March 8th, 2015

Kedaulatan institusi Raja mesti dipertahan

Ketika menyampaikan syarahan perdana budaya pada 7 November tahun 2012, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (kini Sultan Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah Sultan Azlan Shah) bertitah: "Raja Berperlembagaan adalah satu kelangsungan pemerintahan beraja. Kelangsungan yang dianggap ketinggalan zaman dalam kalangan setengah pihak yang rabun sejarah, lalu melakukan tafsiran dangkal, memilih untuk tidak mahu mengakui dan kurang mahu mendalami salasilah serta falsafah di sebalik institusi ini".

Syarahan berjudul Institusi Raja Berperlembagaan: Kelangsungan Negara Bangsa yang disampaikan cendekiawan diraja itu sangat bermakna dalam menyelami dan melakukan tafsiran berfakta mengenai dinamisme institusi itu di negara ini.

Institusi Raja mengalami evolusi daripada sistem beraja mutlak kepada sistem Raja Berperlembagaan. Ia mempunyai nilai dan kepentingan tersendiri. Jika dulu, sebelum terbentuknya institusi Raja Berperlembagaan, Raja adalah tonggak berpusatnya segala kuasa dan arahan perundangan, tetapi hari ini institusi Raja sudah diikat dengan semangat perlembagaan moden. Namun, ia tetap penting kerana kedudukan dan kuasa yang ada padanya seperti diperuntukkan dalam perlembagaan.

Kebelakangan ini, institusi yang sepatutnya dihormati berhadapan cabaran. Wujud pihak dan individu tertentu yang cuba mencanai persepsi negatif mengenai institusi Raja yang disebarkan melalui media sosial. Individu yang mengeluarkan kenyataan menghina Yang di-Pertuan Agong melalui media sosial amat ramai di negara kita. Demikian juga gelagat sesetengah ahli politik yang semakin melampau sehingga sanggup mengheret institusi Raja dalam kancah politik kepartian.

Antara perkara yang dipolitikkan berkaitan kuasa Yang di-Pertuan Agong ialah Perkara 153, iaitu tanggungjawab memelihara hak istimewa orang Melayu. Antara tuduhan liar mereka ialah peruntukan itu membeza-bezakan antara warganegara dan dianggap sebagai diskriminasi kepada kaum lain. Perkara 153 itu dibaca sebahagian sahaja. Ia juga tidak difahami dengan konteks sejarah.

Jika jujur mereka akan berlaku adil mengatakan Yang di-Pertuan Agong bertanggungjawab menjaga kepentingan semua kelompok masyarakat Malaysia. Peruntukan ini dengan jelas menyatakan Yang di-Pertuan Agong bertanggungjawab menjaga dan memelihara kedudukan dan hak istimewa orang Melayu dan masyarakat anak negeri Sabah dan Sarawak serta kaum lain.

Justeru Perkara 153 ini tidak sepatutnya dipolitikkan, sebaliknya menjadi asas kepada perpaduan masyarakat. Dari segi sejarah, peruntukan dan pengisian Perkara 153 dibincangkan dengan terperinci dan ia dapat diteliti dalam dokumen sejarah sejak dari Perjanjian Persekutuan Tanah Melayu 1948 lagi.

Ahli politik sepatutnya mengerti dan memahami kedudukan raja tidak bersifat politik. Mereka sepatutnya menghargai institusi Raja dan melihat kepentingan institusi Raja Berperlembagaan dalam konteks pembinaan negara bangsa. Mereka perlu membantu memperkukuhkan pemahaman rakyat mengenai institusi Raja supaya rakyat lebih menghargai dan memahami peranan Raja.

Penulis tersentuh dengan kerendahan budi Sultan Nazrin apabila menegaskan cabaran itu perlu ditangani berpandukan hikmah, kebijaksanaan, kearifan dan kematangan.

Dalam Majlis Syarahan Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) pada tahun 2013 pula, baginda menggesa kerajaan mengutamakan pendidikan asas kenegaraan peringkat sekolah dengan menyemai semangat setia kepada Raja dan negara, sesuai dengan kedaulatan Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Penghinaan terhadap institusi Raja oleh individu atau kumpulan wajar dianggap sebagai kesalahan yang patut dikenakan hukuman setimpal. Kebiadaban mereka wajar dikategorikan sebagai kesalahan serius kerana tindakan tidak bertanggungjawab itu menjejaskan imej institusi raja di negara ini.

Menghina dan memperlekeh kedudukan Raja-Raja Melayu itu tidak wajar dikatakan sebagai satu kebebasan bersuara kerana apa-apa peruntukan yang dimaktubkan dalam perlembagaan berkaitan peranan institusi Raja adalah sesuatu yang menepati kedudukan Raja yang mempunyai kedaulatan sendiri.

Kesimpulannya, institusi Raja mesti dihormati dan dipertahankan. Ia mempunyai kepentingan sama ada dari segi nilai kenegaraan dan sejarah. Dari segi roh kenegaraan, institusi Raja Berperlembagaan penting kerana ia menjadi payung kedaulatan negara, menaungi seluruh rakyat dan kepercayaan agama.

Institusi ini penting dalam menjamin kestabilan negara. Justeru, prinsip kedua rukun negara meletakkan Raja perlu ditaati. Kedudukan Yang di-Pertuan Agong sebagai Ketua Negara seperti termaktub dalam Perkara 32 (1) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Raja Melayu adalah kesinambungan sejarah dan warisan negara dan kewujudannya menjadi sebahagian identiti negara serta dilindungi perlembagaan. Justeru, institusi Raja sewajarnya menjadi mauduk dan subjek istimewa dalam minda dan jiwa rakyat negara ini kerana pada institusi inilah akan tersematnya kesetiaan kepada negara.   Mohd Ayob Abd Razid Berita Harian Kolumnis 7 Mac 2015

Radikalisme dunia Arab bukan jihad

Radikalisme atau fahaman melampau dan keterlaluan dalam menanggapi persoalan kehidupan bukan perkara baharu. Fenomena ini juga tidak terhad kepada satu kumpulan atau golongan. Fahaman ini boleh mempengaruhi sesiapa sahaja atau kelompok masyarakat.

Dalam konteks masyarakat Malaysia hari ini, kes remaja perempuan yang dilapor terpengaruh dengan fahaman radikalisme di Asia Barat mengejutkan semua pihak. Kes ini menunjukkan fahaman radikalisme dalam versi yang terbaharu menerusi label militan Negara Islam (IS) merentasi sempadan.

Jika benar kes remaja itu, semua pihak terutama keluarga perlu lebih berhati-hati meneliti perkembangan berfikir remaja hari ini. Namun, kita yakin kes berkenaan adalah terpencil dan tidak mewakili sifat dan watak keseluruhan generasi muda negara.

Fahaman radikalisme memang menjadi antara permasalahan dalam kehidupan masyarakat Muslim semasa. Banyak faktor menyumbang kepada perkembangannya sama ada bersifat dalaman atau luaran yang memerlukan penelitian khusus.

Sarjana Islam sejak beberapa dekad lalu mengenal pasti perkembangan gejala ini dan menyumbang pelbagai karya bagi membetulkan gejala songsang dalam pemikiran Islam ini. Seorang ulama iaitu Hassan al-Hudaibi menerusi bukunya, Nahnu Duat la Qudhat (Kita Pendakwah Bukan Hakim) mengesan gejala radikalisme dan mengajak masyarakat Muslim kembali kepada asas dan keperibadian terunggul mereka sebagai pendakwah bagi menjayakan perubahan masyarakat dan bukan menerusi pendekatan menghukum.

Perbuatan sebahagian masyarakat Muslim yang bertindak sebagai 'penghukum' dengan mengkafirkan saudara seagama hanya kerana ada perbezaan sikap dan pendirian yang boleh dipertimbangkan, menjadi dalil bagaimana gejala radikalisme menyerap di dalam hati dan fikiran mereka.

Radikalisme terus berleluasa

Kini, seolah-olah gejala radikalisme terus berleluasa. Tuntutan untuk mencegah dan memerangi fahaman radikalisme dalam beragama ini turut disumbangkan oleh ulama semasa Prof Dr Yusof al-Qaradhawi menerusi karya terbaru beliau, Fiqh Jihad.

Gejala radikalisme yang berkembang hari ini nampaknya disumbangkan oleh salah faham terhadap pengertian dan tuntutan jihad dalam Islam. Pandangan sempit terhadap konsep jihad yang difahami dalam dalam konteks 'jihad bersenjata' oleh sesetengah pihak adalah salah dari sudut pemikiran Islam sebenar. Hakikatnya, konsep dan kefahaman jihad dalam Islam amat luas pengertian.

Di samping faktor kecelaruan terhadap pengertian jihad serta sikap yang menggemari perbuatan menghukum sesama umat Islam yang membawa kepada merebaknya faham radikalisme ini, kecetekan fikiran sebahagian masyarakat Muslim memahami rentak semasa geopolitik di Asia Barat secara khusus mengusutkan lagi permasalahan ini.

Gejala permusuhan seperti tergambar dalam kezaliman IS di rantau itu tidak semestinya didorong oleh kepentingan keagamaan yang luhur. Kepentingan politik dan persaingan kekuasaan ekonomi dan pengaruh sesetengah kumpulan atau kabilah dalam kalangan masyarakat Muslim di rantau itu juga amat menonjol.

Dalam kes di Iraq, kekosongan ruang kekuasaan politik pasca pemerintahan Saddam Husin akibat peperangan dan dasar pecah dan perintah oleh kuasa besar berkepentingan menumbuhkan gerakan dan kumpulan politik tersendiri bagi mengisi ruang ditinggalkan.

Sebahagian dari kumpulan politik ini pula didapati menggunakan alasan atau justifikasi agama bagi mengabsahkan kepentingan pengaruh dan politik pada peringkat serantau dan tempatan.

Justeru, masyarakat Muslim tidak harus sama sekali terkeliru dengan seruan menyertai peperangan atas semangat dan tuntutan agama yang tidak pernah mendapat perakuan ulama dan sarjana Muslim sedunia.

Perluas pendidikan agama

Mencegah radikalisme bukan lagi bersifat sehala. Pelbagai faktor dan ruang yang berkesan perlu dimanfaatkan. Pendidikan agama yang sebenar perlu diperluaskan dalam pelbagai kaedah terutama menerusi media sosial dan maya hari ini. Perluasan pemahaman mengenai fenomena geopolitik serantau hendaklah dikembangkan perbincangannya.

Langkah lain juga tentu sekali menerusi kegiatan diplomatik antara negara Islam supaya perdamaian antara kumpulan dan negara bertelagah dapat diselesaikan secara aman.

Terlalu banyak kerugian yang ditanggung dunia Islam akibat krisis di Asia Barat. Apa yang lebih menyedihkan ialah korban kemanusiaan dan ketinggalan yang berterusan rantau itu dalam pelbagai bidang ketamadunan.   Dr Muhamad Razak Idris Berita Harian Kolumnis 7 Mac 2015

Peratusan wanita kita ke jawatan tertinggi capai KPI

Bersempena Hari Wanita Sedunia yang akan disambut hari ini, Malaysia sudah berjaya mengorak langkah serta menempa nama pada peringkat antarabangsa isu berkaitan wanita dalam sektor pekerjaan.

Mengikut Kajian Panduan Pendapatan Asia Hays 2015 yang baru dilaporkan oleh Hays iaitu syarikat pakar pengambilan kakitangan dan perekrutan antarabangsa, Malaysia mengatasi Jepun, Singapura dan Hong Kong dalam peratusan wanita berjawatan pengurusan tertinggi apabila mencatat 34 peratus, hanya sedikit ketinggalan di belakang China yang mempunyai 1.3 bilion penduduk.

Angka 34 peratus peratus ini bukan sahaja mengatasi peratusan wanita yang menjawat jawatan pengurusan tertinggi di negara maju seperti Jepun, malah lebih manis lagi ia mencapai Indeks Prestasi Utama (KPI) yang ditetapkan oleh Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Pada Jun 2011, Perdana Menteri mengumumkan dasar pembabitan sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus wanita pada peringkat pengurusan tertinggi dan pembuat keputusan dalam sektor korporat bagi meningkatkan jumlah wanita sebagai ahli lembaga pengarah.

Sasaran dicapai kurang lima tahun

Sehubungan itu, syarikat korporat terutama syarikat berkaitan kerajaan (GLC) dan syarikat yang disenaraikan di Bursa Malaysia diberi tempoh lima tahun untuk mencapai sasaran berkenaan. Namun, berkat ketegasan, komitmen dan kepemimpinan Perdana Menteri dalam pelaksanaan dasarnya, sasaran itu dapat dicapai dalam tempoh hanya empat tahun, yakni lebih awal daripada yang ditetapkan.

Bagi sektor perkhidmatan awam pula, kejayaan melangkaui 30 peratus wanita dalam jawatan pengurusan tertinggi pula telah diraih lebih awal sejak 2010 lagi, iaitu 32 peratus berbanding hanya 18.8 peratus pada 2004, tahun dasar itu mula dilaksanakan.

Komitmen Kerajaan Persekutuan mengintegrasi peranan wanita dalam pembangunan negara diperkukuhkan lagi dengan pelaksanaan Dasar Wanita Negara pada 2009 yang bersifat fleksibel dengan merangkumi sektor perkhidmatan awam dan korporat.

Matlamat utama dasar ini adalah untuk menjamin perkongsian saksama dalam memperoleh kemudahan sumber, maklumat, peluang penyertaan serta manfaat pembangunan kepada lelaki dan wanita, serta bagi menjamin keperluan dan peranan wanita turut diambil kira dalam segenap sektor pembangunan negara.

Kajian Panduan Pendapatan Asia Hays 2015 bukan sahaja menyaksikan Malaysia gah dalam aspek wanita, malah turut mencatatkan kejayaan yang membanggakan secara umumnya.

Contohnya, peningkatan gaji dalam kalangan rakyat Malaysia mencatatkan peningkatan ketara berbanding negara lain yang ditonjolkan pada peringkat awal laporan berkenaan.

Selain itu, Malaysia juga cemerlang dari segi manfaat pekerjaan apabila mendahului negara jiran iaitu Singapura dalam pelbagai aspek penting iaitu manfaat kesihatan, insurans, elaun pengangkutan dan perumahan serta pencen.

Pasaran pengambilan bidang kewangan dan perakaunan negara kita juga kekal kukuh merentas semua sektor yang mewujudkan kesan domino positif sehingga berjaya meningkatkan gaji pekerja dalam bidang ini. Arah aliran positif ini dijangkakan akan berterusan dalam tahun ini.

Pendekatan Islamik Kerajaan Pusat

Lebih menarik, pendekatan laporan ini turut menyatakan antara faktor pertumbuhan industri perbankan di Malaysia kerana pendekatan Islamik Kerajaan Persekutuan yang memperkenalkan akaun pelaburan patuh syariah dikenali sebagai Platform Akaun Pelaburan (IAP) bertujuan menarik pelabur institusi dan individu kaya dalam pasaran kewangan Islam.

Pelaksanaan Platform Akaun Pelaburan (IAP) ini bukan sahaja akan terus memacu industri perbankan Malaysia, malah adalah 'serampang dua mata' apabila ia juga sejajar dengan Indeks Syariah Malaysia yang baru dilancarkan dalam memastikan pentadbiran negara ini memenuhi semua aspek maqasid syariah.

Pengiktirafan bertaraf antarabangsa yang diterima ini wajar dijadikan penanda aras dalam hal ehwal sumber manusia amnya serta wanita khususnya bagi memastikan sektor pekerjaan di Malaysia kekal anjal demi menjamin pertumbuhan ekonomi negara yang maksimum dalam mencapai sasaran status negara maju pada tahun 2020. Muhammad Iqbal Ikhwandi Mat Zin Berita Harian Kolumnis 8 Mac 2015

Cabaran Mukhriz

PENGUMUMAN Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak bahawa DATUK MUKHRIZ TUN MAHATHIR akan dilantik sebagai Menteri Besar Kedah sekiranya Barisan Nasional (BN) diberikan mandat menubuhkan kerajaan di negeri itu merupakan antara faktor kemenangan BN dalam Pilihan Raya Umum Ke-13 (PRU-13). Imej bersih dan sederhana beliau menjadikan Mukhriz amat popular bukan sahaja di Kedah, malah di seluruh negara kerana rakyat meletakkan harapan tinggi kepada beliau. Namun, sebagai Menteri Besar Kedah, Mukhriz memerlukan lebih daripada imejnya untuk mengubah wajah negeri itu terutama bagi meningkatkan ekonomi dan menyediakan peluang pekerjaan, memandangkan Kedah bukan sebuah negeri yang kaya dengan hasil. Selain itu, sebagai muka baharu, beliau perlu membuktikan kepimpinannya untuk mendapat sokongan daripada rakyat dan parti, di samping menangani pengaruh Pas yang agak kuat di negeri tersebut. Kepada wartawan Mingguan Malaysia, JAMLIAH ABDULLAH dan jurufoto, ISMAIL KAMADIN, Mukhriz telah menjelaskan pencapaian dan cabaran beliau sejak dilantik sebagai Menteri Besar Kedah pada 6 Mei 2013.

MINGGUAN: Kerajaan negeri merancang enam projek mega dalam usaha memacu pembangunan Kedah untuk menjadi negeri maju, antaranya pembinaan Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kulim (KXP). Apakah perkembangan terbaharu tentang KXP?

MUKHRIZ: Setakat ini belum ada berita tentang KXP daripada Kerajaan Persekutuan namun kerajaan negeri masih menaruh harapan agar ada maklum balas kelak. Ada juga kebimbangan situasi ini mungkin disebabkan beban kewangan Kerajaan Persekutuan yang mungkin rasa berat nak luluskan, ini andaian saya... bukan berita yang saya terima daripada pihak mereka. Andaian ini saya buat daripada situasi semasa dengan kejatuhan harga minyak dan bajet yang disemak semula.

Jadi, saya keluarkan kenyataan bahawa apa yang kita minta daripada Kerajaan Persekutuan adalah kelulusan sahaja. Jangan terlalu bimbang tentang ada atau tidak dana yang mencukupi untuk tujuan pembinaan KXP sebab ada kaedah-kaedah lain yang boleh kita pertimbangkan untuk tujuan pembangunan lapangan terbang tersebut.

Harapan saya, sebelum keluar kenyataan yang mungkin negatif, saya awal-awal lagi ingin beri cadangan atau nak yakinkan kerajaan yang kita perlukan cuma kelulusan, namun kalau kerajaan mempunyai peruntukan tersebut kita sangat alu-alukan.

Apakah opsyen yang Datuk Seri fikirkan bersesuaian untuk dilaksanakan sekiranya cadangan pembinaan KXP tersebut mendapat kelulusan daripada Kerajaan Persekutuan?

MUKHRIZ: Saya pernah nyatakan bahawa antara faktor kejayaan bagi pembinaan KXP ialah wujud satu lebuh raya baharu, Lebuh Raya Sungai Petani-Inner Kedah Expressway (Spike). Spike akan menghubungi Perak utara khususnya Changkat Jering dan ini selari dengan Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan tetapi lebih ke timur dan melalui Bandar Baharu ke Kulim kemudian Sungai Petani.

Seterusnya akan sampai Taman Teknologi Tinggi Kulim (KHTP) dan bersebelahan dengan tapak yang dicadangkan untuk KXP. Saya dengar projek Spike sedang diberi pertimbangan positif oleh kerajaan untuk dimasukkan dalam Rancangan Malaysia Ke-11 (RMK-11).

Saya juga ada cadangan untuk industri penerbangan iaitu Bandar Raya Aero Kedah (Kedah Aerocity) di tapak yang terletak bersebelahan KXP.

Saya fikir dua faktor ini yang memungkinkan cara untuk kita membiayai pembinaan KXP. Lulus dahulu dan kita akan cari opsyen kerana saya ingin pertimbangkan banyak opsyen termasuk mungkin ada pihak swasta yang sanggup melabur. Jangan kata, tidak.

Cadangan Datuk Seri untuk membina KXP dengan anggaran bernilai RM1.6 bilion mendapat bantahan daripada Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang, Lim Guan Eng yang mempersoalkan justifikasi dari sudut ekonomi kerana terlalu hampir dengan Pulau Pinang yang sudah mempunyai lapangan terbang antarabangsa. Apa komen Datuk Seri?

MUKHRIZ: Pandangan saya, kalau kita lihat unjuran pertumbuhan ekonomi bagi Pulau Pinang nampaknya akan lebih menjurus ke arah sektor perkhidmatan kerana negeri itu tidak mempunyai bidang tanah yang luas. Sudah sampai satu tahap mungkin tidak sesuai untuk kerajaan Pulau Pinang memberi penekanan kepada sektor industri atau pengeluaran yang memerlukan tanah yang luas dan pekerja yang ramai.

Itu agaknya pertimbangan Pulau Pinang apabila mengisytiharkan projek penyumberan luar proses perniagaan (BPO) berdekatan Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Bayan Lepas. Ia tidak perlu ruang yang terlalu luas tetapi lebih kepada modal insan yang memerlukan kemahiran tinggi dan kerja yang diwujudkan di situ bergaji lumayan.

Lantas kerja mengeluarkan produk boleh ditumpukan ke kawasan lain iaitu kawasan yang luas dan jumlah penduduk yang lebih ramai... mana lagi kita lihat kawasan yang sesuai melainkan Kedah kerana berjiran dengan Pulau Pinang.

Saya tidak lihat cadangan yang kita buat ini sebagai satu saingan terhadap Pulau Pinang dan saya rasa ada cara yang kita boleh lakukan saling bantu membantu antara Kedah dengan Pulau Pinang. Saya rasa Pulau Pinang tidak perlu rasa bimbang dengan apa yang kita cadangkan.

Bajet Kedah 2015 dibentangkan dalam unjuran defisit kira-kira RM60 juta. Apakah Datuk Seri yakin kerajaan negeri dapat mengakhiri tahun kewangan ini dengan lebihan atau bagaimana?

MUKHRIZ: Inilah antara cabaran yang paling besar bagi pentadbiran saya sekarang yang kita sebenarnya hadapi kekangan dari segi hasil. Pendapatan kita waktu ini tidak seberapa seperti mana diharapkan kerana bagi satu-satu negeri biasanya sumber asli selain cukai, tanah dan sebagainya yang jadi pendapatan bagi negeri.

Kita bukan negeri kaya seperti ada sumber minyak, gas, dan sebagainya malah galian pun terhad. Pembalakan juga bukan sesuatu yang kita galakkan. Jadi kita tidak ada pilihan kecuali untuk buka lebih banyak bidang tanah bagi tujuan industri. Saya sangat percaya jika kita tumpu sektor ekonomi, kesan sampingan langsung atau tidak, bantu lonjak ekonomi dan bantu untuk hadapi masalah kekangan kewangan.

Saya sedang berusaha pastikan defisit RM60 juta itu kekal tahap itu sahaja, tidak lebih daripada itu dan sekarang kita cuba cari pendapatan lain untuk tampung perbelanjaan bagi keperluan rakyat.

Paling penting fikir luar kotak dengan mencari pendekatan luar biasa untuk jana pendapatan negeri. Orang mungkin kata, kita minta saja daripada Kerajaan Pusat tetapi sampai bila? Saya tidak selesa jika hutang Kedah kepada kerajaan adalah tinggi. Kita mesti tunjuk kebolehan untuk berdikari dan satu hari kita sumbang lebih banyak pendapatan cukai kepada Kerajaan Pusat.

Selepas dilantik sebagai Pengerusi Badan Perhubungan UMNO Negeri Kedah pada 2013, bagaimana tahap sokongan bahagian-bahagian UMNO terutama warlord UMNO kepada kepimpinan Datuk Seri?

MUKHRIZ: Saya akui di peringkat awalnya sebagai orang baharu dan yang dianggap anak muda, tentu saya kena tunjuk prestasi kerja yang meyakinkan kepada pemimpin senior, abang-abang yang sudah lama memegang kepimpinan parti di peringkat bahagian.

Kemenangan kita pada PRU-13 satu faktor yang meyakinkan dan saya juga terima hakikat bahawa ketua bahagian tentu lebih faham apa keadaan sebenar di kawasan dia sendiri. Jadi, di peringkat perhubungan negeri, kita tidak berhasrat campur tangan dalam hal yang lebih baik untuk satu bahagian itu. Hanya kadang-kadang sahaja bukan kita nak campur tangan, kita beri pandangan untuk pertimbangan bahagian. Tujuannya membantu mereka supaya lebih bersedia menghadapi PRU-14.

Jika pun ada isu dalam parti yang menyatukan hati kita semua ialah keinginan dan iltizam untuk pastikan BN bukan sahaja menang di Kedah pada PRU-14, malah tambah lagi jumlah kerusi yang kita menang di peringkat DUN dan Parlimen.

Isu politik dalaman hanya akan menjejaskan kedudukan kita sebagai parti memerintah seolah-olah kita khianati perjuangan parti. Jadi kita tidak perlu bertengkar sehingga memudaratkan parti. Setakat ini tidak pernah berlaku lagi, pandangan berbeza itu biasa tetapi tidak pernah dalam mesyuarat berlaku salah faham atau perbezaan pendapat yang di luar kawalan. Semua dengan semangat kekeluargaan satu hati untuk mempertahankan kuasa yang diberikan oleh rakyat.

Pengaruh kuat Pas di Kedah terbukti apabila merampas negeri ini dalam PRU-12 pada 2008. Selepas BN menang semula di Kedah dalam PRU-13 dan Datuk Seri dilantik sebagai Menteri Besar, apakah usaha dan program untuk meningkatkan semula keyakinan rakyat kepada BN?

MUKHRIZ: Antaranya, Program Mesra Rakyat walaupun program kerajaan negeri, saya fikir rakyat dapat lihat kepimpinan yang turun padang itu bergerak bersama kepimpinan bahagian seperti di Pendang baru-baru ini. Secara tidak langsung rakyat dapat lihat kesan positif yang boleh dikaitkan dengan UMNO dan BN.

Satu lagi contoh adalah apabila kita bina lebih banyak rumah kos rendah, rakyat dapat lihat – soal perumahan rakyat sebelum ini tidak diberi penekanan oleh kerajaan negeri terdahulu dan tidak banyak rumah mampu milik dibina pada penggal lepas, walhal bagi kami itu nombor satu. Setakat ini hampir 20,000 rumah sedang dan akan dibina. Momentum itu akan diteruskan.

Rakyat dapat bezakan dua pentadbiran ini walaupun sekarang masih kerajaan Kedah tetapi logo dahulu hijau, sekarang merah.

Dengan usaha-usaha yang dibuat ini, apakah Pas kini masih mempunyai pengaruh yang kuat di Kedah atau sudah semakin berkurangan? Apakah indikator yang menunjukkan tahap pengaruh Pas di Kedah?

MUKHRIZ: Saya sebenarnya lihat Pas bermasalah. Ini satu hikmah di sebalik sepenggal di bawah pentadbiran Pas dahulu. Sebelum ini sebagai pembangkang kerja mereka (Pas) hanya bangkang dan mereka tidak perlu buktikan mereka lebih baik, mereka cuma perlu timbul rasa sangsi terhadap BN untuk yakinkan rakyat.

Hikmahnya, kerajaan negeri di bawah Pas telah buktikan bahawa mereka tidak ada pengalaman atau keupayaan, cakap senang nak buat susah.

Jadi bila kembali kepada keadaan asal dengan menjadi pembangkang semula, mereka sekadar nak bangkang saja persoalan timbul sedangkan waktu mentadbir dahulu pun mereka tidak boleh buat. Rakyat dapat menilai prestasi kerja mereka ketika mentabdir dahulu.

Yang ada sekarang isu hutang Kolej Universiti Insaniah di Kuala Ketil, itu tanggungan kewangan yang terpaksa kita tanggung. Bayangkan jika ada RM56 juta, berapa banyak rumah kos rendah yang boleh kita bina, tetapi itu legasi Pas yang terpaksa kita terima.

Dari segi itu kita fikir mereka ada masalah besar dan saya tidak perlu menjawab apa yang mereka bangkitkan kerana penilaian itu dibuat oleh rakyat sendiri.

Bercakap pasal pemilihan UMNO. Dalam pemilihan UMNO pada 2013, Datuk Seri membuat kejutan apabila hampir berjaya memenangi satu daripada tiga jawatan Naib Presiden tetapi hanya tewas dengan sembilan undi. Apakah Datuk Seri masih mahu bertanding jawatan sama dalam pemilihan parti akan datang?

MUKHRIZ: Ikhlas saya katakan bahawa pertimbangan saya adakah UMNO dan BN cukup kuat hadapi PRU-14. Kita tengok apa yang berlaku dalam BN. Itu semua jadi pertimbangan saya dan saya tidak melihat sangat ke mana saya hendak pergi dalam parti.

Itu semua akan timbul apabila keadaan UMNO menimbulkan suasana itu dan biasanya dekat pemilihan, walaupun saya lihat sekarang sudah ada orang bercakap-cakap mengenai.

Saya rasa belum tiba masa lagi... kalau tertumpu sangat kepada pemilihan parti, rakyat tidak seronok dan jauh hati dengan kita.

Ada cakap-cakap di Kedah mengatakan Datuk Seri kurang beri komitmen di Kedah kerana banyak berada di luar negeri dan negara. Apa pandangan Datuk Seri tentang perkara ini?

MUKHRIZ: Saya lihat itu tidak benar. Bila perkara itu dibangkitkan saya tengok balik rekod perjalanan saya ke luar negara termasuk yang rasmi untuk tarik pelaburan pun tidak banyak. Kemudian cuti pun cukup-cukup saja yang dibenarkan.

Saya lebih kerap di negeri sebab bermastautin di sini malah urusan rasmi di Kuala Lumpur pun banyak tetapi saya selalu juga wakilkan kepada Exco ke sana.

Namun apa yang lebih penting ialah prestasi kerja yang saya lakukan memberi manfaat kepada negeri atau tidak. Pada zaman sekarang walau di mana saja kita berada, kita boleh berhubung 24 jam kalau timbul perkara yang memerlukan perhatian untuk disegerakan. Setakat ini tidak ada masalah jika saya hendak dihubungi.

Saya selalu pastikan saya tumpukan perhatian kepada Kedah dan tidak benar sangkaan pihak tertentu bahawa saya kerap berada di luar negara. Saya tidak pasti dari mana datangnya cerita itu.

Konvensyen UMNO Kedah yang diadakan 14 dan 15 Mac ini akan dirasmikan oleh Perdana Menteri, apakah fokus utama konvensyen tersebut?

MUKHRIZ: Konvensyen ini penting. Kita nak sentuh beberapa topik ekonomi, sosial dan politk di peringkat negeri. Ini juga peluang terbaik untuk semua ahli UMNO berhimpun, berbahas dan berbincang tentang topik tersebut. Saya menjemput semua pimpinan di peringkat bahagian termasuk sayap parti dan juga pengerusi di peringkat Pusat Daerah Mengundi (PDM).

Saya harap kita dapat kemukakan banyak usul yang akan membantu persiapan PRU-14 daripada semua bahagian kerana fokus kita ialah bagaimana hendak perkuatkan parti. - Utusan Malaysia Rencana 8 Mac 2015

Kenapa Mokhzani letak jawatan?

KUALA LUMPUR 7 Mac - Tindakan Tan Sri Mokhzani Tun Dr. Mahathir, 54, meletakkan jawatan selaku Naib Pengerusi SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd. (SapuraKencana) pada 4 Mac lalu mencetuskan pelbagai spekulasi memandangkan tiada alasan kukuh dinyatakan.

Mokhzani Mahathir

Berdasarkan makluman SapuraKencana kepada Bursa Malaysia pada 4 Mac lalu, alasan Mokhzani meletakkan jawatan adalah atas sebab-sebab peribadi dan turut dinyatakan bahawa Mohkzani tidak mempunyai sebarang pertikaian dengan ahli-ahli lembaga pengarah yang lain.

Tindakan mengejut Mokhzani meletakkan jawatan itu menimbulkan persoalan dalam kalangan pihak industri serta masyarakat umum mengenai punca utama beliau mengundurkan diri.

Selain Mokhzani, turut mele­takkan jawatan adalah Yeow Kheng Chew yang merupakan Pengarah Bukan Eksekutif SapuraKencana dan kedua-dua mereka masih mempunyai pegangan di dalam Sapura­Kencana sebanyak 9.12 peratus menerusi Khasera Baru.

Pengunduran Mokhzani dan Kheng Chew itu menjadikan SapuraKencana diterajui oleh Pre­siden dan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Kumpulannya, Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin yang mempu­nyai pegangan seba­nyak 16.71 peratus.

Sehingga kini, masih belum ada sidang akhbar dibuat oleh pengurusan SapuraKencana mengenai peletakan jawatan Mokhzani, dan Shahril juga masih mendiamkan diri berhubung perkara tersebut.

Ada beberapa pihak membuat spekulasi bahawa hubungan dingin antara Shahril dengan Mokhzani dan hala tuju yang berbeza menjadi antara sebab Mokhzani meletakkan jawatan.

Mokhzani yang merupakan anak kepada bekas Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, mula me­nyertai lembaga pengarah Sapura­Kencana pada Disember 2011.

Beliau merupakan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Kencana Petroleum Bhd. sebelum syarikat itu bergabung de­ngan SapuraCrest Petroleum Group yang diterajui oleh Shahril bagi membentuk SapuraKencana pada 2012.

Penggabungan SapuraCrest de­ngan Kencana Petroleum disifatkan sebagai pembentukan sebuah entiti besar dalam kalangan pemain industri tempatan untuk bersaing dalam se­nario global industri minyak dan gas.

Mokhzani menjadi tumpuan umum apabila disenaraikan antara 20 orang paling kaya di Malaysia oleh majalah antarabangsa Forbes tahun lalu pada kedudukan ke-15 dengan nilai AS$1.2 bilion (RM4.42 bilion).

Bagaimanapun, dengan kejatuhan harga minyak dunia, majalah berkenaan pada tahun ini meletakkan kedudukannya pada tempat ke-26 dengan nilainya menyusut kepada AS$700 juta (RM2.5 bilion).

Status banduan

SETAKAT ini Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim telah mula menjalani hukuman penjara lima tahun setelah sabit kesalahan meliwat atau dalam bahasa Perkara 377(b) Kanun Kesiksaan (Penal Code) melakukan persetubuhan di luar tabii. Seksyen ini terpakai dan berkuat kuasa semenjak tahun 1898 di Negeri-negeri Tanah Melayu (Malay States). Nas yang sama juga terpakai di England, Amerika Syarikat, India, beberapa negara Afrika yang ditadbir urus di bawah Common Law.

Keputusan penghakiman Mahkamah Persekutuan (mahkamah tertinggi di negara ini) sebulat suara mendapati Anwar melakukan persetubuhan di luar tabii. Setelah berada di dalam penjara, penasihatnya yang menyebelahi beliau mengumumkan bahawa lantaran suatu rayuan pengampunan telah disembahkan kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong maka hak keahlian Parlimennya masih berkuat kuasa, justeru – menurut mereka lagi – Anwar berhak hadir dalam sidang Dewan Rakyat, 9 Mac ini (esok). Pendapat ini salah dan bahaya besar kepada kedaulatan undang-undang dan kehakiman negara.

Penasihat Anwar berpendapat dengan mengemukakan dokumen yang didakwanya bersifat rayuan kepada Sri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong, kuat kuasa perintah dan hukuman Mahkamah Persekutuan itu berada dalam keadaan tergantung. Kononnya Anwar boleh hadir di Parlimen sebagai Ahli Dewan Rakyat. Jika ini dibiarkan bukan sahaja keputusan Mahkamah Persekutuan disia-siakan, peranan dan kuasa diraja juga turut disalah guna.

Beberapa pihak daripada pimpinan kerajaan juga mula mewarnai situasi ini dengan beberapa pandangan yang juga tidak mengukuhkan kedaulatan undang-undang, seolah-olah penghakiman Mahkamah Persekutuan itu boleh digantung tanpa tali semata-mata atas dakwaan bahawa pihak diraja kononnya ada kuasa berbuat sedemikian.

Sesuatu yang sudah terang dan jelas kini – cuba dikaburkan, seolah-olah sistem perundangan dan kehakiman di negara ini sudah hilang punca.

Agar pihak-pihak berkepentingan tidak melulu terus, amat wajar dua peruntukan Perlembagaan Persekutuan diteliti dan difahami. Pertama, Perkara 48(1)(e) Perlembagaan Persekutuan menyentuh kehilangan kelayakan menjadi Ahli Parlimen seperti berikut:

48(1)(e) …seseorang hilang kelayakan untuk menjadi ahli mana-mana satu majlis Parlimen jika: (e) dia telah disabitkan atas suatu kesalahan oleh sesuatu mahkamah di Persekutuan…dan dihukum dengan pemenjaraan selama tempoh tidak kurang daripada satu tahun atau denda tidak kurang daripada dua ribu ringgit dan dia tidak dapat pengampunan bebas.

Di bawah Perkara 48(3) pula bahasanya ialah:

Kehilangan kelayakan seseorang di bawah perenggan (d) atau perenggan (e) Fasal (1) boleh dibatalkan oleh Yang di-Pertuan Agong dan, jika tidak dibatalkan sedemikian, hendaklah terhenti pada akhir tempoh lima tahun yang bermula daripada tarikh penyata yang disebut dalam perenggan (d) tersebut dikehendaki diserahkan atau, mengikut mana-mana yang berkenaan, daripada tarikh orang yang disabitkan sebagaimana yang disebut dalam perenggan (e) tersebut dilepaskan daripada jagaan atau daripada tarikh denda yang disebut dalam perenggan (e) tersebut dikenakan ke atas orang itu dan seseorang tidaklah boleh dihilangkan kelayakannya di bawah perenggan (f) Fasal (1) semata-mata oleh sebab apa-apa jua yang dilakukan olehnya sebelum dia menjadi warganegara.

Pemerhatian dan penelitian tentang Per. 48(1)(e) ialah:

- Banduan telah disabitkan satu kesalahan oleh sesuatu mahkamah Persekutuan;

- Banduan dihukum pemenjaraan lima tahun (lebih dua tahun daripada syarat tempoh minimum di bawah Per. 48(1)(e).

- Banduan tidak dapat pengampunan bebas.

Pemerhatian dan penelitian kedua tentang Per. 48(3) pula ialah:

- Kehilangan kelayakan sebagai Ahli Parlimen di bawah Fasal 1(e) boleh dibatalkan oleh Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

- Tetapi jika kehilangan kelayakan sebagai Ahli Parlimen di bawah Fasal 1(e) itu tidak dibatalkan oleh Yang di-Pertuan Agong, kehilangan kelayakan sedemikian berterusan selama lima tahun.

- Perenggan (a), (b), (c), (d) dan (f) di bawah Per. 48(1) tiada kaitan dengan kes liwat Anwar. Yang berkaitan hanya dengan perenggan (e).

Sekiranya benar bahawa suatu rayuan bertulis telah dikemukakan oleh Anwar kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong perbuatan itu tidak mengubah atau menukar status sedia ada sehingga boleh menganggap Anwar tiba-tiba layak menghadiri sidang Parlimen jika Yang di-Pertuan Agong membatalkan kehilangan kelayakan itu.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong memang boleh membatalkan kehilangan kelayakan Anwar sebagai Ahli Parlimen serta mengampunkannya sebagai peliwat atau atas kesalahan melakukan persetubuhan di luar tabii di bawah seksyen 377(b) Kanun Kesiksaan. Tetapi baginda hanya boleh membatalkan kehilangan kelayakan itu melalui prosedur yang lengkap di sisi undang-undang negara.

Anwar tidak boleh dibebaskan sekalipun untuk menghadiri sidang Dewan Rakyat dengan hanya mengutus surat minta ampun. Ayat boleh dibatalkan oleh Yang di-Pertuan Agong merupakan kuasa yang ada dan diberi oleh Perlembagaan, namun ia tidak boleh dilakukan oleh baginda secara sewenang-wenang mengikut budi bicara baginda. Walaupun peranan mengampun adalah hak Yang di-Pertuan Agong namun baginda tidak boleh bertindak sendirian kecuali setelah menerima nasihat daripada Peguam Negara.

Kehendak Per. 42(11) Perlembagaan pula mewajibkan pematuhan tentang penubuhan dan operasi Jemaah Pengampunan yang ia hendaklah dilaksanakan di hadapan Yang di-Pertuan Agong dan disertai antara lain oleh Peguam Negara dan, dalam kes ini, menteri yang bertanggungjawab terhadap Wilayah Persekutuan. Sesuatu Jemaah Pengampunan itu hendaklah menerima apa-apa nasihat atau pandangan bertulis Peguam Negara.

Belum pernah berlaku atau dilakukan sesuatu pengampunan oleh Raja Berperlembagaan dalam tempoh yang kurang daripada dua tahun selepas jatuh hukum oleh sesuatu mahkamah. Dalam kes Anwar, beliau atau penasihatnya mahukan proses itu dijadualkan dalam tempoh hanya beberapa minggu selepas menjalani hukuman pemenjaraan.

Perundangan negara serta sistem yang terasas kepada Perlembagaan dan undang-undang di bawahnya menegakkan kedaulatan dan keteguhan negara dan keutuhan rakyat Malaysia sendiri. Mencabul ketentuan itu adalah bersifat menceroboh keadilan dan kenegaraan. - Utusan Malaysia Rencana 8 Mac 2015

Imprisoned, but still important

NEXT Monday, the third session of the 13th Parliament of Malaysia will commence, amid a host of contentious issues likely to come up for debate during this sitting.

Among them are repeated concerns over the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in April, and the Private Member’s Bill on hudud to be tabled by PAS.

There is also the eagerly awaited Anti-Terrorism Bill which is expected to contain several provisions similar to the repealed Internal Security Act in eradicating militancy and violent extremism.

As such, we can expect heated debates and the usual mud-slinging from both sides of the floor.

The only difference is that this time, the august house will be missing a recognised opposition leader to lead the dissenting voices.

Pakatan Rakyat still has time to pick a replacement for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is currently serving a five-year jail sentence after his sodomy conviction was upheld by the Federal Court on Feb 10. 

Possible candidates include his wife PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, or DAP’s Lim Kit Siang. Perhaps even PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

However, it appears a replacement so soon is not being considered, given the lengths PKR has gone to in ensuring their jailed leader hangs on to his parliamentary seat, and by extension his political career, for as long as possible.

First, Anwar’s family filed a petition for a royal pardon at the eleventh hour to prevent him from being automatically disqualified as the Permatang Pauh MP.

PKR have now applied for him to be permitted to attend the Dewan Rakyat sitting in his official capacity when it convenes on March 9.

I don’t believe Pakatan were prepared to lose Anwar to jail another time, let alone ready to replace him as the face of the coalition.

PKR may be pushing its luck a bit too far by demanding that a jailed MP be allowed to attend Parliament, but then again, Anwar is no ordinary criminal.

The argument of guilt or innocence does not even arise in choosing whether to grant him leave from prison.

It is sufficient to note that he will not be a threat to himself or others if let out temporarily, as was the case when he appeared at the High Court three days after his imprisonment to testify in his defamation suit against Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

Anwar’s case is also unique in the sense that he will continue to remain an MP until the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has deliberated on his appeal for pardon, which could take months.

If not allowed to attend Parliament, it will render him ineffective as a people’s representative. And under such a scenario, his constituents would end up as the biggest losers.

Based on that reasoning alone, his presence in Parliament makes legal and logical sense. Any decision to the contrary would be an affront to the democratic process. 

PKR’s almost daily statements on the matter have put the Federal Government under further pressure, even prompting the Home Minister to shift the burden of responsibility to the Attorney-General.

Call it gaining “brownie points”, but the Barisan Nasional-led government could do with some after the backlash from Anwar’s conviction, which many believe was politically motivated.

I for one would not place much hope on seeing Anwar out in the open again so soon, but who knows?

Blocking someone on social media

It is fallacious to argue that blocking someone on social media constitutes a denial of a person’s freedom of speech and expression.

I recently decided to trim my Facebook friends list. I was foolish enough before to approve almost all friend requests that came my way without any sort of filtering process.

However, I regretted my lackadaisical attitude to social media privacy when my Facebook posts were screencaptured and used in attacks agianst me. In order to lessen the likelihood of such instances I then decided to unfriend people whom I deduced from their own Facebook posts were likely to screencap mine. Yes, it was an inelegant and unscientific method, but it was necessary.

Social media has changed our lives tremendously. It has, to a large extent, empowered the masses. But it has also brought about new ways to offend, insult, annoy, attack, harass and harm other people.

That is why social media mediums such as Twitter and Facebook have introduced functions such as “Block”, “Remove as Friend”, “Unfollow”, “Mute” and so on. Basically, it is so that you may have a social media experience that is enjoyable.

Many social media users have made a big deal of how politicians, elected representatives, celebrities or state officers block them on social media. They claim that these people do not respect freedom of speech and expression by blocking other users on social media.

It is fallacious to argue that blocking someone on social media constitutes a denial of the blocked person’s freedom of speech and expression.

Freedom of speech and expression is the right to say something or express thoughts about something. If you are stopped from saying something, then your freedom of speech and expression has been denied or restricted. If you say something and then you are punished for it, then that constitutes a restriction on your freedom of speech and expression.

It must also be emphasised that it is usually the State that has the responsibility to uphold freedom of speech and expression and it is also the State that is usually the biggest culprit in denying the same.

But if, for example, you are blocked on Twitter by another user, that is not a denial of your rights. You are still free to say whatever you want, even about the person who blocked you. The only difference is that the person who blocked you cannot see your tweets and you cannot see that person’s tweets. You also cannot “mention” him and vice versa.

Your right to free speech and expression does not come with the right to force other people to listen to you. If you shout something via a loudhailer, you cannot claim that your freedom of speech and expression is violated if other people in the vicinity cover their ears.

There is some merit in the argument that elected representatives and ministers should not block social media users, as they play a public role and people should be able to communicate with them. But the basis of that meritorious argument is good governance, openness and transparency, not freedom of speech and expression.

Also, these people, even though they are essentially public officers, should be able to exercise the option of blocking some users who are abusive to them. This should have nothing to do with freedom of speech and expression.

Your social media activities should not be open to abuse. Your social media experience should not have to be painful. So go ahead and unfriend, and block away!

The Bar Council’s credibility problem

In 2012, after three years in the civil service, I left to complete the last phase of my legal education. Despite graduating in law in 2008, I postponed my chambering or pupilage (as it is known in England and Wales) and I believed that after four years it was wise for me to complete it.

The chambering process is a nine month legal training that is conducted jointly by the Bar Council, the relevant state bar committee and also the law firm in which the chambering student’s master is practicing in.

However, a lot of the seminars I attended during the course of my legal training as a chambering student was informative but was heavily peppered with critiques of the government and government policy.

As a former civil servant, I was obviously perturbed by this trend but I also found that my colleagues who were undertaking the training with me were not necessarily sold on this anti-government slant that was adopted most of the time.

While some tension between the legal profession and the government is a necessary feature of any democracy but at the same time one should never oppose for the sake of it.

In 2011, the Bar Council in an Extraordinary General Meeting condemned the government’s handling of the Bersih 3.0 rally even before any official findings could be made by the authorities or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).

By jumping the gun, the Bar Council hurt its own credibility because no one should be pronounced as guilty of any wrongdoing before a full and proper investigation and hearing.

Fast forward to 2015, the Bar Council claimed that the government was persecuting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim after he was found guilty by the Federal Court for sexually assaulting his former aide.

Malaysia is a constitutional democracy that practices the doctrine of separation of powers and to insinuate that the executive influenced the judiciary in Anwar’s case is mischievous.

There have been a myriad of instances when the courts have decided against the executive and the government as a whole be it in defamation and other cases.

In times like this the Bar Council should highlight the judiciary’s independence and not seek to undermine the administration of justice and the rule of law by constantly painting a picture of judicial manipulation by the executive every time a decision is made that some members of the Bar find disconcerting.

I have many good friends who practice as lawyers and I welcome the scrutiny that the Bar Council seeks to provide however they must do so in a just and fair manner minus their personal political proclivities.

The Bar Council must work with the government of the day to ensure proper and effective administration of justice and the rule of law is upheld.

Learn from history and strive for better future

I REFER to the letter “Narration of the history of nations” by Arof Ishak (The Star, March 5). While I appreciate the author’s effort in correcting June H.L. Wong’s understanding on the term “history” in “Day at the museum” (The Star, Feb 25), I would like to point to a few misconceptions in Arof”s letter.

“History”, as coined by the Greek historian, Herodotus, refers to “his-story”. This means that “history” refers to the study of the actual story that relates back to past information, presentations or memory.

It does not matter who the person articulating or conveying the facts is as long as it is historically correct and approved by facts and evidence.

As long as the information that has been passed down to the next generation is not politically or religiously motivated, one should whole-heartedly accept the history of our nation.

However, Arof had given an ana­logy that, “the history of Hong Kong is as narrated by the natives of Hong Kong, not by Indians who are now ‘citizens’ in Hong Kong”.

I find this example unacceptable. An ideal way of narrating unbiased, factual evidence should not be dictated by one’s roots or even nationality per se but one’s knowledge in that matter.

For example, an Australian professor who holds a Ph.D in American Civilisation is qualified to convey that history and facts to students.

Similarly, a lay person who is born and bred in the United States may not be qualified to teach the subject matter simply because he may not be well-versed and fully aware of the civilisation process.

Also, if the history of a nation is solely permitted to be taught by a certain ethnic group, there is a tendency that the actual history may be twisted and turned in favour of a particular group of people.

Just look at the Japanese history textbook. It raised international condemnation and stirred controversies in what many international observers deemed as biased as much of the data and facts had been smoke-screened.

Arof also pointed out that “when a Chinese immigrates, she passes into the stage of the end of history”. I have difficulty understanding this.

What I wish to point out here is that when a certain group of a different ethnicity immigrates to another country and settles there, they by definition are citizens of the country.

This means that they have fully assimilated into the culture, abide by the rules and laws of the nation and therefore will become part of the history of the nation down the road.

It does not mean that they have ended their history and a new dawn awaits them in the new homeland.

Another point that I wish to highlight is that regardless of race, religion and ethnicity, we are part of this diverse nation, not as espoused by Arof, “The Chinese and Indians communities in Malaysia do not make up this diverse nation.”

We should strive to live in harmony and chart our history together, one that our younger generation will be proud of.

After all, the sole purpose of history is to lay down a learning foundation for our children so that we can repent for our past mistakes, and strive for the betterment of our nation in the future. TAN, ALI and MUTHU, Penang The STAR Home Opinion Letters 7 Mar 2015

Much to celebrate

Malaysia has moved on, embracing and accepting the talents of women. The Grant Thornton International Business Report revealed that Malaysia has the highest number of women in the workforce – up to 40% – compared with other Asean countries.

I AM surrounded by women – in a positive way. Until a few years back, I was the only man in the house.

Now, besides my wife, four other females play a key role in my life – my mother-in-law, daughter, maid and my female poodle. Before my sister-in-law got married, she also lived with us.

These days, her two sons come to my house, which is like a daycare centre for my sister-in-law and her husband.

Both my wife and daughter are opinionated and strong-minded, even stubborn, in many ways. The days of submissive women are long over in Malaysia.

My 23-year-old daughter has set the record for being the first law graduate in three generations of Wongs, and is now chambering with a law firm.

The change in gender composition in my life has been really radical because I grew up without sisters, only three brothers.

It would have been nice to have a sister. I am the youngest in the family but I know my parents wanted a daughter too. In the 1960s, there was no scan to tell the sex of the child before birth, and so it was a lot of guessing and hoping.

Actually, my parents were so sure I would be a girl, a sort of wishful thinking, that they even had an English female name ready for me. That was what I was told, but my parents have never confirmed that little piece of information.

And so when I was born, it was just another son to my father who did not bother to turn up immediately at the midwife’s clinic in King Street, which is within walking distance of the old Star office in Penang.

My male-dominated life continued with my enrolment into St Xavier’s Institution for primary and secondary education. Except for Sixth Form, which is co-ed, SXI is an all-boys’ school.

I played football, spent plenty of time at the river near my home catching fish, and, until my hormones began raging during my teenage years, it was just the company of boys for me.

So, from an all-male home, except for my mum, I moved on to an all-female home in Kuala Lumpur. That’s how it changed.

In many ways, it also indicates how Malaysia has moved on, embracing and accepting the talents of women.

When I first joined The Star as a cub reporter, as the most junior journalist was known then, I was interviewed by then editor-in-chief Hng Hung Yong, the Cambridge and Harvard-trained journalist. He remains a journalist today, and certainly a respected one with his intellect.

That was just after I finished my Sixth Form exams, and I left The Star to continue my tertiary education at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. When I rejoined The Star after I graduated three years later, it was the newspaper’s first woman top editor Datuk Ng Poh Tip who interviewed me.

With her Masters degree in political science, she set new standards in the newspaper, demanding that journalists have better education and research abilities and not just be able to file stories. More women editors emerged by then, including Cheryl Dorall, who became Sunday Star editor in the 80s, the first woman to do so.

Fast forward 2015: The Star has changed. I have stopped counting the number of women editors and journalists in the company. In some cases, the men may think they are in charge but it’s actually the women who run the show, even if they refuse to admit it.

I have had the privilege of working under our first woman managing director Datin Linda Ngiam, who went on to become the first woman director of our media group. Both her roles have been records of sorts in the company’s history.

The Star Radio Group chief operating officer Kudsia Kahar, a well-known radio personality, is also a first, and our group’s Capital Radio remains the country’s only radio station dedicated to women, with huge listenership among professionals.

Of the over 1,500 staff in the company, over 40%, and for sure women, would play a bigger role in the years to come.

Our universities and colleges now comprise 60% to 70% of female student intake, and while some have expressed concern at the imbalance, I really do not see why a predominantly female ratio should be of concern.

Gender should not be an issue; what is more important should be the quality of the graduates our universities are producing. The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) recently revealed that Malaysia has the highest number of women in the workforce – up to 40% – compared with other Asean countries. However, not everything in Malaysia is that rosy as the country reportedly has the lowest number of women occupying senior roles, at only 26%.

Grant Thornton said the data also showed that Malaysia was the third lowest globally to have women on the board of companies as chairman, chief executive officer, chief financial officer, executive and non-executive directors.

Malaysian employers must realise that gender diversity is good for business. Grant Thornton rightly pointed out that “it increases financial performance, enriches brand perception in the marketplace, improves problem-solving, enhances team and individual creativity, as well as boosts employee satisfaction and retention.”

In fact, racial diversity is also good for any company as it brings the best talent out, cutting across gender and race.

I am thankful to be born and living in Malaysia. I wouldn’t want to live in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or some conservative society where women are regarded as inferior by misguided males, some of whom use religious doctrines to keep their power.

Such men with their inferiority complex seem to have forgotten the importance of their mothers, grandmothers and sisters in bringing them up.

Then there are those who continue to blame women for their sexual urges, often citing their dressing as being provocative. Some rapists blame the women and try to play the role of victim instead, as in the numerous cases in India, especially in the rural areas where they are sadly deprived of outlets to release their frustrations.

The reality is, even in Malaysia, rape perpetrators are usually known, or even related, to the victims. Many of these cases take place in rural areas and the victims are dressed in conservative clothing.

PAS-ruled Kelantan, despite its strict religious façade, consistently ranks top in the country with reported rape cases and other social woes. The Internet is filled with statistics on the problems in the state.

The International Women’s Day theme for this year is “Make It Happen”, and certainly most right-minded Malaysians believe in making it happen for all our sisters. I don’t have one but for all women, you are my sisters! We will make it happen! Wong Chun Wai  The STAR Home News Opinion On the Beat 8 Mar 2015

Life’s a journey, not the destination

The real script of life is written via the meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones while they are still alive.

IT is difficult to combine a time of festivity with a time of sadness. But life is such that we have absolutely no control over how and when things happen.

This Chinese New Year period, which officially ended on Thursday with Chap Goh Meh, flew by in the blink of an eye.

The angpow packets I packed ahead remain undistributed. The delicious goodies remain in their containers. And there are still many CNY greetings on my phone that remain unanswered.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, Feb 19, my 97-year-old mother-in-law passed away. I had written about this grand old dame in this column two weeks ago (“Tribute to a grand old lady”, Sunday Starters, Feb 21).

Late Wednesday night, her beloved husband, my 96-year-old father-in-law, passed on. It was just half an hour before the last day of Chinese New Year.

I can imagine this couple running into each other’s arms, reunited in a most wonderful place, having been separated physically only for two weeks here on this earth.

My father-in-law, like his wife, was also a teacher who left a strong legacy as an English language teacher in several Chinese schools. He also left his impact on different spheres of his life, especially as the patriarch of a large family.

He was the one who walked down the aisle with his youngest daughter in June 1985 to hand her over to me to love and to cherish.

Though he was the typical man from his generation who was not so openly expressive, he had his own unique way of communicating. He wrote three books, and dutifully penned countless letters to the family up to his final days.

I am always amazed at how he remained so alert until his very final days. He was extremely up to date about current affairs and understood geopolitics better than most of us.

The two funerals so close to each other were poignant affairs, especially for family members, but at the same time they were also cause for celebration. They had lived long and well and surely the heavens rejoiced to welcome them home.

As I write this, I am reminded of different circumstances that surround funerals I have attended.

There are heartbreaking ones, like when a friend in the prime of his life collapsed suddenly. Or when a young man working hard for his masters degree passed away the day after the thesis was submitted.

There are funerals where the room is filled to capacity, as well as those where I can count the number of people present on my fingers. And often at funerals, those who attend will say to the fellow attendees they know, “we have to stop meeting up only on such occasions”.

For much more important than being present at a person’s funeral is to be present with him during his life. Costly wreaths and powerful eulogies can never replace meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones.

We can be moved by eulogies presented at funerals, but unless we have been a part of the journey, they are just words, soon forgotten after the event.

Many a story shared over a cuppa may not be retold at funerals, but they are the stories that truly matter. And they remain a part of you, because you helped to write that script for a life well lived.

Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is reminded that to everything there is a season. A time to be born, a time to die; a time to laugh, a time to cry. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home News Opinion 8 Mar 2015

Saudi travel tycoon becomes billionaire with pilgrimage packages

Mohammed Al Madani, chancellor at Saudi Arabia’s ministry of foreign affairs, is a frequent flier, logging at least 10 international trips a year on diplomatic missions to London, Lisbon, Manila and elsewhere.

Before packing his bags, he usually checks in with the Al Tayyar travel agency in Riyadh.

Al Madani is one of three million Saudi and non-Saudi government workers and their families who move in and out of the country every year, according to the Saudi Central Department of Statistics & Information.

Publicly traded Al Tayyar Travel Group Holding Co has captured almost half of the domestic market for the VIP travelers, and is Saudi Arabia’s largest air travel business.

“They’re always my first choice when coming to London,” Al Madani’s 21-year-old son, Fahad, an information technology student at Middlesex University, said in an e-mail.

Such loyalty has helped Al Tayyar’s founder, Nasser bin Aqeel Al Tayyar, amass a fortune valued at more than US$2.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Al Tayyar, 58, is also the founder and president of Dubai-based Arab Publishers House, the publisher of Forbes Middle East and four other publications.

He’s never appeared on an international wealth ranking.

A spokeswoman for Al Tayyar who asked not to be identified because she’s not authorised to comment publicly about the business, confirmed the billionaire’s stake and said he would not comment on his wealth.

Pilgrimage Packages Al Tayyar provides airline reservations, mobile ticketing, hotel booking and ground transportation services through 370 branches in Saudi Arabia and at 18 companies outside the kingdom.

It also organises travel for foreign medical care and education, as well as Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage packages, according to its website.

Other businesses include cargo shipping, magazine publishing and a real estate development company that was founded in 2008 to build and manage hotels, apartments, resorts and clubs.

The business plans to transform what the billionaire said in 2012 was a neglected element of the country’s infrastructure.

Revenue has increased an average of 19 per cent annually in the past three years to more than 7.7 billion riyals (US$2 billion) in 2014.

The stock has risen almost 340 per cent since it began trading on the Tadawul Stock Exchange in June 2012, after adjusting for a stock split.

The Tadawul All Share Index has risen about 38 per cent in that period.

Local Sponsor Saudi Arabia accounts for about 90 per cent of Al Tayyar’s sales, according to Abdulaziz Ahmad Jawdat, a research analyst at Riyadh-based Saudi Fransi Capital.

The 82-year-old kingdom is one of the most difficult places to visit in the world due to its lack of freedoms, according to Washington DC-based Freedom House, giving Al Tayyar a further hold on the tourists who want to visit and the residents who want to leave.

Al Tayyar was the first company to receive official permission from the Saudi government to organise and promote domestic pilgrimage travel packages in the kingdom in 2000, according to its website.

Its packages cover visa services and other authorisations, and include special prices during Ramadan, accommodations, reserved seats on flights and buses, medical services and even special trips to the holy sites upon request.

Religious tourism makes up 37 per cent of all inbound trips to the kingdom and half of all travel spending there, according to Jawdat.

The Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca is a mandatory religious duty that Muslims must carry at least once in their lifetime.

More than 1.3 million non-Saudi pilgrims came from 163 countries to perform the Hajj last October, according to figures released by the Minister of Interior, up from 1.1 million the year before.

Cultural Sites The government plans to increase the capacity of the Holy Mosque to accommodate more than two million worshipers, including adding new security infrastructure and air-conditioning systems, as well as hotels and a rail and bus station in Medina.

“Once the Holy mosque expansion is complete, which is expected by 2018, the number of religious visitors might even triple,” Jawdat said.

Al Tayyar has also been expanding outside Saudi Arabia, acquiring Chester, England-based luxury tour operator Elegant Resorts Ltd from Thomas Cook Group Plc for 88 million riyals in February 2014 and Manchester-based United Co-Operative Travel Management Ltd for 85 million riyals a month later.

Last month, the company announced the formation of the Saudi Heritage Hospitality Co with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities to promote tourism at cultural sites across the country. Al Tayyar has a 20 per cent stake in the new business.

Government Travelers The billionaire has been in the travel business most of his life.

Before founding the company in 1980, he worked at a local bank and at the reservations department of Saudi Arabian Airlines.

He left the airline and opened up his own reservation business in Riyadh with four employees and about US$300,000.

“My dream was to establish a private airline company, but Saudi laws prevented me from doing that,” Al Tayyar said in a 2012 interview with Jeddah, Saudi Arabia-based Arab News.

Instead, he decided to sell tickets on behalf of the airlines.

Al Tayyar has a 45 per cent market share among Saudi corporate and government travelers whose business represented two thirds of its sales in 2014, according to the company’s annual report. — Bloomberg Borneo Post Homebiz 7 Marc 2015

Felda chairman’s son quizzed on London luxury hotel buy

Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) group chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad's son was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday over the purchase of a luxury hotel in London, Malaysiakini reported.

Quoting a source, the report said that it was not an arrest but that his statement was taken down to assist in investigations on the RM330 million purchase of the Grand Plaza Kensington.


Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) group chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad's son was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the purchase of the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel in London. – Pic courtesy booking.com, March 7, 2015.

MACC's director of special operations, Datuk Bahri Mohamad Zin refused to confirm or deny that Isa's son had been called in, the report added.

It was reported earlier that a senior Felda officer attached to a Felda subsidiary, Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), has been remanded by the authorities since Sunday.

Also apprehended was an alleged middleman to the deal, Malaysiakini reported.

In December last year, FIC announced that it had acquired the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel in London to "diversify its investment assets".

The acquisition made it the first London property for FIC and the second for Felda.

Isa had also said then that the newly acquired hotel served to complement Felda's existing property, the Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments in Bayswater, another hot spot for Malaysians visiting London.

"While the Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments' main appeal is for visitors with (their) families or [those] travelling in a group, the Grand Plaza Kensington aims to attract guests who are looking for a luxurious yet affordable accommodation," he had said.

Isa had also said that the acquisition of Grand Plaza Kensington brings the number of hotels and resorts owned by Felda to 12.

The Grand Plaza Kensington is a four-star hotel with 62 units of guest rooms and two units of three-bedroom serviced apartments, located at Lexham Gardens within the exclusive district of Kensington and Chelsea.

It is also close to Western London's popular shopping street, the Kensington High Street.

Felda's overseas buying spree was raised by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad earlier this year, when he urged Putrajaya to appoint external auditors for all its agencies to allay public concerns about the billions being spent on investments across the world.

"We see entities such as Felda, EPF, Tabung Haji spending billions in acquiring foreign properties while others such as MAHB (Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd) and Petronas have bought shares in airports and Canadian ventures also involving huge sums of money," the former PM had written in his blog.

In October 2013, Malaysian realtors had said that state-linked Malaysian firms were buying up London properties at inflated prices in an otherwise stagnant United Kingdom property market, raising fears that a meltdown could wipe away millions in public funds.

Several realtors had then pointed to Felda's £97.9 million (RM495 million) deal for the 198-unit Grand Plaza service apartments in Bayswater, London, as an example of an overpriced buy, saying that high-end real estate agents Savills and Knight Frank had only valued the property at £80 million (RM408 million) in the past few years.

Back then, The Malaysian Insider had reported that the deal was being investigated by the MACC and had been reported to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). – March 7, 2015.