March 1st, 2014

The epitome of truly top class civil servants

SCHOLAR-BUREAUCRATS: Often working behind the scenes, they are the ones who bridge the worlds of rulers and the ruled

FROM around 141 BC during the Han Dynasty, to about 1905 during the Qing Dynasty people were selected to serve the Chinese  civil service system based on the Imperial Examinations of Chinese Confucian classics and calligraphy.

The scholar-officials, scholar-bureaucrats or scholar-gentry were erudite scholars who represented morality and virtue and contributed in governance throughout the land. The system was admired and emulated by many European nations, including Britain, which had its own examinations for the Indian civil service introduced in India in 1829 by the East Asia Company.

Britain once had the greatest civil service in the world for it had to manage the British Empire. Like the Roman Empire and other earlier empires, their achievements and mistakes in history made of them great administrators.

British civil servants in Malaya were keen thinkers, scholars and social scientists. People like R. O. Windstedt, R. J. Wilkinson, O.T. Dussek, Reginald Hugh Hickling and others, provided us with an understanding of the British mind, or at least, the British Residents' minds during their times.

As scholar-bureaucrats, their annual reports, works, letters and diaries chronicled the eras. Lessons from British Empire rule and World War 2 from such lonely, proud, reflective, turbulent times and experiences, led Winston Churchill, to declare in America: "The empires of the future are empires of the mind."

Malaysian civil service inheritance from the British was not just about British Empire history, but were the general orders and the financial general orders. The Malaysian civil service improved on these documents with professional and administrative circulars and Malaysia Development plans.

Top Malaysian civil servants were educated abroad and at home to the highest levels in all disciplines of development.

They were as academic and scholarly as any academician in universities. However, most of their knowledge contributions do not bear their names but carry the mark of their ministries and departments.

The best of civil servants were scholar-civil servants, with a sense of history, mission and imagination to shape the future, competence in legal literacies, a sense of urgency and understanding of the need to seize the moment for strategic transformation in initiation of change.

As lovers of great books, management books as well as seminal works in all disciplines, the best of them had the habit of reading, thinking and reflecting on matters of development, service, leadership integrity and challenges.

One of their reading passions was learning lessons from biographies of chief secretaries of government, and colleagues such as Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, Tan Sri Radin Soenarno, Tan Sri Ani Arope, and Syed Jaafar Syed Aznan Jamalullial, as well as great leaders in history from all cultures.

In their social interactions, they enhanced the social and relationship capital of bonding, linking with the people and bridging the worlds of rulers and the ruled. They make empathic listeners, gathering information on the problems and needs of the people, and the times, generating appropriate policies and implementation guidelines, allocating adequate resources to bring about change.

They wrote proposals and positions papers, speeches and minutes accurately with care and substance, mindfully caring for every word, comma and whatever else, that would make for a positive difference to society.

Their papers were themselves academic and documents of art of changemasters, which would be significant documents of reference of principles, thought processes, first instance values and ideas for future leaders and scholars.

The federal civil service has its 12 pillars of values as follows: the value of time; the success of perseverance; the pleasure of working; the dignity of simplicity; the worth of character; the power of kindness; the influence of example; the obligation of duty; the wisdom of economy; the virtue of patience; the improvement of talent; and, the joy of originating.

However the values are worded, the upholding of such values shape the construction of thoughts and conscience of the scholar-civil servant, who will make sense of the missionary intention and action of service.

In these confusing times, with political protagonists of all persuasions and schemes, the civil service and its institutions provide continuity and coherence of policies and cultures of excellence ensuring stability.

In an era of the democratisation of higher education, the exponential growth of information, and community-driven knowledge generation, scholar-civil servants, who are willing and lifelong learners, are the ones who can lead and be relevant for the knowledge society.

From the serious scholar-civil servants will emerge some of the international civil servants who will do Malaysia proud by their service to mankind.

Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid | is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International University NST Home News Opinion Columnist 28/02/2014

Changing Mindsets: Teach students to be competitive

IN two conferences last week, a Malaysian statesman and an Indonesian billionaire talked about the importance of citizens having appropriate mindsets.

The statesman said Malaysia may have a better opportunity to prosper faster if young Malaysians were to break away from the mindset of entering university to earn degrees for a living to that of "entering university to be competitive".

The billionaire said to avoid the poverty trap, the poor in Indonesia and Malaysia must have a mind-set to toil and not wait for assistance. Both concluded that to achieve wealthier and more powerful nations, people have to practise entrepreneurship, punctuality and persistence.

Mindset relies on principles, which are the guiding rules for a person's behaviour based on what he is taught and experience through life. In normal circumstances, mindset is moulded by the events in one's life.

As mindsets are product of inducements, experience or constant exposure to events, so as a baby is born, its mindset is moulded by its carers as it reacts to stimuli. As the baby grows, the way it thinks becomes automatic and non-conscious. The growth of the baby's mindset would be moulded by the general practice of those around it, such as parents, siblings or maids. If a family is running a business and asks its young to help in the shop, most probably the young will grow up to run a business.

Mindset is also a habitual stimuli-response action. For example, Indonesian billionaire Chairul Tanjung reduced the audience to silence when he related how his mother sold sarong to pay the initial fee for his dentistry course and how he vowed not to ask for more money from his parents. The mother's act made him toil hard. Could Malaysian songbird Siti Nurhaliza's entrepreneurial mind-set also be because of her helping her mother sell kuih when she was in primary school?

Apart from family or parents, learning institutions can play a role in moulding the mindset of the young. Learning institutions should, however, first transform their mindsets to start producing competitive graduates, not just graduates.

Before that can happen, institutions need to change their mind-set towards examinations. Our education system emphasises on high exam scores, which are used to gauge the outcome of a person's learning ability. But these scores do not encourage entrepreneurial competitiveness.

To mould an entrepreneurial mindset, learning institutions could perhaps change the method of testing by using marks obtained in projects and examinations to using "marks from the amount of money" earned via projects as a student's benchmark of achievement. Projects like these can be conducted once a year or once in two years. If money is the "marks" for learners, it may incite their entrepreneurial mindset. This may not be applicable to all courses but they may select certain courses to run trials on a wider basis.

Earning money as marks is not widely practised. We are so accustomed to awarding marks in teaching and learning that we think it is impossible to impose "money earned" as marks. Also, some may argue that this will burden students and incite cheating. But in the traditional award of marks in examinations and thesis writing, haven't we seen forms of cheating such as plagiarism?

If a curriculum requires a student to earn a certain sum of money through his basic business venture as his marks, there will be less "should I" or "should I not" questions in his mind. Having no other choice but to pass the course, the student will pursue this requirement with determination, which is the basis of an entrepreneur's character. In this type of quest, one's mind will start exploring different situations -- either uncovering existing opportunities or opportunities which carry high risks.

Education is the key. But Asian passivity is very much a result of the way we were schooled. Our learning culture is an observance of learning traditions, which include obeying teachers and rules, answering textbook-based examinations, learning theories and writing papers after a project is completed. Out of this also emerges a defensive culture by the authority in education that students feel frightened to question for fear of drawing the latter's ire. They yield to others to avoid discord. These entities eventually stifle the development of enquiring learners.

Is it not time that teaching authorities loosen the mindset of such a coercive learning culture? Pupils, students and undergraduates should be given the freedom to raise questions, room to learn by doing and support to produce items or funds. Likewise, researchers should not just publish papers for promotion but produce or run projects to earn financial benefits. The mindset can be changed by agents or by oneself.

Megawati Omar, Academy of Language Studies, UiTM, Shah Alam, Selangor NST Home News Opinion Letters-to-the-editor25/02/2014

Wise Decision: School assessment on hold but necessary

I REFER to the report "School-based assessment policy put on hold" (NST, Feb 24), saying that the Education Ministry wants to re-examine its implementation.

Although this is a setback after investing much time and money, it is, nevertheless, a wise decision. Teachers, one of the main stakeholders, are not prepared to ensure its successful implementation.

One of the reasons given by the teachers is the difficulty to access the school-based assessment management system to key in students' data. Too much time will be wasted trying to access the website.

Such shortcomings would not happen if due diligence was carried out beforehand.

The system should be implemented as it is a much improved method of learning compared with today's rote learning.

The school-based assessment system is not new. A number of countries have implemented it successfully. If it is done here with the right infrastructure, there is no reason why it will not work.

A trial run in a school would help uncover weaknesses of the system. Results from the exercise will provide useful information to rectify the shortcomings.

The issue here is not to be afraid to admit mistakes and to take steps to improve the system.

Dr Tan Eng Bee,Kajang, Selangor NST Home News Opinion Letters-to-the-editor 28/02/2014

13 newcomers in billionaire club

KUALA LUMPUR: Thirteen newcomers have joined Malaysia’s billionaire club, with Hong Kong-based Robert Kuok taking the pole position for the ninth year in the latest Forbes Malaysia Rich List.

Ninety-year-old Kuok, who built a massive business empire that include palm oil, shipping, media, hotels and real estate, has assets worth US$11.5bil (RM37.7bil).

The developer of the Kuok Group has led the pack since 2006, although his worth slightly dipped by US$1.1bil (RM3.28bil) last year.

Communications tycoon Tan Sri T. Ananda Krishnan also retained his second spot, with a net worth of US$11.2bil (RM36.07bil).

Robert Kuok

Ananda, whose empire comprises telecommunications company Maxis Communications Bhd, pay TV and power generation, also saw a slight drop in his wealth from the previous year’s US$11.7bil (RM38.38bil).

Genting Malaysia Bhd chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, who runs casinos in the Bahamas, London, Singapore, Manila and New York besides the home-grown casino in Genting Highlands, takes the third spot, with shares worth US$6.5bil (RM21.32bil), with his mother, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua and other family members.

Moving up one notch to the fourth place, property mogul and Hong Leong Group chairman Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan saw his fortune increase to US$6.4bil (RM21bil) from US$1.6bil (RM5.25bil), making him the biggest gainer in terms of dollars.

Brothers Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin and Datuk Shahriman Shamsuddin of Sapura Group, at No 11, saw their net worth jump by a third to US$1.4bil (RM4.59bil) from US$1.05bil (RM3.44bil).

Despite the volatile global economy, Malaysia now has 18 billionaires, with Thai national and long time Malaysian resident Tan Sri Surin Upatkoon, ranked 13th.

Listed for the first time, Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, a son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, sits at No 15 after getting a 22% lift from his oil-and-gas stock.

Another notable first-time billionaire is Tropicana founder and executive vice-chairman Tan Sri Danny Tan Chee Sing at the 16th spot, who saw his wealth surge by 121% to US$1.15bil (RM3.77bil) from US$520mil (RM1.7bil) last year.

For the full list, go to

Rahimy Rahim The STAR Home News Nation 28/02/2014

Are Vitamin D Supplements a Waste of Money?

It seems we may have to start getting our vitamin D the old fashioned way — sun exposure and foods like fatty fish, fortified milk, and mushrooms — a new report shows that supplements don’t offer significant health benefits. The report, published in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, reviewed 40 past studies on vitamin D, concluding that healthy people are unlikely to get any benefit when it comes to heart health, cancer prevention, or bone health.

So what about studies that have linked low vitamin D levels to heart disease and cancer? Lead researcher Mark Bolland explains that they don’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, telling USA Today that people with low levels of vitamin D “tend to be older, heavier, tend to exercise less and spend less time outside,” which might explain both their poor health and their low levels (due to lack of sun exposure).

Do you take vitamin D supplements, or do you rely on sun exposure and food sources to get your daily dose?
In studies that gave people vitamin D supplements, Bolland says there was either no lowered risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or bone fractures, or risk was lowered by less than 15 percent. However, the review didn’t rule out the possibility that vitamin D supplements might lower the risk of premature death by five percent.

Michael Holick, a professor of medicine at Boston University and a proponent of vitamin D, dismissed the review, explaining that vitamin D doses were too low in previous studies. He says it’s possibly higher doses — 2,000 IU a day — might be needed to produce benefits, much higher than the 200-400 IU used in the studies, and higher than the 600-800 IU currently recommended by the institute of medicine.

Diana Vilibert February 26, 2014 Care 2 Green Living 26/02/2014

10 Surprising Ways Apples Are Good for Your Health

Martin Luther once said, “even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”  New research gives more reasons than ever to plant apple trees and enjoy their delicious and nutritious fruit.  Here are ten surprising reasons to sink your teeth into an apple today:

1. Research found that when healthy adults consumed an apple fifteen minutes before eating a meal, they ate 15 percent less at the meal.  This simple habit can result in weight loss for anyone looking for an easy and healthy way to lose weight.

2. In other studies, apples have been shown to significantly alter the amounts of the bacteria Clostridiales and Bacteroides in the large intestine, conferring gastrointestinal health benefits.

Tak dak ka kajian 10 Surprising Ways Buah Geduog Are Good For Your Health ?

3. Thanks to their phytonutrient content, apples have been show to lower the risk of asthma and lung cancer in numerous studies.

4. In a study funded by the USDA, postmenopausal women who ate dried apples daily experienced a 23 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol (the one known as “bad cholesterol”) and a 4% increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) within six months.

5. In a British study published in BMJ, researchers found that eating an apple a day was as effective as statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels, without the harmful side-effects.  They also found that if 70% of the British population simply ate an apple on a daily basis, 8500 lives would be spared every year from heart attacks or strokes.

6. Researchers at Tufts University found that catechin polyphenols found in apples speed abdominal fat loss by 77 percent and double weight loss in overweight individuals.  Catechins also improve the body’s ability to use insulin, thereby preventing wild blood sugar fluctuations that effect energy, mood, and cravings.

7. Apples contain flavonoids (including catechin polyphenols and quercetin), which have been shown to interfere with the development of cancer cells and preventing their ability to multiply.

8. Research in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that a diet that’s too low in magnesium increases the risk of cancer.  Apples are a good source of magnesium.

9. According to research in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules scientists found that apple oligosaccharides showed an ability to inhibit human colon cancer cells.  Oligosaccharides are complex carbohydrates.  The apple compound induced a process known as apoptosis, which is the body’s mechanism to kill damaged or cancerous cells. They also found that the apple oligosaccharide stopped the growth of new cancer cells. They concluded: “Apple oligosaccharide is a potential chemoprevention agent or anti-tumor agent and is worthy of further study.”

10. Apples contain a natural compound known as malic acid, which helps improve energy production in the body. It has been found to aid fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Michelle Schoffro Cook Care 2 Green Living 27/02/2014