Mr. Mat Sabu, what are you up to–Rebranding the NSC Law?


July 1, 2018

Mr. Mat Sabu, what are you up to–Rebranding the NSC Law?

by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“Najib’s rights are far more numerous and superior in comparison with the rights and powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.”

– Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the National Security Council law

COMMENT | I just don’t get it. The current Pakatan Harapan grand poobah says because they (Harapan) thought they could not win the elections, they made strong promises. Bersatu supreme council member Rais Hussin claims that the promises were not plucked out of thin air but instead the election manifesto was the efforts of a wide range of political operatives and various stakeholders. Now the disputed debt in this country is the Harapan excuse as to why their 100-day promises cannot be met.

Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegeram and Rais Husin and anyone actually reading the Harapan 100-day manifesto would understand there is a whole load of promises that could be kept in the first 100 days which would not incur any expenses. I once wrote that if Harapan manages to do quarter of what they said they would do, they would be a better government than BN.

Now it is all about rebranding or reshuffling. BN government agencies and programmes that were supposed to bring ruination to this country have been rebranded Harapan-style, with the expectation that nobody cares because of the euphoria – as Rais calls it, I say Kool-Aid – is strong and folks who think otherwise are kicked to the curb.

I get it. I really do. When people are baying for the blood of people from the establishment and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that certain people are needed to remain in place, even if they did something wrong, that is the reality of politics. You do not destroy the bureaucracy by burning it to the ground. That is stupid. However, this should not be used as an excuse to shy away from promises made which does not incur expenses and that gives democracy back to the people.

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Now Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (popularly known as Mat Sabu) says that the National Security Council (NSC) Act is supposed to be “reshuffled”. It’s all about how this Act is actually a “good vehicle” for government minions to serve the state. All that is needed is a few legal provisions to be “reshuffled”.

What the hell have they been giving him to smoke in the Defence Ministry? This is especially when people like his boss, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and just about all the big guns in Harapan had previously argued that the Act would be used on the opposition, usurped the power of the Agong and as Kit Siang claimed, with this law, Malaysia would replace Myanmar as a rogue state.

This is what he said – “When the Najib government regards democracy and human rights activists as bigger threats than ISIS terrorists as envisaged by the monstrous NSC bill, Malaysia is replacing Myanmar as the rogue nation in Asean.”

Okay, I am not an objective person when it comes to the NSC Act. My public statements on this issue were brazen calls for street demonstrations and my frustrations as to why this never happened are a matter of public record. When Mahathir first started attacking this law as diminishing the powers of the Agong, he met with pushback from Universiti Malaya Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is now in the Council of Eminent Persons, or whatever it is called.

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Shad said – “In sum, the grounds of challenge against the NSC Act mentioned by Tun Mahathir may not be sustainable in law.” But he also wrote –  “The NSC Act is an ordinary law passed by a simple majority under Parliament’s ordinary law-making powers. It is not a law under Article 149 (to combat subversion). As such, several issues of fundamental rights violation are relevant.”

Of course, as former Federal Court judge Sri Ram Gopal and others point out, this law did bypass the consent of the rulers.

Why keep the law?

So, two points. The first point of this law, as many Harapan advocates claim, diminishes the power of the Agong and the second, that it violates basic human rights and legitimises the authoritarian power of the state in the hands of one person.

Recent events and the shocking behaviour of royalty before and after the elections demonstrate that perhaps we are better off with formalising certain powers of the executive which further curtail the powers of the royalty. Those issues which Mahathir – and yes, people like me – claimed were being taken away from the royalty are perhaps better left in the hands of the executive without any need of consultation with the royalty.

And if this is the case then, why retain this law? Just pass laws which further restricts the powers of the royalty and for further more definite issues, wait till you can amend the constitution with the necessary two-thirds majority. Indeed, reshuffling what aspects of the law?

Which brings us to point two. We have a  load of draconian laws in this country which Harapan claimed that they would end. For heaven’s sake, there was even waffling on the Anti-Fake News law a few weeks ago and Harapan decided that it was not worth the public anger to retain such laws. So, this idea of tweaking a law which Harapan had claimed was destroying the role of the Agong is absurd.

Why even reshuffle the bad parts of this law? What does the Council of Eminent Persons, which Shad Faruqi is part of, think of this new development? Does Harapan want its grand poobah to have powers superior to the Agong? Maybe it should be this way. After all, a former UMNO autocrat, and now Harapan big cheese, has been doing that for years?

We have enough “security laws” to deal with the type of warfare – including psychological – against the kind of extremism – Islamic – that poses a danger to this country. Not to mention, willing partners and assets which have been sidelined for far too long, because the former regime was mired in corruption scandals.

There are Harapan leaders willing to go on record stating clearly that this law has to be removed. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Mat Sabu would even consider such a move. Maybe some folk in Harapan really do not understand why this piece of “monstrous” legislation needs to be removed or maybe, just maybe, they think it is a good thing, now that there is really no opposition in this country.


 

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Man of the Moment: Meet Attorney-General Tommy Thomas


June 5, 2018

Man of the Moment: Meet  Attorney-General Tommy Thomas

by Hafiz Yatim

Born in 1952 in Kuala Lumpur, the father of three received his early education at Victoria Institution. He then pursued his law degree at the University of Manchester in England and subsequently received an MSc from the London School of Economics. He then became a barrister at Middle Temple, London.–Hafiz Yatim

Malaysians woke up this morning to the news that Tommy Thomas has been appointed as the new attorney-general by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, replacing Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Born in 1952 in Kuala Lumpur, the father of three received his early education at Victoria Institution. He then pursued his law degree at the University of Manchester in England and subsequently received an MSc from the London School of Economics. He then became a barrister at Middle Temple, London.

He is a founder and partner at Tommy Thomas, a litigation firm with an office in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. According to the firm’s website, Thomas specialises in administrative law and judicial review; intellectual property; arbitration; land; banking and finance; oil and gas; commercial property; company law; securities law; constitutional law; and insolvency and wills.

He was involved in numerous landmark cases and appeared before the Privy Council, which was Malaysia’s highest court in London, until 1985.

Thomas has published two books titled “Anything But the Law: Essays on Politics and Economics” and “Abuse of Power: Selected Works on the Law and Constitution”.

Besides being a well-known lawyer, he also participated in several Bersih rallies in the past.

An active member of the Malaysian Bar, he held the post of secretary of the Bar Council from 1995 to 1997.

Among his well-known cases were Metramac vs Fawziah Holdings, and as noted by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he appeared for BN in several cases concerning election petitions.

Thomas has also appeared for the PAS Kelantan and Terengganu oil royalty case against Petronas and the federal government, and also represented Selangor government lawyer Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar against Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) in the latter’s bid to cite the former for contempt of court.

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Thomas also represented Malayan Communist Party Secretary-General Chin Peng in his application to return to Malaysia, and former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in contempt proceedings filed against him by Apandi.

Meanwhile, Thomas’ law firm greeted his appointment with pride.

“He successfully led our team in two of the best-known bond recovery cases in the courts of Malaysia: Pesaka Astana and Aldwich Berhad. And as corporate asset recovery is topical, with the government focused on recovering the assets of 1MDB, there is no doubt in our mind that they have appointed Malaysia’s finest barrister in that field, with the knowledge, experience and industry to lead the 1MDB litigation, whether civil or criminal,” said the firm in a statement.

The firm noted that Thomas was an established corporate and commercial barrister, having acted successfully in some of the landmark cases on corporate debt and asset recoveries, such as Amos William Dawe and Mosbert; Lian Keow v Overseas Credit Finance; and Bank Bumiputra v Lorrain Osman.

More recently, he acted for the Securities Commission against Swisscash, the worldwide Ponzi scheme hatched in Malaysia – tracing the funds in the Ponzi scheme to banks in Hong Kong, and the Jersey and British Virgin Islands; obtaining worldwide Mareva injunctions, and what the firm claimed to be the largest reparation of funds for the victims of the Ponzi scheme.

According to the firm, Thomas had handled some of Malaysia’s largest and most complex cases, and in addition to his outstanding track record on commercial cases, he had a strong public law practice, having acted on major judicial reviews and constitutional cases.

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“A significant percentage of his practice has been pro bono work, for the less privileged and oppressed.While we shall obviously miss him, we are delighted for our country, as Thomas’ combined talent, integrity, legal knowledge and experience, gives Malaysia one of its best and brightest barristers as its next Attorney-General. We wish him every success as Attorney-General of Malaysia,” it said.

Thomas met Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister’s Department at 8.30am today.

Sleepwalking? What is progress supposed to look like?


May 23, 2018

On Turning 79–A Time for Personal Stock Taking 

COMMENT: I chose Firoz’s article to remind Malaysians of  Generation X and Y of what they failed to do in the last decade when they allowed Najib Razak and UMNO kleptocrats to govern our country carte blanche. We have been sleepwalking. Now look what Najib had done and imagine what more  he could have done if he were re-elected on May 9, 2018.

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Thanks to the present generation of voters, Najib is out of action; he is now being asked to account for the scandals he left behind including a trillion ringgit in national debt for the Mahathir 2.0 government to deal with. It takes my generation of 1950s, men like Tun Daim, Tan Sri Robert Kuok, former Attorney- General Abu Talib and others to come back to sort out the mess.

For me, money is not everything. It is important to have money. How much is enough? It is never enough. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said there’s enough for everyone’s  needs, but never enough for someone’s greed. Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor succumbed to greed and now they must bear the consequences of their avarice.

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That is why I seek to lead a simple life and as I reach 80 in a matter of 365 days from today, I choose to lead a life of an academic, a life of learning and devoted service to my students at The University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. These students challenge me everyday to give my best.

It was the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who urged us to lead a purposeful life. Greek Philosopher and teacher of Plato, Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. Descartes pronounced “I think , therefore I am” (Cogito Ergo Sum). Finally, I am just beginning to realize what they mean. It is a lonely life of deep contemplation. It does not make one popular; in fact, it may ruin relationships, but I will give it my best shot. And if I fail, it will not be for the lack of effort.

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Mr. Lee Kuan Yew led a life of public service

Today I turn 79. I choose to celebrate this day by posting Firoz’s article and to remind myself that I must continue to speak the truth to power. I will, therefore, hold our new government accountable for their policies and actions. I will remain critical. While I congratulate Pakatan Harapan on their electoral success, I will speak up when  our leaders in the  Mahathir 2.0 administration fail to honour their pledge to serve Malaysians.–Din Merican

Sleepwalking? What is progress supposed to look like?

by Firoz Abdul Hamid

http://investvine.com/highlights/tech-and-education/

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Robert Frost, a well known American poet wrote a poem on the 1919 inflation which reads:

The pain of seeing ten cents turned to five,

We clutch with both hands fiercely at the part,

We think we feel it in – the head, the heart,

Is someone cutting us in two alive?

Is someone cutting us in half?

These words cannot ring truer in a landscape where we are seemingly sleepwalking into losing homes and our life savings. A world where you could walk into work and be greeted by your pink slip, when only yesterday you were probably told you were a star in the galaxies of the workplace. The world of capitalism markets has created more people on Prozac (or similar tranquilisers) in search of their own personal worth and purpose. Even dogs are said to be on Prozac now – a testament of how we treat animals today

Is this what progress is suppose to look like? Does progress leave one billion people in hunger whilst another billion overindulging on food? How can the 21st century tolerate illness due to hunger and poverty and that due to overeating of “super scale” sized food at the same time and on the same planet? Why are people overeating anyway in the first place? Is the food produced for the “life on the rat race” lacking in nutrition that we have to keep eating? Even the basics like milk are no longer pure. We get pasteurised, skimmed, 1 per cent, 99 per cent with many other combinations. Coffee used to just be yes, coffee. Today we have all sizes and designs – it has become an industry unto itself to wake the stressed life we have all subscribed to.

And then we see the springing of organic food for the enlightened. But shouldn’t all food be organic in the first place. How did our food become unhealthy and inorganic that we need to search for health in food?

How did we get here as a civilisation?

When we have movements like the 1 per cent versus the 99 per cent on wealth, countries like the USA which makes just under 6 per cent of the world’s population is said to be one of the world’s largest consumers of global resources. Yet under these same skies we have the poorest of the poorest who are probably living on dhal (lentil) and bread, living a more prosperous life than those with multi-gated security having their three course meals, all cooked and served (flown to wherever they are for some).

Robert Frank wrote a book titled “Richistan” in 2007. In a commentary article on the book he wrote, “The wealthy weren’t just getting wealthier — they were forming their own virtual country. They were wealthier than most nations, with the top 1 per cent controlling $17 trillion in wealth” He further adds, “The real story behind all this wealth, however, isn’t in the numbers. It’s in the people, and how they’re changing the culture and character of wealth in America. Richistan is largely about a country in flux — one in which Old Money is being shoved aside by self-made entrepreneurs, philanthropy is changing from passive check-writing to ‘high-engagement philanthropy,’ and the progressive new rich are changing the politics of wealth. Most of all, Richistan is about the entertaining way that today’s rich are making, spending, donating and living with their wealth. (Like the guy in my book who has a house staff of 105 people.)

It is reported that since Frank wrote the book, some of the people in the book have faced repossession, but that isn’t the question at hand here. The argument really is about what is just, what is equitable, what is equity and what is mercy? What is humanity? What indeed is our purpose on and for this earth?

This is not a debate on class warfare. It is not about being against the rich and opting for the less privileged. It is about our motives and what should be the essence of our humanity and our civilisation. Yes, these are probably questions we are asked and taught in Sunday schools, in our Islamic classes, and other similar religious settings both in our schools and homes. Yet we tend to cast it aside when we reach a certain age in our adult life. We get so hamstrung into the hamster cycle of competition and the “dog eat dog” world that we forget the simple basics of doing unto others as you like it done unto yourself.

There is little to dispute about the state of our planet today, never mind our economies and markets globally. One thing that doesn’t require a debate – we are in trouble!

The models of yesterday haven’t worked – we only need to reflect on the staggering changes in our weather cycles from East to West and the breakdown of our economies and communities. Whether we are religious in our inclinations or otherwise, we have a moral purpose and responsibility for our time on this planet; if for nothing else for the people who will stay behind to pick up the pieces after we are long gone. Do we let them pick up pieces of destruction – or savour the pieces of our achievements and success? You know we are in trouble when you don’t know for sure what is in the food packs that you are buying (this relates to the recent horse meat saga in the UK). We are in trouble when the food that is served in Muslim schools is not what it seems (a recent incident in the UK).

Progress cannot possibly bring such episodes. Progress cannot justify loss of dignity for so many in an instance and from a decision made by a reckless someone in one part of the world. Progress cannot consent dire hunger and obesity sharing the same space in time. This surely cannot be progress. Are we sleepwalking into progressive destruction?

Even in fields like medicine, how far must you and can you go to seek cure for an illness? Where do the remits and limits of conscience and ethics stand when seeking solution – is it or must it be at all cost?

Across industries and sectors, there is a real crises of conscience on what we must do differently. Abdal Hakim Murad, the Dean of Islamic School at Cambridge, wrote in a 2009 article in The Guardian, “Ours is an age that has made idols of the great banks and finance houses, driven to frenzy by competition amongst billionaires who are kept awake at night by the thought that a rival might make a business deal more quickly than them. A banker who can asset strip companies and throw its employees out onto the street is someone who is in the grip of an obsession that has thrown him beyond of the normal frontiers of humanity.”

The purpose of this column is to scour industry and sector leaders on what the role of ethics in business should entail and how it can be implemented. Does it hold a place in markets, economies and businesses? What works and what should be done? Through interviews, this column will seek to understand their views on ethics in their areas of business.

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Aristotle spoke of justice in societies and equitable spreading of wealth. Imam Ghazali, one of the most leading scholars in the Islamic tradition, wrote books on trade justice. Today we have such organisations like Fairtrade International accrediting companies to safeguard injustices and abuse against farmers so that these farmers can have a more dignified life than if they were to sell their products in the traditional conveyor process of the capital markets. In return, consumers are probably getting a better deal. Whether you are inclined towards an organic or halal industry type setting or the mass market setting, the essence of humanity needs to get back into how we transact with our fellow human beings in business. The Orwellian world view can only truly destroy our souls and of what may be left of the future of this planet.

I hope you will enjoy these interviews – there are some real great people in store at http://www.investvine.com

Editorial note: This article is the prelude to a series of interviews on ethics in business with high-ranking executives globally.

 

 

 

Ode to the Unsung Heroes of GE-14–People of Malaysia


May 23, 2018

Ode to the Unsung Heroes of GE-14–People of Malaysia

By James Unsworth

 

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Her Departure from Seri Perdana, the Official Residence of the Malaysian Prime Minister, in itself is cause for  celebration

Now that we have the title, Change Was the Victory, perhaps this can be the narrative. Like any good narrative, there will be complications, plot twists and the like, but if the product is truly one Malaysia, one equal Malaysia, then that would be quite the book.

Recently, we all bore witness to a truly momentous and historic event. The momentous occurrence, was the change itself, the change in government. It is not that a band of saviours sailed ashore and a bright destiny was, or even will be, realised, it was merely that change was seen to be possible. It was that hope returned.

The change was the victory. From now on, whoever holds the reins will know that should they govern poorly, they will lose their jobs. They will be kept honest.

It is not the next band of political leaders that needs celebrating therefore, this victory belongs to the people, as the people did not vote for particular individuals, they voted for change, they voted for hope.

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This ballad therefore is not dedicated to the big names of the new government, it is for the smaller, less heard, but nonetheless effective actors, the everyday man, the everyday woman, who long ago spoke of ‘Malaysians’, long before 1Malaysia, those who spoke of equality, justice and transparency and saw political change as the first step towards this.

This ballad is dedicated to the quiet warriors, the quiet heroes, who, in Malcolm Gladwell’s terminology, were “the few”, the few who became the many, the many who spoke together last week. This ballad is to people like my wife: Gayatri Unsworth.

Since before I knew my wife, she has spoken with a tone of confused frustration about a Malaysia, without “Malaysians”, where division is normal and unity is a dream.

I’ve heard the stories of her childhood, of Ahmad’s, Chin’s, Kumar’s and Jonathan’s, of an idyllic singular Malaysia. When she was a young journalism student, I read her articles, which accounted as such and in which she dreamed of a day where this might once again become reality.

When she was a young professional in Australia, I heard her broadcast this message in her weekly Malay Language programme on SBS Radio around the country, to the Malaysian diaspora.

Back in Malaysia, I heard her imbue this message in her teaching to university students, as she taught them journalism ethics. I have heard this message repeated and manifest in the actions of her many graduated students, who have since taken leading roles in the Malaysian and foreign media and other aspects of civic life.

I have read it in her alternate news media articles, like ‘Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka’, widely read before a previous election, in her FB posts, in her weekly column and even in her article published the night before this famous election. I have seen it in her work with charities and social enterprises and in the way she raises our children.

Most importantly, I have heard it in the way she has consistently and calmly (and sometimes not so calmly) held firm in innumerate conversations over the past two decades, with family, friends and strangers, even when they said, “don’t trouble”, “don’t risk”.

I am delighted for my wife and for this country, as every one of these individuals has changed their tune, over time, gradually, one by one. Every wave, began with a ripple.

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Tun Dr. Mahathir is back with his Fellow Malaysians to make history and drain the swamp in Putrajaya. Together, we can make a difference

My celebration this week is for Malaysia, a country I love and for Malaysians and my tribute is to those few, those quiet warriors, those quiet heroes who kept on, kept on, kept on, until all of a sudden it happened!

Is there still plenty to fix in Malaysia? Yes. I first came to Malaysia in 2001 and I have lived here full-time for the past 12 years, longer than I have lived in any other place and I have observed many things.

Will these things be fixed because there is a different group in charge? No, maybe some, but that is not the point. Change was the victory, but it is just the beginning, not the end, not the climax, not even the introduction, just the title of a new story: Change Was the Victory.

I love this country, I was married here, my children have been born and raised here, I have taught here, I have studied here, I have bought, lived in and then sold a house here.

I have traveled all over this beautiful land and lived in three states, as I followed the work, like so many. I have become “me” here. I have partaken in the culinary multiculturalism of open-house culture, I have cheered for Harimau Malaya in the stands, I have cried at Chong Wei’s loses and sung Negaraku with pride.

I have sat in the front row at a Zainal Abidin concert, rocked out at Rock the World (back in the day), been to more weddings than I can remember, each a different kind, sweat it out on the local badminton court each Monday night and craved a teh tarik or Milo ais straight after.

But, despite my BM, my palate for sambal, my pride, my history on the ground, my Malaysian cultural idiosyncrasies, I will always be a foreigner. Well, maybe not always, but certainly for a long time yet.

Before I might be accepted, Malaysians need to accept each other, they need to come to know each other, one bangsa, equal. This is the story that needs to next be written.

Now that we have the title, Change Was the Victory, perhaps this can be the narrative. Like any good narrative, there will be complications, plot twists and the like, but if the product is truly one Malaysia, one equal Malaysia, then that would be quite the book.

James is the Head of English at an esteemed private school in Malaysia.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.  http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Restoring the nation’s confidence


May 22, 2018

Restoring the nation’s confidence

 www.themalaymailonline.com
 

If it’s one thing that the entire period of 2004-2018 taught me, it’s how it feels to have low expectations in one’s nation.

I grew up in the era of Mahathir 1.0 (except we did not know it was 1.0 then!) and there was an air of confidence. Of course, being kids in school, we were not able to see the problems but that’s besides the point.

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The point is, we had a great deal of confidence in his administration and this translated into national pride. This, I can tell you, was an exuberant feeling.

Then came the lost years. Abdullah Badawi, Pak Lah, came into office enjoying a high level of confidence. The 2004 general election was proof of that.

However, his unenergetic leadership soon floundered and he was made into a laughing stock. He was also unable to handle the Islamofascists who ruined any chance of an interfaith council.

Pak Lah was told to leave after Barisan’s relatively disastrous performance in the 2008 general election where Barisan lost five states, later reduced to four. The period of Najib Razak had begun.

In 2009, when Najib came in, I recall a high level of confidence, especially from the Malay professionals who believed that Najib’s eruditeness was proof that he was very clued in. I was quite hopeful myself although by this time, I was unreservedly anti-Barisan.

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Then came the scandals. 1MDB was the whale of them, at least until the FGV scandals came to light. I recalled the feelings of buoyancy from the 90s when I read about 1MDB.

How the tables had turned and how we were now the laughing stock of the world whereas once we were admired as the darling of developing nations. When the 1MDB so-called investigations came to nothing, no one was surprised.

Like all Malaysians, I was hopeful when Tun Dr Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan to victory. I am quite sure that without Tun, BN would still be in power today and we would be in the doldrums.

What did worry me slightly was the execution of justice by the Mahathir 2.0 administration. The slow-moving machinery of the government  may slow down this process.

This would mean that people being investigated would be able to haul stakes and seek asylum elsewhere. There are no shortages of countries providing this type of asylum. No less a dictator than Idi Amin himself was able to live out the rest of his life in luxury.

However, Tun dealt with the matter swiftly. Being Tun, he had already planned things several moves ahead. He placed a travel ban on Najib and effectively had him under surveillance at all times. At the time of writing, Najib’s own house had been raided and several items seized.

The Auditor General’s report on 1MDB has also been declassified and downloaded so many times, the server is said to have crashed!

And this is what I mean. Confidence has been restored. The rakyat is now actively rooting for the nation.

At the end of the Najib administration, their confidence in the administration had been so down that when UMNO’s own status was called into question (due to breaking its own by-laws), we rightly expected no action to be taken and true enough – the case has been thrown out.

I applaud Tun on his swift actions. While the rakyat are rejoicing at the abolishment of the GST, to show us that past misdeeds will not go unpunished was a major win.

Now we feel no longer alienated by active stakeholders in the future of the nation.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

A Better Deal for Teachers–More than Appreciation


May 21, 2018

A Better Deal for Teachers–More than Appreciation

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/5/17/teachers-need-a-lot-more-than-appreciation

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John Steinbeck writes, “In the country the repository of art and science was the school, and the schoolteacher shielded and carried the torch of learning and of beauty. . . . The teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside. A family could indeed walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.”–In East of Eden

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I intended to write on the subject, but a more newsy topic intervened. That’s an apt metaphor for the plight of teachers in America today. We live in a media environment in which the urgent often crowds out the important. But this week, I will stick to my plans.

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Novelist John Steinbeck and his companion

In “East of Eden,” a sprawling, magisterial novel about the great American West, John Steinbeck writes, “In the country the repository of art and science was the school, and the schoolteacher shielded and carried the torch of learning and of beauty. . . . The teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside. A family could indeed walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.”

The picture Steinbeck paints (set in the early 20th century) is almost unrecognizable in today’s America, where schoolteachers are so poorly paid that they are about five times as likely as the average full-time worker to have a second job, according to Vox. We have all heard about stagnant middle-class wages. But the average pay for a teacher in the United States, adjusted for inflation, has actually declined over the past 15 years, while their health-care costs have risen substantially. The Economist reports that teachers earn 60 percent of what a professional with comparable education does.

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The average salary for a teacher in many states is under $50,000. Teachers in West Virginia went on strike a few months ago to demand higher wages, and the government agreed to a 5 percent pay raise, which means the average salary will rise to only $48,000. Like many other states, West Virginia failed to restore education spending after slashing it in the wake of the financial crisis a decade ago. As of last year, per-pupil state funding (adjusted for inflation) was still down between 8 and 28 percent in five of the six states where teachers have now gone on strike, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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“…the countries that do best at public education — Singapore, Finland, South Korea — can recruit top college graduates into the teaching ranks because they pay reasonably well, they invest in professional development and their societies show deep respect for the profession.”–Fareed Zakaria

With low wages and stretched resources, American educators burn out and quit the profession at twice the rate of some of the highest-achieving countries, as Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute points out. Since 35 percent fewer Americans have studied to become teachers in recent years, she notes, there are massive teacher shortages, forcing schools nationwide to hire more than 100,000 people who lack the proper qualifications. In fact, the New York Times reports, it is so hard for public schools to find qualified Americans that many districts are starting to recruit instructors from low-wage countries such as the Philippines.

It’s not all about salaries. One veteran educator I spoke with, who began working in California in the 1960s, reminisced about that “golden age” when she had ample resources to use in the classroom, went to seminars to develop her skills and felt fulfilled. Today, teachers have little time or money for any of this. A recent survey of public school teachers found that 94 percent pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, without reimbursement, at an average of $479 a year.

It’s not even all about money. Leading a classroom was never a pathway to riches, but teachers once did command the respect and status that Steinbeck’s quote reflects. Andreas Schleicher, who heads the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s education division and has spent years doing careful international comparisons on education, has often observed that the countries that do best at public education — Singapore, Finland, South Korea — can recruit top college graduates into the teaching ranks because they pay reasonably well, they invest in professional development and their societies show deep respect for the profession. In the United States, when we encounter a member of the armed services, many of us make a point to thank them for their service. When was the last time you did the same for a public school teacher?

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Yes, education is a very complicated subject. Simply spending more money does not guarantee results — although there are studies that indicate a significant correlation between teacher pay and student achievement. Yes, the education bureaucracy is rigid and often corrupt. But all of this masks the central problem: Over the past 30 years, as part of the assault on government, bureaucrats and the public sector in general, being a teacher in America has become a thankless job. And yet, teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group