September 6th, 2015

Producing work-ready grads

I REFER to the planned introduction of the integrated cumulative grade point average (iCGPA) pilot programme by the Higher Education Ministry aimed at producing holistic graduates (Sunday Star, Aug 16).

It is definitely a step in the right direction. Employers worldwide seek “work-ready” graduates who possess discipline-specific knowledge and skills (hard skills), desired soft skills, and preferably, relevant work experience (typically attained through internships or part-time jobs). However, to ensure its success a number of prerequisites must be in place.

My concerns are based upon my interaction with local academics and having conducted more than 20 graduate employability skills and teaching soft skills effectively in higher education workshops for local public universities over the last five years.

First, quite a number of academics do not have a proper understanding of the employability agenda in higher education. It is shocking to note that not only is the term “soft skills” not well understood but that many academics are not fully aware of their importance vis-a-vis producing employable graduates.

As a result, in the words of one university lecturer, “We are merely padding the necessary forms to meet accreditation requirements.”

In some higher education institutions (HEIs), the undergraduates themselves are not fully aware of the importance of employability skills. Many local academics still cling to the traditional view that universities should focus merely on disciplinary knowledge and that it is not the responsibility of HEIs to produce “work-ready graduates”.

Second, many university lecturers themselves lack competence in soft skills (particularly communication and critical thinking).

Indeed, many of our academics lack basic presentation skills (a fact I discovered through my numerous workshops on effective lecturing). How then can they impart soft skills effectively to their learners?

Third, many HEIs lack an integrated and comprehensive approach to enhancing graduate employability and soft skills. As aptly described by one university lecturer, “Each department/faculty has its own interpretation of soft skills. This has created unnecessary confusion”.

Fourth, most academics have limited knowledge pertaining to the assessment of soft skills. To make matters worse, there is no or little “constructive alignment” between learning outcomes, curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment processes.

Fifth, and most importantly, one must take note that most soft skills cannot be “picked up along the way” or “caught” by embedding them into the curriculum; they must be taught explicitly.

Based upon my extensive research on enhancing graduate employability and soft skills, there must be an integrated and university-wide approach (with modifications to suit requirements of certain departments) to impart soft skills effectively to undergraduates.

These include stating explicitly the desired graduate attributes; teaching soft skills explicitly in modules separate from their discipline studies (e.g. Personal Development, Public Speaking, Business Writing, Critical Thinking); providing learners adequate opportunities to hone their soft skills by embedding them in the curriculum (e.g. group work, oral presentations, analysis of case-study material); getting students involved in extra-curricular activities; work-based learning; training academics adequately to impart soft skills effectively; and most importantly, to have a “constructive alignment” between learning outcomes, curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment processes.

I strongly believe that all undergraduates should first be provided with a theoretical framework pertaining to the soft skills. Such a framework will guide them to effectively practise the soft skills that have been embedded across the curriculum rather than learning haphazardly through the trial-and-error method.

Theory without practice is of limited value; so too is practice without theory.

Finally, the iCGPA instrument needs some modifications. Some of the proposed constructs are not mutually exclusive. For example, social skills and responsibilities (one specific skill set) does incorporate communication which is part of a different skill set (communication, leadership and teamwork).

Teamwork, due to its great importance in the twenty-first century workplace, should be a construct by itself as implemented by numerous universities worldwide, particularly those in Australia.

“Unity and patriotism” should be discarded as it is not only difficult to measure but also has no direct relevance to producing employable graduates.

“Entrepreneurship and management” is too broad a construct; I know of no university having such a construct. “Scientific thinking” should be reclassified as “critical thinking skills”.

Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 4 September 2015

Nilai ringgit: Kesan kepada ekonomi

Dalam dua, tiga hari ni ramai wartawan dan penyelidik ekonomi dari negara jiran datang jumpa Kunta Kinte untuk tanya berkenaan ekonomi negara.

Mereka takut perkembangan ekonomi negara kita akan bagi kesan kurang baik kepada ekonomi negara mereka. Ini bukti yang negara kita penting kepada mereka.

Seorang penyelidik rakyat Indonesia yang berpangkalan di Singapura kata, ketika krisis ekonomi dan mata wang Asia 1997/98, Indonesia ambil petunjuk dari Malaysia.

Tapi oleh sebab ekonomi Indonesia lebih lemah daripada Malaysia dan pemerintahan Indonesia waktu itu sedang dicabar, Indonesia terpaksa serah nasib kepada Tabung Mata Wang Antarabangsa (IMF). Malaysia tolak cara IMF.

Perdana Menteri kita masa itu, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, tambat (peg) kadar tukaran ringgit dan kawal pergerakan masuk keluar mata wang.

Ramai pemerhati kata, dia buat kerja gila dan Malaysia akan paria dalam ekonomi dunia. Alhamdulillah, kejatuhan nilai ringgit berjaya disekat dan dalam masa singkat, ekonomi Malaysia pulih semula.

Malaysia tak jadi negara paria. Mereka tanya Kunta Kinte kesan kejatuhan ringgit kepada Malaysia.

Kunta Kinte kata, bukan kepada Malaysia sahaja tapi tempiasnya dah kena banyak negara jiran. Kita kena faham, boleh kata mata wang semua negara membangun di Asia jatuh berbanding dolar Amerika.

Cuma kadar kejatuhan ringgit kita antara yang paling teruk.

Siapa dapat lebih faedah

Berkenaan kesan kejatuhan nilai duit kita terhadap jiran kita dan terhadap kita, Kunta Kinte ambil contoh Singapura dan Indonesia.

Ringgit jatuh teruk berbanding dolar Singapura dan rupiah. Jadi bagi rakyat jelata Singapura, berbelanja di Malaysia lebih murah. Oleh sebab itulah ramai datang beli-belah di Malaysia, khususnya Johor Bahru.

Kita dapat faedah dengan dua atau tiga cara. Bila orang Singapura tukar dolar mereka kepada ringgit, nilai ringgit naik. Dalam urusan tukaran mata wang, bila ada orang beli duit kita, nilainya naik.

Kita pula dapat dolar Singapura. Ini akan tambah rizab simpanan asing kita. Bila rizab tukaran asing naik, duit kita jadi lebih kuat. Peniaga kita boleh jual lebih banyak barang dan perkhidmatan.

Dengan itu mereka mungkin dapat untung lebih besar. Tapi yang jadi masalah bukan semua barang pengguna Singapura beli adalah buatan atau keluaran Malaysia.

Banyak diimport. Jadi kita kena import lebih banyak barang dan bayar harga lebih tinggi pasal nilai duit kita jatuh untuk tampung permintaan orang asing.

Kunta Kinte bimbang yang sebenarnya dapat faedah adalah pengguna Singapura dan pelancong asing. Bagi pengguna Singapura, kerana nilai duit mereka lebih tinggi daripada duit kita, harga barang di Malaysia secara automatik jadi lebih murah.

Rakyat kita pula susah. Hal ini dah pun jadi di Johor Bahru bila pengguna tempatan terpaksa bersaing dengan pengguna Singapura.

Lagi teruklah kalau peniaga kita pula yang ambil peluang naikkan harga sebab ramai orang Singapura dan pelancong datang beli-belah di negara kita.

Pelancong datang dan pergi. Yang akan tanggung kesan jangka panjang adalah kita. Di pihak lain pula, ada pekerja asing yang rugi sebab nilai duit kita jatuh berbanding mata wang negara mereka.

Ambil contoh pekerja dan pendatang Indonesia. Oleh sebab nilai ringgit jatuh berbanding rupiah, mereka rugi bila hantar balik duit ke Indonesia. Misalnya, kalau pada pertengahan Mei lalu, untuk dapat 1 juta rupiah mereka hanya perlu belanja RM270.

Tapi pada hujung Ogos, mereka kena bayar RM305. Dalam tukaran asing, lagi tinggi angka, lagi rendah nilainya!

Ekonomi kita dinilai

Itu dalam hal tukaran mata wang sahaja. Ada banyak lagi kesan lain ke atas ekonomi serantau. Misalnya, banyak modal dan simpanan tempatan mengalir keluar, khususnya ke Singapura.

Orang yang faham ekonomi dan kewangan tahu, iaitu setiap kali ada negara di rantau ini hadapi masalah, Singapura untung. Duit akan mengalir ke Singapura untuk cari 'perlindungan'.

Bila orang bawa duit ke Singapura, mereka kena beli dolar negara itu. Bila ramai orang beli dolar Singapura, nilainya naik. Sekarang kadar tukaran ringgit-dolar sudah lebih RM3 bagi setiap dolar Singapura.

Natijahnya, kalau negara jiran bimbang kesan ekonomi kita ke atas mereka, kita sepatutnya lebih lagi bimbang daripada mereka. Di segi pariti kuasa membeli (purchasing power parity) kita sebenarnya sudah kurang daripada setahun lalu.

Bila nilai duit kita jatuh, kos barang secara automatik naik. Sebab itulah dalam keadaan apa pun kita tak boleh abaikan pengurusan ekonomi dan kewangan.

Setiap hari, tanpa berhenti, duit kita dan ekonomi kita dinilai dan ditarafkan oleh pasaran dunia. Pasaran dunia tak pernah tidur. Ia bergerak ikut matahari.

Pasaran Malaysia tutup, pasaran India buka lagi. India tutup, Dubai buka. Dubai tutup, Eropah buka. Eropah tutup, Amerika buka. Amerika tutup, Jepun buka.

Macam itulah duit dan ekonomi kita dinilai dan ditarafkan 24 jam sehari. Kalau pasaran percaya kepada kita, Alhamdulillah. Kalau tidak buruklah padahnya. Wallahuaklam.

Kunta Kinte Berita Harian Kolumnis 5 Spetember 2015

Ikhlaskah tindak tanduk TI dan Amnesty?

TANPA maklumat jelas berkenaan hal ehwal dalaman Malaysia, beberapa pemimpin pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO) asing mengambil peluang berucap di sebuah persidangan antarabangsa di Putrajaya berakhir Jumaat lalu untuk memperkecil-kecilkan negara kita.

Walaupun terdiri daripada bijak pandai, tindakan mereka adalah sebaliknya apabila membuta tuli mengkritik negara dalam mengendalikan soal rasuah dan menguruskan kebebasan hak asasi.

Keberkesanan peranan Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) yang antaranya menyaksikan peningkatan ketara dalam kadar sabitan daripada hanya 54 peratus pada 2009 kepada 78 peratus pada tahun lalu, diketepikan.

Lagak mereka bagaikan mahu jalan cerita filem box office Tamil, Sivaji The Boss berlaku di negara ini tetapi alam realiti bukan semudah itu. Tindakan undang-undang bukan boleh hanya melalui persepsi kerana yang menyiasat dan disiasat juga ada hak masing-masing. Ini prinsip universal.

Kecualilah dalam kes Amerika Syarikat (AS) yang sesuka hati menakluk Iraq dan Afghanistan hanya berdasarkan apa yang mereka percaya.

Malangnya pemimpin-pemimpin NGO tersebut yang disokong golongan seangkatan mereka di sini bercakap dengan tidak berlandaskan fakta sekali gus menampakkan kecetekan pengetahuan mereka terhadap apa yang berlaku di Malaysia.

Satu contoh bagaimana Setiausaha Agung Amnesty International, Sahil Shetty dengan semberono bercakap terdapat akhbar dan portal ditutup berikutan perhimpunan haram Bersih 4.

Walaupun terlibat dalam pelbagai organisasi antarabangsa, namun beliau juga tidak terlepas daripada membuat dakwaan tidak berasas setaraf pelayar Facebook yang sekadar mencari tumpuan.

Apatah lagi beliau mengaitkan ketakutan kerajaan kerana bimbang berlaku Arab Spring di Malaysia. Hakikatnya apakah Bersih 4 mendapat sokongan semua lapisan rakyat seperti mana yang berlaku di Mesir dan Tunisia.

Penyokong Bersih 1, 2 dan 3 sebelum ini pun menjauhkan diri dengan siri perhimpunan terbaharu ini, maka terjadilah acara yang menyaksikan dominasi satu kaum dan satu parti. Sedangkan negara ini terdiri daripada pelbagai kaum dengan majoritinya adalah orang Melayu dan Islam yang menjadi teras politik.

Lagi pula soal kebebasan bersuara dan berhimpun terjamin dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan cuma ia harus dilakukan mengikut peraturan. Dalam hal Bersih 4, pihak berkuasa memberi jaminan kelulusan akan diberikan jika dilakukan di stadium waima stadium terbesar di negara ini iaitu di Stadium Nasional Bukit Jalil.

Begitu juga dengan pemimpin Transparency International (TI). Berca­kap macam pihak ber­kuasa khususnya SPRM berpeluk tubuh dalam isu membabitkan 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Tindakan pemimpin TI termasuk Pengerusinya, Jose Ugaz memberi tekanan kepada negara tuan rumah ketika majlis perasmian sememangnya nampak canggung kerana dari satu sisi, seolah-olah mahu mengajar sedangkan siasatan dan tindakan dalam isu 1MDB belum berakhir.

Melindungi

Malah membangkitkan nama beberapa negara yang dibayangi pelbagai masalah agak menjengkelkan sedangkan Malaysia berada pada landasan tepat menuju negara maju yang mana pencapaian itu tidak akan mampu diraih jika negara dilingkari rasuah dan penyelewengan.

Salah satu contoh skandal yang dibangkitkan adalah berhubung Petrobras. Namun jika dilihat kepada Petronas, konglomerat itu diakui sebagai syarikat petroleum bertaraf dunia dan menjadi contoh kepada pelbagai negara kerana diurus dengan penuh integriti.

Begitu juga transformasi kepada SPRM yang menjadi model kepada banyak negara membangun lain dan ramai pegawai mereka dihantar menjalani latihan di negara ini.

Peliknya, apa yang berlaku di negara-negara penceramah dalam Persidangan Antirasuah Antarabangsa (IACC) Ke-16 itu terutama TI dan Amnesty International sebenarnya yang patut dibangkitkan dengan lebih lantang seperti negara asal pemimpin TI dan Amnesty International. Lagipun IACC adalah persidangan antarabangsa, bukan persidangan membincangkan isu di negara ini semata-mata.

Maka, tak perlulah hendak tunjuk hidung tinggi, malah Malaysia jauh lebih ikhlas membantu Dunia Ketiga mengukuhkan integriti urus tadbir termasuk dalam hal berkaitan pengubahan wang haram. Sedangkan sesetengah negara maju sendiri seperti tidak mahu terlibat kerana melindungi kepentingan mereka. Namun hal-hal seperti ini jarang dibangkitkan TI. Yang mereka lebih bersorak adalah bila melihat pemimpin negara sasaran itu tumbang.

Justeru, timbul tanda tanya bahawa perjuangan mereka menentang rasuah sebenarnya tidak ikhlas tetapi didorong motif untuk mencaturkan politik. Kalau di negara ini memang berlaku kerana sesetengah pihak hanya lantang apabila melibatkan parti pemerintah tetapi senyap membisu jika penyelewengan melibatkan sebelah satu pihak lagi.

Pemilihan PKR, Pas dan DAP dibayangi pelbagai dakwaan, pemerintahan mereka juga tidak terkecuali terpalit dengan skandal. Namun ada yang menutup mata dan marah pula jika tindakan diambil. Ini memperlihatkan perjuangan mereka menentang rasuah mempunyai nawaitu lain sekali gus merencatkan usaha yang dilakukan untuk mengukuhkan integriti di negara ini.

Jadi, perjuangan membanteras rasuah memerlukan mereka yang benar-benar komited tanpa memilih warna politik. Biar pun banyak yang telah dilakukan di Malaysia sejak merdeka daripada penubuhan Badan Pencegah Rasuah, Biro Siasatan Negara hinggalah SPRM, kita memang masih belum sempurna tetapi bezanya, kita sentiasa mahukan penambahbaikan dan kita melakukannya. - Herman Hamid Utusan Malaysia Rencana 06 September 2015

The laws of peaceful assembly

According to the Federal Constitution, the right to assembly peacefully may be restricted by Parliament. Parliament enacts laws that impose restrictions, as Parliament deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or public order.

However, whatever restrictions imposed by Parliament must be reasonable as well as proportionate to the purpose the restriction was imposed in the first place.

There must be a nexus between the restriction and national security or public order. It also follows that arguments that peaceful assembly should not be allowed because it will inconvenience others is not a good reason to restrict freedom of assembly.

Previously under Section 27 of the Police Act, the organiser of an assembly must first obtain a license or ‘permit’ from the Officer in Charge of a Police District (OCPD) of that district before holding an assembly.

If an assembly is held without first obtaining the said permit, then the assembly is deemed to be an unlawful assembly and anyone who attends or participates in the assembly would have committed an offence under the Act.

In effect, under the Police Act, no assembly may be held without first obtaining permission from the police. This regime renders the right to peaceful assembly illusory and ineffective.

Section 27 of the Police Act has been repealed. It no longer has force of law. In its place, Parliament enacted the Peaceful Assembly Act (“PAA”). The Peaceful Assembly Act was enacted to facilitate the right of citizens to assembly peacefully without arms.

Under the PAA, there is no longer a requirement to obtain a permit. Instead, an organiser of an assembly has an obligation to give notification to the OCPD 10 days before an assembly is to be held.

Once notification is given, the OCPD can impose certain conditions and restrictions to the intended assembly, but it has no power to completely prohibit or prevent the holding of that assembly.

It must also be emphasised that an assembly without the pre-requisite notification is not an unlawful assembly. The organisers would have committed an offence under the Act, but the police cannot deny the holding of that assembly merely because notification is not given.

In the landmark case of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor, the Court of Appeal held that the provision, which criminalises the organiser of an assembly for not complying with the notification requirement, is unconstitutional.

As such, the law as its stands that while the organisers of an assembly is still required to inform the OCPD of an assembly, the failure of the organiser to do so pursuant to the Act will not attract criminal sanctions. It is more of a civic duty that must be complied with by the organisers as responsible citizens.

Unfortunately, the police seem to think that they still have the power to give or deny permission to hold a peaceful assembly.

The police continue to talk of ‘not allowing’ the holding of protests and rallies, when in actual fact under the Peaceful Assembly Act all they can do is to impose conditions and restrictions, not to deny outright.

The police also seem to think that the lack of proper notification under the Act is a ground to allow the police to stop the protest or rally.

In fact, until very recently, the police seem to have ignored the decision in Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor and continued to arrest and detain people allegedly for not giving the requisite notification or being involved in an assembly without permit.

The police may obtain an order from the Magistrate Court to stop an assembly under the Criminal Procedure Code. However, there must be grounds to make such an application.

The Magistrate Court should not grant the order if there are no grounds to support the application. Grounds for such an application include preventing injury to any persons lawfully employed or danger to human life, health and safety or to prevent a riot or affray.

Merely saying that these grounds exist would not be enough; the police must show that these grounds exist.

A distinction must be made between peaceful assemblies and riots or assemblies that are not peaceful. For assemblies, which are not peaceful, the police do have powers to take action under the existing laws such as the Penal Code.

Any attempt by the police to deny citizens the right to assemble peacefully and without arms would amount to the police overstepping their legal boundaries and is tantamount to a violation of the citizens’ rights under the Federal Constitution.

Syahredzan Johan The STAR Home News Opinion August 24, 2015

Harimau Malaya needs our support: A night(mare) to remember

It was very easy for many of us to get angry with Malaysia's 10- 0 humiliating loss to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It was easy to make jokes about the team's performance, the players, coach Dollah Salleh and of course everyone's favourite rag doll - the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

I was one of them, forwarding jokes, memes and all that.

Yes, Malaysia were terrible. Worse than terrible. They deserve the brickbats or their performance. No doubt about that.

It wasn't as if they played against Uruguay, Argentina and England right?

Dollah definitely has to go and there definitely needs to be a revamp of FAM from top to the bottom.

But we Malaysians supporters are no better. We are die-hard fans when they do well but are quick to dismiss them when they lose.

We also like to point our fingers at everybody else but ourselves.

Whether it's at FAM, the coach, the players, politicians and even the government.

But I can say that we are not the greatest of fans. Except for the AFF Cup final games or the odd game such as against Singapore, the stadiums are almost empty.

The team is not performing but they are not 10-0 bad. Just like Brazil are not 7-1 bad. Sometimes it just happens in football. It is one of those unexplainable things in football.

We can continue to support the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal although they can lose 6-1 or 8-2.

We can always proclaim that they will never walk alone and such, but why can't we do the same for our national team?

They need our support, but we can't even go to the stadium to show it.

The team is at its bottom now. We Malaysians have to rally behind the troops.

It is easy to wear the colours of your favourite team when they are winning but not when they are down.

Harimau Malaya will play against Saudi Arabia this Tuesday in Shah Alam.

The fans can go to the stadium and show that they support the team no matter what - win, lose or draw.

So let us get behind our own team. Selamanya!
Rashvinjeet Singh The STAR Home News Columnist 6 September 2015

A night(mare) to remember

NOT once but twice. We seem to be charitable to Middle Eastern countries these days.

Palestine, a war-torn nation with mostly naturalised players ripped us apart. Conceding six goals at the Shah Alam Stadium was not a sight to behold.

I remember vividly the words of national defender Afif Amiruddin, who was battered but looking to bounce back: “We have to do well. Look at our ranking… It has gone down. I hope I can help the team improve its rankings and also do well in the World Cup qualifiers.”

On Thursday, I am sure those words would have haunted him…

Afif was one of the players involved in the humiliating 10-0 defeat to the United Arab Emirates in the World Cup qualifications.

We all want to forget the result but the history books will not be kind to us.

It was the worst result for Harimau Malaya since going down to New Zealand 8-2 in an international match played in Kuala Lumpur almost 50 years ago.

The players were all over the place. Dollah played five-man defence but the players forgot the basics of defending.

Omer Abdulrahman, Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout, three of the best players in the 2015 Asia Cup, had a field day and made our players look like school kids. Actually, I think school kids are way better than our players.

Khairul Fahmi Che Mat’s reaction after Malaysia conceded the fifth goal was telling. He was certainly frustrated and bemused with the team’s lackadaisical performance.


United Arab Emirates (UAE) players celebrate after thrashing Malaysia 10-0. -AFP

When playing against top sides, it is important for a team to be tactically organised and follow the coach’s instructions. In this case, they played zonal and they flunked.

UAE scored the fourth goal and the team just conceded defeat. They lost it in the first half itself.

Goalkeepers, not one but three who played in the match were unable to find an answer for such porous defence, and the midfield led by Safiq Rahim was devoid of ideas and just stood there and watched the brilliance of Abdulrahman.

Humiliating? Disappointing? Pointless? Abysmal?  I can’t seem to find the best word to sum up their performance.

My thoughts go to the Malaysian fans who attended the match. I am sure they would have been gutted to watch such a spineless performance.

Having attended a corruption conference on Thursday, I thought there was an element of foul play but after watching the highlights, I just knew the players were not cut out for it.

In 1980s and 1990s, we used to give Middle Eastern sides a run for their money but now we seem resigned to losing against these nations.

“I expected to lose just by a goal but not this scoreline. I am shocked but also responsible for this,” said Dollah Salleh after he arrived with the team at the Kuala Lumpur International (KLIA) airport.

Never have I seen a coach come up with such a plan before a match. If the Singaporeans can hold Japan in their own backyard, why can’t we?

As a coach, you have to be confident with your squad even though you are given minimal time to prepare. It is your squad and you should know how to utilise them! Coaching 101…do you need such a book, coach Dollah?

It was good to see him quit the national team because he knew he could not do anything to the ailing squad. Datuk Ong Kim Swee is now the interim coach of the national team and I am sure he will have a pretty tough task of leading the players.

Confidence will be down and Ong will surely address that. It would be a miracle to beat Saudi Arabia at Shah Alam Stadium this Tuesday!

When Malaysia was annihilated by Palestine in June, I wrote that Malaysia had the luxury of having centralised training in countries like Slovakia and Japan, and yet when these matches come, our players suddenly become kaki bangkus!

We have only regressed. After this defeat, our ranking will surely be affected and all will push the blame on FA of Malaysia (FAM) – rightly so!

I have always said this - the association should be responsible for this dip! What have they done to improve our football?

Even those who are expecting "summer days" for our football in the future will only think of "darkness" now. There is nowhere to hide for FAM!

All stakeholders should meet up and discuss. I have said this many times! Is FAM going to meet only when the national loses 20-0? Do you want to see badminton or rugby scoreline in the near future?

How many times do we have to learn from our mistakes? Like I have said, it's time to ponder and come up with a real good plan! Maybe you need to call people who are really passionate about football.

You know what, the leadership needs to step down and the management needs an overhaul… A must if you ask me! Do not tell me that this defeat does not humiliate them!

Come out and be responsible. The fans have been craving for success. After the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup victory, the national has not improved and FAM has to accept that fact.

It is a shame to see our football fall to such depths. It will be hard to recover but it will be progress if we see changes in FAM. If that does not happen, our football will be in deep abyss!

Step on it, people

Our football teams used to be among the best in Asia. But now, we have fallen so far down and the spirit is definitely lacking.

IF there’s one thing Malaysians do not need at this juncture, it is another bout of bad news about the country. We have had enough black eyes over the past few months and something uplifting would surely be good for our morale.

Our ringgit has taken a beating, our stock market has been hit, and the political image of Malaysia, too, has been badly bruised.

Online mockery: These were the creative memes which went viral via the social media after the humiliating 10-0 thrashing by the United Arab Emirates in the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers last Thursday.

But now, we have to live with the outrageous news that our Malaysian football team has been humiliated by the United Arab Emirates 10-0 in the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers last Thursday.

This is a new all-time low in our football history. We don’t need another new low because that news angle has become repetitive through the updates of our ringgit’s value these days.

At the rate we are sinking, our footballers will probably be beaten by the Eskimos and Amazon tribes who have never played football in their entire lives.

Malaysia is now languishing with the minnows in 169th spot out of 209 countries, a drop of six positions from the previous ranking.

This is according to the latest ranking released by the International Football Federation (FIFA) on Sept 3.

It’s no laughing matter but in Asia, we are just above countries like Pakistan (No.170), Bangladesh (No.173), Laos (No.174), Yemen (No.175), Cambodia (No.180) and Brunei (No.182). Even Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan country, is ranked 164 – better than Malaysia. Bhutan may have been thrashed 15-0 by Qatar in the qualifiers on the same day, but Malaysia’s has had a longer history with the game.

Our downward spiral is obvious. We recently got thrashed 6-0 by Palestine on home ground and could only manage a 1-1 draw with Timor Leste.

Malaysians dare say that if we were to play against the top women teams in the world, we could end up being walloped. The US women’s team, which recently won the FIFA 2015 World Cup, will probably tear our Harimaus to shreds if such a match is allowed.

It is easy to fault the coach and players but let’s be brutally honest here – why shouldn’t the leadership of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) take the responsibility too?

Coach Dollah Salleh has decided to quit, announcing his decision upon arrival at the KLIA on Friday. It would have been wrong for him to cling on to the job after such a performance.

But is the leadership of FAM prepared to do the same as the same faces seem to have dominated the leadership all these years?

Rightly or wrongly, the FAM is seen as dictatorial, seemingly unwilling to tolerate dissent or any form of challenge. FAM has put to shame the North Koreans for its intolerance of public criticism.

When the team fails, everyone else is blamed except the FAM leadership, which seems untouchable.

The reality is that our football standards are at the lowest ebb. When the Malayan Tigers were knocked out of the AFF Suzuki Cup, head coach Datuk K. Rajagopal was blamed and made a scapegoat. Now, it’s the turn of Dollah Salleh. What next – blame the Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin?

In fact, Khairy who had questioned and criticised FAM on numerous occasion has even been reportedly labelled “biadap” (rude) for speaking out against FAM.

Don’t tell Malaysians that it is seditious to speak up against the FAM or even the Johor FA because they are headed by royalty. They are elected to head our football associations and ordinary Malaysian fans, as stake­holders, have the right to demand transparency and accountability. These sports bodies belong to us, the fans, and are surely not to be passed on from one person to another for hereditary reasons.

The irony is that while Malaysian fans are getting crappy deals, our football players are getting huge salaries – the kind of money that our legends like the late Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun and Santokh Singh could never have imagined in their wildest dreams, as our politicians love to say these days.

Bhutan national players reportedly get a paltry RM582 a month and would probably have to sell cow’s milk to supplement their income but our players are getting five- to six-figure incomes every month. It’s a big deal even with the depreciating ringgit.

And is FAM poor? Far from it and that’s why no one seems to be keen to leave their seats. FAM is getting millions in sponsorship.

The leadership of the FAM is decided by 39 delegates – the 14 state FAs have two votes each (28 votes), together with Armed Forces (2), Police (2), Malaysian Malays (2), Malaysian Chinese FA (2), Malaysian Indian Sports Council (2) and Malaysian Coaches Association (1).

Like FIFA, which is currently embroiled in its own leadership crises, there is a lot of power in the hands of the delegates who sometimes do not necessarily carry the views of the people they are supposed to ­represent.

Malaysians love football. We have had our heady days when we were truly among the best in Asia. We even qualified for two Olympics. Our local league has strong support and the battles between the states show the passion in the game. Yet, when it comes to playing for the nation, the spirit is lacking.

Malaysian fans are the ones getting a poor deal, and probably find comfort in supporting their favourite Premier League teams.

It’s bad enough to be mocked at for our politics, and now we have to bury our heads and tails even when it comes to football.

Graft: A scourge worth fighting

ON MARCH 17 this year, Tenaga Nasional Bhd employee Muhammad Prem Haikal Abdullah had a workday he would not forget easily. Two women, separately, offered him RM400 and RM300 in the hope that despite their unpaid electricity bills, the power supply to their shops would not be cut.

He did not go along with that. Instead, he reported those incidents and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) charged the women with the offences. On Wednesday, the two pleaded guilty and the Shah Alam Sessions Court fined one RM4,000 and the other RM3,000.

This is not the first time that Muhammad Prem Haikal, a senior manager with the power company’s investigation and intelligence unit, had refused to be bribed. In March 2012, RM1,000 was dangled before him because a businessman wanted to avoid being hauled up for electricity theft. A year later, the man was punished with a day in jail and a RM10,000 fine.

There have been many similar court cases centred on failed attempts to bribe other Tenaga Nasional officers.

Most Malaysians probably consider these as minor wins in the fight against corruption in Malaysia, which is a key focus of the Government Transformation Programme. But these cases also underscore two crucial points – corruption is not just the public sector’s problem, and often, corruption involves both the givers and the takers.

It is useful to bear these in mind in these days of raging controversies, persistent allegations and dramatic developments.

It may be hard for us to stay patient, rational and far-sighted in the current political and economic conditions, but as this week’s International Anti-Corruption Conference in Putrajaya has shown, there is no quick and easy way to beat corruption.

Nevertheless, everyone can agree that the efforts must go on. How can Malaysia achieve high-income nation status if corruption undermines public confidence in the Government and other cornerstone institutions; puts off people from participating and investing in the national economy; and deprives the economy of resources?

On Thursday, when defending the Government’s record in countering corruption, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi pointed out that Malaysia was ranked 50th out of the 175 countries covered in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014. The year before, Malaysia was 53rd. The aim is to be in the top 30 by 2020.

He added that the Government was looking into plans to strengthen the independence of the MACC and the office of the Auditor-General.

This is a clear statement of intent. What is less apparent though is whether there is sufficient national resolve to embrace transparency, integrity and accountability.

It is not enough to merely rail against corruption. For Malaysia to battle corruption effectively, we must all spurn illegal short cuts such as giving bribes to escape enforcement action or to tilt the playing field.

Also, we have to be ready to act. Of late, there has been some contention over what qualifies as whistle blowing, but one thing has not changed – every time a brave and conscientious person exposes an abuse of power, corruption dies a little. And that has to be coupled with a collective will to ensure the wrongdoers do not get away with it.

The anti-corruption war is long and arduous, but it is without doubt a fight worth fighting. The STAR Home News Opinion Columnist 6 September 2015

Pekan Cina, Pekan Melayu

THE penny boatman is a dying breed and Ah Chong, 65, may well be the last of his kind. Balanced like a dancer in the stern of his sampan, he poles his way towards the bank of Sungai Kedah, where his next passenger awaits him. For RM1, he provides transport to villagers to cross over from Sungai Kedah to Pekan Cina.

For more than 200 years, boatmen, such as Ah Chong, have provided those living along the river with one of the oldest modes of transportation. The penny boat, or perahu tambang, has long been a cheap and convenient way for villagers in Kampung Seberang Nyonya, Tambang Badak and Pantai Johor to cross the waterway to Pekan Cina and Alor Star.


A row of shophouses built in the early days of Pekan Cina


On a good day, Ah Chong earns over RM20 and he can carry three person per trip.

Passengers with bicycles and motorcycles are sometimes charged extra. Once a thriving profession,

Ah Chong’s career is slowly giving way to progress and development in Pekan Cina.  “In the past, passengers were charged 5 sen each for the trip.

The jetty here used to be a very busy place where it supported many trading activities.

“Boatmen in their sampans transported rice and other agricultural produce along the river,” he said. However, paved roads and bridges along and across Sungai Kedah have replaced the sampan.

Ah Chong said the scorn of the young and more affordable private transportation left only a few people who were keen to cross to Pekan Cina via sampan.

“Pekan Cina has changed a lot. There are so many cars here right now and sometimes, we are dealing with parking problem. Those days, people were travelling via trishaws, bicycles and sampan,” he said.

Pekan Cina was opened in 1862 by the early Chinese settlers. It was also known as the town’s earliest road, lined with typical old Chinese-style shophouses.

Located about two minutes away from the Alor Star city centre, the city’s first hotel was the Tai Ah Hotel in Jalan Pekan Cina, which later was converted into a shop.


The arch is a unique mixture of Pekan Cina and Pekan Melayu.
Today, the two-storey shophouses in Pekan Cina offer a wide range of businesses, such as toy retailers, fishing equipment stores, fertiliser shops, printing service shops, food and drink retailers, coffee shops, a cafe, motel and workshop.

Tea-seller Lee Ley Seng, 68, having grown up in Pekan Cina, said it had taught him the meaning of harmony and peace by living in a multiracial country.

“The most unique thing about Pekan Cina is that it is located next to Pekan Melayu.

“Most of the traders would stay in their shophouses.

“They would run their businesses as usual in daytime but at night, it was like a festival. “Neighbours from Pekan Cina and Pekan Melayu would chat over tea and coffee, and mingle with each other,” he said.

Lee grew up with 10 siblings at his father’s tea shop. He took over the business when his father died. “I really miss the good old days.

Elderly Chinese men could be seen whiling away their mornings here over cups and cups of steaming Chinese tea, and indulging in their favourite pastime, Chinese checkers.

“As years went by, no one lived here as the buildings were too old. “Most of the old traders moved to big cities to continue running their businesses,” he said, adding that Pekan Cina had changed, too, as some shophouses were converted to cafes, hardware stores and bars as well.


Lee hopes the Kedah government could preserve the more than 100-years-old buildings, as they were one of the treasure troves available in the state.

Echoing his sentiment was Lim Siaw Liang, 71, who works at a dry food store, selling anchovies and belacan (shrimp paste or sauce). Lim has been working at the store for over 20 years, and lamented that the number of traders here had dwindled, with most moving to cities to run their businesses.

“According to my late father, Pekan Cina had its own attraction. People here were living peacefully with the Malay community who lived in Pekan Melayu and they mingled with one another.

“We were like family. “This town has uncountable memorable experiences to certain people. The young generation should learn from the past about the meaning of harmony and living together, regardless of race and religion.

“If people ask me what is the best example and the meaning of peace, I would tell them, go to Pekan Cina and Pekan Melayu, and you will learn something from them.”
Menara Tanjung Chali was built in recent years and has quickly become an attraction to tourists.