October 5th, 2015

A quest for a sense of order

THE mind is always charting out territory because our earliest instinct is to know. That is why books have a table of contents, an index in the end pages for details of location; why there are road maps and why, when we’re having an important meeting or going to an examination hall, we’re always told to first gain familiarity with the area.

The new is always bewildering for us because it sets our thinking out of kilter. As you have read here many times before, studies in neuroscience have shown that whenever you learn a new word, for instance, your brain goes into a series of classifying rituals. It wants to know its meaning, its opposite meaning, if you have seen it or not seen it before, if it belongs to which class of things and so on.

This is partly self preservation, partly a quest for a sense of order. In my sometime role as a tour guide I always apprise newcomers of where we are: in the north, in the south, east or west.

I believe that this settles them a little and gives them context and meaning and a place in the greater picture. It explains the curiosity anyway, of why people visit places to gain an understanding of the area, the need to know why and where things are in place or in history.

There is a way of writing called proprioceptive writing which looks closely not only at the way we write but also the depth of meaning of what comes out of our pen or pencil.

Proprioceptive writing always prefers writing out text rather than typing them because in writing you are involved at a greater level, the haptics of writing activates many hidden pathways.

I said earlier that this is a way of writing in depth. But what did I mean by depth? This is a way the method flows, you write and examine your words and then you probe deep into them — as meaning, as exploratory routes, as indicators.

Not surprising therefore that its origin is in psychotherapy and it is used now, even by some established writers, as a way of unblocking, getting a freer flow. Writing is a comparatively new acquisition in terms of human skills. We have been ‘reading’, seeing, interpreting, explaining since time began.

Our explanations may have not been right — spirits for science and so on, but that gave comfort in many ways because it fulfilled to some extent our need to know. Before writing we merely memorised and then when we learned to make written representations of the sounds of words, that opened many doors and eyes.

The oldest palm print on the wall of a cave is somewhere in Sulawesi, but think how that changed our perception and thinking, knowing that we could copy what we knew for it to remain there for a long time as a mark of our being here. For new writers I have always recommended copying.

Yes, copying can be a creative act if you set out from the start where you want to go. Copy out any text that strikes you, any quotation, any paragraph from a book, words from a song, poetry that moves you.

As you write out the words onto paper your hand and your brain take in the shapes, the fee and the meanings. This is how Benjamin Franklin learned to write and to argue: he copied articles that he liked from the American Spectator magazine. He analysed what the words meant, he wrote counter arguments, and then he wrote out the arguments again, in poetry.

We always imitate before we find for ourselves the way to go. Journal writing is another way of making words part of your daily consciousness.

Keeping a journal is not the same as keeping a diary. A diary can be a record of events, a series of reminders of dates, appointments and so on, but a journal goes much deeper.

People who keep journals often say that they clear their minds of clutter, make their thinking clearer, and for writers, this is a way of practising the craft. You examine, you explain, you meditate, you make yourself feel and describe how it is so.

Journal writing need not be an everyday event, but once it becomes a constant part of your being, the rewards work subtly but they contribute towards your personal growth. T

This is why writing is sometimes superior to memory. You know that memory gives you the feel and the sense of rhythm and the story but writing probes even deeper because it is a slower process. In this slowness is time to examine closely, to see the shapes and syllables and the recognition of words.

The realisation of literacy is not when you can read words but when words leap out of the page and become instantly recognisable. You can see this as the beginning of mastery.

Words think and they make you think about them too. The love of words is a pleasure in itself, something you experience when you hear good poetry, the beautiful lyrics of a song.

Good speakers understand the value and the rhythm and cadence of words. And then you come to metaphors: you cannot live without metaphors and that is your mind thinking analogously, looking at things while thinking of other things.

Pick up a newspaper and read any news story and underline all the metaphors. You will be surprised by how we say things by saying other things.

The Act was bulldozed through Parliament. Can that be true? If not, what did the writer want to tell you? How many times in a day is our thinking influenced by metaphors?

There are many psychologies that work through the analysis and understanding of words. Words sway, shape, deliver, conceal thought.

Write that now and you will never read another book again without knowing yourself and other people. And that’s a road map that’s useful to know.

Wan A Hulaimi NST Columnist 4 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:00 AM

Freedom fighter till the end

TAN Sri Yuen Yuet Leng walked into the living room of his house and greeted the journalist waiting to interview him with a big smile. A jovial man, Yuen was not what the reporter expected of a famed jungle basher, a Special Branch officer known to have infiltrated armed communist groups to persuade them to give up, or gather intelligence on their locations and movements.

He was the bane of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) when he was a Special Branch officer, so much so that a “bounty” was put on his head.

Yuen received many death threats in the 34 years he was in the police force, including, it was said, threats against his family. Yet, when it was suggested that he spend some time overseas to be on the safe side, he refused.

Such was his sense of duty to country. Yet, here before the journalist, was a quiet, unassuming-looking man. It was difficult indeed to believe that this man was once one of the most feared police officers among CPM members.

It was not till he began speaking that the fiery character shone through. Indeed, the topic inflamed the passions, nay, anger, of the man, who was already in his late 70s.

Certain politicians had claimed that Alliance leaders, especially those from Umno, such as Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, were not freedom fighters, and that people like CPM secretary-general Chin Peng and the party itself had contributed to independence.

Puan Sri Chan Choy May, the widow of Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, receiving a Jalur Gemilang from Bukit Aman Management Department director Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah at Yuen’s funeral in Nilai yesterday. Pic by Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali
This riled Yuen up, and he began speaking with passion. He said there were many ways of being a freedom fighter, and one need not resort to violence.

“I don’t understand the logic. How can anyone say Chin Peng and CPM were responsible for the independence of Malaya, and our leaders, like Tunku (Abdul Rahman), were not the real fighters for independence? “

Do we have to take part in a bloody war for independence or spend time in jail (for sedition) before we can be called freedom fighters?

“For what? So that we can have deaths on both sides?”

Yuen argued that Chin Peng was fighting not for Malayan independence, but for a communist state.

His sense of pride and love for the country was on display as he talked. It was that love for his country that led Yuen to do what he did during his three decades in the force.

Ever the dutiful officer, he sacrificed a lot for his nation. Family life was no peach.

He missed many a family function as he was away in the jungles. Even his family members were unaware of what he was doing for love of country.

He even missed the deaths of some of his children. In at least two battles with insurgents, he suffered wounds. One such wound saw a bullet get lodged near his heart. That piece of metal was never removed.

Five years after retiring in 1984, his life’s mission was fulfilled. CPM lay down its arms and signed the Hat Yai Peace Accord on Dec 2, 1989.

It was something in which he had been instrumental in achieving. Peace was finally at hand. Even after his retirement, he remained vocal about the things affecting his country.

He had to, he was known to have said, because if its citizens were not united, then, he and other members of the security forces, especially those who had lain down their lives, had sacrificed for nothing.

On Thursday, Malaysia lost a true national hero and patriot. Yesterday, Yuen was buried with full police honours. It was a fitting tribute to a man who was one of the finest officers the police force has ever produced. Yuen was a towering Malaysian, who saw no difference in the colour of skin.

He knew only that we, as citizens of a beautiful nation filled with people of multiple ethnicities, should stand together in peace and harmony. We should take heed of the words of a wise man, a man who was wounded in the line of duty for his country even before he became a Malayan citizen, even before the nation, which would eventually become Malaysia, was formed.

Tunku Abdul Rahman led the country peacefully to independence. But, that peace was soon torn asunder by CPM. It was through the blood and sacrifices of people like Yuen that this nation once again achieved the peace its people craved.

To be a nation divided would be an insult to those who fought so hard to gain peace for us.

A cop extraordinaire

THE nation yesterday bid farewell to the late Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, a courageous survivor of Malaysia’s perilous battle against the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) during the Emergency and subsequent Emergency years till 1989.

The police officer extraordinaire, who died at the age of 88, had, from young, believed, fought and nearly died for a multiethnic Malaysia with justice and fairness to all, without any prejudice to Malays and other Bumiputeras.

He was an apolitical but politically conscious senior police officer, who put his country before self, which, coincidentally, was also the title of his 2008 book, Nation Before Self and Values That Do Not Die.

Sometimes controversial and with “straight from the shoulder” views, Yuen wrote the fascinating thoughts of one man and a national hero on where we are today as a nation and what the future holds.

National unity and lasting peace were uppermost on his mind. “We won the war against communist terrorism through a multiracial front and communal unity,” he once commented.

But, he said the nation had not been too successful in preserving peace “because some of our people began to think more on racial lines instead of maintaining the unity established during the dangerous Emergency times”.

Perak-born Yuen was a soldier’s soldier, and was greatly praised by his men and foes. Former inspector-general of police (IGP) Tun Hanif Omar, who delivered a eulogy at Yuen’s funeral service yesterday, sent a wreath, the message of which read: “A tiger dies and leaves behind its stripes; man dies and leaves behind his name and deeds.

“May you be long remembered for your courageous and exceptional services to the King and the country. “Farewell, friend.” Yuen, who died from heart failure, was buried yesterday with full Royal Malaysian Police honours.

Being a top police officer, Yuen led from the front and was twice wounded in action.

He also worked for 20 years in the Special Branch in secret, and was involved in delicate and risky security operations. He was both a strategist and tactician.

Hugely respected and feared, he was targeted for assassination in numerous failed communist operations. Yet, Yuen refused offers to migrate, even though his life was under threat.

“In 1984, when the IGP arranged for me to migrate because CPM still wished to assassinate me for doing my duty to the nation, I changed my mind because I still believed that enlightenment would still come, even as I knew, in 1978, that the degeneration of political and moral values with increasing racism continued.

“I bled inside for the nation I was twice shot for. “Our national task is to build a future for all, with moral, legal and constitutional justice.” He retired from the police force in 1984 as Sarawak police commissioner after 34 years in service.

One of his daughters’ speeches during his 80th birthday celebration summed up how she saw him as her father and an officer to his men.

“Your sense of duty to the country is everything to you, and for that, you would gladly lay your life down as a sacrifice, so that the country would be a better place for us to live in,” she said.

Yuen’s passing also serves as a timely reminder to us to recognise more of our unsung heroes, irrespective of race.

There are many more Yuens out there. There are also teachers and other civil servants who had served during the turbulent era, and in remote and hardship places. Kirkby- and Brinsford-trained teachers, too, had served tirelessly and should be given some recognition as well.

These two great teacher training institutions were established in Britain to train Malayan teachers before and in the early years of Merdeka.

They were the Kirkby Teachers’ College in Liverpool for primary school teachers and the Brinsford Teachers’ College for secondary school teachers in Wolverhampton.

The teachers who were trained there are considered legends in their field and great role models to our younger generation. They served a young nation, and were ready for any posting. They, too, have a story to tell.

So, too, our former sportsmen and sportswomen for the sacrifices they made without having much expectation. The younger generation should be told of the sacrifices of these unsung heroes, and that Malaysia would not be what it is today without the dedication and sacrifices of the people who once served the country.

I would like to end this piece with this great quote by Yuen: “My experiences in life and the police service have made me a continuing Chinese, also a Malay and an Indian, in one Chinese body. “If any race is hurt or deprived unjustly or unfairly, a part of myself feels hurt.”

A. Jalil Hamid NST Opinions Columnist 4 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:02 AM

A Malaysian for all seasons

HIS courage, devotion to duty and passion for the country of his birth are a matter of public record. Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, the irrepressible “policeman’s policeman”, the poisonous thorn in the flesh of Malaya’s, and subsequently Malaysia’s, militant communists and the bane of their lives throughout his 34 years of exemplary police service and leadership, has died at the age of 88. He finally succumbed to a failing heart.

This brave man on whose life several assassination attempts were made and frequently shot at on his innumerable jungle-bashing forays, carried not just the scars of war to the grave, but an enemy bullet lodged in his body that doctors considered too dangerous to remove. Yuen had, I am sure, the quiet satisfaction of denying his enemy the pleasure of adding his name to their list of “enemy killed”.

The country’s foremost counter-insurgency strategist had not quite finished with them yet. He was among that special breed of totally loyal and dedicated Malayan Special Branch officers of Chinese origin, who succeeded in harvesting a bountiful crop of high-grade intelligence that broke Chin Peng’s back and turned the tide of what the communists referred to as The War of the Running Dogs, with apologies to Noel Barber, the author of the excellent book of that name, first published in 1971. It can be confidently asserted that in the country’s greatest hour of need, providentially, we had those Chinese officers to dismantle the Chinese wall of silence and to infiltrate into the innermost sanctum of the Malayan Communist Party.

If we had to rely solely on British, Malay and Indian SB (Special Branch) officers to gather, collate, analyse and interpret the vital military grade intelligence needed to prosecute successfully the war against Chin Peng, the outcome of the emergency would in all probability have been different. The British themselves were the first to admit this.

The vital contribution of the police of all races, men and women at the sharp end of the sinister war against communist domination cannot be overestimated. It was police intelligence, painstakingly and professionally procured by the Chinese officers of the SB that changed the whole approach to jungle fighting.

The security forces with the support of the SB were now able to dictate where and when the communists would be ambushed. The communists no longer called the shots: they were now in constant fear of walking into a well-prepared police field force or army ambush. The hitherto set piece, totally inappropriate, battalion strength sweep through the jungles of Malaya in hopes of flushing out the communists, much favoured by the British, had become a thing of the past, thanks to people like Yuen.

The success rate improved significantly, shortening the war considerably. The remarkable thing about Yuen is that he was not merely carrying out his SB duties with great panache and imagination, long before “thinking out of the box” became a management buzzword; he had an amazing grasp of the significance of what he was doing in the overall national scheme of things.

He had an intuitive appreciation of the broad national policies that needed to be put in place so as to give substance to 1Malaysia, long before Najib popularised the idea.

A united Malaysia and what needed to be done by all Malaysians to achieve this was his one great passion, or those who had the privilege of listening to Yuen expound with an almost messianic zeal his vision of a Malaysia fit for all, recognised that deep down this distinguished “police pensioner”, as he often described himself, beat the robust heart of a true patriot. He needed little encouragement to change tack and would unapologetically sail into his life-long passion — a united Malaysian nation based on strict adherence to the constitution.

He wanted official policies to be grounded firmly in justice and equity; policies that united rather than those that tended to divide us, and policies that respected Malay/Bumiputera rights without denying others their legitimate rights. In brief, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, throughout a life of service to his country, had sought to bring to An End to Otherness, with apologies to Sir Shridath Ramphal that outstanding humanist under whom I served all those years ago in London.

In this, Yuen and Shridath shared a common vision of inclusiveness. Yuen’s legacy will assuredly go down in the annals of Malaysian police history — of men and women of all races, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their country’s freedom.

More lasting will be the resonance of his wisdom in the consciousness of Malaysians of goodwill whenever they reflect upon the failings of the past even as they contemplate the future course of their nation’s history.

Yuen, whom I had the honour of knowing and sharing our concerns about the future of our country, has left us, taking with him our eternal gratitude for his being in our midst these last 88 years. Let us who love this country keep his vision of a united Malaysian homeland alive.

Tunku Abdul Aziz NST Columnist 5 October 2015 @ 11:01 AM

Unsung heroes who push students to reach for the stars; I’d have been nothing without you, teacher

I’d have been nothing without you, teacher

TODAY is World Teachers Day. So here is a heartwarming anecdote for teachers: “Be a mum first at school, then a teacher.”

There was a WhatsApp video clip a few years ago that shared the above sentiments. It was related by a man who spoke simply and superbly on the virtues of a being a mum first, and then a teacher.

There was a teacher named Mrs Thomson who entered class every day and wished the children with the greeting, “Love you all”.

But deep down, she knew she was lying, because she could not feel love for one child. She could not bring herself to love one child in the class, named Teddy, who was untidy, unkempt and poor. She was indifferent to the child and picked on him for everything negative and wrong in the class.

It was the practice in the school for the class teacher to write a progress report for the first half of the year and it was the system in the school that the headteacher had to counter-sign the progress report written by the class teacher.

After reading the progress report for Teddy, the headteacher called the class teacher and told her that a progress report should show some progress, but the progress report written for Teddy was poor and showed that he had no future and that the child’s parents would give up hope on Teddy.

The class teacher said that she had nothing positive to write about Teddy. The headteacher then sent Teddy’s previous years’ progress reports to the class teacher.

After reading the previous years’ progress reports by other teachers, the class teacher was shocked to discover that Teddy was a bright and intelligent child in the class.

As she read the progress reports, she discovered that Teddy was losing interest in his studies after his mother fell sick.

In the 5th Standard progress report, the teacher had written that Teddy lost his mother to terminal cancer, and together with that, he lost himself.

With tears in her eyes, she went back to the class the next day and, as usual, started her day with the greeting “Love you all”.

She knew was lying, because this time the love she was feeling for Teddy was far greater than that for the rest of the class. She decided to change herself and look at Teddy with a positive spirit and love.

Teddy was given special attention and coaching in his studies. On the last day of class, the children brought special gifts for the class teacher and there, among the beautifully-wrapped gifts, was a crumpled newspaper-wrapped gift.

The class teacher opened the newspaper-wrapped gift first, knowing that it must have been from Teddy.

There was a half-filled perfume bottle and a bracelet that had a few gemstones missing. The class laughed at the gift from Teddy, but the class teacher took the perfume bottle and sprayed it on herself and wore the bracelet.

He felt proud and said: “Now you smell like my mother.” Teddy said it was the last perfume that his mother used before she died and the bracelet was taken from her body before she was put in the coffin.

Every year after that, even though she was no more teaching him, Teddy would send her a “thank you” note, saying that though he had seen many teachers, she was the best.

Many years later, after they had lost contact and the class teacher had retired, she received a letter from Teddy.

In the letter, Teddy said he was now a doctor and that she was the best class teacher and there was an invitation to his wedding.

Though the perfume was no more, she still had the bracelet. So she wore it and went to the church wedding.

As the teacher was looking for a seat in the last row in the church, two ushers came and took her to the front of the church and made her sit on the seat labelled “Mother”.

Teddy told the teacher that she was the closest to he had to a mother, and whatever he was today was because of her. Teddy told his wife that he would have been nobody without the teacher’s love and concern.

The teacher said to the wife that without Teddy, she would not have realised that a teacher had to be a mother first, before being a teacher.

There is a Teddy sitting in every classroom and every teacher should shower love, care and concern on children.

We have children who have lost parents, have only single parents, are latchkey children, or are abused and neglected children in our classrooms, and unless we can touch them with love and care, we will lose them forever.

The school is a building with classrooms and the classroom is a building with four walls with the future in it.

We need teachers to touch hearts, teach minds and transform lives, if we want to achieve a developed nation status

Samuel Yesuiah, Seremban, Negri Sembilan NST Home News Opinion You Write 05 October 2015

Unsung heroes who push students to reach for the stars

SINCE 1994, Oct 5 has been observed as World Teachers Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation.

The day is celebrated in appreciation of teachers’ contribution to the teaching profession. Teachers are unsung heroes who have helped produce individuals who are specialists in economics, education, science and technology.

The economists, professors, inventors, scientists and leaders, whose talent and potential have been discovered by teachers, have made the world proud of their achievements.

Their lives have become an inspiration to others, thanks to passionate teachers who have reminded them that every ambition and goal is achievable as long as they work hard and smart.

Education has always been an issue that arouses public interest, from amendments in the education policy, achievement of students in examinations and the shortage of teachers, to the disciplinary cases of students and poor work ethic among teachers.

When an issue is raised, teachers will be in the limelight and their professionalism will be doubted. Others may lose their faith and respect of this noble profession.

It is a challenge for teachers to be the ripe fruit, instead of rotten apples in the basket, not only to avoid fingers being pointed at them when problems arise, but also to main- tain the nobility and quality of teaching.

To compete globally and create a world-class education system, it is important for educators to stop being ordinary teachers with traditional pedagogies and typical mindsets about students’ ability — scorers are champions, and failures, losers. These are irrelevant and inapplicable to learners.

Teachers should apply revolutionary methods and help learners see beyond the four walls of the classroom, so that students can widen and exchange perspectives.

Generation Y learners need teachers who are energetic, optimistic, empathetic, daring, caring and inspiring to make learning an educational, entertaining and exuberant experience.

Films about teachers — such as Dead Poets Society, Educating Rita, Freedom Writers, Taare Zameen Par, and Teacher’s Diary — depict extraordinary people who struggle to make a difference while dealing with problematic students, educational issues, and parental perceptions and expectations. The films also show the circumstances that teachers face in their career.

In fact, some experience a harder path that pushes them to the limit, testing their mental and emotional strength.

To be a great and exceptional teacher who is appreciated and respected by students is an achievement, satisfaction and blessing. In his best-selling novel, Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom wrote about the beautiful relationship between a teacher and a student, and their sharing sessions that taught the latter valuable and essential lessons in life.

The book should inspire teachers to build a rapport with their students and educate them to be lifelong learners. In the 21st century, teachers need to take teaching to the next level and create a new learning environment.

Traditionally, students initiate a greeting to show respect, but teachers can first greet students, to show friendliness.

In the past, discussions between teachers and students happened through only face-to-face conversations in schools.

Today, teachers may try a fun, trendy and effective approach by creating a group discussion on Facebook and WhatsApp.

This will bridge the gap between teachers and students, strengthen their camaraderie, and allow the involvement of teachers in the students’ learning process anytime and anywhere. Happy World Teachers Day.

Muhamad Solahudin Ramli, Marang, Terengganu NST Home Opinion You Write 05 October 2015

Let cool heads prevail ~ The difference between the STAR and the NST

Let cool heads prevail (NST)

THOSE of you who have been in Penang long enough can surely attest to the fact that racial unity is becoming extremely fragile. Truth be told, after the 2008 general election, there has been a marked increase in the number of street demonstrations in the country, something one never imagined would happen.

In Penang, almost any issue will be blown out of proportion and trigger a street protest, which threatens racial unity. In fact, the state has witnessed its fair share of people openly venting their frustration and rage at the DAP-led administration ever since it assumed power.

At its peak, one could see a street protest once every few months. For those who have lived through both the Barisan Nasional’s and the current state government’s reign, we dare say that life was much more peaceful before.

Over the past seven years, we have seen how the various segments of society took to the streets to defend the Malay traders, who they alleged, were discriminated upon over the illegal stalls issue.

Policemen at the entrance to the Komtar building in Penang after reports emerged on social media that Red-Shirt protesters would gather there to demonstrate over a proposal on the partial ban of loudspeakers at mosques and surau.

The sentiment they had played up then was that the so-called DAP Chinese government only demolished illegal stalls of Malay hawkers and not those belonging to the Chinese.

Then, there were the heinous attacks on the numerous religious houses in the state, with pork being thrown into the compound of the Telaga Air Mosque in Butterworth and a molotov cocktail being hurled into the compound of the Church of Assumption in Lebuh Farquahar on the island.

There was also the desecration of a Siamese Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple in Tanah Liat and Tasek Gelugor, both on the mainland, respectively.

During all those incidents, there had been repeated calls for all to keep calm in the face of those out to incite religious or racial clashes.

Recently, another issue — the proposed partial ban on the use of loudspeakers at mosques and surau except for the azan (call to prayer) and iqamah (prelude to the prayer) purposes — has once again put the state’s racial unity on edge.

The ban on the use of loudspeakers was stated in a leaked official letter from the Penang Mufti’s Department, dated Sept 1, to the state Islamic Religious Affairs Department, following the decision by the Penang Fatwa Committee.

The issue came to light after the letter found its way into social networking site, Facebook, recently. Since then, there have been allegations that the state government had something to do with the committee’s decision, although the state government had denied this.

At least 10 complaints had been registered with the state Islamic Religious Affairs Department on the use of loudspeakers in mosques and surau between January 2012 and May 2015.

Pas Permatang Pauh, which called for a review of the proposed ban, had said that the decision, if accepted, would result in counter-reactions. It also cautioned that the Malays may protest in future when the other religious communities organised open events which may disrupt the life of the people.

There were even rumours of a Red-Shirts rally, planned for last Friday, to oppose the proposed ban. It however did not take place, although there was heavy police presence together with the media and curious onlookers.

Penang Mufti Datuk Wan Salim Mohd Noor had assured that the proposed ban would not affect the sanctity of Islam and added that it was, in fact, in line with passages from the Quran and al-Sunnah.

Perlis had introduced a similar ban a few years ago. Former Perlis Mufti Dr Juanda Jaya had said that the practice of turning up the volume on the microphones, especially before dawn, went against the prophet’s teachings because it disturbs those still asleep.

There were also mixed reactions from the ulama themselves on the matter, with Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin defending the proposal while Pahang Mufti Dr Abd Rahman Osman was against it.

The people should leave it to the wisdom of the ulama to come out with an amicable solution to the issue. Until then, let’s all remain calm and not further threaten the already extremely fragile racial unity, the very fabric on which the Pearl of the Orient and the nation, was built upon.

The leaders in the state, irrespective of their political affiliations, have a crucial role to play to ensure that unity among the people is preserved at all cost.

May cool heads prevail in this latest controversy and may we walk away from this storm fast enough.

Let cool heads prevail (STAR)

Malaysia cannot afford to be distracted by racial politics at this time and the thuggish behaviour of some lower level leaders has resulted in individuals fighting with fellow Malaysians and even thinking of taking on a giant.

OVER the last few years, I have had the opportunity to visit many primary schools, as part of my work in promoting the use of newspapers to learn English, in particular The Star’s Newspaper in Education programme.

This is also part of our corporate social responsibility outreach.

What struck me the most, when I show up at the Chinese primary schools, is the increasing number of non-Chinese students at such schools.

They include tudung-clad Malay pupils, Indians, the occasional Caucasian-looking kids and even a few with African parents. I have seen, with my own eyes, how the shape of these Chinese primary schools has transformed.

The teachers are just as multi-ethnic as well, which is quite a contrast to some national schools which have become predominantly mono-ethnic and even religious in nature.

If there are doubts over what I have said, then visits can be organised for our politicians to some of these schools. They can talk to the children and parents themselves to find out why they picked Chinese primary schools.

The reason is clear – parents want their children to be able to speak and write Chinese, besides Bahasa Malaysia and English. It is clearly an advantage to know an extra language.

The Chinese schools are also known for instilling discipline and maintaining ­standards, and their method of teaching mathematics is highly efficient.

But many Malaysians of my generation, who are now in their 50s and above, went to English medium schools.

I had my primary and secondary education in a Catholic school. My parents, although Chinese educated, insisted I had to go to an English medium school because it would help us in our future.

England was then the economic power house. Being proficient in English would determine our career prospects.

It was just pure economic consideration and my parents, both local born, had no sentiments with China or the Chinese language.

One of my three elder brothers was enrolled in a Chinese school but he did not do so well and his command of English was poor. It was enough for my father to make the decision.

Twenty years ago, I decided to send my daughter to the Puay Chai primary school in Petaling Jaya because my wife and I could see the emergence of China as the new super power.

English remained our medium of conversation at home and it would not be wrong to say that it was my daughter’s first language as well, despite her going to Puay Chai.

I cannot even write my name in Chinese and I remain the classic Yellow Banana – white inside and yellow outside – where I am more close to Western countries than China.

So, don’t even ask me to migrate to China – because I don’t have any relatives there and I won’t fit into mainland China. So, stop being ridiculous.

Again, sending my daughter to a Chinese primary school was made solely on econo­mic reasons. Not because of racial sentiments.

Today, China has indeed become a super power and it would be extremely foolish for any country or any half-baked racist politician to pick a fight with China.

Malaysia remains China’s top trading partner among Asean’s 10 member nations despite the slowdown in the volume of trade in 2014.

Trade between Malaysia and China reached US$102bil (RM363.5bil), down 3.8% compared with an 11.8% hike registered in 2013, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) recently.

Last year, trade between Malaysia and China hit a historic high of US$106bil (RM467bil) with the trade volume exceeding US$100bil (RM441bil).

Malaysia has been China’s largest Asean trading partner for six consecutive years since 2008, and is also China’s third biggest trading partner in Asia after Japan and South Korea.

The two nations pledged to increase ­bilateral trade to US$160bil (RM705bil) by 2017 after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s official visit to China in May last year.

Chinese tourists are certainly needed at this juncture, especially when our depreciating ringgit has made it easier and cheaper for foreigners to come. Tourism is our ­saviour.

We want to make the Chinese tourists, whose number has already dropped by 27%, feel welcome and appreciated in Malaysia.

The events of the past weeks have been damaging and they need to be stopped. China – and the rest of the world – is watching how we are handling this diplomatic hot potato with regard to the Chinese Ambassador’s remarks in Petaling Street. It must be diplomatically resolved and we do not need some of our nitwit politicians to worsen it.

Let’s be blunt. We need China but China does not really need us. We are just a small country but we have been lucky because of our historic ties and also the far-sightedness of the late Tun Abdul Razak who forged official ties with China.

More importantly, Malaysia, with its huge Malaysian Chinese community, has been able to cement the economic relations with China because we understand the Chinese language and culture – putting us above other Asean competitors except Singapore.

This is an asset because when we are able to speak Chinese, we win the minds and hearts of the mainlanders.

This is not something to politicise. And we should be thankful that the Chinese schools have been guaranteed a place in our education system.

We must credit Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, as Education Minister then in 1999, for removing Section 21(2) of the Education Act 1961 which allowed the minister to convert a national-type primary school to a national primary school.

This surely indicated that the Government was sincere in recognising Chinese education and it must be recorded here that the Government also recognises the existence of the 60 Chinese independent schools.

Over the past few weeks, some have questioned the position of Chinese primary schools, suggesting that they are a cause of racial disunity.

I am an advocate calling for the return of English medium schools because I consider it neutral ground. But I do not subscribe to any ill thoughts about Chinese primary schools. They have a place in our system.

Furthermore, non-Chinese today make up over 13% of the student population in these schools and the number is increasing.

The racial disunity premise is not a sound argument because the reality is that Mara colleges, until some years back, were exclusively for Malays and in many science residential colleges, the students are almost entirely predominantly Malays.

Going by this argument, all our schools, colleges and public universities should be more multi-racial instead of being mono-­ethnic.

Our government lacks the political will to open up English medium schools and yet the reality is that if you can afford it, there is the private and international schools option – and we are sure many of our politicians, despite spewing remarks about race and nationalism, send their kids to these privileged schools or overseas.

The events unfolding in our beloved Malaysia over the past weeks have been painful. From raising racial slurs to bullying small-time traders trying to eke out a living in Petaling Street, and threatening to slap people, we are all left wondering why we have gone down so low.

We should be putting our energy to ­revitalise our economy and to strengthen our weakening ringgit but precious time and resources are spent dealing with the pathetic racist and thuggish behaviour of our lower level leaders. More regretfully, they have not been reprimanded by their superiors, which gives rise to speculation that their behaviour is endorsed.

We really cannot afford to be distracted by racial politics, which has resulted in indivi­duals picking fights with fellow Malaysians and even thinking of taking on a giant, which happens to be our biggest trading partner.

Have some of us gone mad? Why do we want to throw away what we have built together, as Malaysians of all races, religions and cultures?

Malaysia belongs to all of us, and not just some politicians. We have to remain rational even when they are not.