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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Teacher speaks out over assault

SPEAKING OUT ... Ibrahim Yusuf 
SPEAKING OUT ... Ibrahim Yusuf
A mosque teacher who assaulted four pupils with a two-foot long stick says he is hoping to put the episode behind him after he was given a community sentence.

Married dad-of-eight Ibrahim Yusuf, 52, admitted hitting the children while under his tuition at the Raza Jamia Masjid Mosque, Grimshaw Street, Accrington.

This week a judge at Blackburn Magistrates Court handed the grandad-of-one a 12-month community order with 12 months supervision after he pleaded guilty to four charges of assault.

He was also ordered to pay £85 in court costs and £25 compensation costs on each of the assault charges.
More than 200 people have signed a petition in support of Mr Yusuf to return and teach at the mosque – stating they ‘are united in deep regret following this unfortunate and isolated incident’.

Speaking exclusively to the Observer following the sentence Mr Yusuf, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, said: "I am relieved it is over. I wasn’t scared that I might go to jail but it’s been tough for my family because they have been worried.

"Everyone including the parents of the four children involved in this want me to carry on working at the mosque after Ramadan which is where I have been working as a volunteer teacher for almost 12 years."
Mr Yusuf is a Hafiz of the Qu’ran – one who has memorised the entire Qu’ran – and teaches children the art of reciting the Holy book to Accrington youngsters.

Earlier this month, Blackburn magistrates heard how Mr Yusuf walked among four children who had run out of another classroom and hit them with a stick he used as a teaching aid.

The court was also told how he could be seen striking two of the boys, all aged 11, on CCTV footage on the day of the assaults. One was hit on the arm and another on the lower back.

The court also heard his actions were against the Accrington mosque’s policy but its chairman would welcome back Mr Yusuf, who was described as the ‘best teacher’.

Speaking following the sentence Mr Yusuf said there were about 30 nine to 13 year old students at the mosque on the day of the incident.

Mr Yusuf, who works full-time as a sales administrator for a mobile phone and computer company, said: "I don’t usually have the stick, but just happened to have it that day for teaching purposes.

"Four or five children started running around in the hall. I went out and just tapped them on their arms with the pointer and was generally just waving the stick. The CCTV shows that.

"They were running around very fast and could have hurt themselves if I hadn’t done anything. I did it to stop them getting hurt on the nearby wooden benches or hurting anyone else and to respect the mosque. Apparently even tapping can be an assault which is why I admitted it."

Support has flowed in from the community following the case.

Azar Iqbal, 41, who runs Oswaldtwistle Pharmacy, said the success of his pharmacy was due to the guidance he received from Mr Yusuf when he was his former pupil. He said: "He taught me how to become a good citizen. I was deeply saddened to hear how such a wonderful person could have got himself tangled up in this case."

Siraj Ahmed, a barrister from Blackburn, said it came as a shock to him. He said: "I do not condone or justify the behaviour, but I would describe such action as being totally out of character."

Khalil Bukhari, a practising solicitor from Blackburn, said he had always found Mr Yusuf to be a "kind, dependable person, well regarded among his peers and in the local community" in the 30 plus years he has known him.

Church raid stokes religious tensions

A survey has showed the number of Malaysians who felt ethnic relations were good dropped from 78 percent in 2006 to 66 percent.

KUALA LUMPUR: A raid by state Islamic enforcers on a church function has stirred religious tensions and revived fears of growing Islamisation in the multi-ethnic country.

Officials swooped on a dinner at a Methodist church hall outside the capital Kuala Lumpur on Aug 3, saying they had information that a group of Muslims were being converted, which is prohibited in much of the country.

The relatively tame incident has unnerved some in one of Southeast Asia’s most prosperous nations, where religion and race are intertwined and the various ethnic groups have generally co-existed peacefully.

The Damansara Utama Methodist Church denied the event was held to convert Muslims, but Islamic officials and pro-government media pounced on the case to allege a widespread Christian proselytising campaign.

Many Christians, however, dismiss the charge and say they face increasing pressure in a country whose ethnic Malay-dominated government has long presented Malaysia as a modern, ethnically harmonious Muslim state.

“I am very unhappy with the way Christians are being portrayed and why authorities are treating the community so suspiciously,” Maria Varghese, 37, a Kuala Lumpur schoolteacher and ethnic Indian Christian, told AFP.

“We are not trying to convert anyone. We have friends of all races and religions and have lived happily for centuries. I don’t understand why they are attacking us.”

Half of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Malay Muslims — there are also sizeable Chinese, Indian and indigenous minorities — while Christians from a range of races form nine percent of the country’s 28 million population.

Overt racial and religious antagonism has been minimal in recent decades, following deadly race riots in 1969.

But an Islamisation trend has gained pace recently as the long-ruling government coalition vies for Muslim votes with the increasingly influential Islamic opposition party PAS.

“Both Muslims and Christians have been carrying out missionary work in this country for centuries so this is not a new phenomenon,” said Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, head of ethnic studies at the National University of Malaysia.

“But what is worrying is that this is now being politicised.”

Church attacks

In 2009, churches were attacked with petrol bombs after a court lifted a government ban on the use of “Allah” as a translation for “God” in Malay-language bibles.

The ban had been in place for years but enforcement only began in 2008 out of fear the word could encourage Muslims to convert.

Premier Najib Tun Razak, head of the ruling Umno, has called for national unity and met Pope Benedict XVI in July about opening relations with the Vatican.

But with a hotly contested election expected soon, the Damansara raid has triggered anti-Christian rhetoric by some ruling-party politicians, Islamic officials and Umno-backed media.

A coalition of about two dozen Muslim civil society groups also issued a call to make apostasy a national crime.

Converting from Islam is already banned in most of Malaysia’s 13 states and three federal territories which have Islamic Sharia courts that run parallel to civil courts. Muslims, however, are allowed to proselytise.

“As long as no one tries to convert Muslims, we can live in harmony with everyone,” Ibrahim Salleh, 58, an elder at a Muslim prayer hall in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Subang, told AFP.

“But if missionary groups try to exert their influence and erode Islam, then we must fight back.”

Creating mistrust

The uproar has raised questions over the powers of the state Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAIS), known for its raids to enforce Islamic rules ranging from the alcohol ban to illicit relationships between unwed Muslims.

Christian leaders warn the church incident risked upsetting the country’s delicate racial and religious balance.

“These actions are calculated at creating mistrust and tension among the various religions in Malaysia and people should know better than to try and stoke such tensions through baseless allegations,” Reverend Thomas Philips, president of the Christian Churches of Malaysia, told AFP.

A survey by polling group Merdeka Centre conducted earlier this year showed the number of Malaysians who felt ethnic relations were good dropped from 78 percent in 2006 to 66 percent.

But with Najib widely expected to call an election soon, he faces an uphill challenge to defuse the situation, said Shamsul of the National University of Malaysia, “as he is head of Umno, which champions Malay rights and Islam.”


Anti-Chinese sentiment gaining ground in Malaysia

Recently, a racial incident again took place in a Malaysian school. A middle school history teacher in Johor told a student of Chinese descent to "go back to China." The incident came mere months after another case of schoolyard racism when a middle school principal insulted his Chinese students with similar remarks at the end of last year.

Although racial remarks and activities are often punished firmly by the Malaysian authorities, these discordant voices continue to drum in schools in attempts of clearing out Chinese descendants.
For the middle school principal, however, the only consequence for his behavior last year was being reassigned from his post. This did not appease the anger of the Chinese community. Moreover, it was shown to be a tacit approval for anti-Chinese sentiment by the government.

This time, it is a history teacher who made such improper remarks. The saying goes: Take history as a mirror, and we can see the rise and fall of dynasties. Obviously, this history teacher does not measure up to his supposed expertise, and his ignorance is on clear display as he stirs up racial disputes. Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural nation with Malays, Chinese and Indians as its three major ethnicities. All three settled on the islands almost at the same time; none is technically aborigines in Malaysia.

However, the anti-Chinese sentiment has been deeply rooted. Malays account for 60 percent of the population, Chinese 26 percent and Indians 8 percent. The current administration implements preferential policies to Malays, which has further deepened the racial discrimination in the society.

Chinese descendents in Southeast Asian countries constitute the majority of the foreign Chinese. Minorities in all, the Chinese descendents have still played important roles in the social and economical developments of these countries. Even in the hardest time, they did not leave the countries but stuck to their businesses there. As citizens, they made contribution to the social and economical restorations to the countries where they reside. This was especially the case in Malaysia.

Therefore, "Go back to China" is no small thing. It reflects a lack of sensitivity to racism in Malaysia, as well as the lack of understanding for the local Chinese. The Chinese descendents do not want the government to simply adopt measures to deal with improper remarks or activities as a formality. They want a deeper, intrinsic kind of respect for their community. And instead of fanning the flames of racism and condoning anti-Chinese behaviors, they hope government would take on a meaningful role in maintaining the unity of the ethnicities.

A politician once pointed out this of the Malaysian government: "If you knock it, it will shake. But if you knock harder, it will break. It looks well on the outside, but ill on the inside."

Moreover, a Malaysian congressman confronted the government, saying it was a great shame that although his party had won an overwhelming 91 percent of parliament seats in the election in March, 2004, the prime minister did not take this chance to promote a national unity. On the contrary, ethnic separatists are more influential than ever, bringing a new crisis to the country.

I would hold the election after Raya

Yes, if I were Najib, I would hold the general election after Hari Raya. If not, then this would be the last Hari Raya with him as Prime Minister. If not, then next Hari Raya we would be visiting either Anwar or Muhyiddin Yassin at Putrajaya.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy 2 trial is going just like Sodomy 1.

Anwar’s team of lawyers are smarter than the prosecutors. They have managed to turn the trial into political grandstanding.

The issue is no longer whether Anwar did or did not commit the act of sodomy. The issue is whether the prosecution can prove that he did so. So they are fighting on technicalities. And the technicalities appear focused on the matter of fabrication of evidence.

That was what happened in the Sodomy 1 trial. And that is what is also happening in the Sodomy 2 trial.

If Najib Tun Razak hopes to convict Anwar and send him to jail, that will happen, of course. That happened in Sodomy 1 and it will happen in Sodomy 2 as well. However, just like what happened in Sodomy 1, the people will not believe that Anwar received a fair trial.

So, if Najib plans to hold the general election after they convict Anwar and send him to jail, in the hope that Anwar would be discredited and Pakatan Rakyat would lose the moral high ground, that is not going to happen. Instead, Anwar’s credibility would be enhanced and Pakatan Rakyat would gain more ground.

So, it is no point in holding the general election after they convict Anwar and send him to jail. Pakatan Rakyat would, in fact, benefit from that. Najib would be doing Pakatan Rakyat a favour by sending Anwar to jail on what most would consider a sham trial on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence.

Yes, things are not going well for Najib. Anwar’s team has skilfully refocused attention not to the whether Anwar did or did not commit sodomy but to whether he is or is not getting a fair trial. The bungling fools in the prosecution are convincing everyone that the evidence is being fabricated to gain a conviction.

Anwar is going to jail. But he is not going to jail as a disgraced criminal. He is not going to jail because he committed sodomy. He is going to jail because they are giving him a sham jail.

Never mind whether Anwar is really guilty of sodomy. It matters not whether he did or did not commit the crime. What does matter is they can’t prove it and they fabricated the evidence to justify sending him to jail.

Things are indeed not going well for Najib. The Sodomy 2 trial is a foregone conclusion. But it is going to hurt Najib more than it is going to hurt Anwar. It is going to damage Barisan Nasional more than it is going to damage Pakatan Rakyat.

So, holding the general election after they send Anwar to jail will do more harm than good to Barisan Nasional. So they had better hold the election now, after Hari Raya.

The economy is not doing well. The UK and the US are bracing themselves for a crash landing.

In October, Najib will be presenting his budget for 2012. It was supposed to be an election budget. But no amount of window-dressing is going to convince anyone that everything is peachy rosy and honky dory.

Najib’s budget is going to be torn to pieces. They will strip it naked and it will be seen for what it is: rhetoric with no substance. So, holding the election after the budget, which means after Anwar’s trial as well, is going to be a double whammy for Barisan Nasional.

Umno is imploding. Najib is going to face what Dr Mahathir Mohamad faced in mid-2002. In 2002, Umno closed in on Dr Mahathir and forced his hand. In an emotional moment of weakness, Dr Mahathir announced his resignation and handed power to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 1 November 2003.

Najib is fighting on three fronts. On one front is Anwar. On the second front is the doomed economy. More importantly, however, on the third front is Umno that wants Najib’s head on a silver platter.

Rosmah Mansor has been very silent of late. She has been told that a Prime Minister’s wife must be seen, not heard. In Rosmah’s case, it is better that she is not seen as well.

Rosmah is Najib’s Khairy. She is to Najib what Khairy was to Abdullah Badawi. And for that same reason Najib has Dr Mahathir breathing down his neck.

Yes, the world is crumbling around Najib. Time is ticking away and is getting shorter. Time is not on Najib’s side. Time is a luxury he can’t afford.

Najib must call for the general election after Hari Raya if he wants to make it till Christmas. If not, he would go down in history as Malaysia’s Prime Minister who ruled the shortest.

Yes, if I were Najib, I would hold the general election after Hari Raya. If not, then this would be the last Hari Raya with him as Prime Minister. If not, then next Hari Raya we would be visiting either Anwar or Muhyiddin Yassin at Putrajaya.

That is what I would do if I were Najib. I would hold the general election after Hari Raya. Then I would catch Pakatan Rakyat unprepared.

Pakatan Rakyat is not yet ready for the elections. They still have not sorted out the seat allocations. In fact, they have not even started talking yet. And they are far from even sorting out the list of candidates.

Pakatan Rakyat is still sleeping. If the general election is held after Hari Raya, Pakatan Rakyat will be caught with its pants down. Pakatan Rakyat will be like the Americans at Pearl Harbour. They would be bombed and sunk just like at Pearl Harbour.

Yes, call the election after Hari Raya and watch Pakatan Rakyat scramble like cockroaches when the light is switched on. That is what will happen if the election is called after Hari Raya.

If I were Najib, I would hold the general election after Hari Raya and solve all my problems. It then matters not what type of trial Anwar is subjected to. It then matters not what happens to the economy. It then matters not what Umno is trying to do to me.

By the time it does matter the general election would be over and I would be installed as the legitimate Prime Minister. Then that would give me five years to solve all my problems. And in five years all my problems today would no longer be problems.

That is why I would hold the general election after Hari Raya if I were Najib. But then I am not Najib. And that is why Najib will fall, because he is not me and he would not do what I would do if I were him.

False news on TV1

Media Statement by Tony Pua, DAP National PublicitySecretary and Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rais Yatim must take responsibility for the most despicable piece ofincendiary false news reporting on national TV and ensure that thoseresponsible for it are sacked immediately.

TV1 last nite reported in its 8pm prime-time newson the existence of “Murtads in Malaysia & Singapore” Facebookgroup. What is most despicable andsickening is TV1 highlighting the alleged association of DAP leaders such asTan Kok Wai, Charles Santiago, Dr Boo Cheng Hau, Ean Yong Hian Wah with theGroup. TV1 even placed the spotlight onthe chairman of Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) and ADUN for Kota Damansara DrNasir Hashim insinuating the betrayal of his own faith.

The “news” report is obviously calculated toinflame sentiments and anger among Malays and Muslims in the country,especially towards Pakatan Rakyat whose leaders’ names were “found” to be part of the group.

The problem is those responsible in TV1 obviouslydid not bother to find the truth to the story but went ahead to make the baselessinsinuations above. TV1 either were tooignorant to know, or did not want to know the fact that the “add to group”function in Facebook is such that you cannot prevent a group administrator fromadding you to any group. There is norequirement to secure one’s permission or approval for adding a Facebook memberto a Group.

Therefore all of the accused “supporters” of theFacebook page did not intend to, or never knew they had “joined” the Group. TV1 was completely unethical in its reportingby not first verifying the above information with the relevant people who were “implicated”by the Facebook page, especially since they were Pakatan Rakyat leaders whowere easily accessible.

Hence instead of making a news report to cite theexistence of the “Murtads in Malaysia & Singapore” Facebook page andcriticising the administrators for wantonly adding Pakatan Rakyat leaders tothe page and to cause anger among the people, TV1 chose to emphasize thesupposed support shown by these leaders to the page. TV1 must be charged for making anddisseminating false news to incite hatred among ordinary Malaysians.

The false TV1 news report follows closely anotherfake news aired by TV3 on 21 August which claimed the proselytization by atuition centre in Old Klang Road after complaints by a non-existent “SurauAl-Musyrikin”.

It is absolutely clear that the above incendiaryand seditious false news reports by the Government-owned and UMNO-associatedmedia organisations are part of a systematic and orchestrated campaign todivide the people and retain power for Barisan Nasional in the next generalelections. The desperation of the Najibadministration is so deep that “to win at all cost”, BN is willing to not onlyspread false news, but also to use the highly-charged religious sentiments totear the country apart.

We condemn the actions of the TV stations in the strongestpossible terms and demand that the Minister of Information, Communications andCulture Dato’ Seri Dr Rais Yatim apologise on behalf of the TV stations formaking false and seditious news reports. Dr Rais must also conduct an immediate investigation into the completelylack of professionalism in both TV1 and TV3 and insist that the responsibleparties are removed from the posts.

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam Is New President Of Singapore

SINGAPORE, Aug 28 (Bernama) -- Former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam has become the island state's seventh president, winning the four-corner election by 7,269 votes or a 0.34 per cent margin following a recount.

Returning officer Yam Ah Mee announced the result early Sunday morning after he had allowed the recount as the difference in votes between the two leading candidates was less than two per cent of the total valid votes cast.

Keng Yam secured 744,397 or 35.19 per cent of the total valid votes while Dr Tan Cheng Bock received 737,128 or 34.85 per cent.

Tan Jee Say garnered 529,732 votes or 25.04 per cent and Tan Kin Lian obtained 103,931 votes or 4.91 per cent.

This is the first time that Singapore has seen a four-corner fight for the post. It is also the first contested presidential election since 1993.

The president is the head of state and holds office for a term of six years.

The gender struggle in India

As India evolves from a traditional to a modern society, what challenges are Indian women facing?
India has produced a female president, a prime minister, business tycoons and countless Bollywood starlets. But becoming a successful Indian woman depends on the caste you are born into and what part of the country you come from.

As India evolves from a traditional to a modern society, Indian women still face the challenges of living and working in a patriarchial system.

The Cafe travels to Mumbai to discuss gender inequality in India and whether the status of women is improving in the world's largest democracy. How far have Indian women progressed, and how much further will they still have to go?

U.S. official: Al Qaeda's No. 2 has been killed

Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Atiya Abdul Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, a U.S. official said Saturday.Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Atiya Abdul Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, a U.S. official said Saturday.

The official would not discuss the circumstances behind his death, but did say Rahman is a key loss for al Qaeda.

"There's no question this is a major blow to al Qaeda. Atiya was at the top of al Qaeda's trusted core," the official said. "He ran daily operations for the group since Shaykh Sa'id al-Masri was killed last year, and has been (Osama bin Laden successor Ayman al-Zawahiri's) second-in-command since bin Laden's death in May."

Rahman's death will affect al Qaeda's ties to its affiliates, as well as Zawahiri's ability to gain complete control over the terrorist group, the official said.

"Atiya was the one affiliates knew and trusted, and he spoke on behalf of both (bin Laden and Zawahiri). He planned the details of al Qaeda operations and its propaganda.

"His combination of background, experience and abilities are unique in al Qaeda -- without question, they will not be easily replaced," the official said.

"Zawahiri needed Atiya's experience and connections to help manage al Qaeda. Now it will be even harder for him to consolidate control," he added.

Zawahiri took control of al Qaeda after bin Laden was killed in a clandestine U.S. raid in Pakistan in May. Rahman used to be bin Laden's operations chief.

Think out of the box, Dr M tells Bumi businesses

The former prime minister said the Bumiputera business community should seek new ways to increase demand for Malaysian products globally. — file pic
PETALING JAYA, Aug 27 — Bumiputera businesses must strive to develop new and unique products rather than imitate others if they wish to compete on the world stage, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

The former prime minister said the Bumiputera business community should not imitate what has already been done by others but instead, seek new ways to increase demand for Malaysian products globally.

“Think of something new. Don’t do what your neighbours do,” he told some 150 Tesco staff and suppliers here today at an executive lecture organised by the hypermarket chain.

“In Malaysia, for example, if somebody starts a nasi lemak stall, then within a short while there will be 10 nasi lemak stalls. But the number of customers is not increasing so all of them will fail.”

Dr Mahathir said small businesses should build up production capacity by adopting mechanisation so that they can grow as demand for their products increases and eventually develop into small-and-medium enterprises.

He said Bumiputera businesses must also learn to how to better package and market their products, which were good but lacked attractiveness and exposure.

Malaysians could emulate the success of the Japanese and the Koreans, who market and sell goods all over the world, if they “worked really hard”, Dr Mahathir added.

“It’s a question of always producing good quality products and you meeting your commitments,” he said.

Dr M: Middle-income Malaysia cannot rely on FDI

Dr M said today that Malaysia could now leverage on local funds and know-how to start new industries, acquire new technology and develop new products. — file pic
PETALING JAYA, Aug 27 — Malaysia should not depend on foreign direct investment (FDI) to drive the economy as it can no longer compete with low-cost countries such as Vietnam and China, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has said that FDI accounts for 70 per cent of investments but it is working towards a 50:50 parity by encouraging more local investments.

“We cannot wait for foreign investors to come simply because foreign investors have got a choice,” Dr Mahathir told some 150 Tesco staff and suppliers here today at an executive lecture organised by the hypermarket chain.

“They can go to Vietnam or China or Thailand or the Philippines or Indonesia, where labour is cheaper.”
He said that while Malaysia previously had no choice but to rely on FDI due to lack of capital, technology and knowledge of the world market, it could now leverage on local funds and know-how to start new industries, acquire new technology and develop new products.

Dr Mahathir also said the government should grant local investors the same incentives it gave foreign ones, such as tax holidays, as it was unfair and discriminatory to hold back such benefits from Malaysians.
“Now that we have local investors, they should be given incentives and support by the government,” he said.

Deputy international trade and industry minister, Dr Mahathir’s son Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, said earlier today that it would be an uphill task for Malaysia to bring domestic direct investments (DDI) to parity with FDI as foreign inflows had not slowed down.

He said it was crucial that the government not differentiatie between local and foreign investors if Putrajaya wished to make it “more exciting” for Malaysians to invest here instead of overseas.

Putrajaya has set a target of RM1.4 trillion in investments until 2020 to generate RM1.7 trillion and vault Malaysia into developed nation status.

The Stream - Malaysia's ethnic and religious divide

Debating M’sia’s ethnic, religious divisions

Al Jazeera interviews Marina Mahathir, Khairy Jamaluddin and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad on Malaysia's ethnic and religious divide.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s delicate issue of race and religion was put under the global spotlight in an interview programme aired by international broadcaster Al Jazeera yesterday.

The programme – the daily run The Stream, aired live yesterday – touched on recent controversies which brushed Malaysia, including the issue of the use of the word “Allah”, the proselytisation of Muslims and the “racist” 8TV advertisement.

The programme was hosted by Derrick Ashong who interviewed well known political commentator Marina Mahathir, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad for their views on how to tackle the nation’s most prickly problems.

Despite having differing views on who was to blame over the issues, all three agreed that Malaysia must move away from race and religion based politics for the nation to move forward.

Khairy, who is also the MP for Rembau, said ethnicity was gradually becoming a less important basis for politics and government.

“In Malaysia, people are moving towards post-modern politics that is not based on race and religion. It is not to say ethnic and religious issues are not important and do not gain traction among people, and of course it is being exacerbated by politicians.”

“But I would say, going forward in 10 to 20 years, ethnicity and religion as political issues would play less of an important role especially when people are more inclusive in their world view and the
future of the country,” he added.

When posed a question on how Malaysia could promote the 1Malaysia concept when the ruling BN was still practicing race-based politics, Khairy rejected the accusation that BN could not bring about unity.

“I think that’s a very common criticism of the BN. I disagree vehemently with that categorisation. I don’t think BN is incompatible with national unity,” he said, adding that even the opposition has a party that was based on a single religion and another dominated by one ethnic group.

Streamlining the NEP

Khairy said despite having ethnic-based parties, the BN “works because we govern on the basis of consensus” and said “ultimately it is the policies that matter and the agreements between the parties for national interest”.

He was also asked as to how government policies can be fair if the federal constitution “enshrines an inherent bias”, to which Khairy said there was not a single political party currently willing to say that they would abolish Article 153 from the constitution.

“The constitution says specifically certain things are accorded to Malays and some to non-Malays. However, some of the policies have expanded that into other areas of economy and it has become
overreaching. These are some of the things we can work on, these policies we can reform in the
future,” said Khairy.

Khairy added that the government was trying to streamline the NEP to ensure it doesn’t distort the market, become an impediment to economic growth and that necessary help goes to deserving Malays.

“It is a valid criticism in the past that it went to undeserving bumiputeras and the politically connected. What we are trying to foster is an environment of merit and competition within the Malay community so eventually we can scale back some of these provisions to ensure a level playing field for all,” he said.

BN still in the past

Nik Nazmi, who is PKR communications director, meanwhile put the blame on racial and religious politicking squarely on the BN.

He said that in Malaysia, times have changed and people have moved on, but “BN has not moved with the times and that creates the tension today.”

To a question on the government’s control of the media, Nik Nazmi said that the ruling coalition has used the race card to built a “seige mentality” in the population, which was very unhealthy.

“Race issues are consuming our attention disproportionately in Malaysia at the expense of discussions on health policies, economic policies and so forth,” he said.

Nik Nazmi agreed that ethnic based politics could only be done away with when there are no more ethnic-based parties.

“This model is something of the past, it is destroying the Malaysian politics. It was said that a Malay politician may not have a single chauvinist bone in his body but in order to rise he has to play the race game.

“This is what happens in Umno. In multi-racial parties like PKR for example, I can’t be racist because I’ll be voted out,” he said.

Nik Nazmi said that the constitution may have its “idiosyncracies” that were unsymmetrical between the rights and freedom between the different communities, but added that the country was much fairer in the past.

“Equality is also one of the fundamental rights in the federal constitution. That is what we find increasingly ignored and forgotten,” he said.

Marina worried

Marina lamented the fact that race and religion were what politicians talked about all the time but said that Malaysia has “worked pretty well all this time”.

However, she said, the issue now was “whether that balance that our forefathers envisioned are being disturbed, because now communities perhaps are taking bigger space, insisting and constantly griping about not getting their dues”.

Asked if she was referring the the Malay population, Marina said there were some politicians who continue to insist that they always have to have more.

She expressed her worry that the future looked bleak if the unhappiness of the non-Malays persist, the braindrain continues and the Malays continue to have higher birthrates.

“Unless we have leaders who are really committed in ensuring the continuation of the Malaysian diversity, that’s the way its gonna go, sadly.”

Jangan Halang Kaum Lain Jika Bantu Umat Islam

Master the English language to be world class — Hussaini Abdul Karim

AUG 27 — It is very pleasing and most delightful to the ears to hear many non-Malay Malaysians, both young and old (except maybe some of the older ones) speaking and writing in perfect Bahasa Malaysia, some without even a hint of an accent whatsoever, in the case of the former.

The country’s New Education Policy to switch from English to Bahasa Malaysia introduced and implemented in the early 70s must have done wonders. With the introduction of new laws, rules and regulations, the policy makers have found a very effective way to teach the national language which is now widely used and accepted throughout the country at every level including in the home.

Fast forward to the new millennium. While we have won over the people in terms of Bahasa Malaysia, we have now lost a big asset i.e., the ability of many Malaysians, graduates included, to speak and write proper English. In a way, our New Education Policy has backfired.

People all over the world, in the 60s and the early 70s, especially from English-speaking countries, poured praise and compliments every time a Malaysian spoke or wrote in English at international seminars, forums and discussions, including at the United Nations, and allowed Malaysian representatives to hold important positions because of our excellent language skills. Now, however, things have changed, for the worse.

Knowing the advantages of mastering more than one language, Malaysians need to re-learn English and what’s best other than to start from young, i.e. at the primary school or even kindergarten level. In order to master the English language the way our people did before, it has to be learnt the same way and there’s no short cut to it.

Of course, I am not suggesting that new laws, rules and regulations are introduced like how our policy makers once did when they wanted us to learn Bahasa Malaysia. Our policy makers and the people at the Ministry of Education know how a language can be taught effectively to achieve a very high fluency level, so let the use of English by all be free-flowing, for official, non-official and social use, and teach it the way Bahasa Malaysia is being taught now.

Besides that, many concerned Malaysians, including myself, have sent in useful and practical ideas, suggestions and proposals on the teaching and learning of the English language. If need be, re-introduce the English medium schools and recall all our excellent and experienced language teachers in addition to training some of our teachers to be excellent language teachers.

This will make Malaysians bi-lingual and instantly, we will increase the ‘value’ of our people with this additional asset. We can then ‘attack’ the world again like how our people did before and we can see many more Malaysians being accepted for jobs overseas and not only in the country, which is seen as among the several direct advantages that our people, especially graduates, will enjoy.

So, the powers that be; let’s not wait any longer and make a decision on English fast and stop dillydallying.
* Hussaini Abdul Karim reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Malaysians Have The Kampung Close To Heart - Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (Bernama) -- As the nation moves towards becoming a high-income nation, Malaysians should never abandon that one place they call their "kampung halaman" or hometown, no matter how modernised it has become, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In his latest posting on his 1Malaysia blogsite as millions of Malaysians embark on the annual 'balik kampung' exodus to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, he said this phenomenon was an apprehension that despite having a comfortable livelihood in the city, there was always that need for Malaysians to return to their roots in the kampung.

"While many of the younger generation were born and raised in cities, the balik kampung culture has been so strongly embedded in our society that even this generation identifies the kampung as part and parcel of their life," he wrote.

In the posting titled 'Our Kampung Heritage', Najib hoped Malaysians had a safe journey back to their kampung to celebrate Aidilfitri, and that Malaysians of other faiths would join their Muslim friends in the festivities.

He observed there was no denying that there were some who had permanently adopted the city as their hometown and no longer had a kampung to go back to.

Najib said this was quite evident in Kuala Lumpur, which was no longer the strangely deserted city on Aidilfitri as it was in the 80s. "Kuala Lumpur is now their hometown," he noted.

"My family and I'll be spending the first few days of Aidilfitri in Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, as I've done in years past. Nonetheless, I'm also thankful to have many reasons to return to my hometown in Pekan, and not just for Aidilfitri celebrations," he said.

The kampung was also experiencing socio-economic changes, he wrote, noting that in October last year, the government launched the Rural Development Master Plan to address the challenges and issues faced by rural communities and village folk, and transform the rural areas of the nation.

"The plan aims to increase economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for the rakyat residing in rural areas, yet without sacrificing the environment as well as the valued traditions and cultures that stemmed from this environment," he said.

He said, as more and more rural areas underwent the transformation of development each day, the unique connotation of a kampung remained as an important element in both our cultural and economic framework.

Najib cited the example of cottage industries which were still an important section of Malaysia's economy, producing local products such as batik, songket and food products such as dodol and keropok.

"These products are no longer necessarily manufactured in a traditional kampung set-up but are now mostly manufactured with advanced machinery assistance in industrialised workshops and factories.

"Despite so, these products continue to possess the indelible charm of the kampung lifestyle, and will continue to be created within the sphere and structure of a kampung that we know," Najib said.

Referring to Malaysia's second prime minister Tun Razak Hussein, he said: "My late father was a strong champion of economic development in rural areas in his time, particularly in his role as Minister of Rural Development."

Najib said under the ministry, roads and bridges were built to increase land connectivity; schools, clinics, community halls were constructed; a network of water and electricity supply began to spread, and modern agricultural processes were introduced.

He noted that these days, programmes such as the annual Karnival Usahawan Desa continued to help improve the economic welfare of village entrepreneurs by offering assistance and guidance to realise the market potential of their products, including to overseas markets.