Inside Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success

April 2, 2014

Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam  on Singapore’s Socio-Economic Success

port-of-singaporePort of Singapore

Poor Quality in Malaysia is Worrying, says World Bank Economist

March 25, 2014

COMMENT: We do not need a World Bank Economist to tell us that imageour education system (and the standard of education) sucks. You and I have been commenting on this subject since I started this blog in 2007. It has since worsened. Today, we are lagging behind Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Singapore other countries in our region and around the world.

Nobody in government seems to be concerned about it or even dare to act to correct it except at the level of political discourse. Even parents who should be worried about their children’s future in a globalized world are not interested in pushing for a comprehensive educational reform. In stead, we have allowed politicians to play around withthe education of our young. As a result, our children are unable to speak proper English, and they lag behind children of other ASEAN children in Mathematics and Science.

The same can be said of our universities which are year in and year out churning out thousands of graduates who cannot be employed by industry except government. Just watch the press briefings by public officials in connection with MH370 over the last 17 days, and you can see how inept  our public officials are in handling the international media because of their inability to converse and communicate in English. It is time for Malaysia to act. Stop playing politics with the future of our generation of Malaysians.–Din Merican

Poor Quality in Malaysia is Worrying, says World Bank Economist

by Sheridan Mahavera,

education blueprintWhat Happened to Blueprint, Deputy Prime Minister?

The poor quality of Malaysia’s education system is more worrying than the level of debt in its households, said a World Bank Senior Economist in Kuala Lumpur today.

This is because the country’s substandard education system would affect the pool of skilled talent it needs to grow its economy to become a highincome nation, while high household debt is not necessarily a problem if the economy continues to grow and citizens are gainfully employed.

Dr Frederico Gil Sander, who is Senior Economist for Malaysia, said Malaysians should be “alarmed” that their children were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that is poorer than Malaysia.

“Rural Vietnamese students do better than Malaysian students,” said Sander, when met a forum that is part of the Global Malaysia series organised by the Economic Transformation Programme.

Sander was referring to a world student performance assessment test called PISA which had measured how students in 65 countries did in mathematics, science and reading. According to PISA’s 2012 results Malaysian students scored below average or ranked 52 out 65. In contrast, Vietnamese students ranked 17 out of 65.

Malaysia’s poor PISA results spotlighted the weakness of Malaysia’s school system, despite the fact that education gets the largest share of funds every year from the national budget.

Critics have pointed out that the PISA results contradicted the government’s insistence that Malaysia had a world class education system. Critics have also questioned the real worth of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) which produces many students who scored As, but who can’t compete with their peers from Singapore, China and Taiwan.

Gil Sander said an efficient education system should be decentralised to give more power to schools to make their own decisions based on their local circumstances.

“At the same time, parents should be provided with information on the performance of each school in their area so that they can send their children to the best schools,” he said.

On the other hand, Gil Sander claimed that Malaysia’s rate of household debt is not necessarily bad, so long as the economy keeps growing and incomes keep rising.

“Low levels of debt could be an indicator of no access to finance, but if a person borrows money to buy a car to go to a good job, that is not a bad thing.The important thing is that salaries keep rising,” he said

Lacking a consistent vision for educational reform says Penang Institute

March 12, 2014

Lacking a consistent vision for educational reform says Penang Institute

On March 7, 2014, the Penang Institute hosted an education roundtable involving a diverse group of experts, researchers, academics and stakeholders. The following conclusions were reached:

(i)That Malaysia lacks a persistent and consistent vision for educational outcomes and reform, especially given that education policies constantly change every few years following changes of Education Ministers.

(ii) That Malaysia lacks a commitment to comprehensive and broad education goals. The discourse of the current framework gives too much focus on economic outcomes rather than incorporating other important social objectives.

(iii) That the implementation of changes in education policy is not well planned and hastily executed without proper pilot projects and trial periods.

(iv) That the current education system does not take into account the challenges faced by those from marginalised backgrounds and does not allow them to improve their life chances and opportunities.

(v)That many parents are choosing to send their children to private or alternative schools because they lack confidence in national schools.

(vi)That the current School Based Assessment (SBA) has many shortcomings including over-centralisation, the lack of capacity at the state (JPN) and local district (PPD) levels to implement SBA, poor IT infrastructure, the lack of understanding among teachers about the educational principles underlying SBA, just to name a few.

(vii)That Malaysia has an overly centralised education system at the federal level according to most studies.

(viii)That the current education system has many problems that need to be addressed including but not exclusive to: grade inflation, falling standards as indicated by Malaysia’s TIMSS and PISA scores, lack of infrastructure especially in the rural schools, low motivation among teachers, lack of engagement with the teaching force, focusing on the teaching rather than learning, the lack of an authentic learning culture in our schools, the lack of opportunities for NGOs to work with schools, the training in our teacher training colleges (IPGs) and in-service teacher training, the proficiency of reading and writing of our students, the role of PIBGs in the system, overcrowded classrooms in certain schools, the de-skilling and de-professionalisation of our teachers, the current quality of the teaching force, the lack of a flexible and fluid system to monitor and assess performance, just to name a few.

(ix)That while the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) addresses some of these concerns, it is not far-reaching enough in its proposed reforms and does not sufficiently address the underlying structural problems.

(x)That the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) only proposes de-concentration of power and responsibilities within the Education Ministry to the state (JPN) and local district (PPD) levels but does not allow for decentralisation to give room and opportunities for other stakeholders to have greater powers and responsibilities in the education system.

(xi)That decentralisation should be investigated as a possible solution to some of the problems highlighted above.

The problems which have been highlighted during this Education Roundtable are not necessarily new. There are complex and multifaceted reasons as to how these problems emerged and how they continue to plague our education system. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can address all the problems highlighted above, nor is decentralisation the prescribed cure.

However, given the paucity of the research on the potential impact of decentralisation of the education system in the Malaysian context, it will be tremendously helpful if a more in-depth exploration of this topic can be conducted. With this in mind, a research project which focuses on the potential impact of education decentralisation on key areas of educational outcomes such as equity, access, identity and quality will be proposed.

It is hoped that such a research project would be able to lay the groundwork to spur more informed public discussion on the impact of decentralisation on our education system. Such a research project will also be designed for the benefit of education policymakers should they wish to explore education decentralisation that goes beyond what the current Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) proposes. Details of this proposed research project will be released at a future date.

PENANG INSTITUTE is the public policy think-tank of the state government of Penang.

Controversial Muslim Thinker and Politics

February 23, 2014

Controversial Muslim Thinker sets the cat among the canaries, again

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT They say politics makes for strange bedfellows. It looks like religion also does the same. Consider thinker Kassim Ahmad’s ties to former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – on Islamic exegesis, the two are birds of a feather.

kassim thinkerThe Controversial Muslim Thinker

This is best understood in the context of Voltaire’s famous criticism of Christian belief and practice at the onset of the Enlightenment in the 18th century – that incantations can kill a flock of sheep if administered with a certain quantity of arsenic.

In other words, faith should not be blind and unexamined beliefs are for bovines, not homo-sapiens.

In 1986, Kassim published a book – ‘Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula (Hadith: A Reappraisal)’ – that espoused a subversive idea.This was that certain bases of Islamic practice and belief cannot sustain critical scrutiny. The book proposed the Quran as sole basis for sound Muslim belief and best practices.

That view Kassim reiterated to a conference which reviewed his thought held last Sunday at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, a think-tank associated with Mahathir (right).

The former Premier officiated at the conference’s opening and days later, after controversy flared over what Kassim had said, allowed that Kassim was a thinker whose opinions are easily misunderstood.

Like the publication of his book 28 years ago, Kassim’s latest musings have caused a furore. Its magnitude can be gauged in the days to come as Islamic authorities mull action against him.

It’s a safe bet, though, that none of them will take him on in a debate because they know that Kassim is a formidable foe to joust with; he will not easily recant his views.

Kassim blames Anwar Ibrahim – the Education Minister in the mid-1980s – for squelching the debate that ‘Hadis’ was obviously intended to provoke.Till today, Kassim nurses an enduring antipathy towards Anwar for the turn of events following publication of Kassim’s book in early 1986.

The ironies in history

Although all this occurred 28 years ago, the passage of decades has not had a becalming effect on the visceral feelings the controversy evoked at that time.

As recently as the middle of 2012, Kassim remained choleric at the mention of Anwar’s name, denouncing the Pakatan Rakyat leader with a vituperation that was ugly to behold.

It is not clear that Anwar had anything to do with the banning of Kassim’s book or with foreclosure of the debate.What’s less incontestable is that had the book not been banned, matters to do with Islamic thought and understanding in Malaysia would plausibly have transcended the present moment where some peninsula Muslim Malaysians insist that the term ‘Allah’ is exclusive to them.

In one of those ironies in which history abounds, in the debate over the ‘Allah’ issue, Anwar (left) is not opposed to non-Muslim use of the term – provided it is not abused – whereas Mahathir is for prohibition of the term to non-Muslims.

Kassim’s position on the issue is not known, but judging from what can be deduced of the man’s intellect, it would be a huge surprise if he agreed with Mahathir’s stance.

There is a strong strain of the iconoclast in Kassim, evident from half a century ago when he suggested that Malay folklore was wrong to view Hang Tuah as a hero because the real hero was Tuah’s friend, Hang Jebat, whom Tuah had killed.

Because of his tendency to examine the received wisdom on a subject, it wasn’t surprising that Kassim, who tuned 80 last September, gave vent at last Sunday’s conference to views that were even more controversial than the ones he aired in his 1986 work.

In what was purported to be his final testament – rendered at the conference themed ‘Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad: A Review’ – the man who started his intellectual journey as a cultural iconoclast and doctrinaire socialist, invited Muslims to return to the teachings of the Islamic faith as revealed in the Quran.

He said that believers would find Quranic teachings to be cognate with natural law (undang-undang alamiah).Kassim also espoused the view that Muslims do not need, like he claimed Christians did, a “priestly caste” to know what God commands of them and to perceive those commands’ consonance with what natural law tells them.

He argued that the female practice of wearing a headscarf (tudung) was a wrong interpretation of the Quranic stricture against bodily exposure, claiming that hair on a woman’s head is not included in the ‘aurat’ that is required by the Quran to be covered. He said that head hair must be aired for health (natural law) reasons.

An interesting tack to take

Thus, he took an example from nature to elucidate a Quranic teaching, demonstrating in the process the supposed truth of his argument that sound interpretation of Quranic revelation would necessarily be found to be compatible with what natural law teaches.

This is an interesting tack to take and is at variance to the asharite (God is power/God is will) school of Islamic thought. The asharite has been the dominant school since the 12th century when it gained the upper hand over the mutazilite (God is also reason) school of Islamic interpretation.

Since the victory of the asharite school, Islam’s answer to what is called “the Socratic puzzle” has been emphatic.But, pray, what is the Socratic puzzle?

It is a question that is so abstruse, it gives philosophy a bad name: Is a good action good because it is approved by God? Or is it approved by God because it is good?

In other words, do the categories of good and evil, right and wrong, have an existence independent of the divine will?

To this, the answer of the Asharite school is: An action is good because it is approved by Allah.

The asharites hold that there is no independent criterion of morality outside the will of Allah. And since the Quran is an absolutely literal and accurate account of that will – indeed in a deep sense, the Quran itself actually incarnates that will – there is no independent criterion of morality outside the text of the Quran.

In other words, if the Quran says something that seems morally offensive, it is morality that is mistaken, not the Quran.

The Mutazilites are inclined to find an interpretation of the Quran that accords with what natural law teaches. This is because they believe that there is an objective moral order to the universe and that this is discoverable through reason. That is why the Mutazilities are called rationalists.

Because these are febrile questions of religious interpretation and philosophy, and apt to foment divisive and emotional effects on believers – Voltaire advised that discussion of complex religious questions be held behind closed doors and out of the hearing of servants – Muslim thinkers approach them with circumspection.

Now and then, one or the other of them saunters on to the turf and inevitable detonations ensue.

Last Sunday, Kassim Ahmad walked into a blast-prone area and set off subversive ripples of resonance. He is likely to enjoy immunity because he did it at the Perdana Leadership Foundation

Last year about this time, Ibrahim Ali (right) escaped a sedition rap for threatening to burn bibles after Mahathir offered extenuations on the Perkasa chief’s behalf, following former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman’s admonishing incumbent AG Abdul Gani Patail against dilly-dallying on pressing charges.

This time round, Mahathir’s extenuations on behalf of Kassim are likely to have intellectually more beneficent uses.

The irony is that Kassim – like the man he detests, Anwar Ibrahim – is not likely to think much of the argument that the term ‘Allah’ ought to be the exclusive preserve of Peninsula Muslims; more certainly, he will laugh Mahathir’s reservation of the term for Peninsula Malays, to scorn.Not just politics, religion, too, makes for strange bedfellows.

Islam, Freedom and Salvation

February 20, 2014

Islam, Freedom and Salvation

by Zairil Khir Johari

Islam and freedom are two inseparable concepts, though one may not arrive at this conclusion based on the behaviour of many Muslims worldwide, particularly those claiming to carry the torch for the religion.

Zairil Khir JohariWhen the Prophet Muhammad introduced Islam in the 7th century, he not only brought with him a new deen (faith), but also through it delivered fundamental moral and social reform to the Arabian society. As it were, Islam brought light to end the darkness of slavery, female infanticide and social injustice.

At its height of glory during the Islamic Golden Age from the 8th to the 13th century, the Arab-Muslim world transformed from a warring, largely illiterate society to one characterised by major intellectual advancement in culture, mathematics, life sciences and philosophy.

It was an era of inclusiveness, symbolised by the establishment of the Baitul-Hikmat, or House of Wisdom, in Baghdad, where scholars both Muslim and non-Muslim converged to exchange and produce knowledge. Inspired by the call to ijtihad (independent reasoning), the goal was always to expand and include, and not to retreat and exclude.

There was no narrow-minded attempt to discard the works of other civilisations, or to brand certain knowledge as belonging solely to Islam and therefore unusable by non-Muslims. Instead, knowledge was cultivated, documented and shared with all.

Unfortunately, Muslim civilisation has suffered a sharp decline since then. Today, Muslim countries throughout the world are associated with authoritarian regimes, gaping income inequality and the suppression of civil liberties and human rights – ironic for a religion that promises the gift of freedom and enlightenment.

In our part of the world, contemporary Islamic discourse appears to beIbrahim-Ali-Zulkifli-Noordin-Ridhuan-Tee-Abdullah captured by the likes of the Harussanis and Ridhuan Tees. However, such belligerent parochialism actually masks the rich history of progressive thought by great local Muslim thinkers and advocates of freedom.

Take, for example, the raging polemic over the “ownership” of the name of Allah, and the constant fear-mongering of an apparent Christian threat in our country. There are very few of us who realise that Malay translations of the The New Testament are not new, and have been around since the 1800s.

In fact, probably the very first Malay translation of the Bible, or the Kitab Injil al-Kudus as the author terms it, was produced by the father of modern Malay literature himself, Abdullah Abdul Kadir, better known as Munshi Abdullah. Of course, if he were to publish it today, a fatwa would be declared branding him a deviant, rabid protests would be organised by Perkasa, he would somehow find himself labelled a DAP member, and the authorities would prosecute him for sedition.

Munshi Abdullah not only read the Bible, he translated it into Malay. Yet he neither converted out of Islam nor caused mass apostasy, as is so feared by our authorities today. In fact, in Munshi Abdullah we had a visionary Muslim thinker of unwavering faith, who dared to push the boundaries of what was then socially acceptable.

In his writings, he constantly appealed to Malay society to shake off their traditional reverence for their feudal lords – the bangsawan (nobility), whom he saw as self-serving and oppressive. In Hikayat Pelayaran Abdullah, for example, he writes: “Apabila seseorang itu dijadikan Allah ia Raja bukan untuk memuaskan nafsunya dan berbini sepuluh atau dua puluh atau mencari harta dan membunuh orang dengan aniayanya, melainkan disuruh Allah memelihara manusia….” (When God makes a man a king, it is not so that he may satisfy his lusts and to take 10 or 20 brides, or to seek fortune and to kill with his cruelty, but instead to do as God bids that is to protect his people…).

Munshi Abdullah was of the view that in order for Malay society to advance itself, it must embrace modern values while holding steadfastly to the true teachings of Islam (he did not see such an undertaking as contradictory), and even more importantly emancipate itself from the irrational grips of Malay feudalism, characterised by the kerajaan of the absolute monarch. In his day, he was considered ahead of his time. Two hundred years later in modern Malaysia, one could say he remains ahead of our time.

Another reformist-minded Malay thinker was the Pendeta Za’aba (real name Zainal Abidin Ahmad). Among the many treatises penned by Za’aba, one entitled Jalan Keselamatan Bagi Orang-orang Melayu (The Salvation of Malays) mentions that true emancipation can only be achieved through the pursuit of knowledge.

In this monograph, Za’aba states: “Bahawasanya keselamatan orang-orang Melayu ini pada pihak jalan kehidupannya (pencariannya) dan pada pihak perangai-perangai yang kekurangan itu hanyalah boleh didapati pada satu jalan sahaja, iaitu diubati kemiskinannya yang pada pihak otak itu – yakni kemiskinan pengetahuannya – dengan jalan diberi mereka itu pelajaran-pelajaran daripada jenis yang betul. Maka disitulah, dan disitulah sahaja boleh didapati keselamatan ini, tiada pada lainnya.” (Verily there is only one path towards the salvation of the Malays insofar it concerns their life (livelihood) and weaknesses in their attitude, that is to ameliorate their intellectual poverty – their lack of knowledge – through the right kind of education. This is the only way that salvation can be found, no other way.)

mullah-harussani-and-najibTo Za’aba, the high incidence of poverty among Malays corresponded directly to the society’s mental capacity. Therefore, the only salvation for the society was to free themselves from poverty through knowledge and the ability to think critically.

Meanwhile, there have also been a few progressive Malay-Muslim thinkers who were early champions of women’s rights. In the 1920s, writers such as Syed Sheikh al-Hadi and Ahmad Rashid Talu – both coincidentally Penang-based – brought to the forefront the debate on the emancipation of women and their right to education. In their hands, the female lead characters from Hikayat Faridah Hanum (al-Hadi) and Iakah Salmah? (Talu) were, unlike the societal norms of the time, dynamic, progressive and modern.

It is an inescapable fact that freedom has always been, and will always be, a key feature in Islamic and Muslim discourse, simply because it is an essential part of Islam. This is true even in our country, where, as the works of Abdullah, Za’aba, al-Hadi, Talu and many others clearly prove, progressive Malay-Muslim thought throughout the last two centuries have constantly pushed the envelope by placing great value on the pursuit of knowledge, the ability to reason, as well as the freedom of thought and conscience.

Today, these values are under threat. Extremism, bigotry and sexism now dominate, spurred on by an overzealous establishment bent at banning everything they cannot control or understand. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Seen in this light, the real threat that we face is not the fools or the bigots, but the ignorance within our society. It is this ignorance that we need to challenge and overcome if we are to rise out of the abyss of doom and destruction.

Today, Za’aba’s advice is even more pertinent than it has ever been – our salvation lies in knowledge, enlightenment and freedom from ignorance. –The Malaysian Insider– February 19, 2014.

Kassim Ahmad speaks his mind on the state of Islam in Malaysia

February 18, 2014

Kassim Ahmad speaks his mind on the state of Islam in Malaysia

by Malaysiakini (02-1-14)

kassim-ahmadBack from a hiatus away from the public eye, controversial scholar Kassim Ahmad (left) has yet again created waves by questioning the grip of a class of ulama (religious scholars) on the country and its future.

Speaking at an event organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation, he said that Islam in Malaysia has been abused through a “priesthood caste” system.

“This priesthood caste did not exist at the time of the Prophet or the four caliphs. They only emerged about 300 years later by appointing themselves as interpreter of religion for Muslims,” he said.

“They (Muslims) view their religious leaders like gods and goddesses, that these leaders are seen to be protected from maksum (protected from sin) and must decide on everything about their lives.”

Kassim, who was in Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) before joining UMNO said this at a lecture entitled ‘The Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad: A Review’, officiated by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya yesterday.


Najib and the Notorious Mullah of Perak

He called on Muslims to return the Quran as the sole and highest source of information in Islam, and to reinterpret the Holy Book to suit modern times.

“I have said before that the Quran explains itself. The old method to use the hadith (Prophet’s saying and actions) to explain the Quran is not very good, as this means we are saying that the Prophet Muhammad knew everything. This is ridiculous, as he is just a Messenger of Allah,” he stressed.

Kassim was once accused of being anti-hadith, a charged he has denied. Referring to the first verse of the Quranic chapter al-Munafiqun, he said Muslims are wrong to beatify the prophet.

Tudung questioned

He also questioned the wearing of the tudung (headscarf) by Muslim women, arguing that hair is not part of the aurat (parts of the body which need to be covered).

Art activist Raja Ahmad Aminullah Raja Abdullah, who also spoke at a forum, urged for Kassim’s ideas to be discussed by academics and politicians.

He said that, while Kassim’s views are easily understood, terms like the “priesthood caste” may not be so easily acceptable and can be viewed as provocative in Malay society.

Raja Aminullah expressed disappointment with the absence of scheduled panelist and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, who had pulled out at the last minute.

“Politicians often view art and culture as marginal or peripheral matters that they can attend or not attend at will,” he said, adding that Nurul Izzah may have opted out to “avoid controversy”.

The two-day event ended yesterday.

English Proficiency in Malaysia: Time for Urgent Action

January 7, 2014

English Proficiency in Malaysia: Time for Urgent Action

by BA Hamzah*

ba-hamzahEnglish proficiency in Malaysia has reached a critical level that it can undermine the well-being and international prestige of this country in the absence of genuine efforts to curb its decline. It is impossible, for example, to conduct diplomacy and commercial relations without a strong command of English.

In 2011, more than forty- thousand Malaysian graduates from public Universities could not get jobs in the private sector because they were not proficient in English. A large number of them were Malays from the rural areas. Their “unemployability” puts a drag on the country’s economic growth.

The poor, especially those living in rural areas, will suffer from the lack of proficiency in English. Not only English has become the world’s lingua franca, it is also the language for science, mathematics, finance, diplomacy, trade as well as in other fields of humanities and social science.

English proficiency provides access to the international job market, which can help the poor get a decent, good paying job.

Since the Asian financial crisis (1997-1998), economic growth in Malaysia has not recovered fully. Whether the country can achieve a more robust economic recovery if the workforce has higher proficiency in English is debatable.

There are, however, empirical studies, which correlate proficiency in English with higher economic productivity.To move out of the middle- income trap Malaysia needs a work force with innovative skills to take nation to the next level.

Higher proficiency in English could probably increase the much-needed innovative skills to handle the ever-complex enabling technologies.

According to the Economist Intelligence (2012), 70 per cent of the executives surveyed said to expand their corporate vision they needed more than fifty per cent of their work force to be proficient in English. The same study shows a positive relationship between employability and English proficiency, worldwide.

The strong correlation between gross national income and proficiency in English is now an accepted dictum. Many maintain that the correlation between English proficiency and gross national income is a virtuous cycle, each mutually reinforcing each other. One study shows that proficiency in English can increase job employability and better salaries.

English proficiency among the poor can level the uneven playing fields and close the income gap between the ethnic groups in this country. It could even unite the diverse communities, which have been gravely polarised by narrow ethnic interests.

Admittedly, language can be emotive as it is cultural specific. This essay does not suggest that we do away with vernacular schools and the national language. On the contrary, the essay calls for the nation to embrace a productive global language that can complement the national language.

The decline of English proficiency in Peninsular Malaysia is traceable to the Razak Report in 1956, which recommended Malay as the medium of instruction. Had our political masters adopted the recommendations in Barnes Report (1951) to use Malay in primary schools and English for secondary and tertiary education, we could have avoided the current predicament.

The recently proposed changes to the teaching of English in the National Education Blueprint are too shallow, myopic and cosmetic in nature; no real structural changes, such as reinstating English schools, for example.  Without deep structural changes to the teaching and application of English, more people will just lose confidence and trust in our education system. Such cosmetic changes are insignificant; good only for cheap publicity.

In fact, poor command of English has begun to erode academic excellence in public Universities. Before 1971, when English was the medium of instruction, our public Universities were highly rated for their academic scholarship. They were at par with the best in the British Commonwealth.

Today is a different story altogether. Universiti Malaya, the pride of the nation, managed 156th place in the QS World University ranking for 2013. Compare this with the National University of Singapore (24), Seoul National University (35) and Nanyang Technological University (41). Surely, something is amiss with our education system for the international academic community to rank our public Universities so lowly.

The Government must do more to reverse the decline in English proficiency, and has to do it with utmost urgency. Do it now in the national interest.

*BA Hamzah is a keen student of political pedagogy. He can be contacted at

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

January 4, 2013

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

by Dr A. Murad Merican@

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub with FriendsTan Sri Arshad Ayub and Friends

WHEN Tan Sri Arshad Ayub visited Ohio University at Athens, Ohio, on June 23, 1970, he made known his interest in establishing a journalism and communications programme at the then Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM). The early syllabus was based on language, liberal arts and professional specialisation.

Even before he visited Ohio’s College of Communication and its School of Journalism, Tan Sri Arshad had advocated the teaching of journalism in Malaysian higher education as far back as the mid-1960s.

Graduates from what began as the School of Mass Communication (popularly known in Bahasa Melayu as Kajian Sebaran Am) and now the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, should realise that their intellectual “father” is Tan Sri Arshad Ayub.

This dawned upon me while researching the beginnings of journalism education in Malaysia some years ago at Universiti Teknologi Mara archives. I met Tan Sri Arshad on several occasions. Once, we were on the same panel on the topic of education in Malaysia, and the other, having the honour of the man chairing a session in a seminar where I delivered a paper on life-long learning.

Many know of Tan Sri Arshad as a pioneering educationist. He was instrumental in ITM’s growth. He was a paradigm basher. He opened up minds, identities and values. Many know him as a task master.

But perhaps not many know him as an early advocate of the liberal arts and the humanities in Malaysian higher education. He introduced Russian, French and Arabic. Mandarin was made compulsory for business courses, and Tamil for plantation management. Then there was Logic, Literature, and History.

In one of his speeches some years back, Tan Sri Arshad stated that education is not a special copyright of any one individual organisation. It knows no boundaries. And there was no boundary when he was nurturing ITM back then. He was given a free hand to plant the seeds of education for the rural Malay: “The ‘how-to’ was entirely up to me.”

With the trust and vision for the future of the Malays given to him by Tun Abdul Tun Abdul RazakRazak, Arshad’s slogan for action was: “Just do it.” There was not enough time to think of a formal education system as it evolved. He reflected that the expansion was “too rapid that thoughts for a real system came after the deed”.

He attributed the brilliance in the vision of social engineering to Tun Razak. Tan Sri Arshad was not only the strategist, but also the thinker. He once recalled Tun Razak’s message in the first issue of Utusan Pelajar, an Utusan Melayu publication in 1970. Tun Razak stated that “The present young Malaysian must be developed into a scientific race.” The words “scientific race” caught Tan Sri Arshad’s attention.

Tan Sri Arshad takes the term “scientific” to mean “educated” — middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs that could transport Malays into more viable occupations in the private sector.

“Scientific” could also mean that it was “incumbent on us to change mind sets” — from accepting a general education system to a more precise and analytical one that can help develop the country’s resource with its nation building interest at heart.

To change mind sets, Tan Sri Arshad developed strategic alliances with foreign universities and funding bodies in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Human capital assistance came from the participation of Australian Services Abroad, the US Peace Corp, British Volunteers and the Canadian University Service Oragnisation.

Courses like accountancy, architecture, business administration and management, engineering, hotel catering and management, library science, and mass communication were initiated — the first of such courses offered in Malaysia at that time.

Tan Sri Arshad was a pioneer in the “twinning” concept — a process in capacity building. His long and illustrious career as a public servant deserves an appropriate recognition, as suggested by Azman Ujang (Letters, NST, Jan 1). He pioneered the pragmatic “hands on” approach to meet industry, manpower needs and economic advancement of the nation. At the same time, he was the first to introduce the concept of the humanities in Malaysian university education.

The little known journal ITM Quarterly, published in the early 1970s, contains some invaluable discourse in the intertwining nature of education in nation building, Arshad’s vision in the development of higher education in Malaysia and his ideal of the student as the new Malay intellectual.

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub liberated the Malay psyche.

Malaysia Truly Asia

January 2, 2014

Malaysia Truly Asia

Malaysia, where dreams come true and nightmares too. Promoting Malaysia as a land of paradise is fine, but we are short changed when we consider the politics. Religion and race are being used to divide and rule us. I like this video but how I wish that it is  the real thing. –Din Merican

Ramon’s Resolutions for 2014

December 28, 2013

Ramon’s Resolutions for 2014

by Tan Sri (Dr.) Ramon Navaratnam, Chairman, ASLI Centre of Public Policy Studies

Dr. Ramon NavaratnamWE are relieved that major elections at national and party levels are over. Thankfully they were conducted under peaceful conditions, although many would have preferred more “free and fair” elections.

We have passed the stage of politicking and rhetoric and should seek to implement all the election promises and deliver beneficial outcomes to the rakyat.Thus, it would be useful for us to review the past, examine our present concerns and needs and to propose inter alia, the following eight resolutions, for the adoption by our leaders and people.

We should resolve as follows:

  •  Peace and national unity must be strengthened. We should all refrain from hurtful and divisive comments and actions that will cause disunity. We should isolate all those who indulge in extremist remarks and actions that erode our peace and national unity.

The Government should come down hard on all persons who pose a threat to peace and unity in a fair and equitable manner that is accepted by all;

  •  Security standards have to be enhanced by greatly improving the crime index with more urgency.

The Police could use their new laws to go all out to break up the crime syndicates and get the kingpins, as they promised they would do, in order to get public support for the introduction of the new Crime Prevention Act;

  • Corruption is still high and despite all government initiatives, it has hardly improved. New laws need to be introduced and the MACC has to show that it is more effective by reducing the TI Index considerably and more significantly;
  •  Inflation is a growing threat to our well-being. The poor and lower income groups are now burdened with rising prices.

Despite the BR1M, they find it difficult to cope with daily living costs. The recent reduction in subsidies and the increase in toll, electricity and property rates are not the only cases of rising prices. There has to be an anti-inflation strategy to combat inflation.

The Government has to remove or reduce monopolies, closed and negotiated tendering practices and liberalise the economy much more. We have to adopt principles of the New Economic Model and phase out the abusive practices of the protective policies;

  • Social stability has to be buttressed by basic needs policies that have to replace race-based policies and practices.

Race economics have also undermined national unity.Some even claim that there is political and economic apartheid, which is quite ridiculous.However, these issues have to be boldly addressed and overcome, to give greater priority to the poor of all races;

  • Unemployment is looming as a serious problem and must be curbed quickly.

Graduate unemployment is a rising social threat. Can the Government seek faster ways of improving our education system by introducing more technical teaching to make our school graduates more productive and thus employable. We might also be able to reduce drug consumption and gangsterism;

  • Religious bigotry and religious intolerance have to be clamped down more strenuously before we have more disharmony and less religious appreciation and understanding of each other in our multiracial society.

Can a National Interfaith Council under the Prime Minister or his Deputy be formed next year to promote more religious goodwill?; and

  • Malaysia’s Human Rights record has to be improved as a matter of high priority.

We have not signed and ratified all the Core Human Rights Conventions.Malaysia has now to respond to 232 recommendations before the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

Surely, we can show the world that we are far better disposed to the promotion and protection of human rights in our country?

In conclusion, I believe that if we can sincerely adopt and implement the above eight New Year Resolutions, we would make a big leap forward in ensuring for ourselves – a more Happy and Prosperous and United Malaysia in 2014 and beyond!


Malay economic empowerment as promised by Umno is, for most Malays, fool’s gold!

By CT Ali

Dec 05, 2013

Malay economic empowerment as promised by Umno is, for most Malays, fool’s gold!


What is happening in Malaysia today is the economic empowerment of a small number of well-connected Malays who have become insanely wealthy through the use of state and federal power to acquire business opportunities from the government, from other people and through the acquisition of assets other people created.

The biggest beneficiaries of crony-capitalism.

The biggest beneficiaries of crony-capitalism.

All these economic activities have been fully funded by banks and financial institutions under the control of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government.

These people are well entrenched in the economic and political hierarchies – positions critical to the financial well being of their corporations where the size of their debts to these financial institutions are of no consequence.

The largest of these corporate empires belongs to Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary- 8th richest Malaysian according to Forbes – with a debt of RM34 billion to match.

Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary- 8th richest Malaysian according to Forbes – with a debt of RM34 billion to match !

Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary- 8th richest Malaysian according to Forbes – with a debt of RM34 billion to match !

All this has been done at the cost of impoverishing the entire country. For now the Umno-led BN can hold it together but only just but not indefinitely. When the Umno-empowered economy fails, our country fails. Have no doubt about that!

Tell me which foreign investor would wish to invest in Malaysia once they know Umno as we know Umno?

Who would keep shelling out massive “rent seeking” outlay to politicians and their nominees just so they can trade “on a level playing field?”

What savvy business operatives would continue to pursue business opportunities with strings attached and without incentives?

I have sat in a corporate boardroom where the business of the day consists of earnest discussions between the board of directors of the company and the ‘Umno representative/chairman’ of the company.

The matter discussed? When can a meeting be arranged by the chairman for the company CEO to meet with relevant ministers or the prime minister to discuss the projects they can ‘negotiate’ in the coming months. Or which tender have been earmarked by Umno for the said company?

At RM20,000 a month plus expenses, the chairman has to earn his keep. He has been drawing his chairman’s fee for eight months without any return in sight – surely a worry for any corporation no matter its size.

Corruption and incompetence

The intent of the chairman (as he had quietly informed me at lunch) was that once the meeting was over, he would call for his driver and his company-provided Mercedes Benz and adjourn to a 5-Star hotel to meet with sahabats that walk the corridors of power in Putrajaya.

There they will discuss the coming weekend golfing trip to Jakarta and whether their preferred female caddy would be on duty that weekend.

If not, other arrangements must be made to make their time in Jakarta pleasant and conducive to discuss business opportunities each of them have in their portfolio.

Discussions in Jakarta are preferred to avoid the prying eyes of the locals in KL – so they say.

While some corporations willingly jump into bed with these Malay Mr-Fix-It, the Chinese are far more adept at bypassing or evading the economic empowerment of the Malays if it requires their participation.

Contrary to popular lore, it is the Chinese who are sought after by these Malays “to do business” and not the other way around.

Every changing of the guard within Umno sees the same Chinese corporate figures playing musical chairs with the incoming power that be. And always the Chinese are ahead in the matter of “value for money” invested in these Malays who have nothing to sell but their links to Umno.

The Chinese never allows greed (a human trait that abounds amongst many Umno Malays) to get in the way of a good business deal.

However hard it is becoming to logically defend the economic empowerment of any race, Umno persists in pushing for the continued economic empowerment of the Malays – the Umno Malays that is.

As for political power, Umno is using race to hold on to power. The beneficiaries of Umno’s policy in the BN government are Umno Malays and yet what Umno have promised the Malays are achievable if only corruption and incompetence did not get in the way.

Economic empowerment of the Malays is used as a vehicle to drive corruption and incompetence to the level required.

Corruption and incompetence are entrenched. One feed off the other. We are now experiencing the consequence of decades of corruption and incompetence and if any nation can be said to have a death wish – Malaysia has one.

How can any nation survive?

Competent companies without “meaningful” Malay participation are denied work. These participation comes at a minimum premium of 20% of the contract costs – a costs that the people have to bear.

“Other costs” are factored in after the award of the contract. If variation orders are unable to allow the main contractors to recoup their outlay, then invariably these contracts are not completed on time and within budget or simply abandoned.

This happens everyday in projects after projects, contracts after contracts and in every conceivable “business opportunities” that these opportunistic politicians can dream of.

Fool’s gold

Put simply the situation our nation is now in is untenable. The money from Petronas that contributes over 40% of our nations income continues to be the privy of our prime minster – the chief protagonist of this so called economic empowerment of the Umno Malays.

What this prime minister of ours will do with the money is his prerogative. People use their prerogative to do good, unfortunately our prime minister is not that way inclined.

All other financial authorities and institutions from the banks, Tabung Haji, Economic Planning Unit, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Employees Provident Fund and Permodalan Nasional Berhad are already compromised for Umno has no qualms in directing them to “assist” in the efforts of Umno to economically empower Malays in Umno.

Soon such distractions as race and religion can no longer be depended upon to rally the Malays against the non-existent threats from the Christians and the Chinese.

Soon there will be no more money for subsidies, no more money to prop up an unsustainable economy and critically for Umno, no more money for money politics.

We hope for the Malays to see that the economic empowerment promised to them by Umno is just fool’s gold.

For the others they already know that there will be no remarkable economic recovery as promised by Najib.

No social change or progress as envisaged in 1Malaysia. No long term vision, no innovative strategies and policies to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation. Only doom and gloom awaits.

CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.

Proficiency in English Language and Nationalism

November 25, 2013

Proficiency in English Language and Nationalism

by BA Hamzah and Din Merican

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. …–.George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, 1946

BA HamzahWe spent endless hours together debating the English language issue and are  extremely concerned that many Malaysians still question the importance of English in this era of science, Google and globalization.

As our nation strives to achieve the status of a developed country envisaged in Vision 2020 (1989 document), we need to be more rational and stop making excuses in the name of pseudo-nationalism, or as the Malays put it menegak benang yang basah (to stand a wet thread). We must accept the reality that we live in globalised world and English is the global language. Don’t believe us, just ask the Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans.

English proficiency in Malaysia has reached a critical level that it can undermine the well-being and international prestige of our country. Failure to deal realistically with this matter is a real tragedy. We could end up spending billions of ringgit more in consulting fees to have foreign consultants negotiate for us, prepare our policy and research papers and speak at international conferences on our behalf.

George Orwell is right

We are reminded of the essence of George Orwell’s masterpiece “Politics and the English Language”, written in 1946. The author of 1984, Animal Farm, Homage to Catalonia and other fine works had chastised many of his contemporaries who abused (by politicising) the modern English language, most evident in their political writings.

In a slightly different context, since 1971, politics has also undermined with the wider use of English in Malaysia after the Barisan Nasional Government downgraded the use of English.

Historically, the decline of English in our country can be traced to the Razak Report in 1956, which recommended Malay as the medium of instruction. Had our political masters adopted the recommendations of an earlier Barnes Report (1951) to use Malay in primary schools and English for secondary and tertiary education, we could have avoided the current embarrassment.

George Orwell once wrote, “in our time, political speech andGeorge Orwell writing are largely the defense of the indefensible”. Does not this sound familiar in our current setting? Orwell further noted in his essay “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity”. Of course, he was not only complaining about the insincerity in the use of grammar but also insincerity in the general sense of the word

We sense an element of fear and insincerity among many, especially Malay politicians, in Malaysia when it comes to English. Rather than acknowledge its usefulness in almost every sector of human endeavor, they use English as a bogey to accuse those with a different view of English as being anti-national, and worse still anti-Malay. In such a hostile environment, it is impossible to conduct a rational debate.

Some politicians worry about losing Malay votes if they were to embrace English. Nothing could be far from the truth because English has never featured as a prominent issue in the last thirteen general elections.

There is a sense of contradiction and double standard too. Among the most vocal critics of English are those who have benefited greatly from an English education, whose offsprings attend private English schools abroad and locally. They seem to do it on purpose: to perpetuate their own political survival and to deny the others, the majority who cannot afford an expensive English education, the rite of passage. This is a classic case of using the pedagogy to suppress the poor, mainly Malays.

As an open economy that is highly dependent on international trade and the services sector, Malaysia can benefit from a work force that has a strong command of English, a critical advantage in a competitive world.

Studies have shown that proficiency in English is critical to international trade, diplomacy, foreign investment and understanding of science and technology. English is the language of the industry, to cite Tun Dr Mahathir. It is key in attracting foreign investment and international tourists.

Malay Language Champions are self-serving

The corporate world relies heavily on English for their networking and advancement. Top and middle management in PETRONAS and Sime Darby, for example, conduct their business deals in English. To progress the nation has adopted science and technology, relied on foreign investment and international trade for its well-being, for example.

If the Malay language champions and other critics are sincerely concerned with the well-being of the nation,they should be less self-serving, more open-minded and supportive of any policy to reintroduce English, crucial for the development of science and technology, promotion of trade and foreign investment.

Real nationalists would do everything to promote the national well-being. Like it or not, the destiny of this nation is tied closely with good governance which provides the objective conditions for greater economic productivity and higher economic growth trajectory; since the Asian financial crisis (1997-1998), economic growth in Malaysia has not recovered fully from its nosedive. Whether a more robust economic recovery could have been achieved with higher English proficiency is debatable, there are studies, which correlate proficiency in English with economic development.

Corporate World needs English Language proficient workers

According to a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence (2012), 70 per cent of the executives said they need English to expand their corporate vision and more than fifty per cent of the work force need to be proficient in English. According to another report workers with very good command of the English language tend to garner 30-50% higher salaries than “similarly qualified candidates without English knowledge.”

The same study shows a positive relationship between employability and English proficiency, worldwide. Statistics (2011) show that more than forty- thousand Malaysian graduates from public Universities with low proficiency in English find it difficult, year in and year out, to get jobs in the private sector. Their lack of employability puts a drag on the country’s economic trajectory.

The strong correlation between gross national income and proficiency in English is now an accepted mantra. Many maintain that the correlation between English proficiency and gross national income is a virtuous cycle, each mutually reinforcing each other. According to one study, proficiency in English can increase job employability and better salaries. It can also remove some of the accumulated deficits in education affecting students, especially those in the rural areas with limited access to English education.

English proficiency can level the uneven playing fields and close the income gaps between the ethnic groups in this country. Admittedly, language can be emotive as it is cultural specific. However, here we are talking of a productive language and at no time, anybody has even suggested that it should replace or supplant the national language. Today is English as it was Latin in the era of the Roman Republic and early years of the Roman Empire.

Move with the Times

We must move with the times. If Malay has been the lingua franca for science, trade, technology and diplomacy, for instance, the entire world will gravitate to our shores learning our language. Unfortunately, this has yet to happen. While we have raised the standard of teaching and proficiency in Malay, we still lack behind in the number of textbooks on science, technology and public policies written by locals. Until we have our own references, lecturers have to rely on references in English language to conduct advanced research and for knowledge. This requires proficiency in English.

Some take solace in countries that have done very well without English. The comparison with the Netherlands, Germany and the Nordic countries, to mention just some, is misplaced, like comparing oranges with apples. Contrary to some perception, the standard of English proficiency in these countries is very high. They benefit from proper teaching of English where grammar and literature are emphasized. It will be a long way, if we continue on this trajectory, before we can achieve their status. At one time, we had this advantage but we squandered it in the name of pseudo nationalism, which many have we now regretted.

Our failure not to empower English for knowledge will put Malaysia at a disadvantage in almost all fields of mainstream human interaction.

One immediate remedial action is to acknowledge the positive role of English, for example, in nation-building, economic well-being and diplomacy. The Government of the day should reinforce the acknowledgement by reviving English schools in all districts as a matter of urgency. Give the rakyat a choice by leveling the playing field. They deserve equal opportunity to advance themselves intellectually.

Din MericanXUnder the current arrangement, only the children of the elite will have access to English schools, mostly in urban areas. Those who live in the rural areas are likely to suffer most from the policy of downgrading the use of English. It is unfortunate that the poor Malays have become the victims of UMNO-dominated Government policies.

Racism is a cover for corruption

November 18, 2013

Perkauman alat selindung aktiviti rasuah pemimpin, kata bekas Naib Canselor UM


 Isu perkauman digunakan oleh sesetengah ahli politik di Malaysia bagi melindungi kegiatan rasuah yang dilakukan pemimpin terbabit, kata bekas Naib Canselor Universiti Malaya Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon (gambar).

Beliau berkata isu perkauman juga dimainkan bagi melindungi salah laku selain mengelak mereka yang terlibat daripada dituduh atas aktiviti tidak bermoral itu.

“Jika negara dipenuhi dengan pemimpin rasuah, mereka akan menggunakan isu perkauman untuk melindungi kesalahan bagi menarik perhatian.

“Adalah penting kita memisahkan manusia dengan politik. Di Malaysia, kita selalu diingatkan oleh ahli politik tentang masalah perkauman malah terdapat juga kumpulan tertentu yang menyokong isu tersebut,” katanya semasa ucaptama Persidangan Asia Barat dan Afrika 2013 di Kuala Lumpur hari ini. – 18 November, 2013.–


Barisan Nasional Leaders think Bumis are dumb

November 15, 2013

MY COMMENT: Too simplistic, Ms. Shukri. Bumis are not dato-din-mericanstupid. BN policies make them feel that they are inferior and must rely on government for their sustenance. NEP must be replaced by policies that can help to build a resilient, rugged and competitive Bumiputra community, not one dependent on handouts from a corrupt regime.

Let us start by giving them good education to enable to think and fend for themselves. UMNO  Baru leaders must not be afraid of smart thinking bumiputras. We have enough of corrupt elite rule in this country. These bumiputras can be tapped for leadership roles in government service, business and research  and policy making and execution so that we do not have to dish out RM7.2 billion in consultancy fees to private consulting firms. Meritocracy is the way forward because competition strengthens a people and makes them proud of themselves.

With smart Malays around, we would not be talking about Blue Ocean strategy without understanding what that means and what it takes to put such a strategy into practice. Ms. Shukri should look at herself first before insulting the rest of us. Otherwise, she would not be elected in GE-14.–Din Merican

Barisan Nasional Leaders think Bumis are dumb

by Mariam Mokhtar (11-11-13) @

Barisan Nasional (BN) ministers must think the bumiputras are stupid and not worthy of respect. Nancy Shukri, the de facto Law Minister, said that she defended pro-bumiputra policies because without them, social problems would be created when bumis, who are lagging behind, would resort to theft when they have no money.

First. She insults bumiputras by insinuating that they have no self-respect or dignity, and have no compunction about stealing.

Second. Despite their vast wealth, ministers and their family, friends and cronies of UMNO Baru and BN politicians, allegedly steal from the rakyat, everyday.

Scandals, all with political links, have been quietly swept under the carpet. They range from the Bank Bumiputra fiasco to the bail-out of companies belonging to the sons and daughters of politicians. Farmers were deprived when money intended to expand the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) was diverted. In 1974, news of the Baling hunger strikes, when Malay farmers were struggling to feed their families, was censored.

nancy-shukri-menteri-bn-pbb-sarawakNancy (left), who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, casually labels poor bumiputras as potential thieves. In the past, her peers also branded bumis as lazy, stupid and ignorant.

Last month, this government inadvertently said that Malays were easily confused, when a court ruling decided that the word ‘Allah’ could not be used by non-Muslims. It appears that the qualities which define the proud Ketuanan Melayu man are stupidity, arrogance, a state of confusion, laziness, ignorance and a propensity towards criminality.

The National Economic Policy (NEP) launched by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, the PM in 1971, was supposed to end in 1990. Both Razak’s deputy, Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and the Permanent Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, Ghazali Shafie, agreed that should the NEP fail to get substantial results by 1990, then a change of strategy was warranted.

From 1990 onwards, successive PMs simply allowed the NEP to limp along in its various guises. This does not help the Malays and UMNO Baru, the ruling party, will suppress any challenge which it sees as a threat to its power and its privileges.

The launching of the Bumiputra Economic Empowerment (BEE), in 2013, by Najib Abdul Razak was a political ploy to assuage the extremists in UMNO. He was preparing for the toughest election in his career, the UMNO Baru internal election.

The affirmative action policies championed by UMNO Baru do not benefit the average bumiputra. The only people who grow richer are those with political clout. How many of the Malays who have made it to the billionaires club of Malaysia, do not have political or royal credentials?

Only UMNO Baruputras have the money to buy townhouses or apartments in Kuala Lumpur. Only elite UMNO Baruputras can afford apartments in Central London to accommodate their children who are studying in England, on scholarships which should have been awarded to the poor and deserving bumiputras.

Former teachers allege that examination pass marks are lowered to allow more Malays to pass. UMNO Baru is tacitly admitting that the majority of Malays are not academic, but why will it not tackle the root causes for poor academic performance?

Lack of competition leads to decline in performance

Malay extremists, who want to cage the Malay mind with their indoctrination, are gaining ground. Children who attempt to gain fluency in English are teased for speaking English and told they are unpatriotic. Malays who show curiosity about people of other faiths are called un-Islamic. The lack of competition on the sports field and the athletic domination of one race, has resulted in a decline in performance, at international level.

Contrary to popular belief, Malays are not averse to technological advancements. If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, politicians at both federal and state levels, take helicopter rides to conduct aerial surveys to find land which is ripe for picking. A survey of beach properties on our islands and coastline might reveal an interesting abundance of politicians and their proxies.

In Perak (and presumably in other states), people with allegedly close links to the top can amass great fortunes. State lands are acquired for a song and resold for millions of ringgits. A person’s political patronage can be revealed by the properties he develops and the name-dropping tactics he employs to defend the destruction of historical buildings, which are then replaced with structures of steel and glass.

During a court hearing last month, the list of people who were arraigned for the Genneva Gold scam, read like a list of ‘Who’s Who’ with Datuks comprising 85 percent of those charged.

UMNO Baru uses the Chinese or the communists as convenient scapegoats because communism plays on the heartstrings of the Malays. Chin Peng’s ashes were prevented from being buried in his parents’ ancestral plot, in Sitiawan.

Why are dead communists so feared? This government is happy to do business and grant honorary degrees to communist leaders, some of whom are tyrants. Is this why other nations are spying on us, because of our ties with communist North Korea and conservative Iran?

Behind the scenes a battle is raging between former PM Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Abdul Razak.  Mukhriz Mahathir has suffered two serious defeats in as many months and Mahathir is sore with Najib.

In 1981, Mahathir’s political secretary, Siddiq Ghouse, was imprisoned for allegedly being a KGB agent, a few days before Mahathir became PM. Around the same time, three Soviet agents were deported for being KGB spies. Was Siddiq’s arrest and the soviet expulsion a coincidence, or a conspiracy?

In the mid-70s, then-German Chancellor Willy Brandt resigned when his aide had been arrested for being an agent of the Stasi, the East German secret service.

Mahathir’s enemies may have hoped that Siddiq’s arrest would cause Mahathir’s downfall, but it did not work, because Mahathir is not like honourable western, Japanese and South Korean politicians who resign after a whiff of scandal.

Dr M at Sungei LimauWhat is he up to now?

Today, Attorney-General Gani Patail is accused of having allegedly employed CIA operatives. Is Mahathir using the tried and tested UMNO Baru formula of “reds under the beds”, to discredit Najib’s government? A charge of sodomy against Najib’s closest aides may not work, because no member of the rakyat would believe this bit of histrionics, again.

Is Mahathir exacting his vengeance on Najib with talk of spies and espionage, using similar methods as those used to get him out of the way in 1981?

UMNO Baru and BN will use the bumis to advance their own careers. To them, the bumis are just cannon fodder. Nancy has insulted all bumis, she should make an unreserved apology.

UPSR Results show decline English Language Proficiency

November 15, 2013

UPSR Results show decline English Language Proficiency

Hamzah Fahmy@

Nov 15: The drop in performance of students from national primary schools in their recent UPSR English language paper despite the government hundreds of millions on foreign English mentors, has a parliamentarian taking the government to task.

The overall performance in the English paper amongst national-type schools however, saw an improvement of 0.12 points, with the number of students scoring A increasing by 4.2 per cent and those scoring B and C increasing by 2.1 per cent, said Bukit Bendera parliamentarian, Zairil Khir Johari in a statement Nov 15.

This despite the fact that the national-type schools that did not benefit from the foreign English mentoring programme, he pointed out.

Zairil said he strongly disagreed with Director-General of Education Tan Sri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud who played down the decline in English results by saying that “the Average Subject Grade  (GPMP) for English in government schools only decreased by 0.06 compared with last year and this is not significant.”

The decline in English results is not only significant, but also shocking considering that the Government has invested heavily in recent years on the teaching of English in primary schools, he added.

Islam or Islamophobia?

November 4, 2013

Islam or Islamophobia?

by Sam Harris posted on November 01, 2013 09:11PM GMT

Sam Harris calls attention to the video that RDF posted here on October 30

Watch the above video. (Then watch it again.) And then read the (unedited and uncorrected) description of this footage written by the organizers of this Muslim “peace conference”:

 When Muslim organizations invite Shaykhs who speak openly about the values of Islam, the Islamophobic western media starts murdering the character of that organization and the invited speaker. The question these Islamophobic journalists need to reflect upon is; are these so called ‘‘radical’’ views that they criticize endorsed only by these few individuals being invited around the globe, or does the common Muslims believe in them. If the common Muslims believe in these values that means that more or less all Muslims are radical and that Islam is a radical religion. Since this is not the case, as Islam is a peaceful religion and so are the masses of common Muslims, these Shaykhs cannot be radical. Rather it is Islamophobia from the ignorant western media who is more concerned about making money by alienating Islam by presenting Muslims in this way. Islam Net, an organization in Norway, invited 9 speakers to Peace Conference Scandinavia 2013. These speakers would most likely be labelled as ‘‘extremists’’ if the media were to write about the conference. But how come this conference was the largest Islamic Scandinavian International event that has taken place in Norway with about 4000 people attending? Were the majority of those who attended in opposition to what the speakers were preaching? If so, how come they paid to enter? Let’s forget about that for a moment, let’s imagine that we don’t really knew what all these people thought about for example segregation of men and women, or stoning to death of those who commit adultery. The Chairman of Islam Net, Fahad Ullah Qureshi asked the audience, and the answer was clear. The attendees were common Sunni Muslims. They did not consider themselves as radicals or extremists. They believed that segregation was the right thing to do, both men and women agreed upon this. They even supported stoning or whatever punishment Islam or prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commanded for adultery or any other crime. They even believed that these practises should be implemented around the world. Now what does that tell us? Either all Muslims and Islam is radical, or the media is Islamophobic and racist in their presentation of Islam. Islam is not radical, nor is Muslims in general radical. That means that the media is the reason for the hatred against Muslims, which is spreading among the non-Muslims in western countries.

This is a remarkable document. Read it closely, and you will pass through the looking glass. The organizers of this conference believe (with good reason) that “extremist” views are not rare among Muslims, even in the West. And they consider the media’s denial of this fact to be a symptom of… Islamophobia. The serpent of obscurantism has finally begun to devour its own tail. Apparently, it is a sign of racism to imagine that only a tiny minority of Muslims could actually condone the subjugation of women and the murder of apostates. How dare you call us “extremists” when we represent so many? We are not extreme. This is Islam. They have a point. And it is time for secular liberals and (truly) moderate Muslims to stop denying it.

Sam Harris

Why One Obscure Malaysian University Gave Kim Jong Un an Honorary Doctorate

October 25, 2013

MY COMMENT:  What is wrong with Dr. Paul Chan and hisDato Din Merican colleagues at HELP University? Looking for some cheap publicity or is HELP unable to think of a better candidate to grant this doctorate in economics. What criteria were used to make this decision. A doctorate to a leader who is running his country down to the ground? Well that is hard to justify. Dr. Chan’s statement at best is perplexing. Yet he can get away with this and the Home Ministry raises no objections.

Professor K. S. Jomo who won the Wassily Leontief award in Economics for his contributions in the field of Development Economics, was denied his Emeritus Professorship at the University of Malaya where he served with distinction because the Home Ministry objected to his nomination. A distinguished Malaysian economist and educator was not  given his due, whereas a dictator is honoured. What signals are we sending to the rest of the world? That beats me.–Din Merican

Why One Obscure Malaysian University Gave Kim Jong Un an Honorary Doctorate

by Isaac Stone Fish (10-22-13)

A broken clock, they say, is still right twice a day, and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s premier English-language news site, does even better. Much of its domestic coverage is depressingly optimistic propaganda; I’m guessing, for example, that foreigners aren’t flocking en masse to Pyongyang’s new fitness center, as one Oct. 21 report suggests, though an Oct. 9 story, “Floral Baskets Placed before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” is probably true. And while the news agency’s international coverage lacks any sense of balance, it is sometimes, technically speaking, accurate. There is no reason to doubt, for instance, that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un likely congratulated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his birthday.

Every so often, in other words, the agency churns out stories that are, broadly speaking, news. Earlier this month, I encountered such an article: a KCNA report crowing that a Malaysian institution of higher learning, known as HELP University, had awarded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un an honorary doctorate in economics — in recognition of his “untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.”

Dr Paul ChanHELP, it turns out, is a real university. Founded in 1986 to “provide affordable quality educational opportunities for Malaysians,” the private, Kuala Lumpur-based college brands itself as the “university of achievers.” (HELP’s website brims with happy reports, noting, for instance, that the “lower foyer of HELP University was the scene of jubilation today” because of a “Dramatic Increase in Straight A’s” and that its Team Legacy “emerged Champion in the prestigious Cheerleading Association and Register of Malaysia (CHARM) Cheerleading Championship.”)

Given that Kim’s greatest economic achievement appears to be stewarding one of the world’s most dysfunctional economies, I reached out to Help University to find out why the school would give him an honorary degree in economics. Not only did the University confirm that it granted Kim the degree, but it also sent over a statement from Dr. Paul Chan, the President and Vice Chancellor, explaining why the university chose to build “a bridge to reach the people” of North Korea. (Malaysia is one of North Korea’s closest allies in Southeast Asia, and its citizens are reportedly among the very few allowed visa-free entry into North Korea.)

Within six years, North Korea “will engage the world in many constructive ways,” Chan predicts, in a statement that leaps from Socrates to Henry Kissinger to Malala Yousafzai. “When a world leader facilitates this, probably an American  President, there will be a rush to DPR Korea. Everyone will rush in to offer assistance and investment. I am just a bit ahead of them in that I feel no one at this moment has the courage to do this though their hearts tell them to do so.”

“[L]et’s start with offering education opportunities to the people of this country with the support of their President,” adds Chan, who has an actual Ph.D. in economics. “Why deny them? Why punish them with sanctions? The people are hungry for education to change their lives. Give it to them.”

“Can you help to send out this message and enlighten the world?” Chan asks. His statement, in full, is below. Consider yourself enlightened:

My wife and I started the HELP Education Group in 1986 (1st April). HELP means Higher Education Learning Philosophy. We had, and still have, the conviction that it is a moral duty to provide to disadvantaged people, regardless of race, religion and ideology, equal access to tertiary education. I left the University of Malaya (a public university located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) to start HELP with about US $5,000. We had 30 students and 5 staff members.

We are now listed on the stock exchange of Malaysia, with an enrollment of more than 10,000 students from over 60 plus countries plus partnerships in Asia. We offer our own degrees and we have numerous international partnerships to use different educational models to address the educational needs of Malaysia and Asia.

After more than 20 years I formalize my philosophy and principles of education in a simple mission statement: ‘to help people succeed in life and to live a life of significance through education’. The first part about success means creating competencies for individuals to pursue a career or self-employment; the second part means learning to live a life of meaning and purpose: the cultivated man. This is the way of Socrates and Confucius.

We are guided by five values: Pride of Achievement, Sharing Success, the Courage to Be, to be Compassionate, and to be Significant. We try our best to practice and live such values. Ultimately, we have a VOW. That is, in what we do we must create values, opportunities, and wealth.  In Chinese wealth is pronounced as ‘cai’ which means intellectual knowledge and financial prosperity. Each year we donate the equivalent of about US$8 million in financial assistance and fee waiver to help many students to access quality education.

I am an economist and have my philosophical views about life and global matters. I am 70. It troubles me to see wars and destruction, whether in the Middle East, Africa or anywhere. Humans should not kill humans, regardless of ideological or religious differences. As a Christian, and knowing Confucian and Buddhist values, I find the use of wars and weapons to subjugate others totally unethical and unacceptable. A human being is a noble creature and we should help each other to ennoble ourselves. Education is ennobling: the means are noble and the ends are noble.

So, I extend our mission to create the platform: ‘Education for Peace and Prosperity‘. All of us, regardless of our station in life, and wherever we come from, should use our talents and time to build human capacity and capability using educational means. This is the only acceptable way to change societies to help them become open minded, fair minded, and have high self-esteem to pursue a life of meaning — whether it is about life, liberty and happiness or equality.

I hope to build the Education for Peace and Prosperity platform into a global movement. I have spoken about this to many friends in US, UK and Australia, besides others. They agree that this is the way forward. Now too much time, attention, talents and resources are devoted to conflicts and wars and weaponry. This creates ill will and hatred amongst men, not good will and the pursuit of the good life.

I hope that you also subscribe to my philosophy that educating is ennobling: that Education for Peace and Prosperity is a powerful platform. And we can use this platform to liberalize closed societies. I hope that you pass this message forward and onward so that people have a clear understanding why education is so essential and critical in helping societies to be more progressive and liberal in their thinking. We should use education to help the people of DPR Korea to have a better life by having a higher standard of living. Above all, let’s help them to integrate faster into the global network of open societies.

To me, the conferment of an Honorary Doctorate to His Excellency President Kim Jong Un is building a bridge to reach the people. It is good that he has accepted it. We had a simple ceremony in the DPR Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We just had a simple citation about the President and we explained the Education for Peace and Prosperity concept to the DPR Korean Ambassador and about 35 people who were invited to attend. I hope that using this ‘soft constructive’ approach we can help them and North Asia and the world to be a better place for mankind.

I understand this conferment was reported by the DPR Korean News Agency.

I anticipate that it is a matter of time, within the next 6 years or so, that DPR Korea will engage the world in many constructive ways. When a world leader facilitates this, probably an American  President, there will be a rush to DPR Korea. Everyone will rush in to offer assistance and investment. I am just a bit ahead of them in that I feel no one at this moment has the courage to do this though their hearts tell them to do so. DPR Korea is the last society in Asia to open up. Myanmar has already done it. Every leader visits Myanmar. But no one dared to do so a few decades ago for fear of being misunderstood, that is, people will say you are supporting an authoritarian regime. Now world leaders meet the Myanmar leaders in making deals.

I recall the secret missions of Kissinger to China. What happened? No one said it was bad. The world became safer and richer when China was facilitated to become a member of the global system of trade and politics. It is learning to be a responsible global player in world issues. Did anyone dare visit China before President Nixon went to China? Now, China is engaged and consulted.

Soon, it will be the turn of the DPR Korea. But let’s start with offering education opportunities to the people of this country with the support of their President. Why deny them? Why punish them with sanctions? The people are hungry for education to change their lives. Give it to them.

It is the same with many authoritarian regimes in Africa. Why just trade and do commerce and sell arms? Why not use Education for Peace and Prosperity? The US had the Peace Corp which changed the lives of many. Where are such noble causes now? Education for Peace and Prosperity can be such a universal platform. But to make it influential and efficacious we should have a lot support in small and big ways from all quarters. I start Education for Peace and Prosperity using our limited financial assistance for individuals. Now I want to help at the country level. I sincerely hope more powerful individuals and organizations would join this cause.

In Asia, we have close to 3 billion people. Before the industrial revolution Asia contributed about 54 percent of the world’s output. After the Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about 15 percent during the 1950s. Now it is about 25 percent or thereabouts. The goal is to contribute around 55 percent by 2050. The Asian Millennium aims to enhance the standards of living to the present level of Western societies by 2050. There is no way they can do it without a sound education system that provides thinking skills and creative innovation.

Small institutions like us want to have a meaningful role in this journey.

I watched Malala conversing with  Christiane Amanpour on CNN. I told myself that we should have more Malalas in closed societies. As educationists, my wife and I believe that it is our role and responsibility to nurture more Malalas.

To help DPR Korea in the way we do it is a road untraveled, but we hope our first small crucial step will contribute to peace and prosperity for all.

Can you help to send out this message and enlighten the world?

Would you support this cause: to help the world, especially closed societies, to be enlightened and enriched using Education for Peace and Prosperity?


Datuk Dr Paul Chan
Vice Chancellor and President
HELP University
Kuala Lumpur


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