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Half-century race

Posted: 23 Jul 2013 09:27 PM PDT

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The Lee-Mahathir debate reflected two polarised views: Umno's bumiputra-first and protectionism on one end, and the Malaysians' Malaysia and meritocracy of PAP on the other end.

Tay Tian Yan, Sin Chew Daily 

Queries surrounding the true or fake meritocracy and quota system have reminded me of what a friend of mine used to tell me.

During the mid-1960s when Singapore was still part of the Federation, PAP's Lew Kuan Yew and Umno's Mahathir Mohamad were once having an intense debate in the Parliament.

Mahathir, who was then a fresh MP, voiced out for expanded university quota for Malay students. He said more Malay graduates would be able to groom elite members of the Malay society, hence improving the socioeconomic status of the Malays.

Lee stood up to protest, saying that providing more places for Malay students and allowing students not meeting the requirements to get into universities would only bring down the overall academic standards.

He said once the students knew they did not need to meet the basic requirements for university admission, they would slowly develop an attitude of reliance on the government.

He felt it wasn't that much a problem if no Malay students made it to the medical school of Universiti Malaya for that year. More importantly, if the students knew they had to perform well in examinations to get into the medical faculty, they would step up their effort and compete with students from other ethnic groups.

Perhaps a couple of Malay students could get into the medical faculty the following year, and more and more over the subsequent years.

These Malay students would no longer need to rely on the quota system to get into local universities several years down the road. At the same time, the overall standards of local universities were also maintained.

My friend is well versed in the early history of the country's nationhood and the above information could be easily retrieved from the parliament files and Lee Kuan Yew's speech collection.

The Lee-Mahathir debate reflected two polarised views: Umno's bumiputra-first and protectionism on one end, and the Malaysians' Malaysia and meritocracy of PAP on the other end.

Later, after Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore out of Malaysia, he implemented his meritocracy in the tiny island republic.

Meanwhile, Mahathir grew in popularity over this side of the Causeway and was immediately seen as the personification of Malay nationalism. He was later appointed the education minister and put his protectionist and patronising policy as well as quota system into implementation, which he carried through until after he took over as the country's longest serving prime minister.

The number of Malay students in local universities are on the rise, from merely a minority in the 1960s to an overwhelming majority in public universities today.

Both Lee Kuan Yew an Mahathir have accomplished their respective advocacy albeit in two different countries.

Today, the National University of Singapore is ranked 25th worldwide and second in Asia in the QS global university ranking while our UM is 156th worldwide and 33rd in Asia. As for the Times Higher Education ranking, NUS is 29th worldwide and second in Asia while none of Malaysia's universities make it to the top 500.

If these two polarised views were to be equated to half-century marathon, Lee's advocacy is now at the forefront of the global race while Mahathir's still struggling from far behind.

Despite all this, Mahathir still takes pride in his policy and has recently defended it by saying that majority of the students in public universities are Malays who are not wealthy enough to attend private universities, adding that meritocracy would only render these students labourers.

Looking at things from another angle, if the government back in those years adopted the views of Lee Kuan Yew and implemented meritocracy in Malaysia's universities, how would things measure up today? Would our UM be on the same par as the National University of Singapore now? 

Once we were beautiful

Posted: 23 Jul 2013 02:59 PM PDT

Like our football team, the state of our racial integration and inter-faith relationship has moved in reverse gear. Years of political posturing utilizing religion and race have now begun to show its ugly consequences. We need to take a real good look at ourselves and examine our ways. And we need to reboot our operating system if we want to avoid a total crash. And we need to reboot fast.

Art Harun, TMI

I am blessed.

So are many of my friends who are of or around my age.

So are many who are older than me.

As a child of the 60s, I went through my formative years in an English-stream school. It was a big school in town.

And there were hundreds of us Malays, Chinese and Indian boys (it wasn't co-ed).

Our first headmaster was a Chinese gentleman who was as fierce as they came those days.

When he left, he was replaced by an Indian gentleman, who also was as fierce.

My first class teacher was Ms Leong, all long haired and short skirted.

And yes, armed with a wooden ruler, she would knock my knuckles for failing to properly write the number 8.

My first English sentence, learnt on the first day at school was to be uttered after raising my right hand, "Please teacher may I go out?"

That was to be said if any of us had to go to the toilet to do the normal stuffs we all do in the toilet (and not to eat).

Then there were Mr Linggam, Cikgu Aziz and wife, Sharom, Mr Lee the karate guy, Mr Khor, Cikgu Mutalib and various others.

We were a happy bunch. We played together, ate together, learned together and of course, at times, punished together.

And we were equal. In standard 5, I began fasting.

The school canteen stayed open for the whole month.

No renovation. No closure. Muslim and non-Muslim kids, who did not fast, ate as usual.

If they bought a proper meal, such like nasi lemak or mee goreng, they would eat at the canteen.

If it was some kind of snack, they would just eat while walking around, in the class or where ever.

No fuss. No issue. No problem.

My impressionable years were spent in a boarding school. It was the same scenario.

All of us, regardless of race or religion studied together, ate together, played together and at times, getting one or two rotan together.

Visiting a non-Malay house was not a problem.

Eating there was not a problem too. Sharing food with non-Muslims was not an issue.

Things have however, sadly, changed.

And change for the worse. Nowadays, non-Muslims don't send their kids to national school anymore.

They prefer to send the kids to the vernacular schools.

The ones who could afford would send their kids to private schools.

National schools are almost invariably filled with Muslim/Malay students.

National schools would recite prayers before class begin in the morning.

Quranic verses and hadith would adorn walls in the canteen, school office and even classes.

Ustaz and ustazah would even ask school kids to raise their hands if their parents do not pray 5 times a day.

In secondary schools, the tudung is not compulsory for girls - according to the Ministry of Education's circular, if I am not mistaken - but girls without tudung would be viewed askance by schoolmates and teachers alike.

Due to the small number of non-Muslim/Malay kids in national schools, the Malay kids do not have the opportunity to mix around and integrate with non-Malays in their formative and impressionable years.

The small number of non-Malay kids also gives a sense of false superiority complex to the Malay kids as well as teachers.

Thus, my race and my religion are more important than you, your religion and everything else.

Hence the closure of the school canteen during Ramadhan.

This is prevailing in many national schools. Apparently, this is done to "respect" the Muslim students who are fasting.

Forget the fact that non-Muslims do not fast and they, like any other human beings or animals, have to eat and drink.

Forget the fact that there are Muslim kids who do not fast.

Anybody who just about mentions the word "food" would have been taken as insulting Islam.

On Facebook last week, there were two guys admonishing a hotel which advertised its breakfast package on its page.

They viewed it as disrespectful.

But to be fair, the two were widely condemned by other Muslim facebookers.

The eating-in-the-changing-room debacle yesterday is just the surface of a far unhealthier trend in Malaysia.

Beneath that surface is a society which is fractious, intolerant, selfish and uncompromising.

The obvious question is how did we, as a nation, become like this? As a nation we started so well.

The Federal Constitution was agreed upon by consensus between three major races anchored to give-and-take and win-win camaraderie.

There was a blemish in 1969 but that was quickly nipped in the bud and we soldiered on.

In football, we were in the Olympic final in 1972 and 1980.

By the law of progression, we should be in the World Cup by now. By contrast, Japan and Korea, whom we used to beat, were already in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

We now struggle to beat the likes of Vietnam and even Singapore.

Like our football team, the state of our racial integration and inter-faith relationship has moved in reverse gear.

Years of political posturing utilizing religion and race have now begun to show its ugly consequences.

The so-called Islamisation that we embark upon, which is shorn of any meaningful spiritual understanding of the religion, but rather born out of political necessities, convenience and mired in political one-upmanship has now produced a nation which is unsure of itself and a people who are fractious, angry, suspicious and at odd with each other.

We need to take a real good look at ourselves and examine our ways. And we need to reboot our operating system if we want to avoid a total crash. And we need to reboot fast.

 

Kereta: Bermegah atau keperluan?

Posted: 23 Jul 2013 10:33 AM PDT

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/uploads/articlesdebt-ratio-small_484_395_100.jpg 

Mereka sering menyebut kereta sebagai keperluan sedangkan hakikat sebenar adalah "keperluan" untuk bermegah atau tidak merasa rendah.

Zulhabri Supian, The Malay Mail 

"A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, it's where the rich use public transportation." — Enrique Penalosa, bekas Datuk Bandar Bogota, Colombia.

Pada 2012, Jabatan Statistik melalui Laporan Kajiselidik Pendapatan dan Kemudahan Isi Rumah 2009 ada menyiarkan butiran pendapatan isi rumah dan bebanan isi rumah dan hasilnya cukup memprihatinkan.

Beberapa fakta penting dari laporan tersebut yang saya kutip daripada kenyataan akhbar Parti Keadilan Rakyat bertarikh 24 Julai 2012 adalah seperti berikut;

1. 53 peratus dari keseluruhan isi rumah di Malaysia hanya berpendapatan RM3,000 ke bawah sebulan;

2. 71.9 peratus dari keseluruhan isi rumah di Malaysia mempunyai atau menggunakan kereta;

3. Jumlah hutang kereta persendirian adalah hutang kedua terbesar selepas hutang rumah kediaman, berjumlah RM134.2 bilion pada akhir Mei 2012; dan

4. Jumlah hutang kereta persendirian telah meningkat sebanyak RM16 bilion atau 14 peratus dalam tempoh 18 bulan, berbanding RM118 bilion pada November 2010.

Senario ini memperlihatkan hutang kereta adalah salah satu beban hutang utama rakyat. Maka dalam pilihan raya umum (PRU) lalu, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) hadir menawarkan penurunan harga kereta untuk mengurangkan beban hutang rakyat dalam manifestonya. Malangnya PR gagal memperoleh mandat.

Berbicara tentang harga kereta di Malaysia, saya tidak terlalu peduli kerana tidak memerlukannya. Maka soal sama ada harga kereta di Malaysia tinggi berbanding negara lain bagi saya soal kedua. Soal utama adakah perlu isi rumah (juga mereka yang muda dan baru bekerja) yang hanya berpendapatan RM3,000 ke bawah sebulan memiliki kereta?

Jawapan saya terhadap soalan tersebut adalah tidak, tetapi ya untuk mereka yang benar-benar memerlukan seperti salesman, peniaga pasar malam dan yang sepertinya. Juga ya untuk mereka yang tidak merengek sekiranya harga minyak naik, kos penyelenggaraan naik, kadar tol naik dan naik-naik yang lain.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/zulhabri-supian/article/kereta-bermegah-atau-keperluan 

MCA's future

Posted: 21 Jul 2013 08:53 PM PDT

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For party outsiders, the focus is actually not on who is going to lead the MCA in the future, but what kind of party would the MCA be after changing its leadership. 

Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily

After experiencing a great defeat, the call for MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek's resignation has grown stronger. The infighting has surfaced and the party election scheduled in the end of this year is expected to be an arena fighting for the party's top posts. Deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has been the first to announce his wish to contest for the presidency, lifting the curtain of the fight.

Who else would be contesting? Would former president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat make a comeback? Would the incumbent president hand-pick his successor? How about followers of another former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting? What would MCA Youth Chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong do? These questions will certainly be the focus of the media, as well as those who are interested in politics.

The MCA party election is scheduled in December this year and any unexpected changes could take place within the following five months. Therefore, it is still too early to say who has the highest winning odds.

For party outsiders, the focus is actually not on who is going to lead the MCA in the future, but what kind of party would the MCA be after changing its leadership.

The challenge before them is, under the new situation after the general election, how should the MCA adjust its position?

Should the BN coalition get rid of racial political structure and become a cross-racial party? The question has been debated and there is still no answer for it. Meanwhile, the question of whether the MCA should merge with Gerakan and the SUPP has again raised.

The MCA must consider whether it should transform from a single-stream racial party into a multi-racial party. How much room is less for racial party, particular those representing minority racial groups, to survive in Malaysia?

Eighty to ninety percent of Chinese voters had voted for the DAP, a multi-racial party, in the recent general election, instead of the MCA claiming itself the representative of the Chinese. In fact, it has adequately explained that Chinese no longer care about a party's racial representation, but whether the party is capable of bringing them hope and showing them vision.

MCA leaders must be very clear that the relationship between the MCA and Umno has been caught in a quagmire. The MCA became strong in early days after forming the coalition with Umno and to a certain extent, shared power with Umno. However, it has gradually lost its voice and autonomy under the one-party dominance system. Eventually, the MCA fell and defeated after losing the confidence and support of Chinese voters.

It is not entirely correct for the MCA to blame Umno or its confronting parties for demonising the it. If the MCA is unable to face the fact that it has disconnected with the Chinese community while failing in winning trust and respect of the new generations of other racial groups, particularly the intelligentsia, but just keep blaming the obstacles after falling down without reflecting itself, not even trying to reform, seek the answer why many Chinese have cast it aside and look for a new direction for internal reforms, it will be destined to keep sinking or worse, become a bubble and vanish.

The future of MCA does not lie in how much party member support the new leadership can win, but whether the party is able to learn from its mistakes and thoroughly repent. Therefore, for MCA members, it is more important to choose the new direction for the party, instead of choosing the new top leader! 

TITAS is about cross learning in a multicultural society

Posted: 21 Jul 2013 08:42 PM PDT

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The most important question is the simplest: given the state of the society now, will we benefit from knowing more about each other? Can we reduce the misunderstanding and prejudice against one another if we have a better understanding of the fair representation of Islamic, Malay, Chinese and Indian civilisations since they form the greatest influence on our society?

Rafizi Ramli

I must begin by conveying my gratitude to Dr Lim Teck Ghee and S. Thayaparan for their views on the position I took with regards to the implementation of TITAS at private tertiary institutions (IPTS).

While the ensuing exchange of views on the matter had earned me many labels from some of the readers of Malaysiakini (including lumping me as another Umno prototype), I look at it positively. If Malaysia were to progress, we must be able to debate openly and accept criticisms both ways.

I will explain the basis for the position I had taken before I respond to some of the issues brought by both of them.

Will understanding of each other build a better Malaysia for all?

The most important question is the simplest: given the state of the society now, will we benefit from knowing more about each other? Can we reduce the misunderstanding and prejudice against one another if we have a better understanding of the fair representation of Islamic, Malay, Chinese and Indian civilisations since they form the greatest influence on our society?

I believe we do.

In fact, I think it will help a lot if younger Malaysians see each other's perspectives positively even if they disagree on certain issues because stereotypes and polarisation is bad. Lack of understanding and appreciation of the basis for cultural differences in a multiracial society like ours does contribute to stereotyping and polarisation.

My support for TITAS stems from this very simple premise: I do not see anything wrong if we compel our youngsters to learn more from each other and about each other.

Much of the fuss about TITAS has revolved around the alleged creeping Islamisation that Umno is trying to sneak into IPTS. While there is a basis for the suspicion, yet we have totally overlooked the positive impact that TITAS may have on producing more Malays who understand and appreciate multiculturalism.

I spent my tertiary education and early working life in the United Kingdom.

I did my A-Levels in a Scottish boarding school — that means going to the chapel every morning together with the rest of the school for morning prayers. I did not sing the hymns yet I learnt to appreciate that Christians, like Muslims, also take the position that a strong emphasis on religious and universal values is good for the society. As a member of the school's orchestra, once a year we performed in the church.

I started my working life in an accounting firm in London with 90 per cent of the partners who were of the Jewish faith. While the issue of Palestine had always been uneasy (so we avoided it), I got special treatment simply for being a Muslim. There was a small space in the office where we could pray (although there were only four of us in the firm who were practising Muslims) and I had extra holidays for Eidul Fitri and Eidul Adha.

In spite of this experience, I was not converted. If any, I become more grateful of my Islamic identity in a foreign land. It provided me with the strength and sense of solidarity with others. I came out a more sensitive and confident Muslim precisely because I understood Christianity, Judaism and other religions better.

Every now and then, I make sure that my interns come from the different faiths so that we learn from each other. One of my earliest interns (Galvin Wong who is now studying in Australia) taught me more about the Christian community in this country than I had ever learnt from any textbooks.

My point is: we should encourage our young people to be open-minded to learn about each other and of each other's religions and cultures. I would not have been as open on multiculturalism if I had not gone through the process to appreciate the religion and culture of the majority ethnic group when I was a minority in the UK. If my experience as a Muslim minority in a Western (predominantly Judo-Christian) society has been positive, I am confident that if done correctly, it will have a positive impact in our society too.

It is dangerous to send a signal that any move that compels or encourages the cross-learning of religions and cultures among our young people is bad.

If we can agree on this premise, then we can concentrate on the practical problems that often cloud our judgment on TITAS.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/titas-is-about-cross-learning-in-a-multicultural-society-rafizi-ramli 

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