every Monday morning, we painted the school walls with Jalur Gemilang next to ten smiley people representing different ethnic groups in Malaysia. Most common of all, we always had to write essays on national unity, harmony in a multiracial society and the spirit of patriotism. Back then, none of these tasks seemed unusual, challenging or hypocritical.

As I grew older, I find the idea of national unity difficult to fathom and even harder to advocate. I wonder if it is because I was having more exposure towards the social fabric and political reality or if I was in fact growing up in the most tumultuous years of the Malaysian political landscape. From the eyes of my 10-year-old self, I saw that Malaysians are fundamentally capable of living and progressing in terms of in harmony and unity.

Later I realise that it is the nature of governance and politics, in particular the institutionalisation of our differences such as raced-based politics, affirmative action and adversarial judicial system that pushed us further apart.

Unity in Malaysia requires all Malaysians to have an in-depth and objective understanding of how Malaysia was founded and what it takes to build a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country on the basis of justice and fairness, both of which are the fundamental virtues of our Federal Constitution. It requires Malaysians to be mindful that in order to march forward as a successful united country, we need to first acknowledge that we are Malaysians and this national identity and narrative should prevail over any differences that we may have.

Moderation in isolation does not preach any particular value. It is merely a philosophical idea that every issue, action, decision or even every thought can be measured on a spectrum. In order to call an approach a moderate one, one must then consider and identify two ends of the spectrum. For instance, Islamic extremistism has been a popular term.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/12/31/cultivating-national-unity/#qSt77cSVJH42XIug.99

Importance of national unity and the role of moderation.

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

The notion of unity is no stranger to states far and wide, let alone Malaysia – a country endowed with descendants from three of the earliest civilizations. With deliberate segregation of the populace under the façade of “specialization”- courtesy of our colonial masters, ethnic strains have long been engrained into Malaysia’s past. In light of that, efforts to bridge this ethnic divide since its independence reflects the wide-spread recognition of the need for national unity in Malaysia.

This essay will first define the term “national unity” and examine the its importance in the case of Malaysia, followed by ways in which moderation could foster unity.

National unity is defined as solidarity within citizens of a nation, with minimum sectorial practices and close adherence to law and order. National unity however, do not imply homogeneity. It advocates rather, a “community of communities” which respect diversity and share values, experiences and geographical relativity (Etzioni, 2002).

Firstly, national unity in the form of racial and religious tolerance is an incremental pre-requisite to societal peace.

Indeed, India – the second most intolerant nation, according to a research done by the World Value Survey, ranked 139th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index (GPI) (Fisher, 2013).

Since Malaysia accommodates citizens with diverse physical appearances, the case of India is a glaring illustration of the peril of racial discrimination and tension. Similarly, the notorious discrimination of Rohingyas in Buddhist-majority Myanmar reflects a negative association between religious tensions and peace, with Myanmar ranking 122th in the GPI – once again analogous to the diverse religious composition of Malaysia and the potential havoc that could arise in the event of disunity.

To reiterate, national unity is essential in maintaining a harmonious and functional society.

Consequently, national unity and subsequently societal stability contributes to nation-building. One aspect of nation-building revolves around economic developments which, in extremely simplified terms, may lead to elevated standards of living; and if channeled efficiently- decreased poverty rate and income disparity, benefiting the populace as a whole.

One prevalent contributor to a countries’ economic prowess would be the measure of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (Naquib & Smucker, 2009). Social and political stability is often regarded as a pre-requisite for an inflow of FDI and plays a role among other factors such as labor wages and tax rates in affecting investors’ confidence. As a nation vehemently pursuing economic gains with a promising abundance of raw resources and strategic geographical standing, it would be a shame for Malaysia to lose out on a rapidly globalised economy on the basis of societal instability. As such, national unity is paramount in Malaysia’s pursuit of economic and societal development.

Having elaborated on the importance of a unity in Malaysia, this essay will now discuss the role of moderation in achieving such unity. For decades, racial tension and disharmony have pervaded Malaysia’s political and social development and continues to be a stark point in everyday discourse.

While Malaysia appears more integrated in contemporary times, there remain covert and unspoken strains between ethnic groups. For decades, institutional initiatives the likes of the 1971 New Economic Plan (NEP) and the present decade’s 1Malaysia campaign have sought to bridge this divide.

Arguably, institutional intervention can only do that much. At the end of the day, it boils down to individuals’ efforts in making multicultural ties work.

On the grassroots level, moderation plays an incremental role in achieving national unity.

Moderation in this sense, pertains to a conscious effort in avoiding dissonance and maintaining goodwill by compromising on traditions, beliefs and practices in everyday life.

Since Malaysia is far from being a secular state, religion dominates everyday discourse and hence remains a continual hiccup for the remedy of racial tensions. The term “racial tension” in Malaysia does not give a contextual picture of its predicament; instead most racial conflicts arise in the form of religious clashes, predominantly between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this sense, moderation with its inclination for tolerance and understanding, plays a role in bridging this religious divide and subsequently uniting the nation.

In a more practical manner, moderation could be achieved via organised interfaith activities such as forums, dialogues, workshops or even a walkabout. Instead of cowering behind the façade of sensitivity and taboo, youths should be encouraged to boldly participate in interfaith activities with the opportunity to engage with leaders of faith; clearing misconceptions while gaining further knowledge on other members of the nation.

With such an interactive exposure, participants would hopefully gain an insight on the commonalities of different religions, identify elements of extremism and perhaps even recognise the “weaponisation” of religion that often surfaces in the realm of politics. It is only until this level of maturity and moderation is achieved where youths can individualise and view others objectively.
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/12/31/importance-of-national-unity-and-the-role-of-moderation-importance-of-national-unity-and-the-role-of/#J301FYyr6vIrraQC.99

Crimes, tragedy and scandal that rock Sabah

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Catamaran tragedy

Eight people, including seven from China, perished after the catamaran they boarded with 20 other tourists and crewmen capsized off Pulau Mengalum on Jan 28 – the first day of the Chinese New Year.

The vessel with 28 tourists and three crew members left the jetty in Tanjung Aru around 9am that day and was scheduled to arrive at Mengalum Island some two hours later – it never made it as it was struck by strong waves due to the bad weather some eight nautical miles off the island.

The skipper and a crewman were rescued by fishermen off Kudat the following morning and the incident was immediately related to the authority.

A search and recover (SAR) operation was launched, involving the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) Air Wing Unit.

The SAR team managed to rescue 20 tourists, but they also found three bodies. Five people, including a 10-year-old child and a second crewman, were never found. The SAR operation also extended into Sarawak waters, off Miri.

A week into the tragedy, the SAR team found a woman’s body stuck in a fishing net belonging to a local fishing crew near Semarang areas, at 9.25am on Feb 4.

The body was found about eight nautical miles southwest off Pulau Mengalum, 13 nautical miles north-east of the last known position of the fatal incident, and 20 nautical miles to the west of Pulau Tiga.

The SAR team also found five orange life jackets on Jan 31, Feb 1, Feb 4, Feb 7 and Feb 9, but none of these was from the ill-fated catamaran.

The Jan 28 tragedy was considered jto be one of the longest SAR operations in the maritime history of Malaysia, spanning 126 days. It was finally called off at 9.20am on Jun 2.

Dent Havent kidnapping

Five Malaysians who were abducted by Abu Sayyaf in the waters off Dent Havent, Lahad Datu in July 2016, were finally released after being held captive for eight months.

Abdul Rahim Summas, 62, Tayuddin Anjut, 45, Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, Fandy Bakran, 26, and Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, were abducted while on their way to Semporna after sending sand to Sandakan.

The incident was first realised when security forces found an empty, abandoned tug boat near Dent Havent on July 18, 2016.

Following continuous negotiations by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and their Philippine counterparts, the five men were finally released in March.

Tayudin and Abdul Rahim were found on a boat drifting off southern Philippines on March 23, while Jumadil, Mohd Ridzuan and Fandy are said to have been released by their captors on March 27.

Jalan Damai hostage situation

It was a harrowing experience for a local woman, who was being held at knife point by her captor for two hours during a hostage situation on May 10.

The 7.30pm incident at Jalan Damai in Kota Kinabalu was open to full view by the public, where a shirtless man was seen dragging the woman some 1.5km backwards, warning police not to come close and threatening to slit her throat open if they did.

Police investigation revealed that prior to the incident, the suspect had initially entered a house at Taman Istimewa in a burglary attempt, but failed when the house owner’s shouts prompted him to flee to a neighbour’s house. The suspect then grabbed the woman and took her hostage.

Police cordoned off both ends of Jalan Damai as they continued to negotiate with the suspect.

Throughout the two hours, police finally persuaded the man to let some ‘paramedics’ – who were actually police personnel in disguise – examine the victim. That was when the men-in-blue subdued the suspect.

The woman, in her 20s, only sustained a minor injury and was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital II for treatment. The 27-year-old suspect was charged with kidnapping and murder attempt under Section 3 of Kidnapping Act 1961 and Section 307 of the Penal Code, respectively.

by Elton Gomes, features@theborneopost.com

Read more @ http://www.theborneopost.com/2017/12/31/crimes-tragedy-and-scandal-that-rock-sabah/

What 2018 holds

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

PROFESSIONAL forecasters like to say that making predictions is difficult, particularly about the future. As we reach the end of 2017, however, here are some of the key themes — and questions — that look set to shape global events next year.

WILL Mueller’s Russia investigation mark the end of Trump’s presidency?

President Donald Trump didn’t expect to be TIME’s “Man of the Year” for 2017, but 2018 could be the year that we get a clearer idea of the legacy he will leave.

First, it should become clear just how much mileage prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election really has. Further arrests of high-profile figures might signal that investigators have acquired useful information from key individuals now helping them with their inquiries, particularly former national security adviser Mike Flynn and Trump aide George Papadopoulos. So far we have plenty of rumour, but precious little detail.

The real question is whether Mueller can pin evidence of a conspiracy on Trump. If the prosecutor can’t reach Trump himself, some of Trump’s Russia problems may begin to ease.

If, however, it becomes clear the president or those near him have attempted to pervert the course of justice, then the situation will change abruptly.

US political experts are virtually unanimous in their belief that Republicans will not impeach Trump in 2018, but that calculus may shift if the Democrats manage to capitalise on Republicans’ unpopularity in the November mid-terms and take control of either the Senate or the House.

WILL Trump or North Korea risk moving beyond bluster and posturing to military action?

In many ways, the likely trajectory of events surrounding North Korea is easier to predict. Based on events so far, it seems almost certain Kim Jong-un will continue to test increasingly powerful bombs and rockets. As Pyongyang’s ability to strike the US mainland increases, Washington will get increasingly aggressive — but likely will still remain reluctant to launch any kind of strike that could trigger a devastating conflagration.

There remain several wildcards in play, however. The most obvious is whether Trump might ignore the cautionary noises coming from the Pentagon and beyond and attempt to decapitate Kim’s regime and weapons programme militarily.

For now, both Japan and South Korea remain extremely cautious about the idea of a unilateral US strike, with South Korea repeatedly stating that it would wish to veto any such action.

Washington’s longstanding alliance with South Korea means that Trump should — in theory, at least — get Seoul’s consent before trying to shoot down a North Korean test missile using regional ground-based interceptors.

Such a strategy would be high risk — Washington’s credibility would suffer if the interceptor rocket missed its target.

Aside from the nuclear threat, don’t discount Pyongyang’s growing cyber capabilities.

Its suspected efforts to penetrate the US electric grid could escalate into crippling attacks on critical infrastructure.

Keep an eye on Russia and China too. So far, Moscow has been broadly supportive of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions while Beijing has been much more cautious. A shift in either position might well influence Kim’s thinking.

Whatever happens, expect more posturing and more sanctions.

WILL Europe’s multiple crises reach crunch point?

This has been a volatile year for Europe. After the shock of the Brexit vote in 2016, France and the Netherlands fended off electoral challenges from the far-right. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged from Germany’s October election with diminished support and a struggle to form a viable coalition government. That means the country may have to go back to the polls next year.

The surprisingly strong performance of pro-Catalan independence parties in December elections means domestic tensions within Spain will remain on the table next year, with a new independence referendum looking increasingly likely.

The problem is none of the strains within the continent have gone away — frustration with government policies on migration, the ongoing struggle to keep the single currency bloc and, of course, the ongoing trauma of how to make Brexit work.

The latter issue will escalate in importance throughout the year, as British and EU negotiators attempt to transform December’s preliminary agreement into a workable deal before Britain leaves the union in March 2019.

That progress will inevitably hit problems, and if it breaks down entirely a new UK election — or even another referendum — remain plausible.

The far-right hasn’t gone away either. The results of local and national elections in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Holland, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Sweden will all be watched for signs that populists are gaining ground.

WILL new conflicts erupt as America’s Mideast influence slips?

For all the sound and fury following Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, 2018 will likely see America ever less at the heart of events in the region.

US forces will continue to mop up remnants of Islamic State and other militant groups, but Washington will increasingly take a backseat to regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran when it comes to driving events.

With Teheran seeming to have strengthened its influence in Iraq and Syria this year, expect Sunni Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to push back ever harder against their Shia rival.

The war in Yemen will likely remain the bloodiest theatre, a humanitarian catastrophe largely invisible from the outside world. In addition, some analysts already believe Riyadh is already quietly encouraging Israel to consider another war in Lebanon to push back Iran’s Hezbollah proxies.

Another story worth watching will be the push by Kurdish groups for great influence within Turkey, Syria and particularly Iraq, where strains have become particularly severe since September’s independence referendum.

(from left) Donald Trump and Xi Jinping

WILL 2018 see growing challenges to authority in Russia and China?

On balance, 2017 was a good year for the leaders in Moscow and Beijing. While the West remained mired in domestic clinical crisis, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have never looked more in control.

Beneath the surface, however, those assumptions are already being tested.

Russia saw a string of anti-government and anti-corruption protests throughout 2017, and Putin will no doubt be hoping to avoid a repeat next year of one of the few prospects that could complicate the presidential election he seems certain to win. Turnout may be reduced, however — challenger and anti-corruption campaign Alexei Navalny called for a boycott this week after he was banned from running against Putin.

In China, Xi secured his position as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao at the quinquennial Communist Party Congress in September. There too, however, there are signs of quietly mounting discontent and protest, particularly in Hong Kong.

By PETER APPS.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/319957/what-2018-holds

Evolving role of the monarchs

Sunday, December 31st, 2017
The Conference of Rulers in session in October. Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy is unique in that it has nine hereditary rulers, each representing a state, and they elect among themselves a brother ruler to serve as the king for a period of five years. BERNAMA PI

MONARCHY as a form of absolutism in governance is known by a variety of names from the time of its inception.

In a primitive setup, the functions of absolutism (monarchy) was wielded by the Shaman or the head of the clan.

As communal society evolved, that function took on new forms and names, such as the “High Priest” and “The Oracle”, who held absolute power for he was the judge, jury and executioner. Such ancient forms of governance usually had a spiritual aura to back their actions, giving them a kind of divine status.

In short, none dared challenge them for fear of retribution from the spirits.

As man gained knowledge, their communal organisation evolved and became structured with definite guidelines for social, cultural and spiritual engagements. The extent of the involvement of the masses in having a free will to determine their lifestyle and existence and the nature of control over them indicated the form of governance. It ranged from dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy to democracy.

Dictatorship is rule by one individual who manipulates the mechanism of governance to remain in power and he is not accountable for his actions.

Peoples’ lives are closely regulated and monitored in such a system to conform to the dictates of the leadership. Religion is often used to maintain and legitimise such a system.

In an oligarchy, an elite group, whether a rich family dynasty, religious groups, military or rich traders, controls the state or country.

Such a system is usually tyrannical and oppressive to keep the masses in line.

Monarchy is a governance by a royal family, usually a dynasty with the patriarch as the monarch.

The extent of their control designates the nature of the different monarchies.

In a crowned republic, the power of the monarch is symbolic, while he has complete autocratic control in an absolute monarchy. In a constitutional monarchy, his power is restricted.

Democracy had its roots in the Greek city states around the 5th century BC. But, it was not a full-fledged democracy as women were not allowed to vote and an elite class held sway over governance.

Western-style democracy originated in classical Athens and the Roman Republic. But, before the 2nd century BC, the Roman emperors were absolute monarchs.

Monarchy was the most common form of government in Europe until the 19th century, when most of these countries converted to constitutional monarchy.

Before the advent of colonialism, most Southeast Asian countries were absolute monarchies that practised feudalism of governance, which divided the people mainly into nobility, landed proprietor and peasant.

In this region, absolute monarchy was based on the concept of Devaraja, in which the monarch was regarded as a demi-god or was bestowed with divine powers. He reigned supreme and exercised absolute power over the people and his lands, as well as over all matters of governance.

The people existed at the behest and pleasure of the monarch, whose authority was not restricted by any written laws, legislature or customs.

Such a form of governance, which existed in Malaysia, is documented in historical records, lore, legends and literary works, such as Hikayat Raja BersiongHikayat Merong Mahawangsa and in all Mak Yong stories.

However, this concept of absolutism as portrayed in these literary, dramatic and historical records varies from one of belligerence to a benign entity.

With the advent of colonialism in Tanah Melayu, the powers and authority of the rajas and sultans were gradually eroded by the British.

In the end, the royals were only left with the authority over religious and customary affairs, while other aspects of governance became the privy of the British colonial government to be administered by the governor general and his residents.

After World War 2, the British established the Malayan Union with the consensus of the rajas and sultans, but was opposed by Malays led by Datuk Onn Jaafar because the sultans and rajas would have lost all powers and authority on matters of state, save for religious and customary matters.

The British relented after seeing the strong opposition from Malays and replaced the Malayan Union with the Federation of Malaya with amendments to the authority of the royals who now have to be informed and consulted over matters of state.

After independence, the role of the British government was taken over by the political party in power within the context of parliamentary democracy, in which Parliament, which constitutes elected representatives that represent the people, reigns supreme on all matters of governance. And the instrument that regulates the workings of governance is the Constitution that serves as a moral and ethical guide to the matrix of individual and societal relations and engagements underlined by the principles of democracy.

And within the framework of parliamentary democracy is embedded the role of the constitutional monarchs, whose powers are circumscribed, legally bound by a constitution or legislature.

However, the status quo of the sultans and rajas remains enshrined in the Constitution as constitutional monarchs, thus the constitutional monarchy.

Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy is unique in that it has nine hereditary rulers, each representing a state, and they elect among themselves a brother ruler to serve as the king of Malaysia for a period of five years in mainly a ceremonial role as the king cannot act unilaterally, but only on the advice of the prime minister.

According to the Constitution, the powers of governance is vested in the sitting prime minister and his cabinet, who are the peoples’ representatives.

As such, all political deliberations, engagements and dissensions are confined to the peoples’ representatives and the masses as monarchs are above politics.

This is to preserve and maintain the dignity of monarchs because political involvement is a two-way engagement that could result in unsavoury and unpleasant outcome.

In the nine states, each headed by a monarch, the governing authority are the menteris besar. All state matters, except religion and cultural affairs, are under the purview of the menteris besar and elected representatives who represent the will of the people.

Unlike the olden days of absolute monarchy when subjects lived at the behest and pleasure of monarchs, today they are masters of their destiny by electing representatives to represent them and to see to their welfare and wellbeing.

Monarchs are in no way involved in the people’s lives as contact between monarchs and the people are circumscribed and confined only to official royal functions.

This is done again to maintain the aura, dignity and regality of the institution of monarchy.

Even if political representatives are not governing the country as they should, monarchs have little leeway to caution them.

However, they could still register their displeasure through the Conference of Rulers on national matters.

Notwithstanding that, the authorities are not beholden to accommodate such caution from the Conference of Rulers. It is a one-way process in that monarchs must act on the advice of the prime minister and his cabinet.

Constitutionally, they do not serve as a system of checks and balances as the power and authority rest with the prime minister and his cabinet. But in times of dire need, the people may need to have recourse to their good office to caution, advice and even intervene in matters of national import that adversely affect the people. Monarchs form the last bastion of the people to redress their plight.

By MOHAMED GHOUSE NASURUDDIN.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/319961/evolving-role-monarchs

2018 a good year for Malaysian economy

Saturday, December 30th, 2017
The government is set for the future beyond 2020 with the Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) vision. TN50 will prepare Malaysians, especially the youth, for future challenges such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an ageing society, the era of robots, climate change and the digital economy. FILE PIC

BACK in 2015, many had predicted that the Malaysian economy would dip into recession by 2018, or even earlier. Perhaps, this was based on historical data which suggests that the economy tends to plunge into a recession every seven to 10 years.

The last time the economy experienced a recession was in 2009, when gross domestic product (GDP) contracted to 1.5 per cent. There were other recessions prior to this, one in 1998, and another in 1985. The depth of the recession was more significant in 1998 when GDP took a dive to negative 7.4 per cent. In 1985, GDP contracted to 0.9 per cent.

Given this background, what is the prospect for the Malaysian economy next year?

Clearly, there is no indication whatsoever that the economy is on the path of recession or crisis. On the contrary, there is evidence emerging that suggests the economy is on course to become a high-income nation by 2020.

The World Bank, based on simulations, predicted that we are on track to achieve the target. In fact, according to Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) analysis, Malaysia may even arrive at the high-income status as early as the first quarter of 2018.

The consensus forecast for Malaysian economic growth in 2018 is within the range of 5.5 to 5.8 per cent, with the prospect of stable inflation and low unemployment. There is evidence to suggest that the overall wellbeing of the people has improved steadily as incomes edged higher, especially for the bottom 40 (B40) group. Data shows that the education system is improving, number of jobs growing, income and regional inequalities are being reduced, and public transportation is becoming better over time. And, this trend is set to continue next year for reasons which I will elaborate.

For the first time since the great recession, the world economy is in a somewhat positive mood. It is projected to grow at more than 2.5 per cent next year. Interestingly, both developed and emerging economies are forecast to perform better next year.

The United States and the rest of Europe are expected to turn in an average growth rate of two per cent in 2018 while China, despite its slower than expected growth rate, is still a major force, with an economic trajectory of around 6.7 per cent next year. And without a doubt, the recently unveiled 2018 Budget, touted as the “mother of all budgets”, will further boost the Malaysian economy as we approach 2018, especially the people part.

The 14th General Election (GE-14) will be the central issue next year. While the government has a clear economic plan, a policy direction and a vision, the opposition has merely an incoherent economic wishlist: to abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to have free education and to reduce the civil service. These are not economic plans, they represent an economic wishlist. Contrast it with the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), which is set to turn the country into a high-income, inclusive, and sustainable economy by 2020.

Instead of reverting to the past, the government is set for the future beyond 2020 with the Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) vision. TN50 will prepare Malaysians, especially the youth, for future challenges such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), an ageing society, the era of robots, climate change and the digital economy.

Indeed, with the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) this year, 60,000 high-income jobs are expected to be created primarily for the youth.

From the perspective of financial management of the country, the prospect for 2018 is promising.

Our international reserves now stand at US$102.2 billion (RM416.97 billion), which is sufficient to finance 7.5 months of retained imports and 1.1 times short-term external debt.

This compares starkly with 1998, when our reserves stood at a mere US$20 billion, sufficient to finance just 2.6 months of retained imports.

As for the prospect of the ringgit strengthening, we can see that the Malaysian currency is now performing well at RM4.08 against the US dollar compared with 1998 when it was at RM4.88.

Other indicators, such as the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDIs) and trade activities are also expected to improve. This is due to major investments in public transportation infrastructure and strong bilateral ties with important economies such as China, the US, Saudi Arabia, India, and Japan.

The 14 Malaysia-China business memoranda of understanding (MoU) and the 31 Malaysia-India business MoUs for instance, are expected to bring about RM302.4 billion worth of investments into Malaysia.

Multi-regional economic links such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are also set to take effect in 2018.

By DR IRWAN SHAH ZAINAL ABIDIN.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/319399/2018-good-year-malaysian-economy

Recognition for tech and vocational job holders.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017
Idris and Ahmad Zaidee (right) lifting up the plaque at the closing of the summit. Looking on is Dr Hamisah.

Idris and Ahmad Zaidee (right) lifting up the plaque at the closing of the summit. Looking on is Dr Hamisah.

TECHNOLOGISTS and technicians can no longer be considered as “second class engineers”.

In fact, thanks to the establishment of the Malaysia Board of Technologists (MBOT), jobs under these categories will now receive the recognition and accreditation they deserve.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the board formed by the Government, plays an important role in upholding the integrity of the professions.

“MBOT also gives a space to technologists and those in the technical and vocational fields to receive proper training because they are required to face the fourth industrial revolution,” he said during the recent closing of its Technology and Technical Accreditation Summit 2017.

Recognising these professions is not something new as this is already practised in countries like France and Korea, said Idris.

“TVET (Technology and Vocational Education and Training) is growing just as fast as conventional academics in this country,” he added.

Idris also said that MBOT has partnered with Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to give accreditation to courses for technologists and technicians.

The Technology and Technical Accreditation Council and the Technology and Technical Accreditation Secretariat is the result of this partnership, he said.

To date, the agency has received more than 30 accreditation applications from public institutions of higher education for their courses.

During the summit, 17 higher education institutions, which were given self-accreditation status by MQA, and four programmes from Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) were accredited by MBOT and MQA.

Also present at the event was MBOT President Tan Sri Ahmad Zaidee Laidin and Higher Education director-general Datin Paduka Dr Hamisah Tapsir.

Meanwhile, Bernama quoted Idris as saying that students who are currently pursuing their PhD under the ministry’s sponsorship will be allowed to extend the duration of their studies.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/12/24/recognition-for-tech-and-vocational-job-holders/#zaPKxK5LRO1bcU4y.99

Sports as a symbol of national unity in Malaysian schools.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

The year is 2017, and Malaysia has just celebrated its 60th Independence Day. 6 decades have passed since the Union Jack was last raised. 6 decades have passed since the colonizers last walked on our soils. 6 decades have passed since our forefathers last bowed to foreigners. These last 6 decades has since seen the successful rise of a country from humble beginnings. Our leaders have been relentlessly striving to push Malaysia forward in every way. Undoubtedly, these efforts would have been fruitless if it were not for the unity and moderation of the Malaysian people. In light of Malaysia’s 60th Independence Day, this essay will discuss the use of a timeless symbol to promote national unity in schools.

Qualities such as respect, tolerance, moderation and cooperation are essential building blocks of unity that should be nurtured from a young age. In relation, sports is no stranger to any Malaysian household. Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicole Ann David, Pandelela Rinong and Azizulhasni Awang are some of our homegrown legends. Indeed, one has to put aside colour, religion and even social standing to succeed in a game. Sports therefore provides the perfect platform to cultivate values of unity in the young.

While sports is undoubtedly the perfect symbol of national unity, the question remains; how can we utilise sports to promote national unity in schools? The simple answer is to incorporate sports as much as possible into school schedules. Children already have at least an hour of physical education scheduled every week aside from being in a sports club as part of their extra-curricular activities. Let us now take the effort further by giving importance to team based activities such as football, volleyball, netball, basketball and hockey. Teachers can segregate students into teams with a mix of children from various ethnicities and backgrounds. Initially, they might not see eye to eye. But as their attention shifts to the game, their differences will long be forgotten. Also, maintaining the same team for the entire year as well as having frequent practices will solidify their bond and build strong friendships. Persistent and consistent effort is therefore vital in establishing sports as a mean to promote national unity in schools.

Besides that, school teachers should expose students to local sports heroes that have glorified Malaysia. Our heroes paved their way through hardship, relentlessly working around the clock to achieve their goals. Most importantly, they did not let skin colour, ethnicity and social background inhibit their potential. Stories of our national football team that consists of multi-racial players are the perfect example to be shared with students – only recently did the Malaysian football team reach beyond expectations at the 2017 SEA Games. An ancient African proverb accurately describes this – ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’.

As a developing country, it is important to not overlook any community in efforts of promoting national unity. Children with special abilities should thus be given equal attention and the chance to be a part of this wonderful effort. Lesser known sports activities that are tailored to these students should be introduced to schools and facilities to train them must be provided. Once again, these children can be trained to compete at a higher level where they will build a strong sense of unity and loyalty to the country, in addition to gaining worldwide recognition.

By Shajeedth Suresh Naidu
SMK Subang Utama, Subang Jaya
Second prize winner, Category A
Asli-Star Merdeka Essay Writing Competition 2017.
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/12/24/sports-as-a-symbol-of-national-unity-in-malaysian-schools/#xvVsFFR6U3yPd2tH.99

Party on but don’t go overboard

Saturday, December 30th, 2017
Countdown ready: Fireworks are in place ahead of the New Year’s celebration in Kuala Lumpur.

Countdown ready: Fireworks are in place ahead of the New Year’s celebration in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: The long weekend has started – and so has the long celebration for New Year’s Eve tomorrow.

While Malaysians are urged to keep calm – in light of fears of terrorism – and party on, they are also advised to stay safe during this happy period and to refrain from excessive drinking and eating.

Around the country, police will be on the watch out for any untoward incidents.

Also, dietitians are warning Malaysians – already the most obese in South-East Asia – not to overeat during this festive period

Police have stepped up security ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebration tomorrow and put up roadblocks to detain errant drivers.

This, according to Kuala Lumpur police chief Comm Datuk Mazlan Lazim, is to prepare for any eventualities.

“While there is no threat detected presently, we can’t afford to take any chances. We are staying vigilant with increased security at strategic locations particularly where the New Year’s countdown are being held,” he said when contacted.

Besides being ready for any security threat, Comm Mazlan said police personnel would also be deployed for crime prevention and enforcement operations throughout the city.

“We are also watching out for offenders of traffic violations, including driving under the influence of alcohol. We want the people to have a good time attending the year-end parties but not at the expense of their safety,” he said.

He said that some 950 personnel would be on duty on New Year’s Eve to see to the enforcement operations.

In Selangor, the state’s top cop Comm Datuk Mazlan Mansor said the police are ready to ensure the safety and security of the public.

“We will deploy police personnel in the state to ensure that everything goes smoothly, especially the various celebrations to usher in the New Year. We cannot afford to let our guard down thus every personnel will be on alert,” he said.

Comm Mazlan advised the people, especially partygoers, to abide by the laws.

“It is not a crime to have fun but please don’t go overboard. We will carry out operations around the state, including setting roadblocks at various checkpoints,” he said.

He reminded the people to not violate traffic laws. “Usher in the New Year without breaking the law,” he said.

In Johor Baru, police warned revellers to either behave themselves or face stern action.

State police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd said police had always advised revellers to be careful during festivals and celebrations, although some chose to ignore the caution.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/12/30/party-on-but-dont-go-overboard-cops-remind-revellers-to-follow-traffic-laws-and-prioritise-safety/#1XB5fzpCQy6rqk0c.99