Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"This is utter rubbish coming from the police force, which has long lost its credibility"....

Was what PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan said in response to Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar statement that the Police stopped a team of more than 50 riders in Jerit's ‘Ride for Change' campaign in Rawang yesterday in order to "save under-aged cyclists" from being exploited.

Malaysiakini reported the following today ;

1. 29 adults and 27 teenagers were taken to the police station at around 5pm because the organisers failed to get a permit to peddle through Rawang town.

2. Most of the 29 adults were released on police bail at 3am this morning, but the police refused to allow those under the age of 18 to leave the station and instead handed the teenagers over to Welfare Department officers

4. One teenage girl was amongst those detained (or protected) overnight.

3. Gombak district welfare office was unable to accommodated the 27 teenage riders and they were instead housed for the night under the observation of the welfare officers in the upper unit of the police station

4. The are they were kept before being moved into the Police Station began flooding due to heavy rain, however when the "detainees" tried to move out of the area the Police and FRU forced them back in.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Orang asing ?


The Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) is seeing red over the use of an insensitive term during a seminar held in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.

The seminar was jointly held with a government-linked bank to seek assistance in form of loans for its members. Some 70 traders were present.Miba president P Sivakumar told Malaysiakini that participants were riled up when a high-ranking officer from the bank allegedly repeated the words 'orang asing' (foreigners) twice.According to Sivakumar, the officer in a "direct reference to the Indian community" told the audience that 'orang asing' could now apply for jobs in particular banks.

Whole story at Malaysiakini, here.


Vernacular schools are often singled out as the main cause for the lack of national unity. The latest being Mukhriz Mahathir who recently proposed that vernacular schools in its current format be closed and that the schools should instead be intergrated into national school system so that pupils would be able to interact better. Mukhriz Mahathir, however is not the first politician who has repeated this decade old polemics blaming vernacular schools for causing racial polarisation and disunity.

Those who continuously fault the vernacular schools ought to be reminded that it is the desire and wish of every parent to see their children mix, study and play with children of other races. After all, the parents themselves were often the products of national schools where students of different races and religions studied, played and interacted together and forged friendship which extended long after they left school.

Vernacular schools in the past were not necessarily the schools of first choice of Non Malays.. Non Malay parents sent their children to English medium schools simply because education was in English, The schools had good teachers and English medium schools provided school leavers better career opportunities. In fact Chinese schools such as Han Chiang High School in Penang were on the verge of closing down because of falling attendance and in the 70’s had to depend on students from Indonesia and Thailand to survive. Now the reverse has happened.

According to statistics, Chinese parents who sent their children to national schools have fallen from around 50 % in the 1970’s to about 6% in 2006. The NST November 19, 2008 reported that 9 out of 10 Chinese send their children to Chinese schools. More alarming is that, Tamil parents and even the Tamil professional who were educated in national schools are now beating a path to Tamil schools, despite the fact that many Tamil schools lack the facilities national schools or Chinese schools have. With Chinese and Indian parents abandoning national schools for vernacular schools, the national schools not by choice, have taken on the image of “sekolah Melayu”. Today some 630,000 students study in in 1288 Chinese primary schools while 100,142 students study in 523 Tamil schools.

Politicians like Mukhriz Mahathir and the ilks like him do not bother to find out why have Non Malays and particularly the Chinese have simply abandoned the national schools and send their children to Chinese schools. Mukhriz Mahathir if he cares to find out will know that there are almost 60,000 Non Chinese students studying in Chinese schools and a substantial proportion of the students are Malays. So, we now have Malay parents seeing the benefits of Chinese education also abandoning national schools for Chinese schools.

Mukhriz Mahathir and others who wallow in their misguided belief and keep harping that Chinese schools are source of the nations ills, conveniently choose to ignore that there are also schools which are exclusively for a single race, religious schools of a particular religion, universities catering to a single race and universities with religious orientation of a single religion. Are not the existence of these schools and universities equally divisive, polarising and creating disunity and should be equally blamed for causing disunity ?

The truth is that if there is divisiveness, racial and religious polarisation and disunity, it is because of the government of the day. It happened as a result of how how the country has being governed and because of government policies which has resulted all these fault lines.

Malaysia is unique with its multiracial, multicultural and multi religious population. The role of a school is not only to create a learning atmosphere. In Malaysia schools have an added responsibility in that it ought to be a place where students are taught to value and celebrate diversity. Students should be thought to acknowledge and respect each others culture, language and religion and to be imbuded with a sense that each others cultural, language and religious diversities are part and parcel of our national heritage and that this uniqueness should be treasured and protected by all. Schools must inculcate multiracialism, multiculturalism and multireligiousm. Mukhriz Mahathir and others should ask themselves whether the schools have done this. The character of national schools have changed and have become overtly and overwhelmingly Malay-Muslim. Malay-Muslim centred actions and policies in the of national have caused the exodus of Non Malays from national schools.

School administrators and the principals in some national schools have turned the school and and the school culture’s dominantly Malay-Muslim centred. While great effort is taken to continuously remind the Non Malay students about respecting Malay cultural mores and religious sensitivities, the same is not not done when it comes to Non Malays cultural and religious sensitivities and even worst they are blatantly indifferent to the sensitivities of the Non Malays..

Here is a letter which appeared in malaysia-today news portal where a parent wrote:-
“ In my children’s SK school, the hari Raya holidays are stretched to well over a week to accommodate the Malays. Replacement classes are planned months ahead and notification letters are sent out very early. However, when it comes to Chinese New Year, not a single extra day is given-not even for the kids who have to travel to make it to their home town. Mind you, Malays make up roughly 50% of the student population.”

This is merely one example. Many Non Malay parents also complain that while the school has religious and religious activities for Muslims students, it is near impossibility to have the same for Non Malay-Non Muslim students. In some school classes are segeratted but giving time-table convenience as an excuse. Some schools even forbid their students from wearing shorts for physical education.

Parents naturally would want the best for the children. Non Malay parents have complained that there is a marked drop in the standards of education in national schools. A lecturer at the Teacher’s Training College in Johor Bahru once lamented about the quality of the trainee teachers. According to him, many of these trainee teachers hardly have a passion for teaching and that teachers training college was their last choice after having failed to secure a place in the universities or other colleges. The attraction to teaching is its perks - half day session, five day week and the long term breaks. In school, many of the teachers seem disinterested and unmotivated and instead some are more interested in moulding the children for the hereafter.

Razak Baginda ( Yup ! of the Altantuya fame) who was the executive director of Malaysian Strategic Research Centre is quoted in the International Herald Tribune June 7, 2005 as saying that his “dauughter complained that the religious teachers are the culprits, They inculcate very negative views of te other religions. They are always have them and us attititude that is very destructive.”

Mukhriz Mahathir and others like him rightfully ought to ask the parents of the 60,000 Non Malay students ( a substantial proportion being Malays) studying in Chinese schools, why did they as Malays abandon national schools which have better facilities, teachers and students of same race and religion and instead choose to send their children to Chinese schools where their children are a minority, and be exposed to Chinese culture, Chinese religious believes or have to eat in the school canteen which serves food with “bak”. If Mukhriz Mahathir and others like him care to find out, he will know that the reason is simple- teachers there do nothing but teach and teach they do with passion and dedication.

I know of one Chinese school in Johor Bahru where the teachers sacrifice the school term holidays and weekends when exam nears just to give free extra tuition for her class. If you have a child in national school ask yourself if your children’s teachers has ever sacrifice their term holidays or their weekends to give free extra tution especially when exam nears.

I believe the exodus in such droves from national schools to vernacular schools would not have happened had the government been far sighted and been quick to arrest the problem. The government need not follow Singapore’s way of abolishing vernacular schools, since in Malaysia, vernacular education is right guaranteed by constititution and by acts of parliaments. What the government could have done was to innovate a little and make studying of student’s own language mandatory and also make it part of the examination syllabus. Had the government initiated teaching and examination of Chinese and Tamil language and also shown an honest commitment by providing equal funding and qualified and competent teachers, vernacular schools would have struggled to exist.

Now, the added attraction of Chinese schools is the emergence of China as the powerhouse. Knowledge of Chinese becomes of fundamental importance. With economic opportunities at home becoming more difficult and realising that Government’s preferential policies, quotas and restrictions will continue for a long time, many Chinese believe that China may provide their children a window of opportunity. Thus, you can be a lawyer or a banker or a businessman, but if you do not speak Chinese, you would experience more difficulties in China. Presently, Malaysian Chinese are able to now take advantage of the opportunities in China is simply because of the their ability to read, write and speak Chinese and for that one has to thank Chinese schools which provided the foundation.

Mukhriz Mahathir and others who believe that the panacea for national unity is closing down vernacular schools should remember what Helen Ang said - “The Chinese education boat has left the habour and sailed too far to turn back now”. So, leave vernacular schools alone and instead have the courage to call for a review of government policies and you will realise that it is these which has given rise to racial and religious polarisation- not vernacular schools.