November 14th, 2015

Menyantuni integrasi nasional, Rakyat Malaysia di persimpangan

BUKU yang ditujukan kepada rakyat Malaysia berbilang kaum terutama generasi muda yang bakal mewarisi negara ini pada masa depan ditulis oleh bekas Hakim Mahkamah Rayuan yang juga pakar Perlembagaan, Datuk Mohd. Noor Abdullah dan anaknya, Datuk Azrin.

Azrin, 46, lulusan undang-undang dari United Kingdom pernah berkhidmat sebagai Ketua Bahagian Hiburan dan Sukan Astro. Beliau ialah pengasas dan Pengarah Urusan Sedania Innovator Sdn. Bhd., syarikat penyedia perkhidmatan mudah alih.


MOHD. NOOR ABDULLAH (kanan) dan Azrin Mohd. Noor memegang buku tulisan mereka selepas majlis pelancaran naskhah berkenaan di Hotel Majestic, Kuala Lumpur pada 29 Oktober lalu. UTUSAN/MD. SHAH JEHAN MAAMIN

Naskhah ini memang ditunggu-tunggu oleh banyak pihak kerana dapat menangkis tuduhan tidak benar segelintir pihak terhadap Mohd. Noor, 76. Beliau dilabelkan sebagai rasis dan ultra-Melayu semata-mata kerana memperjuangkan sekolah satu ali­ran yang diyaki­ninya mampu memupuk perpaduan dalam kalangan rakyat berbilang kaum.

Pembaca buku ini sudah pasti akan mendapati wujud banyak persamaan antara yang diungkap dalam buku ini dengan buku The Malay Dilemma karya Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yang diterbitkan pada 1970 iaitu sebelum beliau menjadi Perdana Menteri.

Jika The Malay Dilemma bertujuan mendesak orang Melayu menjadi lebih progresif untuk membolehkan kaum itu bersaing dengan masyarakat Cina yang menguasai ekonomi, buku ini lebih menjurus kepada dilema yang dihadapi rakyat Malaysia berbilang kaum.

Ini ekoran wujud golongan tertentu yang cenderung untuk bertelagah apabila membincangkan sesuatu isu, menghina kumpulan yang memberi pendapat berbeza dan ghairah mengadakan demonstrasi jalanan bagi mengubah kerajaan.

Situasi itu membuatkan rakyat Malaysia berada di persimpangan mengenai arah mana yang harus dipilih. Mohd. Noor dalam prakata buku berkenaan menegaskan, majoriti senyap rakyat negara ini perlu bangkit mempertahankan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan keluhuran undang-undang, kerana kaedah itu sahaja yang telah terbukti membawa keamanan kepada negara ini sejak 58 tahun lalu.

“Untuk menghadapi golongan berkenaan memang cukup sukar pada zaman Internet ini kerana pembohongan, berita separuh benar dan cacian boleh disebarkan secara meluas melalui media sosial,” tulisnya.

Jelas beliau, penerbitan buku berkenaan bertujuan menggerakkan seluruh rakyat untuk menentang golongan terbabit dengan cara semua pihak berusaha mencari persamaan dalam masyarakat berbilang kaum.

“Saranan supaya kita mencari persamaan ini sudah tentu tidak diterima oleh golongan ultra-Melayu, Cina dan India yang hanya memperjuangkan kepentingan kaum masing-masing.

“Persamaan ini hanya boleh dicapai jika kita semua memilih untuk mentakrif diri kita sebagai rakyat Malaysia terlebih dahulu dan meletakkan pengenalan diri mengikut kaum di tempat kedua,” tulisnya.

Tambah beliau, semua pihak khususnya generasi muda kini hanya mempunyai dua pilihan, pertama, saling berpegangan tangan antara satu sama lain tanpa mengira kaum bagi mengekalkan perpaduan atau kedua, saling bertelagah antara satu sama lain sehingga meruntuhkan negara ini menjadi serpihan-serpihan kecil.

Azrin dalam prakata buku itu pula menjelaskan, walaupun beliau berbeza pendapat dengan bapanya dalam banyak isu, mereka sependapat bahawa Malaysia sekarang sedang ‘sakit’ dan perlu dibantu oleh seluruh warganya.

“Kami bersetuju untuk sama-sama menulis buku ini dengan niat menyatukan seluruh rakyat Malaysia bagi memastikan kepelbagaian kaum di negara ini menjadi sumber kekuatan kepada kita dan bukan dijadikan alasan untuk membuatkan kita lemah.

“Saya berpendapat sekiranya kita dapat menjadikan Perlembagaan Persekutuan lebih mudah difahami oleh seluruh rakyat, matlamat untuk menyatukan semua penduduk boleh dicapai,” tulisnya.

Antara cadangan penulis bagi memperkukuhkan perpa­duan dalam kalangan rakyat ialah menggugurkan perkataan yang merujuk kepada kaum seperti Melayu, Cina dan India daripada nama dewan perniagaan. Sepatutnya yang perlu ada hanyalah satu dewan sahaja iaitu Dewan Perniagaan Malaysia.

Penulis turut mencadangkan supaya digubal Akta Hubung­an Kaum yang antara kandungannya melarang penubuhan organisasi yang berasaskan kepada kaum tertentu dan diwujudkan satu aliran pendidikan sahaja iaitu Sekolah Malaysia.

Turut dicadangkan ialah pelaksanaan konsep ‘Baba-Ali’ di mana peniaga Cina akan menjadi mentor kepada peniaga Melayu. Kerjasama usahawan berbilang kaum ini akan membolehkan kedua-duanya menjadi lebih maju dalam perniagaan.


INTEGRASI nasional adalah agenda yang sangat penting bagi kelestarian kestabilan politik negara. Untuk berhadapan dengan cabaran yang lebih besar, asas pembinaan negara bangsa Malaysia perlu kukuh dan mampu bertahan.

Era globalisasi atau dunia tanpa sempadan telah menjadikan negara yang berlatarbelakangkan kepelbagaian ini terdedah kepada ancaman pemikiran dan ideologi yang disalahertikan sebagai anutan masyarakat. Maka ini akan menggugat nilai-nilai integrasi yang telah wujud secara harmoni.


SEMANGAT muhibah tanpa mengira warna kulit dan agama dalam meraikan sesuatu perayaan perlu terus dipertahankan agar masyarakat majmuk negara ini dapat hidup dalam aman dan damai. BERNAMA

Justeru memahami integrasi nasional adalah sangat relevan kerana mengenal pasti masalah dan cabaran semasa menjadi input kepada dasar awam yang dilaksanakan pada masa akan datang. Bagi sebuah negara seperti Malaysia, mempunyai komposisi kaum yang berbeza seperti Melayu, Cina, India dan kaum-kaum lain di Sabah dan Sarawak, adalah satu cabaran yang sangat besar.

Tanpa dasar integrasi yang tepat dan sesuai pasti akan memberikan kesan yang besar kepada pemba­ngunan negara. Program dan projek pembangunan akan sukar dilaksana­kan apabila masa, tenaga dan kos terpaksa dihabiskan untuk menyelesaikan konflik dalaman negara.

Pada hari ini, usaha dalam merealisasikan integrasi semakin mencabar. Hal ini disebabkan oleh permintaan yang tinggi dalam persoalan hak sering kedengaran atas nama demokrasi. Hak yang sering dilaungkan banyak menyentuh prinsip-prinsip kesamarataan dan kebebasan sivil bagi setiap individu dalam sebuah negara. Malah suara-suara ini menginginkan kebebasan mutlak bagi ruang kehidupan mereka di negara ini.

Walaupun begitu, liberalisasi dalam kehidupan sebuah negara yang demokrasi adalah agak mustahil jika bersifat absolute freedom atau kebebasan mutlak. Di samping itu, demokrasi yang bersifat liberal seperti di Barat sangat bercanggah dengan nilai dan norma masyarakat Malaysia. Selain itu, ciri kepelbagai­an dalam kalangan rakyat negara ini adalah aset dan elemen unik yang perlu dipelihara.

Jika kita melihat perbezaan itu sebagai sesuatu yang berharga, sudah pasti setiap anggota masyarakat akan bersama-sama mempertahankan nilai tersebut.

Dalam pada itu, masalah integrasi yang timbul berpunca daripada tiada justifikasi yang jelas tentang hak-hak tertentu dan menimbulkan perasaan ketidakadilan dan prejudis. Maka permasalahan utama ialah bagaimana pelaksanaan integrasi nasional dapat dicapai di samping memenuhi kehendak dan permintaan semua kaum atas dasar demokrasi.

Ironinya, Malaysia mempunyai limitasi atau had tertentu dalam Perlembagaan yang melindungi kaum dan kepentingan tertentu. Namun pada masa yang sama tidak menafikan hak kaum lain sebagai rakyat di negara ini. Justeru formula toleransi yang diamalkan selepas merdeka sehingga ke hari ini tidak akan berkesan jika wujud golong­an ekstremis yang terlalu taksub dalam memperjuangkan hak-hak kaum tertentu.

Dalam isu ini, permasalahan tersebut perlu dikupas dalam konteks demokrasi sebagaimana merujuk kepada cabaran dalam menjayakan pelaksanaan dasar integrasi nasional. Demokrasi sering digambarkan sebagai sistem politik yang terdapat di negara-negara barat.

Demokrasi juga bermaksud kebebasan dari sudut kesamarataan dan hak yang juga menjadi asas kepada sistem demokrasi sesebuah negara. Namun elemen kebebasan tersebut harus mengikut acuan, nilai dan prinsip sesebuah negara itu sendiri. Oleh itu demokrasi boleh difahami dengan empat ciri utama. Pertama, kesamarataan; kedua, hak kebebasan; ketiga, kuasa dari rakyat (pilihanraya) dan keempat, pematuhan undang-undang.

Berdasarkan ciri-ciri tersebut, demokrasi mengangkat hak kebebasan setiap individu tetapi ia masih mempunyai limitasi bagi kebebasan tersebut. Kebebasan yang diperoleh harus dibatasi dengan undang-undang bagi menjamin keamanan negara agar pembangunan dapat diteruskan.

Kehidupan yang harmoni mampu memberikan suasana yang selamat dan dapat menghindarkan konflik. Hal ini dapat direalisasikan jika ruang demokrasi yang diberikan itu digunakan dengan cara berhemah dan berorientasikan kecintaan kepada negara.

Dalam pada itu, kebebasan bersuara seharusnya digunakan dengan secermat mungkin bagi mengelakkan salah faham dan menyentuh perkara-perkara sensitif kaum-kaum lain. Di samping itu, keharmonian kaum bagi sesebuah negara yang masyarakatnya bersifat plural harus bermula dengan sikap hormat-menghormati dengan memahami budaya dan nilai antara satu sama lain.

Justeru, apa yang telah berlaku semasa rusuhan kaum 13 Mei 1969, Kampung Medan 2001 dan rusuhan di Plaza Low Yat 2015 jelas menggambarkan betapa rapuhnya perpaduan dalam kalangan masyarakat negara ini walaupun kita telah hidup bersama selama 52 tahun selepas pembentukan Malaysia.

Dalam usaha mengejar kemajuan, penanda arasnya sering meru­juk kepada pembangunan ekonomi. Namun pembangunan tersebut tidak akan tercapai jika kestabilan politik masih lagi tidak berada di tahap yang baik. Perpaduan atau integrasi nasional merupakan prasyarat kepada kemajuan sesuatu tamadun.

Keretakan masyarakat hanya akan membawa risiko yang lebih besar kepada negara. Dalam pada itu juga, sesebuah negara harus mengutamakan kekuatan negara bangsa jika ingin mencapai kemakmuran ekonomi pada masa akan datang dan bertahan lebih lama. Hal ini kerana pembangunan yang mampan hanya mampu dicapai melalui nilai kepelbagaian yang dikompromi tanpa prejudis.

Oleh itu, bagi sebuah negara yang berkomposisikan pelbagai kaum, pendemokrasian yang me­nunjangi sistem politik dan kerajaan harus disantuni dengan bijak. Hanya dengan toleransi tahap tinggi dalam kalangan masyarakat yang akan membawa negara ini maju ke hadapan di samping terus bertahan dalam cabaran dunia tanpa sempadan pada hari ini.

What a law teacher's role is ....

Often students don't remember what you teach them. They remember who you are.

LAST Saturday the Faculty of Law at Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam organised a gala dinner to bring together the faculty’s alumni from 1973 onwards.

It was an occasion perfumed by warm memories stretching back four decades. Anecdotes were recalled and in the midst of obvious pride in all that has been achieved, there were calls to confront boldly the challenges of 21st-century legal education.

The Faculty of Law used the glittering occasion to honour some of its icons who illuminate the judiciary, the legal profession, the academia, the corporate world and the political arena.

As I sat with the distinguished alumni to share in the festivities, I could not but help reflect on legal education in general and my own insignificant role as a law teacher in several universities.

In more than four decades in the classroom it has been my privilege to touch and be touched by the lives of thousands of students. I look back with thanksgiving at the opportunity to assist them to achieve their potential and find their niche in life.

Though the shadows are lengthening on my career, I have not ceased to reflect on the role of a law teacher and my own deficiencies. I often wonder what I could have done to make things better both in substance and in the method of delivery.

Educator: A law teacher disseminates ideals, principles and doctrines that have accumulated over the course of centuries. He stands on the shoulders of all the great thinkers who preceded him.

He promotes activity of thought and receptivity to beauty and humane feeling. He infuses a desire for knowledge. He shares the exhilaration of the adventure of ideas.

He leads students to the shores of knowledge and encourages them to explore beautiful secrets that lie buried and await discovery.

As an educator he tries to make difficult things look simple and simple things look rich.

Mirror as well as candle: Besides being the mirror that reflects the light produced by others, a good educator strives to become the candle that adds to the world’s glow of knowledge. He provides intellectual leadership. Through his writings, research, lectures and seminars he pushes the horizons of knowledge farther.

Moulder of character: A good lecturer moulds character. He motivates, gives courage and faith and builds his students’ confidence in their abilities. He shares the conviction that there is no task beyond our ability. With persistence, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary feats.

It is attitude, not aptitude that determines altitude. Genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.

Loco parentis: A lecturer is a surrogate parent and counsellor. He cares for the welfare and the emotional and intellectual health of his wards. Teaching is a partnership between the student and the educator. A good lecturer teaches with his heart as well as his mind. Often students don’t remember what you teach them. They remember what you are.

Self-education: An academician builds processes but leaves outcomes to the process users. He teaches students how to think, not what to think. Though he imparts facts and values, more importantly he invites students to assemble facts into fresher combinations.

Most lecturers these days have moved away from the “chalk and talk” system of pedagogy. We hold tutorials, seminars, moots, debates and panel presentations. We require a supervised dissertation.

Examination papers have moved away from theoretical enquiries towards problems that require knowledge application.

Despite these changes we have generally failed to make classes more interactive and participative. Perhaps on-campus, student and staff-run legal aid clinics, clinical legal education courses, accredited community-service programmes and open-book examinations may encourage more self-education. We need to incorporate new technologies in teaching.

Questioning permitted: A good educator creates an environment in which respectful questioning and criticism is allowed, dialogue is permitted, and introspection and a sharing of doubts and beliefs are encouraged. He encourages constructive criticism and reform. He is aware that the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled (Plutarch).

He accepts that in law there are always conflicting interpretations. More often than not there are no right answers. Within the limits of the law, diversity of views should be permitted. If we disagree with someone, we should not demonise or stereotype this person. Instead we should offer a well-researched, rational, legal challenge to his view of things.

Two-way education: An educator learns from his wards both on what to teach and how to teach. He understands the vastness of knowledge and the fact that no one can have a monopoly over the truth.

He treats his students as fellow travellers on the journey of knowledge. He does not speak from the mountaintop. He dwells in the valleys of knowledge and gently ushers his wards up to the mountaintop.

Promotes holistic view: He promotes a holistic view of knowledge and its inter-connectedness with all other fields of human thought. He invites students to look at the law as it is, and also as it ought to be. He points out not only what the law says but also what it does. He examines not only the law’s content but also its consequences.

He invites students to look not only at rules, but also behind them to their political, moral, social and economic aims, and beyond them to their political, moral, social and economic consequences.

Justice: Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. A law teacher must instil the desire for justice. Law is not just a heathen word for power. It is a primary, though not the sole, instrument for securing liberty, equality and social justice.

Every law person must develop a passion for fairness and justice for all, irrespective of race, religion, region or gender. While knowing his rights he must be conscious of his duties and also the rights of others. He must understand that the first function of freedom is to free someone else.

Institutions can transform society

In every society, there are institutions that, when established, become strategic institutions than can transform society, for better or for worse.

Among these institutions are universities, like Universiti Malaya, government agencies, like the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu), and non-governmental organisations like Mercy Malaysia and the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia.

Another such institution is the Malaysian Institute of Integrity (IIM), a legacy of former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Established in 2004, IIM celebrated its 11th anniversary on National Integrity Day on Nov 5. Institutions that transform societies have clarity of purpose, philosophy, principles, core values, mission and vision.

Many top multinational and national companies have identified integrity as a governing core value. Integrity is not a stand-alone virtue but it is the core of a network of interrelated positive values.

The school system has a set of 16 core virtues, and subjects like Islamic Studies and Moral Education encompass more than 47 other related positive values. All schoolchildren are exposed to positive values.

Yet, there is the critical need to establish such institutions as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and IIM.

As with consumerism, entrepreneurship, history, parenting education, there are those who seek that each of these areas be included as subjects in the school curriculum.

In education, there is a debate on the overcrowded curriculum. Any new subject must have core and substantive subject matter considered as a mature knowledge discipline.

The trend is not to introduce new subjects but to review contents and values of new subjects to be introduced and integrate the new topics and subtopics harmoniously with existing subjects. In mature educational systems, authorities are not allowed to tinker and arbitrarily introduce new subjects in the crowded school and university curriculum.

However, there are immense possibilities to include new contents and values across the formal curriculum and the non-formal curriculum.

To do this, those involved in curriculum development must be knowledge leaders in multidisciplinary modes and have expertise in broad-based curriculum development as differentiated from just a discipline-based expertise.

Authorities have identified the virtue of integrity as not just about being against corruption but which is more comprehensive.

As yet, thought leaders and curriculum designers have not embarked on such deeper level interventions.

To do so, leaders have to simultaneously examine values and virtues promoted in the formal and non-formal curriculum and those promoted by IIM.

The integrity curriculum has the potential not just to be the curriculum across educational institutions, non-formal education and the mass media, but an integrity curriculum for individuals, families and communities, life long and life wide.

Like language, management, entrepreneurship, history across the curriculum, there can be integrity across the curriculum.

In Islam, there is the distinction between Fard Ain and Fardhu Kifaya. Fardhu Kifaya is that society is expected to have some of its citizens, not all, to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, and business people.

Fardu Ain is that every Muslim must learn to pray and perform the commandments of the religion as everyman’s responsibility. Integrity is Fardhu Ain, every person’s business, as Quality is everybody’s business.

The overarching goal in business is profit as the bottom line. In society, it should be integrity as the overarching foundation for decision making in all sectors and domains.

Integrity is a virtue across the generations as received wisdom. Integrity is a civilisational virtue across time and culture.

A society can be all things it wants to be: an achieving society, a creative society, a religious society, a military like society, or a nation of shopkeepers.

It can also be a society of individuals, systems, laws, processes, procedures and rules, founded on the principle of integrity.

With the agenda of integrity, a society can formulate the aspiration to be best of societies and be on moral high ground to defend, preserve, promote, human rights, a caring, clean society, championing justice in all manner of dealings, with respect for all.

A decade ago, Malaysia declared that it is an excellent, outstanding society, eminently glorious for the virtues that it upholds.

The dream exists among those who championed the course and cause of its history. Many young people have inherited and accepted the dream.

During the last decade, IIM has amassed a large corpus of cases and contents regarding the Integrity agenda.

IIM has now the challenge to manage the knowledge it has generated and utilise them to build a society with noble mind-sets, founded on the virtue of sacred integrity.
Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid The NST Columnist Friday, 13 November 2015 11:01 AM

‘Hello, my name is…’ — Recruiters say local grads struggle even with that

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Poor English proficiency that moved over 1,000 trainee doctors to drop out is a growing problem in the job market, with one recruiter complaining that as many as seven in 10 applicants are “rejected outright” due to a weak command of the language.

The headhunters said the issue was needlessly hurting the employability of local graduates, many of whom could not secure the jobs they applied for despite meeting or surpassing the academic requirements set by employers.

One recruiter with 15 years’ experience said it was baffling that some graduates lacked even rudimentary command of the language, so much so that conversations were nigh impossible

“The language has been taught in schools since Standard One, but we still come across many Malaysian teenagers/graduates/working adults who can’t properly introduce themselves in English,” recruiter Sanmitha Pillai said.

Sanmitha, who is principal consultant and managing director of recruitment firm San Search (M) Sdn Bhd, said that based on her experience, candidates were often forced to forego jobs they were qualified to perform, simply because of their inability to speak and understand English.

“Classic example is hiring for call-centre agents and during the screening process of a walk-in interview/mass hiring, we used to turn down many fresh graduates because they cannot converse well in English.

“Also, I see this happening when I am doing cold calling to potential candidates for a job opportunity.There have been cases of candidates with good experience that we have to turn down because their English capacity is not up to (our) expectation,” she explained.

On Monday, Malaysian Medical Association Malacca chapter president Prof Dr M. Nachiappan was quoted by The Star daily as saying that poor English proficiency has led over 1,000 medical graduates to quit their ambitions to become doctors.

The issue was severe enough that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak remarked on it, noting on Wednesday that he received anecdotal evidence of high-scoring students failing to gain employment due to their weak mastery of English.

‘Manglish’, text-speak affecting use of conversational English

EPS Consultants Sdn Bhd’s George Yap surmised that the poor level of English proficiency among graduates is probably affected by the proliferation of “Manglish”, a pidgin English comprising a mix of local languages such as Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.

And while technology can often aid learning, the business development manager of the recruitment agency also suggested that the proliferation of online and text messaging with the rise in smartphone usage has only compounded the problem.

“In my humble opinion, it has gotten worse due to the shorten/ broken English which is used in social media, namely Facebook.

“Many graduates are unable to write or speak full sentences properly. The new generation now ‘speak’ using smartphones which is not actual verbal communication but short form messaging,” he toldMalay Mail Online in an email interview.

Vice-president of human resources at personal concierge service Belazee, Muslim Nazari, said  the rarity of graduates with an excellent command of English meant the are always in high demand, and that this demand is never been fully met.

“It has always been a bare minimum requirement for companies, 60-70 per cent of candidates are rejected outright due to their English proficiency,” he said.

“I believe this fault lies at the hand of the educators, this is because they are not adept at assessing the language skills of their graduates because they possibly perform just as poorly,” Muslim added.

Malaysia is a former British territory and Malaysians were once considered adept speakers of English, but the reputation began fading after Malay was made the medium of instruction in national schools.

The choice of the language used in Malaysian schools remains a contentious topic, and is often intertwined with the politics of the day.

In 2003, Putrajaya introduced the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English, but reversed this seven years later due to what critics claim was nationalistic pressure.


The Education Ministry also recently postponed plans to make English a mandatory pass for students sitting for the SPM examination. Shazwan Mustafa Kamal and Boo Su-Lyn | The Malay Mail Online 14 November 2015

Reach of an ancient legend

This Deepavali, ninotaziz traces the influence of Ramayana on ancient storytelling throughout the Nusantara

AGAINST the backdrop of the dramatic Candi Prambananin Jogjakarta, a world-famous al fresco performance is one of the main attractions on the island of Java.

Weather permitting, under the night sky, 200 dancers bring the Ramayana Ballet to life, the story of Rama and Sinta as depicted on the walls of the temples perhaps a millennia ago.
Puteri Ucana and Raja Kera Putih from Raja Bongsu Sakti. Sketched by Malek Rahim.


The two-hour evening performance of the Javanese-styled culture and music recounts the legendary story, opening with the evil Rahwana kidnapping Rama’s true love, Sinta.

The gentle great bird, Jatayu, tries to save Sinta but is defeated.

Yet, not all is lost for he finds Rama and tells him that his lady beloved has been kidnapped by Rahwana.

After many trials, fierce fighting ensues and finally, Rahwana and Rama meet in battle where Rahwana is defeated and killed.

All seems well until Rama asks Sinta to prove her purity by walking into a bath of fire.

Sinta survives the trial, and Rama and Sinta then return to their kingdom to rule and live happily ever after.

This in essence is the Ramayana story, India’s most beloved and enduring legend, in a nutshell as can be traced throughout Asia.

In fact, Ramayana-inspired storytelling is more common than we think.

The evil of Ravana is retold in the wayang kulit Maharaja Wana or Hikayat Seri Rama to great effect and forms the basis of many branches of wayang kulit stories.


The journey of the good king Rama and the virtuous Sita is also the background of the Ramakien in Thailand.

Hanuman makes his appearance in theatrical performances like the Makyung Raja Bongsu Sakti as Amir Putih Raja Kera. And in Chinese mega movies, the appearance of the Monkey King always entertains.

FROM THE POET VALMIKI

The Hindu sage Valmiki’s poem and story of Rama and Sita in Sanskrit begins in Ayodhya, India. Kosala, the beautiful and peaceful capital city, was a model of an ancient cosmopolitan.


The Sarayu river flowed languidly as the people went around their daily lives.

Their king, Dasaratha, whose statue stood guard in every corner of the city, smiled benevolently.

Dasaratha, however, was not smiling in his palace for he had no heir. But eventually, thanks to his constant prayers, his wish was granted.

The legendary Rama was born to his first Queen, Kausalya.

Bharat was born to his second wife, Kaikeyi, who had once saved the king from a tiger and was given two wishes for her asking.

The king also had twins Lakshmana and Sarushna, sons of Sumitra, his youngest wife. Rama, being the eldest, was proclaimed the next in line to the throne.


Time passed. In the mountains, Anjana gave birth to Hanuman who possessed superhuman strength. Hanuman could fly and was powerful beyond the ordinary.

Upon his birth, Hanuman leapt towards the sun as he thought it was a ripe mango.
Rama and Sita-inspired batik artwork from Jogjakarta

Indra, the most powerful, witnessed this and hurled thunderbolts at Hanuman, which struck him unconscious.

Vayu, Hanuman’s true father, in his rage, withdrew all the air from earth and as all living beings began to suffocate and choke, Indra agreed to revive Hanuman and all gathered to grant Hanuman even more mighty powers.

EVOLUTION OF THE STORY

From here on, stories travelled the width and breadth of Asian kingdoms over the last millennia.

There is an abundance of Dewa and Demons, all with amazing powers and cunning.

In terms of plot, not much differed from the content of the stories from the original Hindu era of the Ramayana.

That said, some tweaking was done to adapt to local heroes and scenes, with some storylines altered.

The plot generally remains true to the central one and is divided into three parts.

The beginning recounts the origins of the main character, family background and place, followed by the conflict or adventure, and the journey of great difficulty.

Finally, it’s the happy ending, in which the protagonist successfully defeats the evil character.

FROM THE WAYANG KULIT

The adaptation from Ramayana to oral storytelling has taken a life of its own in our wayang kulit. Anyone familiar with the original Ramayana might be surprised at the changes or liberties taken in the wayang kulit version.

As the title suggest, in Maharaja Wana, the focus is on the evil entity, primarily how he came into being. Originally ruler of Negeri Sinar Runduk, Maharaja Wana left his sky kingdom after he managed to trick and possess Anjang Sita Dewi, queen of Batara Baha of Negeri Sinar Naik.

They both reappear on earth, only to have Maharaja Wana continue his evil doings. Batara Baha, inconsolable at the disappearance of his queen, also descends to earth in search of her.

He is subsequently reborn as Seri Rama. Seri Rama required the help of his brother Laksamana and of course Hanuman to overcome obstacles and challenges to defeat Maharaja Wana.

In fact, in the wayang kulit, Laksamana figures out how to kill the giant scorpion in order for Rama to win Sita Dewi in the great competition organised by her stepfather, the great Maharisi.

Laksamana also protects Rama and Sita from falling into the constant traps set by Maharaja Wana.

He created the Lingkaran Laksamana to protect Sita Dewi when Rama was lured away by the Kijang Emas that was coveted by Sita Dewi.

Unfortunately, Sita Dewi was once again tricked by Maharaja Wana and thus kidnapped.



Hindu epic Ramayana by Arian Zwegers via Creative Commons.
IN THE MAKYUNG

In Raja Bongsu Sakti, we recognise vaguely Rama as Raja Bongsu and Sita as Puteri Ucana.

The appearance of Amir Putih Raja Kera to assist Sita when she is kidnapped by Jin Selangkah Tunggal completes the similarity to the original plot.

However, that is where the similarity ends as the rest of the story takes a life of its own. With centuries passing, it was inevitable that there would be evolution in the storytelling.

For example, in a performance of the traditional dance-drama of Makyung, only the general outline of the story has been kept intact and many adaptations have taken place.

MEMORABLE CHARACTERS AND LESSONS LEARNT

The evil of Rawana. The virtue of Sita. The goodness of Rama. The loyalty of Hanuman. The cleverness of Laksamana.

Through the retelling of the legends from Ramayana, a whole new audience from the Nusantara region is entertained and subtly reminded of the fallacies of greed and evil.


Like soap operas of modern day television, storytelling of epics like Maharaja Wana and Hikayat Seri Rama or Raja Bongsu Sakti continue to show how good triumphs over evil, a key lesson of the epic poem.

The storytellers of old helped us to recognise our daily struggles and used the Ramayana-inspired stories to show what was good order and behaviour so that as people, we can progress to become a better society.

Perhaps the reason why these retellings appeal to a wide audience is because the plots within portray universal stories of humanity, of love and hate. In equal doses.

As we watch a wayang kulit performance, be it by Pusaka, a body that supports the continuity and viability of traditional performance arts in this country, or sit under the open skies as part of the audience to the Ramayana Ballet in Prambanan, marvellous storytelling never fails to enthral us.

It is to be admired and enjoyed simply for its art form. ninotaziz believes that our legends and folklores are the memories of our ancient civilisation.

Our Hikayat belongs to all of us. To protect. To love. To share. To cherish.