June 29th, 2015

Two-way street to harmony

DEPUTY Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching has clarified that she had not used the word “should” as reported by an online news portal (“Out of respect to our Muslim friends, we as non-Muslims should avoid eating or drinking in front of our Muslim friends”) which, she explains, conveys the element of compulsion (NST, June 26).

But nothing has been said about the school canteens that have been out-of-bounds for years to non-Muslim children during the fasting month. This is the real issue that needs a permanent solution.

A ministerial directive should be issued to all Sekolah Kebangsaan (as other schools don’t have this problem) that canteens must be made available for the use of non-Muslims during Ramadan.

What is the problem to issue such a ministerial directive? Is it true that eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims in the fasting month is something disrespectful? Are those who tell non-Muslim schoolchildren to hide in the toilets to eat and drink follow the true teachings of Prophet Muhammad, especially about treating non-believers with dignity?

A few days ago, I was at a meeting where the other attendees were all Muslims. One of them made a cup of tea for me and I had it sitting on the same table with them. Was that disrespectful? Or did the person who made the tea act in an un-Islamic way by offering me a drink in the fasting month?

Whether one is disrespectful or insensitive when eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims who are fasting depends on how it is done, and not on the mere act of eating or drinking.

It would be rude, impolite and disrespectful if the person who is fasting is mockingly asked to join you to eat or drink; if by your body language you try to show how delicious the food is; or if you offer a plate of food or a cup of drink. If you have to eat or drink when in the company of fasting persons (Muslim or non-Muslim), it is only proper that you politely ask to be excused before eating or drinking. I have done this many a time, and never have the fasting persons ever indicated verbally or by body language that they are offended or don’t want me to eat in their presence.

They always say “please carry on” or words to that effect. They respect my need to have my food, while I acknowledge that they are fasting. When we are with friends, it is normal to invite them to join us for a meal or a drink.

We may not know if anyone is fasting, (e.g. Hindus, Christians and Chinese also fast), but the person fasting never gets offended. He will sit together chit-chatting while you have your meal. So, why are some Sekolah Kebangsaan making such a fuss? What moral and religious values are they teaching the children?

School authorities who brazenly dictate what the non-Muslims should do or should not do in schools, supposedly not to offend the sensitivities of or to show their respect to Muslims, are indicative of the failure of two subjects taught from Year One, i.e., Religious Studies and Moral Education.

If the Sekolah Kebangsaan cannot show some respect for non-Muslim children during Ramadan, then don’t take any of them in. Don’t make Ramadan an excuse to practise racism. Non-Muslims should have the good sense to be courteous.

This is what Moral Education should be teaching them. And Agama lessons should be teaching Muslim pupils to be humble and forgiving, to respect non-Muslims who may be eating their normal meals in their sight and within smelling distance.

Racism in schools is real. It is dangerous to allow it to go on. Natonal interests must come before that of any individual or political party..

What use will all the wealth of the nation be if there is no harmony? Slogans will not achieve peace. Firm, consistent action is needed. Ravinder Singh, Penang The NST Letters to the Editors 29 June 2015

Educate, not legislate

I HAVE been following the recent furore about decent dressing (or the lack of it) and the overzealous security guards trying to impose the dress code at public offices.

I suggest that the debaters on both sides of the divide take a cold shower and apply some common sense.

As they say, it takes two to tango. While we scream murder at the security guards for doing their job, have we paused for a moment to take stock of our dress sense? Dress sense is one’s right.

It depends on their personal taste, the environment they are in and the occasion they are attending. We can’t legislate for any of these, short of being called a nanny state.

The habit of sensible dressing has to come from within. It has to be cultivated from young by our elders. Our parents are good role models for this. One doesn’t go to places of worship in their pyjamas.

Likewise, one chooses carefully what to wear when attending a funeral. In many cultures, black dress is a definite no-no at weddings or wedding receptions and generally, all guests conform to this.

An office worker will not turn up in a plumbers’ jumpsuit, nor will a lifeguard be in a three-piece suit. In short, all should dress sensibly.

In my recent visits to government agencies like the National Registration Department and Inland Revenue Department, I have seen people dressed as if they are out for a picnic at the beach or at the wholesale wet market.

This is not confined to any particular age group or gender. Have we, as a society, lost our common sense to dress appropriately?

This problem cannot be overcome by strict enforcement of dress code, which in itself is also very subjective. Take the case of the airport, for instance.

Passengers use clothing that they are comfortable to travel in. It would be foolish to expect people turning up at the Lost and Found counter at the airport to be adhering to a dress code, which they might not be aware of.

Malaysian society needs to take control of this debate. We can fix this problem, not by employing or empowering security guards, but by influencing the small minority to think rationally and dress sensibly.

One swallow does not make a summer. Let’s be rational and not resort to using force but rather, tackle this issue through more civic education, particularly on dressing. Karunanithi Rangasamy, Sydney, Australia The NST Letters to the Editor 29 June 2015

Kempen cegah pembaziran bantu turunkan harga

Sekarang ini di mana-mana sahaja orang akan bercakap mengenai kenaikan kos sara hidup. Ia sememangnya hakikat yang tidak boleh dinafikan.

Tetapi, ketika ramai yang mengeluh mengenai kenaikan harga ini terutama barang makanan, agak menarik juga apabila membaca laporan baru-baru ini bahawa di sepanjang Ramadan, rakyat negara ini dianggarkan membuang makanan yang tidak habis dimakan, malah mungkin langsung tidak diusik sebanyak kira-kira sejuta kilogram atau 1,000 tan sehari.

Jika dianggarkan nilai makanan berkenaan puratanya adalah RM5 sekilogram, bermakna dalam bulan Ramadan ini, rakyat negara ini membuang ke tempat pelupusan sampah sebanyak RM5 juta sehari.

Sepanjang Ramadan ini, jumlah nilainya adalah RM150 juta. Jika dianggarkan pada bulan lain, purata makanan yang dibuang adalah separuh daripada jumlah itu, maka setahun wang yang rakyat negara ini buang begitu sahaja adalah hampir RM1 bilion iaitu, kira-kira RM975 juta.

Tabiat buruk

Itu baru makanan. Belum lagi pelbagai pembaziran lain yang kita lakukan hampir setiap hari seperti dalam penggunaan air, elektrik dan petrol.

Dalam sehari berapa liter air yang dibazirkan ketika mandi, mencuci pinggan mangkuk, malah ketika minum apabila air yang diisi dalam cawan atau gelas minuman melebihi daripada apa yang diminum?

Begitu juga elektrik. Sebagai contohnya seolah-olah sudah menjadi kelaziman sekarang ini untuk seseorang itu membuka televisyen apabila masuk ke rumah walaupun tiada sesiapa pun yang menontonnya.

Kita juga acap kali melihat kereta berpusing berkali-kali di tempat meletak kereta semata-mata kerana pemandunya mahu mencari petak yang paling hampir dengan tempat yang mahu dikunjungi atau membiarkan enjin kereta hidup sehingga berpuluh minit, malah berjam-jam tanpa bergerak ke mana-mana.

Semua pembaziran itu ada nilainya dalam bentuk wang yang apabila dicampurkan jumlahnya mungkin mengejutkan. Tidak keterlaluan jika dianggarkan daripada sejumlah wang yang kita belanjakan setiap bulan, mungkin antara 20 sehingga 30 peratus dibazirkan.

Kenal pasti pembaziran

Biasanya apabila menyentuh soal kenaikan kos sara hidup ini, kerajaan yang selalunya menjadi sasaran. Namun, berdasarkan kepada hakikat pembaziran yang berlaku, peranan setiap individu amat penting sekali.

Jika kita dapat kenal pasti semua pembaziran yang berlaku dan menguruskannya dengan baik, kos sara hidup kita akan dapat dikurangkan.

Harga barang naik jika permintaan adalah tinggi dan terus meningkat. Pembaziran sebenarnya hanya mewujudkan permintaan tambahan yang tidak sepatutnya ada dalam pasaran.

Jika pembaziran dielakkan, bermakna permintaan juga dikurangkan. Ini akan mengurangkan tekanan terhadap kenaikan harga.

Justeru, ketika negara berdepan masalah kenaikan kos sara hidup, mungkin elok jika pihak kerajaan atau bukan kerajaan mengambil inisiatif untuk melaksanakan kempen anti pembaziran. Saidon Idris Berita Harian Kolumnis 29 Jun 2015

GST: Kemelut dan Langkah Ke Hadapan

PELAKSANAAN cukai barang dan perkhidmatan (GST) sejak 1 April lalu sememangnya menimbulkan banyak reaksi daripada pelbagai lapisan masyarakat mengenai kesan baik dan buruknya cukai baharu tersebut.

Setiap perbincangan dan perbualan berhubung GST tidak akan lari daripada isu yang mengatakan cukai itu akan membebankan rakyat, walhal inisiatif baharu itu akan membantu pembangunan ekonomi negara.

Terdapat juga pihak-pihak tertentu yang menangguk di air keruh untuk menyalahkan kerajaan berhubung pelaksanaan GST, bagi mereka mungkin ini peluang terbaik untuk menanam perasaan benci masyarakat terhadap kerajaan.

Sedar dengan permasalahan tersebut, Majlis Profesor Negara mengambil inisiatif dengan menjadikan GST sebagai tajuk kepada siri kedua Program Advokasi Ilmuan MPN bersama Utusan Malaysia dan Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

Program tersebut yang akan berlangsung pada esok di Persada Canselori, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) akan membincangkan tajuk ‘GST: Kemelut dan Langkah Ke Hadapan’ dan antara isu yang akan dikupas ialah kesan pelaksanaan cukai itu kepada negara dan masyarakat.

Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif MPN, Prof. Datuk Dr. Raduan Che Rose berkata, perbincangan bertujuan mencari jalan terbaik dalam menjadikan GST sebagai suatu dasar yang memberi kebaikan dan bukannya keburukan kepada negara dan rakyat.

Beliau berkata, hasil daripada perbincangan dan dialog tersebut akan dicatatkan dan dihantar kepada pihak yang bertanggungjawab untuk memberi penambahbaikan kepada pelaksanaan GST sekali gus tidak membebankan rakyat khususnya.

“Program ini diharap dapat membuka minda segenap lapisan masyarakat mengenai pentingnya peranan MPN dalam menyampaikan maklumat serta idea yang bernas sekali gus membuka minda mengenai sesuatu isu yang dibincangkan.

“Selain itu, program kali ini yang bertajuk GST: Kemelut Dan Langkah Ke Hadapan juga diharapkan menjadi platform wacana berdasarkan fakta dan maklumat yang sahih dan benar,” katanya kepada Utusan Malaysia di Putrajaya, Jumaat lalu.

Menurut Raduan, program yang memasuki siri kedua ini menampilkan Penolong Ketua Pengarang 1 Kumpulan Utusan, Datuk Zaini Hassan sebagai moderator di samping empat ahli panel lain.

“Empat ahli panel tersebut ialah Dekan Fakulti Perakaunan Universiti Utara Malaysia, Prof. Dr. Kamil Md. Idris, Pengurus Projek GST Kementerian Pendidikan, Prof. Dr. Asan Ali Golam Hasan, Pensyarah Ekonomi UKM, Prof. Jamal Othman dan Pegawai Penguatkuasaan Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan, M. Gunaselan.

“Sebenarnya, program ini bertujuan memperjelaskan isu-isu semasa negara kepada masyarakat, sekali gus mencari penyelesaian berkonsepkan dialog antara profesor berdasarkan kepakaran masing-masing,” katanya.

Terdahulu katanya, siri pertama program tersebut telah berlangsung di Dewan Besar Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd. dan membincangkan topik ‘Terjaminkah Keselamatan Rantau ASEAN?’ dengan ahli panel terlibat ialah Timbalan Setiausaha Agung MPN, Prof. Kamaruddin M. Said dan Pensyarah Sekolah Pengajian Antarabangsa UUM, Prof. Emeritus Dr. Ranjit Singh.

"Program ini berkonsepkan dialog yang mengetengahkan ilmuwan daripada MPN yang bertujuan memperjelaskan isu-isu semasa negara kepada masyarakat selain menjadi medium transformasi minda untuk mereka.

“Program seterusnya dijangka akan berlangsung setiap bulan sehingga Disember di lokasi berbeza iaitu di Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UnisZA) dan Universiti Taylor,” katanya.

Dalam pada itu, katanya, MPN menyasarkan kehadiran peserta sebanyak 200 hingga ke 300 orang sepanjang Program Advokasi Ilmuwan MPN bersama Utusan Malaysia dan RTM itu berlangsung. - Utusan Malaysia Rencana 29 Jn 2015