December 6th, 2015

Laws to protect children

RECENTLY, a 35-year-old man pleaded guilty in a Seremban Sessions Court to raping his 11-year-old sister-in-law. It was reported that during the rape, the man made his 14-year-old wife, who has a learning difficulty, capture the sexual acts on a video camera. He then allegedly copied these recording into VCDs and sold these to his friends.

The matter came to light when the father of the victim somehow saw a copy of the recording via Whatsapp, and confronted his 11-year-old daughter. She then told him about being raped several times by her brother-in-law.

A police report was lodged, and the man was subsequently arrested, charged and he pleaded guilty to raping the girl. But this is hardly the end of the matter as there is a number of issues which are of concern and need to be addressed.

In this particular case, the 14-year-old, a child bride, was allegedly raped by this man prior to their marriage. Her situation was made worse by her husband forcing her to witness and record the rape of her younger sister.

Given the country’s apparent commitment to ending child marriages, what steps are being taken to stop this practice and its damaging impact on children?

Who ensures the best interests of the child in child marriages or is the practice simply to wash our hands of the matter once a wedding takes place? Are parents, child protectors and the authorities, who continue to sanction child marriages, monitoring the well-being of child brides?

And what of the 11-year-old who was raped? Apart from ensuring that she gets the correct support and counselling for the trauma she experienced, what of the other crimes committed upon her?

What steps are being taken to stop the circulation of the recording of her rape via VCD and Whatsapp? Are the authorities thinking of how to protect this rape victim’s identity and privacy, as stipulated under the Child Act 2001?

The fact that some people purchased the VCD of the sexual assault and others shared the video clip via Whatsapp without lodging a police report indicates the condoning of child rape by certain members of society.

How many people clicked to “share” the rape recording? Are we so desensitised to violence that we gawk at the crime as titillation, and perhaps even encourage others to do the same?

As a nation, we must stop sacrificing our children in this manner. Platitudes on the rights and protection of children carry on ad nauseum but, in the end, what we really need is concrete action that will make child rights and protections found in conventions and laws a reality.

While the fight to end child rape is a tough one, political will, a decent budget for resources and the courage to implement principles are starting points.

Stop going after whistleblowers

LAST week, a businessman was acquitted of four charges of corruption involving RM49.7mil by the Sessions Court. The said businessman was at the centre of a controversy a couple of years ago, involving alleged improprieties where a company received public funds. These allegations were made by an Opposition MP, following from findings made by the Auditor-General at that time.

The acquittal of the said businessman was pursuant to the decision of the Attorney-General to drop the charges against the said businessman after studying a letter of representation sent by counsel for the accused. It was not made after a full trial and where the Sessions Court found him not guilty.

The discretion to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial lies with the Attorney-General, as the Public Prosecutor. This is provided for by the Federal Constitution and is not in dispute.

However, as the charges against the businessman is in connection with a national controversy involving large sums of public monies, the Attorney-General should explain to the public why he made the decision to drop those charges.

The issue here is not whether the Attorney-General could discontinue the charges, but whether there are cogent reasons to do so.

Juxtapose this with the MP who made the disclosure relating to the businessman and the company that he is a part of. The MP was charged for disclosing bank account details without authority and the trial for his case will continue. The Attorney-General has not made any decision to discontinue the prosecution.

A person is innocent until proven guilty. Both the businessman and the MP should be accorded that right, and the right to defend themselves against any criminal charge against them. This writer makes no comment as to their guilt or innocence.

But the reality is that there is a perception that authorities, be it the police or the prosecutors, are more interested in going after whistleblowers than actual offenders. The differing fates of the businessman and the MP will only strengthen this perception.

Similarly, the Inspector-General of Police has stated that the police have begun investigations into an anti-graft organisation following its revelation of documents related to a Government-linked Islamic foundation. It is unclear what law the anti-graft organisation has broken by disclosing those documents, but this will again feed the perception that authorities only go after whistleblowers.

If indeed the Islamic foundation feels aggrieved by the disclosure, they are free to take civil action against the anti-graft organisation. It is a private wrong, not something the state should step into by way of police investigations.

If we do not protect whistleblowers, they will not come forward with the information that they possess.

If they do not come forward with information they possess, wrongdoings within an organisation may never be known.

Yes, we have a Whistleblower Protection Act, but it only accords protection to those who make disclosures to the authorities. In the current climate where there is a trust deficit in the authorities, it is unlikely that anyone would come forth and do so - especially if they believe that they would be at risk, despite the existence of the Act.

The Act is also ineffective as it is negated by other legislation such as the Official Secrets Act and Section 203A of the Penal Code, which prohibits disclosure of information by those in the civil service or exercising functions under the law.

While the disclosure of information may run afoul of the law, our authorities should prioritise investigations on the wrongdoing exposed instead of investigating and prosecuting the whistleblower.

The authorities should focus on the bigger picture and the larger issue of corruption and mismanagement, instead of acting as if they are only going after whistleblowers.

Until and unless we truly afford protection to whistleblowers, our fight against corruption will not be as effective as it should be.

Pejuang Bebaskan pihak tertindas

DATUK Nadzim Johan bukanlah pemimpin persatuan pengguna biasa. Ketua aktivis Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) itu yang terkenal dengan imej rambut bertocang banyak membantu mangsa penindasan pinjaman lintah darat atau ah long serta sindiket gores dan menang.

Ketika kebanyakan persatuan pengguna lain hanya menerima aduan dan membangkitkan masalah itu di media massa, Nadzim bersama aktivisnya turun padang berunding dengan ah long bagi “membebaskan” peminjam yang terus ditindas walaupun sudah membayar mengikut perjanjian.

Nadzim bersama aktivis PPIM banyak kali menyerbu syarikat gores dan menang serta syarikat lain yang menipu pengguna termasuk ada yang bertindak mengurung mangsa bagi mendapatkan wang. Kisah-kisah kejayaan PPIM ini banyak dilaporkan di dada akhbar dan berita televisyen sehingga nama Nadzim dan PPIM semakin meniti di bibir masyarakat.

Nadzim yang dilahirkan di Kota Bharu, Kelantan pada 1960, adalah antara pengasas PPIM yang ditubuhkan pada Jun 1997 bagi membantu pengguna Islam yang banyak menjadi mangsa penipuan. Namun, nama Nadzim hanya dikenali ramai sejak beberapa tahun kebelakangan ini kerana selama ini, beliau banyak buat kerja di belakang tabir bagi membantu mangsa penipuan.

Pengorbanan yang dilakukan oleh Nadzim dan pasukan aktivis PPIM dalam membantu mangsa-mangsa ini cukup besar implikasinya. Mangsa yang selama ini hidup tidak tenang kerana menerima pelbagai ugutan, bahkan ada yang menyembunyikan diri bagi mengelak daripada diburu oleh ah long, kini boleh menjalani kehidupan seperti biasa.

Sebut sahaja nama ah long, semua sudah dapat membayangkan mereka ini adalah samseng yang ganas dan digeruni. Tetapi kenapa Nadzim sanggup mengambil risiko untuk berhadapan dengan ah long bagi membantu mangsa?

Ketika ditemui di pejabat beliau di Kuala Lumpur baru-baru ini, Nadzim memberitahu, pihaknya bukan tidak sedar akan bahaya ah long ini, tetapi disebabkan terlalu banyak pengguna yang sebahagian besarnya adalah orang Melayu datang mengadu kepada PPIM tentang penindasan ah long, beliau memutuskan untuk membantu mereka. Ini kerana beliau sedar, sekiranya dibiarkan, maka akan lebih ramai mangsa akan ditipu dan ditindas oleh ah long.

Menurut Nadzim, keberanian, jati diri, mengikut arahan serta pengorbanan atau semangat kesukarelaan merupakan nilai-nilai penting yang ada dalam setiap aktivis PPIM dan faktor-faktor inilah yang membolehkan mereka berani memperjuangkan keadilan bagi mangsa penipuan.

“Kami buat kerja tanpa mengharapkan balasan atau penghargaan. Tidak ucap terima kasih pun tidak apa. Kalau hendak dapatkan barangan atau duit di PPIM, saya rasa boleh penuh sekurang-kurangnya satu laci kabinet setiap bulan tetapi kita ambil sebab tidak amalkan begitu.

“Memang ada ah long serta orang sindiket gores dan menang datang tawarkan duit supaya kita tidak buat kerja, tetapi kita halau mereka. Bahkan, kalau kita keluar jumpa ah long di restoran pun, kita bayar sendiri. Kalau hendak jadi pejuang, jangan terhutang budi,” katanya.

Nadzim sudah dididik dan diasuh dengan nilai-nilai tersebut terutama melibatkan keberanian, pengorbanan dan arahan sejak kecil lagi. Bapanya yang merupakan bekas pegawai kanan kerajaan merupakan seorang yang berani dan pernah bergaduh dengan tentera Jepun.

Pengalaman belajar di sekolah Cina semasa sekolah rendah dan menengah turut mengajar beliau untuk menjadi seorang berani. “Orang Cina ada budaya sayangkan negara dan bangsa mereka. Sebab itu mereka lebih berjaya kerana dalam apa keadaan pun mereka mempertahankan bangsa mereka. Jadi, semasa di sekolah Cina, saya pun kena berani mempertahankan bangsa saya,” ujarnya.

Lulusan Institut Teknologi Mara (kini Universiti Teknologi Mara) dalam bidang perniagaan, undang-undang dan institut pemasaran bertauliah itu, juga pernah mengalami jatuh bangun dalam perniagaan.

Ketika berusia 24 tahun pada 1985, beliau sudah berjaya dalam perniagaan sehingga mampu menyewa satu aras pejabat di Wisma SPK di Jalan Tun Dr. Ismail, Kuala Lumpur dengan pada kadar RM40,000 sebulan. “Tidak lama selepas itu, saya jatuh sampai tidak nampak cahaya matahari. Masa itu, saya rugi RM2.5 juta kerana ditipu rakan kongsi. Tetapi saya belajar juga sesuatu daripada rakan kongsi saya yang pernah mengatakan bahawa kalau kita perlu buat sesuatu, jangan harapkan orang.

“Pengajaran ini, nilainya mungkin RM2.5 juta atau lebih. Saya mempelajari hakikat itu. Walaupun sudah jatuh sampai makan roti canai sehari sekali, tetapi saya ada kekuatan untuk bangkit kembali,” katanya.

Bapa kepada lapan orang anak itu turut berkongsi cerita bagaimana beliau terpaksa meminjam mesin taip dan menaip sendiri surat meskipun tidak tahu menaip, selepas tersungkur dalam perniagaan.

“Dahulu, saya beli mesin taip digital harganya RM8,000 lebih tetapi apabila perniagaan sudah jatuh, setiausaha dan mesin taip pun tidak ada. Saya pula tidak tahu menaip. Oleh sebab tidak ada mesin taip untuk menaip surat, saya pinjam mesin taip dari kedai kononnya hendak dijadikan sebagai set demonstrasi.

“Walaupun terpaksa taip satu-satu dan mengambil masa yang panjang, saya buat. Kalau kita susah, kita perlu lawan dan insya-Allah kita akan bertambah matang dan bijak. Itu yang membuatkan saya berjaya bangkit kembali,” katanya. - Amizul Tunizar Ahmad Termizi Utusan Malaysia Rencana 06 Disember 2015 12:29 AM

Orang UMNO ini harus bagaimana?

Watak Si Kitul, Raja Mendeliar dan Patih Karma Wija­ya dalam Sejarah Melayu mahupun watak Hang Na­dim yang menyelamatkan Singapura dari­pada di­langgar todak selalu diceritakan dalam majlis-majlis politik. Cerita hikayat abad ke-15 itu begitu popular. Wataknya hi­dup sepanjang zaman. Cerita itu diangkat berulang kali untuk meng­ingatkan khalayak bahaya fitnah, adu domba dan peng­khianatan. Mengapa cerita seperti ini popular dalam kalangan orang politik? Kerana merekakah pelakunya?

Fitnah, adu domba dan khianat menyebabkan tum­bangnya sebuah kerajaan. Fitnah dan khianat mengakibatkan orang yang tidak bersalah dan mereka yang se­patutnya dijulang sebagai wira, sebaliknya dihukum bu­nuh. Fitnah dan khianat yang memecah-belahkan masyarakat kepada kelompok-ke­lom­pok kecil.

Tetapi semasa itu, ma­syarakat terutamanya is­tana selaku pemerintah tidak menyedari fitnah dan adu domba itu. Me­reka tidak tahu cerita ma­­­na yang benar dan be­ri­ta mana yang salah. Per­­­jalanan waktu yang ke­­mu­dian mencatat sia­­­­pa yang benar dan sia­pa pemfitnah serta peng­khianat.

Tentunya kita pun ma­­­­sih mengingati kata­-kata Hang Tuah “Sia­pa­kah yang benar? Je­bat­­kah benar, atau aku­­­kah benar?” Setelah beli­au berjaya menikam ma­ti rakan karibnya itu de­ngan Taming Sari yang dilakukan atas ti­tah pe­rintah penguasa pe­merintahan.

Kini, persoalan itu mun­­cul semula. Sebe­nar­nya persoalan ini sela­lu muncul dalam politik negara ini yang tidak pernah berhenti diselaputi cerita fit­nah, adu domba dan peng­khia­natan. Fitnah, adu dom­ba dan pengkhianatan terlalu ber­ma­harajalela. Begitu pantas tersebar dengan adanya platform media sosial.

Politik negara ini berkembang ke arah negatif, dengan ke­cenderungan untuk saling memusnahkan. Sebilangan orang bahkan sampai hilang hormat kepada orang politik. Hari ini kawan esok menjadi lawan, boleh berpusing 360 darjah. Sebahagian besar orang pula sudah bosan dengan perilaku politikus. Manakan tidak, hari ini berkerat rotan, esok memuji-muji bagai tiada tara. Mereka mudah bertukar prinsip, semudah membalikkan telapak tangan.

Terlambat

Semuanya berkisar soal mahu menumbangkan pi­hak yang lain seperti hari-hari kita berada dalam suasana pili­han raya dan pemilihan parti. Saban waktu, masing-masing ber­kempen mereka ada­lah yang terbaik, mereka yang benar manakala pi­hak lain tanpa ada pilihan mesti segera dihapuskan. Ini berlaku bukan sahaja antara parti tetapi dalam par­ti, seperti tiada peng­hu­jungnya. Watak Si Kitul, Raja Men­deliar, Patih Kar­ma Wijaya dan Hang Nadim melata dalam UMNO dan Pas yang baru sahaja berpecah menjadi dua parti, Watak ini juga hidup subur dalam PKR dan juga DAP, sehingga parti berlambang roket ini diancam terbatal pendaftarannya.

Begitu rumitnya bentuk fitnah mahupun adu domba itu sehinggakan sukar untuk menentukan salah benarnya seka­rang. Hanya waktu yang kelak menentukan. Tetapi mungkin sahaja setelah disedari semuanya sudah ter­lambat. Apabila disedari, nasi sudah menjadi bubur. Apabila disedari, Portugis pun sudah menawan Melaka.

Fitnah, adu domba dan khianat inilah yang melatari Per­him­punan Agung UMNO kali ini. Ahli-ahli UMNO berhimpun di PWTC dengan fikiran yang masih tercari-cari mana yang benar, mana yang salah. Mana yang perlu diso­kong, mana yang perlu dinyahkan. Yang lebih berat malah ada yang datang dengan niat songsang, mahu menukar hala tuju parti. Pencerahan tentang 1MDB dan derma RM2.6 bilion oleh pihak yang berkaitan sama naiknya dengan cerita song­sang dua isu itu. Waktu ini terkesan dengan jawapan yang meyakinkan, sesaat kemudian terganggu pula de­ngan andaian-andaian baharu. Begitu pantas ceritanya ber­kem­bang.

Sebahagan orang UMNO pula tidak lagi berpegang ke­pa­da slogan 3B (Bersatu, Bersetia, Berkhidmat). Mereka mengaku orang UMNO tetapi ke sana ke mari meniupkan api sengketa, perpecahan dan menjadi pengadu domba. Tingkahnya sama sekali menyongsong Bersatu, Bersetia, Berkhidmat. Lantas, orang UMNO, yang memimpin di atas dan yang dipim­pin di peringkat akar umbi, harus bagaimana?

Sesama pemimpin tidak bersatu hati dan tiada ke­ikhlasan, bagaimana yang di bawah mahu mengikut kata? Pada saat antara pemimpin berpelukan, orang seke­liling yang diberi amanah, mengatur strategi untuk saling men­ja­tuhkan. Di depan menabur budi dan puji tetapi sebaik-baik berkalih ke belakang saling mentohmah dan mengeji. Yang di bawah terpinga-pingga. Yang mana satu mahu diturut.

Masing-masing ketakutan dan cemas UMNO bakal hilang kuasa. Lantas, masing-masing yang mengaku sayang dan cin­takan UMNO, mengambil jalan sendiri-sendiri. Dalam ke­ghairahan untuk menyelamatkan UMNO itu, mereka ma­lah menggambarkan parti berusia 70 tahun ini berada dalam keadaan sakit teruk. Mereka mengaku orang UMNO tetapi berperangai seperti Si Kitul, Raja Mendeliar dan Patih Karma Wijaya. Kritikan ta­jam dan teguran bernas bertukar menjadi kecaman dan makian.

Mereka hanya mahu berfikir mengikut jalan fikir mereka semata-mata. Melihat apa yang mereka mahu sahaja. Mereka seperti terkena sihir dan dirasuk jembalang se­hing­ga lupa terhadap semangat untuk bersatu, bersetia dan berkhidmat. Akibat ketakutan yang berlebihan akan kehi­langan kuasa, tingkah mereka menjadi seperti serba tidak kena di mata rakyat. Mereka hilang keyakinan, melilau-lilau tanpa arah.

Jadi, perhimpunan umat Melayu terbesar bermula Selasa depan seharusnya dijadikan pentas untuk mengurai segala kekusutan. Serlahkan kebenaran, tunjukkan perpaduan. UMNO yang penuh tradisi dengan segudang prestasi, tidak sepatutnya tertunduk layu dengan asakan dan desakan liar. UMNO yang keramat itu tidak seharusnya tewas dengan fitnah, adu domba dan pengkhianatan.

Tunjukkan wajah sebenar UMNO. Yang lebih penting, setiap ahli UMNO yang berada di PWTC nanti bertanyakan diri sendiri. Aku ini mahu bagaimana? Mahu menjadi seperti Si Kitul, Raja Mendeliar, Patih Karma Wijaya atau menjadi penguasa yang gugup dan kebingungan. Atau masing-masing bertekad untuk menjadi orang UMNO sebenar yang men­jiwai semangat bersatu, bersetia dan ber­khid­­mat. - Zulkifil Hamzah Warung Rakyat Utusan Malaysia Rencana 06 Disember 2015 12:29 AM

Pentingkah GLC, mana hilangnya SEDC?

Bila berbicara mengenai GLC (Government-linked Corporations), lazimnya orang akan merujuk kepada syarikat-syarikat yang dikorporatkan dan dikuasai kerajaan. Sering dirujuk bila menyentuh mengenai GLC ialah syarikat-syarikat di bawah kumpulan Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Khazanah). Ada banyak lagi GLC selain syarikat-syarikat di bawah kumpulan Khazanah. Kerajaan menyelaraskan kesemua institusi ini menerusi satu jawatankuasa dinamakan PCG (Putrajaya Committee for GLC) yang dipengerusikan sendiri oleh Perdana Menteri.

GLC ini berasingan sama sekali dengan GLIC (Government-linked Investment Corporations) dalam kalangan institusi pelaburan seperti Tabung Haji, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera dan Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja. Setiap satunya juga punyai banyak anak syarikat dan syarikat sekutu. Satu lagi kumpulan syarikat milik kerajaan yang tidak terangkum di bawah GLC ialah anak-anak syarikat atau syarikat sekutu dimiliki atau dikuasai pelbagai agensi pelaksana dan Agensi Perusahaan Awam (PEA) di bawah pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan atau Kerajaan Negeri.

Suatu ketika dulu Perbadanan-perbadanan Kemajuan Ekonomi Negeri (State Economic Development Corporation atau SEDC) adalah tunggak utama PEA dan diselaraskan oleh Kementerian Perusahaan Awam. Malangnya kebanyakan SEDC ini tidak lagi berkembang menjadi mangsa dasar penswastaan yang terbukti merugikan Bumiputera. Maka orang Melayu tertanya-tanya, dengan begitu rapi perancangan kerajaan memperkukuhkan ekonomi Bumiputera menerusi penubuhan sekian banyak syarikat dikuasai atau dimilikinya, mengapa agenda ekonomi bumiputera masih tidak mencapai matlamat, disasar menguasai 30 peratus ekonomi dan kekayaan negara?

Jika diimbas kembali pada awal pelaksanaan Model Baru Ekonomi (MBE) (2011-2020) dan pada permulaan penggal RMK-10 (2011-2015), amat jelas hasrat sesetengah pihak dalam kerajaan yang tidak menggalakkan kerajaan untuk terlibat secara langsung dalam bisnes, ini adalah urusan pihak swasta, konon katanya. Pada suatu ketika, telah dimulakan usaha untuk sesetengah GLC, GLIC dan PEA melupuskan atau menswastakan apa yang dianggap non-core business kepada institusi-institusi itu.

Begitulah teraturnya usaha mengurangkan pembabitan kerajaan secara langsung dalam bisnes. Alhamdulillah, orang Melayu kembali merasa lega apabila hasrat itu penyudahnya padam begitu saja. Malah, orang Melayu amat mengharapkan SEDC di semua negeri yang suatu ketika dulu pernah menjadi ikon atau lambang kemajuan ekonomi Bumiputera, disusun semula dan diberi nafas baru. Pada zaman kegemilangannya, SEDC inilah dalam kalangan PEA yang menyerlah, lebih menonjol berbanding GLC serta mampu melahirkan ramai tokoh korporat Melayu terbilang. Kini kebanyakannya tenggelam, mujur GLC kian penting dan menyerlah.

Menjadi peneraju

Cabaran kepada Kumpulan Ekonomi Bumiputera (KEB) ini semakin kritikal jika dirujuk kepada unjuran ekonomi dunia menjelang tahun 2050 yang dibuat oleh tiga institusi utama dunia, iaitu HSBC, Pricewaterhouse Coopers dan Standard Chartered Global Research. Dalam laporan-laporan berasingan mereka mensasarkan Malaysia akan berada di tangga ke-21 dari 32 negara yang dikategorikan sebagai negara pesat membangun (high growth nations), dengan purata pertumbuhan tahunan sekitar 5 peratus. Menjelang tahun 2050, ekonomi Malaysia dianggarkan (nilai GDP) bersaiz AS$1,160 bilion, manakala pendapatan per kapita AS$29,247 setahun.

Soalnya, mampukah orang Melayu menjadi peneraju utamanya, dengan menguasai, paling tidak majoriti dalam kelompok M40 (Kelas Menengah 40 peratus). Amat membimbangkan seandainya Melayu masih menjadi kumpulan majoriti dalam kelompok B40 (Kelas Bawah 40 peratus).

Mahu tidak mahu, ketiga-tiga kumpulan syarikat itu, GLC, GLIC dan PEA, wajib dipertanggung-jawabkan untuk berperanan lebih penting. Semuanya wajib diseragamkan dari segi budaya pengurusan korporat dan berprestasi cemerlang sebagai peneraju agenda ekonomi Bumiputera. Semasa Konvensyen Pemerkasaan Agenda Ummah anjuran UMNO di PWTC pada 24 November 2015 lepas, saya ada menyentuh mengenai peluang-peluang bisnes untuk rebutan KEB dan bagaimana GLC, GLIC dan PEA wajar berperanan. Saya membahagikan peluang-peluang bisnes itu kepada empat tajuk kecil:

i) Pengwujudan & Penerokaan Peluang Bisnes,

ii) Kesaksamaan Peluang Bisnes,

iii) Perkongsian Peluang Bisnes,

iv) Akses Peluang Bisnes.

Dalam tajuk kecil (i) di atas, saya merujuk kepada peranan GLC, GLIC dan milik PEA sebagai institusi KEB yang wajib diamanahkan untuk mewujudkan atau meneroka sesuatu peluang bisnes, terutama yang baru. Industri halal sebagai contoh, mempunyai potensi saiz pasaran bernilai melebihi AS$1.7 bilion untuk direbut. Adalah mustahil usahawan Bumiputera yang hampir 90 peratus daripadanya berskala mikro, mampu menjadi peneraju kepada agenda Bumiputera dalam industri ini.

Akan tetapi jika ada dalam kalangan GLC, GLIC atau PEA bersedia dan komited untuk berperanan sebagai the prime mover, membangunkan industri makanan halal berskala mega, pastinya ia mampu menarik minat banyak IKS Bumiputera untuk terlibat sama sebagai vendor di sepanjang rantaian nilai industri. Bagi usahawan berskala mikro pula, sinergi seperti itu pun masih sukar untuk mereka turut terlibat sama. Di sinilah letaknya peranan PEA (terutama dalam kalangan agensi pelaksana) menaungi usahawan mikro ini, mengumpul, membimbing, mengurus dan mengklusterkan mereka itu untuk terlibat sama dalam satu kluster yang tersusun dan dijaringkan sebagai conduit jaringan pasaran yang dibangunkan oleh GLC itu.

Adakah masih tidak memadai dengan menubuhkan begitu banyak institusi bisnes untuk kepentingan Bumiputera? Atau, adakah hanya GLC saja yang efektif dalam memikul tanggungjawab itu walhal ratusan syarikat atau syarikat sekutu di bawah PEA hanya berperanan ala kadar saja, lebih malang mereka itu ibarat hidup segan mati tak mahu? Atau, barangkali inisiatif ini sudah tidak lagi relevan dalam konteks pembangunan ekonomi semasa, maka lebih baik biarkan saja sektor swasta menentukannya?

Maknanya, orang Melayu masih menaruh harapan menggunung agar semua kategori syarikat milik atau dikuasai kerajaan ini memainkan peranan lebih penting dalam menerajui ekonomi Bumiputera.

Ringkasnya, GLC (termasuk GLIC) dan PEA (terutamanya SEDC) wajib berperanan sebagai prime movers. IKS pula adalah golongan oportunis dapat terlibat sama dan merebut peluang yang diwujudkan, manakala usahawan mikro pula dikumpulkan dalam kluster dan dibimbing oleh PEA, membina jaringan dan kesepakatan dalam menguasai bisnes atau industri itu. Inilah kesepakatan bijak (smart partnership) GLC-IKS-Usahawan Mikro yang ingin dipaparkan.

Para perwakilan UMNO yang bakal bersidang bolehlah renungkan bagaimana agaknya GLC (termasuk GLIC) dan PEA (terutamanya SEDC) yang diilhamkan penubuhannya sejak zaman DEB lagi, boleh kekal penting, malah semakin penting kepada agenda pemerkasaan ummah, terutamanya kepada orang Melayu. Pastikanlah GLC (termasuk GLIC) terus kekal penting manakala PEA (terutama SEDC) diislahkan atau bangkit untuk sama-sama cemerlang sebagai pemain global, membawa bersamanya lain-lain kluster dalam KEB. - Dr. Hasan Mad Utusan Malaysia Rencana 06 Disember 2015 12:29 AM

Did Hang Tuah meet Leonardo da Vinci?

KUALA LUMPUR: Could famed Renaissance painter and polymath Leonardo da Vinci have met legendary Malay warrior Hang Tuah between 1503 and 1506? This was the tantalising possibility unearthed by researchers from The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, a compilation the Italian master’s writings and sketches. Local researchers are now poring over manuscripts, and may soon seek the help of their European counterparts to ascertain the identity of a Malaccan noble who da Vinci wrote about.

In the notes, Da Vinci wrote, “I sketched a vehicle after meeting a Malaccan noble”. However, the word after that was unclear.

There is a possibility, as both men lived during the same era — da Vinci and Hang Tuah were born in 1452 and 1444 respectively. The exact time and place of the encounter between da Vinci and Hang Tuah is still uncertain, but both men were at the height of their reputations.

Da Vinci was a noted painter and highly regarded as a military engineer, while Hang Tuah was sent by the Sultan of Malacca on several overseas missions, including Turkey.


The exact time and place of the encounter between da Vinci and Hang Tuah is still uncertain, but both men were at the height of their reputations. Pix courtesy of Harian Metro
This finding was revealed by Dr Rohaidah Kamaruddin, a senior lecturer at the Malay Language Department, Modern Language and Communications Faculty, University Putra Malaysia.

She presented her research at the “Wacana Manuskrip Melayu, Hang Tuah: Daripada Mitos Kepada Fakta Sejarah” event at Wisma Sejarah here recently. UPM’s professor of Malay Linguistics, Prof Emeritus Dr Hashim Musa also presented a paper at the event. Dr Rohaidah said da Vinci’s notes indicated that Hang Tuah may have existed.

She said this was because Hang Tuah was mentioned by a foreign writer, and not in accounts in local books Hikayat Hang Tuah and Sulalatus Salatin (Malay Annals).

Dr Rohaidah said she had tried to verify the contents of the two historical books through material available overseas.

She said such material often contained dates of important events, unlike olden Malay books that placed no importance on dates, but only on what had transpired.

However, she said the facts contained in the latest discovery could not yet be ascertained, and that she needed to conduct further research, as well as meeting historians to pore over old manuscripts in Spain or Portugal.

Dr Rohaidah said she was told by a reliable source that Hang Tuah was mentioned by da Vinci, indicating that Hang Tuah was a Malacca Sultanate diplomat sent to various countries.

Meanwhile, Hashim said there were 22 books by scholars that described Hang Tuah as intelligent, masculine and brave, besides being able to converse in several languages.

“A personal note by the Portuguese conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque mentioned that during the conquest of Malacca in 1511, an elderly 80-year-old man with great reputation and knowledge emigrated to Temasik (now Singapore) after the fall of Malacca,” he said.

Both UPM lecturers co-authored a book, Hang Tuah: Catatan Okinawa that posits the existence of Hang Tuah through research done in Okinawa, Japan, with the help of the Japanese Education Ministry.

The discovery of a curved kris without its hilt and sheath at the Enkakuji Shuriji temple, located near the Shuriji castle, is solid evidence of the good relations between Malacca and Japan in the past.

The kris, which has nine “waves” or curves, is usually presented by the Malacca Sultanate to other governments, while blades with fewer curves are gifted to individuals.

The discovery of a letter sent by Hang Tuah to the emperor of the Ryukyu Kingdom between 1480 and 1481 is also evidence of good relations between the Malacca Sultanate and Japan. Diplomatic relations between the Malacca Sultanate and the Ryukyu Kingdom (in modern-day Okinawa) was clearly stated in the “Rekidai Hoan”, a historical document verified by scholars.

The document also described Hang Tuah as a person who commanded great influence internationally, as well as a Malaccan diplomat who travelled to India, Turkey and Pattani.

Real facts on US education

Studying in America has its own challenges but there is much to be gained in terms of exposure, monetary awards and self-development.

GOING abroad to study, especially the United States is an exciting prospect but is also ridden with the sense of the unknown. The anxiety about all this, for students and parents, is very real.

One of the main challenges for especially foreign students is the lack of first-hand knowledge of what colleges actually seek in students.

Let me list below the top 10 requisites that colleges look for in high school or secondary school students.



Pull factor: The number of international scholarships for those keen to study in the US has been growing rapidly in recent years. — File photo

• A challenging high school curriculum: Academically successful students should take at least five core courses every semester.

• Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend: Numbers matter. Colleges request grades, usually beginning with Class 9. The grades must show either consistency or a positive upward trend in a challenging course.

• Good scores on the SAT or ACT (both tests are to gauge student’s academic skills, used for college admissions in the United States) — consistent with high school grades: High scores do not compensate for low grades.

• Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership, initiative, impact, and an angle: Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.

Create a detailed résumé to showcase your activities.

• Meaningful use of your free time: Out-of-school experiences could include summer activities, work, and hobbies that reflect responsibility, dedication, and areas of interest. Include these commitments on your résumé.

• Special talents or experiences that will contribute to an interesting student body: A student who goes the extra mile to develop a special talent in sports, research, writing, the arts, or anything else will gain an edge.

• Your essay should give an insight into your personality, values, and goals: Your application essay should be thoughtful and personal.

• Letters of recommendation from teachers and your counsellor: someone who knows you well can write to help shed a new light on your talents.

It is a tall order, so it is best to start early, preferably before you reach your last year of secondary school.

The financial aspect of admissions to US colleges is also important. The cost of sending your child to the US can be a hefty sum.According to College Board, the annual budget inclusive of transport and all living expenses for undergraduate students in 2014/15 is approximately US$46,000 (RM190,000) which is for four years at a private non-profit college.

However, this figure is not applicable to all US universities.The fees may vary depending on the academic ranking and location of the college.

Now for the good news!

• Financial aid is available and comes in two forms: Scholarships (based on merit or need) and loans.

• Many of the private colleges offer generous scholarships to all admitted freshmen making it possible to obtain quality education at more affordable prices.

• As US universities prioritise internationalisation, the number of international scholarships in the US has been growing rapidly in recent years, and this trend seems likely to continue.

• Often, the more prestigious US universities offer generous funding opportunities. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 90% of undergraduates and 86% of graduate and professional students receive financial aid. At California Institute of Technology (Caltech), almost 60% of undergraduates receive aid.

• Internships and on-campus jobs are available and allow students to earn while studying.

• Work scholarships are also available to worthy international students.

Also, since the US education system is world-renowned, money spent on earning a degree is seen as a return on investment. A degree from the US earns you:

• Recognition: American higher education is elite, well structured, typically well funded, and very professionally run. Industries the world over recognise that and place a high value on credentials earned in American universities.

• Research and Development: Research and development means money, scholarships, and student employment. Industry do utilise universities, and the best minds typically are connected to universities, making R&D a key reason to consider an American University.

• Technology: American universities are some of the primary consumers of modern technology providing ample opportunities in helping to launch the next generation of an emerging technology.

• Broad Spectrum: There are over 4,000 institutions of higher learning available. Many have created their own niches, which allows prospective students to select one that “fits” them best.

• Choice Independence: This resonates even more than anything else with the international students. You are free to choose your major and you have a second chance.

• Cultural Experience: The university campus is a rich cultural experience adding to your overall education and personality. Employers find this an appealing quality.

• Future: This nation is rich, powerful, and has unlimited opportunities. You can work and earn your way through school legally in America.

You will be allowed to work for at least one year in America after you have earned a degree as a foreign student. And most importantly, your student status is a gateway to the world. That speaks for itself.

Career choices and opportunities that a US degree opens up, is an area that requires separate treatment by itsef.

The key to making the admissions process an enjoyable experience is to try to keep things in perspective.

With good organisation and time management, and starting early, there is nothing that cannot be achieved.

It is an opportunity of a lifetime. After all a degree from a US college is certainly worth the effort.

Greater goal beyond good grades

Attaining As should not be seen as the ‛be-all and end-all’ of our education system; it should prepare us for other challenges too.

JUST about a week ago we were shocked by the news of the 17-year-old boy who hanged himself after allegedly being frustrated over his SPM Additional Mathematics paper.

Those of us who read or heard of the news could only imagine the heartbreak it would have meant for family members and for those who were close to him.

Expressions of sympathy and messages of condolences poured in from Malaysians who felt the tragedy keenly – the untimely and totally unnecessary loss of a life which was filled with so much potential and so many dreams to explore.

Several people in high positions also offered words of comfort to the grieving family and made comments about how examinations should not be considered the end of the road.

After all, scoring As should not be the chief objective of education.

And even as discussions centred on this sad event, people began to remember similar tragedies in the past, when students chose to end their lives after a bitter examination disappointment.

There were speculations of course of other factors that may have contributed to these young peoples’ decisions but the examination link was undeniable.

Almost everyone agreed that the importance placed on getting As in public examinations had become disproportionately inflated.

Too much pressure

Students were sometimes overwhelmed by the pressure to attain unrealistic academic goals set by teachers or parents. But some of us remembered that these were pretty much the same things that were said the last time something like this happened – when a student committed suicide because he or she couldn’t deal with the frustration over an examination.

Like what was happening now, there was a huge outpouring of sympathy and similar observations were made about how students shouldn’t be subject to so much examination pressure. Parents and teachers were reminded to be more understanding and supportive of students and help them to deal with the stress that comes with examination expectations.

For a while at least, with the chill of the recent tragedy in our minds, we do make an effort to go a bit easier on the ‘push for A’ campaigns that seem to lurk in every corner of the present local education scene.

And then after some time, everything goes back to the way it has been.

The Score A campaign is back in full force. Students are reminded that it is their examination results that are of supreme importance in their lives.

Fail to perform up to expectations on the examination and your life is doomed. Examples of people working in blue-collar jobs are held up for them.

Never mind if these blue-collar workers are performing a public service, are honest and hardworking, and leading happy lives with loving families.

Never mind if there are millions in the world who are successful and well-adjusted individuals despite never scoring a single A in their school examinations.

Teachers are implicitly reminded in almost every staff meeting that that although their professional code and job descriptions list out many educational objectives including the moulding of character, there is no greater goal than the examination results of their students.

Your competence as a teacher is measured primarily by the number of As your students achieve or by the percentage of passes in your subject.

Wherever we turn, there are banners, flyers and posters advertising workshops and tutorials on how to score As.

A major part of school programmes is reserved for special examination motivation courses and seminars centred around “examination question answering techniques and tips”.

It seems the energy and pulse of the whole school year is focused around examinations and especially major public examinations.

Is it any wonder then that students can centre their whole lives on examination performances? Or in some cases even orchestrate their own deaths around it.

The question that hovers above all the well-meaning remarks encouraging students to look beyond examinations is why now, why only now? Especially when at other times it is mostly about the As and examination “success”.

When the whole system seems to be drumming into our students that if they fail to make the grade, then they are doomed to a life of failure ... perhaps a life that is not even worth living.

Why do we have to wait for a tragedy like this to occur before instilling into our students the knowledge that examinations as important as they are, are not the be-all and end-all of their education?

The real world

But perhaps we don’t have a choice. Perhaps that is the way we know best to prepare our students for the real world – a world which measures success by a combination of paper qualifications and earning potential.

After all, it is part of the teacher’s job description, and a key educational objective to spur students towards academic excellence.

And really, isn’t it a mark of a good teacher to constantly remind their students of how stiff the competition is these days to get those coveted student scholarships?

That they have to be the “best of the best” and really stand out from the rest. All of which are good goals, really.

Fine and even noble aspirations, which may have motivated many students towards excellence.

But what about those who slip? Do we prepare our students for the possibility that they may not achieve the examination goals that they so badly want to achieve either due to personal slip-ups, or circumstances beyond their control?

Do we spend enough time talking to students about how to deal with other pressures that may or may not be directly linked to the examination?

What happens when there is a family tragedy around the time of the examination?

What happens if a student has a panic attack, gets involved in an accident or is suddenly diagnosed with an illness that prevents him from doing his best in the examination? Does that mean he is not capable of anything better?

None of us wish for such things to happen to any of our students, and we are glad that they seldom do.

Nevertheless, they do happen. And it should be part of the teacher’s duty to guide our students on how to deal with unexpected setbacks.

If the only thing we have done for our students is to prepare them for the exams after having spent so many hours in school, then we have done a poor job collectively as a school and as a nation.

It is true that the responsibility does not lie entirely with those in the education system.

Parents who are major stakeholders in their children’s education are at times to blame for the tremendous amount of pressure they put on their children – unrealistic expectations that sometimes lead to disastrous ends.

And at times, the best efforts by the country’s leaders to shift the focus of education away from examinations is thwarted by parents who feel that without examinations, their children are not going to learn or achieve anything.

But then again this is just a reflection of what education has come to signify – examination grades and little else besides.

Getting good grades in an examination is a wonderful thing, there is no doubt about that, and something that should definitely be aimed for.

But, we must remember that life itself consists of much more than examinations. An education should prepare our students for life beyond the examination hall.

Tok Pa – a true gentleman

We need to give credit where credit is due. And when good leaders shine, we should acknowledge it.

A GENTLEMAN politician – that is what International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed is – and is certainly an exemplary one, too.

Not many of our politicians are prepared to apologise when they make a mistake, thinking an admittance of a flaw is a weakness.

The ability to say sorry, unknown to some politicians with inflated egos, is a strength.

Instead, they prefer to go on the defensive, and often blame the media for purportedly being misquoted. Of late, some of them even play the racial card, claiming they are being targeted because of their ethnicity.



But our salute to Mustapa, or Tok Pa, as he is affectionately known, for apologising after coming under fire for making certain remarks on Tuesday that were considered sexist.

At the first official function held at the new MITI building, the minister reportedly described the new building as an “inexperienced virgin” when compared to the old building – home to the ministry for the past 30 years – as an old wife who is no longer exciting and who deserves to be discarded.

The off-colour joke amused some people but others did not find it funny. Like a true gentleman, which even the opposition readily declared, Mustapa issued an apology and expressed regret for his indiscretion.

“I humbly apologise for offending anyone, including women, with my inappropriate analogy at the event,” he said in a press statement.

“As head of staff, a husband and a father, I always respect women’s contributions to the country and to myself and I hold them in high regard. I regret what happened and this will be a lesson for me. I hope the matter will not be prolonged.”

Even DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, who is ever ready to pounce on Barisan Nasional MPs, issued a statement acknowledging the swift stand taken by Mustapa.

“Kudos to Mustapa for admitting his fault and having the courage to apologise. We only wish that all of his colleagues in Umno and BN had his gentlemanly qualities,” he said.

“However, if we were to search for someone who this week exhibited an attitude that contrasted with Mustapa’s, we would have to look towards the opposition.”

PKR vice-president Tian Chua, despite being embroiled in the Nurul Izzah-Jacel Kiram controversy, has refused to acknow­ledge that the issue is indeed serious.

It has been reported that Tian Chua alleged­ly arranged the meeting between the two. Tian Chua outraged Malaysians when he said that members of the Kiram clan were not terrorists.

This is despite a statement by the late Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, that he ordered the Lahad Datu intrusion in 2013, which saw 10 Malaysians killed.

But back to Mustapa, who would have learned by now that telling jokes is not his forte. He should leave it to the professionals like Harith Iskandar and Douglas Lim.

It was during Mustapa’s time as the Higher Education Minister that Tan Sri Dr Rafiah Salim was appointed as vice-chancellor at Universiti Malaya, making her the first female vice-chancellor in this country.

He also appointed non-Malays to key positions in universities, such as Prof Dr Khaw Lake Tee, a woman, and Prof Dr Tai Shzee Yew as the deputy vice-chancellors for Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia respectively. There is also Prof Dr Saran Kaur Gill, a deputy vice-chancellor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Mustapa, a believer in meritocracy, pushed for these appointments when he took office, believing talent should be recognised, regardless of gender and race.

It has to be pointed out that the current secretary-general in his ministry, Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, is certainly one of the most respected civil servants.

But what sets Mustapa apart from many politicians is his preference to be low-key, preferring not to be accompanied by an entourage of officials.

It is well known that he often takes the ERL from Sentral to the airport alone. Don’t expect him to buy expensive meals for you, as he is well known for his thriftiness. He has consistently proven that he can get himself elected into Parliament and in the party leadership by being a “no frills” politician.

In a state like Kelantan, where the voters hate smug politicians who show off their power and wealth, Mustapa is regarded as Barisan’s most effective opposition leader to PAS despite his lack of religious credentials.

At his Jeli parliamentary constituency, he makes it a point to personally teach students at the weekly English classes whenever he can find time.

Mustapa also does not believe in spewing racist remarks to win votes, preferring to let the voters judge his work. Affable and well-liked, Umno certainly can do with more politicians like Mustapa.

There is another one that comes to mind and that would be Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, another gentleman politician.

At a time when taking an anti-establishment stand is popular, we should give credit where credit is due and certainly when there are good ministers who stand out, we must be prepared to acknowledge these gentlemen.

They are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, and they, too, like to be encouraged and inspired, so they can do better.

Umno’s Mr Likeable has arrived

This will be Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s first Umno assembly as Deputy Prime Minister and he will have to bring on all of his political skills to wade through the political ripples.

THERE was a sort of urgent rustling sound as Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s entourage passed through the main lobby of the PWTC. One might even say it was the sound of power.

Strict yet friendly: Dr Ahmad Zahid is a natural smiler but those who work for him say he is a no-nonsense boss who expects orders to be followed.

Anyway, the power thing is no joke. Dr Ahmad Zahid is the Deputy Prime Minister as well as Home Minister and you do not want to mess with him. People stopped to stare as the entourage made its way to the VIP holding room where his interview with The Star would take place.

As he stepped through the door of the room, he spotted the elderly man in the wheelchair waiting to see him. The man was his former deputy in the Bagan Datoh division who was unwell, living in Kota Baru and who needed his help.

As he moved towards the man, the power thing dropped away and he was just plain Zahid, the grassroots politician from a kampung in Perak. He wrapped his arms tenderly around the elder man and planted a kiss on each of his cheeks and on his forehead.

As he ushered the man towards a side room, he saw The Star Media Group CEO Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai who was also there for the interview.

“Hey!” he called out, his face crinkling into a broad smile and they exchanged man-hugs. When Wong jokingly asked him about life in the corridors of power, he laughed and pointing to the carpeted floor, he said, “no corridor, I am down there”.

The scene that had just unfolded offered a glimpse into why Dr Ahmad Zahid is one of the most popular leaders in Umno today.

In the space of minutes, he was the powerful politician, the party comrade and the old friend and it was so spontaneous and natural.

It has been a dizzying few months for the new No. 2 and his schedule has been packed back-to-back.

His main downtime these days is spending a few hours in the evening with his grandchildren. He was recently spotted queuing up at a McDonalds outlet in IOI Mall with his grandchildren in tow.

He no longer has time for his passion for big bikes, but he still rides his BMW 650 sports – or his scooter as he calls it – to the surau. It was a gift from the Sultan of Pahang and bears the royal number plate SAS38.

SAS stands for Sultan Ahmad Shah while 38, he said grinning, is “sum fatt” which sounds like “triple luck” in Cantonese.

The day after the interview, he left for CHOGM or the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta. It was his biggest moment on the international stage since becoming Deputy Prime Minister. He went in place of the Prime Minister and he was representing the government of Malaysia.

“It is a big stamp of approval, it’s like the PM saying ‘I trust you’,” said an Umno insider.

Moving up in Umno politics is like climbing a slippery ladder and Umno’s “Mr Likeable” has finally arrived. At the same time, he is aware that he was propelled into the job because of a party crisis.

Umno sources said that after being informed by the Prime Minister that he would be taking over, he went twice to the Prime Minister’s official residence, the second time late at night, to persuade Najib to keep Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the Cabinet.

“I wouldn’t say I declined the post, but I know the feeling when somebody is to be replaced. I wanted to tell the PM that he (Muhyiddin) is still capable to assist the PM,” he said.

The politician in him also knew there would be some resentment especially from Muhyiddin’s supporters and he needed to correct the perception that he had lobbied for the job.

More recently, he is said to have discreetly persuaded Najib and several other supreme council members against removing Muhyiddin from his party post. He pleaded with them not to rock the boat.

His courtesy calls on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Musa Hitam shortly after his appointment were a show of respect to the two Umno grandees and also an assuagement of sorts.

“What happened to me was divine intervention. I did not plan, I don’t take food from other people’s plate, that is my principle,” he said.

Basically, the top Umno vice-president is also trying to soothe the ripples ahead of the Umno general assembly this week. It will be his first as the Deputy Prime Minister and he will have to sit beside his predecessor for three whole days.

“I have no problems with Muhyiddin. At the first supreme council meeting after the reshuffle, I was sitting on his right, he entertained my questions as if nothing had happened to both of us. Hopefully, the same mood is there when we are at the Umno gathering,” he said.

Kapar Umno division chief Datuk Faizal Abdullah said Dr Ahmad Zahid has a huge base because he has a good memory for faces and names. Faizal was just getting active in the Selangor Youth wing when he got to know Dr Ahmad Zahid in the 1990s.

“He was in a multi-cornered fight for the Umno Youth leadership, but he was the only one we knew as a ‘brother’.

“There was never a gap between him and us, he made us feel like we are friends and, you know what, he is never moody – always smiling and first class PR,” he said.

Selangor was his first stop in his countrywide rounds to meet the state Umno grassroots leaders.

Dr Ahmad Zahid who has Javanese roots felt at home with the Selangor Umno crowd which has a significant Javanese presence.

“His speech was about politics, Islamic values and friendship. He speaks our lingo and he gets the vibes. There was not a word uttered against Muhyiddin or Tun Mahathir,” said Faizal.

His parents were religious teachers and he is famous in Umno for what some call his “kampung politics” – that ability to put people at ease, to make them feel loved and, of course, to make them love him back.

At the same time, they like his tough guy style as Home Minister. There is a strict and no-nonsense personality beneath that easy-going style and his ministry staff say he can be demanding and he expects orders to be followed or else. That side of him came out when he had to deal with gangland crimes a few years ago.

“I am strict, but those who know me, they know I am gentle and kind. Am I praising myself?” he said, laughing.

But there is no denying that his primary appeal in Umno is his Malayness. For many Umno members, people like him represent the reason they chose to join Umno.

The average Umno member can also identify with his humble origins in the backwaters of Bagan Datoh. He is what the above Umno insider calls the “real deal”.

Yet, his constituency is 56% Malay, 20% Chinese and 24% Indian. The fact he won there time after time speaks of his ability to connect with all races.

He has his share of detractors and admirers and many Chinese were worried about him. In an interview with The Star, he spoke about his late Hainanese foster father whom he used to help sell ice cream at a canteen.

His Malay branding will always be core to his standing in Umno and he would not want to lose that authenticity. But he will have to balance it with his image as a leader of Malaysians.

These are still early days and the honeymoon is still on between the top two. Some think Najib will be more comfortable with Dr Ahmad Zahid because the boss-subordinate relationship is better defined whereas Najib and Muhyiddin were contemporaries.

Dr Ahmad Zahid rose up the Umno Youth ranks when Najib was the national Umno Youth leader and he later became Najib’s political secretary on Oct 1, 1987 – the date is etched in his head.

“He is my boss, my friend and also my dear brother. It was a special relationship, we had good chemistry and I learnt a lot from his style of leadership – always calm and patient. He never raised his voice. I only know he is angry when his face is red,” he said.

Just how special the relationship is remains to be seen. Najib should not assume that his deputy does not aspire to move up.

Everyone assumed that of Muhyiddin simply because he was older than Najib, but the elder man began to see himself in the top job after the last general election and the relationship went downhill after that.

The other thing is that Dr Ahmad Zahid’s loyalty to Najib has been tested many times. In the 2009 Umno election, then Premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had personally asked Dr Ahmad Zahid to contest against Muhyiddin for the deputy president post and he agreed.

But Najib, who had committed to Muhyiddin as his running mate, called Dr Ahmad Zahid and asked him to not to challenge Muhyiddin.

Najib told him that he had other plans for him and would take care of him. He was disappointed because he would have won hands down, but he obediently pulled out the next day. Najib, one might say, has kept his word to his loyalist.

Dr Ahmad Zahid is still trying to carve out a role for himself.

With his unique people skills, he will be quite ideal as Najib’s trouble-shooter in the party, the pacifier and fixer, the umbrella to bring together the different factions.

The appointment of Dr Ahmad Zahid has been described, by the above Umno insider as the “second coming of Najib”. Najib seems to be taking from Dr Mahathir’s playbook in dealing with his opponents and dissenting views.

If that is the case, Dr Ahmad Zahid may not be his last deputy given how Dr Mahathir went through four deputy prime ministers before calling it a day.

Dr Ahmad Zahid has had more than his share of ups and downs, but he is finally on the big stage.

Action, not talk, speaks louder

We’ll get somewhere if more of us respond with positive action rather than negative talk.

SOME time ago, as I was driving, I found myself waiting at a traffic light junction behind a food business truck. As it is my habit to read – and mentally edit – signages around me, I read the sign on the back of the truck and saw an obvious mistake in the wordings.

I took out my phone to snap a picture and also capture the mobile phone number that was painted on the truck. Later, I sent an SMS to the owner, pointing out the error. The owner responded immediately with thanks, and promised to correct it as soon as possible.

That little incident came to mind when lately, many pictures have been popping up on social media showing signboards with bad English. There was a particularly heavy storm of criticism when an image of a signage welcoming US President Barack Obama went viral.

My impression was that although the greeting could have been phrased better, there was nothing grammatically wrong with it. I am glad the British Council later weighed in to say the same.

But my point is this: the Internet has made it so easy for us to share, and to judge, the mistakes of others.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a good laugh at bloopers, whether in pictures or words. I am one of those people who when watching a movie, will not get up from my seat till the credits have rolled – in the hope of catching some hilarious outtakes.

However, there is a huge difference between laughing with a person and laughing at him.

It seems to me that the kinder and gentler era of the past is fast being replaced by a harsher, less forgiving ethos. How quick we are to catch someone on the wrong footing, and how mercilessly we run others down. We mock and deride without a second thought.

If only we’d pause to consider what effects our words and actions have. When we bemoan the drastic decline of the standard of English in our country, do we just play grammar police and point fingers?

Have we done anything to halt the decline – whether it is to lobby school authorities or give English tuition to the neighbours’ children?

I am gratified to know that there are people who do not just talk, but take action to make a difference. Among them are a number of Teach for Malaysia fellows I’ve had the privilege to meet – young adults who are pouring their energy into inspiring rural schoolchildren to improve their English, and to reach higher and go further.

Like Anders Cheng, who just said goodbye to SMK Pulau Ketam after a two-year stint and is awaiting his next posting.

I met Anders in April last year when I was invited by Teach for Malaysia to take part in its yearly ritual of having “personalities” to be a teacher for the day.

I did two periods of English with Form 3 students in Anders’ class. It was quite an experience, especially when much of what I said had to be translated into Mandarin to be understood.

Thanks to my knowledge of Star-NIE’s teaching tools, I took the students on a treasure hunt in the day’s newspaper to learn English in a fun way.

What I did may have momentarily sparked off some interest and given students a glimpse of how English can be their passport to the world. But it is teachers like Anders who pour their heart and soul to take them to the next level.

And he has done very well indeed. I especially appreciate that he even gave free tuition to his students and was able to motivate some of them to aim to score an A in the SPM eventually.

Anders has yet to get the official letter from the ministry on where he will be posted, but wherever he goes, I know it is people like him who will quietly, but effectively, make a difference.

However bleak the outlook is, if more of us respond to needs with positive action rather than adding to negative talk, I believe we will see a turnaround eventually.

Confessions of a grade inflater, No, I won’t raise your grade

Confessions of a grade inflater

Rebecca Schuman will give A’s or A-minuses to 20 of her 33 college students. Her lowest grade, except for total screw-ups, is B+. Professors inflate grades to avoid whining — and bad course evaluations — from their students, she writes.

If I graded truly fairly—as in, a C means actual average work—the “customers” would do their level best to ruin my life. Granted, there exist professors whose will to power out-powers grade-gripers. There are stalwarts who remain impervious to students’ tenacious complaints, which can be so single-minded that one wonders what would happen if they had applied one-fifteenth of that focus to their coursework.

Increasingly, college faculty are adjuncts with zero job security, she writes. “Precarious faculty” are “rehired based almost solely on student evaluations—which, alas, are themselves often based on how “well” the student is doing in class.”

Adjuncts like me regularly admit to grade inflating, simply as a survival measure, but the consistency of nationwide trends means that even tenured and tenure-track faculty must be inflating grades, too. After all, a pissed-off student who goes all the way to the dean can impact their careers as well.

A return to a real grading system is impossible, Schuman writes. All those “parents of co-valedictorians” wouldn’t stand for it. On her Pan Kisses Kafka blog, she quotes some incredibly obnoxious advice on how to bully professors from Tim Ferris’ Four-Hour Work Week.

If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice in a given class, I would bring 2-3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion.

“The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A,” the bully brags.

Source: Joanne

No, I wont raise your grades

On the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stacey Patton asked college professors and TAs how they’d respond if a student who received a C grade on a paper asked for a higher grade because they “worked so hard on it.”

This appears to be a sore subject. Several offered to consider raising — or lowering — the grade on a second read. Others vented

“The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang,” wrote Takiyah Nur Amin, associate professor of dance at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Jennifer P. Simms, an adjunct visiting professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin at River Falls, advised the C student that “grades in college are based on performance, not effort.”

I know elementary school teachers, coaches, and your parents told you that all that matters is that you do your best. Unfortunately, they all lied to you. In the real world, of which my college classroom is a part, trying hard does not count for squat. Demonstrated mastery of the material, no matter how much or little effort it takes to achieve it, is what is important.

I know that it is unfair that some students spend no time at all on schoolwork and get A’s while others struggle and barely scrape C’s. I suggest you quickly cry a river, build a bridge and get over it. In the meantime, reflect on whether you want other students graded based on how hard they try. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather that papers for Surgery 101: How Not to Kill the People You Cut Open and for Architecture 101: How to Build Bridges That Do Not Collapse and Leave People Plummeting to Their Deaths were graded on students’ demonstration of correct understanding of the concepts, not how much effort they put into writing it.

Many of the commenters thought the academic snark was mean.