Ahad, 8 September 2013

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Blind Spots in the Malaysian Education Blueprint

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 12:23 PM PDT


Like the other blueprints of the past, including "Vision 2020", this latest effort is full of the language of educational correctness – "improving access to education, raising standards (quality), closing achievement gaps (equity), promoting unity amongst students, and maximising system efficiency"… 

Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

The Malaysian Education Blueprint acknowledges that education standards in the country have deteriorated so seriously that we have fallen into the bottom third amongst countries in the global indices that measure achievements in maths, science and other such basic competencies. Our achievements have even fallen below that of Thailand!

Like the other blueprints of the past, including "Vision 2020", this latest effort is full of the language of educational correctness – "improving access to education, raising standards (quality), closing achievement gaps (equity), promoting unity amongst students, and maximising system efficiency"…

Sounds good but can it deliver? Allow me to allude to some blind spots and contradictions that I have noticed in the blueprint. These have impeded Malaysian education and national unity for many years and unless remedied, we will surely not achieve the noble aims of the blueprint.


One of the reasons often quoted by observers for the unattractiveness of national schools is their increasingly religious slant:

"The dominance of religion within the national school system is why non-Malays are increasingly removing their children from the environment, said former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim." (malaymailonline, 21.8.2013)

Malaysia's Education Philosophy was formulated in 1988 when the country was in the grip of the terror of "Operation Lalang" and many dissidents were at Kamunting detention camp:

"Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God…"

To begin with, such a formulation contradicts the stated aim of inclusiveness in the blueprint for it excludes all devotees of pantheistic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as those who practice ancestor worship, including many Chinese, Orang Asli and other indigenous people. Under international human rights law, parents have a right to have their children educated in a way that is consistent with their religious or philosophical beliefs. This means that schools are obliged by international law to provide a safe respectful space for students to come together in their diversity of faith. By honouring such an inclusive aim in practice, there would be no implicit or explicit attempt to indoctrinate children with religious beliefs that conflict with those of their parents. The recent case of Orang Asli children who were slapped for not reciting the doa provides stark evidence of a reality that is the polar opposite of the stated aim of inclusiveness. (Malaysiakini, Oct 26, 2012) And as we have seen in the recent "canteen" school case, we should also bear in mind that children have rights over and above those of their parents.   

The stated aim of inclusiveness is not simply a phrase for appeasing Malaysian minorities; it embodies the important principle that for our education system to be on par with the best in the world by 2025, it must be secular in philosophy and practice. Thus, a progressive school system would respect all pupils equally and teach in a neutral, objective way about the different faiths that people have.

The role of Malaysian schools is to bring diverse children together and teach them subjects that have a basis in scientific fact, like mathematics, languages, geography, history and critical thinking. These provide the knowledge and skills that are vital to their performance in the global achievement indices, TIMSS and PISA that the blueprint benchmarks.

For this to happen, teachers need the autonomy to teach their subject/s freely without any interference regarding their religious affiliations, or lifestyle choices, and be free to answer questions of ethics, beliefs, etc. in an objective way. Progressive education is about character building which is more meaningful through literature and music rather than through didactic moral education.


The blueprint has neglected democracy. It has failed to reinstate our Independence heirloom of an elected local government which involves a decentralised education system engaged with and responsive to the needs of the local community. Many have forgotten that local education authorities were part and parcel of elected local councils, as was the case before these elections were abolished in 1965.

Decentralising education can serve to make the education system more efficient as well as more democratic. Decentralising power away from the ministry of education and dispersing it to elected councils creates the conditions for better public services and a more robust society. Local councils are then responsible for the fair distribution and monitoring of funding for the different language streamed schools built according to need, rather than political preference. They are responsible for the co-ordination of admissions and allocation of places available at each school. They are the direct employers of all staff in schools and have a responsibility for the educational achievement of school children.

Although the blueprint espouses objectives to encourage creative and independent thinking students, it lacks the concrete programmes and other activities needed to enable students' self-governance and exercise their assertiveness, at least at upper secondary level.


There is a glaring contradiction in the blueprint's commitment toward promoting unity and inclusiveness for it hardly considers the development and growth of the SRJK schools and Independent schools within the national education system. Considering Chinese and Tamil schools were part and parcel of the national education system at Independence 56 years ago, there is no reason why sustaining them today, in our much more developed state should be a problem. There is also no reason why the Malaysian education system cannot accommodate some English-language streams for those children whose mother tongue is English, when we have had so much experience handling English-language education since colonial times.

Although the education minister keeps insisting that the government has no intention to do away with Chinese and Tamil education, the reality shows that these schools have been treated like step children in the national education system all these years and government leaders continue to denigrate these schools as being obstacles to integration.

Under Section 17.11 of the Education Act 1996, all schools in the National Education System have to use Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction:

"17. (1) The national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the National Education System except a national-type school established under section 28 or any other educational institution exempted by the Minister from this subsection."

The Education minister has just said that the existence of the vernacular schools has been guaranteed under section 28:

"28. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Minister may establish national schools and national-type schools and shall maintain such schools."

The Chinese and Tamil schools that were established before the 1996 Act – practically all of them- exist only at the pleasure of the minister. They have not actually been formally exempted by the minister from using Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction. And how many "national-type schools" have been established by the minister under section 28 since 1996?

The fact remains that whilst the population of the Chinese and Tamil Malaysians today has doubled since Independence, their mother tongue schools have decreased in absolute numbers – from 1350 to 1285 Chinese schools, from 880 to 550 Tamil schools. The scandal of overcrowding in these schools makes a mockery of the lofty aspirations in the blueprint. The BN government's claim of achievement during the GE13 was allowing ONE secondary school to be built by the Chinese community in Kuantan. That is the sad reality of section 28 of the 1996 Education Act.

The gross discrimination in financial allocation to the Chinese and Tamil schools (less than 5% of total allocation to all schools) through the years further demonstrate the lack of commitment by the government to mother tongue education of the non-Malays as a cornerstone of inclusiveness.


The blueprint does not make any positive statements about Chinese and Tamil schools, nor does it point out special challenges that they face and need to overcome, such as learning Bahasa Malaysia (and English) as a second language rather than sharing a common curriculum with the SK schools.

Learning second languages effectively is not simply a question of increasing the contact hours for the students. The proposed 240 minutes of BM and the same number of contact minutes of English for Chinese and Tamil schools smacks of a quantity fixation rather than quality learning of second languages. As with the previous curriculum of learning maths and science in English, the amount of curriculum time in the Chinese and Tamil schools for this, has been arrived at through political horse trading rather than the demands of effective language teaching.

Has any thought been given to the effect of all these extra hours that Chinese and Tamil primary school children will have to endure under the new curriculum?

In the UK, where second languages are taught, the standard is a one 40-minute French lesson a week. The UK may not be the best example of second language teaching and a 40-minute lesson in a foreign language is hardly enough. But by the age of 11, pupils are expected to speak the language in sentences with appropriate pronunciation, express simple ideas with clarity and write phrases and short sentences from memory. They will also be expected to understand basic grammar and be acquainted with songs and poems in the language studied.

In the rest of Europe, children begin to learn a foreign language from the age of 8-10, but elsewhere they begin earlier. Less than 10% of total teaching time is generally devoted to learning foreign languages in European primary schools, a figure which improves for secondary education.

In Singapore where English is taught as a first language, Malay, Chinese and Tamil are taught as second (mother tongue) languages. Schools adopt differentiated teaching approaches to cater to pupils from different home language backgrounds. In Singapore, Mother Tongue Languages are taught for functional purposes, with an emphasis on listening, speaking and reading skills. Nonetheless, teaching is tailored to meet the different learning needs of pupils, with more engaging and appealing teaching materials that capture pupils' interest. Pupils take a Core Module, while those with little or no exposure to the second language may take Bridging Modules. Pupils with the interest and ability to go further can take the Enrichment Modules. 

Thus, the teaching of BM and English in Chinese and Tamil primary schools should be carried out in a more thoughtful way to ensure effective learning and not to impose an even heavier curriculum on our already stressed out kids through quantitative horse trading.


The blueprint recognises that "it is imperative for students to interact with and learn from fellow students and teachers of every ethnicity, religion, culture, and socio-economic background". However, programmes like the Student Integration Plan for Unity, or Rancangan Integrasi Murid Untuk Perpaduan (RIMUP) which fosters interaction across different school types through co-curricular activities have floundered because "funding for RIMUP has dropped significantly, reducing the frequency and intensity of these programmes."

There should be a greater commitment by both the government and the Chinese and Tamil school lobbies to create such activities that promote closer integration. It would be the responsibility of local education authorities to provide state-of-the-art-facilities for the common use of schools of the different language streams in an education precinct. These should include libraries, IT centres, and stadiums, concert halls and common activities organised to include all the different school streams in a precinct.

The Chinese schools of Malaysia have managed to survive for nearly two centuries mainly because of community involvement in their well-being. This has included the school board, alumni association, as well as parents and teachers' organisations. This can serve as a model to be emulated elsewhere, in the blueprint.

Such community involvement and engaged peoples' organisations are key to the success of local government initiatives and must be encouraged rather than controlled by the whims and fancies of the Registrar of Societies.

Integration can only be achieved through a consensus that is built through an objectively constructed history and literature recognising the contributions of all the ethnic communities in our country. It will fail if school text books present prejudiced reconstructions by bigots who try to spread their ideology of racial dominance.

The Education Blueprint will only inspire Malaysians if it can convince us that the blind spots that have been pointed out can, and will be put right.

To keep or to change Jalur Gemilang?

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 11:36 AM PDT


The sole function of any flag is to deliver a message. The on-going controversy on the Sang Saka Malaya flag is not so much about the flag design, as a matter of fact; it is about the other version of the history about the fight for the country's independence. 

Khoo Ying Hooi, TMI 

A Merdeka eve incident involving the raising of the Sang Saka Malaya flag led to Datuk A. Samad Said's controversial midnight arrest. Earlier, Hishamuddin Rais and Adam Adli Abdul Halim were also detained for the same incident and both are being investigated under the Sedition Act 1948.

In fact, this is not the first time that the authorities have taken action under the Sedition Act 1948, on those caught raising the Sang Saka Malaya flag. Last September, the police arrested two youths for allegedly flying the Sang Saka Malaya flag during the countdown to the eve of the 55th Independence Day.

Red and white are historically the colors of the archipelago Malays. The Sang Saka Malaya flag was used by the first Malay party, Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM), that was established in 1945 and had fought against the colonial British for the country's independence. It is a red-and-white flag with 12 yellow stars set in four columns and was proposed as Malaya's national flag back in the 1940s.

Flag debates are, however, not new. In Australia, for example, there is a constant dispute over whether the Australian flag should be changed. The main issue concerned the removal of the Union Jack symbol in its design. The main intention is to move on from the British heritage.

Interestingly, the former prime minister of Australia, Paul Keating in 1992, had also publicly supported a change in the flag. Australia is one of the few countries in the world where a change of the design of the national flag is advocated. Those who advocate the flag change in Australia are convinced that an alternative flag design would be more suitable in representing Australia than the flag that they are currently using. However, until today, such proposals for change have not received full acceptance from its citizens.

Reflecting on this, the call for flag change in Malaysia and Australia share one common similarity, that is, the historical explanation. Similarly, the flag debates also happen in New Zealand. It is not unusual that the national flags change over time, normally in such occasions; it contemplates major change in the country's constitutional arrangements or it could be due to a change of government.

Read more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/opinion/khoo-ying-hooi/article/to-keep-or-to-change-jalur-gemilang 

Malay bible not ‘authentic’ Christian holy book, says Perkasa veep

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 11:34 AM PDT


Perkasa head Ibrahim Ali flanked by other Perkasa members. 

(The Malay Mail Online) - As Malaysia's "Allah" dispute heads back to court, Perkasa's Datuk Zulkifli Noordin has batted for the Home Ministry, saying the Malay version of Christianity's holy book is not "authentic" because it is only a far-removed translation.

In his attempt to dismiss the historical claim forwarded by Christians here on their right to use the Middle Eastern word for god, the vice-president of the far right Malay group also painted a dire outcome for the mainly Muslim nation that has become religiously conservative over the years even as it seeks to turn into a global economic force by 2020.

"A fundamental thing I got after reading the Al-Kitab, the Malay version of the Bible is that actually it is not the Injil as Muslims understand. It is actually the translation of the book called the Bible from the English version.

"This means the Malay-Indonesian language version of the Al-Kitab Bible does not deserve to be called the original holy book, instead it is only a translation," Zulkifli wrote in an opinion piece published today in Umno-owned Malay broadsheet, Mingguan Malaysia.

In making his case, the lawyer moved to link Muslims, Christians and Jews as coming from a common religious history as members of the same Abrahamic family upon which the divine message had been revealed.

Apart from the Quran, Muslims believe in the existence of three other holy books, Zulkifli said and named them as the Taurah, the Injil and the Zabur.

According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, the Taurah -- also called the Tawrat -- refers to the Books of Moses or the Pentateuch, and is commonly associated with the divine message as revealed to the Jews; the Injil refers to the Gospels of Jesus and the Zabur refers to the Psalms of David.

"Whatever it is, we must realise that Moses and Isa were Jews. Therefore the original holy book as revealed to them was certainly in Hebrew or Aramaic," Zulkifi said.

He added: "Meaning that which can and qualifies to be called the holy book are texts in Aramaic, the language used by Moses and Isa. That is the book that should be the authority. As the Quran in Arabic is for Muslims."

However, Zulkifli said Muslims believe the original Taurah and Injil are gone, with the Quran being the sole divine message revealed, which was why Muslims regard it as sacred.

In contrast, Christians regard the Bible as their word from god, but the former federal lawmaker cast doubt over its authencity, claiming the book was actually a combination of two separate texts, the Old Testament that was originally written in Aramaic for the Jews, and the New Testament, originally penned by a Christian cleric of Roman ancestry named Saul.

"This book was in Greek. The Church then combined these two Testaments and labelled it the Bible. The Old Testament was translated into English from its original texts in Aramaic while the New Testament was translated into English from the original Greek.

"This English language Bible was the source of translation for the Malay-Indonesian Bible Al-Kitab," Zukifli said, and further argued that the Al-Kitab was so far removed from the original that it could no longer be regarded as anything but a thrice translated text, having passed through Aramaic, Greek, old English, new English before appearing in Malay and Indonesian.

He insisted that if anyone were to debate the divinity in the Christian faith, he or she must refer to the original texts in Aramaic or Hebrew.

"So allegations that the Malay-Indonesian language Bible or the Al-Kitab is the original and authentic holy book are completely without basis. It is only a translation!" he said.

In his preamble to his article, the 51-year-old who has repeatedly drawn attention to an "aggressive" conspiracy to convert Muslim Malaysians to Christianity, pushed for Christian s to be denied any claim to "Allah".

"Their latest demand is for the right to use the word 'Allah'in  their book and publications! What will be the effect of christians are allowed to use the word 'Allah' in our country?" he asked.

"Can we guarantee that when our children say 'La ila ha illalah -- There is no God but Allah'; are we convinced our children is referring to Allah as understood by Muslims to be Allah Almighty? Or is he referring to Allah the Three In One Trinity that Christian missionaries have tried to graft onto us -- Allah the Father, Allah the Son and Allah the Holy Spirit!

"This is what we must understand. This is a direct effect that will happen if Christians are allowed to use the word Allah in this country," he warned.

To back his argument that Muslim Malaysians may become a religiously confused lot if non-Muslims were allowed to use "Allah", Zulkifli pointed to an event at an inter-creed marriage in an unnamed neighbouring.

The groom was Muslim and the bride, a famous artiste, was a Christian, he said.

After their wedding, he related that the bride was asked if she would follow her husband and embrace Islam.

"The answer of this famous and beautiful actress should serve as a lesson for us: Why should I change my religion! Isn't my god and his god the same," Zulkifli said, and added, "Allah! Na'zubillah minzalik!"

The last phrase in Arabic is a prayer often invoked by Muslims asking for protection from a future disastrous event.

Hysterical hostility

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 06:21 AM PDT

Some of our politicians seem to be seeing shadows behind everything where there is none. From their perspective, there is intrigue, a hidden agenda and suspicious motives everywhere.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

THERE seems to be no end to politicking in Malaysia. We thought the campaigning that reached its peak in the run-up to the general election in May would slowly wind down once the people had decided. But that was only wishful thinking.

We still are in election mode, judging by the endless bickering, growing suspicion over what everyone is saying, and the perception of a hidden agenda behind each issue.

After the polls, there were more ceramah and protests. Taking disputes to the courts was not enough in the battle to conquer the court of public opinion. And we all thought, naively, that everyone would just take a breather.

We all suffer from political fatigue. To be blunt, most of us probably feel nauseated. Surely the politicians, who are humans too, would want to get a break and make up for lost time with their spouses and family members. But no, they can't seem to stop.

Everyone is talking about crime, the increase in the cost of living and the looming financial slowdown.

Well, we are also talking about Bosnian sperm.

But there seems to be a wide disconnect between our lives and that of our politicians, regardless of their political affiliation.

We do not see any of them explaining to us why our ringgit is weakening and how we should face the problems, even if there are external factors beyond our control. Those with children studying overseas are probably watching the exchange rates with eagle eyes and they certainly want to know what the future will hold.

Malaysians would also like to hear how we should gear up for the softening market as businessmen grapple with escalating costs and declining revenue and profits. It is not just a worry for those who run companies but also for their workers.

Instead, politicians are trying to outdo one another, trying to score points by making some pretty outrageous demands just to get their name and pictures in the media.

The main political parties in the country's ruling coalition – Umno, the MCA and the MIC – are all holding their party polls very soon. PAS is having its internal polls too while the DAP is conducting a fresh election after its earlier vote tally blunder, which it continues to blame on a technical glitch.

In the case of the three main Barisan Nasional parties, we are talking about elections at all levels – from the branches to the divisions right to the top hierarchy.

We are pretty sure, judging from the activities on the ground and the desperate insecurity demonstrated by some politicians, that they are not doing much these days except to ensure their party positions are secured, or to get back a position.

Many have attempted to be champion spokesmen of their communities, flexing their political muscle, with some espousing views that smack with racial overtones.

Even the movies are not spared as politicians make laughable statements when they have not even watched the films and are unlikely to do so. But speak they must, and so they do.

Some of our politicians seem to be seeing shadows behind everything where there is none. From their perspective, there is intrigue, a hidden agenda and suspicious motives everywhere.

Reaction to the movie Tanda Putera is one example. The hysterical hostility towards the movie is unbelievable. I was among the earliest to be invited by Datuk Shuhaimi Baba, the director, to watch the show and to give my views.

I told her there should be more films like this because the world is beginning to think that we only watch movies about gangsters, ghosts and wife-beating husbands.

In Tanda Putera, the Chinese were not blamed for the riots but the communists and political activists were. This is the big difference which the politicians do not want to understand.

So is the unnerving reaction to The New Village. It is a period movie about new villages set in 1949, when most of us were not even born and the country was caught in a fight with the communists. We are now in the year 2013, yet we are still grappling with the ghosts of the past!

The communists in China have all become capitalists, drinking fine French wine, enrolling their kids in British boarding schools, keeping mistresses and becoming corrupt, as ordinary politicians in a democratic system do!

The only thing commie about the ruling elite in Beijing now is that they still carry party membership cards and uphold the red ideology to avoid a real election! Anything else red would be red wine and Manchester United.

We are still unsure if The New Village will ever make it to our cinemas. After all the party polls are over, perhaps.

Maybe by Christmas, although by then it would really be good luck to the producer because who would care about new villages in December and January as many of us would want to go on holidays and celebrate the year-end!

The holiday season is all about parties – celebratory ones, not political parties – and we just want to be silly, more than some politicians, as we usher in the coming year.

And we really hope that in the coming year, we will finally see the end to mindless politicking.

And can we please appeal to our politicians that they remember why we voted them in – to run the country, make us feel safe, plug financial leakages, seriously fight graft, postpone expensive projects and, if possible, stop using taxpayers money to put your faces on billboards?


Penang CM blasted for running down M’sia

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 06:14 AM PDT

NGO slams Guan Eng for washing dirty linen at international forum

Athi Shankar, FMT

A non-government organisation today slammed Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for often condemning the country and the Barisan Nasional federal government when he was abroad.

Sensible and Ethical Malaysians United Team (Semut) president Huan Cheng Guan demanded explanation from Lim on his politically-charged speeches frequently running down the country's investment climate and government competency in international forums.

He called on Lim to publicly show a detailed report on how each point raised in his speech at a Penang diaspora in Hong Kong last week can boost business confidence and attract potential investors and business partners to Malaysia.

"Failing which, Lim must be punished to personally bear the cost for the foreign trip," said Huan in a statement here today.

He wondered on whether Lim knew a special formula unknown to Harvard Business School  to increase the circular flow of income and offer solutions to all economic problems by running down one's own nation.

Huan said it was shocking to see a state leader on an official trade mission in foreign land running down his motherland instead of highlighting salient points to increase business confidence of potential investors.

Citing the Hong Kong speech, which was posted in his blog, Huan slammed the Bagan MP for accusing the Barisan Nasional federal government of being penny wise, pound foolish, corrupted, debt ridden, incompetent and playing up racial, religious, and extremist sentiments.

Huan blasted Lim for condemning the federal government on its fiscal policies, fuel price hike, debts and education policies before foreigners.

Huan alleged that Lim had also gave an impression to his international audience in Hong Kong and China that Malaysia was not a safe place by questioning the competence of police and stating that only 10% of the force was involved in investigation work.

"What is the point of going on an official mission to Hong Kong only to declare to the audience that Malaysia is less attractive, less safe and less competitive?

"The Chief Minister must explain on why he persisted in running down and shaming our country by giving public and international airing to such issues.

"Any sane person would not wash dirty linen before foreign public," Huan, formerly Batu Kawan MP, said in a statement today.

Guan Eng shames Malaysia

Huan said Lim was accompanied by an official state delegation to Hong Kong, which coincided with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) investment mission to Hong Kong and China led by Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Mustapa Mohamed.

Huan noted that in Lim's speech on Sep 5, he had said: "Many high technology knowledge-intensive foreign investors lament about the poor and declining quality of our workforce at all levels, especially the poor command of English. With BN's fixation on mediocrity instead of a culture of excellence, on political quotas rather than performance and on empty rhetoric rather than concrete action, Malaysia risks being left behind by not only high-tech foreign investors but also our best talents leaving to other countries like Hong Kong."

Huan pointed out that Lim had also said that "the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak can only convince the public of his sincerity and necessity of raising RON 95 petrol prices by 20 sen to save annual subsidy costs of RM3.3 billion by also implementing open competitive tenders and fighting corruption which would save RM51 billion annually. Without accompanying measures, that demonstrates the federal government's commitment against corruption, the public would easily see through such fake sincerity and counterfeit necessity to cut costs."



Mind your own business, Anwar tells Khairy on shadow cabinet

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 06:40 PM PDT

(TMI) - Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has dismissed Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin's call on Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to form a shadow cabinet.

"He should do his job and it is better for him to focus on his duties first before interfering in PR matters," Anwar said yesterday, reported Malay daily Sinar Harian.

Khairy made the call echoing PAS Youth head Nasrudin Hassan who said Pakatan Rakyat should name their shadow ministers.

"Don't dilly-dally, do it without delay," said Khairy, who has been at the forefront of opposition on Anwar's recent call for a dialogue between Barisan Nasional and PR.

Anwar told Sinar Harian that his statement was misinterpreted by Umno leaders, adding that he had never endorsed a unity government.

Referring to Khairy, Anwar said, "He has not read my Merdeka message. My statement only referred to a dialogue.

"I had only touched on four issues which are governance, crime, economy and race relations."


Let the mobs rule then, says Zaid

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 06:37 PM PDT

(MM) - Malaysia may as well return to mob rule instead of settling disputes through the courts, a former de facto law minister suggested today as Islamic authorities here flex muscle before Tuesday's appeal hearing on the "Allah" word.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim noted that powerful government religious agencies have been making "provocative and threatening statements" over the "Allah" row, placing immense pressure on judges that could affect their ability to try the case independently.

"Don't pressure our judges. Of late provocative and threatening statements are issued by those in authority with regard to the Allah issue," the one time minister in the Abdullah administration said on his Twitter handle, @zaidibrahim.

"If we don't want the court to decide on any matter pass a law in Parliament to that effect. Do it properly; not by intimidation," he said.

Islamic authorities here have been targeting non-Muslims in the run-up to the Home Ministry's legal push to ban the Catholic Church from publishing the Arabic word for god in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its local paper, the Herald.

Just days before the "Allah" row returns to court, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) hit out at non-Muslims for deigning to challenge the government for use of the term, and called upon Muslims to unite in a "holy struggle" against enemies of the faith.

In a nationwide sermon last Friday, JAKIM also laid claim to a list of words asides from "Allah" that it purports to be exclusive to Muslims and prohibited to non-Muslims.

The federal Islamic authority stressed that the ultimate goal of its opponents, which it failed to name, is to confuse Muslims and put every religion on equal terms, which will then lead to a "sea of apostasy".

Last week, an international Muslim organisation had alleged that the Catholic Church's fight to use "Allah" is part of a failed colonial-era strategy by Christians here to proselytise Muslims.

Last month, Muslim activists had alleged a global Christian evangelical conspiracy behind the "Allah" row, as they described a clandestine agenda to colonise Islamic souls and countries.

In a feature run in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia's weekend edition, Mingguan Malaysia, they claimed the Christian insistence on using the Arabic word "Allah" was out of a desire to proselytise to Muslims, even challenge the Federal Constitution and the Malay rulers.

But Zaid, a lawyer-turned-politician, reminded the government that it too was subject to the rule of law.

"If government don't respect the judges then we will have 1988 all over again," he said in a series of tweets earlier today, referring to the 1988 judicial crisis when the courts were stripped of their independence as a separate arm of government.

He added: "its the job of Police to maintain order, to defend decision."

The man who had once held high posts in both the ruling party and the opposition also referred to a news report today by The Malaysian Insider claiming government lawyers would be centring their argument to ban the Church from using "Allah" on the potential public disorder it may cause.

"The argument that a decision not approved by the people will lead to chaos is stupid and contemptuous. This is mob rule," Zaid said.

Religious tensions have been long been simmering in Malaysia in recent years, with the latest controversy surrounding a proposed law on child conversions to Islam deepening divisions between the Muslim majority and religious minorities.

The "Allah" row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald's newspaper permit for its reference to God as "Allah", prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.

Christians subsequently argued that the word predates Islam and that their right to use "Allah" in a non-Muslim context was affirmed by the government's own 10-point solution issued in 2011.

The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church's constitutional right to use the word "Allah" had shocked many Muslims that consider the word to only refer to the Islamic God.

It also led to Malaysia's worst religious strife, with houses of worship throughout the country coming under attack.

Muslims are Malaysia's largest religious group, followed by Buddhists. Christians are the third-largest at 2.6 million, according to statistics from the 2010 consensus. 


LDP supreme council suspends sec-gen, 23 others

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 05:56 PM PDT

(The Star) - Embattled Liberal Democratic Party president Datuk V.K.Liew moved further to strengthen his position as his supreme council suspended his former secretary general Datuk Teo Chee Kang and 23 others.

Liew said on Sunday Teoh, who is state Special Affairs Minister, and the others were suspended for bringing disrepute, hatred and contempt by their action that disregards the party's constitution.


Teoh together with suspended deputy president Senator Datuk Chin Su Phin were mounting a legal and grassroots challenge Liew's move to suspend or sack nearly 27 of the 35 supreme council members that supported a challenge to president's post.


Following the suspensions and sackings, Liew has since replaced most of the key positions held by the suspended members using his presidential powers and he reconstituted the supreme council over the last one week.


Following the supreme council meeting on Saturday, Liew announced that party vice president Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming, who is a state assistant minister, was appointed acting deputy president of the party.


With Teoh taking legal action to nullify Liew's moves via the courts, Liew maintains that his actions were in accordance to the powers of the president under the party's constitution.


He said the action to suspend those involved was necessary, as they have caused disaffection and disunity amongst the party members.


"They have rebelled against the party and have no respect to the party's Constitution.


They were given ample time to resolve the matters or disputes, if any with the president but they refused, failed or neglected to do so,'' he said in announcing the suspensions.


On move by Teoh's group to hold a rival supreme council meeting, Liew, who a former deputy minister who lost the Sandakan parliament seat in the last elections, said that they did not recognise it.


Give it a rest Ku Li (and you take one too), says Utusan’s Awang Selamat

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:58 PM PDT

(TMI) - In a further sign that it remains an open question whether former Umno vice-president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (pic) will run against the Prime Minister for the party's top post, an Umno-backed Sunday newspaper got stuck into him today.

Ku Li, as Tengku Razaleigh is popularly known, is just too long in the tooth for the job and should retire, suggested the Awang Selamat column in Mingguan Malaysia.

Ku Li is 76 years old. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is 60 years old.

By convention, the Umno president is also the Prime Minister as the party is the backbone of the government.

The column endorsed Najib as the best choice to lead the party and the government because of a better performance in the recent general election compared to 2008.

Awang Selamat is the pseudonym for the collective voice of the paper's editors, although the column is written as if it's the voice of one person.

"I do not deny his leadership qualities and contributions but hope he will make a wise decision.  His age factor must be considered," said Awang Selamat, referring to Ku Li.

The column pointedly added that leaders of Ku Li's era like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Musa Hitam have retired from politics.

The editorial said the political landscape has also changed and Ku Li must realise his influence among the grassroots is not the same as in 1987. That is the year Ku Li challenged then-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the president's post but lost by a 43-vote majority.

Ku Li later led a splinter party, Semangat 46. In the 1990 general election, he teamed up with PAS and DAP to challenge the Barisan Nasional.

Kelantan, which was in the hands of BN from 1978, fell into the hands of PAS and Semangat 46. BN has not regained the state since.

In the name of Malay unity, Semangat 46 was dissolved in 1996 and its members rejoined Umno.

But since his return to Umno, Ku Li has offered himself again and again for the top post – against Dr Mahathir (2000), Tun Abdullah Badawi (2004) and Najib (2009) but failed each time as he did not secure the minimum nomination required.



Spelling the blues over English ruling

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:53 PM PDT

If 100,000 students don't make the grade in SPM English three years from now, they will leave school without an SPM certificate.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is right when he says that his proposal to make SPM English compulsory has received much support from parents and the public. If it worked with BM in the 1970s to get everyone to take the language seriously, why shouldn't it work with English?

Leanne Goh, The Star

Our SPM students do best in Bahasa Malaysia and worst in English.

Going by last year's SPM results, 23% of the candidates failed English and this group risks completing 11 years of schooling without that final paper qualification come 2016 when a pass in the language is made compulsory.

They number more than 105,000 out of the 459,118 candidates who sat for the exam last year.

And to compound the problem, there will be another compulsory pass next year (besides BM) – History. This core subject saw the biggest decline in passes in last year's SPM – 19.7% failed compared to 16.7% the year before.

So, in the near future, low achieving students have to overcome three "hurdles" to obtain that SPM certificate or join the workforce without paper qualification. And we are talking about potentially a six-figure number.

This puts tremendous pressure on everyone. And no one knows it better that the Education Ministry as the mastermind of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 which was launched on Friday.

For decades, the decline in English proficiency has been of serious concern to all and one of the most vocalised problems in the media.

The blueprint is set to address this issue, among many others. Generally seen as a no-holds barred master plan where, for the first time, the warts and all of our education system are revealed, it charts our path towards world class education.

It acknowledges, for example, that since 2006, poor English proficiency among fresh graduates has consistently ranked as one of the top five issues facing Malaysian employers.

We are also in the bottom third among 74 countries against international benchmarking. A comparison of scores shockingly reveals that 15-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai are performing as though they have had three or more years of schooling than their Malaysian counterparts.

The blueprint also highlights that only about a quarter of our SPM students achieved a minimum credit against Cambridge 1119 standards.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is right when he says that his proposal to make SPM English compulsory has received much support from parents and the public. If it worked with BM in the 1970s to get everyone to take the language seriously, why shouldn't it work with English?

But there will be much pain before any gain, as circumstances have changed.

At the students' level, how do we persuade them to see the relevance of English proficiency in their lives, especially among rural children? No one wants to learn something they don't need, says an educator. Hence, the need to create that relevance.

Bumiputra students, according to statistics, perform the worst compared to the Chinese and Indians when it comes to English.

The ministry realises that the failure rate is high in certain states like Sabah, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu – more than 40%.

It has also identified more than 1,000 schools as hot spots, mainly in the rural areas, and prioritising them for action.

Is increasing the teaching or contact hours the solution? The blueprint says the time is insufficient and the ministry is looking at extra contact hours after school.

But an education consultant shares that based on existing contact hours – 300 minutes in primary and 200 in secondary schools – students should have achieved the "independent user" band of B1/B2 (able to effectively express views and hold one's own in social discourse) of an international benchmark.

"It's not about the contact hours but the teaching and learning process," she says.

One problem is that English is taught as a single subject with total disconnect with other subjects, thus limiting students' perception of its relevance and their vocabulary.

Over the past week, there have been intense "labs" working on how to bring about the culture of wanting "an English experience".

"We've been tasked with thinking of ways to help students soak the culture of English and to enjoy it as an experience. Unfortunately, the objective of getting an A often takes the fun out of learning," shares an educationist.

With so many organisations involved in teacher training and curriculum development, the observation of a few who have been involved in the labs is that not everyone is on the same page.

Many are working in silos and not talking to each other.

"There is no clear direction and we're not achieving the objectives. We have the corporate suits who are not educators dishing out management jargon like 3-feet plan, backfill, granular and syndication. And they have no clue about what really happens in schools," he adds.

One heartening note from the blueprint is the Government's plan to increase the number of Trust Schools to 500 by 2025. Trust schools are selected public schools that undergo "transformation" with private sector input.

The first batch of 10 schools in Johor and Sarawak, launched in December 2010, have seen tremendous positive changes at student and teacher levels and the school culture as a whole.

This is in large part due to the autonomy granted to the school to do as it sees fit with help from full-time education advisers with international experience. The aim is to raise the quality of the school's education to global standards.

Those who have been to visit have come away gobsmacked by the transformation they see. Teachers put in longer hours but are happier and the kids are bursting with questions and confidence.

As one teacher puts it, Trust Schools are "sheltered from all the madness" that many public schools are subjected to, especially poor leadership and paperwork. In most schools, more effort and time are spent doing work outside the classroom than in.

The powers that be should seriously take note of the research findings in the blueprint that: only 50% of lessons are effectively delivered and high performing teachers can improve student outcomes by up to 50% over three years versus low performing peers.

Countries like Singapore and South Korea choose quality over quantity and willingly pay more for quality teachers.

We had a successful stint of producing more than 1,000 "standout" English teachers about 10 years ago under the "overseas linking programme" for Bachelor of Education in TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language).

This five-year post-SPM programme that offered a two-year study at British universities managed to attract top scorers who would otherwise have not had the opportunity for a foreign education.

A lecturer involved in this programme shares that it has successfully put in schools teachers who make a difference. Unfortunately, the scheme came to an end when funds dried up in an economic downturn a few years later.

A civil servant friend with two bright daughters who graduated from this programme says there must be greater incentive to get the best brains into the teaching service.

"Getting the right person will solve many of the problems. She will want to motivate the kids, focus on the teaching and learning pro­cess, do her own research for best teaching practices, etc ..." says a teacher who is about to throw in the towel.

After more than 30 years of teaching, she wants to call it a day as she does less teaching but more paperwork each year.

"And I can't stand working under a pen­getua whose entire idea of education does not extend beyond the repainting of walls and retiling of floors, not to mention getting skirts for tables!"

And she will soon join the group of retirees that the ministry is trying – and failing – to rehire as they are among the last of the Mohicans with strong language skills.

Note: A frustrated teacher shares this with me: "Our schools are running on documentation. I can actually create a whole school on paper. I can give you attendance, records, photos, reports and even slip it by the authorities."

And she's not kidding!


Umno polls to usher in a new era

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:47 PM PDT

Umno's maiden attempt at democratising its election process is more likely to produce a mixed bag than the dream team of leaders that some are expecting.

The pro-Umno bloggers have been quite critical of the government of late. They had run down Najib's election war-room team, they were not impressed with the Cabinet line-up and, more recently, they have been going for Pemandu, the body that oversees the government's transformation programmes.

Joceline Tan, The Star

DATUK Syed Ali Alhabshee does not believe in doing things in a half-hearted way. That also applies to the way he talks.

Syed Ali is the Cheras Umno division chief and some of the Umno people around him often joke that: "Our boss' mouth is like a bazooka rocket, badaboom, badaboom! Even ghosts are scared of him."

His annual Cheras Umno Hari Raya open house is often proclaimed as "the best" albeit by the Umno chaps in the division

But their Raya do this year was a showstopper. Syed Ali turned the strip of no-man's land beneath the elevated highway next to his party headquarters into a twinkling fairyland with giant ketupats dangling everywhere.

The VIP guest Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who has seen more than his share of Raya open houses, turned his head this way and that, taking in the crowd, the noise and the lights.

"You are very creative," the Prime Minister told Syed Ali when he realised that all the festivity was taking place underneath a busy highway.

Anyone who has been to Cheras Umno for Raya would know that Syed Ali is no ordinary Umno warlord because apart from Najib, the other VIP guests included Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his wife Puan Seri Noorainee Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and a string of ministers.

Fireworks lit up the sky when the two Tuns arrived. More fireworks exploded when Muhyiddin came and also when Najib's car drew up. Everyone thought that was about it with the pyrotechnics but the last of the fireworks went off when Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrived at about 10.30pm from a Raya do elsewhere.

The First Lady had skipped dinner at her earlier stop, and she told Syed Ali: "Syed, I came because of you."

Cheras is one of those Chinese-dominated seats where the DAP always does well. Malays make up only 10% of the voters and politicians like Syed Ali will always be the electoral bystander. But he is the go-to man for the average Joe in Cheras and his division has helped people in trouble and in need.

The unspoken is sometimes more significant than the spoken in Malay politics. It is not easy to get the "big three" of Umno around the same table and the fact that they were in Cheras says a lot.

"My boss (Syed Ali) has shown it is not the position you hold but the role you play in the party that matters. He is only a division chief but he speaks up, he fights for Umno, he defends the party, he is committed to the party's survival. For him, it's not about position, it's about the party and the leaders appreciate that," said Datuk Zurainah Musa, the Wanita Umno vice-head of Cheras.

Moreover, Cheras Umno is the only division that Dr Mahathir has allowed to use his name for the "Tun Mahathir Scholarship".

The signal from the Umno top guns is clear: Umno needs more leaders who can stand up for the party even though they do not hold a big post.

"People are always asking me to contest for a supreme council seat. They phone me, they SMS, they even come to my office. They tell me I will win but I tell them I can work even without a post," said Syed Ali.

Syed Ali's politics is probably too Malay right wing for most people's comfort. But for someone who is still rather old politics, he has made excellent use of the new media.

His political blog (umno bahagiancheras.blogspot.com) is filled with hard-hitting statements. He has asked a former Hindraf leader to resign his deputy minister post and he slammed DAP for their attacks on theTanda Putera film. He defends the police, he labelled the Chinese education group Dong Zong as racist and is opposed to Chin Peng's return because he said Malay hearts are "still bleeding" over the atrocities of the communists.

Lately, some of his "bazooka rockets" have been aimed at those within the party and in connection to the party election.

He told those eyeing posts in the Umno election that such contests are not "for fun" and those going for posts should look into the mirror and ask themselves if they deserve it. He also appealed to delegates to elect those who are clean and do not have baggage.

His earlier call for Wanita Umno leader Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil to make way caused a stir but he has since toned down because he can see that the tide is with Shahrizat.

Syed Ali is one of the few people airing comments and opinions on the Umno election. That is the beauty of not vying for a post – it frees one from having to pretend to be, as they say, all sugar and spice and everything.

Those vying for posts are on their best behaviour which in Malay politics would equate to being humble and friendly to all. Open attacks against an opponent is a definite no-no. For that matter, any over-the-top promotion of oneself would be seen as boastful.

It is a delicate balancing act, and the only other person offering frank commentary on the Umno polls is Dr Mahathir except that he does it in a more polished way than Syed Ali.

Campaigning has been going on in a subtle way at Hari Raya open houses although nomination day is still another three weeks away.

On Wednesday, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam confirmed what many had expected – he is going for the vice-president (VP) post, thus making it a total of five candidates for the three posts, so far.

The former Malacca Chief Minister was quite bitter about losing in the general election and his supporters blame the Chinese for it. But the upside of this is that he is now free to move around to campaign and he has been seen at almost every major Raya open house where he is welcomed like an old friend and hero.

Mohd Ali said he is going in because he wants to defend Malay rights and he expressed concern over the way Islam is being challenged by certain quarters.

The Chinese language papers played up his comment about closing down the Genting casino which he said caused social problems and crimes. Some were puzzled where that comment was coming from but it is, of course, part of the election campaign.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein took out a full-page colour advertisement inMingguan Malaysia last Sunday, ostensibly to wish everyone a happy Merdeka. The ad showed him looking handsome and fit with lots of pictures of the minister mingling with the troops and army veterans and on duty in Sabah during the Sulu intrusion.

His Merdeka message was "Hargai kedaulatan, cintai kemerdekaan, pertahankan ibu pertiwi" (treasure our sovereignty, cherish our independence, defend our motherland). As some noted, it could very well have been his campaign slogan to defend his VP post.

Syed Akbar Ali, the pro-Umno blogger known as Outsyed The Box, ran an online poll on the VP Race. The names he listed included the three incumbents Hishammuddin, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal plus the three other VP candidates, Mohd Ali, Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir even though Mukhriz has not shown any interest in the post.

The poll showed Mukhriz leading, followed by Zahid and Mohd Ali. Fortunately for those trailing, the online voters will not be the ones voting in the Umno election. But it is still an interesting indication of how the online inhabitants view the candidates although some saw it as Syed Akbar egging Mukhriz to take the leap.

The pro-Umno bloggers have been quite critical of the government of late. They had run down Najib's election war-room team, they were not impressed with the Cabinet line-up and, more recently, they have been going for Pemandu, the body that oversees the government's transformation programmes.

Some claimed the bloggers harbour an anti-Najib agenda but according to the loudest of them all, Zakhir Mohamed aka Bigdog, their attacks have nothing to do with the Umno election.

"We are not against Najib. He is still our choice for president, we want him up there but we don't approve of some of the people he has appointed and the shadow hands behind the scenes," said Zakhir.

Zakhir and his gang are also very pro-Mahathir. They worship the ground he walks on, they see the Mahathir era as "Umno's golden years" and they hanker for the time when the Government was strong and tough.

In that sense, the Umno election is also about the party struggling to make the transition into the new politics.

The younger set in Umno, especially those based in urban centres, can feel the ground shifting under their feet. They know that to survive, Umno has to come to terms with the changes taking place around them.

Umno, said Umno Youth exco member Datuk Zaki Zahid, has to take to heart what the voters want.

"Everybody has a voice these days, that is the sign of the new era. The people have spoken and the new team has to be able to interpret the changes. Our language and rhetoric have to be consistent with the new thinking," said Zaki.

Part of Umno wants to return to the way things used to be, part of it knows it has to keep apace with the times to survive.

But even those calling for Umno to change and transform are basically talking about dismantling the way the warlords control politics in the party.

They want to change the way the warlords block new and genuine talent from coming into the party and rising up. For instance, they believe that they could have done better in Selangor if not for warlordism.

"The basic core values of Umno as a Malay nationalist party, that it stands up for 'bangsa, agama dan negara', all that remains. No one is challenging those core values," said an Umno official.

These are the conflicting forces that Najib has had to grapple with from the day he took over as president and it is all about to come to a shake-down.

Predicting the Umno polls is not as easy as it used to be with the new election system. Some imagine that given the new and democratised mechanics, capable faces without baggage can easily join the race, get elected and become part of the new team.

But, said the Umno official, the established faces and those who are often featured in the Umno-affiliatedUtusan Malaysia will have the advantage because the majority of the delegates who will be voting are pretty ordinary party members who do not look too deep into issues or personalities.

"I doubt if we will get really outstanding faces emerging. It will be a mixed bag," he said.


Former NST boss: Ability, not birthright, should decide Umno’s leadership

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:42 PM PDT

"After blaming Barisan Nasional's poor performance on the Chinese tsunami, will Mohd Najib and the Umno leadership thank the Malays and sons of Sarawak and Sabah for saving BN and Umno last May 5 by giving what they have been neglected?" he said, referring to Barisan's dismal victory in the recent 13th General Election.

The Malay Mail

What does Umno want? The question was posed by former New Straits Times editor-in-chief Datuk A. Kadir Jasin in a recent blog post as the country's biggest political party gears up for elections in December.

The pro-establishment writer said the leadership of the Malay party — which is also the country's leadership by default as Umno's anchor position within the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition — should be based on a person's ability and not his birthright, if its members wished to continue with the aspirations of its former president, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

"Power, he said, lies in the hands of the Malay community and to benefit from that power, intelligent Malays should be among the elite which is determined by ability, attitude and commitment to the country overall," Kadir said, quoting Abdul Razak in his latest post on his blog The Scribe.

"Class, birthright and money are not major factors," he added.

Kadir's opinion appears to suggest a new power to challenge Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the party's incumbent president and the son of Abdul Razak.

The veteran journalist, who helmed the once-popular daily when the still-influential Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister, also questioned whether Umno was still championing the rights of Malays.

Likening the impending Umno elections to a train ride, Kadir said the excitement leading up to the party polls should spread to all its passengers and not just be contained within the locomotive at the front.

"If just the locomotive is hot but the passengers are mopey, unsettled, fed up and disgusted and can't wait to get off or want a new attractive locomotive, then it is pointless," he said.

Putting the question to Umno members, Kadir asked if they were in it just to turn a quick trick or dig their heels in and fight for the ideals that form the foundations of Umno.

"If its just to choose leaders and get short-term personal gain, then Umno members don't need to think so hard. Just choose the ones with deep pockets and shallow principles.

"But if they want a leadership with a patriot's spirit and capable of restoring the party's dignity and return to the struggle for the interests of race, religion and country, then they need to choose well.

"If they want the Malays and other bumiputera races to get the chance to free themselves from being third-class economic citizens, they must choose leaders who are intelligent, brave, knowledgable and with vision.

"If they feel that an economic growth policy tagged to equitable division as laid out in the New Economic Policy (NEP) is good for them, they must choose leaders who are not apologetic in pursuing the rights of the majority," he said.

The NEP was an affirmative action policy, lasting for some two decades, in favour of the Malays and implemented following the deadly May 13 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

Shifting his sights on to Najib, Kadir questioned the direction in which the Umno president - who typically assumes the role of Prime Minister - is taking the party and country.

In an apparent swipe at Najib, Kadir asked whether Umno has any heirs to the leadership of the late Abdul Razak, or his deputy the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman or Dr Mahathir.

"After blaming Barisan Nasional's poor performance on the Chinese tsunami, will Mohd Najib and the Umno leadership thank the Malays and sons of Sarawak and Sabah for saving BN and Umno last May 5 by giving what they have been neglected?" he said, referring to Barisan's dismal victory in the recent 13th General Election.

"Will Mohd Najib table the Malay agenda, bumiputera agenda and a sustainable agenda for the poor before or during this coming Umno General Assembly?

"Or will Mohd Najib and his advisors (who are as long as a Butterworth-Padang Besar container train) continue to implement their failed GE 2013 'war room' strategy?"

Kadir said it would be wise for Umno idealists who wished to push the Malay agenda and "growth with equity" to only believe in what has already been delivered.

"If someone promises a glass of water, do not believe it until we drink and do not die of poison. The moral is not to easily believe and that we must always have a remedy for poison.

"Insyak-Allah (sic) we are safe, our race is safe, our country is safe and our religion is safe and Malays can say 'I am Malay first' without being heckled by the non-Malays," he said, in an apparent reference to deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin raised a nationwide uproar when he declared in 2010 that he was "Malay first, Malaysian second", explaining that if he put being Malaysian first, he would be shunned by the Malay community.

This year's party elections will be a historical first for Umno, as it will be the first time voting will be opened to regular members.

Previously, the party leadership was selected by around 2,500 delegates afforded voting rights. After the party constitution was amended in 2009, voting has since been opened to around 150,000 members.

Nominations for the various posts will be opened on September 28, followed by the party elections on October 19. The party general assembly will be held later in December.


PAS must focus on substance

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:37 PM PDT

PAS must also realise that it is heading towards tumultuous years ahead, carrying bruises of perceived underperformance in the 13th General Election, most evidently by its loss of the state of Kedah.

Radziq Jalaludin, TMI

The ulama-professional dichotomy in PAS has been the subject of interest and intense debate within the party in the last few years. This debate has once again manifested in the wake of the upcoming muktamar (or general assembly).

To some, this debate is unwanted and unproductive, but to others this is indeed a crucial discourse that will shape the future of PAS. The result of this discourse will affect the way delegates at the muktamar are likely to vote.

I do not wish to enter the fray by taking sides because I believe that the more pertinent issue is the need to reconstruct the terms of this debate. PAS members should not make their choice simply based on whether the ulama or professionals are more competent to helm the party.

Rather, the debate should be reframed and should be about ascertaining the leadership qualities of a leader and not his appearance or ideological position alone. I also believe that it is imperative that PAS focus its attention on strengthening its capabilities to govern.

To start with, who is an "ulama" and who is a "professional"? Evidently there is no clear answer. However, there is an informal segmentation of the people (read: potential candidate for party leaders) within the party.

This segmentation is rather arbitrary and judgmental. At the discretion of those preaching the idea of the importance to make a stance on the debate, is the pitiful end in mere labelling of the "other side". This suggests that the very notion of the debate lacks a solid foundation to even merit a useful discourse.

As such, PAS delegates should not be drawn into this debate. Instead, they must exercise caution in ensuring that they do not just view potential office holders from the prism of this divide.

Additionally, PAS members should now start to objectively evaluate the qualities needed for one to be an effective leader. In doing so, PAS members must turn a blind eye towards the "labels" attached to candidates.

PAS members should up the ante by voting in leaders who not only qualify to lead the party but, more importantly, leaders who could lead the nation as a whole.

This would also inevitably lead to another polemic of giving the right meaning to "quality". We can expect many views coming from many vantage points, asserting their own meaning to the word "quality". This could create an intense debate in the party, but this debate is not only important but necessary. Members will postulate their views so that others could try to understand or at least to agree to disagree, subject to the party being matured enough to allow discussion to flow without any quarters trying to suppress it by resorting to calling it un-Islamic.



The same poop in different packaging?

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:26 PM PDT

It really does not require a genius to arrive at the conclusion that government spending is the biggest attribute in the worsening of the country's debts.

Vidal Yudin Weil, FMT

More than 100 days have elapsed since the passing of the general election and what has Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak done, let alone achieve, for the people – NOTHING…!

Despite all the colourful and feel-good press statements released in the mainstream media, including state and crony-owned television and radio stations, about how well the economy is doing, the dark shadow of recession is looming over the whole federation.

The entire scenario will spell out in no uncertain vocabulary the naked fact that incompetent management of taxpayers' money and institutionalised corruption will in the end bankrupt this country.

Every day we hear Najib and his ministers dishing out lame excuses to confuse the citizenry; it is a clear indication that for the remainder of his term nothing will come out productive and beneficial to the people anytime soon because even in doing the wrong things lies the fat mark of sloth and stupidity.

Like any other thing that went wrong, the shrinking economy and escalating cost of living is proving to be too complicated and convoluted for Najib's government to understand; it really does not require a genius to arrive at the conclusion that government spending is the biggest attribute in the worsening of the country's debts!

Because it is actually very straightforward, Najib should pursue a policy of trimming down his pot-belly administration where everyone in it is a factor as a transparent sign of substance instead of the present rhetorical distraction to cover up for his ineptness!

Even when he has no idea how to find alternative sources of funding, instead of raising the prices of fuel which will inadvertently cause the hike of everything else and burden the people, Najib should have immediately conceive reducing the size of his government as a more tactical and effective approach followed by selling all the government-linked corporations.



You are desperate, says Liow to Chua

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:10 PM PDT

MCA deputy president paints his boss as man who twists facts in favour of himself

Alyaa Azhar, FMT

MCA deputy president Liow Tiong Lai has dismissed claims that he is impatient to be the new party president, as claimed by MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek, and called the move by the latter a "desperate attempt".

"I am disappointed that Dr Chua stated that I have persistently confronted him to step down. This attempt to colour me as impatient and power hungry is unjustified and desperate," said Liow.

The Bentong MP claimed that this is the second time Chua has publicly referred to private and personal conversations between them.

"The first of such conversations were initiated by him on May 11 2013 before the presidential council meeting where he declared his intention to step down as party president and the need for a smooth transition.

"There were many other subsequent meetings where upon conversations covered numerous issues regarding party interests and I am shocked that he misinterpreted my earnest participation," said Liow.

According to Sin Chew Daily, Chua had accused Liow of being impatient to be the new party president. He claimed that Liow had met him three times after the 13th general election (GE13) asking him to step down.

"At the second and third meetings, Liow asked when am I going to retire and requested me to give him a date so that he can take over as president. According to the party constitution, once the president steps down, the deputy can take over the post without being acting president," said Chua.

Chua then revealed that with this move, Liow can be the president and come the year-end party polls, he will not be challenged.

Liow however maintained that "MCA's interests are above all personal agendas and the leadership should be looking into the transparency and governance issues facing the party today."



RON95 & diesel price increases: Feeling disenfranchised

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 01:35 PM PDT


It's barely 2 weeks since our nation's worst road tragedy which killed 37 passengers on a bus coming down from Genting Highlands. Are Road Transport officials and analysts concerned that the rise in the price of diesel may jeopardize the safety of public transport if bus fares aren't increased? How will bus companies make up for the increase in fuel prices? Will they cut down on repairs and maintenance?


In Malaysia, it's generally true that vehicles used for business purposes run on diesel, and petrol is used for private motoring.

This week the Government of Malaysia reduced the subsidy on RON95 petrol and diesel by 20 sen per litre; 2 days later the government reduced the subsidy on RON97 petrol by 0.15 sen per litre.

The price-at-the-pump is now RM 2.10 for RON95, RM 2.00 for diesel; and RM 2.85 for RON97.

The news analyses and comments I've seen in response to the increases are mostly negative.

We've been reminded that in February the Prime Minister said fuel prices will not be raised, and in April, the Minister for Domestic Trade said the same thing. The PM and the Minister said the government would continue to subsidize fuel at pumps, despite the fact that the cost of subsidies is, according to one news report, RM 30 billion per year. So, we're to conclude "the election's over, time to break the promises." Sigh.

We've been told about inane comments by BN politicians, e.g. Bung Mokhtar, saying the increase in prices will not burden "kampung people." Sigh.

We've been shown a few photos taken at petrol stations which show some who queued to grab the "cheaper fuel" before the midnight price hike were driving large new cars. So, we're to conclude the poor aren't complaining, it's just the rich who're complaining. Sigh.

We've been reminded that the Fitch ratings agency pushed our nation's credit rating outlook to negative, due to over-spending by the government, including "high and rising weight of subsidies in expenditure," as reported in The Malaysian Insider. Some take this to mean we should conclude prices at the pump must be raised in order to please foreigners! Sigh.

I've just returned to Kuala Lumpur after living for a year in the Netherlands. I know how cheap fuel is in Malaysia relative to other countries.

For a litre of RON95, last week, in Amsterdam, I paid RM 8.01 (EUR 1.85), while this week in Kuala Lumpur, after the price hike, I paid RM 2.10. The Dutch pay 4 times as much as Malaysians! [I should also add that the Dutch do not pay tolls.] This source gives you the price of fuel in Europe.

I am NOT surprised by this report on the extent of Malaysia's fuel subsidies:

"In 2011, the IEA [International Energy Agency] reviewed the consumer subsidies of 12 economies in the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which together represented roughly a quarter of global subsidies. On a per-capita basis, Malaysia had the third-highest fossil-fuel subsidies, spending US$199.6 per person in2009, behind Brunei at US$804.1 and Russia at US$274.3 (IEA, 2011). The study also indicated that Malaysia spent 2.4 percent of GDP on fossil-fuel subsidies, just behind Vietnam, with the highest Expenditure by GDP at 2.8 percent." (source: the Canada based International Institute for Sustainable Development)

When I reviewed news reports and comments, I noticed the reduction of subsidies and the subsequent increase in price-at-the-pump is being 'analyzed' in overly simplistic terms. We seem to gravitate towards us-versus-them, 2-dimensional slanging matches, and miss the big picture.

Odd. Few seem to think fuel consumption will go down as a result of the price increase. Isn't it odd that an increase in price doesn't translate to a reduction in demand?

Read more at: http://write2rest.blogspot.com/2013/09/ron95-diesel-price-increases-feeling.html 

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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