March 3rd, 2013

Bisik-Bisik Awang Selamat ~ Keamanan

AWANG berbangga kerana Malaysia sekali lagi membantu negara tetangga dalam kerangka mewujudkan kestabilan dan perdamaian yang memberi makna besar kepada keamanan di rantau Asia Tenggara.

Semalam kepimpinan negara menyerlahkan komitmen mereka apabila berjaya merintis jalan kepada kerajaan Thailand dan Barisan Revolusi Nasional iaitu kumpulan pemberontak di selatan negara tersebut memeterai Dokumen Konsensus Am yang akan membuka laluan bagi dialog proses damai di selatan Thailand, yang sekian lama bergolak dan meragut lebih 5,000 nyawa.

Sebelum ini Malaysia telah pun memainkan peranannya dalam membantu memulakan perjanjian keamanan bersejarah bagi Mindanao, selatan Filipina yang telah berdekad-dekad bergolak.

Awang percaya sumbangan bermakna Malaysia itu bertitik tolak daripada komitmen berterusan kepimpinan negara untuk melihat rantau ini khususnya sebagai rantau yang stabil dan aman seperti terkandung dalam matlamat penubuhan ASEAN.

Namun, peranan itu tidak akan menjadi kenyataan tanpa penghormatan, pengiktirafan dan kepercayaan yang sewajarnya kepada pihak Malaysia.

Kita semua pasti mahu melihat wujudnya keamanan dan kestabilan di wilayah rantau ini apatah lagi melibatkan negara-negara jiran. Keadaan yang sedemikian akan mendorong kepada pertumbuhan ekonomi yang lebih baik seterusnya akan membawa kepada kemakmuran bersama.

Semoga bantuan Malaysia dalam membantu mencari perdamaian di selatan Thailand dan selatan Filipina akan mendatangkan hasil terbaik dalam masa yang singkat.

AWANG - Tahniah.


Artikel Penuh: http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Rencana/20130301/re_04/BISIK-BISIK-AWANG-SELAMAT#ixzz2MREXkiuE © Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd

Bisik-Bisik Awang Selamat ~ Keamanan lagi ...

SUDAH tentu kita sedih dengan kehilangan nyawa dua anggota keselamatan ketika kerajaan komited untuk menamatkan pencerobohan puak bersenjata di Lahad Datu sejak 9 Februari lepas.

Namun, peluang berundur secara aman yang dihulurkan kepada puak itu tidak disambut baik, malah mereka menyerang pasukan keselamatan kita sehingga berlaku pertumpahan darah.

Sebelum ini, kumpulan terbabit diberi peluang yang cukup luas apabila diajak berunding sehinggakan pihak berkuasa kita memberi mereka banyak kali peluang untuk meninggalkan negara ini secara bebas dan aman. Namun, peluang tersebut tidak digunakan sebaik mungkin walaupun tempoh menjangkau tiga minggu. Malah mereka mengambil peluang daripada kaedah diplomasi kerajaan untuk berdolak dalih yang membawa isu terbabit berpanjangan.

Semua tahu, sebaik-baik sahaja mereka mendarat secara haram di Lahad Datu, hak kebebasan rakyat tempatan di kawasan terbabit dirampas. Mereka terpaksa melarikan diri keluar dari kampung halaman.

Pada masa yang sama kerajaan bertanggungjawab ke atas wilayah negara ini yang berdaulat. Undang-undang negara perlu dipertahankan, walaupun peluang rundingan diberikan kepada golongan terbabit dengan harapan mereka meninggalkan negara ini dengan segera secara aman.

Apa yang berlaku semalam adalah pihak berkuasa dan pihak keselamatan kita tiada pilihan lagi, setelah kumpulan terbabit mara keluar dari Kampung Tanduo yang diceroboh serta melepaskan serangan mortar ke arah pasukan keselamatan.

Maka, pasukan keselamatan kita terpaksa bertindak mempertahankan wilayah berdaulat ini. Semoga insiden ini menjadi teladan kepada seluruh warga negara betapa ancaman sentiasa ada dalam pelbagai rupa dan kita perlu sentiasa berwaspada.

AWANG - Catat peristiwa.



Artikel Penuh: http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Rencana/20130302/re_04/BISIK-BISIK-AWANG-SELAMAT#ixzz2MRGIHSZb © Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd

Bisik-Bisik Awang Selamat ~ Dalang, Angan-Angan, Misteri Rambut Palsu dan Caj Telco

Siapa dalang?

‘‘TAK boleh menahan air mata apabila menonton ketibaan jenazah dua wira negara di TV3 beserta bacaan Al-Fatihah.’’

Itu adalah antara e-mel yang Awang terima semalam daripada pembaca dalam reaksi kepada peristiwa serangan penceroboh Kesultanan Sulu dari selatan Filipina di Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Dua anggota polis komando VAT 69 terkorban. Inspektor Zulkifli Mamat, 29, dan Koperal Sabarudin Daud, 46, adalah wira negara.

Pengorbanan mereka demi mempertahankan kedaulatan ibu pertiwi akan kekal abadi dalam tinta sejarah tanah air.

Kehadiran Perdana Menteri, Najib Tun Razak pada majlis memberikan penghormatan terakhir selain mengumumkan kenaikan pangkat kepada kedua-dua wira tersebut, adalah antara pengiktirafan negara kepada mereka.

Ketika rakyat menghulurkan simpati dan doa, Awang tersentak apabila ada beberapa pemimpin PKR dan DAP yang mempolitikkan malah memperlekehkan pengorbanan polis kita.

                                                            Anwar                                       Tian Chua                                       Azzumudie

Sepatutnya dalam soal keselamatan dan kedaulatan negara, semua pihak tidak kira perbezaan ideologi politik, agama dan kaum bersatu.

Sebagai warganegara, patriotisme kepada negara harus mengatasi persoalan lain apatah lagi ketika diuji peristiwa pencerobohan seperti di Lahad Datu.

Maka tohmahan kononnya kematian dua anggota polis itu sebagai konspirasi UMNO sebagaimana reaksi Naib Presiden PKR, Tian Chua adalah kenyataan paling bahlul dan tidak berhati perut.

Insiden pencerobohan di Lahad Datu, terdedah kepada pelbagai tafsiran. Apa pun, Awang menghargai pendekatan pihak berkuasa bagi mencari penyelesaian tanpa pertumpahan darah.

Dari awal lagi, kerajaan Malaysia membuka pintu rundingan dengan kumpulan penceroboh diketuai Raja Muda Azzumudie tetapi nampaknya tidak dihargai oleh oleh mereka yang bertindak di luar batas kemanusiaan.

Maka selepas ini, tidak perlu lagi diberi amaran kerana ancaman memuncak. Lahad Datu mesti dibersihkan daripada kumpulan tersebut. Apatah lagi pihak Kesultanan Sulu dalam kenyataan semalam, tetap enggan berundur . Malah terkini, dilaporkan serangan merebak hingga ke Semporna.

Apa yang berlaku ini, tentu ada pengajaran yang wajar diambil terutama bagi mengelakkan berulang pencerobohan pada masa depan.

Awang juga berharap pihak berkuasa dapat menjalankan siasatan terhadap laporan media di Filipina bahawa pemimpin pembangkang kita menjadi dalang pencerobohan di Lahad Datu.

Reuters dan Manila Times misalnya memetik kenyataan pegawai tentera Filipina bahawa pencerobohan itu berlaku atas jemputan pembangkang di Malaysia dengan janji-janji tertentu.

Ketua Pembangkang, Anwar Ibrahim harus menjawab persoalan tersebut. Apakah beliau ada mengeluarkan apa-apa arahan kepada pemimpin PKR Sabah? Selain itu, ada laporan mengaitkan Anwar sendiri mengadakan pertemuan dengan seorang tokoh selatan Filipina sebelum ini.

Jika tidak berpuas hati, beliau boleh menyaman media Filipina dan Reuters. Persoalannya mengapa PKR berurusan dengan kumpulan pejuang selatan Filipina ketika menjelang PRU13 dan lebih musykil mengapa pencerobohan itu dilakukan sekarang?

Sememangnya diketahui ada pemimpin pembangkang yang suka mendapatkan campur tangan asing dalam usaha terdesak untuk mendapatkan kuasa.

Sejarah membuktikan bahawa negara dan kedaulatan musnah angkara pengkhianatan yang biasanya dilakukan secara licik umpama peranan Si Kitul. Siapa orang itu?

Angan-angan

KETUA Pembangkang, Anwar Ibrahim dalam satu laporan media membayangkan akan melantik dua timbalan Perdana Menteri jika pakatan pembangkang berkuasa. Katanya, jawatan itu akan disandang oleh Penasihat DAP, Lim Kit Siang dan Presiden Pas, Abdul Hadi Awang.

Ghairah nampaknya Anwar membuat percaturan untuk kabinet pakatan seolah-olah sudah terjamin kedudukannya sebagai Perdana Menteri.

Sedangkan sampai hari ini, pembangkang masih tidak sepakat untuk mencalonkan beliau sebagai ketua kerajaan.

DAP dan PKR, sudah tentu, mahukan Anwar tetapi Pas tidak bersetuju dengan mencadangkan tokoh lain yang tiada masalah moral.

Majlis pelancaran manifesto pakatan pembangkang pada Isnin lalu yang desas-desus awal akan menyaksikan pengumuman Anwar sebagai Perdana Menteri, tidak menjadi kenyataan.

Awang mendapat tahu ia ekoran pendirian Pas tetap menolak Anwar, yang merupakan satu lagi tamparan buat Penasihat PKR itu.

Anwar juga kurang senang dengan perkembangan terbaru termasuk analisis pelbagai badan pemikir bebas yang meramalkan Barisan Nasional (BN) akan kekal memerintah.

Antaranya The Economist dan Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli). Dengan kata lain, kepimpinan Perdana Menteri, Najib Tun Razak lebih diyakini berbanding retorik Anwar.

Itu belum menyentuh program ceramah pembangkang termasuk yang dihadiri beliau makin hambar dan kurang mendapat sambutan.

(Salah satu sebabnya, Anwar dilihat terus bersekongkol dengan DAP dalam isu membenarkan kalimah Allah digunakan oleh agama lain.)

Semua itu mesej yang jelas. Ramai sudah bosan dengan gelagat pembangkang dan hipokrasi Anwar. Namun tidak salah rasanya jika beliau mahu terus menggambarkan dirinya bakal Perdana Menteri.

Malah kalau mahu membuat raptai awal untuk upacara mengangkat sumpah pun, boleh. Dalam hidup, adakalanya berangan-angan pun indah.

Misteri rambut palsu

PENDEDAHAN, bekas sahabat baik Anwar Ibrahim, S. Nallakaruppan cukup menarik perhatian.

Beliau mendakwa Anwar memakai rambut palsu untuk aktiviti tidak bermoral semasa menyandang jawatan Timbalan Perdana Menteri.

Awang cuba menggambarkan bagaimana agaknya wajah Anwar dengan rambut palsu.

Beliau bukannya kategori botak atau hadapi masalah keguguran rambut yang kronik ketika itu, untuk dijadikan alasan berbuat demikian.

Kalau penyanyi terkenal Elton John, pakai rambut palsu, kita boleh faham itu fesyen dan gayanya. Pemain tenis terkemuka, Andre Agassi pula contoh yang guna rambut palsu kerana botak.

Lain pula ceritanya dalam filem Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Watak utama Dr. Henry Jekyll mempunyai sisi baik pada siang dan sisi jahat pada malam hari. Ada juga elemen rambut palsu untuk urusan jahat Dr. Henry yang mengalami kecelaruan personaliti hasil eksperimen sainsnya.

Di beberapa negara terutama Barat, pernah terdedah cerita politikus, kenamaan dan selebriti memakai rambut palsu untuk berhibur seperti di kelab gay dan kelab tarian bogel.

Tetapi tentu lebih menggemparkan kalau seorang Timbalan Perdana Menteri menggunakan rambut palsu untuk aktiviti gelapnya seperti yang didakwa, lebih-lebih lagi di Malaysia.

Awang hanya senyum apabila Nalla mendakwa Anwar berbuat demikian kerana takut diketahui bosnya, Perdana Menteri ketika itu, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Nalla turut mengakui beliau pada sepanjang masa menyimpan rambut palsu Anwar yang dibeli di Chennai, India. Pada 1998, ketika polis menyerbu rumah beliau, rambut palsu itu ditemui dan kini dalam simpanan ibu pejabat polis Bukit Aman.

Awang teruja hendak lihat rambut palsu itu yang di sebaliknya ada misteri besar yang menanti terbongkar.

Turunkan caj

SUDAH banyak rungutan tentang gejala dropped calls atau panggilan telefon bimbit yang tiba-tiba terputus.

Orang ramai dan persatuan-persatuan pengguna telah membangkitkan isu tersebut sejak dua tahun lalu tetapi sehingga kini tiada perubahan.

Aduan mengenai dropped calls terus menjadi-jadi. Awang tidak pasti di mana silapnya. Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia seperti tidak berkesan dalam mencari penyelesaian.

Yang menghairankan, syarikat telekomunikasi (telco) untung berbilion-bilion ringgit daripada wang pengguna tetapi mengambil sikap sambil lewa dalam mengatasi masalah pengguna.

Pada Awang, situasi ini sangat tidak adil dan tidak wajar. Telco punya hal, kerajaan yang terpaksa memikul beban daripada kekecewaan rakyat.

Memandangkan isu tersebut sudah lama berlarutan, Awang mencadangkan telco menurunkan caj yang dikenakan kepada pengguna sebagai mengambil tanggungjawab.

Pilihan yang lain ialah tambah syarikat telco untuk menawarkan khidmat lebih baik atau peneraju jawatan sedia ada, berundur sahaja.



Artikel Penuh: http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/Rencana/20130303/re_04/Bisik-Bisik-Awang-Selamat#ixzz2MRGuhndj © Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd

Sejarah baharu di selatan Thailand

MEMASUKI tahun kesembilan pergolakan berdarah dengan lebih 5,500 nyawa melayang, rakyat selatan Thailand kini mempunyai harapan baharu menamatkan konflik dengan bermulanya proses perbincangan kerajaan negara itu dengan kumpulan-kumpulan pejuang Islam.

Kerajaan Thailand sebelum ini telah menyatakan kesediaan mengadakan rundingan damai dengan kumpulan pemisah berikutan keganasan yang semakin meningkat di wilayah Yala, Patani dan Narathiwat.

Menjelang pertemuan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dengan rakan sejawatnya dari Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, satu perjanjian konsensus telah ditandatangani lebih awal antara kerajaan Thailand dan kumpulan pejuang Islam, Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) pagi semalam.

Perjanjian bertujuan membuka proses dialog rundingan damai itu ditandatangani Setiausaha Agung Majlis Keselamatan Kebangsaan Thailand (NSC), Lt Jen Pharadorn Phatthanatabutr dan Ketua Pejabat Perhubungan BRN di Malaysia, Hassan Taib di Pusat Latihan Polis (Pulapol) Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.

Majlis perjanjian tersebut turut disaksikan Setiausaha Majlis Keselamatan Negara, Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab bersama kepimpinan tertinggi kerajaan Thailand dan BRN serta ketua-ketua pasukan keselamatan Malaysia.

Langkah ini merupakan usaha kedua Malaysia selaku orang tengah dan pemudah cara dalam membantu mewujudkan rantau Asia Tenggara lebih stabil selepas kejayaan perjanjian damai bersejarah di selatan Filipina.

Namun, melihatkan perkembangan situasi di selatan Thailand sejak sembilan tahun lalu, masih banyak pihak yang bimbang sejarah pergolakan akan berulang.


Tentera Thai berbual dengan penduduk tempatan di pos kawalan dekat wilayah Yala, ketika kerajaan Thailand setuju berunding dengan kumpulan pejuang Islam
bagi menamatkan konflik selatan Thailand di Putrajaya semalam. - REUTERS

Di samping perlunya mencari punca sebenar pergolakan, kegagalan beberapa perjanjian damai dan gencatan senjata sebelum ini perlu menjadi iktibar agar kesilapan sama tidak diulangi tanpa mengabaikan beberapa perkembangan positif yang berjaya dicapai.

Menurut Geostrategis Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Dr. Azmi Hassan, situasi di selatan Thailand sebenarnya berbeza dengan selatan Filipina dan lebih sukar untuk ditangani.

“Di Filipina lebih mudah kerana mereka mempunyai kumpulan besar dan ketua yang nyata. Selatan Thailand pula banyak kumpulan kecil yang tidak bersatu dan berpecah serta tiada ketua yang mewakili majoriti kumpulan tersebut.

“Kerana itu sukar untuk berbincang dengan pejuang kumpulan-kumpulan di selatan Thailand berbanding di Filipina," katanya.

Tambahnya, peranan Malaysia selaku orang tengah kini adalah untuk memujuk semua kumpulan pejuang itu duduk berbincang dengan kerajaan Thailand.

Beliau yakin Malaysia mampu memainkan peranan itu memandangkan kerajaan Thailand sendiri bersetuju menerima bantuan Kuala Lumpur selaku pihak berkecuali yang tiada kepentingan peribadi.

“Ini satu perkembangan yang baik. Sebelum ini mereka tidak mahu libatkan kita mungkin kerana sangsi kemampuan kita untuk menjadi neutral atau fikir kita akan lebih membantu pejuang-pejuang Islam.

“Hari ini, nampaknya sudah ada perubahan sikit ke arah yang lebih baik. Pihak Thailand sudah tiada masalah mempercayai kita dan begitu juga pejuang-pejuang di selatan Thailand," ujar Azmi.

Menurut beliau, Malaysia juga sudah mempunyai pengaruh tersendiri dalam kalangan kumpulan pejuang itu memandangkan ahli mereka di Malaysia tidak diberi tekanan besar.

Dengan kepercayaan kedua-dua belah pihak, beliau berpendapat cabaran utama bagi Malaysia adalah untuk menarik semua atau sekurang-kurangnya majoriti kumpulan pejuang di selatan Thailand di bawah satu payung.

“Kejayaan perbincangan kali ini bergantung kepada kumpulan-kumpulan kecil ini bersatu, tetapi jika hanya satu atau dua kumpulan sahaja turut serta, ia tidak akan merangkumi semua pihak berkepentingan dan situasi akan kembali seperti sebelumnya.

“Masalahnya kini tiada seorang ketua atau juara yang boleh satukan mereka mahupun kumpulan besar yang dominan dan berpengaruh. Kumpulan-kumpulan di Yala, Patani dan Narathiwat hanya berjuang secara berasingan," jelasnya.

Katanya lagi, Malaysia perlu mengumpulkan kumpulan-kumpulan terbabit dan membentuk satu jawatankuasa yang mewakili kepentingan semua pejuang untuk berbincang dengan kerajaan Thailand.

“Seperti juga di Filipina, kita tidak boleh memuaskan hati semua pihak yang terlibat. Namun, dengan mengumpulkan majoriti daripada mereka, itu sudah cukup untuk memberi impak positif yang diharap akan berkekalan," tegasnya.

Presiden Persatuan Pegawai-Pegawai Kanan Polis Bersara Malaysia (Respa), Datuk Mohd. Jamil Mohd. Hassan turut yakin dengan kemampuan kerajaan Malaysia membantu mencari penyelesaian kekal untuk situasi di selatan Thailand.

“Malaysia mempunyai rekod yang amat baik dalam membuat kebaikan di dalam dan luar negara, termasuk sebagai orang tengah di antara rakyat-rakyat yang terlibat dengan pertelingkahan sedemikian.

“Kini kerajaan Thailand dan rakyat di wilayah selatan negara itu yang rata-ratanya beragama Islam juga telah menaruh harapan tinggi kepada kita kerana tidak mahu semakin banyak nyawa tidak berdosa terkorban," katanya.

Beliau berharap Malaysia dapat membantu menemui kejayaan besar secepat mungkin untuk situasi yang telah lama berpanjangan itu seperti diharapkan semua pihak yang terlibat.

Menceritakan situasi ketika bertugas, bekas Ketua Polis Daerah Kangar sehingga sekitar tahun 1970-an merasakan situasinya berbeza kerana tiada pergolakan di selatan Thailand.

“Ketika itu tiada masalah, kerjasama antara pihak berkuasa Malaysia dan Thailand juga baik termasuk dalam kalangan pegawai awam negara itu yang memberi sokongan dan kerjasama mereka.

“Jika dikaji dengan mendalam, mungkin isunya lebih melibatkan perselisihan faham pihak berkuasa dengan penduduk wilayah terbabit yang majoritinya umat Islam," jelas Mohd. Jamil.

Beliau bagaimanapun merasakan faktor politik negara itu yang kurang stabil tidak boleh dijadikan alasan lagi memandangkan kerajaan baharu Thailand sudah cukup kukuh untuk menguruskan masalah yang dihadapi rakyatnya.

“Dulu mungkin tidak stabil tetapi kerajaan Thailand kini sudah ‘kemas’. Satu langkah besar bagi mereka mengajak Malaysia sebagai orang tengah untuk selesaikan pergolakan di wilayah selatan negara itu.

“Rakyat Malaysia juga berbangga dengan keputusan mereka itu sedangkan negara lain tidak dipanggil. Pergolakan itu perlu diselesaikan segera demi kebaikan semua pihak dan kita yakin kerajaan Malaysia dapat melakukannya," tegas Mohd. Jamil.



Nurul Anuar Kari Utusan Malaysia Online Rencana 01/03/2013

Komitmen di selatan Thai

KEBANGKITAN gerakan pejuang pemisah di selatan Thailand sejak Peristiwa Tak Bai dan Masjid Krisek sembilan tahun lalu sentiasa mengundang kebimbangan terhadap tahap keselamatan di wilayah bergolak itu.

Sejak 2004, usaha beberapa Perdana Menteri Thai membawa kedamaian di selatan negara itu menemui kegagalan. Kini tercetus persoalan tentang sejauh mana komitmen yang dijanjikan oleh kerajaan Thailand di bawah pimpinan Yingluck Shinawatra pula untuk memulihkan keamanan di wilayah tersebut.

Sebelum termeterai perjanjian persetujuan bersama rundingan damai Kerajaan Thailand dengan Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) iaitu kumpulan pemisah Islam di Putrajaya, Khamis lalu, berlaku beberapa serangan. Faktor itulah yang mendorong kerajaan Bangkok menyegerakan satu penyelesaian politik secara berkekalan dilakukan dengan bantuan Malaysia.

Kerajaan Thailand mungkin telah melihat bagaimana tindakan kerajaan Filipina yang berjaya memuktamadkan perdamaian dengan Barisan Pembebasan Islam Moro (MILF) sehingga terbentuknya wilayah Bangsamoro yang sebelum ini memperjuangkan hak dan kedaulatan ke atas wilayah Mindanao. Proses perdamaian itu Malaysia turut memainkan peranan utama.

Dengan termeterainya perjanjian damai itu menunjukkan konflik pemerintah dengan kumpulan pemisah boleh diselesaikan.

Kerajaan Thai perlu juga mengkaji bagaimana beberapa tahun lalu akhirnya Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) bersetuju menggugurkan tuntutan kemerdekaan dan kekal bersama Republik Indonesia.

Kerajaan Thailand telah mengambil langkah yang betul dengan membawa kumpulan pemisah di selatan negara itu ke meja rundingan. Malah lebih bermakna lagi apabila memilih Malaysia menjadi pengantara proses damai itu.


BERSEJARAH... Setiausaha Majlis Keselamatan Negara, Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab menyaksikan majlis menandatangani perjanjian antara Ketua Perhubungan Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) di Malaysia, Hassan Taib (duduk, dua, kanan) dan Setiausaha Agung Majlis Keselamatan Thailand Lt. Jen. Pharadorn Phatthanatabutr (duduk, dua, kiri) pada majlis menandatangani dokumen persetujuan umum bagi melancarkan proses dialog keamanan di wilayah sempadan selatan Thailand di Pusat Latihan Polis, Kuala Lumpur, Khamis lalu. - BERNAMA

Bangkok kini sedar bahawa pendekatan dan polisi yang diambilnya dalam menangani konflik di selatan negara itu sejak sekian lama ternyata gagal. Kegagalan mencari penyelesaian itu kerana Bangkok kurang menunjukkan minat untuk mengadakan dialog sebaliknya lebih kerap mengambil pendekatan kekerasan untuk mengekang kebangkitan masyarakat Islam di selatan negara itu.

Melihat kepada pendekatan yang diambil oleh pemimpin-pemimpin Thailand sebelum ini, mungkin tidak banyak yang boleh diharapkan oleh masyarakat Islam selatan Thailand kepada Yingluck Shinawatra.

Beliau perlu berusaha keras memandangkan masyarakat Islam masih tidak dapat melupakan kekejaman yang dilakukan oleh abang beliau, Thaksin Shinawatra ke atas penunjuk perasaan di Tak Bai. Untuk kembali memenangi hati penduduk, beliau bukan sahaja perlu menegakkan keadilan kepada keluarga mangsa rusuhan yang terbunuh tetapi juga perlu merangka satu strategi baru untuk memulihkan keamanan di wilayah itu.

Paling penting adalah untuk memenuhi komitmennya memberikan kuasa autonomi ke atas wilayah selatan negara itu seperti mana yang beliau janjikan ketika berkempen dalam pilihan raya tahun lalu.

Dengan adanya usaha membawa kedua-dua belah pihak ke meja rundingan sepertimana yang diusahakan oleh kerajaan Filipina dengan Bangsamoro, kita percaya masalah penduduk Islam selatan Thai akan selesai.

Berdasarkan pengalaman lalu apabila proses damai sering menemui kegagalan maka kedua-dua pihak perlu elak menggunakan kekerasan dan senjata, sebaliknya mereka perlu menggunakan perantara seperti Malaysia untuk memuaskan hati kedua-dua pihak.

Sesungguhnya banyak yang perlu kerajaan Thai fahami kenapa berlaku konflik di wilayah negara itu.

Kalau diimbau permulaan siri konflik yang berlaku di selatan Thai, banyak yang melontarkan pendapat bahawa ia disebabkan rasa tidak puas hati masyarakat Melayu di wilayah tersebut.

Kerajaan Thai dilihat gagal memahami keperluan dan kehendak masyarakat Melayu Islam yang mendominasi wilayah itu.

Masalah itu ditokok tambah apabila kurangnya pemahaman kerajaan di Bangkok kepada keperluan asas penduduk, identiti masyarakat Melayu, tidak mengiktiraf agama Islam dan bahasa Melayu, keselamatan dan pembangunan.

Bayangkan sejak Peristiwa Tak Bai dan Masjid Krisek tterjadi, tiada pelaburan di wilayah selatan dan kedatangan pelancong asing juga merosot dengan ketara sekali.

Sejak peritiwa itu juga, wilayah selatan Thai sering mengalami serangan bom dan kejadian tembakan curi oleh kumpulan pejuang yang ingin membalas dendam.

Kerajaan Thailand dan Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), kumpulan pejuang pembebasan Islam di selatan Thailand yang menandatangani persetujuan rundingan damai kelmarin perlu belajar daripada pengalaman rundingan damai yang terbengkalai. Tujuannya mencari kaedah terbaik untuk mendamaikan kawasan majoriti Islam di Yala, Narathiwat dan Pattani.

Antara draf pelan damai yang lalu ialah kumpulan pemisah diminta menggugurkan tuntutan kemerdekaan, dengan balasannya mereka diberikan pengampunan, pembangunan ekonomi yang lebih baik, lebih banyak dana dan penggunaan bahasa Melayu di sekolah-sekolah.

Kerajaan Thailand pula mahukan gencatan senjata dan meminta kumpulan pemisah di wilayah terbabit menyerahkan senjata mereka bagi menamatkan kejadian tembak dan pengeboman yang sering berlaku di Yala, Narathiwat dan Pattani.

Sejak Yingluck menjadi Perdana Menteri Thailand, kerajaannya ada mengambil langkah untuk menstabilkan wilayah selatan, dengan tumpuan kepada pendidikan, latihan dan peruntukan bantuan kepada peniaga kecil.

Yingluck mungkin sedar menggunakan elemen tentera dan kekerasan untuk mengekang kebangkitan penduduk Islam tidak akan memberi apa-apa kebaikan kepada kedua-dua pihak sebaliknya berlaku pertumpahan darah yang lebih banyak.

Nampaknya kecenderungan kerajaan Thailand mengambil pendekatan mengurus etnik mengikut model Malaysia amat membanggakan kerana negara kita mempunyai pengalaman luas menguruskan tiga etnik besar di samping kumpulan etnik lain di Sabah dan Sarawak.

Sebab itu, pendekatan pendidikan untuk pembangunan harus dijadikan sebagai satu pilihan jika kerajaan Thailand ingin melihat keamanan berkekalan di negara itu. Soal agama dan bahasa mesti diberikan kepada setiap etnik malah diperkuatkan di sekolah.

Tidak ada faedah memaksa penduduk Melayu/Islam selatan Thai supaya melupakan terus agama dan bahasa mereka kerana usaha ini hanya akan menemui kegagalan.

Malaysia sebenarnya tidak ingin campur tangan dalam soal politik Thailand namun kini mereka sudah mempelawa dan kita sedia membantu.

Kerajaan Malaysia amat prihatin dengan apa yang berlaku di selatan Thai kerana kemakmuran negara jiran mahu tidak mahu menjadi salah satu daripada tanggungjawab kita.

Justeru, pendekatan ‘memakmurkan jiran’ adalah satu strategi yang sesuai dalam konteks wilayah sempadan Malaysia-Thailand itu di mana Malaysia memakmurkan jirannya di selatan Thai dan kemakmuran itu dikongsi bersama oleh kedua-dua negara.

Malaysia telah menyatakan kesanggupan untuk membantu menamatkan pemberontakan yang telah lama berlarutan di wilayah selatan Thai.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak pun yakin rundingan damai pihak bertelagah di selatan Thai dapat mewujudkan keamanan berkekalan di wilayah itu.

Kepada tiga pihak- Kerajaan Thai, BRN dan wakil Malaysia harus mula memikirkan penyelesaian jangka panjang yang natijahnya akan menguntungkan semua pihak. Satu formula bersama boleh dirangka yang bakal meletakkan situasi menang-menang.

Islam di Malaysia tidak mengajar soal ekstremisme tetapi mengajar kesederhanaan, yang mahu dikongsi oleh Malaysia dengan pemimpin agama di selatan Thai.



Azman Anuar Utusan Malaysia Online Rencana 02/03/2013

A foreign problem that became Sabah’s

After Sabah’s standoff is resolved, the intruders will need to reconcile with modern realities.

IT is too easy to dismiss the Lahad Datu standoff as typical of Sabah’s labyrinthine intrigue.

That would trivialise the rich history and cultural diversity of the state, besides mistaking a largely Philippine problem as being Sabah’s.

True, anywhere else in Malaysia with a significant Tausug population deriving from the former Sulu Sultanate’s diaspora, like the Klang Valley, would be unlikely to experience the drama of the past couple of weeks.

But none of the events in Kampung Tanduo, near Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah, was predictable or inevitable. The former Sultanate occupied only a small portion of Philippine territory and an even smaller portion of Sabah’s.

And yet, the peculiar combination of north-eastern Borneo’s demography, geography, history and political heritage provides a probable backdrop to just such a standoff. How did it all begin this time?

On Feb 9, nearly 100 Philippine nationals, several of them armed, arrived by boat to join a smaller group that had arrived earlier. They took over the village, claiming the area belonged to the Sultanate that they said they represented.

They also demanded recognition as the Royal Sulu Sultanate Army, as well as a meeting with an unnamed Malaysian leader. Malaysian authorities rejected both demands.

They further said they had come in support of Sabah’s Tausug population, alleging reports that following a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Sabah’s illegal immigrant communities, Tausugs would be deported.

Many locals would be surprised by the claim. Sabahan-Malaysian Tausugs, who prefer to be called Suluks, have long settled comfortably among Sabah’s three dozen or so ethnic groups.

Filipino Tausugs who arrived later as migrant workers, clinging more closely to their “Tausug” roots, may face a different reality. But ethnic persecution hardly if ever surfaces in Sabah because of, not despite, its rich cultural diversity.

The annual lease payment of RM5,300 agreed in 1903, increased from RM5,000 agreed in 1878, was also said to be insufficient. Others said the territory should be returned to the late Sultan’s descendants anyway.

Although British and Sulu versions of the 1878 agreement differed slightly, the Sulu version was clear enough: “… hereby lease of our own free will and satisfaction … all the territories and lands … forever and until the end of time, all rights and powers which we possess over all territories and lands tributary to us …”

Both the Philippines and Malaysia would rather do without such disturbances that serve only as irritants to bilateral relations. As modern nation states, both countries have evolved well past an extinct sultanate.

But there are also differences.

For Malaysia, the sovereignty and territorial claims of the former Sultan’s descendants are simply unacceptable. No such claims are negotiable.

The claimants argue that the sultanate’s territory had been leased only to Britain, with no agreement on incorporation into Malaysia. But their case is inconsistent.

Sabah, the former North Borneo, became a British protectorate from the late 19th century until it became a crown colony. It gained a brief period of independence before becoming part of the Malaysian Federation in 1963.

By then, the Cobbold Commission had determined that a majority of people in Sabah and Sarawak favoured the formation of Malaysia. For a century the former Sultan’s descendants did not retake territory, but instead agreed to continue accepting the lease payment under the previous arrangements.

The Philippine government, which subsumed the sultanate’s authority in the four provinces of Mindanao, also took over the role of pressing the claim to Sabah. Despite being a republic that had abandoned all royal authority, Manila continued with the claim before, during and after Malaysia’s formation.

Although the Philippine claim has since become dormant if not extinct, Manila found it difficult to renounce it. It has become an object of nationalists eager to strike populist postures in domestic Philippine politics.

The issue has a different spin among the Moro or Philippine Muslim community in Mindanao, of which Tausugs are a part. Despite Malaysia’s key role in peace talks between the two main Moro separatist groups and the Philippine government, both groups are not necessarily in Malaysia’s corner.

The MILF (Moro Islamist Liberation Front) disagreed with the takeover of Kampung Tanduo, saying negotiations should have been the way. This wrongly presumed that the issue was negotiable for Malaysia.

The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) is an even more enthusiastic supporter of the armed intruders. But it should be more mindful of the implications involved.

Since the former sultanate covered the Philippine provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), and only an eastern part of Sabah, followers of the former Sultan should first settle differences of territorial authority with the MNLF and the MILF before venturing into Sabah. They should also settle differences with Manila over such issues as hegemony, usurpation and compensation.

Both the Philippines and Malaysia, as sovereign states that had subsumed and developed beyond the Sulu Sultanate, have successfully concluded various agreements bilaterally and multilaterally. Those agreements confirm mutual acceptance of their respective statehood in their present configuration.

Besides, the former Sultan and his descendants had consented to the terms of the agreement in return for the lease payment. So long as payment is still made, they are obliged to continue abiding by the agreement.

That would make any unilateral attempt to retake territory by force of arms illegal and unjustified. Whether Malaysia will seek to prosecute after a resolution of the standoff is another matter.



Behind The Headlines by BUNN NAGARA The STAR Online Opinion Sunday 03/03/2013

Waking up to the facts in Perlis

Perlis is the hottest state in the country with a recorded temperature of 41.1°C in Chuping. Economically, socially and politically, however, the state is not so hot.

CAB driver Osman thinks he is clued in to the sentiments of his small state, Perlis.

From chats with passengers and his reading on the ground, he believes 80% in the state will go for a Barisan Nasional government and this is primarily because they have no choice.

“Perlis is such a small state. There is very little production here. We depend a lot on the Federal Government and people here are not willing to gamble and jeopardise that.

“So whatever their ideology, we really have no choice but to support the present,” he says.

But he isn’t surprised at the growing support for Pakatan Rakyat in Perlis, and he blames it totally on the “illness” of the current state government.


Coat of Arms ~ Perlis

“We are getting something (BR1M RM500, RM100 for schoolchildren, RM200 smartphone subsidies for youths) from the Federal Government but the state government closes its eyes to us,” he complains.

Osman, who is obviously pro-Barisan, says cabbies are grateful to the Prime Minister for the RM520 tyre subsidy and the RM10,000 personal accident insurance scheme for them. “But,” he wonders, “why is the state government not following in his footsteps?”

His friend Zakaria Shahban, 58, also a cabbie, jokes that he desired to be Prime Minister “but that didn’t work out so I drive a cab instead.”


The Flag of Perlis

Then, in all seriousness, Zakaria says the Mentri Besar should come to meet the rakyat if he wants their votes and should not wait until election time.

“After they get voted in, they scoot off and have no time for us,” says Zakaria, whose main concern is rising food prices.

Taxi drivers in Perlis, like many in non-urban areas in other states, don’t use meters. They also don’t use the cheaper 68 sen per litre NGV to run their taxis.

Osman who is with the state taxi association explains that it costs RM3,000 to install an NGV tank, and that is way too costly for cabbies in Perlis.

Furthermore, there is only one petrol station in Perlis which has an NGV kiosk so it is not really practical.

Taxi fares here have not gone up for seven years, he says, and after deducting the yearly car insurance and monthly maintenance, cabbies in Perlis make only about RM800 to RM900 a month.

“Is it any surprise then that young people here do not want to drive cabs?”

Didar Singh should know. The 54-year-old was born, grew up and spent all his life in Perlis, a place he truly loves.

But eight years ago, his wife and children left for Kuala Lumpur to study and because there are not many job opportunities in Perlis.

The family now commutes: he goes to KL once a month to see them and they visit him in Perlis when they can.

“They don’t want to come back to live here. They like it in KL. They have more friends and there is more entertainment there.

“I used to say I will never leave Perlis but I’ve also grown comfortable in KL so I don’t mind leaving too if I can sell off my business. I’ve been trying but so far I’ve been unsuccessful,” says Didar Singh, who sells carpets for a living.

Business used to be much better in the 80s and 90s because in those days “we were the only people around (selling carpets), he adds.

Now that shopping centres have sprung up all over the country, there are so many choices and people tend to shop elsewhere.

“So people like me can’t get rich these days,” he says.

Didar Singh likes the fact that Perlis is small and that everything is nearby and it is not as hectic as other places.

But he notes that a number of colleges have sprung up in the state and with it outsiders and added traffic, which makes finding a parking lot much harder.

“It used to be so nice here before,” says Didar Singh who now moves about on a motorbike.

Still, in terms of development, he thinks Perlis has been left behind.

It is developing but very slowly, he says.

“See how much Kedah has grown in comparison. Jitra and Alor Setar have grown quite big. If people in Perlis want to buy something good for a wedding or something, they will go to Alor Setar because there is not much choice in Perlis.

“By right, Kuala Perlis should be developed because it is the gateway to Langkawi.

“Once upon a time, people used to come to Padang Besar (which borders Thailand) to shop but it’s pretty much a dead town now because the (North-South) highway ended up in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah (the main border town between Malaysia and Thailand) so that area has really come up instead.

“(Tun) Dr Mahathir developed Kedah a lot when he was Prime Minister.”

It takes about 40 minutes from Perlis to get to either Padang Besar or Bukit Kayu Hitam. But people including those from Perlis prefer to go to Bukit Kayu Hitam because there is “real entertainment” when they cross the border into Danok, Thailand and plenty of good food, drinks, hotels, shopping and women!

Sometimes after work, he and a group of friends drive over to Danok, have a few drinks, dinner and return to Perlis before midnight, Didar Singh says.

“If you go to Danok, there are mostly Malaysian vehicles there,” he says.

On politics, Didar Singh thinks Barisan will still win the state but it will lose one or two more seats.

“I will vote Pakatan because I feel the Barisan government should be shaken up a bit,” he says.

(In the last general election, Barisan won 13 of the 15 state seats in Perlis with PAS taking the other two.)

On race relations, Didar Singh says it is still good but sees a trend where Malays are increasingly separated from the non-Malays in schools and housing estates and he is not comfortable with this.

“I grew up in a kampung and we didn’t have a TV set and my Malay neighbour who had a TV used to call us to go over whenever there was a Hindi movie on.

“I was also very close to our Chinese neighbours in the kampung.”

Didar Singh, who is still very fond of his old childhood friends, now sees a new generation of Malays who don’t mix around, think of themselves as superior and choose to be ignorant of other races.

“Everybody should know something about others,” he says.

Because he wears a turban, some Malays here, out of their ignorance of Sikhs, have even mistaken him for a Muslim, as Muslim men also wear various types of head dresses like the songkok, kopiah and serban.

Siti Nurbaizurah Ahmad Mukri, 23, is both concerned and excited. She worries that she is gaining too much weight with her pregnancy but she’s excited about the fact that she will be voting for the first time in her life.

“I used to weigh 48kg before I got married. Now I’m six months pregnant with my first child and weigh 63kg. I am eating all these vitamins that have made me put on so much weight,” says the restaurant worker who earns RM780 a month. Her husband who is in the army makes RM1,700.

As a first-time voter, she says, she is excited because it will be a whole new experience.

“I won’t vote for change. I have been watching the news about all sorts of issues in Penang and the Malays having all kinds of problems there and I don’t want that to happen in Perlis.”

Lim Jia Ren and Saw Zhen Qiang are only 24 but while others their age are moving out in search of opportunities, these two young men are determined to stay put in Perlis.

They and another close friend, who is also 24, borrowed money from their parents for capital and pooled their resources to open up a shop in Arau a year ago after completing their computer studies.

“Business is not bad. We are doing okay,” says Lim.

They are even able to employ two workers, paying each a monthly salary of RM1,200. But they work really hard, finishing only at 10pm which leaves them with little free time.

“We don’t go out much. When we get home, we go online and sometimes watch a movie. Once in a while, we yum cha with friends. We went to a Chinese school, so our friends are all Chinese,” says Saw. Despite this, he finds no problem mingling with other races in the Malay-majority state.

He thinks Perlis will not appeal to most young people as it is not vibrant like KL or Penang.

“But it is very suitable for raising a family. I have a business here so I am going to continue to live here after I get married,” says Saw who has been with his girlfriend, who is also from Perlis, for six years.

A registered voter, Saw will be voting for the first time. He will make his choice based on the candidate, he says.

His friend Por Cheng Han, who is also 24, disagrees, however. Por says he will look at party rather than candidate. “No matter how strong a candidate, it’s difficult if he can’t get support from the party. That’s the reality. Even if Lim Guan Eng is good, if he doesn’t get support from his party, he can’t do anything.”

Por is studying political science in Taiwan on a Taiwan scholarship and hopes to return to Malaysia to be a journalist after graduation.

He is critical of Barisan and doesn’t think they have done a good job handling race relations, the economy, education and national security.

The government has been way too soft in handling the recent Lahad Datu standoff, he opines, and that there is no clear path on the economy, leaving him to wonder if the country is going to focus on technology or industry or tourism.

On education, he feels it is fine to have schools in different languages but they all must have a similar education policy, vision and imagination that gel the people together. Currently, each type of school – national, Chinese, Tamil, religious or international – pulls the people in different directions, he says.

He adds that while Chinese and Indians of his generation think of themselves as Malaysians and want equal rights as citizens, there are still groups in the country who are not as accepting and want to still promote Malay supremacy.

Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is so outdated,” he says.

Por also finds it painful that parents, teachers and the government talk down to youths, as if only what they (the adults and authorities) are saying is gospel truth.

“We are not creating a critical society. The younger generation are not being taught to think,” he says.

Nevertheless, he is “optimistic about the country. We have a lot of natural resources and human resources. I will definitely come back to make a difference.”

Heartland Voices by Shahanaaz Habib can be reached at shaz@thestar.com.my The STAR Online Opinion Sunday 03/03/2013

Memories of a mission school

An old boy salutes his alma mater and the dedicated ‘brothers’ who taught and managed the school.

RECENTLY, there has been a flurry of news and comments on the former mission schools with the romantics fantasising about their traditions and ethos as though they are extant today.

And shockingly, there are those who persist in labelling them as mission schools when in reality there is not even a lingering wisp of their former flavour to speak about.

When mission schools were absorbed into the national education system after independence, the vital innards that gave them their unique character had already been eviscerated to comply with the practices of a normal national school.

In the heyday of mission school education, particularly at my alma mater— St Michael’s Institution in Ipoh, Perak — the day began with prayers led by the class teacher, irrespective of his beliefs.

The pupils, most of whom were non-Christian, recited the prayers with gusto and in unison as if they were devout followers of the faith themselves.

Scripture was a popular subject among the lower secondary students because it was easy to score high marks.

And what’s mind-boggling was that it was the non-Christian teachers who often taught both these subjects!

On special days of religious significance, teaching was temporarily suspended, for students who wished to attend mass to do so at the school chapel.

A half-day holiday was usually given thereafter. The movie-going experience was also part of St. Michael’s culture.

On most Fridays after recess, it was movie time at the school hall for the primary pupils.

Many came forking out 20 sen to escape from class, and some to enjoy a nap.

The projectionist was the strict disciplinarian Brother Michael, a Burmese, and to irritate him, the mischievous boys made the occasional leaping runs across the trajectory beam of his projector to momentarily blacken the screen to gales of laughter.

At times when a segment of the film snapped, these boys created a racket to distract his concentration at patching up the break. Silence instantly prevailed when he switched on the lights.

The same movie was shown in the evening for other students and the public with the indefatigable Brother Michael still at his post, tediously winding and rewinding the spools. What devotion!

And when there was an epic Hollywood film with noble themes showing in town, the school would make arrangements with the cinema for a special screening.


Brother Vincent pictured here on the premises of St Michael’s Institution. He retired as the last La Salle Brother Director of the school in 1988 and was conferred the Datukship in 2010 for his unstinting service to education. – File photo

On such occasions, since the screening was on a school day, the students trekked across town in an orderly fashion supervised by the teachers.

Another activity which raked in funds for St Michael’s was the annual food and fun fair.

Every class had to put up a game stall or a food stall and also to find sponsors for their chosen undertakings.

During the carnival, usually over a weekend, every student had a role to play.

It was a time when egalitarianism came to the fore as the duty roster demanded that the rich and poor children do the same menial tasks, to retrieve the stray balls and pick up the knocked down cans at a game stall or to wait at tables, and wash dirty dishes at the food stall.

It was a humbling experience for some but it contributed to the bonding of young men in a noble cause.

Apart from the annual concert which was nothing to shout about as other neighbouring schools had also to stage theirs under a state education directive, the talentime night was always a sold-out affair at the school.

It was a talent contest when the participating students discarded their inhibitions to take on the persona of their singing idols, mimicking them in every aspect.

In those days, Rock n’ Roll was the craze and this saw the many Elvis Presley wannabes in their body hugging costumes with shiny sequins rigorously rocking and gyrating on stage to loud applause that had even the serious-minded Brother Director and Brother Michael laughing uproariously.

It was a great activity that helped in building up the confidence of young men.

Like others of its ilk, St Michael’s had to be involved in such endeavours as those mentioned above to raise funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the school and it encouraged students to be innovative and develop the important concept of working as a team member to achieve success.

Although these activities had greatly sapped the energies of the students, St Michael’s academic standing as a top school was never in doubt.

On the contrary, these activities exposed its students to the realities of life and that nothing was free.

Religious paraphernalia and publications were sold openly at schools and with the class teacher encouraging his charges to read so as to improve their English language, the publications were quickly snapped up.

The mission schools took great pride in their illustrious and cosmopolitan lists of teaching staff.

The government-run schools had a good mix of locals and expatriates, mainly British with many of them having great rugby credentials. Hence, it was no surprise that many such schools were much envied for their rugby prowess.

In spite of this, the mission schools did not fare any worse in rugby under the lesser known rugby mentors, mainly the Irish brothers who came from rugby playing Ireland.

For their lack of a strong school team, they found consolation in having groomed some of the finest rugby players.

These schools had a band of dedicated and committed missionary staff comprising the La Sallian brothers in their white cassocks and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus nuns in their loose flowing habits.

Besides their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, they also took the vow of teaching and educating the masses as required by their respective orders.

And they came from all corners of the world, each with a different outlook, experience and culture to further broaden the world view of the students.

It was the religious personnel who were heads of these schools with their designations as Brother Director for boys’ schools and the Mother Superior for the Convent.

Indeed, their students of yesteryear can truly say that they had experienced the traditions and ethos of a mission education.

Today, the students in some of these schools may be fortunate to come across a handful of these former educators, all of advanced age, who on retirement, decided to stay on in the country where they had given their youth in service of education.

The venerable Brother Vincent Corkery, probably the last in his religious congregation in this country, personifies this band of men and women for their dedication and sacrifices.

The octogenarian now spends his remaining days at the institution where he had served as an educator. It has to be his love for the school and the fellowship of his ex-students that made him give up the last opportunity to return to his native Ireland for good.

He retired as the last La Salle Brother Director of St Michael’s in 1988, and in 2010 he was conferred a Datukship in recognition for his unstinting service to education.

And what of the hundreds of thousands who passed through the portals of these schools from the colonial era to the 1960s?

If my former schoolmates who had spent their entire schooling at St Michael’s were to be any yardstick, then the vast majority of them though imbued with Christian values, have remained steadfast in their own beliefs to this day.

A friend, Wong Chin Sik, already a septuagenarian, fondly recalls his days at the school and jokes about the good times whenever we meet over a cup of coffee.

We laugh together, but somehow, the laughter always has a tinge of sadness about it, reminding us of the great days spent with the brothers, our mentors in education and in sports.

God bless them wherever they are now. Yes, they taught us good moral values and instilled in us the spirit of the school motto: “Sons of St Michael’s Valiant and True”.

NG PENG KONG Kuala Lumpur The STAR Online Education Sunday 03/03/2013

Boys need men as mentors

I FIND it disturbing that boys who attend nursery or kindergartens are surrounded by female teachers all the time.

It is not that I have something against females, but boys of preschool age need to be around older males that they can look up to. To have a kindergarten full of female teachers and assistants, may not be the most ideal environment for boys.

At such a tender age, boys already need nurturing and input that help them define and comprehend their own gender. At about the age of four, boys begin absorbing the meaning of their masculinity. They also look for direction in the way they conduct themselves in social situations.

As such, they need male role models so as to be able to emulate such characteristics and behavioural patterns.

They also need older male adults whom they look up to, for assessments and approvals.

While female teachers are excellent at guiding children of both genders, there are situations when young boys need to display more male characteristics and behaviour, which I believe is only possible if they had a male mentor.

Although it can be argued that there are fathers and uncles who can pass on these values, boys need input from other sources, too.

In certain cases, a boy can learn more from a male teacher than the child could from his father.

“The lack of masculine input is reflected in schools where the majority of early education teachers are women. Furthermore, the teaching methods of our public schools are ill-suited to the way many boys learn,” write James Rapson and Craig English in their book, Anxious To Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices For The Chronically Nice.

“Recent research has shown that girls’ and boys’ brain develop and function very differently, resulting in boy-behaviours that are considered inappropriate and even offensive in the modern classroom. Once again a boy is subliminally being told that his gender is shameful,” says an excerpt from the book.

A male preschooler’s mischief and antics which are typical traits of a normal, healthy boy, can sometimes be deemed unacceptable and frowned upon from a female perspective.

However, most males may think this is normal, and acceptable, even celebrated!

Let me reiterate that with the presence and nurturing of a male mentor, boys will grow up with the right attitude.

ADRIAN TEEO Penang The STAR Online Education Sunday 03/03/2013

Let senior teachers teach

I WOULD like to share some thoughts regarding the recent upgrade of some DG44 teachers to DG48.

While I was initially happy with the upgrade, the new position saps me of my time and energy and most importantly the enthusiasm to teach.

Teaching being the core business of all teachers is no longer the same especially for a senior teacher like me.

Most of the programmes organised for the students do not only require planning but needs to be followed up with lengthy reports which is very taxing to teachers.

Precious time which should be utilised for marking and correcting students work is used for preparing these reports.

Most school heads feel that DG48 teachers should take on more responsibilities since they are being paid more. Coping with the workload is tiring and many of my peers are concerned that our students are deprived as we seem to be spending more time on other matters instead of focusing on our lessons and teaching.

The younger teachers are not doing much as the school authorities feel that since they earn less, they should not be burdened with additional tasks. As a result, the junior teachers are not exposed and are inexperienced when it comes to managing and planning school projects and events.

Being senior teachers, most of us are already in our late 40s and 50s and we would rather share our experience and knowledge with the younger teachers. We should be asked to mentor and nurture the younger teachers, instead of being burdened with the additional tasks.

TIRED TEACHER, Kuala Lumpur The STAR Online Education Sunday 03/03/2013

Under fire for smoking the ‘hookah’

With a new law in force, smokers of the water pipe, have been banned from enjoying this traditional pastime in Turkey’s cafes, bars and restaurants.

JUST like the centuries-old coffee tradition the nargileh, or water pipe, is a mainstay of Turkish culture but authorities are clamping down on this ancient social ritual that health experts say is as harmful to health as smoking regular cigarettes.

Turkish authorities are concerned as many students aged between 15 and 24 are hooked on this favourite pastime.

Fans of the water pipe, also known as a hookah or shisha, can no longer get their fix in cafes, bars and restaurants after a law banning smoking from closed public spaces came into force in January.

This new measure is a sign that the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) means business in its crackdown on smoking in a country where almost a third of its adult population puff away.

It also wants to stop the worrying trend among teens still in school, who have picked up the habit.

In 2009, authorities banned smoking in public places and slapped taxes on both alcohol and tobacco products.

The tax imposed on cigarettes rose by a staggering 195% between 2005 and 2011. This resulted in a 15% drop in cigarette sales.

Many hookah cafe operators soon found ways around the ban, taunting authorities by serving students and their young customers on outside terraces, but sheltered from the elements by bay windows.


Turkish tradition: Students smoking the hookah at a cafe while playing tavla in Ankara.
This worrying trend especially among the younger generation is of concern to the authorities. — AFP

Fruity flavours

Cafe managers also changed their menus to offer more fruity mixes with a lower tobacco content that won over even Istanbul’s more traditional smoking dens and caught on with students and tourists.

But this year’s measure is more severe and little appreciated by nargilehfans in the downtown Kizilay neighbourhood in the heart of the Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

“Before 2009, we sold 300 water pipes daily.

“Now we sell about 50 pipes and the new law will soon bring down our business,” laments Alican Ali, a waiter at an outlet called the Tombeki cafe.

On the cafe’s terrace, students — both girls and boys — pull on their pipes and chat over tea or coffee, or a game of tavla, the Turkish backgammon. A smell of cinnamon, apricot and apple tobacco fills the air.

Popular in much of the Middle East and parts of Asia, the water pipe goes by a number of names including the widely-used term hookah in India and Pakistan, and shisha in Egypt, derived from hashish, for which the pipe was originally used.

Essentially a male pastime, the nargileh has enjoyed a revival among young people in Turkey in recent years and is now smoked by both men and women.

In 2010, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) of 14 countries, supported by the World Health Organisation, found that most of Turkey’shookah smokers were aged between 15 and 24.

Keen to cash in on the trend, a crop of specialist websites now offer tobacco flavours ranging from cappuccino to watermelon, and funky-coloured bases and hoses to personalise a pipe.

Building friendships

The hookah is prepared by filling the base with water, crumbling tobacco of choice into a bowl and lighting charcoal in a ritual intrinsically linked to the Turkish culture. People can then while away the hours, inhaling at leisure.

But with the new law forcing them outside into the cold or under the scorching sun to smoke, pipe lovers fear the experience will not be the same.

”It will be difficult to stand in the cold or in the sun for two hours. With a cigarette, you can take a puff whenever you like, but the hookah needs preparation, time and a space, which gives it a very special character,” says a bartender who declined to be named.

“The nargileh is about conviviality and friendship in a world where we are forced to live at 100 miles an hour.”

At the next table, two students are quietly sipping their tea with a hookah by their side.

“I am well aware that it is bad for health but it is not like smoking,” says 23-year-old Elif Karadele, who uses the water pipe every day.

This is exactly the misconception that health specialists take issue with: Fruity it may be, but the tobacco in the nargileh is just as damaging to health as regular smoking, if not more, doctors have warned.

According to findings from the US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, an hour-long session with a nargileh is the equivalent of inhaling between 100 and 200 cigarettes.

More toxins

The bigger intake of breath needed to inhale from a water pipe meanshookah users may absorb higher concentrations of toxins.

”The hookah flavours are even more dangerous since smokers think they are inhaling something harmless,” specialist Cengizhan Elmas warns.

”Even if there is little tobacco, people inhale toxic substances such as carbon monoxide and heavy metals present in the charcoal used to heat the pipe,” he adds.

Smoking a shisha can cause the same kinds of diseases as cigarettes, including oral and lung cancers, and decrease fertility.

Tombeki cafe regular Nuri Aydin says he has no intention of giving up the pipe.

“I come here three or four times a week. It is a passion,” says the 24-year-old.

”I saw my father and grandfather smoking and I am keeping up the tradition. They should let us do it!” — Relaxnews


The STAR Online Education Sunday 03/03/2013

Positive effects of Facebook

WHILE Facebook usage has been blamed for everything from shorter attention spans to increased stress and obesity, authors of a recently published study say that the social media site actually has a positive effect on psychological well-being.

Published in Behaviour & Information Technology and released this week, the study investigated the role Facebook plays in the lives of 800 students from seven universities in South Africa.

What researchers from the University of Cape Town found was that intense Facebook usage was linked with perceived bridging, bonding and maintaining of social capital or networks.

Social capital is defined as the “resources” or assets accumulated via the development of relationships, whether it be values, beliefs and attitudes or the level of their social life and the density of social engagement.

Bridging social capital is described as the link between acquaintances while bonding is used to describe close family and friend relationships.

Average Facebook usage among students is betweeen 10 and 30 minutes a day.

Rich social capital has been shown to be a forecaster of academic performance, children’s intellectual development, employment and the prevention of child delinquency.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out when it comes to the benefits and perils of Facebook. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh Business School, for example, found that the higher number of Facebook friends a person has, the greater the potential for stress.

Specifically, authors noted the risks associated with adding employers or family members who are now privy to details of a person’s private life. — AFP/Relaxnews

The STAR Online Education Sunday 03/03/2013