May 15th, 2016

Carcosa lambang maruah negara, Banglo bercirikan seni bina Tudor

Carcosa lambang maruah negara

Tidak jauh dari pusat bandar raya Kuala Lumpur, tersergam indah dua buah banglo mewah yang telah berusia lebih 100 tahun terletak di atas bukit berhampiran dengan Taman Tasik Perdana.

Itulah Carcosa Seri Negara, kediaman dan rumah tamu yang dibina oleh kerajaan British dahulu bagi menempatkan Pesuruhjaya Tingginya di Tanah Melayu iaitu Sir Frank Swettenham.


GAMBAR ini diambil pada 1897 sebaik sahaja Carcosa siap di bina. - Arkib Negara

Carcosa dan Seri Negara adalah dua bangunan berbeza. Carcosa adalah kediaman yang dibina pada 1896 untuk didiami oleh pegawai tinggi British di Tanah Melayu.

Manakala Seri Negara pula adalah sebuah rumah tamu yang dibina pada awal kurun ke-20 dan pernah dikenali sebagai King’s House dan Istana Tamu.

Memandangkan Carcosa dibina untuk didiami oleh pegawai British, seni bina bangunan tersebut turut bercirikan Inggeris iaitu Neo Gothic dan Tudor. Malah menurut pengkaji, konsep tersebut dipilih sendiri oleh penghuni pertamanya iaitu Sir Frank Swettenham.

Carcosa menjadi tanda dalam garisan masa sejarah kemerdekaan negara kerana bangunan tersebut pernah menjadi saksi kepada siri penjajahan di Tanah Melayu termasuklah kemasukan tentera Jepun pada 1941.

Selain itu, bangunan tersebut turut terpalit dengan kontroversi yang dicetuskan oleh Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman apabila menyerahkan Carcosa dan tapaknya kepada British sebagai penghargaan kepada kemerdekaan Tanah Melayu.

Namun, tindakan tersebut jelas mengecilkan hati ramai pihak termasuklah Majlis Raja-raja Melayu. Lantaran itu, pada 1986 kerajaan Malaysia berjaya mengambil semula kediaman mewah itu selepas mengadakan rundingan bersama wakil kerajaan British.

Banyak peristiwa pernah berlaku di Carcosa dan Seri Negara seperti persidangan antara pemimpin-pemimpin Tanah Melayu untuk mencapai kemerdekaan.

Malah, ia juga sering dikaitkan dengan sebuah kisah misteri yang cukup terkenal iaitu Lady in White yang dikatakan jelmaan isteri Sir Frank Swettenham di tangga utama dalam Carcosa.

Ikuti kupasan lanjut bersama Wartawan S2, MOHAMAD ATHIR ISMAIL dan jurugambar, JEFFRI IRAN yang berpeluang menyelami sejarah Carcosa dan Seri Negara serta peristiwa penting negara yang pernah berlaku di bangunan itu.


Banglo bercirikan seni bina Tudor

Umum pasti sedia maklum tentang sejarah negara kita sebelum merdeka yang pernah dijajah oleh beberapa kuasa besar sebelum ini seperti Portugis, British dan Jepun.

Bukti penjajahan tersebut dapat dilihat melalui artifak-artifak dan harta yang ditinggalkan oleh mereka sama ada dokumen, ataupun bangunan.

Oleh itu, kita dapat melihat garis masa negara ini yang pernah melalui beberapa era penjajahan sejak kedatangan Portugis pada 1511 hinggalah British bersetuju mengisytiharkan Tanah Melayu sebagai sebuah negara merdeka.

Semua itu kita boleh lihat melalui bangunan-bangunan yang mereka bina seperti A’Famosa dan Stadhuys di Melaka, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad di Kuala Lumpur dan Stesen Kereta Api di Ipoh.


Hajeedar Abdul Majid

Namun terdapat sebuah banglo eksklusif dan mewah di puncak bukit menandakan pemiliknya adalah orang yang berkuasa. Ini kerana pemandangan dari rumah tersebut menunjukkan setiap pelusuk Kuala Lumpur.

Carcosa adalah nama rumah tersebut yang terletak di bukit dekat Taman Tasik Perdana. Ia dibina sekitar 120 tahun yang lalu.

Banglo itu masih tersergam indah, meskipun sudah berusia lebih seratus tahun, kata arkitek dari Hajeedar and Associates, Datuk Ar. Hajeedar Abdul Majid, Carcosa mempunyai pengaruh yang begitu besar dan tapaknya pula sering diintai ramai pihak.

“Carcosa dibina pada 1896 oleh seorang arkitek yang hebat iaitu A. C. Norman dan dibantu oleh seorang arkitek berpengaruh, Arthur Benison Hubback.

“Apabila siap dibina, Carcosa mula diduduki dan penghuni pertamanya ialah Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham (Frank Swettenham) iaitu Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Negeri-Negeri Melayu Bersekutu yang pertama.

“Melihat siapa penghuninya, maka jelaslah Carcosa disebut sebagai tempat paling berpengaruh dan dimiliki oleh orang yang berkuasa.

“Rumah tersebut dibina dengan kos kira-kira Dolar State $25,000. Kalau itulah nilainya sekarang, tentu ramai boleh beli atau bina,” katanya ketika ditemubual S2.

Menyingkap awal pembinaan banglo tersebut, katanya, seni bina Neo Gothic dan Tudor menjadi pilihan Pesuruhjaya Tinggi itu untuk kediaman dua tingkatnya.



BANGUNAN pencakar langit di bandar raya Kuala Lumpur boleh dilihat dari balkoni Carcosa. HAJEEDAR AND ASSOCIATES SDN

“Konsep ini adalah seni bina Britain. Ia mudah dikenali kerana warnanya adalah hitam dan putih.

“Selain Carcosa, konsep Tudor boleh dilihat pada bangunan-bangunan lama di Cameron Highlands dan Bukit Fraser, Pahang, selain bangunan Kelab Selangor di Dataran Merdeka yang kini dikenali Kelab Diraja Selangor.

“Cuma satu yang semua orang kena tahu, Carcosa dan Seri Negara adalah dua bangunan berbeza. Namun, ia juga dibina oleh Sir Frank Swettenham sebagai tempat penginapan tetamu kenamaan.

“Dahulu nama Seri Negara adalah King’s House. Ia menyediakan penginapan kepada tetamu kenamaan, selain menjadi tempat perlindungan kepada Gabenor Negeri- Negeri Selat,” jelasnya.

Menurut Hajeedar lagi, sebagai kediaman mewah, Carcosa turut dilengkapi dengan pelbagai kemudahan seperti kolam renang, gelanggang tenis dan sebagainya.

“Ciri-ciri Carcosa jelas melambangkan kemewahan kerana kedudukannya di atas bukit berkeluasan 7.2 hektar.

“Ia turut dilengkapi dengan tujuh bilik tidur dan sembilan bilik air.

“Menariknya, bilik tidur utamanya berhubung dengan balkoni yang terletak di anjung letak kereta, betul-betul menghadap taman bunga di hadapan banglo tersebut.

“Sementara pemandangannya pula memperlihatkan seluruh ruang udara Kuala Lumpur. Cuma dahulu, belum ada bangunan pencakar langit,” ujarnya yang pernah diberi tangunggjawab untuk mengubahsuai Carcosa pada tahun 1989.

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Penghuni ‘kekal’ Carcosa, Diisytiharkan warisan negara, Asal-usul nama Carcosa

Asal-usul nama Carcosa

Sebagai sebuah kediaman berprestij dan terletak di atas bukit sambil diperlihatkan pemandangan udara kota raya Kuala Lumpur, tentulah nama yang diberikan dapat menunjukkan lagi kehebatan banglo mewah itu.




Bangunan Carcosa Seri Negara telah ditutup sepenuhnya bermula hujung Disember 2009 hingga hari ini.

Apatah lagi kedudukannya bersebelahan dengan Tasik Perdana. Justeru, pelbagai versi cerita menyatakan tentang asal-usul nama Carcosa.

Berdasarkan kajian seorang arkitek yang juga bekas Pensyarah Fakulti Senibina Perancangan dan Ukur, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Prof. Madya Amran Abdul Rahman, terdapat cerita mengatakan asal-usul nama Carcosa datang daripada isteri Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham iaitu Lady Swettenham.

“Mengikut kajian yang saya pernah buat mengenai banglo Carcosa dan King’s House atau sekarang disebut sebagai Carcosa Seri Negara, terdapat tiga versi cerita tentang asal- usul nama kediaman tersebut.

“Cerita yang mengatakan asal-usul nama Carcosa datang daripada Lady Swettenham adalah kerana wanita Inggeris itu boleh berbahasa Itali dan sering mendengar lagu-lagu opera dalam bahasa tersebut.

“Oleh itu, beliau menggelar rumah tersebut sebagai ‘Cara Cosa’ yang bermaksud ‘dear thing’, ‘the apple of his eye’’.

“Kemudian, Sir Frank Swettenham telah mencantumkan dua perkataan ‘Cara Cosa’ menjadi ‘Carcosa’ dengan membuang huruf ‘a’,” katanya ketika ditemubual S2.

Di samping itu, tambah beliau lagi, terdapat juga versi cerita mengatakan nama Carcosa itu datang dari al-Quran iaitu surah al-Kauthar kerana bunyinya yang seakan-akan sama.

“Surah al-Kauthar adalah surah terpendek dalam al-Quran. Perkataan ‘Kauthar’ atau ‘Kalkauthar’ dalam ayat pertama surah itu menjadi sandaran bagi seorang pembantu Sir Frank Swettenham yang menceritakan asal-usul nama Carcosa.

“Kemudian, mengukuhkan lagi teori pembantu berkenaan ialah makna dalam surah tersebut yang menceritakan rahmat Allah yang telah diberikan kepada manusia di seluruh alam.

“Tambahan pula, al-Kauthar juga merupakan nama bagi sebatang sungai yang terdapat di syurga,” jelasnya.

Walau bagaimanapun, Sir Frank Swettenham pernah ditanya sendiri oleh sebuah akhbar British Malaya mengenai asal-usul nama Carcosa.

Amran memberitahu, Residen Inggeris itu dikatakan memperoleh nama Carcosa daripada sebuah lagu dalam buku The King in Yellow tulisan Robert W. Chambers.

“Beliau telah menjawab pertanyaan editor akhbar British Malaya dengan mengutus surat pada Mei 1936.

“Kandungan surat tersebut menceritakan ketika banglo mewah itu baru siap dibina, beliau sedang membaca buku The King in Yellow dan di dalamnya tertulis sebuah lagu bertajuk Cassildas.

“Dalam lirik lagu tersebut, ada berkali-kali menyebut perkataan Carcosa. Tertarik dengan lagu itu, beliau menamakan kediaman mewahnya sebagai Carcosa,” ujarnya.


Diisytiharkan warisan negara

Telah disebut bahawa Carcosa adalah satu tanda dalam garisan masa kemerdekaan negara kita yang menjadi saksi kepada siri penjajahan di Tanah Melayu dalam sejarah moden Malaysia.

Signifikannya bangunan Carcosa adalah kerana banglo mewah itu menjadi saksi kepada campur tangan British dalam pentadbiran di Tanah Melayu serta menjadi medan pertemuan dan perbincangan para pemimpin untuk menuntut kemerdekaan.

Selain itu, kedudukan Carcosa di puncak bukit menjadikan ia sebuah kediaman berprestij yang didiami Pesuruhjaya Tinggi British, Sir Frank Swettenham serta menandakan Kuala Lumpur sebagai ibu kota bagi Negeri-negeri Melayu Bersekutu.

Justeru, Carcosa Seri Negara telah diangkat menjadi bangunan warisan di bawah akta Antikuiti 1976 pada 29 Mei 1986.

Kemudian pada 6 Julai 2007 di Parlimen, Menteri Kebudayaan, Kesenian dan Warisan ketika itu, Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim telah mengisytiharkan Carcosa Seri Negara sebagai Warisan Kebangsaan.


CARCOSA adalah kediaman paling berprestij di Kuala Lumpur kerana kedudukannya di atas sebuah bukit, tidak jauh dari pusat bandar raya Kuala Lumpur dan terletak bersebelahan Taman Tasik Perdana. – HA JEE DAR AN D ASSOCIATE S SDN

Pengiktirafan tersebut dibuat bagi menjaga kesinambungan warisan sejarah seperti yang terkandung dalam Seksyen 36 Pengisytiharan Warisan Kebangsaan, Akta Warisan Kebangsaan 2005 (Akta 645).

Menjelaskan lagi kewajaran Carcosa Seri Negara diangkat sebagai salah satu Warisan Kebangsaan, Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Warisan Negara, Dr. Zainah Ibrahim memberitahu banglo mewah itu menyimpan banyak peristiwa penting.

“Carcosa dan Seri Negara adalah dua bangunan berbeza kerana Carcosa dibina pada hujung kurun ke-19 manakala Seri Negara yang dahulu dikenali sebagai King’s House dibina pada 1913.

“King’s House menjadi kediaman bagi tetamu yang terdiri daripada kerabat Diraja British apabila melawat Tanah Melayu.

“Berbalik kepada simbol sejarah negara, Carcosa dan Seri Negara adalah dua bangunan yang telah berusia lebih daripada 100 tahun.

“Selain itu, ia adalah hartanah paling berprestij dan pernah mendapat perhatian seluruh rakyat Malaysia kerana menjadi subjek dalam perjuangan untuk mendapatkan kembali kediaman tersebut daripada kerajaan British,” katanya dalam satu kenyataan kepada S2.

Dalam pada itu, beliau turut menambah sejarah Carcosa dan Seri Negara begitu unik dan wajar diberitahu kepada orang awam.

Oleh itu, bangunan tersebut perlu dikekalkan dan sejarahnya diceritakan kepada orang awam supaya mereka tahu kepentingan kewujudan Carcosa dan Seri Negara di Taman Tasik Perdana.

“Jabatan Warisan Negara telah mengeluarkan garis panduan untuk memelihara dan memulihara bangunan Carcosa dan Seri Negara sebagai salah satu subjek dalam sejarah Malaysia.

“Justeru, kita perlu kekalkan seni bina dan struktur bangunan termasuklah tapak Carcosa dan Seri Negara serta landskap dan pokok-pokok dalam kawasannya,” jelasnya.


Penghuni ‘kekal’ Carcosa

Carcosa adalah sebuah banglo mewah yang telah berusia lebih 100 tahun. Begitu juga King’s House yang terletak di sebelahnya sebagai kediaman tetamu kenamaan suatu ketika dahulu.

Lantaran itu, bermacam-macam peristiwa mistik didakwa pernah dialami oleh pengkaji serta pekerja yang melakukan kerja-kerja ubah suai di rumah tersebut.

Antara cerita menarik yang terdapat di Carcosa adalah kisah ‘Lady in White’. Jelmaan wanita berkenaan didakwa kelihatan berdiri di tangga utama dalam banglo tersebut.

Meskipun tidak pernah melihatnya, Pensyarah Fakulti Seni Bina Perancangan dan Ukur, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Prof. Madya Amran Abdul Rahman memberitahu ramai orang pernah menceritakan kisah tersebut kepada beliau dan siapakah ‘Lady in White’ yang muncul di tangga dalam Carcosa.



Suasana di dalam Carcosa Seri Negara.

“Carcosa adalah sebuah banglo yang cantik, seni bina serta hiasannya memang bercirikan Inggeris dan ia adalah sebuah rumah yang besar.

“Kira-kira lima atau enam tahun lalu, saya pernah datang ke sana untuk membuat kajian dan juga kerja-kerja mengukur. Masa itu, pelajar-pelajar saya juga ikut sekali masuk ke Carcosa.

“Saya juga pernah berada di sana pada waktu malam untuk melakukan kerja-kerja mengukur. Yalah..., tempoh yang dibenarkan untuk buat kajian pun singkat,” katanya ketika ditemui S2 di pejabatnya di UiTM kampus Puncak Alam.

Tambahnya lagi, ketika berada di sana, beliau pernah mengalami kejadian-kejadian mistik seperti diceritakan oleh rakan-rakannya yang pernah ke sana.

“Ada kawan-kawan saya yang pernah datang ke Carcosa untuk membuat kajian mendengar dan mengalami kejadian pelik.

“Bunyi orang berjalan, sedangkan tiada orang di tingkat atas. Permukaan lantai adalah jenis kayu, jadi apa yang mereka dengar adalah bunyi orang pijak kayu seperti sedang berjalan.

“Kemudian, ada pelajar-pelajar saya beritahu pernah dengar bunyi laci ditarik di bilik, dapur dan tempat lain dalam rumah tersebut. Namun paling mengerikan ialah bunyi pintu dihempas.

“Di sana sangat popular dengan cerita ‘Lady in White’. Ramai yang mengatakan wanita yang sering muncul di tangga utama rumah tersebut dengan berpakaian putih adalah isteri Sir Frank Swettenham.

“Kemudian, ada juga kisah tentang seorang budak yang muncul di taman bunga dekat halaman. Budak tersebut dipercayai anak seorang tetamu yang hilang suatu ketika dahulu dan tidak pernah ditemui hingga hari ini,” ujarnya.

Menurut Amran lagi, apa pun cerita mistik atau misteri di Carcosa, ia hanyalah sebuah cerita. Namun paling penting ialah, menjaga warisan negara kerana Carcosa Seri Negara adalah simbol kemerdekaan negara kita.

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Benarkah Malaysia wujud pada tahun 1963?

Malaysia bertunjangkan negeri-negeri Melayu, negeri-negeri Selat serta Borneo Utara (Sabah) dan Sarawak, dua koloni Inggeris di Pulau Borneo. Baru-baru ini terdapat pertikaian mengenai tahun sebenar negara ini dilahirkan.

Ada dikalangan rakyat Malaysia yang menyatakan bahawa 31 Ogos 1957 bukanlah tarikh kemerdekaan Malaysia seperti yang dilaporkan di media atas talian dan blog-blog.

Adakah Malaysia adalah negara kesinambungan dari Malaya atau adalah sebuah negara baru yang ditubuhkan pada tahun 1963?

Persekutuan Tanah Melayu

Persekutuan Tanah Melayu atau Persekutuan Malaya wujud hasil gabungan Negeri-negeri Melayu Bersekutu, Negeri-negeri Melayu Tidak Bersekutu dan Negeri-negeri Selat. Apabila pemerintahan British diasaskan semula di Malaya setelah Jepun menyerang kalah di akhir Perang Dunia Kedua, pihak British telah mula menguar-uarkan gagasan Malayan Union. Malayan Union bakal mewujudkan pemerintahan yang lebih sistematik dan tersusun untuk Malaya tetapi dalam masa yang sama menghakis kedaulatan sultan-sultan Melayu dan kedudukan orang Melayu sebagai kaum Bumiputera di Tanah Melayu.

Akibat bantahan berterusan terutamanya daripada orang-orang Melayu, gagasan Malayan Union gagal dan digantikan dengan Persekutuan Malaya pada tahun 1948. Tempoh sembilan tahun dari 1948 sehingga 1957 telah digunakan bagi mempersediakan Malaya untuk berkerajaan sendiri dan seterusnya kemerdekaan. Singapura tidak dimasukkan ke dalam Persekutuan dan dijadikan koloni yang berasingan.

Menurut Sir Zelman Cowan, seorang pakar sejarah dari Australia, pemerintahan langsung British dalam Persekutuan Malaya hanya terhad kepada hal-ehwal luar negara dan pertahanan. Dalam erti kata yang lain, Malaya telah pun menuju berkerajaan sendiri apabila Persekutuan Malaya ditubuhkan pada tahun 1948.

Malaya telah mengadakan pilihanraya pertama pada tahun 1955 dengan kemenangan besar di pihak Parti Perikatan. Tunku Abdul Rahman dilantik menjadi Ketua Menteri Malaya yang pertama dan kemudiannya dilantik semula sebagai Perdana Menteri apabila Malaya menjadi sebuah negara merdeka yang berdaulat.

Persekutuan Malaysia

Gagasan Malaysia adalah idea bernas Tunku Abdul Rahman, yang mencadangkan sebuah persekutuan diwujudkan di antara Negara Malaya yang merdeka dengan koloni-koloni Inggeris iaitu Sabah, Sarawak dan Singapura serta Brunei, yang pada ketika itu adalah sebuah wilayah lindungan British. Brunei memilih untuk tidak menyertai Persekutuan. Singapura merupakan penyokong kuat Persekutuan Malaysia kerana ini adalah salah satu kaedah untuknya mencapai kemerdekaan sepenuhnya.

Singapura hanya diberikan taraf pemerintahan sendiri pada tahun 1959. Singapura meraih kemerdekaan di dalam Malaysia dan menjadi negara yang berasingan setelah dikeluarkan dari Persekutuan dari tahun 1965. Sementara itu, Suruhanjaya Cobbold yang dihantar ke Sabah dan Sarawak melaporkan dua-pertiga rakyat kedua-dua koloni British ini menyokong gagasan Malaysia.

Hari Pemerintahan-Sendiri Sabah kini disambut pada 31 Ogos manakala Sarawak menyambutnya pada 22 Julai dan seringkali perayaan ini dianggap sebagai hari kemerdekaan. Menurut British Documents on the End of Empire yang diedit oleh AJ Stockwell, anggapan ini adalah tidak tepat, memandangkan perundangan British mengenai pemerintahan sendiri Sabah dan Sarawak tidak memperuntukkan kemerdekaan sebelum koloni-koloni ini menyertai gagasan Malaysia.

Oleh itu, pengataan bahawa Sabah dan Sarawak mencapai kemerdekaan daripada British sebelum penubuhan Malaysia pada 16 September 1963 adalah suatu kesalahfahaman yang boleh merosakkan fakta sejarah negara. Dua koloni British ini, iaitu Sabah dan Sarawak hanya mencapai kemerdekaan di dalam Persekutuan Malaysia pada tahun 1963.

1957 atau 1963?

Fakta sejarah mencatatkan Malaysia ditubuhkan pada tahun 1963 apabila Negara Malaya bersekutu dengan koloni-koloni British iaitu Sabah, Singapura dan Sarawak. Walaubagaimanapun, persoalan mungkin timbul adakah Malaysia benar-benar sebuah negara yang baru atau sebuah negara kesinambungan Persekutuan Malaya.

Walaupun Malaysia dikatakan wujud pada 16 September 1963, keanggotaan Malaysia ke Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB) adalah pada 17 September 1957 tidak lama setelah Malaya mencapai kemerdekaan. Penubuhan Malaysia tidak memindahkan ibu negara Persekutuan dari Kuala Lumpur ke Singapura, walaupun Singapura lebih dikenali sebagai sebuah pelabuhan antarabangsa dan sebuah kota yang lebih maju dari Kuala Lumpur pada ketika itu. Perdana Menteri Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman telah dilantik semula menjadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia dan Yang DiPertuan Agong kekal menjadi ketua negara Malaysia.

Selain itu, matawang Ringgit, lagu kebangsaan dan bahasa kebangsaan Persekutuan Malaya terus digunapakai tanpa perubahan dalam Persekutuan Malaysia. Lagi pula, Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaya, yang diratifikasi pada 27 Ogos 1957 dijadikan Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaysia dengan beberapa pindaan bagi membolehkan kemasukan Singapura, Sabah dan Sarawak mengambil tempat.

Oleh itu, apakah benar Malaysia sememangnya sebuah negara baru yang ditubuhkan pada 16 September 1963 atau hanya sekadar negara kesinambungan Persekutuan Malaya yang mencapai kemerdekaan pada tahun 1957?

Kesimpulan

Walaupun Malaysia telah mencapai kemerdekaan selama 59 tahun, rakyat Malaysia masih lagi terkeliru dengan sejarah kebangsaan mereka sendiri. Perdebatan berterusan di antara 1957 dan 1963 tidak akan membawa keharmonian kepada negara. Kesalahfahaman bahawa Sabah dan Sarawak mencapai kemerdekaan di luar Malaysia adalah suatu fakta salah yang boleh merosakkan pembinaan negara Malaysia.

Benar sekali bahawa orang-orang Semenanjung perlu berterima kasih pada rakyat Sabah dan Sarawak yang telah banyak berkorban untuk mewujudkan Malaysia, sebuah negara yang lebih kuat, lebih besar dari yang sebelumnya, Malaya, tanpa mengenakan sebarang tuntutan atau syarat-syarat yang luar biasa. Sama juga, rakyat Sabah dan Sarawak perlu ingat bahawa tanpa Persekutuan Malaysia gagasan pemerintah Malaya, kedua-dua koloni British ini tidak akan dapat menggapai nikmatnya kemerdekaan, sekurang-kurangnya tidak pada tahun 1963.

Kita seharusnya berhenti melabelkan diri kita sebagai rakyat Malaya, Sarawak atau Sabah. Ini tidak penting kerana kita semua adalah rakyat Malaysia. Selagi rakyat Malaysia berdiri teguh untuk negara, Persekutuan ini akan terus kukuh dan maju ke hadapan sebagai sebuah negara yang maju, produktif dan disegani.

Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli (Ph. D) ialah seorang pensyarah kanan di Fakulti Syariah dan Undang-undang, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia dan profesor pelawat di Sekolah Undang-undang, Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok, Rusia.

Mentors beyond chalk and talk

Even with the increasing workload and the many hats they wear, teachers are more than happy to guide and nurture their charges.

EVEN after almost six decades of teaching 76-year-old Vijaya Samarawickrama has no intention of stopping what he loves to do best – teaching.

He started out in the noble profession in the second week of January 1957,when he was just 18.

“Too many people today use teaching as a profession. I’m lucky because teaching to me is a vocation. I found teaching and teaching found me,” he shares.

Teacher and facilitator: Sahadeva interacts with his attentive students during a Physics lesson.
Teacher and facilitator: Sahadeva interacts with his attentive students during a Physics lesson.

“Never in my 59 years of teaching did I ever feel the job is not for me ... it is about ‘human touch’,” says the Taylors University senior lecturer.

We may be in the “tech age” but teaching from human-to-human is the most important aspect of this wonderful job, says Vijaya who teaches Drama and Theatre and World Religion.

“The most meaningful thing is when you are able to make students love a subject they dislike.”

Game changer: Abel’s ideas and teaching techniques have brought about some positive outcomes for students and the school.
Game changer: Abel’s ideas and teaching techniques have brought about some positive outcomes for students and the school.

“Information is available online all the time, but it is the teacher who translates that into something relevant to a person.”

He shares that one of the best comments he received from a student evaluation was: “I walked into Mr Vijay’s class as an atheist, I walked out of it as an agnostic.”

He has a spontaneous way of teaching that adds spark and fun in his lessons.

Even with so many years of teaching, Vijaya still plans his lessons ahead of time.

“My focus is on how students can benefit from the lesson ... and how best I can transfer my passion for the subject to my students.

Vijaya also shares his philosophy in teaching, saying that it gives him the ability to change people for the better.

“When I leave this world, I must leave this world a little bit better than when I came into it.

Say cheese: Rahmah (centre) with her Form Five students.
Say cheese: Rahmah (centre) with her Form Five students.

“I must be a contributing factor, no matter how small that contribution is.

“You don’t quantify it, you just know it in your heart,” he says.

To Vijaya, teaching is what he has been born for.

“The great thing about teaching is that you never grow old ... it is only my passion that has grown.”

With a double degree in Economics and Communications, Abel Cheah Sze Wei could have easily carved a successful career in the corporate world, instead he chose a different path.

“I had a burning desire to teach. I must attribute this urge to nurture and impart knowledge to my mother for she had a profound influence on me. But I also had other role models who have embodied a life of service,” says the Teach For Malaysia (TFM) head of regions.

Participating in church and youth programmes during his college years had also rubbed off on him.

Interview with Taylors University senior lecturer Vijaya Samarawickrama, who had been teaching for the past 59 years.
The most meaningful thing is when you are able to make students love a subject they dislike. - Vijaya Samarawickrama

“I was the chairman of my church youth group and it was then that I wanted to go deeper into the idea of nation building and doing something meaningful with my abilities,” he shares.

Abel applied to join as a fellow with TFM in his final year of university and was subsequently posted to a secondary school in Gemas, Negri Sembilan for two years as an English teacher.

Being posted to the small, semi-rural town hit the city boy with waves of culture shock.

Often witnessing gang fights, Abel shared an instance when a student was hit on his head with a motorcycle helmet and subsequently slipped into a coma for months.

“Many of my students were also very weak in their studies.

“A regular student would be eight years behind where they should be academically,” he adds.

While all that he witnessed was eye-opening, it allowed him to understand the country’s education system.

Perseverance pays: Ruth wants her students to work hard and succeed as she believes that education can change a person’s destiny.
Perseverance pays: Ruth wants her students to work hard and succeed as she believes that education can change a person’s destiny.

“Being an educator had given me the opportunity to intervene, and that was the best part of my two years with TFM.”

As TFM head of regions, his role in the organisation is now “more administrative” but the energetic 28-year-old takes it in his stride.

He still gets to travel to many rural towns, all for the sake of changing lives through education.

For the enthusiastic millennial, it is more than just earning a living.

“At the end of the day, it’s about leaving a legacy of making a difference in people’s lives and simply leaving behind something good when your chapter closes,” he adds.

As a teacher, it was no easy task to captivate the hearts and minds of young students but Abel realised that with the right influence and responsibility, he could make a difference.

“I used interesting classroom techniques such as introducing the “How cool are you” board.

“The technique required students to complete their homework or participate in classroom activity. By doing so, they would see their names ‘rise’ on the board,” he says.

Abel doesn’t believe in meting out corporal punishment for that leaves an indelible scar in a child.

During his teaching stint, his students were introduced with a simple and fun technique that would help them discover the sense of pride and achievement.

“I saw how that simple idea worked for the students because from then on, there was healthy competition among them,” he adds.

Converting a vacant classroom into a homework room for students, was one of the changes he brought to the school.

“The room had water dispensers, light snacks and books for students to read.

“Our students didn’t come from spacious, conducive home environments that allowed them to do their homework.

“So, two of my colleagues and I would stay back to coach the students. Besides, they did not come from families that could afford tuition,” he adds.

He went the extra mile by conducting additional classes for his students twice a week for at least two hours.

Considering himself privileged for having an education, Abel adds that it is now time for him to do his part for society.

“There’s no greater responsibility than those who don’t have the same opportunities that I’ve had,” he adds.

Citing his mum, Ruth Cheah Kah Yok as his inspiration, Abel says her teacher “hat” never wears off.

Barely a week into her retirement as SMK Tropicana, Petaling Jaya principal, Ruth was appointed as Sunway College Cambridge GCE A-Levels director.

“I believe there is so much I can contribute especially through my years of experience as a teacher.

“I don’t want to look at my retirement as the end of my journey in education.

“Teaching is in my blood,” says Ruth, 60.

She shares that teachers tend to get very involved with the problems their students face. In fact, they take it upon themselves to counsel their charges outside schooling hours.

Teaching is a calling and Ruth believes that when one sees it that way, issues such as sacrificing their time and posting locations will not be a problem.

“To make teaching and learning effective, we need teachers who are willing to lay their life for their students,” she adds.

Being posted to SMK Tropicana in 2012, a school then rampant with gangsterism and vandalism, Ruth took it as a challenge.

Along with her colleagues, Ruth would stand by the school gate and welcome her students in.

Some would come in with empty stomachs and torn uniforms.

With support from people around her, she managed to find sponsors who were willing to donate their old uniforms and provide free food to the students.

“Some sponsors were also willing to provide free tuition classes and lunch on Saturdays for the students,” she says.

To her delight, the tradition has continued even after her retirement.

“One of my objectives is to pump hope to students and teach them on the importance of a good education.

“Education can change a person’s destiny,” she says.

For valedictorian Sahadeva Prem Kumar, the drive to open his own tuition centre came after his stint as a lecturer in UCSI University (UCSI), his alma mater.

“Upon graduation, I lectured foundation students for two years.

“In that time, I found out that these students lacked basic knowledge in regards to science subjects and this pushed me to get to the root of the problem and spark the interest in them at school level,” said the 29-year-old Kajang native.

“If our country’s best students graduate and work in big companies, who will then educate the next generation?” he asks.

Being the top student in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Sahadeva believed he could contributetowards educating children and teens.

“Education,when done right, can transform lives,” adds the First Class honours graduate in Food Science and Nutrition.

In the five years since he opened his tuition centre, he has taught students with a variety of problems.

“I had a student who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and it was a big challenge to teach him during our lessons.

“I had to constantly reinvent my teaching methods as the conventional method did not work for him,” he adds.

“I would make him imagine himself as the central character in the subjects I taught him, capturing his attention.

“Eventually, he passed with flying colours!” says Sahadeva who himself struggled in school till his early teens.

Not to be left out in today’s digital era, Sahadeva incorporates 21st century teaching methods by delivering his lessons through different mediums such as storytelling and educational videos.

Having had his own issues in school, Sahadeva knows how to engage with students involved in gangsterism.

“I relate my own stories, then tell them there is a future ahead of them ... that’s when I see a change in attitude ... for the better of course!”

His love for teaching goes beyond the classroom.

Over the weekends, Sahadeva carries out charity work with his students at homes for the aged and underprivileged.

Presented with the Excellent Teacher award in 2003, Rahmah Sayuti’s passion for teaching and teacher development is “inbuilt”.

“I love to train teachers and had a lot of opportunity to do so even before receiving the award,” says the educator form SM Sains Sembrong, Kluang, Johor.

In 2011, Rahmah, 53, was further awarded with the Special Grade C award.

“I am truly blessed to have achieved such great heights in a vocation that I had chosen.”

Rahmah injects fun in her lessons as for her, “variety is the spice of life”. An English teacher with 29 years of experience, Rahmah believes in the power of journal writing.

“Some of my students may dislike it, but there are numerous benefits in keeping a journal particularly when English is only taught for five periods.

“Journal writing allows my students to ‘be in touch with English’ outside the classroom.”

Rahmah encourages her students to write their journal entries using a digital notebook that is available online.

Through this application, she can access her students’ work easily.

Her drive to become a teacher came from various people who inspired her in her younger years.

“I believe teaching has chosen me as much as I have chosen teaching,” she says.

While many opt to move up as lecturers after spending several years as school teachers, Rahmah has no regrets staying on and teaching in school. While nothing beats the thrill of seeing students succeed, it is particularly heart-warming when it invovles children from less privileged backgrounds.

“What is important is that they have not wasted the opportunities given to them and have a better life today,” she adds.

While it maybe encouraging to see young adults choose teaching as their “career path”, Rahmah says that it is not enough to merely speak about their passion.

“That passion for teaching must be reflected in their actions and commitment.”

Ruth adds that the best part about teaching is in helping to nurture and mould young lives.

Churning out hordes of unqualified professionals

In March, The Star highlighted how unqualified students armed with dubious certificates were turning to foreign universities for their degrees. Insiders now tell Sunday Star they can guarantee spots in some of the most difficult courses like medicine – for a fee. Here’s how it works.

NOT qualified? No problem. Thanks to a group of education agents here, anyone can study to be a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, pilot or geoscientist.

These agents specialise in helping underperforming SPM graduates find placements in universities abroad for difficult courses like medicine, pharmacy and veterinary studies, dentistry and aviation.

One of them, who only wanted to be known as Siva, specialises in sending students to Indonesian universities that are recognised by the Malaysian Government. Based in Kuala Lumpur, his job is to guarantee places for the students at specific foreign universities – regardless of their SPM results.

“It boils down to connections. Who you know over there is important,” he tells Sunday Star.

But before they can get into the degree programme of their choice, candidates must take a pre-university examination by an institution based in northern Sumatra. It’s a “definite pass”, he assures. They’ll also receive a ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’ certificate issued by a private local college without having to sit for the test. All this for RM3,750. The cost of enrolling for the degree, however, is a separate matter.

Parents must fork out an additional RM60,000 for that. The sum covers the first-year study fee and other ‘admission fees’. The ‘admission fees’ is paid to the faculty to secure a place as the universities all have a foreign student quota.

Since he started the business in 2000, Siva have had more than 400 students enrolled in universities across Asia. Describing it as a way of helping students, he sees nothing wrong with what he’s doing and he doesn’t think it is unethical either.

“Many think it’s the agents’ fault, which is wrong. Blame the local universities. Many students can’t even get an offer to study medicine despite getting four flat (CGPA 4.0) for their STPM. Who’s going to help them if not us?” he asks. Denied entry into public universities, his clients have no choice but to seek out agents like him because they cannot afford to study in premium foreign universities.

A senior bank executive who only wanted to be known as Robert, 23, was Siva’s client. He bought a pre-university certificate and a ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’ certificate for his younger brother. The ‘package’ includes a guaranteed spot in one of the top universities in Bandung to do a geoscience degree.

Robert denies that he was trying to cheat the system, insisting that the original plan was for his brother to sit for a legit pre-university examination after he failed his STPM science subjects.

A quick Google search on ‘studying geology in Indonesia’ led him to Siva. At their first meeting in a sandwich shop, he was convinced to take up the dubious package.

“My brother didn’t sit for the English certificate exam. He only had to turn up for the pre-university exam and was told that he didn’t have to study as a pass was guaranteed. The family decided that this was a better option than for my brother to sit for a legit pre-university exam which if he failed, would lead us back to square one.”

At the time, Robert didn’t feel that there was anything wrong with what he was doing. But looking back now, he regrets it because his brother couldn’t cope with the courses which were taught in Bahasa Indonesia – dropping out after just six months there. Describing it as a huge waste of money, he says the short stint abroad had cost a whopping RM70,000.

“My father wanted him to take over the family business, which is related to geoscience. I was told to help my brother... so I did. The result? Money down the drain and my brother is no better off than when he left,” he says, recalling the experience.

Now, the brother works with his father, learning the tricks of the trade the oldfashioned way – the hands-on approach.

“He is learning how to weld. That’s a good start,” Robert says.

On March 20, Sunday Star front-paged an exclusive on unqualified Malaysian students going abroad to get their medical degrees after getting complaints that unscrupulous agents here could be falsifying SPM result certificates and Non-Objection Certificate (NOC).

Students wanting to pursue medical courses overseas must get NOCs from the ministry. The issuance of the certificates is based on the students having the same minimal entry qualifications as stipulated for entry to local universities.

A retired teacher, who declined to be named, had a shock when she discovered that her employer – an education consultancy headed by a Datuk, was arranging for unqualified students to do courses like medicine, dentistry, veterinary, pharmacy and aviation in Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia.

The 63-year-old mother of a doctor and a dentist quit after receiving her first paycheck.

“As far as I know, you study hard, do well and go through the proper channels. Honestly, I never knew there were student placement centres that could get unqualified students into such demanding degree programmes!”

Initially confused, she put two and two together after hearing colleagues do their “sales pitch” at education fairs and road shows.

Students with SPM results – no matter how poor and regardless of which stream they’re from – were guaranteed entry into foreign universities to study in fields that they won’t otherwise get to do here. The universities allocate a fixed number of seats for the agent so results are irrelevant. The realisation hit like a tonne of bricks.

They target lower income families and uneducated parents – usually from the Indian community where medicine is held in very high regard, she shares. They have connections to small villages in places like Cameron Highlands and Sungai Petani so they know who to call. Appalled, she shares some outrageous sales pitches she’s heard: “God wants your child to study medicine” and :It’s recognised by the World Health Organization so you can work anywhere”.

“The counsellors aren’t even trained. They were given a set of university booklets to go through, that’s it. It’s all about selling the package. They even tell you where to get a loan – EPF, mortgage your house, etcetera. It’s like direct selling, the way they pressure parents.”

Explaining the modus operandi, she says parents are told to pay a mere RM1,500 of the RM20,000 fee, as downpayment. The amount covers the foundation course and first year degree fees.

They don’t tell parents how much it’s going to cost in the subsequent years. The entire degree programme will set the family back about RM100,000. Because they’re dealing with families that aren’t well educated and are desperate for their children to have a better future, the important questions don’t get asked. Having seen many poor families falling prey to the agency, she believes most don’t know the implications of using a dubious certificate to get into university.

“Upon paying the downpayment, the students go off to some dingy shophouse for five or six months to supposedly prepare them for university. I’m not even sure if attendance is compulsory. I wouldn’t be surprised if degrees are also being bought with the amount of palm-greasing that’s going on. Dubious foundation certificates could just be the tip of the iceberg.”

Urging parents and students to do their research before signing up for anything, she says a degree in medicine is not the only way to move up in life.

You’re exploiting, not helping, Results irrelevant if the price is right

Results irrelevant if the price is right

PETALING JAYA: SPM students who do not qualify for medicine, pharmacy, veterinary studies, dentistry and aviation are being guaranteed places in universities abroad – thanks to some very “helpful” agents.

An agent and a former consultant told Sunday Starhow they had been sending unqualified students abroad by supplying foundation course certificates with no questions asked.

While some require the students to sit for an exam, the results are irrelevant. The test, insiders claimed, was a sham as it was conducted by the agents themselves.

For less than RM4,000, students are given certificates that will guarantee them a place in select universities. But upon enrolment, between RM20,000 and RM60,000 must be paid.

Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general (public institutions of higher learning) Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the sale of foundation certificates was wrong.

The ministry, she said, could take action including issuing fines or revoking the licences of institutions found guilty.

“Tell us if you know about local institutions or agents offering such services. Unless we receive reports from the public, it’ll be difficult to investigate and act on this,” she said, urging parents and students not to support wrongful practices.

Besides the ministry’s own education fairs, she said there were many others that give good advice to those who want to know more about legitimate courses being offered.

Raising awareness on available options and career prospects was a vital and ongoing process, she added.

“We understand that parents want their children to pursue programmes in critical courses like medicine. But there are many other opportunities that offer bright prospects for the future.”

Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon advised students against entering universities in such a way, saying that there were no shortcuts in life.

“Studying really tough courses like medicine, pharmacy and dentistry, is not easy if you don’t have the aptitude. You’ll face tremendous obstacles in your studies.”

Students, he said, must choose courses based on their academic qualifications and passion, and not be pressured into choosing a specific course merely because it was their parents’ choice.

Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) president and Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah is aware of the dubious foundation certificates.

“They take students with lower qualifications or circumvent the ‘No Objection Certificate’ requirement by conducting their own foundation courses,” he said.

“But this is neither under the jurisdiction nor the powers of the MMC and ministry.”

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip said minimum grades were required for the benefit of the students themselves and their future patients.

Centres that provide students with an easy path into medical school are doing the students and their parents a disservice, he said.

“It’s better for them to accept that they don’t have the grades for medicine and do something else or sit for the SPM again.

“If the minimum grades are not obtained at secondary level, what chance does the student have of getting good grades at tertiary level, no matter how hard they work?” he asked.


You’re exploiting, not helping

ALLOWING unqualified students to do medicine isn’t helping anyone except the unscrupulous businessmen, stakeholders say.

These agents fill seats at all costs and are making huge profits. There’s no such thing as a free lunch or ‘helping’ in such businesses, Asia Metropolitan University president and chief executive officer Prof Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan shrugs.

“They can only ‘help’ if the students are eligible in the first place – if they have the required five B4 credits in SPM. Students cannot start their foundation course otherwise. They cannot even enrol in the foundation course while resitting their SPM,” Dr Tharmaseelan, who is also the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia past-president, points out.

If you really want to be a doctor but don’t have the grades, resit your SPM. Many have done that and succeeded, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia founding member and MMA past president Dr Milton Lum, says.

“These agents are exploiting, not helping. Helping means putting a person in a better state. Are you in a better state if you get into a university with poor grades?” he argues.

All foundation courses like pre-university, pre-medicine and matriculation, must comply with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) guidelines and colleges offering them must be licensed by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), he says. If the parents are illiterate or don’t know any better, surely the student must have enough common sense to check on the legitimacy of the certificates, he adds.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Milton Lum.
Any claims by these agents that they’re helping students fulfil their dreams, is rubbish. Medicine is about the daily management of sick people. It’s got nothing to do with dreams. - Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia founding member Dr Milton Lum

“If you suspect something amiss, tell the MOHE. The ministry can revoke the licence... or in the case of an unlicensed operator, take legal action. We have, through the Malaysian Embassy, informed all foreign universities of our minimum requirements for medicine,” he says.

The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) and MQA regularly inspects all medical universities here, Dr Tharmaseelan says. Those that admit such students are fined heavily and the students are told to leave immediately. To bypass the system, many unqualified students go abroad, no thanks to these dubious agents. To escape scrutiny, they conduct their courses in cheap premises.

“Students averse to studying seek the easy way out by going to colleges that give out certificates without them having to attend classes or sit for exams. Many are fly-by-night operators who keep changing premises. Those who seek this illegal pathway are not willing to expose the so-called centres as they’ll be affected and exposed too,” he says.

Most of these centres have set up shop over the past decade or so, but we’re only seeing the effects now, Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia deputy president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah observes. Recently, he shares, a medical student applied for a part- time job as a nurse while waiting for her posting. She admitted to having sat for a test conducted by an agent prior to entering medical school in the Middle East.

“How can an agent conduct the exam? There’s a lot of nonsense going on out there.”

Most medical universities in Malaysia either require the students to enrol in their own foundation courses or give preference for admission to medical programmes to their own students, Dr Tharmaseelan adds.

Warning that if not nipped in the bud the problem will become pervasive, Dr Tharmaseelan says the MOHE and MOH are already tightening the screws and plugging all the loopholes to prevent unqualified students from gaining admission to medical schools abroad. In future, only legit students will get hired.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia deputy president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah
Strict action must be taken against foreign universities that cheat poor students with dubious foundation courses through agents here. - Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia deputy president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah

“So, some of these unqualified students will end up jobless and saddled with debts.”

Dr Raj Kumar suggests educating parents and students about dubious courses. Everyone from schools and colleges to the media, he stresses, has a role to play. The MOH must make clear on its websites the recognised colleges and the minimum qualifications needed to gain entry. It should also advise foreign colleges against appointing local agents. Encourage applicants to deal directly with the universities instead, he offers, stressing that dubious medical degrees shouldn’t be recognised and the universities issuing them ought to be delisted.

“The MMC mustn’t let students register with it if they entered colleges or universities without a No Objection Certificate (NOC),” he adds.

Always deal directly with the universities and check with the MOHE and MOH to find out the entry procedures, he tells students. Parents and students should attend as many career talks as they can to discover the many career options out there, he adds. One needn’t be a doctor to have a good career and be respected. Parents shouldn’t force their children to fulfil their own ambitions either.

While grades and a good academic foundation are important, one should also have a proper attitude and aptitude to read medicine, he says. Students and parents, he thinks, may be motivated by their admiration for relatives or friends who are doctors.

“Even after years of studying, training and exams are a constant. There’s the long hours of pacing the wards, no holidays, no weekends and having to help people through some of the most difficult times of their lives. The reality is not as glamorous as what we see on Doogie Howser, M.D. or House.”

Dubious courses and practices can hurt the country’s reputation as an educational hub, Dr Tharmaseelan warns. Urging the MOHE to launch a serious clampdown and impose heavier penalties including custodial sentences on those who rob youngsters of a “real future”, he says going to agents to cheat the system is a waste of money and effort.

Asia Metropolitan University president and CEO Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan. He is also the past president of the Malaysian Medical Association and Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia.
The medical profession already has many challenges with the ‘factory mode’ production of doctors. The unqualified ones will burden the system further. - Asia Metropolitan University president and chief executive officer Prof Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan

Patients must be able to trust doctors, Dr Raj Kumar stresses. To justify that trust, you must respect human life and make sure your practice meets the standards expected of you, he adds.

“If you start off on the wrong footing by not having the proper qualification, it will be a struggle throughout. And, it’s your patients who are the victims.”

Slamming agents that give students false hope and put the public at risk, he says taking money from poor families and promising them the sky, is a sin.

He, however, doesn’t agree with the proposal for all medical graduates to sit for an exam before they are allowed to practice locally because “there are enough guidelines and laws in place”. The problem is that these haven’t been enforced. Emphasis should instead be in creating awareness of the problem, not punishment, he feels. If the MMC recognises a particular foreign medical degree, why the need to sit for another exam to recognise that qualification, he asks.

On March 15, the MMC announced steps to stop the rot, including a proposal to make foreign medical school graduates sit for a licensing examination before they are granted registration in the country.

“For years the MMC has been sending teams to evaluate the syllabus and facilities of foreign universities. So, if a university is certified as ‘good’ why do the graduates need to sit for another exam? And, if there’s an exam, both private and public university graduates must be subjected to it otherwise it’s double standards.” Worried about the varying standard of medical graduates, Dr Lum – who has been pushing for the exam for “two decades, and counting” – agrees. Insisting that this is the best solution, he says every aspiring doctor must sit for a common exam.

“They can graduate from anywhere in the world so long as they pass the MMC exam. This is fair because there’s no discrimination between local and foreign graduates and students can choose where they want to study instead of being limited by a list of recognised universities. In the US, everyone sits for an exam and this is going to be done in the UK too,” he points out.

Under the Second Schedule of the Medical Act 1971, qualifications from over 350 universities worldwide are recognised by the MMC. With a common licensing exam, the list – which was inherited from the British – can be done away with, Dr Lum argues.

“So, only knowledge, skill and aptitude will determine whether you become a doctor. And it will be MMC’s duty to ensure integrity of the exam.”