September 6th, 2014

3 types of difficult bosses and how to deal with them

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” goes the popular adage by Confucius.

Unfortunately, for those of us who have spent time on the rungs of the career ladder, such words of wisdom may seem overly optimistic.

After all, in the modern workplace, an important factor in the job satisfaction equation is the type of supervisor we are assigned to work with.

According to the 2013 Kelly Global Workforce Index, 67 percent of the 5,147 Malaysian who took the survey reported that their supervisor or manager contributes a key factor to their job satisfaction.

Hence, unless you are your own boss, you will undoubtedly have to deal with a variety of direct managers and supervisors with different personalities.

To help you on your path to success in the workplace, here is a breakdown of three types of difficult bosses and how to not only survive working under their supervision, but excel and shine like the star employee you know you are.

The workaholic

You know the type.

He or she is always first in the office and out the last, diligently contributing to the company’s vision and goals, without a murmur of complaint ever leaving their lips.

While it might be great that you have a boss who is so committed to rolling out top-notch work, the problem often starts when their expectations of you are to behave the same way.

Family dinner? You’d better call your Ma. Vacation? In your dreams.

Managing your boss: When it comes to The Workaholic boss, one of the best ways to start is to ensure that you are both on the same page as to expectations of you, as well as deadlines and short-term and long-term work goals.

This will help you to identify what needs to be completed urgently and ensure your hours at work are effectively spent so you can head on to that dinner with the family.

Another suggestion is to maintain an open-relationship with your boss, so that they know how important having time outside of work is to you.

This also sheds light on any personal or family issues that you need to leave work on time to deal with, which will also motivate them delegate work to you in a more time-appropriate manner.

The pushover

You love your boss and couldn’t imagine having anyone nicer. It seems that you mighthave just hit the boss jackpot.

Unfortunately, when it comes to around to bonus time, your team isn’t celebrating quite as happily as the rest of the company. You have a strange feeling that it is perhaps because your manager didn’t stand ground at his/her meeting with management.

Managing your boss: In this case, always maintain a level of respect with your boss, acknowledging them for the leader that they are meant to be even if they act in a very cordial manner.

This helps to establish boundaries and enforces that at the end of the day, as far as the organisational chart goes, you are the subordinate.

Also, always try to give him/her 100 percent of your support. The encouragement and the team’s continuous support will give them that added confidence to know they are on the right track.

The hot head

While everybody else is having a manic Monday, you’re having a manic everyday thanks to your boss who seems to be frequently annoyed.

To make matters worse, he/she is not afraid to verbally (and often loudly) make their feelings known.

You are generally intimidated by this boss and as a result, are never quite at ease in their presence.

Managing your boss: The first thing you can do in this scenario is pay attention to his/her pattern of behaviour, looking out for signs of things which specifically initiate a bout of scolding.

Does he/she like taking their time when they first get to work? Are there specific objectives that they would like you to accomplish with regards to your work?

Taking note of these little things will help you to understand your boss’ personality and how to deal with them.

Of course, if your boss’ behaviour teethers on bullying, then it is best advised for you to seek out help from your human resources department. While your boss is meant to guide you towards producing work that is beneficial to the company, it in no way gives them the authority to bully. *** Based in the United States, freelance writer Joanne Nayagam is embarking on a journey of proportions with pen and paper in hand and ideas to boot. To get in touch with her, drop an email to JOANNE NAYAGAM The STAR Job Monday 25 August 2014

10 clear signs you should quit your job

The alarm goes off, you hit ‘snooze’ about seven times, before finally deciding to drag yourself off bed and get prepped for work.

This happens to most of us working folk. The world seems like a terrible place at 8am, right up until you’ve had your coffee, tea, yoghurt, or whatever does it for you.

But for some, it is more than just the morning’s lethargy. You know something is wrong when your usual pick-me-up fails to work its magic.

As the nation gears towards celebrating its three-day ‘Merdeka’ weekend, this group of job-goers, on the other hand, can only think of the dark cloud of doom hovering over their desk, awaiting their return on Tuesday morning.

Are you one of them? Do you get engulfed by dread every time you think about work? Could it be time to make a job switch?

Alas, such decisions are not always black and white. Hence, this list might help clear things up for you.

Here are 10 signs that you should declare ‘Merdeka’ from your job:

1 You feel like your job is pointless Whether you’ve entered a spiral of negativity, or your tasks are truly of a mundane nature, you can’t seem to see the big picture, or how your tasks make an impact to the company.

2 You lack passion Every task you do is not done to your best ability as you normally would, because you can’t seem to muster the interest and passion to do so.

3 You can’t get to the end of your to-do list And this is simply because your motivation and your will to do so has been sucked out of you.

4 Your responsibilities are expanding, but not your pay Even if you are motivated enough to take on more for experience’s sake, you somehow feel unappreciated, and almost like you’re settling for less. Yes, your responsibilities have increased, which means the management’s trust in you has too. But somehow, this has been conveniently overlooked in your increment.

5 You don’t have time to yourself You scoff at the idea of workaholics, but at the same time, you’re seething on the inside because you seem to be turning into one against your will. You find that even when you’re at home, you can’t relax because there are still things that need to be urgently settled.

You don't even have time to spell this with your biscuits.You don't even have time to spell this with your biscuits.

>> Tired of your job? Register and browse for more opportunities here

6 You don’t feel like yourself at your workplace You are normally (more) energetic and chatty, and are participative in meetings with lots of ideas and suggestions to share. But lately, your colleagues are surprised to see you for lunch, as no one seems to notice that you’re even there.

Nope, not happening.Nope, not happening.

7 You constantly dream about being anywhere else but work Anywhere, anywhere, is better than being at your desk in the office. Even a shabby bus stop in the middle of nowhere works for you.

Doing this works too.Doing this works too.

8 Your physical health is taking a toll from work stress You’re normally problem-free when it comes to health issues, but recently you’ve been getting anxiety attacks, headaches, unexplained body pains, and spiralling into depression. This is a major sign that you should rethink your current job.

9 You’re not using your best assets at work Your strengths and skills are not being pushed like you want them to be, or they once were. And this is either because your job scope has evolved and doesn’t entail you to use them anymore, or you simply are demotivated and do not see the point of wasting your efforts.

Who needs a box, anyway?Who needs a box, anyway?

10 You’re constantly bored You don’t feel challenged at work, not even mildly or occasionally. You look forward to your after-work activities every day as they are more mentally stimulating and rewarding to you.


Think you fulfill all these criteria? Hold it, don't 'Merdeka' just yet. Make sure you've got another job waiting for you. NISHA T. NAIDU The STAR Job Thursday August 28, 2014

When depression is disguised as underperformance

How to deal with depression at the workplace

Let’s talk about depression.

More than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. It is a very real problem that is affecting and claiming the lives of friends and family, the rich and the poor, the young and old alike. It does not discriminate.

Still, the concept and awareness of this mental disorder is not as widespread as it should be.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “depression is a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.”

Severe cases of depression could lead to suicide, however if spotted early, the condition can be treated behaviourally, or with medication.

At work, depression can be the root cause of an underperforming employee. If you’re working in a large organisation, chances are, at some point or another, you will come across an employee that’s suffering from depression.

The symptoms of depression can manifest like so in the workplace:

A drop in productivity

Frequently missing deadlines

Work that is not up to par

Frequently absent or tardy

Being tired all the time

Unexplained body pains and aches

Alcohol or drug abuse

If you think your employee is suffering from depression, don’t ignore the situation. Act immediately. Here’s what you can do to help:

Speak with your employee

Approach your employee with your concern. Be supportive and convey the message that you need him or her in your team, and encourage your employee to get help from a counsellor or a healthcare professional.

Alternatively, if you think this direct approach is not suitable, get a mentor or a close colleague of your employee to do the talking. It may be better received by your employee.

Learn about depression

Read up on depression on legitimate websites and brochures. Get to know the symptoms and effects of the disorder, and how it can affect careers. Learn to recognise when depression is interfering with your employee’s work assignments.

Change work arrangements

Should treatment need to be sought, be prepared to make new work arrangements for him/her. Speak with your human resource department. Perhaps a working week of 3 days would be more suitable to allow your employee to get better, and slowly increase it back to a normal working week when he or she is ready.

Remember that reducing the number of working days should go hand in hand with the reducing the responsibilities handled by your employee. The last thing you’d want is for him or her to feel guilty and stressed.

Regularly check in with your employee

Show that you care (and mean it!) by checking in with your employee regularly. Ask how things are, whether they are feeling better (if they are seeking treatment). Also, discuss with your employee on what adjustments he or she needs temporarily, to help them cope.

Take threats seriously

If your employee voices his feeling of hopefulness with phrases such as “life is not worth living” or “the world would be better without me”, take these statements seriously and call the authorities. If you’re in Malaysia, Befrienders is a body that aims to help and support those with depression and suicidal tendencies. Their hotline is available 24-hours at +603-79568144 or +603-79568145.

If you’re worried about the efficiency, time and cost spent on your employee, remember that accommodating your existing employees, even if it means they have to take a month or two off for cases like this, is still more cost efficient than hiring and training a new person from scratch.

The next time you have an underperforming employee, assess the situation to see if it could be more than just a complacency problem. Depression is a serious disorder, suffered by a significantly large portion of people globally, with most going untreated.You can play a role in changing that.

5 myths about depression debunked

Depression is not a medical disease

Depression does not mean you’re crazy

Depression does not have to be permanent

Depression is not something you can snap out of

Depression is not merely an extreme case of sadness or grief

By NISHA T. NAIDU The STAR Job 13 August 2014

Leaders of hearts and minds

SUBSTANTIVE AND INSPIRATIONAL: True leaders are exemplary, their blood, sweat and tears are directed to some sacred purpose.

WHEN lesser leaders preach revisionist history and the rhetoric of hate, truth suffers and authentic development of the character of the younger generation becomes distorted because of the propaganda of falsehood. In the midst of such confusion and distortions of history and contemporary life, real thought leaders plod on to make their constructive contributions.

There are so many of these real people who do good deeds and invite others down the straight path of graceful living. Noting a few of these thought leaders will not suffice, but is necessary to map the journey of respect for indigenous contributions.

Shaari Isa, a teacher turned accountant, is a prolific writer. He has to his credit more than 60 academic works, creative fiction, short stories and books on accountancy. Among his works, are A Voice in the Woods, a discussion on the Malaysian political scene; Release Me Back to the Sea,Lives and Loves and Did It Really Happen?

Mother Mangalam wrote poignant poetry about a moral society. She is a role model, a selfless person devoted to service, acknowledging divine reality. Her sacrifices and perseverance centre on caring for the underprivileged, marginalised and neglected. Her poetry in Mother reflects a lifetime of adventures of the heart, of deeds touching the recesses of the mind and the networks of the soul.

Tan Sri Radin Soenarno has died but left an unfinished manuscript that his wife Zabidah Awang Ngah edited and published to ensure that his story is told.

(Clockwise from top left) Tan Sri Radin Soenarno, Professor Hussein Ahmad,
Tan Sri Omar Hashim, Shaari Isa, Mother Mangalam and Joe Chelliah.

Radin’s story is inspiring, capturing turning points in Malaysia’s history and the complexity of government machinery and inner circles of governmental and political drama of decision-makers. His is the story of courage and a fulfilling career and life, working with the nation’s elites and the ordinary people. Radin’s memoir Dare to Dream invites Malaysians to live a balanced life with honour, kindness, moderation, gratefulness and wisdom.

The Times and Chimes of Joe Chelliah, a reflective personal biography, invites readers, to weigh mindfully the matters that matter most in life. The narrative locates individual and family history and contributions within the mainstream of national history, providing understanding of the acts and sacrifices made by unknown and unsung individuals, who contributed meaningfully and significantly to affect other lives in other times and spaces.

It is about an educator, who struggles to share personal and professional passion for teaching and for music education.

The work, which straddles intellectual, personal and family history as an integral dimension of nation-building and human diaspora, is a pioneering effort in educational memoir writing.

The contributions of these writers are not stand-alone, isolated contributions but are interwoven with the history of the nation and its various transformations, cultures, polices and strategic documents.

For instance, to make sense of the human dimension of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, leaders must read works like those by Tan Sri Omar Hashim and Professor Hussein Ahmad.

Omar has been prolific in his writings through the years. His magnum opus is a memoir that chronicles education development across the decades, from the perspective of a leader inside the system involved in major policy decisions in education during his time. His work Menongkah Gelombang Pendidikan (Riding the Waves of Educational Change) provides an intimate history of a thought leader, practitioner and policymaker.

Hussein had written several seminal works before writing his magnum opus, The Mission of Public Education in Malaysia. Hussein is a researcher, a profound thinker, an intellectual who is recognised internationally and had contributed in international institutions like United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Education policymakers, planners and other stakeholders do injustice to society and the nation if they do not read and internalise ideas, insights and virtues scoured from such books.

Authentic leaders are substantive and inspirational. Their blood, sweat and tears over their careers are directed towards some sacred purpose. In humble ways, incrementally and painstakingly, they contribute to identify lessons learned, search for best practices, explore elegant solutions, generate ideas and strategies for problem-solving, and share ideas openly with no covert motives.

These writers deal with different subject matters but the underlying unity of their works is about sharing and educating the generations. Whether they write fiction or fact, there is much analysis, and hope, and, unlike lesser leaders, they do not incite hatred. At appropriate levels and in appropriate subjects, the education system should meaningfully use such emerging, rich, diverse and illuminating indigenous works to nurture the collective historical and literary memory of Malaysians. DATUK DR IBRAHIM AHMAD BAJUNID - NST Columnist 29 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:09 AM

Azhar’s sense of honour, accountability

HATS off to Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid who quit as chief executive officer of Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRT Corp) following the death of three workers in a mishap at the company’s railway construction site in Kota Da-mansara a fortnight ago.

For a while, it spelt the beginning of a new culture of responsibility and accountability we badly need in Malaysia. That is, until the resignation was rejected and put on hold by the company’s board “pending an investigation”.

In one stroke, the episode just shows quite glaringly that it is not so easy to dislodge a deep-seated habit and attitude around us. The norm has always been this: “If you quit, the pleas will somehow come saying you are still needed. On the other hand, if they want you to quit, it is you who will say why should I?” In the end nobody resigns despite somebody being at fault somewhere. And after a while, all is forgotten. It is business as usual.

Not that Azhar is at fault at all or that we want him to be out of a job. But in a major screw-up like that where lives were lost somebody must be responsible and since no one was openly owning up, the CEO took it upon himself and decided to take the fall.

It was an honourable thing to do, and, knowing how professional this accountant has always been in his career, the move turned to be so “Azhar-like” in delivering an unadulterated stinging message, firstly to his charges at MRT Corp as well as to the sub-contractors engaged directly for the job that “hey, I’m paying for your bungle”.

Secondly, by pricking conscience to the world at large and to the state of affairs around us that the buck must stop somewhere in the code of accountability. No finger-pointing, which leads to nothing.

And conscience should be well and truly pricked in those who should be accountable from numerous debacles already in the past — like the LRT extension worksite crashes that caused deaths of motorists. Did anybody ever directly own up to the liability? Did anybody take the fall and resign?

Then the fatal bus accidents. There have been a lot of talk and pledges of action in the wake of one accident after another. Do you still see buses at breakneck speed on the highways now? Did anybody get fired after the last fatal accident? No, because it is not in our culture and it is always somebody else’s fault.

The border intrusions in Eastern Sabah by bandits and terrorists fall in the same league. It happened once where lives were lost, then again and again. Holiday makers were kidnapped. Again there were pledges of action without an accountability toll.

Similarly the Selangor water crisis. Probably the reason why the problem has dragged on year after year is that no head has rolled or, alternatively, nobody has offered his head to be chopped. It has created a comfort zone of sorts. Nobody has taken full responsibility for causing misery to millions which has led frustrated consumers to coin this parody from Winston Churchill’s quote: “Never was so much water owed to so many by so few”. The same lines that came off them were “I’m not at fault, the other party is to blame”. Or, it’s the weather, knowing quite well that it rains 300 days in a year.

The same old tune when it comes to Selangor and dengue as well as Kelantan and HIV. Nobody sacked.

In sports, the old ways are distinctly as entrenched as ever. If somebody offers to resign after a failure, a cheer group would inevitably appear and ask him to reconsider. We are, oh, so full of bleeding hearts and kindness. That’s why we wallow in mediocrity at international level. The fallout from the under-achievements of the Malaysian team in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow recently is a case in point.

When the badminton coach offered to resign (that was so honourable of him), the pleas came for him to stay. When the hockey coach was “discontinued” from his ‘job, again similar calls were made for him to carry on. Then we complain that we cannot meet our quest for excellence.

When Malaysian sepak takraw fell to embarrassing depths over the years, where was the sense of honour and accountability? In football, that was the situation until recently. Even then it is left to be seen whether the cycle would continue. The familiar line that was thrown: “I have a job to complete.” How amusing.

Perhaps in all this, there is something more. Maybe accountability is not in sync with survival.

SYED NADZRI - NST Columnist 2 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:11 AM

Caring for our land is patriotism, too

FROM primary school we were thought to show dignity and respect when singing our national anthem Negaraku. Just like the flag, it is a significant national symbol. It is also an expression of our national identity, a musical badge serving as a vessel of nationalism.

If we try to make sense of the lyrics, we would have noticed the word “land” immediately follows the charismatic opening “my country”. Land evokes a powerful meaning in the period leading to the formation of Malaya and Malaysia. Back then the plural society had a close relationship with land and soil through agriculture.

The Iban of Sarawak are known for cultivating hill rice for centuries. The Kadazandusun in Sabah and their subgroups are also traditional rice-farming communities. In Kudat, Sabah, the Hakka communities started to grow maize, vegetables, and coffee as early as the 1900s. At about the same time in Sarawak, Charles Brooke sponsored the Foochow rice farmers to settle permanently mainly along the Rejang Basin.

In the peninsula, rice cultivation has been almost exclusively in Malay hands. For the Orang Asli, the forest land was at once a space for foraging and swidden agriculture. Contract workers from India supported Malaya’s rubber boom in the 1900s. Perhaps less known is the role of Chinese as farmers who planted quick-return crops such pepper, sugar, tapioca and gambier.

The Ba’kalalan padi fields in the Bario Highlands of Sarawak. In pre-colonial Malaya and Borneo, rice was used to pay for labour and harvest festivals.

Working the soil embodies a rural way of life, an agrarian value that transcends economics. To the Iban, rice seeds possess spiritual souls. Rites are performed at each stage of the rice cultivation cycle to seek the blessing of Simpulang Gana, a deity of the soil. Other indigenous ethnic groups also perform rituals to ensure a good harvest, and to maintain a harmony between man and the environment. In pre-colonial Malaya and Borneo, rice served as currency to pay for labour and to sponsor harvest festivals. On a social level, therefore, the ownership of agricultural land acts as a source of prestige and a symbol of wealth.

With colonisation the interest in land was restricted to only those attributes that gave immediate economic value. A central idea then was on the productive possibilities of large estates. The Malayan plantation economy grew significantly within decades driven by the British trade policy.

With this export orientation, however, food began to be imported, causing land to lose its socio-cultural meaning in the hearts and minds of citizens. When Malaysia’s economy started to rely more on manufacturing and services sector, we no longer believed that a country’s economic well-being is inevitably tied to the productive capacity of the land.

The process of detachment to land is by no means a situation unique to Malaysia. Following the Second World War, land is treated like any other commodity or factor of production by virtually all countries. This means neglecting the unique services land provides, which are not traded in markets. But in the 1950s, the crisis of our environment was a nightmare of the imagination, and nothing more.

Few decades later, the environment crisis loomed large, pushing land back to the attention of a large audience, including politicians. Former British Environment Secretary John Gummer once famously said “We are rich because we pollute”.

Malaysia too is on its way to become a rich country. But 57 years after Independence, the stewardship of our land is in a sorry state of affair. The rivers that flow on our land are mostly polluted. This is not only a source of national embarrassment but we suffer from water shortages as a result. Our land is also covered by mountains of improperly disposed household garbage while construction waste contributes to the increasing dengue cases in the country. Parts of our land are also on fire because we are unable to prosecute culprits indifferent to the ban on open burning.

As we once again hymn Negaraku to remember the time in history when we fulfilled our self-determination as a nation, the Merdeka celebration is also an occasion to envision our survival as a nation. Beyond the moment of passionate flag waving, patriotism also means taking care of the land that our forefathers had fought for. Undoubtedly, the big task of land conservation and restoration is a cause powerful enough to unite us. DR HEZRI ADNAN - NST Columnist 2 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:11 AM

We need a master plan for science

EVERYONE accepts that science is important in nation building. Few would dispute that science is a driver of innovation. But many, including those from the scientific fraternity, feel that science is slowly losing its credibility. Over the years, much has been invested in science. Funding science has not been cheap. However, there are signs that policymakers are not pleased with the outputs.

Some have expressed disillusionment. At the same time, scientists are asking for more funding. The usual excuse for their dismal performances is the low spending.

They are asking the government to raise the country’s research and development (R&D) spending to be on a par with other developed economies. Now, the allocation is around one per cent of gross domestic product. They are asking for at least two per cent. Most developed nations spend more than three per cent.

The more discomforting part is that not many students want to take up science. It is no secret that the ratio of students opting to take up science has dipped below 30 per cent. The target enrolment of 60/40 in favour of science is no longer tenable. The talent in science is fast disappearing.

This is made worse by the fact that many scientific talents have abandoned the country for better opportunities elsewhere. Many are working Down Under, where they claim the ecosystem is much better.

How do we arrest this trend? How do we retain the scientific talent that the country has invested much treasure to develop? How do we get them to contribute to the country’s innovation dreams?

The sad part is that we know where the answers lie. We all know what has to change. Unfortunately, the forces resisting change are too strong. Apparently, turfism is still alive and well in the country’s administration of science. This does not augur well for the future. Change is the only option.

In the mean time, there continues to be the launching of all kinds of programmes for science but little to show for in the implementation. In fact, the recently launched science policy has not been properly publicised. A recent survey showed that many among the scientific community are in the dark about the policy.

It is unclear where the failing is. But we must recognise it would be difficult to implement the six pillars of the policy without the buy-in from the stakeholders, especially scientists and industry players. If science is to make real headway, the governance has to change.

The “Science to Action” programme launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a good start, but there must be clear direction and all involved must support the initiative. It is a pity that the initiative to formalise the first Science Act has yet to see closure. This has been going on for a number of years.

Maybe, what we need is a national “Master Plan for Science”. Something like the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025. The master plan should provide clear directions on programmes and projects related to science education, R&D and enculturation of science, including science literacy and linkages with industry, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

At present, science is only mentioned as part of other big blueprints such as the MEB, the SME Master Plan and also the Economic Transformation Programme.

We believe science is too big to be only a small part of other master plans. It must have a master plan of its own a longer timeline; at least 20 years. This is because science itself is a long term agenda.

The development of the master plan must be managed by an independent party. It cannot be clouded by issues of turfism and the resistance to change.

But it is important that the crafting of the plan must involve all stakeholders. This is because science cuts across all ministries and agencies.

The development of the master plan must involve the analysis of the relevant data. In the event of any missing information critical to the development of the plan, efforts must be invested in getting the data.

This is where the Academy of Sciences Malaysia is well positioned to undertake the job.   DR AHMAD IBRAHIM - NST Columnist 3 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:10 AM

For God, king and country

AS we celebrate the 57th anniversary of Ma-laysia’s independence, we should also cerebrate about the foundation of our country. For that, one must reflect and ponder the annals of our history.

Within the civilisational age-span, Malaysia is still a nascent entity relative to matured nation-states like the United States and France, which went through numerous challenges to become what they are today.

But a nation-state like Malaysia does not exist ex nihilo (out of nothing). It has its own genesis and that genesis was laid by the kingdoms of Malay Sultanate that have been existing for hundreds of years as political rulers in the Malay Archipelago, far older than most advanced nation-states of modern times.

Such a legacy makes Malaysia’s political system a hybrid of modern-democracy based on Westminster parliamentary system that is subsumed under the classical-Malay monarchy. This is best captured by our Federal Constitution, which lends legitimacy to the concept of constitutional monarchy that characterises Malaysia’s statecraft, which also indicates that Malaysia’s political system is not a republic, neither a country that is governed by an absolute democracy.

Many people tend to jumble up and conflate two different things: Westminster parliamentary democracy and our constitutional monarchy as one and the same concept. In actual fact, democracy is not really the framework of our statecraft but rather a means to facilitate the operationalisation of our statecraft — like a cog in a wheel — that supports the body politics of our monarchs, the true sovereigns — the Malay Sultanates (Raja-raja Melayu).

Our executive branches derive their power and legitimacy as bestowed upon by the monarchs. Case in point is the appointment of menteris besar and high-ranking government servants is made authoritative and legitimate by virtue of their pledge of allegiance to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and other Malay sultans who hold the sovereignty of this country and the states where their kerajaan lies.

The operative word that designates our statecraft — the “constitutional monarchy” — is not constitution, but monarchy. Because monarchy was the default state of this part of the world. Only after independence, perhaps due to the influence of our former colonial master Britain, the idea of constitutional monarchy was introduced into our political system.

This by no means justifies and proves that the original inhabitants — the Malay people — was devoid of constitution or codified laws to govern day-to-day affairs and in matters of dispensing justice. The Malay Sultanates have their own sets of codified laws that govern their sovereign territories, including the “Undang-Undang Laut Melaka” and “Undang-Undang 99 Perak” that predate our Federal Constitution.

Even the idea of constitution is not an alien concept introduced by Western colonialists. The Malay Sultanates had a governing mechanism — an unwritten constitution — in the form of religion of Islam, which covers not only spirituality but also matters on socio-economy and statecraft.

The sultan is traditionally recognised even till today as the leader of religion (amir al-mu’minin — literally “leader of the believers”). By virtue of being a sultan, he has been etched with a sacred covenant between himself and God and His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad.

Sultans in Islamic statecraft are depicted as a shadow that protects the oppressed, the poor and the destitute from the harshness of oppression, poverty and insecurity akin to a big tree that casts its huge shade that blocks the searing heat of the sun for those who seek refuge under it. The sultans gain legitimacy through their proper stature as custodian of religion whose duty and role is to dispense justice as enjoined by God Almighty in the Quran and His Prophet’s traditions (sunnah).

Rulers in a photoshoot after the signing ceremony of the Federation of Malaya Agreement at King’s House in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 5, 1957. (Inset) Rulers prior to the start of the first Conference of Rulers meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 18, 1948.

Such roles and stature of the sultans, in turn, will be very much dependent upon the roles and functions of Muslim scholars who are the custodians of syariah (Islamic law) who commanded massive influence, knowledge, wisdom and good stature in Muslim polity in guiding and bridging the sovereigns of the Muslim kingship with his subjects, the rakyat.

There have been cases in history where oppressive Malay rulers were impeached and dethroned by virtue of the scholars, who made deliberate and calculative moves to reinstall a new ruler who was more just in dispensing both his secular and religious duties.

Muslim scholars intervention in court politics, especially in the cause of legitimising and delegitimising a ruler, is governed by a prophetic tradition that warned about “a day in state of anarchy is worse that a year under the reign of an oppressive ruler”.

But such roles of Muslim scholars have been diminishing since the days of colonialism by the British through their method of indirect rule and control of the Malay Sultanates via the resident system, which had sidelined the competent and accomplished Muslim scholars who traditionally played a huge role as advisers to the sultans.

The remnants of this colonial policy can still be felt today, where these scholars have been systematically disenfranchised under modern nation-state bureaucracy, their roles restricted to matters of family law.

From this explanation, we realise that the role of our monarchs is not just ceremonial. The monarchs, through their institutions, hold massive power and have important roles to play in making our country more stable, successful and meaningful. There is an urgent need to fortify and strengthen our constitutional monarchy. How can we do that?

First and foremost, Malay nobilities and Muslim scholars need to kindly and sincerely remind our Malay rulers of their massive role and power that they have wielded and inherited from their noble forefathers — the sultans of bygone era — as a form of duties and responsibilities as the vicegerent of God in this earth.

Secondly, although we already have the modern Westminster parliamentarian system, which to a certain extent acts as a check-and-balance mechanism in our statecraft, it must be more inclusive and expanded by including the scholars who can advise the rulers without fear and favour. Such Muslim scholars must be independent from and above partisan politics.

Malaysians must realise the utmost importance of our monarchs in our statecraft and their role in maintaining peace, security and order in preserving our nation’s sovereignty and kemerdekaan.

Our monarchs’ roles and functions could not be expressed better than the one described by one of the greatest Muslim scholars who ever lived — Imam Al-Ghazali — who said: “Sultan and religion are twins. Religion is the foundation and sultan acts as its guardian. Anything without foundation will crumble, and things without guardians will be lost.”   WAN AHMAD FAYHSAL - NST Columnist 4 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:11 AM

Ships to come a-calling at Malacca Port again

ONCE renowned the world over as a famed port in the Straits of Malacca, Malacca Port was not only a bustling port, but also the envy of many seafaring nations.

The port, located near the mouth of Sungai Melaka, thrived in the 15th century under the Malacca Sultanate.

It was considered the Venice of the East and this was clearly penned by Portuguese traveller Tome Pires, who stated that “whoever had control of Malacca” had a stranglehold on Europe.

The Malacca Port served as a crucial trade link between the East and West, and was a cultural melting pot for Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and English communities in the state.

The port’s strategic importance was also one of the main reasons why the state was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641 before finally resting in the hands of the British in 1824 until Independence on Aug 31, 1957.

But with the passage of time, the location has lost its esteem. Mud and silt had slowed the river flow and caused it to be less navigable.

After Merdeka, land and air transport saw rapid development, leaving Malacca Port doomed to oblivion.

Things changed in 2001 when the Sungai Melaka conservation and beautification project successfully turned the lifeless river into a thriving waterway. This placed the Historical City on the world tourist map.

The Sungai Melaka conservation and beautification project has turned the lifeless river into a thriving waterway.<

The state government, with help from the Federal Government, embarked on a RM200 million restoration and beautification project, starting from the river mouth to the Hang Tuah bridge. The project paid off handsomely, and now, the river has not only been revived, but has been turned into a lucrative tourism attraction.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, Malacca was allocated RM285 million for flood mitigation, rehabilitation and beautification, including cleaning and upgrading the river system from Sungai Melaka estuary right up to Malim.

These included deepening the river, constructing concrete banks and walkways along the river, landscaping, building water taxi stations, bridges and beautifying the river.

However, the various achievements still failed to bring back the heydays of Malacca Port as the busiest port it once was.

But things will change soon as Malacca is all set to regain its dominance in the seafaring scene.

Early this year, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron had announced that the Malacca government was considering building a high-capacity international port in a move to encourage high performance economic activities in the state.

The state, in welcoming the plan by the Federal Government to build a world-class port in the Historical City, had identified two potential sites — Tanjung Bruas in Melaka Tengah and Kuala Linggi in Alor Gajah. Idris said the state fully supported the initiative by the Federal Government.

“We are ready to assist the Federal Government in developing the port here, and in terms of the site of the proposed port, we have identified the two locations.”

Idris said he had directed the state Economic Planning Unit to do a thorough study on the locations.

“The study covers checking the harbour areas for the project, deepening the river to 15m in order to provide access to large merchant ships to dock, as well as the cost and time required to develop the port.

“In addition, we also do not exclude the possibility of reclaiming up to 40.5 hectares of the sea at selected locations where the project is to be carried out.”

Idris said the port was suitable to be developed in the state because of its strategic location in the middle of the Straits of Malacca.

“If it is agreed, I believe this project will create more than 3,000 jobs and could be turned into an advanced port in the country.”

The Tanjung Bruas and Kuala Linggi ports currently handle about 900 ships annually compared with the Pasir Gudang port and Port Klang, which handle about 8,000 and 15,000 ships, respectively.

The new ports in Malacca are not expected to compete directly with other high-performance ports in the country, but rather, they would offer value-added services to the international business sector. JASON GERALD - NST Columnist 5 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:08 AM

A different kind of patriot

NOT long ago, there was a unique experience of quiet patriotism at the Chinese Assembly Hall when Emeritus Professor Khoo Kay Kim and Datuk Wee Ka Siong were engaged in a debate on the subject of Chinese schools.

Those present were mainly Chinese, who debated in Bahasa Melayu, albeit at different levels of proficiency with no coercion from anybody. Tan Yew Sing and his team organised the debate.

Tan had also established INTI College, which later became INTI International University. Among other groups, the university trained hundreds of Mara and Public Service Department (PSD) students in the American Degree Programme.

Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim is a Chinese Malaysian historian and academic.
He is currently an emeritus professor in the History Department of the University of Malaya.

  1. Born: March 28, 1937 (age 77), Kampar, Malaysia

  1. Datuk Ir. Dr. Wee Ka Siong is a Malaysian politician who has
    served as Member of Parliament of Ayer Hitam, Johor since 2004.
    Born: October 20, 1968 (age 45), Jasin, Malacca, Malaysia

Thousands of foreign students received their education at INTI. He is one of the leading pioneer edupreneurs of private education who implemented “twinning” degree programmes with foreign universities.

When INTI was sold to the Laureate Group, American edupreneurship and a global quality brand was brought to the Malaysian education hub. Former United States president Bill Clinton is the chancellor of the Laureate Group while Tan Sri Arshad Ayub is the chancellor for INTI International University Malaysia.

In quiet unobtrusive ways, Tan nurtured business relationships between Malaysia and China. He was one of the few privileged foreigners to be invited to attend the Chinese Parliament and also forged ties between education and business leaders.

Professor Datuk Teo Kok Seong has done the nation proud to elevate Bahasa Melayu as a language of national unity and an intellectual language, in the tradition of the illustrious struggle of Malay language nationalism. Tirelessly and in different domains, he espouses the power and glamour of the language and its capacity to be the medium of instruction and discourse at all levels, and in all knowledge fields.

Teo, who was an English teacher, has become the mahaguru of Malay Sociolinguistics and Bahasa Melayu, committed to ignite love for the Malay language among Chinese, Indians and others.

Beyond language, he champions the institutions of nationhood, such as loyalty to the monarch as stated in Rukun Negara, and the Malaysian identity. He takes on detractors from all corners with sincere boldness and exemplary, undeterred commitment.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who left politics in 1990, became a social activist par excellence who champions all kinds of issues for Malaysians regardless of colour, creed or political affiliation.

He is chairman of the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, vice-chairman of the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation and member of the KL City Hall Advisory Board.

He has served as a member of the Special Royal Commission to enhance the operations and management of the Royal Malaysian Police, trustee of Yayasan 1 Malaysia, Member of Suhakam, Mapen and the National Service Training Council.

He has a list of awards, evidence of exemplary and significant contributions. Among the causes he champions are crime prevention, mental health, national unity, kidney care and organ donation, workers’ rights and social welfare.

His book entitled As I Was Saying: Viewpoints, Thoughts and Aspirations of Lee Lam Thye encapsulates his persona and life purpose.

Tan Yew Sing is one of the leading pioneer edupreneurs of private education who implemented twinning degree programmes

Islam had been in China longer than in Malaysia. There are more Chinese Muslims in China than Malay Muslims in Malaysia.

Within that context, Dr Ridzuan Tee has been accepted as one of the iconic dakwah figures in Malaysia.

With unabated passion, he spreads the word in every corner of the land through appearance in top media and Islamic academic programmes. He boldly engages politicians, scholars and fellow ulama in matters of religion and national identity.

He teaches in the National Defence University and is increasingly able to influence the politics of Islam, beliefs, faith and values of generations of leaders of the future.

Professor Datuk Teo Kok Seong espouses the power and glamour of Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction and discourse

Though sometimes controversial, protested by irked Chinese and Indian leaders, Rizduan’s contributions are impactful.

Khoo is known for lecturing without Powerpoint slides or textbook notes because he lives with an encyclopedic mind of facts and concepts, regarding all aspects of Malaysian history.

From the names of Chinese, Indian, Eurasian or Malay persons, he would be able to make connections and trace the path of migrations and the ancestry with delightful intimate details of various villages, clans and families.

He is a member in scores of national committees and non-governmental organisations for nation-building.

Thousands of Malaysians, including younger historians, were his former students.

They developed a grasp of significant Malaysian history from his lectures, articles and books. To date there is no other historian as prolific as him.

When the world paid their last respects to Nelson Mendela, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was among the dignitaries in attendance.

Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, who contributed to the Mandela election campaign, was also present. His global and national contributions include leadership in facilitating composition of scores of patriotic songs heard and hummed by Malaysians from all generations in formal and social functions.

Thousands of Felda students, Malaysians and foreigners had out-of-the-box exposure in unique educational experiences when they studied at Limkokwing University and mastered creative and innovative skills in and out of classrooms.

He has been adviser in many top-level committees and in closed-door interactions with the top leaders of the country, particularly in regards to creativity, innovation, design and national development. He has branded Malaysia as an innovation nation globally.

The lifetime substantive contributions of the select few in focused fields are undeniable. In common is their concern for national unity, harmony and national development.   DATUK DR IBRAHIM AHMAD BAJUNID - NST Columnist 5 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:08 AM

Others don’t think like we do

THIS is a true story about the cows that would not bulge. Despite subjecting them to electric cattle prods, they stood their ground in an act of collective defiance. The cows stood at the door of the slaughterhouse and would not go any further. What went wrong? No one had the answer.

Would the owners tear down the structure and build a new one? The cost would be prohibitive. They could not afford it. They sought the help of Temple Grandin, livestock expert extraordinaire. She was a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She was autistic. She came, she saw, she found the cause and solved the problem.

No, the place was not jinxed or inhabited by poltergeists. It was simply about understanding the cow or the science of cows. Cows, like all animals, were “hyper-specific” according to her. They were drawn to minute details, unlike humans. Any slight change in the environment, in light, sound, smell, whatever — things that were insignificant to humans — made a lot of difference to animals. The entrance to the slaughterhouse was too dark. Unlike humans, the cows could not adjust their pupils to sudden change such as that. It was traumatic for them. The solution? Open the doors, provide more light and the cows came marching into the slaughterhouse.

This episode is narrated by Zachary Shore in his incredibly interesting, yet provocative book, Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions. There are many such episodes in the book, stories about how people, smart people, made stupid mistakes. They were very well informed, even well-intentioned, but they made unimaginably stupid blunders.

Shore draws examples from history, works of literature and contemporary events to remind us of our follies in decision-making. Those silly mistakes were made by emperors, conquerors, soldiers, thinkers, statesmen as well as ordinary men and women. The outcome of certain decisions would have been catastrophic had it been made by leaders. Empires crumbled because of that.

Luckily for the slaughterhouse owners, their mistakes would have only cost them a dip in profit had they rebuilt the structure. And the cows would have died pitifully knowing they had to suffer being electric-prodded and slaughtered thereafter. Grandin knew about livestock better than anyone. She believed the fact that she was autistic made her understand animals better. Autistic people are more sensitive to changes around them.

Don’t take her lightly. She did more than whispering the truth to the slaughterhouse owners and saved their money. Legend has it that when Dustin Hoffman was researching for the part of the autistic elder brother (Raymond Babbitt) in the 1988 movie, Rain Man, he went to her for advice on how to play the part.

Moral of the story: a person like Grandin sees things differently, unlike most of us. In this case she is seeing things from the perspective of the animals. She does it the animal way, to put it simply.

Even animals need to be understood. Humans must not assume animals can be coerced to do everything at their command.

Similarly, we fail miserably in dealing with fellow human beings simply because we make assumptions about them. We believe they are all the same or they are all like us. No one thinks alike. So, stop imposing our values onto others.

That is why John Gray’s book, Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus is still selling like hot cakes. Gray reminds us of our blunders in handling intergender issues. We are guilty of projecting our own expectations. We miss the big picture because we assume the other sex is like us. In the case of male and female, not unlike east and west, as Rudyard Kipling famously said, never the twain shall meet. We are guilty of “mirror-imaging”.

Leaders make blunders believing they know best about everything. That is why governments made spectacular mistakes. The era of government knows best is over. The time when leaders are perceived as always right is not applicable anymore. The dynamics of society are transforming. Things are never the same again. It applies to all governments of the world.

Knowledge and information is being democratised as never before. Nothing is sacrosanct or sacred any more. Everyone has access to information, at any time. How the information is used is another matter. Truth is elusive and no one really cares.

In today’s world, it takes more than a well-lighted slaughterhouse even to get the cows marching in. Twitter @Johan_Jaaffar JOHAN JAAFFAR - NST Columnist 6 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:07 AM

Achieving excellence

UNIVERSITIES are Malaysia’s font of knowledge, a reservoir of innovation and educational institutions par excellence. Through various initiatives and heavy investment, the country aims to become a higher education hub serving both local and international students. Malaysia’s reputation and world-class education system is evidenced from the stiff competition for enrolment every year and the more than 95,000 international students from more than 100 countries studying in the country.

One of the perennial challenges for these institutions has been to match the needs of the job market with the product of the country’s universities. Where there is a disconnect, many blame the skimming off of the best students for an education in foreign universities. This argument assumes that local universities are unable to deliver the desired standard of teaching and intellectual development that Malaysia’s best and brightest school leavers might benefit from.

Nevertheless, those who have qualified to pursue a university degree at local establishments are those deemed equipped with the intellectual wherewithal. It matters little that the cream has been skimmed. After all, low fat milk is considered just as healthful. The universities are, therefore, akin to the process of pasteurisation which milk goes through so it meets the quality criteria. Lecturers, the instruments of value-add in the education system, cannot point fingers at an education policy that seeks to stream ability and make sure that children are suitably channelled to optimise their potential and to benefit the nation.

As educators, the burden is upon them to create the needed human capital to generate wealth. This, according to the prime minister, is best achieved through cooperation with industry. In short, the ivory tower approach of non-accountable education has had its day. Universities must accept culpability for unemployable graduates. One of the factors identified is English proficiency, a prerequisite of employment within the post-industrial economy of multinational corporations. Towards enhancing employment prospects, therefore, English will be made a mandatory examination subject at the tertiary level. A degree cannot be awarded without a passing grade for English. This means that future graduates will be properly bilingual, having command both of Bahasa Malaysia and English.

While that will assist in improving the quality of graduates generated by the universities, there must, simultaneously, be a vast leap in the generation of original ideas and innovations. As is natural to universities, research and development in every academic discipline should be the backbone on which the reputation of the individual institutions rests. Malaysia’s public universities are mature enough now to count among the contributors to the development of ideas and innovation.

To date, there has been some exceptional innovations from Malaysia like Islamic banking, for instance, which has caught on internationally but this was not the brainchild of a university. Rather, the banking industry itself spawned the financial instruments that made the industry syariah compliant. This, then, is an example of what universities are expected to do for the nation.  
NST Editorial 4 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:09 AM

PPS origins, motives unclear

NAIVETE or arrogance? What explains the Penang chief minister’s need for an unregistered voluntary organisation, the Penang Voluntary Patrol (PPS), with some 10,000 members, replete with uniforms and accorded enough importance to warrant a contingent in the recent Merdeka celebrations parade? Why was he adamantly defending the legitimacy of this organisation, its voluntary nature being the excuse which, he asserts, is justification for why it does need to be registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS)? Why, in his view, was the police wrong to threaten its members with arrest on the grounds that the PPS is illegal? The PPS has had ample warning: register with the RoS or disband. Unfortunately, the chief minister, for some unfathomable reason, instead openly challenged the Inspector-General of Police, Malaysia’s supreme law enforcer, to act.

This makes the IGP a functionary of the state, a civil servant, without any political affiliation. Should some take exception to his actions, then this is caused by nothing other than ignorance or political obduracy. As for the Penang chief minister, there is no mistaking that politics drives his actions and colours his attitudes. Was he truly unaware that, for an organisation to mobilise in the way the PPS has, it must firstly be registered? Or was he ill-advised? Without proper registration, questions about the PPS’ accountability, funding, transparency and selection process remain unanswered and, therefore, open to misrepresentation or worse, abuse. And with a list of functions that include crime fighting, is the PPS then not a direct challenge to the police force that has been trained and employed to maintain law and order? That there is at all a feeling that Penang needs its own storm troopers, so to speak, makes pertinent the question asked by the Umno Youth head: why does the Penang government feel it needs to form “its own army”?

The inference from that question is crystal clear. Such a move definitely has the potential to endanger the nation’s security. Imagine if every state, or any group for that matter, decides to have its own law-enforcement body, which at some level duplicates that of the Royal Malaysian Police and other authorised law-enforcement bodies. The law is clear: the defence of the realm and national security comes under the purview of the Federal Government. To not register an organisation does not mean it can circumvent this constitutional arrangement. It is, therefore, disingenuous of the Penang chief minister to try and defend an indefensible act. The Penang government, led by DAP, must be checked, if for nothing else, then as an example that the law can neither be toyed nor tampered with. Those who feel that the police is acting beyond reason and are politically motivated in this instance cannot then cry foul when, later, these hoodlums or vigilantes — among the arrested PPS members are ex-convicts imprisoned for serious crimes — run riot with or without political backing. NST Editorial 3 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:09 AM

Skills training not second class

THERE have been many reports lately about fewer male students entering public universities compared with female students for this year’s intake.

It was even reported that the number of male applicants to public universities had declined over the past two years, while the number of female applicants had doubled.

Technical education and vocational training should not be classed as second-class education

For the 2013/2014 academic year, 46,481 females applied for a place in public universities compared with 22,221 males, while for the 2014/2015 academic year, 51,000 females applied compared with only 23,000 males.

There are several factors that contribute to the declining number of male applicants, one of which is that males tend to be more adventurous and want to start earning money immediately after finishing school.

Several experts have also said that male students preferred skills-based education with practical lessons, whereas female students were more receptive to cognitive learning as provided for under the conventional academic education in public universities.

Hence, most male students prefer to pursue their studies in technical education and vocational training, which suit their adventurous character, interests and goals.

Sadly, many still view vocational education as second-class system, which offers no income stability.

It is worth understanding that as the labour market in Malaysia becomes more specialised and our economy demands higher levels of skills among workers in the effort to become developed by 2020, governments and businesses in the country are increasingly investing in the future of technical education and vocational training through publicly funded training institutions and subsidised apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses.

Technical education and vocational training shouldn’t be depicted as second-class education. Technical education and vocational training has diversified in the 21st Century and now exists in sectors such as retail, tourism, automotive industry, information technology (IT), cosmetics as well as in the traditional crafts and cottage industries.

Currently, there are numerous vocational education centres, including vocational schools (high schools to train skilled students), technical schools (high schools to train future engineers) and vocational colleges, all under the Education Ministry.

Then, there are more than 30 polytechnics and nearly 90 community colleges, several Majlis Amanah Rakyat Advanced Skills Colleges, Skills Institutes and hundreds of Giatmara centres, as well as 15 National Youth Skills Institutes under the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has also shown his support when he stated last June that our Education Act 1996 would be amended to make technical and vocational schools and colleges an important part of the country’s education system.

By changing our perception of technical education and vocational training, and by supporting these education pathways, it may encourage students, regardless of gender, especially those who are at risk of dropping out and those who show no interest academically — to join in and develop their skills to fill the increasing demand for skilled workers.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri SembilanNST Letters 2 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:10 AM

The P.U.R.E. way to living in harmony

I HAVE been caretaker to hundreds of hostel students for four years. It is a great challenge for me to make everyone understand and obey the long list of hostel rules, so I came up with P.U.R.E (Positivity, Unity, Respect, Endurance).

These four letters simplify the tedious list and are four key factors that will help occupants stay harmoniously as one happy family.

After a few months, I began to notice changes in the students’ behaviour, which resulted in fewer disciplinary cases. The hostel is now a home, and the friends are now siblings.

That the idea works makes me a proud “father” of 200 children. For this reason, I believe Malaysia needs to put the same effort to produce exemplary citizens, whose love for the country will grow stronger each day.

An optimist agrees that the glass is half-full. Living with “Positivity” is living in harmony. A positive mind can turn a bad day into a breezy one. It can make a moody person smile. It can even change a person’s life.

We need to stay positive when we are tested with disasters, catastrophes and ordeals. These are inevitable circumstances that may be a blessing in disguise. We just need to stop playing the blame game and start reflecting on ourselves.

The second aspect is “Unity”. Although the people are racially, religiously and ethnically diverse, we should stay united as one. We should care about each other’s welfare, especially that of the needy. We need to help orphans as they too, deserve our attention. Our little contributions will lighten their burden and brighten their day.

This is how it should be. When one cries, the other should wipe the tears. When one is lonely, the other should be the companion. When one is down, the other should cheer him up. The continuous support will eventually strengthen our bonds as brothers and sisters.

It’s undeniable that “Respect” is an important ingredient for a harmonious community. One way to show respect is to mind our manners. Wherever we go and whoever we deal with, we should always behave ourselves and keep our right attitude.

Treat everyone nicely and avoid using vulgar words or cynical remarks to convey a message. Know our limits and respect others’ privacy. We should also respect the opinions, rights, beliefs and decisions of others.

Finally, we must learn to build mental and emotional “Endurance”. When there are issues, we need to respond appropriately by sharing our thoughts and giving recommendations for solutions.

There’s no need for us to overreact. When there are changes or new policies to be implemented, we should not question them. If we disagree, we need to go through proper channels to suggest new ideas.

It has been 57 years since Malaya achieved freedom. Despite all the trials, tribulations and afflictions, we should continue to be grateful for what we have today.

Let us maintain our beautiful camaraderie while we pray for Malaysia to keep growing gloriously.

Muhamad Solahudin Ramli, Marang, Terengganu NST Letters 3 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:09 AM

Proactive policing and volunteerism

THE events in Penang relating to the arrest of volunteer members of the Penang Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) and its leadership have drawn tremendous public interest and unwarranted speculation. As a criminologist familiar with the philosophy, functions and mechanism of voluntary crime prevention patrol groups, let me share some insight into this issue.

This may help all parties understand the importance of voluntary crime prevention groups.

After the March 2008 elections, the Federal Government, through its Government Transformation Programme, undertook urgent measures to address the people’s demands and the most pressing socioeconomic issues.

The National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) are the priority needs of the people. They represent a combination of short-term priorities and equally important long-term issues. The seven NKRAs are reducing crime, fighting corruption, improving student outcomes, raising living standards of low-income households, improving rural basic infrastructure, improving urban public transport and addressing the cost of living.

Reducing crime looks at revitalising and improving the criminal justice system, and addressing crime and policing issues through innovative crime control strategies. A key component of the strategy is to encourage all segments of society to actively participate as stakeholders in crime prevention.

In fact, the concepts of partnership, engagement and commitment are synonymous with the intention to promote the direct and indirect involvement of society in preventing and reducing crime. The strategy to encourage local community participation is critical and necessary.   The general nature of policing in most democratic societies is more reactive than proactive.  However, in recent years, the trend to allocate additional resources (both personnel and equipment) by the respective governments for police departments is for the sole purpose of proactive policing.

The Home Ministry supported and approved the establishment of the Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department in the police force. However, most police departments around the world are understaffed and under-equipped. Most are unable to commit police personnel to patrol residential areas, commercial areas and selected hot spot areas at a frequency that residents and owners prefer.

Thus, establishing crime prevention voluntary groups in communities is desirable, effective and efficient in preventing crime. Basic training is provided to citizen volunteers, who can then play an active role as the “eyes and ears” of the police force. These voluntary groups can help reduce crime in their communities and complement the activities of public law enforcement personnel.

Community-based neighbourhood organisations are often a ready source of active citizens, who voluntary choose to participate and become involved in crime prevention activities. Volunteers interested in helping to lower crime rates in their communities participate in police-coordinated training programmes specifically for crime prevention activities.

These programmes address basic radio procedures, traffic control, crowd control, citizen’s arrest procedures, basic first aid, and other relevant knowledge and skills related to basic policing.

The emphasis is on the importance of personal and community safety measures. These unarmed citizens patrol areas where high incidences of non-violent property crime have been reported. They are required to report to police any knowledge of suspicious activity. Furthermore, they assist in the collection of any complaint and information from businessmen and citizens by gathering information on potential threats in their communities.

Voluntary crime prevention groups also assist by sharing information with community members on current crime trends or safety concerns in each community.

The police department must ensure that all such information is accurate and relevant.

An active community policing and crime prevention programme is vital to the success of proactive policing strategies.  The police chief or his representatives must be willing to attend community meetings and coordinate regular dialogue sessions on crime trends in each community.  They must be able to encourage and recruit active and willing volunteers to serve.

The municipality or state government must make a commitment (by providing financial support) to initial and follow-up training programmes for the volunteers.

Furthermore, to sustain motivation to participate, local police must respond to the information that the groups have gathered. Appropriate recognition must be given to their contributions when their efforts prevent crime, solve crime and enhance the perception of safety in neighbourhoods, businesses and hot spot areas. Notably, citizens must feel safe while acting as volunteers in crime prevention patrol groups and they must feel that their work makes a difference.

Their supervision by local police is eminent. The Federal Government, state government, municipality, police department and local businessmen can help provide citizens with the training and logistic requirements, and other support needed to sustain the volunteer crime prevention patrol programme.

Criminal history background checks must be conducted on the volunteers to ensure that none has serious criminal records or is known to be a member of criminal gangs and syndicates. Any abuse of power or authority by voluntary crime prevention patrol group members must be dealt with fairly and justly in the legal system. No one is above the law and this must be clearly understood by all.

I certainly hope the above information provides an insight for all parties concerned.  To reduce crime in society and the negative perception towards safety, it is pertinent to have citizens participate as volunteers in various types of crime prevention activities and work in partnership with the police department.

The battle to fight crime by police on their own may bring some positive results. However, the war to prevent and control crime is a guaranteed success when done in partnership and engagement with the local community.

Associate Prof Dr P. Sundramoorthy, research team on crime and policing, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, George Town, Penang   NST Letters 4 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:09 AM

Enforce law to ensure clean water

THE Consumers Association of Penang is shocked that the Health Ministry has failed to enforce regulations pertaining to vended water, even though this regulation had been added to the Food Regulations 1985 almost two years ago.

The ministry’s inaction has resulted in vending machines that dispense water being contaminated with faecal bacteria, as exposed in a recent report in the press.

Many consumers, who have been relying on such vending machines for their drinking water supply, would have consumed the contaminated water.

In the past, tap water was freely consumed by Malaysians.

As the quality of tap water has deteriorated, consumers have had to resort to other means of obtaining so-called “clean water” by installing water filters in their homes, consuming bottled water and buying water from vending machines.

Most consumers are not aware that the so-called “clean water” is hazardous to health.

For example, filters in home water filtration systems are a source of bacterial contamination if they are not changed regularly.

In the case of bottled water, it is widely viewed as an environmental menace because of the amount of energy required in producing and transporting the product.

Most bottled water comes in polyethylene bottles, indicated by the number “1”, PET or PETE.

When the bottles are kept for long periods or under warm conditions, they begin to leach chemicals into the water.

Here, bottled water is transported by lorries and, at some point in the day, the temperature can rise to more than 30ºC. These bottles are then stored in warehouses for an indefinite period of time before they are put up for sale.

In spite of the increase in water rates, consumers have not been provided with clean and safe water.

The recent report on contaminated water from vending machines should be a wake-up call to ensure that the quality of drinking water and tap water is safe via the enforcement of various laws related to water quality.

In view of this, the association calls on the water authorities and Health Ministry to enforce the existing legislation, so that consumers get access to clean and safe water. S.M. Mohamed Idris, president, Consumers Association of Penang NST Letters  4 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:09 AM

Strive for accident-free workplace environment

OCCUPATIONAL Safety and Health (OSH) or safety at the workplace, must never be taken for granted.

The recent fatal accidents involving MRT construction sites as well as other workplace accidents over the years clearly shows that more needs to be done to promote and implement good OSH practices in the country.

Although Malaysia’s industrial accident rate has been reduced to 36 per cent over the past 10 years (2003-2013), the remaining challenge would be to build and foster an OSH culture in this country and strive for an accident-free workplace environment.

The latest statistics from the Human Resources Ministry indicate that the industrial accident rate had fallen from 5.84 cases for every 1,000 workers in 2004 to 3.28 cases last year. The reduction is a reflection of the commitment and joint efforts by the Government, employers and employees.

The biggest challenge that remains is not only to further reduce the accident rate in the days ahead but also to make OSH a culture and a way of life in contributing towards an accident-free work environment.

It is the responsibility of employers and managements to ensure that safety is a culture at their organisation and not just a priority.

There is an urgent need to translate OSH knowledge into behaviour and practical application. OSH sloganeering is not the answer. We must avoid a situation where, behind all the OSH banners and signages, the workplace hazards are not addressed and controlled.

In this connection, innovation and innovative practices play a crucial role in improving the OSH landscape and shaping Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (OSHMS) for the future. Dedicated professionals need to work tirelessly to formulate better safety and health policies, and implement effective systems with the objective of achieving “zero accident” at the workplace.

If we want better outcomes for our systems, and ensure their efficiency and effectiveness, we need to encourage innovation of not just the products, services and processes but also the system itself.

The quest for OSH sustainability is already starting to transform the competitive landscape, which will compel companies to change the way they think about safety and health at the workplace. The key challenge is to enhance the safety, health and well-being of our workforce by introducing innovative measures, particularly at the workplace.

Establishing a safe and healthy work environment requires fundamental changes in the way work is designed and personnel are deployed, and how the very culture of the organisation understands and acts on safety.

These changes require leadership capable of transforming not just a physical environment but also the beliefs and practices of those who create the risk and those who work with the risk.

Managements who are responsible for the safety and health at the workplace can change the attitude of safety and health of their employees by ensuring an annual budget for safety training, and education to help prevent work-related accidents and diseases among the workforce. Accidents do not just happen, they are preventable.

In this time of global competition and sweeping change, it is not enough for companies to make safety a priority. Priorities change but cultures stand the test of time. Safety must be a culture and a core value at the workplace. And certainly managing occupational safety and health ensures business competitiveness.

The Global Trend in OSH is towards a more integrated prevention concept. OSH is now regarded as a societal responsibility and countries are required to have a blueprint for building an accident prevention culture with a framework for national and international prevention strategies.

Observations and evidence have shown that an increase in productivity and an improvement in workplace environment were the results of good safety and health work practices and the adoption of a work safety culture. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, chairman, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Kuala Lumpur   NST Letters 5 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:06 AM

Protect yourself from lightning strikes

THE second monsoon season, which normally starts in September, seems to have arrived earlier this year. Although this is welcome news since Selangor folks are facing the threat of water shortages, we should also be mindful that thunderstorms pose a lightning threat to people out in the open.

To avoid untoward incidents, the lightning safety rule below should be adhered to strictly, especially by students and young adults who seem to make up most of the lightning deaths and injuries.

The reason for this is that they form the majority of people who are out in the open for recreational and sports activities.

Stop all outdoor activities and seek shelter as soon as you see dark thunder clouds gathering on the horizon or over the hill.

Lightning can strike up to 15 km away from a thundercloud that is even before the rain starts

Lightning can strike up to 15km away from the thundercloud, that is, even before the rain starts.

Run for shelter if you hear thunder or see a lightning bolt. You are already in danger of being struck by lightning.

Do not wait for the rain to fall before you act. Never use an umbrella in a lightning storm.

Do not take shelter under a tree or in a tent, a small shed, a kongsi, a rotunda or a roadside food stall.

For small shelters, ensure that they have been installed with a proper lightning protection system before you take shelter in them.

Do take shelter inside a sturdy or large building (eg. a shop or a house), inside a metal roofed vehicle (eg. a bus, van or car) or under a large structure (eg. a bridge).

Do not loiter outside a large building to avoid being struck by debris from lightning damage.

If there is no proper shelter nearby, get down from an elevated position (eg. mound, hill top or platform). Get into any depression in the ground or in a dry drain.

Get into a lightning defensive position i.e. squat down with your feet together and close your ears with your hands.

Do not lie down. Do not touch any metal objects (eg. fence and gate) near you.

If it rains, get your clothes wet as wet clothing helps to reduce serious injuries in the event of a lightning strike. Let the current flow over you instead of inside you.

Inside a shelter, do not touch any metallic object, electric equipment or cable.

Do not use the telephone unless it is really urgent. Use a mobile phone instead (if available). Keep away from the balcony, verandah, doorway, window, wall or pillar.

Stay inside your shelter for 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.

Lightning can still strike even after the rain had stopped.

Z.A. Hartono, Kuala Lumpur NST Letters 5 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:07 AM

Register all account holders

FOLLOWING the increase in cases of abuse involving social media like Facebook, there have been many suggestions to control it, even closing it down once and for all.

However, it would be quite impossible to close a social media website like FB as there are 15 million local accounts. It has millions of users worldwide and offers those with an account a variety of potentially beneficial ways to interact with friends and the website itself.

FB provides a way for users to stay connected with those around them and what’s happening in the world at any given time. It is also used as a medium to exchange knowledge between an educator like myself and students. It’s also a way to direct others to events or products. As such FB has more benefits than harm.

The Malaysian government has introduced many laws to regulate and control the cyber world including FB from being abused like the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588), Computer Crimes Act 1997 (Act 563), Sedition Act 1948 (Act 15), Defamation Act 1957 (Act 286) and Penal Code (Act 574).

In early 2012, the government took another step to combat Internet abuse by introducing Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950 (Act 56) in 2012 which extended the Malaysia Evidence Act 1950 to address the issue of Internet anonymity. Section 114A states: “A person whose name, photograph, or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host, administrator, editor, or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or republish the publication is presumed to have published or republished the contents of the publication, unless the contrary is proved”.

Further strengthening of the existing law is one of the best ways, besides educating the people, to solve the problem.

The government could also take legal action under sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 against owners, operators or writers of websites who misuse the Internet to spread slanderous comments, insulting the country’s leaders, religious sensitivities and race.

Those who break the law could be slapped with a RM50,000 fine, one year's jail or both. As most of the abusers like to use false FB accounts to spread rumours and false information, compulsory registration of all FB accounts in the country with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is needed.

Similar approach has been successfully taken by the government in 2006 when they directed all telecommunications companies in the country to register new prepaid SIM Card users. It was reported back then that the measure was to check abuse such as spreading slanderous remarks via the short message service (SMS).

Closing down FB in the country will not solve the issue of Internet abuse as the irresponsible individual might use other medium on the Internet to do harm.

What is needed here is consistent enforcement of the existing laws and adding new regulations to control cyber crime as well as continuing educating Internet users to properly use the social web media. Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri Sembilan NST Letters 6 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:06 AM