Isnin, 3 Jun 2013

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Why wait until after GE13 to jack up car parking rates?

Posted: 02 Jun 2013 05:11 PM PDT

Dr Ching Eu Boon

PAKATAN Rakyat loudly bandies about lowering oil and car prices which attracted mass appeal from the urban crowd. However, Pakatan cleverly omits informing is that once power is retained, they have increased charges at the local authority level. The most recent one as reported by Utusan Malaysia (June 3, 2013) regarding the Shah Alam City Council hiking up car parking charges from 40 sen to 60 sen per hour.
This move is inconsiderate as Shah Alam being the state administrative centre houses many government offices be it federal or state government where Klang Valley residents irrespective of which constituency they belong to – be they from the Federal Territory or Selangor, will make a trip there. 
They will have a new financial burden each time they drive to Shah Alam to settle personal or business-related matters involving government departments like MyKad and passport applications or renewals, local council quit rent and assessment payments, shoplot billboard licences, land checks, etc. Civil servants and private sector employees working in Shah Alam will likewise be affected with the higher rates as will guests of patients warded in hospital in Selangor's capital.
Another issue that arises over the hiked car parking charges is that if the Shah Alam City Council has prepared sufficient car parking lots, and if those weighed down by wear-and-tear have been upgraded.
Pakatan touts itself as a government that cares for the people's welfare but it has glossed over day-to-day matters which impact ordinary Malaysians. If the Selangor Pakatan government was sincere about retaining people's votes, why did it not introduce these new charges before May 5, 2013, unless they feared losing votes?
BN sincere in reducing rakyat's burden
Barisan Nasional, on the other hand has proven our sincerity in alleviating the rakyat's burden. Even as early as Feb 17, 2011 (more than 2 years before the 13th general election), Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib Abdul Razak had announced New Pantai Expressway toll rate between Petaling Jaya Selatan and Kampung Medan has been cut to RM1 from RM1.60. Before that, on Jan 28, 2011 the premier also announced no increase in toll for the next five years at the Karak and East Coast Phase One highways. Najib had announced toll rates at PLUS expressways would be frozen for five years when tabling the Budget 2011.
Dr Ching Eu Boon
MCA Selangor Youth Deputy Chairman

Revolutionizing Malaysian Enlightenment through Critical Thinking

Posted: 02 Jun 2013 01:08 PM PDT 

Critical thinking is not the same as negative thinking. This is where many of us have not yet been able to come to terms with. 

Anas Alam Faizli

When Adam (AS) plucked the fruit from the forbidden tree in Heaven according to the revealed books of Abrahamic beliefs, he marked the first ever instance of man making a conscious choice by utilizing his thinking faculty and free will. That he was then descended upon earth in Sarandib Island (modern day Sri Lanka) while Eve in Jeddah, or that he was to grace the earth as caliph, was pre-destined. The plucking of the fruit could not have been avoided but the point is to take heed from the process that led to that decision. Descartes, famously claimed that humans exist because we think; "I think, therefore I am." The human being and thinking are inseparable.

What is the truth? Is there God? Throughout history, God has been asking us to think. God has been teaching us to think. God grants wisdom and intuition, while free will cultivates thought. The depiction of Moses (AS) attaining revelation in a thinking exile at ThurSina' circa 1200BC is an example of the journey for truth. So was that of Abraham (AS) circa 2000BC. Having received no satisfactory answer on questions of life and deity, the latter took to the night to discover in vain that the stars and the moon could not possibly have been God, as both disappeared when the day took over the night.

Thousands of years later, humanity's connection to God is no longer as direct. Questions of the purpose of life, divine will, foreordainment and predestination have been put on the backburner, or left to "daydreaming" philosophers. The pursuit of truth is no longer our main preoccupation.

More recently, the film Oblivion illustrated the attainment of truth stimulatingly, via thinking and curiosity in the modern world. Protagonist Jack Harper found "truth" from asking questions upon questions, prompted by an intriguing piece of reading. Philosophers and historical figures, the likes of Confucius, Siddhartha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Farabi, Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyyah, Kant, Hegel, Locke, Bentham, Marx, Nietzche, Sartre, Ali Shariati and many more examined man and life by continuously asking questions and seeking truth. Albert Einstein once even mentioned that he has no special talent other than that he was passionately curious. The baton thus gets continuously passed down to other philosophers until the modern age. It was critical thinking that allowed humanity to engender and bear witness the greatness of ancient civilizations, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment period, the Islamic golden age, and the modern world.

Thinking as Tool to Achieve First World Mentality

The Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform in America summarized critical thinking as an intellectually disciplined process. It involves active and skillful conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information of information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication. This is a lot of big, conceptual words, but to understand this is to look at the core product of critical thinking, that is a guide to belief and action. It is the opposite of simply acquiring and retaining information, or a set of skills without being able to feel or empathize with the results of that skill set. It is only critical thinking that will enable us to extract the fruits of educating our citizens, from the belief that they consequently form and act upon.

Often we see that it is in developed economies where empathy towards the environment, animal rights, or cultural heritage is demonstrated. So too is the case for philosophy and thought. People of developing economies are too busy building economic wealth to occupy themselves with things like saving the environment, arts and literature and philosophy; in other words, intellectual wealth.

If we believe Malaysia is heading towards developed nation status, we must quickly recognize that going into the next step of development can no longer be just the "brick and mortar" Twin Towers, Sepang F1 and Putrajaya, economic, and empirical scientific kinds of "growth". We can't step into First World Status with a Third World mentality, severely underequipped in intellect and thought.

The Ironic "Trichotomy" of Thinking, Knowledge and Education

Engaging a Malaysia that thinks, we cannot run away from attacking the problem at its core, and that is education. In the past, education has focused too much on producing doctors and engineers, that the quality and development of the linguistic and literary sciences has been pushed back too. Even with commerce, natural and physical sciences, the critical thinking element is overshadowed by the pressing need to digest knowledge and facts.

Piecemeal, modern world-type solutions have been offered by the education ministry using jargon such as Creative and Critical Thinking Skill (KBKK). Unfortunately, it is limited to adding some relatively out-of-the-box math or science questions appended at selected pages within the text books, usually for better-performing students to attempt. The built and construction of the system remains the same. 15-year old Malaysians have consistently dropped in performance in the TIMSS (participated 1999) and ranked amongst third bottom percentile in the PISA. Both assessments tested the higher order thinking skills of our pupils.

What we need Malaysian students to empathize with is something very much deeper; like observing their local communities, questioning purpose, reason, logic, being creative, appreciating literature, language and music as sciences in their own rights, being critical, innovative, improvising and technological. In the ancient world, knowledge is achieved by scholarship from great teachers who guide students into discovering the fundamental truths of existence and purpose. Now, knowledge is unemotionally reduced to condensed and concise textbooks to be memorized. Malaysians who come out of such a system are limited to a narrow idea of success, rights, boundaries and purpose. We become so confined to pursuits of economic wealth and pleasure, thus rarely think beyond the default doctrines or syllabus.

This "trichotomy of thinking, knowledge and education" is plaguing not only us, but also much of the developed western world. For America, the battle is saving the new generation from societal doldrums, having tasted economic success. But for Malaysia, going too far down the wrong road may mean perishing even before reaching the peak. The victims, surely, are not us nor the policy makers in their glass paneled Putrajaya offices. It is our children, and Malaysia.

Rethinking Critical Thinking via Philosophy Education

My first humble proposition is to establish a faculty of philosophy in every tertiary institution. This is not new; leading Universities e.g. Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge and MIT all have a faculty of philosophy. The word philosophy originated from the Greek word philea and sophia which means love and wisdom, hence philosophy is the love of wisdom. In academia, often it is the study of basic fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.
A faculty of philosophy will begin to help solve the dire need for thinkers and inculcate knowledgeable persons within our society. Philosophy opens our minds, pushes us to reason, question things, which thus prepares the perfect grounds for critical thinking. While some human capital is best placed in the industry to produce tangible economic outcomes, there must be space for those who are best to appreciate great works of past thinkers that built human civilizations, to research, explore and retrieve solutions to some of the most pertinent problems that plague society currently.

Secondly, I propose making compulsory the subject of philosophy to all tertiary level students. Even at its most basic level, philosophy is one of the best ways to get students of knowledge to reason, because it is the foundation for every subject which will lead to the understanding of philosophy of religion, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of sciences, philosophy of social sciences, philosophy of economics, thoughts and the list goes on. Whatever his or her field of discipline is, credit hours on philosophy will provide basic tools to keep them grounded to the purpose of studying, and the purpose of the particular field they are studying.

Relentless economic pursuits have backfired. The lack of critical thinking is arguably why we lack innovation, and thus limited economic abilities. Even with disciplines which supposedly produce "returns on investment" such as medicine, sciences, engineering or business, students do not fully appreciate the philosophy behind them, and thus not many are incentivized to probe further. When knowledge is supplemented with thinking and translated into development and innovative capabilities, the economic bounty of an enlightened Malaysia is actually far larger.

Countering the Oppressed Mentality via Thinking

Ordinary Malaysians need to understand the meaning of words to modern nation states like Malaysia, such as freedom, justice and democracy. They need to question first, in order to understand the purpose of certain jurisdictions, rulings or systems. In fact, there must be encouraging mechanisms for Malaysians to be allowed to think out of the box defined by schools, societal norms, and the government.

On the surface, this may seem like encouragement to partake in unnecessary rebellious activities threatening public safety. But consider the reverse psychology and unintended moral hazard that prevails; it is often when oppressed that people side with the opposite, even when the opposing side may not be the truth or most ideal. The younger generations especially, will easily be influenced by any idea, regardless of its validity, purely because it is against the mainstream. This is not healthy. We need to liberalize intellectual discussions and arguments. The marginalized and the oppressed should be given room for dialogue and debate. Ideas should be contested in the public sphere.

Evidence has shown that liberalizing ideas and thoughts sparked Britain's Industrial Revolution. Malaysia too should embrace "Enlightenment" beyond superficial prosperity, through Critical Thinking. Because many authorities were never willing to embrace the idea of a freedom of thought, speech and expression that challenges the status quo, the internet and social media helped fuel waves of reform beyond imagination, such as the Arab Spring and the public show of solidarity against the results of the recent 13th General Elections.


Critical thinking is not the same as negative thinking. This is where many of us have not yet been able to come to terms with. There is such deep and engraved fear in questioning boundaries and rights as citizens of a nation that have been endowed with human rights, and on-paper sovereignty. Malaysians must begin to think. Thoughts have not only fuelled revolutions and counter-establishment movements, but have also shaped academia, society and influenced leadership, policy-making, and ultimately mankind's general livelihood.

If we allow thinking to flourish, it will turn into dividends for our small sovereign nation, still grappling to understand the true meaning of growth, modernity and human development. If we keep suppressing and fail to encourage thought, Malaysians will be left divided and haphazardly finding meaning amidst global external influences. 

I have always been a proponent of a reading culture as a crucial way to propel Malaysia into First World Nation-hood. This will only happen if Critical Thinking becomes the next step.

"The unexamined life is not worth living" – Socrates

*Anas Alam Faizli is an oil and gas professional. He is pursuing a post-graduate doctorate, Executive Director of TFTN and tweets at @aafaizli

Mengambil Ikhtibar Daripada Pilihanraya Umum 13

Posted: 02 Jun 2013 12:48 PM PDT

Tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa kaum Cina yang paling kukuh kedudukannya di peringkat atasan dan pertengahan dalam hierarki ekonomi negara. Pengamalan budaya dan bahasa Cina yang disokong oleh sistem pendidikan Cina, berleluasa di negara ini ---- suatu fenomena yang tidak wujud di mana-mana negara lain di luar Republik Cina dan Taiwan. Jelas bahawa kaum Cina tidak dianaktirikan dan bukan warga kelas dua.

Chandra Muzaffar

Situasi selepas Pilihanraya Umum (PRU) 13 berbeza daripada dua belas pilihanraya sebelum ini atas satu sebab. Perhimpunan diadakan di beberapa tempat di Semenanjung untuk menentang keputusan PRU 13 kerana kononnya " penipuan besar-besaran dilakukan" oleh Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya (SPR) dan Barisan Nasional.


Setakat ini pemimpin-pemimpin pembangkang tertentu yang membuat tuduhan ini gagal mengemukakan sebarang bukti yang kukuh. Setiap tuduhan liar yang direka --- dari 40,000 rakyat Bangladesh yang diterbangkan ke Malaysia sebagai "pengundi hantu" ke peristiwa "blackout" di Bentong --- hanya mengesahkan bahawa kita berdepan dengan pembohong-pembohong bertaraf dunia.

SPR serta beberapa pakar undang-undang telah berulang kali menekankan bahawa sekiranya pembangkang memiliki bukti tentang penipuan di mana-mana kawasan pililihanraya, di peringkat negeri mahupun di peringkat parlimen, petisyen boleh dikemukakan di mahkamah seperti yang diperuntukkan dalam Perlembagaan Malaysia. Ini adalah saluran undang-undang yang digunapakai sejak pilihanraya umum pertama pada 1959.       

Sekiranya ada cara tertib berdasarkan Perlembagaan untuk menyelesaikan isu-isu pilihanraya, kenapa sebahagian daripada pembangkang terus memprotes? Jelas bahawa protes merupakan agenda ketua mereka, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, untuk mencapai cita-cita besar beliau iaitu, menjadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia. Beliau berharap bahawa siri perhimpunan akan menjejas kredibiliti kerajaan BN dan ini mungkin dapat memujuk beberapa ahli parlimen BN melompat masuk pakatan pembangkang. Kemerosotan kredibiliti BN juga mungkin mendorong lobi-lobi tertentu di negara-negara Barat seperti Amerika Syarikat (AS) memesatkan kempen mereka untuk menekan kerajaan Dato Sri Mohd Najib menyahut tuntutan-tuntutan Anwar tentang pilihanraya.

Tetapi, Anwar tidak akan mencapai matlamatnya. Majoriti rakyat Malaysia tahu bahawa keputusan PRU 13 adalah adil dan mencerminkan realiti sentimen dan kecenderungan politik kini. Pembangkang sebagai contoh telah memperolehi 89 kerusi parlimen -- yang terbanyak dalam sejarah politik negara, selain daripada mengekalkan kuasa dalam tiga buah negeri dengan majoriti besar! Kerajaan-kerajaan Barat, termasuk kerajaan AS, menerima keputusan PRU 13 secara rasmi dan liputan dalam media Barat yang pro-Anwar pun sudah berkurangan.

Pendekatan kerajaan BN juga membantu BN menguasai keadaan. Polis tidak cuba menyuraikan perhimpunan-perhimpunan dengan gas pemedih mata dan sebagainya. Cuma beberapa aktivis didakwa kerana melanggar undang-undang tertentu.

Kerajaan BN yang dipilih secara demokratik harus terus memerintah secara normal. Kabinet peringkat pusat dan sepuluh buah negeri yang dikuasai BN harus melaksanakan dasar-dasar dan program-program mereka. Bertindak secara normal adalah respon yang paling sesuai terhadap mereka yang  ghairah dengan perhimpunan dan demonstrasi.


Pada masa yang sama BN perlu memberi fokus kepada cabaran-cabaran yang masih belum diatasi. Kos hidup yang meningkat yang memberi dampak pada  golongan yang kurang berada, terutamanya dikawasan bandar --- sebahagian daripada mereka menolak BN dalam PRU 13 ---- harus ditangani dengan langkah-langkah yang lebih berkesan. Pengawalan terhadap harga barangan; perumahan mampu milik oleh golongan kurang berada; penyediaan sistem pengangkutan awam yang cekap dan menyeluruh; dan struktur gaji yang adil, adalah antara perubahan-perubahan yang harus dilaksanakan melalui  penyususan semula ekonomi.

Pembenterasan rasuah, yang juga merupakan isu besar dalam PRU 13, memerlukan iltizam yang lebih kuat dari kepimpinan politik. Dalam hubungan ini, cadangan daripada Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) yang pernah disyorkan oleh NGO-NGO sebelum ini, untuk melarang sanak-saudara ahli-ahli Kabinet, EXCO negeri atau pegawai-pegawai tinggi perkhidmatan awam daripada membidakan kontrak atau projek kerajaan semasa mereka memegang jawatan, harus dikuatkuasakan dengan serta-merta. Begitu juga, suatu mekanisma perlu dibentuk untuk mempertingkatkan akses masyarakat kepada aset dan liabiliti semua ahli Parlimen dan Dewan Undangan dan keluarga terdekat mereka, sepertimana terdapat dibeberapa negara yang lain.

Tahap insiden jenayah yang membimbangkan adalah satu lagi cabaran yang menghadapi kepimpinan BN dewasa ini. Dalam PRU 13, isu ini diperalatkan oleh pembangkang untuk menunjukkan pengundi bahawa BN gagal melindungi keselamatan khalayak ramai. Pendekatan yang lebih berkesan adalah pra-syarat untuk memulihkan keyakinan rakyat terhadap pemerintah.             

Dalam suasana politik pasca PRU 13, BN juga memberi perhatian kepada struktur BN. Dalam keadaan dimana prestasi parti-parti Cina merosot sama sekali, kita faham kenapa pemimpin-pemimpin BN tertentu bertanya sama ada sudah tiba masanya untuk membubarkan semua parti komponen dan digantikan dengan satu parti tunggal. Ini adalah persoalan yang kompleks yang perlu dikaji secara mendalam.

Yang lebih penting dan lebih mencabar, adalah sikap dan nilai-nilai kepimpinan dan keahlian parti-parti komponen BN. Oleh kerana UMNO dan BN sudah berkuasa selama beberapa dasawarsa dan hidup dalam zon selesa, apakah semangat perjuangan, semangat pengorbanan pemimpin dan ahli mereka sudah luntur? Apakah ini ikhtibar daripada PRU 12 dan 13? Apakah benar BN kini lebih mengutamakan wang, kuasa dan kedudukan jika dibandingkan dengan Perikatan pada peringkat awal perjuanganya? Apakah penyakit materialisme ini yang merupakan tragedi BN yang sukar diubati?


Bagaimana pula dengan parti-parti pembangkang yang menggelarkan diri sebagai "pakatan rakyat" yang masih belum mewujudkan suatu gabungan yang mantap yang  mempunyai struktur kepimpinan, simbol dan misi perjuangan yang sama khususnya dalam soal agama dan kaum? Sebenarnya, jurang ideologi yang membezakan PAS dan DAP amat ketara: PAS dengan idea negara Islamnya yang ditakrifkan melalui hudud dan DAP dengan fahaman 'Malaysian Malaysianya' yang meminggirkan sejarah dan latarbelakang politik negara ini. Dapatkah pemimpin dua parti ini mengurangkan jurang ini dalam tempoh lima tahun akan datang ini?

Cabaran yang jauh lebih serius yang berhadapan dengan ketiga-tiga parti pembangkang adalah keihklasan mereka dalam menbendung sentimen-sentimen politik tertentu yang akan memudaratkan negara kita sekiranya tindakan tidak diambil dari sekarang. DAP, sejak ditubuhkan pada 1966, mengeksploitasi sentimen marah dan kecewa di kalangan sebahagian besar daripada kaum Cina dan sebahagian daripada kaum India yang berhubungkait dengan kedudukan istimewa bangsa Melayu dan Bumiputra Sabah dan Sarawak dalam Perlembagaan Malaysia dan Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB). Gambaran yang diberikan kepada bukan Melayu dan bukan Bumiputra adalah bahawa kerajaan menganugerahkan segala-galanya kepada Melayu dan Bumiputra manakala bukan Melayu dan bukan Bumiputra di anaktirikan dan dilayani sebagai 'warga kelas dua.'  

Keadaan sebenar ekonomi, budaya dan politik masyarakat kita jauh berbeza daripada persepsi yang dibentuk oleh DAP. Tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa kaum Cina yang paling kukuh kedudukannya di peringkat atasan dan pertengahan dalam hierarki ekonomi negara. Pengamalan budaya dan bahasa Cina yang disokong oleh sistem pendidikan Cina, berleluasa di negara ini ---- suatu fenomena yang tidak wujud di mana-mana negara lain di luar Republik Cina dan Taiwan. Begitu juga, penglibatan kaum Cina dalam politik negara, jika dilihat dari segi sejarah politik Malaysia yang berakar umbi dalam sistem politik Melayu, adalah luar biasa. Jelas bahawa kaum Cina tidak dianaktirikan dan bukan warga kelas dua --- walaupun dalam pelaksanaan kedudukan istimewa dan DEB, adakalanya bukan Melayu dan bukan Bumiputra yang layak gagal mendapat tempat di universiti atau biasiswa atau pun kontrak dan lisen perniagaan. Tetapi kes-kes khusus--- ketidakadilan sedemikian rupa --- tidak boleh dijadikan asas untuk membuat kesimpulan palsu bahawa kaum Cina pada keseluruhannya dianaiya!

Kesimpulan palsu inilah yang mengghairahkan hampir keseluruhan kaum Cina untuk mengakhiri apa yang disifatkan mereka sebagai dominasi Melayu/UMNO dan mencapai "kesamaan" dalam PRU 13. Ini yang dimaksudkan dengan "Ubah" ---  cogankata DAP dalam PRU 13. Oleh kerana DAP dan kaum Cina gagal ubah kerajaan, mereka harus merenungkan secara dalam tentang kedudukan mereka, sejarah dan konteks masyarakat berbilang kaum dinegara kita, dan masa depan hubungan kaum di Malaysia. Secara ikhlas, cuba memahami realiti ekonomi, budaya dan politik masyarakat kita dan bertindak dengan seimbang berdasarkan realiti ini. Ini adalah tanggungjawab besar pemimpin-pemimpin DAP, malah cendekiawan Cina amnya.

Sekiranya renungan ini tidak berlaku dan majoriti kaum Cina terus dipengaruhi oleh persepsi yang bertentangan dengan realiti, sudah tentu masyarakat Melayu akan menjadi lebih renggang daripada kaum Cina. Polarisasi kaum akan bertambah buruk. Polarisasi kaum yang diiringi oleh ketegangan kaum mengundang pada ketidakstabilan politik yang akan menjejaskan persekitaran ekonomi.         

Sama seperti DAP, PAS juga harus membetulkan persepsi yang disebarluas di kalangan golongan muda Islam bahawa pendekatanya kepada Islam adalah Islam yang tulen yang merupakan mujarab kepada segala cabaran yang kita menghadapi di negara kita. Pendekatan PAS yang mempunyai ciri-ciri persamaan dengan beberapa negara-negara yang mengisytiharkan diri sebagai "negara Islam" serta pergerakan-pergerakan Islam di tempat-tempat lain, dipersoalkan oleh pemikir-pemikir Islam kerana lebih mementingkan kulit daripada isi agama. Itulah sebabnya negara-negara tersebut gagal memberi makna yang konkrit kepada keadilan sosial dan kemuliaan insan( termasuk kemuliaan wanita) yang menjadi cita-cita unggul Al-Quran al-Karim. Lagi pun, PAS perlu menyelami persoalan yang masih mencetuskan perbahasan tentang peranan sebuah parti Islam dalam masyarakat berbilang agama yang berfungsi dalam persekitaran politik abad 21.

Ini membawa kita kepada PKR. Parti ini juga dibawa oleh arus sentimen yang dangkal yang berkisar pada ketaksuban terhadap seorang individu. Sudah tentu ketaksuban sedemikian rupa bertentangan sama sekali dengan suasana abad 21. Ahli-ahli PKR harus membebaskan diri mereka daripada belenggu jumud ini.

Parti-parti pembangkang, sepertimana dengan BN, menghadapi banyak cabaran dalam landskap politik pasca PRU 13. Mereka harus ambil ikhtibar daripada cabaran-cabaran ini. Mereka yang belajar dan buat perubahan yang berkesan secara ikhlas akan berjaya --- Insya'Allah.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar adalah Pengerusi, Lembaga Pemegang Amanah Yayasan 1Malaysia.




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