December 21st, 2014

Mustapha: Lelaki, suami dan pelakon

“Saya akan laporkan hingga kepada Perdana Menteri,” demikian dialog Haji Saaban, Pengerusi Melati Holding dalam filem Matinya Seorang Patriot (1984) arahan Rahim Razali. Ketika menuturkan dialog itu, di belakang Haji Saaban terdapat poster “Bersih Cekap Amanah,” slogan yang diperkenalkan oleh Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad tidak lama selepas menjadi Perdana Menteri pada 1981.

Belasungkawa 15.12.2014
Mustapha dan Suraya Haron dalam filem Udang Di Sebalek Batu

Haji Saaban dalam Matinya Seorang Patriot memerangi rasuah dan penyelewengan dengan menganjurkan tatacara kerja “Bersih Cekap Amanah.” Watak yang memberi nyawa kepada filem itu dilakonkan oleh Mustapha Maarof. Beliau melakonkan watak itu dengan baik dan menyerlahkan karisma Mustapha walaupun bukan pelakon utama.

Haji Saaban ialah model korporat Melayu yang diangkat oleh Rahim berteraskan gagasan Dr. Mahathir yang memerlukan seseorang itu mempunyai teras agama dan amanah dalam menjalankan tugas. Haji Saaban sanggup mengorbankan dirinya kerana menolak untuk bersekongkol dengan Ahli Lembaga Pengarah Melati Holding yang menyeleweng dalam filem itu.

Walaupun watak itu pada relatifnya kecil tetapi memberi kesan yang besar dalam konteks gagasan negara untuk bersih daripada parasit korporat yang boleh meruntuhkan negara. Di luar filem, Mustapha adalah antara segelintir pelakon perfileman Melayu di Singapura yang berjaya dalam kehidupan dan juga kerjaya. Sama seperti kebanyakan watak yang dilakonkannya, Mustapha seorang yang berperibadi tinggi, berpendidikan dan sangat berhati-hati apabila berbicara.

Pagi Isnin lalu Mustapha yang mempunyai pertalian dengan pemilik nama Jalan Maarof di Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur telah menghembuskan nafas terakhir pada usia 79 tahun, meninggalkan tiga anak, Suzlynna, 50, Azlynna, 46 dan Rezainuddin, 38 serta tujuh cucu. Beliau tidak pernah hilang dalam dunia perfileman seperti sebahagian besar pelakon veteran lain terutama pada era Shaw Brothers dan Cathay Keris di Singapura. Sebaliknya terus menjadi 'pemain' utama dalam industri filem sama ada sebagai pelakon, penerbit atau dalam persatuan perfileman.

Dilahirkan pada 1 Januari 1935, pelakon yang dikenali menerusi beberapa filem penting zaman awal perfileman Melayu seperti Bawang Putih Bawang Merah, Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang, Naga Tasik Chini, Keris Sempana Riau, Sumpah Pontianak dan banyak lagi mempunyai catatan kehidupan yang tragis sekali gus menarik. Mustapha menjejakkan kaki ke Cathay Keris di Singapura ketika berusia 19 tahun. Beliau berkelana dari kampung halamannya di Negeri Sembilan untuk mencuba nasib sebagai pelakon selepas pemergian ayahnya, Maarof Zakaria yang juga akauntan Melayu pertama.

Ayahnya yang ketika itu menjadi pemilik bank Melayu pertama, Malay National Bank telah dibunuh di kawasan hutan yang sekarang ini menjadi taman rekreasi Tasik Perdana, Kuala Lumpur. Selepas pemergian ayahnya, Mustapha berhenti daripada pengajiannya di Kolej Melayu Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) kerana menghadapi masalah kewangan. Sebagai mengenangkan perjuangan ayahnya mengangkat penguasaan ekonomi orang Melayu zaman itu, kerajaan memberi penghormatan menamakan sebatang jalan utama di Bangsar sebagai Jalan Maarof.



Mustapha Maarof bergandingan dengan Latifah Omar dalam
filem Naga Tasek Chini

Difahamkan filem terakhir lakonan Mustapha ialah Lembing Awang Pulang Ke Dayang tahun 2009 tetapi watak dalam filem itu tidak menyumbang kepada tambah nilai profil Mustapha. Selain berlakon dan sebelum ini pernah menjadi Presiden Persatuan Seniman Malaysia (Seniman), beliau juga aktif dalam penerbitan filem iklan dan dokumentari menerusi syarikatnya, Warna Motion.

Filem Sumpah Pontianak (1958) dan Raden Mas (1959) telah mempertaruhkan Mustapha sebagai watak pembantu. Namun watak pembantu itulah yang menyebabkan Mustapha semakin dikenali sehinggakan diberi watak utama sebagai putera raja dalam filem Bawang Merah Bawang Putih (1959). Keberkesanan watak itu telah memberi nafas baru terhadap cerita rakyat yang terkenal ini.

Karisma Mustapha semakin ketara apabila melakonkan watak Tun Aman dalam filem Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang (1961), Walaupun berganding dengan pelakon hebat Nordin Ahmad yang memegang watak utama Datuk Megat Seri Rama tetapi beliau tetap menonjol kerana memberikan perwatakan kontras dengan Nordin yang kasar, bengis dan berhasrat membunuh Sultan Melaka.

Ketika muncul filem penyiasatan Dr. No yang mempopularkan watak perisik British, James Bond yang dilakonkan oleh Sean Connery pada 1962, industri filem Asia juga tidak terkecuali terpengaruh dengan filem genre penyiasatan. Mustapha dilihat mempunyai beberapa persamaan dengan Connery apabila dipilih menjayakan Play Boy (1967) dan Si Murai (1968).


Mustapha (tengah) muncul sebagai pelakon kacak semasa di Cathay Keris, Singapura

Semasa hayatnya Mustapha menjalani kehidupan yang sederhana selepas pemergian isterinya, pelakon Roseyatimah pada 14 Disember 1987, genap 27 tahun lalu. Sejak itu Mustapha mengambil alih tugas sebagai ibu kepada anak-anak yang masih kecil. Beliau memberi sepenuh perhatian dan kasih sayang kepada ketiga-tiga anaknya dan terus menduda hingga ke akhir hayat.

Dalam satu temu bual di rumahnya di Subang Jaya yang disiarkan dalam Mingguan Malaysia 29 Mei 2011, Mustapha berkata, pengalaman kehilangan ayah pada usia belasan tahun, mengukuhkan tekadnya supaya anak-anaknya tidak merasa kehilangan beliau selepas pemergian isterinya. Hidupnya selepas ketiadaan Roseyatimah hanyalah ke tempat kerja dan di rumah.

Apabila ditanya adakah beliau seperti sebahagian artis lain yang memburu keseronokan di pusat-pusat hiburan, Mustapha berkata, tidak ada masa untuk itu.

Beliau berkata, “Masa saya untuk anak-anak, anak sulung baru berusia 17 tahun waktu ibu mereka tiada. Saya tak terfikir untuk mencari keseronokan dan membiarkan anak-anak.” Dalam nada sedikit sebak Mustapha menyambung; “Di rumah ini Rose meninggal, di bahagian belakang itu dimandikan dan anak-anak ada kenangan di rumah ini.”

Semasa hayatnya Mustapha menjalani kehidupan sederhana, rumah yang dihuni di Subang Jaya dibeli tahun 1973 dengan harga RM34,000. Beliau menganggap, di situlah pangkalan terakhir. Secara berseloroh Mustapha berkata, “Bank mana yang nak bagi pinjaman kepada orang tua macam saya. Tak ada ke mana, di sini sajalah.”

Mustapha sangat terhutang budi dengan pengarah L. Krishnan yang mengambil beliau sebagai anak angkat semasa mula menjejak kaki ke Singapura. L. Krishnan banyak membantu menggilap dan memberi peluang kepada Mustapha. Kerana L. Krishnan juga Mustapha berpindah dari Cathay Keris di Singapura ke Studio Merdeka di Hulu Kelang, Selangor.

Ani Arope: Insan berintegriti

DIHORMATI dan tegas. Itulah gambaran terbaik tentang bekas Pengerusi Eksekutif Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Tan Sri Dr. Ani Arope sepanjang bertugas di syarikat berkaitan kerajaan (GLC) itu dari tahun 1990 hingga 1996.

Menurut seorang bekas kakitangan TNB yang pernah bekerja dengan beliau, apabila Ani mengatakan sesuatu, semua orang ketar lutut dan apabila beliau mengeluarkan arahan, semua kerja pasti dilaksanakan seperti yang dikehendaki.


Belasungkawa 20.12.2014

Ani Arope dan Isteri, Saenah Ahmad

Walaupun berlatar belakang sebagai ahli pertanian, Ani dipilih menerajui syarikat utiliti elektrik terbesar di Asia Tenggara itu kerana ketokohannya semasa mengetuai syarikat-syarikat GLC yang lain sebelum itu.

Mungkin tidak ramai yang mengingati nama beliau sekarang. Hal ini bukan sesuatu yang pelik kerana beliau bukan seorang tokoh politik tetapi tokoh korporat yang banyak berjasa kepada negara khususnya dalam bidang pertanian.

Ketika beliau mengetuai TNB, Ani berhadapan cabaran besar yang memberikan tamparan kepada syarikat itu, iaitu ketika negara terputus bekalan elektrik pada 29 September 1992 dan 3 Ogos 1996.

Insiden pertama itu paling teruk kerana seluruh Malaysia terputus bekalan elektrik untuk jangka masa yang lama. Ia disebabkan panahan petir pada grid yang melibatkan empat talian kuasa antara Paka dan Teluk Kalong di Terengganu, mengakibatkan 15 stesen kuasa di pantai barat terputus kuasa antara enam jam hingga dua hari.

Rentetan daripada peristiwa itu juga, YTL Power International Berhad iaitu anak syarikat YTL Corporation Berhad telah dianugerahkan lesen penjana tenaga bebas (IPP) pertama negara pada 1993, sekali gus TNB tidak lagi memonopoli perniagaan membekalkan tenaga elektrik.

Selepas insiden itu, Ani sekali lagi berhadapan dengan cabaran apabila seluruh negara terputus bekalan sela­ma 12 jam dan segala urusan terhenti. Seminggu selepas insiden itu, insiden serupa berulang dan kali ini selama 16 jam. Kejadian itu menyebabkan pengilang dan TNB mengalami kerugian kira-kira RM150 juta.

Takdir

Sebagai Pengerusi Eksekutif TNB pada masa itu, sudah tentu Ani tidak dapat mengelak daripada menjadi sasaran kritikan daripada pelbagai pihak yang menerima kesan daripada masalah tersebut.

Marah dengan apa yang berlaku itu, banyak pihak mahu menyaman TNB bagi menuntut ganti rugi. Mereka berpendapat kejadian itu disebabkan kelemahan TNB dan menerima ia sebagai takdir.

Namun, Ani tidak melatah dan bersikap terbuka dalam melayani kemarahan pelanggan-pelanggan TNB. “Kami tidak dapat mengelak daripada disaman oleh orang ramai,” begitulah reaksi Ani ketika berhadapan situasi tersebut.

Awal pagi semalam iaitu kira-kira pukul 5.26 pagi, Ani yang bersara sebagai Pengerusi Eksekutif TNB pada 1996, menutup usia perjalanan hidupnya pada usia 82 tahun. Beliau menghembuskan nafas terakhir ketika menjalani rawatan penyakit barah prostat yang dihidapinya di Pusat Perubatan Subang Jaya. Jenazah beliau disemadikan di Tanah Perkuburan Islam, Shah Alam. Allahyarham meninggalkan isteri, Puan Sri Saenah Ahmad dan tiga anak; Sakinah, Dr. Salina dan Ismail, selain anak angkat.

Tokoh yang banyak berjasa kepada negara itu dilahirkan di Kampung Sungai Bakap, Seberang Prai, Pulau Pinang pada 17 Mei 1932. Mendapat pendidikan awal di sekolah mubaligh Katolik, Ani kemudian memperoleh Diploma Pertanian dari Kolej Serdang (kini Universiti Putra Malaysia) pada 1955; Ijazah Sarjana Muda Sains Pertanian (1960) dari Universiti Canterbury, New Zealand; Sarjana Sains (1966) dari Universiti Vermont, Amerika Syarikat (AS), dan Ijazah Kedoktoran Sains (1974) dari Universiti Ghent, Belgium. Beliau merupakan rakyat Malaysia pertama menerima biasiswa Fulbright iaitu program pertukaran pelajar antarabangsa yang ditaja oleh AS.

Satu perkara menarik tentang Ani ialah beliau boleh bertutur dalam enam bahasa dan dialek iaitu Melayu, Inggeris, Perancis, Hokkien, Jepun dan Tamil. Kebolehan ini diperolehinya kerana rakan-rakan di zaman kanak-kanaknya terdiri daripada Arab, China, Burma (Myanmar), Yahudi, India dan Thai.

Ani juga seorang ulat buku. Beliau pernah berkata, baginya, membaca lebih penting daripada makan. “Membaca memberikan saya pengertian tentang pengalaman orang lain, terutamanya apabila saya membaca biografi orang yang berjaya. Contohnya, Nelson Mandela yang mana selepas 26 tahun dipenjarakan, berjaya memberikan kesan kepada kehidupan rakyat dalam cara yang besar,” katanya yang dipetik The Star pada November 2005.

Sebelum menyertai TNB, Ani pernah menjadi Pengerusi Bank Simpanan Nasional, Ketua Eksekutif Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad dan Pengarah Institut Penyelidikan Getah Malaysia. Beliau juga merupakan timbalan pengarah Institut Penyelidikan dan Kemajuan Pertanian Malaysia (MARDI) dari 1969 hingga 1972. Selain itu, Ani pernah berkhidmat sebagai Pengerusi Majlis Institut Teknologi Mara dan Pengerusi Lembaga Pengarah Universiti Sains Malaysia serta Pengerusi Majlis Minyak Sawit Malaysia.

Di sebalik ketegasannya, ramai tidak mengetahui bahawa Ani merupakan seorang yang berjiwa penyayang, prihatin dan pemurah. Menurut anak bongsu Allahyarham, Ismail, 42, ayahnya memiliki lebih 50 anak angkat daripada pelbagai latar belakang, keturunan dan kaum.

“Anak angkatnya terlalu ramai sampai ada di luar negara, kami sendiri pun tidak mengetahui berapa ramai. Arwah suka menghulur bantuan terutama dari segi bantuan untuk menyambung pengajian,” katanya seperti dipetik Bernama.

Ani juga dilihat lebih suka menanggung kesakitan seorang diri. Ia jelas apabila beliau merahsiakan penyakit kanser prostat yang dihidapinya daripada pengetahuan keluarga kerana tidak mahu membuatkan mereka risau. Ahli keluarganya hanya mengetahui Ani menghidap penyakit itu apabila ia sudah berada di peringkat keempat pada 2010.

Dalam reaksi ahli keluarga terhadap kepemergian Ani, mereka tenang menerima ketentuan Ilahi. Sakinah berkata: “Ayah telah lama bertarung dengan penyakit kanser. Kami telah jangkakan arwah akan pergi.” Salina yang menetap di Lausanne, Switzerland, dalam mesej WhatsApp kepada Sakinah pula beliau berkata: “Dia telah menjalani terlalu banyak rawatan. Terlalu banyak... Dia seorang askar dan sungguh berani menjalani sebegitu banyak rawatan.”

Kisah di sebalik nama makanan merrepak

DALAM artikel Merrepak 'Teh Tarik Milik Malaysia’ pada 26 Oktober lepas, saya menerima beberapa reaksi dan maklum balas yang wajar dipaparkan hari ini.

Merrepak

BERTENTANGAN dengan kepercayaan umum, nachos bukan berasal dari Mexico tetapi Amerika Syarikat. – Gambar Hiasan

Pertamanya, saya ingin memperbetulkan pemilik ladang teh di Cameron Highland yang sebenar iaitu ladang teh BOH. Ladang ini diasaskan oleh pedagang Inggeris, John Archibald Russel pada 1929 semasa Tanah Melayu dijajah British.

Meneliti sejarah permulaan ladang teh BOH ini, secara ringkasnya boleh dikatakan BOH adalah jenama sebenar Malaysia, walaupun dilahirkan oleh keluarga Inggeris. Generasi ketiga Russel kini menerajui BOH Plantation Sdn. Bhd. yang memiliki tiga ladang di Cameron Highland iaitu Boh, Sungai Palas dan Fairlie, serta satu di Bukit Cheeding di Selangor.

Keempat-empat ladang BOH ini berjumlah 1,200 hektar dan memiliki kilang pengeluaran yang berkapasiti 3,000 kilogram (kg) sehektar iaitu 4 juta kg teh setahun atau 5.5 juta cawan sehari. Ia mewakili kira-kira 70 peratus daripada jumlah keseluruhan yang dihasilkan di Malaysia.

Terima kasih kepada pengurusan BOH yang menghantar lori promosi teh BOH ke pejabat Kumpulan Utusan keesokan harinya. Seronok rakan-rakan sepejabat. Bila cuaca baik dan masa mengizinkan kelak, saya akan melawat ladang teh BOH di Sungai Palas, Cameron Highland.

Yang kedua ialah surat daripada pembaca budiman, Ungku Hasnan Ungku Idris dari Bandar Baru Uda, Johor yang memberi versi asal-usul teh tarik berlatar tempat Muar.

Walaupun pada awal-awal surat sudah dinyatakan beliau "seorang yang tidak berminat mengikuti tulisan saya kerana pada pandangannya tidak menarik," saya hargai pandangan Ungku Hasnan yang juga memberi gambaran aktiviti sarapan yang sedap dan menyelerakan di Muar. Sekurang-kurangnya, kami berdua sama-sama meminati teh tarik. Itu yang penting.

Yang ketiga, beberapa e-mel daripada pembaca meminta agar diceritakan lagi aspek makanan yang tidak diketahui, susulan daripada artikel 'Teh Tarik Milik Malaysia’ dan 'Sushi Tak Suka, Tempura Boleh’ (19 Oktober 2014). Saya diam-diam menyusun strategi untuk memenuhi permintaan ini. Cabarannya ialah saya perlu mencuba makanan yang bakal dicerita di bawah ini.

Ini bukan suatu tugas mudah kerana saya tidak meletakkan aktiviti 'makan dan makanan’ sebagai bidang ekonomi utama negara. Saya sebenarnya, sangat keberatan diajak 'mesyuarat sambil makan’. Logiknya, macam mana hendak menikmati makanan bila pada masa sama, kena berfikir tentang kerja. Nak ajak makan, makan saja. Jangan cerita hal kerja.

Ini menyebabkan misi kaji selidik makanan ini mengambil masa lama, dan hanya selepas itu baharulah saya akan menulis mengenainya.

Nachos

Bertentangan dengan kepercayaan umum, nachos bukan makanan berasal dari Mexico. Sebaliknya, ia dicipta oleh orang Amerika Syarikat berketurunan Mexico bernama Ignacio, yang namanya dipinjamkan kepada makanan itu menjadi 'nacho’. Ia popular setelah dijual di stadium-stadium sebagai pilihan tambahan kepada burger.

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Kedua-duanya sering disalah anggap sebagai makanan berasal dari Itali. Sama seperti nachos, ia dicipta oleh imigran Itali di Amerika Syarikat. Penyelidikan mendapati orang Itali tidak menyajikan kedua-duanya sebagai makanan ruji mereka.

Croissants

Pasti ramai yang suka menyebutnya mengikut sebutan Perancis 'kru-son’. Walhal pengkaji makanan menemui fakta bahawa roti ini dicipta oleh bekas tentera Austria selepas mencipta roti kipferl. Kedua-duanya sedap.

Barbeku

Kebanyakan rakyat Malaysia menjadikan aktiviti barbeku sebagai acara perhimpunan ramai sama ada di rumah atau tempat awam. Terdapat dua versi popular asal-usul kaedah memasak barbeku iaitu berasal daripada perkataan Perancis 'de barbe à queue’ bermaksud 'dari janggut ke ekor’ dan perkataan Red Indian dan dialek Caribbean yang kemudiannya menjadi perkataan Sepanyol 'barbacoa’ bermaksud 'unggun api keramat’.

Biskut

Berasal daripada perkataan Perancis 'dimasak dua kali’ merujuk kepada roti nipis dan rata. Orang British menggunakan kaedah ini untuk menyediakan roti laut, sebagai makanan semasa pelayaran jauh dan lama.

Hamburger

Mendapat nama daripada bandar Hamburg di Jerman. Hamburgers dikatakan menjadi popular pada abad ke-19 oleh para pelayar yang mempelajari teknik itu di negara Baltik Rusia.

Sauté

Sauté dalam bahasa Perancis bermaksud 'melompat’. Tukang masak di dunia memberi definisinya sebagai memasak makanan dengan cepat menggunakan minyak yang sedikit atas api yang membara.

French Fries

Suatu masa dulu, inilah nama yang diguna oleh restoran makanan segera untuk kentang goreng. Masalahnya, kaedah masakan ini tiada kaitan dengan Perancis. Sebaliknya dicipta di Belgium. Dikisahkan bahawa orang Belgium sering menggoreng ikan-ikan kecil dan bila ketiadaan stok ikan, menggunakan kentang yang berbentuk lurus sebagai ganti.

Sundaes

Ais krim, sebutan mudah kita. Cuma, ais krim ini disalut dengan sirap ceri atau apa sahaja sekarang bagi melahirkan rasa sedap. Kajian mendapati terdapat iklan dalam akhbar Ithaca Daily Journal pada 1892 tentang ais krim Sundae ini. Itu sangat lama!

Guang-mei teruk diseksa

Tindakan Mao Tse-tung menamatkan kedudukan Liu Shao-chi sebagai Presiden China dilakukan dalam bulan Ogos 1966 iaitu empat tahun setengah selepas berlangsungnya persidangan 7,000 kader Parti Komunis China di mana Mao telah ditempelak oleh Liu di depan perwakilan kader. Tugas negara yang terakhir bagi Liu ialah pada 5 Ogos tahun itu apabila Liu, sebagai Presiden China, menerima kunjungan hormat rombongan rasmi dari Zambia. Sebaik-baik sahaja Liu selesai membuat tugasan rasmi itu, dia menerima panggilan telefon daripada Perdana Menteri China, Chou En-lai yang mengarahkan Liu Shao-chi agar jangan lagi membuat apa jua tugas rasmi atau tampil di khalayak ramai kecuali jika diberi kebenaran terlebih dahulu oleh kerajaan.


WANG Guang-mei, isteri Liu Shao-chi, pada saat-saat kemenangan Parti Komunis China merampas kuasa di China pada 1949

Pada hari itu juga Mao menulis satu ucapan mengecam Liu yang kemudian dibacakannya di depan Jawatankuasa Pusat Parti, yang turut dihadiri Liu Shao-chi, pada 7 Ogos, dua hari kemudian. Semasa itulah Mao mengisytiharkan kepada parti bahawa Liu Shao-chi telah dipecat daripada jawatan Presiden China. Mao juga mengisytiharkan, dia telah memilih Lin Biau sebagai orang nombor dua menggantikan Liu Shao-chi. Semua anggota Jawatankuasa Pusat yang hadir mendiamkan diri, tidak berani membantah. Menurut penulis Jung Chang - Jon Halliday, Mao sebenarnya telah memberi arahan kepada Lin Biau, sehari sebelum itu (6 Ogos) supaya ‘bersiap sedia untuk bertindak’ jika Jawatankuasa Parti membantah dah menolak keputusan Mao memecat Liu Shao-chi.

Ini adalah kali kedua Mao Tse-tung meminta sokongan padu daripada Lin Biau, dengan bala tentera China di belakangnya sebagai Menteri Pertahanan, dalam menghadapi kemelut politik yang dihadapi Mao. (Atas sikap setia Lin Biau itu, Mao Tse-tung telah mengambil inisiatif meminda Perlembagaan Parti Komunis China pada April 1969 khusus untuk menetapkan bahawa Lin Biau ialah “Mao Zedong’s close comrade-in-arms and successor”. Pindaan ini dibuat semasa Kongres Parti Komunis China Kali Kesembilan. Selepas kematian Mao Tse-tung (1976), ketentuan-ketentuan dalam perlembagaan parti seperti ini telah diharamkan sama-sekali. Ia dianggap satu penyelewengan yang serius terhadap dasar democratic centralism yang sepatutnya menjadi amalan Parti Komunis China.

Mulai bulan Ogos 1966 itu Liu Shao-chi sebenarnya telah dikenakan tahanan dalam rumah. Kediaman rasmi Liu, sebagai Presiden China, terletak dalam kawasan yang dinamakan Zhongnanhai bersebelahan dengan Dataran Tiananmen. Dalam bahasa Mandarin, Zhongnanhai bermakna ‘Laut Tengah dan Selatan’ atau sering juga dibilang ‘Istana-istana Laut’. Dengan lokasinya di tengah-tengah bandar raya Beijing, Zhongnanhai sangat luas dan indah pemandangan, penuh dengan tasik-tasik, pohon-pohon yang rendang dan rumah-rumah istirehat untuk maharaja atau pembesar-pembesar negara China pada masa silam. Boleh dikatakan ia semacam sebuah taman diraja yang unggul di zaman kebesaran pemerintahan beraja China dahulu kala. Sering juga sesetengah rumah itu digunakan sebagai pejabat oleh pembesar-pembesar maharaja China. Setelah Parti Komunis China merampas kuasa pada 1949, Zhongnanhai tidak dimusnahkan atas alasan ia sinonim dengan kehidupan feudal. Sebaliknya, Mao Tse-tung mahu semua pemimpin kanan parti tinggal dalam kawasan Zhongnanhai. Atas kehendak Mao itu, kecuali Lin Biau yang tinggal di luar tidak berapa jauh dari Zhongnanhai, lain-lain Menteri China tinggal dalam kawasan Zhengnanhai. Selain itu, kompleks di Zhongnanhai menempatkan juga Ibu Pejabat Parti Komunis China pusat pemerintahan atau apa yang dibilang Majlis Negara (semacam kabinet), Republik Rakyat China dan Pejabat Umum parti untuk berurusan dengan orang ramai.

Kediaman

Rumah Mao Tse-tung yang dinamakan Youyonghai merupakan satu-satunya kediaman di Zhongnanhai yang mempunyai kolam renang. Ia sangat terasing dari rumah-rumah lain, kecuali kediaman Liu Shao-chi yang letaknya hanya di belakang rumah Mao. Liu menjadikan rumahnya sebagai pejabatnya juga. Harrison-Salisbury, dalam bukunya The New Emperors: Mao and Deng, berkata, boleh dikatakan mulai awal tahun 1966, Liu Shao-chi menjadi Presiden China pada nama sahaja, ibarat retak menanti belah. Dia sudah merasa dia semakin dipinggirkan. Kata Salisbury: “To live in Liu’s house in 1966 was to live on the edge. Liu Shaoqi was still president of China. He went to his office every day. His secretaries reported for work. But the telephone never rang. The in-basket was empty. No one knocked at his door. No papers were sent for his signature. Liu was ‘standing behind the line’, as the Chinese put it, suspended from duty, drawing his pay, holding his title but in limbo, suspected of everything, charged with nothing (halaman 266).”

Liu Shao-chi mempunyai empat orang anak hasil perkahwinannya dengan Wang Guang-mei (isteri ketiga, selepas gagal perkahwinan sebelumnya. Isteri keduanya dibunuh tentera Kuomintang). Keempat-empat anaknya– Pingping 18 tahun, Yuanyuan (17), Tingting (14) dan Xiaoxiao (6) – tinggal bersama Liu di Zhongnanhai. Liu mempunyai empat orang anak lagi daripada perkahwinan terdahulu, tetapi mereka tidak tinggal bersama Liu (kesemua lapan orang anak Liu ini bakal diseksa oleh Mao menerusi 'jentera’ yang diciptanya). Patut saya catatkan, Wang Guang-mei, berasal dari keluarga ternama. Bapanya pernah menjadi menteri dan diplomat di bawah pemerintahan Kuomintang, ibunya seorang pegawai pelajaran, juga semasa kerajaan Kuomintang. Wang Guang-mei memiliki ijazah fizik dari universiti yang ditubuhkan oleh mubaligh Kristian dari Amerika Syarikat di Beijing. Dia telah dijadualkan untuk melanjutkan pelajarannya ke Universiti Michigan, Amerika Syarikat pada tahun 1946 atas tawaran biasiswa universiti itu.

Tetapi pada tahun 1946, Wang sebaliknya telah memasuki Parti Komunis China atas desakan ibunya yang senyap-senyap menyokong kuat pergerakan komunis. Dia mengahwini Liu Shao-chi pada 1948, dua tahun selepas menjadi ahli parti. Akan saya ceritakan kelak bagaimana Wang Guang-mei, bukan sahaja seorang wanita yang berpendidikan tinggi dan cerdas akal fikirannya, malah berpendirian teguh serta berdisiplin tinggi semasa dia, suaminya dan anak-anak mereka menghadapi pelbagai macam penganiayaan dan penyeksaan, angkara perbuatan Mao Tse-tung menerusi Kumpulan Kecil Revolusi Kebudayaan (di bawah naungan Mao) yang turut dianggotai antara lain, Chou En-lai, isteri Mao, Jiang Qing dan Lin Biau. Wang Guang-mei menjadi sumber kekuatan kepada suaminya untuk tidak mudah tunduk atau mengaku kalah terhadap perbuatan Mao yang dianggap oleh Wang sebagai menyalahi dasar-dasar parti dan bertentangan dengan prinsip-prinsip keadilan di sisi ajaran Marx. Kerana kecekalannya jugalah, Wang Guang-mei telah teruk diseksa dan menderita di tangan Mao.

Ikutilah cerita selanjutnya pada minggu hadapan tentang perbuatan zalim Mao Tse-tung terhadap Liu Shao-chi dan keluarganya.

Analisis Mingguan: Bisik-Bisik Awang Selamat

Tabik rakyat Malaysia

Walaupun impian Malaysia untuk menjulang Piala AFF 2014 tidak kesampaian ekoran kekalahan kepada Thailand (agregat 4-3 ) malam tadi, Awang tetap berbangga dengan barisan pemain negara. Mereka telah mempamerkan semangat juang yang tinggi sehingga mendahului 3-0 seolah-olah juara sudah milik Malaysia. Namun nasib tidak menyebelahi selain ternyata hakikatnya - pemain Thailand lebih tangkas pada separuh masa kedua. Dalam perlawanan bola sepak, segalagalanya boleh berlaku. Brazil yang dianggap hebat dalam sukan itu pernah dikejutkan dengan kekalahan memalukan 1-7 di gelanggang sendiri pada Piala Dunia lalu.

Awang berharap kegagalan pada final Piala AFF kali ini tidak terlalu mengecewakan para pemain. Mereka tidak harus rasa terhukum dan patah hati. Prestasi Harimau Malaya menjadi Naib Juara Piala AFF 2014, adalah lebih baik berbanding musim lepas. Mereka layak diberikan ucapan tahniah oleh rakyat Malaysia. Menewaskan Vietnam dengan jaringan agak besar di negara itu antara memori manis buat rakyat Malaysia yang bakal menutup tirai 2014. Awang yakin peluang buat Harimau Malaya untuk bangkit terbuka luas pada masa depan.

Semoga semua pihak berkenaan terutama Persatuan Bola Sepak Malaysia (FAM) mengambil pengajaran bernilai bagi melonjakkan prestasi skuad bola sepak kita. Banyak lagi yang perlu dilakukan untuk mengembalikan era kegemilangan bola sepak negara di arena antarabangsa sebagaimana dekad 1960-an dan '70-an. Musim Piala AFF kali ini menyerlahkan betapa rakyat Malaysia dahagakan kejayaan dalam sukan paling popular itu. Biarpun Malaysia tewas semalam Awang tabik kepada rakyat Malaysia atas sokongan padu kepada Harimau Malaya. Para peminat tegar terutama Ultras Malaya yang sentiasa memenuhi stadium memberikan tahap sokongan yang cukup luar biasa umpama pembawa panji-panji di medan perang. Perlawanan semalam turut menyaksikan kehadiran peminat bola sepak nombor satu negara, Najib Tun Razak di Stadium Bukit Jalil sebagai tanda sokongan kepada skuad negara. Aktiviti harian rakyat Malaysia terhenti kerana tumpuan kepada siaran secara langsung final tersebut. Semangat kesukanan telah menyatukan kita semua, yang ngauman Harimau Malaya menjadi pencetusnya. Terima Kasih Harimau Malaya.

ADNAN DAN SAMAN

Beberapa pengamal media bertanyakan reaksi Awang tentang saman Menteri Besar Pahang, Adnan Yaakob ke atas Utusan Melayu berhubung tulisan dalam ruangan Bisik-Bisik Awang Selamat yang telah difailkan di Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur 5 Disember lalu. Awang jawab pertanyaan demi pertanyaan dengan senyuman dan adakalanya secara jenaka. Tiada apa yang harus digundahkan, alah bisa tegal biasa. Awang sudah lali dengan kes mahkamah dan tidak rasa terganggu. Ini cabaran dalam media yang bukan untuk dirintihi sebaliknya diterima dengan keterbukaan. Atas semangat itu, Awang dan rakan-rakan di Utusan menghormati tindakan Adnan menggunakan saluran undang-undang, itu hak beliau. Biar apa pun dugaan, obor perjuangan ini tidak akan padam dengan satu mahupun 1,000 saman. Ini semua akan menjadikan kami lebih cekal dan kuat, insya-Allah. Ada hikmahnya.

Awang ingin merakamkan setinggi penghargaan dan ucapan terima kasih tidak terhingga atas segala sokongan kepada Utusan ekoran tindakan saman Adnan. Banyak SMS, e-mel dan ucapan secara lisan yang diterima daripada pelbagai pihak - para pembaca, badan-badan bukan kerajaan (NGO), pemimpin politik hinggalah kepada negarawan. Kesemua mengharapkan Utusan tidak gentar dengan sebarang tekanan termasuk tindakan mahkamah, sebaliknya teruskan laporan bersifat pendedahan sebagai mana isu Cameron Highlands. Paling menarik perhatian ialah sokongan daripada banyak pembaca di Pahang. Malah ada yang mencadangkan agar dilancarkan kempen tabung kutipan membantu Utusan.

Walaupun mereka tahu syarikat akhbar tersebut mampu menghadapi risiko saman dan tidak mengharapkan bantuan bentuk itu tetapi ia adalah simbol sokongan moral yang padu. Awang cukup terharu. Malah banyak komen pembaca bagi tujuan siaran dihantar, yang sebahagiannya keras mempersoalkan tindakan mahkamah tersebut. Namun akhbar tempat Awang berkhidmat, mengambil pendirian untuk tidak menyiarkannya. Biarlah mahkamah menjadi medan sebenar. Banyak yang boleh terdedah untuk dinilai. Apa pun, terima kasih kepada semua kerana berdiri teguh bersama Utusan. Ia begitu besar maknanya kepada kebebasan bersuara dan dalam mendokong integriti - demi rakyat dan negara.

SERBAN, JANGGUT DIRENTAP

Sampai bila Pas mahu dihina dan diperlekehkan oleh rakan dalam pakatan pembangkang? Terbaharu, Setiausaha Agung DAP, Lim Guan Eng terus mempersoalkan komitmen Pas untuk melaksanakan hudud di Kelantan.

Makin lama makin ketara Pas dihenyak-henyak oleh DAP. Kebelakangan ini, para pemimpin DAP secara terbuka menyerang Pas pada Persidangan Kebangsaan DAP 2014 di Putrajaya. Pada Awang, secara analoginya, bukan lagi sekadar serban dan janggut pemimpin Pas direntap bahkan kain juga cuba dilondehkan.

Inilah musim penghinaan yang paling dahsyat ke atas Pas dalam sejarah kerjasama pakatan pembangkang. Kenapa Guan Eng terus berani menekan Pas? Jawapannya kerana beliau yakin dengan 'kesetiaan luar biasa' penasihat PKR, Anwar Ibrahim terhadap DAP selain sudah terlalu selesa dengan sokongan masyarakat Cina. Meskipun berdepan dengan asakan berterusan DAP, Awang bersyukur kerana para pemimpin utama Pas terutama Hadi Awang, Nik Aziz Nik Mat dan Dewan Ulama tidak tunduk dalam isu hudud dan kalimah Allah. Pas sudah berani menolak Anwar dalam banyak isu kritikal berkaitan Islam. Awang yakin Pas boleh menjadi sandaran yang bermaruah.

Tinggal lagi bila parti itu mahu bersikap realistik dan tidak lagi menjadi mangsa buli, apakah mahu terus menadah najis yang dihumban oleh sekutunya atas menu tahaluf siyasi? Hakikatnya akar umbi Pas dalam diam sudah lama resah dan tidak mahu parti itu terus dimalukan lagi. Jangan sampai kain -simbol maruah- terlondeh, baru melompat. Ketika itu, DAP pasti ketawa besar.

IKTIBAR BUAT KITA

Pakistan digemparkan dengan serangan pemisah Taliban di sekolah awam milik tentera di Peshawar, Pakistan baru-baru ini yang mengorbankan 148 orang, kebanyakannya pelajar yang tidak berdosa. Peristiwa itu satu lagi tragedi hitam bukan sahaja kepada Pakistan bahkan kepada dunia. Ia perbuatan kejam dan tidak berperikemanusiaan. Awang sedih ia berlaku di sebuah negara Islam.
Indeks Keganasan Global 2014 melaporkan, Pakistan adalah satu daripada negara yang paling terjejas di dunia akibat kegiatan pengganas dengan hampir 2,000 insiden pada 2013 yang mengorbankan 2,345 orang manakala lebih 5,000 lagi cedera. Awang bersyukur Malaysia jauh lebih aman, stabil dan harmoni. Semoga nikmat kesejahteraan ini tidak diambil mudah oleh rakyat pelbagai kaum dan agama. Ambillah iktibar. Apa yang terjadi di Pakistan juga boleh menimpa negara ini jika aliran dan percikan ekstremisme tidak ditangani dengan tegas dan holistik. Lebih-lebih lagi Malaysia kini berdepan dengan ancaman gerakan militan Negara Islam (IS) yang merekrut ramai orang muda selain negara ini dijadikan transit militan untuk kononnya berjihad ke Syria. Tahniah kepada polis atas banyak tangkapan yang telah dilakukan bagi membendung kegiatan mereka. Namun sekali lagi janganlah mengambil mudah. Cabarannya - apa lagi yang kita tidak tahu tentang militansi di negara ini yang bergerak senyap dan meledak apabila tiba masanya. Nauzubillah...

KENAPA KUMPULAN 25 ENGGAN?

Siapa sebenarnya 25 bekas pegawai tinggi Melayu, apa latar belakang, tahap jati diri, gaya hidup dan pemikiran mereka? Inilah antara banyak maklum balas yang Awang terima mempersoalkan tindakan mereka menyentuh kedudukan dan amalan undang-undang Islam.

Kumpulan itu menjadi perhatian pada 7 Disember lalu apabila menulis surat terbuka kepada rakyat negara ini yang antara lain menyarankan supaya undang-undang jenayah Syariah dinilai semula.

Bagi pendokong gerakan liberalisme dan pluralisme yang begitu agresif sekarang, kumpulan 25 itu dijaja sebagai hero moderation sedangkan mereka mungkin tanpa disedari telah diperalatkan.

Sebenarnya majoriti umat Islam tidak selesa dengan tindakan mereka seolah-olah mahu mencabar undang-undang syariah. Boleh dirumuskan pandangan mereka tidak mencerminkan pemikiran keseluruhan umat Islam di negara ini. Maka Awang tertarik dengan saranan agar dikaji latar belakang mereka. Lebih-lebih lagi ada dakwaan terdapat sebahagian mereka yang diketahui dengan gaya hidup yang sangat liberal ketika berkhidmat dalam kerajaan.

Yang lebih menjadi tanda tanya, mereka berani mengeluarkan surat terbuka tetapi enggan menemui Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (Jakim) apabila diundang untuk dialog. Awang pun tidak faham, mereka diundang secara terhormat oleh Jakim tetapi enggan hadir seperti ada sesuatu yang tidak kena. Lalu timbul lagi persoalan, apa motif sebenar dan siapa di belakang mereka?

Awang Selamat Utusan Malaysia Rencana 21 Disember 2014

Fear and loathing of government schools

With horror stories about goings on in government schools, many parents have reason to be apprehensive about sending their kindergarten ‘graduates’ to primary school next month.


EXERCISE books: check. Work books: check. Stationery: check. Uniforms: check. Pink-coloured school bag: check.

Last week, Vera, my wife, and I shopped for school essentials for my six-year-old daughter, Apsara.

This month she graduated from kindergarten and will be in primary school next year.

When I took photographs of her wearing a blue pinafore over a white shirt and white baju kurung over a blue skirt, I realised that my baby is now a big girl.

I’m excited that Apsara will be studying in primary school. How­ever, I’m anxious as she’s going to a government school.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a product of government school. I studied in Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Stella Maris and in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan La Salle. Both in Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu.

I am what I am partly because my government school education has shaped me to be a “mainstream” individual.

In Stella Maris and La Salle, the students were from diverse economic backgrounds (children of Sabah ministers to government clerks) from the main races in Kota Kinabalu (Bajau, Chinese and Kadazan).

Studying in government schools, I didn’t grow up in a “bubble” or a “silo”. I, however, have heard of horror stories about government schools, especially in peninsular Malaysia.

Will my daughter be called by her teacher “lembu” (cow) and told to eat grass and wear a bell around her neck if she didn’t complete her homework?

Will my daughter be hit with a chair by a replacement teacher, who felt she was “showing off” to her classmates, as she didn’t obey his order to stand at the back of the class?

Will the toilets in my daughter’s school be installed with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to prevent vandalism?

Will my daughter be eating during recess in a “narrow and smelly” changing room?

Will my daughter be told by her teacher to quit school and become a prostitute?

Will my daughter suffer bruises on her right cheek after she is slapped by her teacher, who claims that he only pulled her ear?

Will my daughter be punched in the face by her teacher after he became angry after she accidentally poured water on his clothes? Will the enraged teacher then punch her three classmates as they’ve forgotten their notebooks?

Will my daughter be afraid of going back to school because her teacher threw his shoe at her for playing in the classroom? Will the shoe-throwing teacher continue with his lesson even if his student’s head is bleeding?

I didn’t make up the above possibilities. These are cases (in government and vernacular schools) reported in the media.

I also read a news report that a parent discovered a male teacher had sexually abused her son.

The school conducted an investigation and found that other schoolboys were also abused by the teacher in the same manner.

Hopefully, these are isolated cases. I pray these kinds of things wouldn’t happen to Apsara.

I’ve also heard stories about the atrocious teaching standards in government schools. It seems there are English teachers who can’t even speak English, or a geography teacher who doesn’t know where Sabah is on a map.

My other worry is Apsara is a dan lain-lain (others). She’s a Kadazan (for those who are geographically-challenged, her ethnic community is based in Sabah).

I’ve heard horror stories that schoolchildren in government schools are divided by race.

I hope that she would not be an outsider just because she’s not Malay, Chinese or Indian.

Interestingly, I asked several ethnic Sabahans who studied in peninsular Malaysia, which race they hung out with in school. And the answer is .... (I’ll tweet the answer if you are curious to know.)

Perhaps I’m getting worried over nothing as Apsara is enrolled in arguably one of the best primary schools in Subang Jaya (and Selangor) – Sekolah Kebangsaan USJ12. It is less than 2km from my home.

I’m told (by my colleague who covers the education beat) that it is supposed to be a good school.

“I know of parents who will ask friends, family members or strangers, living in USJ 12, to use their house address so that their kid can enrol in SK USJ 12,” she told me.

“What’s so great about that school?” I said.

“It is a cluster school. And it has a good headmaster,” she said, adding, “How good a school is depends on the headmaster.”

Last week, my family visited SK USJ 12 to buy Apsara’s kerperluan sekolah(school essentials).

The first thing I did was check out its canteen as at the back of my mind was the news report about non-Muslim students forced to eat in the changing room. From gut feeling, I don’t think that incident will happen in Apsara’s school.

Wah, you punya anak banyak comel (your kid is very cute),” said a makcikwearing tudung, referring to my one-year-old baby. The makcik was in charge of the stationery shop.

You dari Sabah kah? (Are you from Sabah?)” she said.

Ya, macam mana you tahu? (Yes, how do you know?),” I said, impressed that the makcik (aunty) was not geographically-challenged unlike some Malaysians from the peninsula.

Cara you cakap (the way you speak),” she said.

Apa macam ini sekolah? Bagus kah? (How’s this school? Is it good?),” I said.

Ini sekolah bagus. Ramai yang nak masuk sekolah ini (This is a good school. Many parents want to enrol their child in this school),” she said.

The makcik also said we were very lucky that Apsara managed to enrol in SK USJ 12.

I pray that Apsara’s primary school experience will not be negative as those isolated incidents reported in the media.

Balancing between superpowers

Major countries make major strategic errors, often to the advantage of other major powers, smaller nations in between or all of the above.

TO the casual reader, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Bangkok last Friday was the arrival of just another foreign dignitary in Thailand for a regional conference.

But that would be to miss the woods for the trees. In the strategic context of relations playing among China, the United States and countries in South-East Asia, more is happening particularly with Thailand than is reported.

Officially, Li was in Bangkok for a two-day summit with the leaders of Thailand and the other countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS): Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, the summit was also an opportunity for China and Thailand to fine-tune bilateral plans for the construction of a dual-track railway in Thailand as well as exports of rice and rubber to China.

Almost incidentally, Li is the highest­ranking foreign leader to visit Thailand after last May’s army coup. That China also happens to be the biggest economy in Asia and the world’s largest emerging superpower only add weight to his visit.

China’s generosity extends to lending Thailand the money to pay for the railway construction. For Thailand, this means easy payment terms, while for China it means extending closer ties with Thailand over several years.

Improving bilateral relations anywhere is a common enough experience. But in today’s post-coup Thailand, the large invisible factor is the tug-of-war between the US and China over influence in this region.

On the day that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha launched the coup against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government on May 22, the US condemned it and hastened to review its military and other assistance to Thailand.

Secretary of State John Kerry declared there was “no justification” for the coup, adding that it would have negative implications for US-Thai relations. For many Thais, Kerry was half (the second half) right.

Nine days later Australia, Washington’s “deputy sheriff” in the region, acted accordingly. Canberra cut defence ties with Thailand and imposed a travel ban on Thai military leaders.

This US-based Western position was uniformly inflexible and unaccommodating of the rationale for the coup. Even individual Western academics in foreign seminars rejected any possible justification for it.

On June 11, Prayuth sent a delegation of military commanders to China to discuss regional security and joint training. While some US reports referred to Thailand as Washington’s “closest regional ally”, other reports from Thailand called China’s People’s Liberation Army “one of (Thailand’s) oldest regional allies”.

Subsequently, Prayuth and Li held three other meetings abroad – in China, Myanmar and Vietnam – before Friday’s meeting in Bangkok.

The dispatch of the Thai delegation to Beijing in June led to speculation in Bangkok that the US State Department had wrong-footed itself again. This was followed by a shell-shocked silence in Washington over Thai affairs.

Countries in the region, however, were more perceptive of Bangkok’s predicament leading up to the coup.

Within days, Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein visited, marking the first foreign ministerial visit after the coup. Bangkok commended the visit as Malaysia’s “good understanding of the Thai situation”.

Among Asean countries at least, it seemed obvious that the Yingluck government’s growing illegitimacy amid scandals led to rising tension as Bangkok streets welled with anti-government protests. It was something of the immediate pre-coup atmosphere just prior to the 2006 coup.

But for policy pundits in Washington, textbook responses to military coups substituted for the lack of familiarity with events occasioned by distance. Thus the knee-jerk response was to punish the coup leaders regardless.

As a sign of how out of touch Washington had been with Thailand, a senior Defense Department official for this region declared on May 13 that the US was “reasonably confident” there would be no coup in Thailand.

Exactly one week later, Prayuth declared martial law. Within another 48 hours, a coup had taken over the country.

In her scepticism towards any coup, the US official said the Thai army would have learned some lessons from the 2006 coup. Lessons had been learned, but about how to better nip a situation in the bud – not about never staging a coup again.

Among the problems with US foreign relations is Washington’s policy inconsistency. There are some coups it would oppose outright, such as Thailand’s latest, while there are others it would accept by refusing to comment on them.

Central to this anomaly are US interests and its law banning aid to coup governments. Thus some coups in Latin America and the one in Egypt against an elected sitting president are not considered coups for those countries to continue receiving US aid.

Egypt is Israel-friendly and therefore a vital US ally in the region. Any coup that does not produce a government against the US or Israel is not a “coup” – for the government to continue being sponsored.

Unlike the US and Australia, countries in South-East Asia are more familiar with developments in the regional neighbourhood and understand local conditions better. Besides, Asean countries are imbued with the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of fellow member nations.

This principle is often misunderstood as an Asean condition when it is a universal principle enshrined in the UN Charter. Many countries observe it but some choose not to.

The latter violate it at will also because they can. They are either large and powerful enough to brush away criticism and censure, or they know they can still get away with ignoring the principle.

Such is the imperious attitude of some major powers that smacks of a neo-colonial attitude. They are not shy about practising the law of the jungle while ignoring international laws and norms.

There is a further misperception that criticising another country’s conduct constitutes meddling in another country’s affairs. This confusion is fairly universal, being prevalent in Asean countries and elsewhere.

Even condemnation of another country’s policies is not intervention. But downgrading ties by such actions as cutting off aid and imposing sanctions and blockades is clearly intervention.

In a recent private encounter, a US academic remarked that US-Vietnam relations are now where they should have been for a long time. He did not mean the bilateral peace and goodwill so much as Vietnam’s perceived position as a virtual US ally relative to China.

It is unlikely that Hanoi sees healthy relations with Washington in exactly those terms. The Vietnamese are a proudly nationalist people with no inclination to serve one major power against another.

Hanoi’s first priority in relations with the US has been to lift the US trade embargo. Its other priority has been to develop its economy by introducing market elements and then to take full advantage of the vast US market.

Whether or not US policymakers have learned anything from the Vietnam war, Vietnam is no less savvy than the next country. In this case, the next country is neighbouring Thailand.

Countries in South-East Asia may be small but they are highly adaptable and capable of swift policy movement. In contrast, the US seems to be a lumbering giant whose distance from the region puts it at a further disadvantage.

Tomorrow, Prime Minister Prayuth will be in China for a two-day meeting. His agenda, and Beijing’s, will be long-term plans for close and sustained relations between Thailand and China. Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The STAR Home News Opinion Columnist December 21, 2014

Top officials need longer time to serve

WHEN we read reports about reshuffles in the top echelon of the civil service, we can see that many of those given high positions actually are on the verge of retirement.

These may be well-deserved promotions, but their short stints will never allow them to make an impact.

Which is why we should take note of the Prime Minister’s advice to the Administrative and Dip­lo­matic Service (PTD) last Wed­nesday that mid-level officers must be groomed to take on senior positions for longer periods.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the current trend where senior positions such as the post of secretary-general were held by those who were about to retire was not healthy.

He was addressing the Admi­nistrative and Diplomatic Service (PTD) which is responsible for sending top civil servants to such apex positions.

He reminded the PTD that if there was a vacancy for the post of chief secretary to the government, there must be at least 12 qualified candidates ready to take over the job.

“We should not wait until there is an opening for a job before we start looking for someone to take over,” he said.

Training those at the mid-level is vital so that real talents can rise to the top faster. Otherwise, such apex positions will only be given to officers based on hierarchy and seniority.

There was a time when top positions, including that of the Inspector-General of Police and the Lord President (now Chief Justice), were held by younger people whose longer tenure ensured that they left a strong legacy behind.

There were also many high-ranking officials who would stay longer than the ministers they serve, but now the situation is such that the minister actually stays longer than them.

As Sir Humphrey Appleby, the fictional Chief Secretary in the comedy series Yes Minister would say when reminding his civil servants on how to control their political masters: “Ministers come and go, but we stay on forever.”

But the more important reason why top officials must be given longer periods to serve is to allow them time to understand their job, plan for the future, and be around long enough to make sure that things really work.

It has been said often enough that most of our government policies are good, but the implementation is always a problem.

And this is where the civil service is supposed to play its role. Clear directions from the top official in any ministry will make sure that every civil servant from top to bottom will do their job properly.

This official must also have a good relationship with the minister so that the intent of any policy is properly transmitted down to the ground.

The problem with having short-stint top officials is that even if they come in strong and want to put the house in order, the people below will just wait for their enthusiasm to blow over, and give them a nice farewell party.

The Star Says Sunday December 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM

Malay views take bloom

Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s voice has been so dominant that many think his views reflect that of all Malays. But are things about to shift now with more moderate Malays speaking out?


Temperature rising: Ibrahim (right) has become the icon for the Malay right wing point of view while personalities like Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin aim to reflect the thinking of moderate Malays.

DATUK Ibrahim Ali knows that size matters in politics. Hence, he made sure that the annual assembly of his Perkasa group last week was packed to the rafters.

But the reality is that the numbers did not really matter because Ibrahim’s larger-than-life personality has completely overshadowed Perkasa.

Moreover, controversy has sort of become the second name of the Perkasa president and media people covering the gathering were looking out for, well, more controversy.

He did not disappoint. His “bangsat” (scum) roll-call of several Umno leaders earned him a spot on what was trending in social media. It was not the first time he was trending and, as in previous occasions, it was not for the best of reasons.

There is no denying Ibrahim has a following among the Malays. The fact that so few in Umno have dared to criticise him says a lot about his Malay agenda clout.

Perkasa has also managed to attract some pretty big names into its rank and file such as former Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Aziz and former IGP Tan Sri Rahim Mohd Noor.

The biggest fish to date is former Chief Judge Tun Hamid Mohamad who has been quite vocal. Leading statesman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is also a key supporter who attends Perkasa events.

In short, Ibrahim had been riding high. He is arguably Malaysia’s most controversial politician and his ultra right-wing views have dominated the Malay political landscape so much so that many non-Malays had imagined that all Malays were like Ibrahim – that is, until recently.

The emergence of a group of 25 prominent Malays, since dubbed G25, has created a stir among the intelligentsia following their open letter which appeared inThe Star on Dec 8. The letter stood out for what the group had to say as well as for its eloquent and well-argued points.

The group was concerned about the country’s future and how Islam had been politicised. They called for a review of Syariah and civil law so that it would be consistent with the Federal Constitution.

Blogger Ahiruddin Attan, better known as Rocky, was impressed enough to write in his blog: “Some of them are genuinely eminent. Their arrival will provide another great avenue for the silent majority to channel their views and feelings and be heard.”

A week later, another group of 32 distinguished Malay individuals that included two serving muftis, lawyers and academics, penned their own open letter that was also published by The Star.

Their views, especially on Islamic laws and its administration, differed markedly from that of the G25. But, again, what struck many readers was the reasoned and civil manner by which they put across their arguments.

The G32, for want of a better name, advocate a central role for Syariah law. They cited a 2013 global survey that showed that 86% of Muslims in Malaysia favoured making Syariah the official law.

“They are a very credible group of eminent Muslims. You have the muftis for Perak and Penang. For people like them to come out, it shows they are concerned about the discussion going on about Islam and the Syariah system,” said Dr Yusri Mohamad, deputy chairman of the Islamic Dakwah Foundation.

One might say, two open letters, so what?

But it is more than that. It shows that there are credible Malays who are concerned enough to want to take a stand and make a difference.

They are part of the thinking Malays out there who can differ and disagree without being confrontational or resorting to insults and name-calling.

They are also proof of the diverse Malay intellectual landscape out there. So long as individuals like them remain silent, they are allowing those like Ibrahim to own the Malay intellectual space.

Members of the G25 were part of the early Malay elite who ended their careers as top government officials.

For instance, one of them, Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, had a glittering career as a diplomat before becoming secretary-general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. His memoirs Growing Up With The Nation came out a few years ago and it is said that even Dr Mahathir deferred to him on foreign affairs in their heyday.

“Why is it so hard to find the middle ground to move forward? You are expected to fit into a certain pigeonhole but life is not that simple,” said lawyer Khairuddin Mohd Zain.

It is also apparent that not all Malays are thrilled with what the G25 has to say, especially their stand on transgender rights and their defence of Sisters in Islam. The Islamists are concerned that the G25 will go down the same path as Sisters in Islam whose liberal interpretation of religion appeal largely to non-Muslims.

Any debate about the Malays, said Dr Yusri, is very much centred around the question of Islam.

“We cannot run away from that,” he said.

The Malays are bound together by a great religion but as a race they are far from being the homogeneous entity that they have been made out to be.

Balanced view

“It’s mind-boggling that we have come to this juncture. To me, alternative voices must be allowed to be heard, let’s hear from both sides,” said Khairuddin, who is an occasional columnist in Utusan Malaysia.

But even contemporary-minded Malays like Rocky and Khairuddin are not against Perkasa per se. They identify with the Malay agenda that Perkasa stands for but are uncomfortable with Ibrahim’s personality and tactics.

Rocky had actually signed up to be a member of Perkasa in its birthing years. But the application got lost along the way, which was just as well because he feels that the organisation has lost its compass.

“It’s fine if Malays like Ibrahim want to speak on behalf of those who think like him. The G25 are people who feel that Perkasa is not representative of who they are. Of course, they are not representative of all Malays but neither is Perkasa or Isma or, for that matter, Umno.

“Call them names if you have to, but once you’re done, let’s hear the 25 out. They are Malays too, you know, and right now, what we need is for all Malays to stand up and speak up,” said Rocky who is also an advisor to an English publication.

Ibrahim is not going away anytime soon. He will continue to be a force mainly because he has support.

But what has changed is that people now know that Ibrahim’s audience is not as all-encompassing as it was made out to be. They know now that his voice does not represent all Malays.

Sarawak, for one, has shut its doors to Perkasa. The group has been told that it is not welcome in the state.

Recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri, who is from Sarawak, faced a firestorm back home after telling Parliament that no action would be taken against Ibrahim over his alleged statement about burning the Malay language Bibles. He was supposed to have said that after the father of a Malay student lodged a police report of Bibles being distributed at his son’s school in Penang.

Nancy was so badly bashed on the Internet that she said she was at the “lowest ebb of my life”.

“I never dreamt that one day I would be branded as someone who is anti-Christian or a supporter of those calling for Bible burning,” she said.

What she went through was an indication that Perkasa has become the bogeyman in Sarawak politics.

Ibrahim has always been this way – loud, confrontational and a street fighter. Those who love him see him as a hero who is doing what Umno has failed to do. Those who dislike him see him as a bully, an extremist and even a racist. They make jokes about him and they run him down.

His reputation is such that when he opens his mouth, people no longer look at the message, they only see the messenger and that is not good. He has become his own worst enemy.

For instance, the media was so fixated on him that they ignored the keynote address of the ex-Chief Judge who had some hard truths for Perkasa.

Hamid, now a target of the opposition parties, told Perkasa members that nothing is free in life and that the way to success is hard work rather than a “buat kenduri” or happy-go-lucky attitude. He said Perkasa wants to put Umno back on the right path but it should not be at the expense of a split among the Malays.

He has probably heard of how certain Perkasa people have been lobbying the government for projects because he urged them to be clean and uphold integrity.

“I wouldn’t want to be part of a group with worms,” he said.

Will the more diverse Malay debate lead to greater understanding or more conflict?

“Not conflict, but it will cause more confusion before there is greater understanding,” said Dr Marzuki Mohamad, the political secretary to the Education Minister.

The Malay debate is not new. At the same time, it is very much a work in progress.

Marzuki has the best suggestion for the road ahead: “It will be fine if everyone keeps to the ethics of disagreement. That means giving room for each other to speak, respecting each others’ views and abiding by the law.”

Has your year been fulfilling?

A fulfilling life is not one chock-full of events, people and achievements but is about taking better care of your health and spending more time with loved ones.


“What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

IT’S wonderful to be able to see the sun rise and set, without any man-built obstacles in the way, from the same spot.

I was at such a spot in Port Dickson last weekend because I paid for a slightly more expensive room that stretches into the sea, allowing me an unencumbered view of one of Nature’s daily, yet unique, experiences.

In the morning, I saw the sky ablaze with bright yellow hues as the sun made its appearance from over the hills.

The moments passed, and soon it was fully day.

In the evening, my eyes trained in the opposite direction to watch the sun sink towards the horizon on a cloudy day.

The whole sky was transformed into a kaleidoscope of colours.

On the long walks along the beach with my better half, we were reflecting about how fast this year has flown by.

But don’t we feel the same way every year?

Time, of course, cannot move faster or slower.

But the perception of speed probably has to do with the reality that 2014 has certainly been a full year.

For this year, I found that even the usually less-busy people I know were hard pressed for time.

I am thankful that I still do not need to check my diary each time someone asks me out for lunch or a cup of coffee.

The downside is that my friends wonder if I am doing any work at all, since I am so readily available.

For those whose diaries are filled to the brim, 2014 would be a full year.

But the question to ask is, “Has it been a fulfilling year?”

The problem with busyness is that the activities are never isolated.

You may step into a totally new place for a meeting, but you will still be thinking about the meeting before.

This is the kind of cascading effect that rolls into your family time.

You think you can leave your work issues at the doorstep, but you actually carry the burdens of work into your home as well.

We should not kid ourselves that we are able to manage our time so well that there is a clear demarcation line.

For that to happen, we have to make choices and set priorities.

A fulfilling life is not one chock-full of events, people and achievements.

It is about taking better care of your health, spending more time with loved ones and taking short holidays to relax and rejuvenate.

It is also about nurturing the good fruits in your life so that your character can withstand some of the most hostile challenges in the world.

Our busyness is not just about us. For those with supervisory duties over others, it impacts your staff in more ways than you can imagine.

As the year rushes to an end, it is normal to use up one’s leave entitlement and go on holidays.

But don’t treat this well-deserved break as yet another item on your calendar.

It will be more fulfilling if you truly leave your cares behind and enjoy the presence of your loved ones who are there with you.

Yes, it has been a fast-moving year for many of us, but let us pause to recall the truly fulfilling moments and seek to fill our days with more of such in the remaining weeks of 2014.

Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin loves the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies where the first two lines go, “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

Let hope shine the way

There are times when we feel trapped in darkness, metaphorically speaking, but it is possible to get through such times when one has hope.

WE are all so used to flipping a switch to turn on the lights, even during daytime in our offices, that many of us may not know what it is like to live in a world without lights.

The world today is polluted with so much artificial lighting that there are very few places left on earth where you can truly appre­ciate the night sky.

Well, if you have the means and a real sense of adventure, you might want to head to the San Pedro de Atacama region of northern Chile which is reputed to be one of the prettiest and most desolate places on the planet, with the clearest and darkest sky on Earth.

Here in Malaysia, you will need to travel far out into the hinterland, or to the many remote islands, to truly appreciate the stars above.

It is amazing what light can do in the midst of darkness. If there is a power blackout in a restaurant, for example, the person with a lighter or torchlight becomes an instant hero.

There are times when we feel trapped in darkness, metaphorically speaking. And so we yearn to see the light at the end of our tunnel of despair.

It could be one’s journey with a medical condition, a problem at work, a relationship in need of serious repair, or even the state of the nation.

And so we wait anxiously for that light to make our world come alive again. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

Worse, sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel may turn out to be another train heading in the wrong direction.

I remember the fishing trips I used to make with my father at the end of a sewage bridge off Jelutong in Penang.

In the still of the night, the most reassuring item with us was the kerosene lamp.

My father would always tell me not to light it up until it was really dark, so as not to use up the kerosene too fast.

I learnt how to do things in the dark, like attaching the live worms to the hooks without pricking my fingers.

Waiting for the fish to bite gives ample time for useful lessons to be passed on from father to son.

Papa told me not to be overly dependent on the familiar, because life can be pretty unpredictable.

The real challenge is how to deal with circumstances that you least expect, some temporary, and some permanent.

Sometimes, it may be a major life-changing situation that turns our world upside down.

How does one prepare for the unexpected? One way is by not overreacting to the occasional “blackouts” in our life.

If there is a power failure, don’t curse the darkness, even it happens in the middle of your fa­­vourite TV series. Seize the opportunity to go outside and chat with your neighbours.

If there is a work issue involving difficult colleagues that drags you down, tell yourself that this too shall pass.

I have been struggling with a number of inconveniences recently.

There are times when I feel like giving up because I do not seem to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But those moments pass when I remind myself that it is possible to get through even the darkest night when one has the light of hope shining within.

You see, it is in the darkest of places, like the Atacama, that the stars shine brightest.

This executive editor wishes all Christian readers a Blessed Christmas with a reminder that this is the season not only for gi­­ving, but forgiving. Soo Ewe Jin The STAR Sunday Starters Sunday December 21, 2014 MYT 7:09:32 AM

Find a middle ground

The bridges that connect us as Malaysians are far more important than the walls that some want to build to accentuate our differences.


Happy ending: Sultan Sharafuddin (third from right) and Azmin (right) witnessing Mais chairman Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa (second from right) returning the Bibles to Archbishop Bolly at Istana Alam Shah in Klang. Also present were (from left) Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Reverend Dr Herman Shastri and ACS secretary-general Ambrose Linang. - filepic

WE can all do with a bit of good news, which seems to be a rare commodity these days in Malaysia, where the voices of bigotry and extremism seem predominant.

It is good to read that all the 31 hymn books meant for the orang asli parishioners, which supposedly contained the word “Allah”, have been returned.

We are sure the 100 orang asli members from the Catholic church in Johor would look forward to singing praises to God during the Christmas mass.

In this season of Advent (traditionally, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas), it is appropriate that Father Cyril Mannayagam has said he wanted to put the incident behind him.

He has emphasised that the books are meant for the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking orang asli community living in Bekoh.

On a note of optimism, Father Cyril reportedly said there would not be any similar problems with the authorities in the future after explaining to the police the purpose of the books.

Father Cyril also said the parishioners had been using the word “Allah” for more than 100 years when practising their faith.

The hymn books titled Mari Kita Memuji Allah Kita (Praise Be to Our God) contained the word “Allah” and had a picture of a church with a crucifix printed on the front page. They were confiscated from a bookshop in Tangkak by the police following a tip-off on Dec 5.

The seizure of the hymn books by the police – and not the religious authorities – had caused uneasiness among Christians, coming so soon after the closure of the Bible issue in Selangor.

In the Selangor case, which dragged on for nearly a year, the crisis came to an end after the intervention of His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor himself to resolve the issue.

What was more disturbing in the case of the hymn books in Johor was that the police had described the books as “sensitive” and classified the case under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will on the grounds of religion.

The unilateral involvement of the police was most unusual. After seizing the hymn books on Dec 5, the cops could not decide what to do, saying they had referred the case to the deputy public prosecutor on Dec 7.

The use of Section 298A has also been criticised by lawyers, who point out that the apex court had ruled as far back as 1988 that this section of the Penal Code is “unconstitutional” and cannot be used on issues affecting Islam.

It goes to show again how difficult it is when matters affecting the faith are subjected to legal and judicial interpretations.

We can be sure that these two cases in Selangor and Johor won’t be the first and the last because Bahasa Malaysia church services are conducted not only in Sabah and Sarawak, but also in an increasing number of churches in the peninsula.

This is the reality that we cannot avoid as a new generation of Malaysians, schooled in Bahasa Malaysia, would be more proficient and comfortable with Christian religious material in the national language.

It is also a fact that many Sabahans and Sarawakians are working in the peninsula. For practical reasons, we cannot be telling them to pray differently and use other versions of the Bible – those deemed appropriate by the authorities – when they are on this side of the South China Sea.

Let us not forget that many Indonesians working here are also Christians and like ordinary Malaysians, they also have spiritual needs. They too attend church services conducted in Bahasa Indonesia.

We need to find a middle ground that is acceptable to all. Common sense needs to prevail and we must understand and respect the state laws in place. As with any middle ground formula, not everyone would be happy but we would like to hear better solutions, if there are any.

The Bahasa Malaysia Al-Kitab that were seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia in Selangor and the hymn books in Johor have a distinct similarity – they were meant solely for the use of the Christians, and not for propagation to Muslims.

Churches in Malaysia understand the line and they will not cross it – it is an offence to propagate to Muslims and the usage of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims is also prohibited in many states.

But we also must take into account the historical practices of some Christians, especially native groups, and this is where the 10-point solution needs to be better understood and upheld.

It is a Cabinet decision and it is important that Federal and state agencies understand and respect the 10-point solution.

The Cabinet has reconfirmed the validity and its support for the 10-point solution, as was originally announced in April 2011, to manage the polarity of views between the various religious groups, in particular Christians and Muslims, taking into account the laws of the country.

As stated in the 10-point solution, for Sabah and Sarawak, there is no restriction on the import and local printing of Bibles in any language, including Bahasa Malaysia/Bahasa Indonesia and indigenous languages (referred to collectively as the “Alkitab”), as the Government recognises that there is a large Christian community of indigenous origin in these two states.

It is also in line with the spirit of the 18- and 20-point agreements, when Sabah and Sarawak became part of Malaysia. It has been argued these agreements allowed for full freedom of religion in both states.

The 10-point solution states that “as for Peninsular Malaysia, the Alkitab, whether printed in Malaysia or imported into Malaysia, must have the words ‘Christian Publication’ and the cross sign must be placed on the front cover as imposed by the Government in the interests of the larger Muslim community in Peninsular Malaysia”.

The paragraph above is important because in the case of the hymn books, they reportedly carried the picture of a crucifix, which would have clearly denoted that it is a Christian publication.

Sensibility vs sensitivity

There is no need for anyone to feel “sensitive” over a picture of a cross. In fact, churches become “centres” instead of “churches”, with local authorities flexing their muscles to show their displeasure over the word “church” on signboards. What more a cross outside the churches.

But to avoid unnecessary controversy, churches should consider stating boldly on all their Bahasa Malaysia publications that these are meant for non-Muslims.

Once this is explicitly stated, no individual or religious agency should have any reason to seize such publications on the grounds that they are deemed “sensitive”.

To put it in a simple way: it is like movie classifications. You do not go to a cineplex with your young children and choose a movie rated 18 or R because you know what they can or cannot watch.

These issues of seizing religious publications for whatever reason will continue to be with us because everyone will want to interpret the law in their own way. The religious authorities, the police and the Attorney-General can have differing viewpoints, which is why such matters continue to be played up in the press.

And all such reports will go global, giving the impression that Malaysia is becoming intolerant of other religions, even if they are isolated cases.

The 10-point solution, if given proper respect, can surely co-exist with the various state Islamic laws if the stakeholders can work out a practical arrangement, where an understanding can be reached and followed.

Some have correctly argued that the solution cannot have the force of law as it is only a Cabinet decision. But we as a nation have always shown we can agree on many things without them being written down in black and white. It is this musyawarah spirit that we must continue to build on, so we are not caught in legalistic battles over what can or cannot be done.

We, as a people, must love and care for one another to help pull this nation together. The bridges that connect are far more important than the walls some want to build to accentuate our differences.

Religion has never become so contentious in the history of Malaysia. It is frightening as groups seemingly compete for God’s attention and how we should call Him. So much anger has been invoked in the name of God and some of us have also unfortunately resorted to some very ungodly methods to push our agendas.

As we reach the end of the year, let us take the time to ponder and to extend the hand of friendship, to forgive and forget.

Regardless of our difference in religion, we must focus on the commonalities of respect, tolerance, compassion, patience, forgiveness and certainly moderation.

Let us not be afraid of the extremists with their hysterics because all religions teach us not to be afraid of men, whether kings, religious leaders or politicians, because they are mere mortals – but to be afraid only of God.

This writer is deeply encouraged by the actions of the 25 eminent Malays and those behind #IamNo26 in their attempts to bring moderate Malaysians together. There is hope and we hope 2015 will see moderates make their voices grow louder. I also wish Malaysians a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Students not prepared for ‘HOTS’ questions

THE recent SPM examination was both a devastating and heart-wrenching experience for the candidates.

As a teacher I feel that we had failed our students as we had not given them enough exposure in Form 4 or Form 5 to acquire the necessary skills to answer HOTS (Highly Optimum Thinking Skills) questions which were the type of questions in this year’s SPM.

We, as teachers, were also not informed about this. So, how were we to help our students?

As a dedicated teacher this is indeed heart-wrenching and upsetting, especially when even your best student was unable to answer the questions.

What about the others who are average students?

Are they going to be penalised because they had not have enough exposure to such skills or because the teachers were not equipped to teach them?

If a student gets a “B” does that mean he/she is below a candidate who obtained an “A” in the 2013 SPM?

At the end of the day it is the A+ and A's that people look at and not the type of questions the students were faced with.

What about my former students from the kampung in Kuala Terengganu who were in tears when they called me to complain that the revision of the textbooks, past year papers and revision books were no help at all in their preparation for this year’s SPM?

As a teacher I can feel the pain of my students, especially those who had been worked hard throughout their years in school.

Is the SPM going to judge them as average students?

It’s only fair to judge and assess the students’ capabilities if they were exposed to critical thinking throughout their school life.

They cannot be expected to handle HOTS questions in an exam that would determine their future.

To the students, the SPM is an important and crucial exam that would determine their future.

It appears that this year’s SPM has made many students, if not all, to think whether their future was taken into consideration by the Government or was the exam used as a tool to show that we could compete globally?

The students are willing to compete globally and proud to place the country on the world map as far as good education is concerned.

But is it fair to assess them in such manner in the SPM when they were never trained to apply critical thinking nor to attempt HOTS questions?

They were not exposed to such thinking in any way, be it in sukatan pelajaran, textbooks, past year questions or the classroom.

I feel that as a dedicated teacher I have failed in my task. Concerned Teachers Kuala Lumpur The STAR Letters 19 December 2014

Role of IT in transforming education

FUTURE LANDSCAPE: Access to quality education from anywhere and at any place


It is important that we provide technology anywhere, any time and at any age, says P. Kamalanathan.

THOSE who went to school in the 1950s and 60s remember lessons written on slate chalkboards. Those who studied in the 70s, 80s and 90s handed in homework and notes copied in piles of exercise books to the teacher.

Today, students learn in computer labs and/or use mobile notebooks in a wireless environment.

These changes in the education system are reflective of the times and needs of students. Technology has gone mainstream in all aspects of everyday life. It is becoming more pervasive in the education sector and it is important to utilise it optimally as a tool to equip students with 21st century skills by allowing access to and exploration of knowledge, innovation and collaboration across the globe.

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said this has always been the rationale for the adoption of information technology in the education system. “The advancement of technology in education started in 1996 with the Smart School programme, an initiative under the Multimedia Super Corridor project. We had a glimpse of the direction the world was heading with the use of technology and its potential impact on education. It (Smart School) became a pace-setter in the local education sector,” he said.

Smart Schools continue to provide students with the right skills for their future and this has been enhanced by 1BestariNet which offers high speed 4G mobile Internet and a Virtual Learning Environment that allow schools nationwide to connect to the Internet and share resources and, therefore, aim to give all students access to quality education.

“It is important that we provide technology anywhere, any time and at any age. Smart School technology and the Virtual Learning Environment will prepare children in the country for the future,” he added.

“Children have an affinity for technology. But how do you attract them to use technology to learn?

“A child will be attracted if there is a fun element, a reward scheme. Imagine a virtual reward scheme, where they accumulate points in exchange for coupons which allow access to a website where they click and learn at different levels.”

While admitting that the use of 1BestariNet and the Virtual Learning Environment are still not up to expectation, Kamalanathan pointed out that after close to three years of implementation, 11,155 educational content has been uploaded by teachers to the system that is available to 10,000 public schools in the country.

“Some 430,000 teachers specialise in a variety subjects in public schools. Imagine the impact if all of them create content. Schools without a biology teacher will get to download videos by expert teachers. So, a teacher in Kuala Lumpur can upload her video to the Virtual Learning Environment and a teacher in Bario, Sarawak will be able to use it to teach. That is what we mean by access to quality education from anywhere and at any place.”

Another stakeholder that has to buy in into the programme is the parents. “In the six to seven hours in school daily, we give students access to technology with the increased availability of computers. But many parents won’t allow access to computers for homework. They don’t understand that computers are not toys for play’s sake but are an educational tool.

“With 1BestariNet, parents now have the opportunity to monitor their child in school — they know if he goes to school on time; whether he does his work in class; and if he participates in co-curricular activities. Technology provides the transparent system to check on his development,” added Kamalanathan.

Technology too, he highlighted, can play a role in improving the country’s ranking in studies such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) where Malaysia was placed 39th out of 44 countries in the latest findings.

“PISA looks at three areas: reading, mathematics and science. It doesn’t cover technology. But technology will help to improve performance in the areas. The National Education Blueprint emphasises science, technology, engineering and math. Through the sharing of knowledge and linking with educational resources all over the world, we can be world-class.

” On whether investment in technology poses the danger of technology lock-in and render obsolete tools adopted, Kamalanathan said the Ministry is open to partnering with technology providers that bring value to education.

“There is enough room as long as the curriculum and pedagogy are intact,” he said.

For technology to be an effective tool in education, there must be buyin from all quarters.

“I encourage the use of technology among teachers and students so that teaching can be more innovative and learning fun.” He hinted at a programme — targeted to be launched in January — that will contribute towards the increase of technology use among teachers.

Kamalanathan was speaking on the sidelines at the inaugural Bett Asia Leadership Summit 2014 conference and expo in Singapore earlier this month.He presented the keynote address, Preparing Children for the Information Age: Malaysia’s Paperless SmartSchools Programme.

Mustapha’s heart of gold touched many

A STARLET who was famous for her acting and pretty face died recently. Despite her glamorous past, she lived a tough life after leaving filmdom. She told me there was a person who would always be there to extend assistance in difficult times. She hardly met him after their encounters during the golden era of Malay cinema in Singapore. But through an intermediary, he never failed to assist her financially. She was forever grateful.


Former ‘Berita Harian’ entertainment editor Akmal Abdullah with his book ‘Mustapha Ma’arof: Seniman Merentas Zaman’ at a book expo in Kuala Lumpur recently. Pic by Muhammad Asyraf Sawal

The person was Datuk Mustapha Maarof, who died last Monday, 14 days short of his 80th birthday.

The lady whom I met frequently before her demise respected Mustapha, “a gentleman and a friend”. Indeed he was, who had a heart of gold, providing assistance to others in need.

I have known Mustapha for many decades. A tireless worker and an indefatigable champion of the Malay film world, Mustapha was a workhorse even to the last days of his life.

He was entrusted by the Malaysian Film Board (Finas) to manage the wajib tayang (compulsory screening) initiative. We met occasionally over film matters but more often we spoke about films then and now.

The glamorous world of Malay Film Production, Cathay-Keris Film in the 1950s and 1960s in Singapore and later Merdeka Filem Studio at Hulu Kelang, unfortunately, did not guarantee a good future for many of its practitioners. Mustapha was painfully aware of that.

He was luckier than most, bracing for the worst when the studios closed in Singapore and the future of Merdeka Studio was uncertain in 1970s.

While many of his fellow artistes were struggling to make ends meet, Mustapha had companies to run and businesses to manage.

The story of Mustapha is as equally dramatic as some of the films he acted in, perhaps even more so.

His father was one of the first Malay bankers who started Malay National Bank. But he was kidnapped and murdered in 1947. Mustapha was then studying at Malay College Kuala Kangsar where the best and brightest Malay boys were schooled. The death of his father changed everything.

But the legacy of Ma’arof lives on. A major road in Bangsar is named after him.

For the young and good looking Mustapha, the only option after leaving school was to join the film world. He took a gamble going to Singapore and was employed by Cathay Keris, owned by Ho Ah Loke.

He was given a small part in Untuk Sesuap Nasi directed by L. Krishnan in 1953. The rest is history. Mustapha was a big star after appearing in many hit films, alongside the finest actors and actresses who graced the Malay film world at the time: P. Ramlee, Nordin Ahmad, Maria Menado, Roomai Noor, Saadiah and Ahmad Mahmud.

By the time Pontianak, Bawang Putih Bawang Merah, Yatim Mustafa, Seri Mersing and Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang were screened, he was already a big star.

It is a coincidence perhaps that the book on Mustapha came out days before his death. The book, Mustapha Ma’arof: Seniman Merentas Zamanwritten by Akmal Abdullah, a former entertainment editor with Berita Harian is published by Finas.

It is an informative book on the man and his trials and tribulations. It is part biography of the man and part history of the film world that he was involved with. There are many facts little known to us in the book, narrated with poise and sensitivity by the writer.

Not many knew that Roseyatimah was the fourth woman that he married after Zainab Sulong, Zuleikha Aman and Suraya Harun. Akmal came out with another surprise in the book, that Mustapha was in love with Saloma in the 1950s, before she married P. Ramlee.

The story involving Mustapha and Roseyatimah is the stuff of legends. Roseyatimah, who made her mark in P. Ramlee’s Pendekar Bujang Lapok(1959), was the daughter of another famous actress, Neng Yatimah, better known as Seniwati Air Mata (crying actress) for her ability to shed tears in many of her roles.

Roseyatimah died on the Dec 14, 1987, of breast cancer. Mustapha never remarried.

Mustapha admitted to Akmal that Roseyatimah changed him for the better. The 20 years they were together were his best years, full of love and happiness. Ironically Mustapha died on Dec 15, 27 years later and was buried next to Roseyatimah.

I lost a friend, the film world lost one of its most illustrious stars and the nation mourns the demise of an actor and a gentleman.

Human lessons in the humanities

WHAT does literature really do? A lecturer at one of the colleges of the University of London says that he has lost track of the number of times his students have told him that a poem or a passage from a novel had helped them understand philosophical ideas.

Dr Carwyn Hooper teaches ethics and law to medical students at St George’s, a college of the London university. He has impressive academic credentials — a doctorate in law, a postgraduate degree in philosophy, and he is a qualified medical practitioner. Yet, when he gives lectures to his students, he doesn’t rely solely on the depth of knowledge gathered from his years of study in various fields. He finds solace in poetry, urges his students to read literature, listen to (Henry) Purcell and study the way literary criticism is constructed or how film reviewers come to the conclusions they make after watching screen stories.

“Art, literature and film can also remind us that ethics is subtle, ambiguous and uncertain. In my experience, medical students often struggle with that. They want clarity when clarity is the antithesis of the ethical reality,” he writes in his op-ed article on the Live Science website. It is titled, “Why I teach Poetry and Opera to Medical Students”.

In life, a thing does not lie by itself in a separate compartment without rubbing shoulders with the other. We are what we do and what we know, and no matter how subtly they work, they do leave an imprint in our daily ventures. An understanding of philosophy may make you think deeply about matters at hand, which is why some people are now urging economists to look into ethics, not just their daily worries about how gold prices rise and fall. Will futures traders hedge so fiercely if they know how their doings affect the lives of rural farmers?

Medical students benefit from the teaching of humanities in various ways, says Dr Hooper. Of the primary reasons, empathy and compassion may serve them and their patients well in later years.

There are other benefits, from self-awareness and self-understanding, to name but two. Physician, know thyself, is a useful adage to begin with before they go on to knowing other people. And literature shines many lights onto many aspects of human nature.

To illustrate the human capacity to forgive, he recites the line from Alexander Pope’s poem, An Essay on Criticism (yes, it’s in heroic couplets), to his students.

You know the line: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Yes, patients usually forgive mistakes as long as the doctor is “honest and humble”, he tells his would-be doctors.

A new discovery? No. Many writers from literature’s past were lofty figures, high moralists with certain views about our conduct of life and how it ought to be. The retentive power of our mind is such that it will not just let these ideas pass unnoticed, as those young doctors find out when they themselves have to make an opinion or unravel complex philosophical posers.

The advantage of teaching these from literature is that the teacher can put ideas across to students from a position of neutrality. They enjoy and are made to think about what they enjoy. Even a jot of emotion will do because that is the beginning of empathy.

Why do characters do things that they do? How does that come about in a story? What effect will they have on themselves? On other people?

Narrative skill, character analysis, cause and effect, and consequences from your daily acts. And besides, children who read a lot will experience a lot more than those who read very little. Fiction is indeed reality served in a different way, but the effect from the imagined and the real can be similar. We learn not just from what we see and feel, but also from what we know.

Give a child a book and you will give him or her more than just ink on paper. A child’s reading is the beginning of a long adventure into many stories and a meeting with many people. And I have this on good authority.

I was at the Paddington station last week, where I saw an elderly person staring at a life-sized metal bear.

“I grew up with this chap,” the man told me.

“He taught me to be kind to strangers.”

I am grateful to two people, who wrote in to correct an error in my piece last week about keeping a journal or a commonplace book.

I mentioned a place that I called the Borroughs Museum. The place that I saw was actually the Wellcome Collection, in west London.

I write, sometimes, from the top of my head, and get things mixed up occasionally, in a hurry. I was, of course, thinking of Burroughs Wellcome and got the wrong end of a double barrel. My apologies to all and thanks to the two persons who emailed.

Many thanks.

WAN A HULAIMI NST Columnist 21 DECEMBER 2014 @ 8:06 AM

Producing intellectual heroes

THERE was a story of a 6-year-old girl who drew a picture of God during drawing class. She hardly ever paid attention to other lessons but art.

One day a teacher asked her, “What are you drawing, honey?”

The girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God”.

"Geniuses are made, not born"

Surprised with the answer, the teacher tried to reason: “But no one knows what God looks like”.

Calmly the girl replied, “They will in a minute”.

While the origin of the story is unknown, the message is substantive. Children are bold and imaginative. Unfortunately, as they become adults, they start losing creativity.

Children are indeed geniuses. They learn very fast. However, genius is individualised, not general. It is deep and different in all people.

In some domains, all humans are potential geniuses as God creates us equally. All talents, in fact, can be taught and learnt.

Professor William Maxwell, the chief executive officer of Inventive Quotient, said the fundamental key point of the genius principle is love. Genius is a product of love.

In reality, we can see that a child who is raised with lots of love will become more successful than a child who is lacking in love, especially from his family.

As a result, genius is not a discovery. It is a gradual realisation of ourselves. It is, however, pretty much influenced by time, environment and mentor.

To find the genius in ourselves, Maxwell suggested that we become more introspective, find one or more mentors, study intellect heroes, inspect our dreams and use classical aptitude.

Learning from intellect giants like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking is vital. What do they all have in common?

First and foremost, they are humans who have had some form of issues. Yet, they invested more than 10,000 hours in their field and are great mentors.

Which of the 226 nations of the world should take the lead and become the first genius nation?

The answer of many scholars will be surprisingly not the super power countries.

Maxwell, for example, based on his vast experiences teaching in over 50 countries since 1954, chose Fiji, Morocco and Malaysia as the first genius nations.

The reason is simply because these three are multiracial and multicultural countries.

He believes that these countries will be one of the geniuses leading other countries in the world.

He remembered that over 60 years ago, when he first visited Malaysia, he found that the citizens were fluent in the English language.

But now, the fluency has decreased. Perhaps today’s generation just learn English for the sake of passing examinations.

Why do we learn English when we have so many other easier languages? Perhaps Malay and Indonesian are easier. English, however, is one of the hardest languages to learn and understand. Nevertheless, since it is the international lingua franca, therefore, we should learn it properly.

Someday, we hope, our language (Bahasa Malaysia) will become one of the international languages used by many all over the world.

If we want to produce geniuses, first train and educate the parents appropriately because they are the first teachers for our children. Then, as Maxwell recommended, concentrate on educating those aged 5 to 9, because they are the pillars and leaders of the future.

In addition, pay the teachers a higher salary than janitors, doctors and lawyers, so we will have quality results. Get out of the old paradigm that only two per cent of us are geniuses. Start believing that all humans are potential geniuses.

And last, but not least, might we want to follow Plato’s prescription, begin teaching our children first with Math, Science and athletics. Ahmad Faizuddin, PhD student, Educational Management and Leadership, International Islamic University Malaysia

Be wary of those with hidden agenda

FULLY support the strengthening of the Sedition Act 1948 as it is a “necessary evil” to protect the nation against bigots and mischief doers, who are out to create chaos.

However, the law should be judiciously implemented and not abused to silence genuine critics of the government.

Of late, we have seen self-proclaimed “heroes” out to serve their own agenda. The people must be on guard against these elements.

I believe that the majority of Malaysians would agree with me that it is for our own good and security that we continue to support the present government as it has proved to be capable of ruling the country, although at times not the way we want.

As I mentioned in my autobiography, My Way, launched by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Sept  2, we have been fortunate to have capable leaders since Merdeka, who ruled with fairness and wisdom.

Our founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman, ensured that every citizen lived in peace and harmony.

This was translated to rapid development by our second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who introduced the New Economic Policy and gave the country political stability with the birth of Barisan Nasional.

The third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn, maintained the unity and stability of the country despite the communist menace.

His successor, Dr Mahathir, consolidated the achievements of his predecessors and brought much progress to our country.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who succeeded him, built on this foundation.

The government under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak is doing its best to maintain peace and stability, but some are not happy and want to see the nation break up.

Seeing the disunity among the opposition, it would be risky for Malaysians to vote them to power as they could mess up things. We have seen their antics in the recent menteri besar fiasco in Selangor.

When they can’t even get their act together at the state level, imagine them running the Federal Government.

The three partners in Pakatan are poles apart, each with its own policies and agenda.

Our beloved country has great potential and there are millions of capable citizens who are prepared to work hard to bring the nation to a developed status, if only they are given the latitude to use their talents.

As Dr Mahathir mentioned at the launching of my autobiography, the trade union movement in the country had greatly helped to develop the country by ensuring industrial harmony.

I was gratified that he cited me as an outstanding unionist who contributed much to the country’s stability for almost 30 years.

Democracy is alive in Malaysia and it is the responsibility of each and every Malaysian to safeguard it for the benefit of generations to come. A. Ragunanthan, former president, Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services, Kuala Lumpur. The NST Letters 20 December 2014

Ani Arope, the Malaysian who stood up years ago

If today we cheer Malaysians who stand up for what they believe to be true, please then remember the late Tan Sri Ani Arope who passed away today.

The 82-year-old stood up for what he believed in and against Malaysia's most powerful prime minister ever, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad way back in 1996.


Tan Sri Ani Arope released his long-awaited book 'Memoirs of Tan Sri Ani Arope' in October last year. – December 20, 2014.

Rather than sign off on generous power purchasing agreements with independent power producers in 1995, Ani quit as executive chairman of utility giant Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

He never looked back with an ounce of regret and a decade later, revealed the reasons that led to his departure from TNB – a utility that transformed from a government agency to a public-listed company during his tenure.

In an interview with The Star in June 2006, Ani gave details of the IPP deals that was arranged by the powerful Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister's Department in 1996.

"There was no negotiation. Absolutely none. Instead of talking directly with the IPPs, TNB was sitting down with the EPU. And we were harassed, humiliated and talked down every time we went there. After that, my team was disappointed. The EPU just gave us the terms and asked us to agree. I said no way I would.

"It was all fixed up. They said, this is the price, this is the capacity charge and this is the number of years. They said you just take it and I refused to sign the contracts. And then, I was put out to pasture," he had said.

Ani, who studied in St Xavier's Institution in Penang and was the only Malay in class during that time, also described his feelings about the deals that led to the first-generation of IPPs in Malaysia.

"I felt sick. It was morally wrong and not fair. If it is legal and not fair, I will not do it. If it is fair and illegal, I still won’t do it. It has to be legal and fair.

"We work for the consumers, workers and shareholders. TNB is morally obligated to these three, but the consumers come first, otherwise we won’t be around. It is then the workers and the shareholders.

"When I said that, they (EPU) said ‘Dia ingat bapak dia-punya’ (He thinks this is his father’s company).

"This job is an amanah (trust). You are entrusted with this responsibility and you carry it out to the best of your ability. I do not want somebody to come and urinate on my grave. In the Malay culture, that is about the worst insult they can do to a man," said the man who was also Malaysia's first Fulbright Scholar in 1966.

Before leaving his mark in TNB, the trained agronomist had worked in the public sector in premier agencies, such as Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) and Rubber Research Institute Malaysia (RRI).

Prior to joining TNB in 1990, Ani was chairman of Bank Simpanan Nasional and group chief executive of then plantation giant Guthrie Bhd.

In a citation for his honorary doctorate of laws in Indianapolis University in 1995, the Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Engineering and Technology dean Alfred R.Potvin said this of Ani, "He himself embodies the best result of a liberal education – a skilled generalist, a truly modern-day Renaissance man."

Malaysia has lost a towering Malaysian, a man who stood up for his beliefs and was willing to pay the price for it.

His remarkable achievements in and out of public service should be an inspiration to all Malaysians – that Malaysians can excel and be the best that they can be but also there are lines that cannot be crossed.

That honesty and integrity is more important than honours and positions. That we must stand up for what we believe to be right and true.

We had Ani doing that, and now the Group of 25. We must have more because our country needs us to be as principled as the late Tan Sri Ani Arope. – December 20, 2014.