Archive for February, 2010

27
Feb
10

 

POETIC JUSTICE

I would like to share this beautiful poem with my readers and hope that you will be inspired by these wondrous words!

Still I Rise 

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

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26
Feb
10

 

ACCULTURATION AND ASSIMILATION

The meeting of people of different ethnic compositions and cultural orientations is an age-old phenomenon that occurs as a result of colonial conquest, military occupation, trade and missionary activity, displacement of people by domestic unrest and civil war, and in modern times, voluntary immigration. It is perhaps tautologous to say that the human instinct for survival, which makes man gregarious and mobile as he moves to new pastures to seek a better livelihood, is universal. The impact and effect of migration and cultural contact, however, are more distinctive and are determined to a large extent by the intrinsic characteristics of the human groups that come into contact with one another, their demographic characteristics, the nature of the contact and by extraneous factors in the socio-cultural environment of contact. The socio-cultural adaptation, in particular acculturation and assimilation of different groups to the same environment may have quite different results as can be seen with the different migrant groups that settled in Malaya.

The assimilatory powers of a common religion, Islam, played a great part in easing the socio-cultural adaptation of the Indian Muslims to the core Malay society. Intermarriage between the Indian Muslim men and the local Malay women, which was facilitated by their common belief in Islam, produced offspring who were brought up in the language and domestic customs of their Malay mothers and the activity and diligence of their commercially-inclined Indian Muslim fathers. Through a recurring pattern of intermarriage from generation to generation the Jawi Peranakan or Jawi Pekan as they were classified in the British census categories, underwent a process of acculturation or cultural assimilation as they adopted the more overt Malay cultural patterns in language, dress and food as well as the less tangible elements of culture like beliefs, customs and traditions.  Acculturation being a reciprocal process also resulted in the borrowing of Indian Muslim cultural elements by the native Malays, for example in the dietary and language patterns.

Where intermarriage occured on a considerable scale as in Penang, and where the urban socio-cultural environment encouraged continuous contact and interaction between the Jawi Peranakan and the local Malays, they underwent a greater degree of assimilation into the core society at the structural and identificational levels. What this means is that the cultural differences between the two ethnic groups disappeared as the Jawi Peranakan gained acceptance into the societal networks and institutions, that is the societal structure of the Malay community. With this developed the sense of peoplehood or ethnicity based on the wider Malay society. Thic process of cultural assimilation followed by structural, marital and identificational assimilation was reinforced through several generations until the Jawi Peranakan community became absorbed into the Malay community.

Independence and the Federation of Malaya’s rapid socio-economic and political development saw great efforts to integrate the country’s various ethnic groups into one nation of people. Government policies consolidated the status and position of the Malays by bringing together the different Malay sub-groups under the Federal Constitution’s definition of Malay ethnicity, thus ensuring their total assimilation into the greater Malay society. Today, Malays of   different ancestries and ethnic compositions including the Jawi Peranakan have formally adopted a single Malay ethnicity, partaking of the rights and privileges that accrue to the group as defined in the Malaysian Constitution. At the formal structural and identificational levels it can be surmised that their assimilation has been total.

IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG pp 3-5 

 

23
Feb
10

 

SPORTING SPLENDOUR

I wonder why it has taken the Ministry of Education this long to realise that sports is a vital part of the school curriculum, and that inter-house and inter-school sporting competitions are one of the most effective ways of fostering goodwill and healthy interaction among the young.

The announcement by the Director General of Education Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom to return school sports to its original glory is long overdue. The halcyon days of school sports in the 50s right through the 70s were rudely interrupted by a number of  policies and programmes which promised to promote integration in schools but failed dismally. It is high time the Minister of Education and his team agree that what worked in the past is good enough for the present. Something as basic as sports and games which inspire  healthy rivalry among schoolchildren and loyalty to their teams and schools is an area of education that needs to be revived. For a whole generation this was dumped in the pursuit of superficial book knowledge and flimsy paper qualifications which pigeon-holed the minds and hearts of young Malaysians.

What has been announced as the grandoise plan of the Ministry to make sports compulsory in 10,000 national schools and for each student to choose a game is hardly innovative. The promise that specially qualified teachers will focus on sports is not a new idea at all. The idea of having a school sports day which involves the local community is what was implemented so successfully in the 60s. Each student was assigned to a “house” known by name and colour e.g St Patrick’s House (green) and developed their sporting skills under the guidance of dedicated house teachers. One afternoon in the week was assigned to each house. House parties were held to celebrate individual and team achievements.

In fact what was really outstanding then was the inter-school sports day when supporters turned up in full force to cheer their friends and teams on. The atmosphere was carnival-like and the joy electric and eclectic as students and their teachers moved around in the colourfully decorated local sports field. Food and drink were freely served from contributions by sponsors and the students themselves. Gleaming medals and cups were won to be proudly displayed in the school cabinets and at home. Minds and hearts were focused on the sporting rivalry and the friendly interaction and integration it inspired.

The Ministry’s efforts, albeit a generation late, must be supported!

20
Feb
10

 

ATONEMENT

Watching Tiger Woods address selected members of his family, friends, associates and  journalists to admit responsibility for his recent indiscretions and to ask for their patience and support in seeing him through his rehabilitation was a lesson in humility for the once indefatigably roaring tiger in the golf circuit. On the media podium viewed by millions of  people, he was a repentantly tame pussy cat!  He apologised to his business associates, his fans and all those who have admired and looked up to him as a role model.

To see this towering young man who has achieved tremendous successes on the golf course through sheer hard work and determination come tumbling down because of  a character defect is to be reminded of what providence has in store for us when we can no longer see the woods for the trees!

It is a lesson indeed for those whose ambitions cloud their better judgement, whose influence and affluence make them forget their moral values and upbringing, whose flirtations with power distort their sense of right and wrong and whose selfishness blinds them against true loyalty and integrity.

Interestingly, Tiger Woods declares a return to his Buddhist roots and its teachings of  restraint and self-control. Through the synergy between western psychology and eastern spirituality, one hopes that the young man will be sufficiently rehabilitated to move on and start a new phase first in his family life and later in his golfing career.  He promises that meantime the humanitarian efforts of  his foundation  in educating the young will continue unabated.

Introspection, self-analysis and self-awareness which lead to admission of guilt and misconduct are therapies that we should all undergo from time to time either in the privacy of our own thoughts, on the psychiatrist’s couch or in organised rehabilitation programmes which involve interactions among people who share similar concerns. All- important is the  trained facilitator/ mentor who moderates the communication and has the expertise to determine the type and extent  of each individual’s malady. This will in turn help to determine the path of healing and the cure specific to each person.

Closer to home,  one can apply the same principles at the level of  the family, work place, community group, NGO, political party etc. Before the nation falls into greater disarray because of sectarian interests and selfish agendas, Malaysians must look deep into their minds, hearts and souls. They must seriously introspect and admit to their failings as individuals, heads of families and community groups, teachers and religious leaders,  politicians and government leaders etc. They must focus their determination on building the nation not destroying its very heart and soul.

Each of us bears a responsibilty greater than ourselves especially when we have been anointed to lead. Each act of misconduct or bad behaviour causes ripples right through the group or organisation which affect people in multifarious ways. If we can first of all admit we have strayed from our original cause or objectives and work towards building up new energies, strengths and skills we  will be one step nearer a better Malaysia. If we can participate in a national rehabilitation programme to modify each of our goals and strategies to create the  nation we can all be proud of, we will be rewarded with one.

In reality, it is not the Prime Minister and his cabinet alone that are responsible for the KPIs in nation building! It is the whole lot of us!

11
Feb
10

 

CHINESE ENGAGEMENT

The move by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to engage the Chinese business community in its anti-graft efforts by recruiting members of the  Chinese NGOs into its various committees couldn’t have come at a better time!

The government’s anti-corruption drive will not succeed without the support of the Chinese especially its business community who are among the key players in the nation’s business sector.  For Malaysia’s economic plans to be viable and fully materialise, the integrity of its business community must be intact. And the most important indicator of the the nation’s claim to integrity is the transparency and corruption index. The MACC’s success or failure in  prosecuting the members of the public charged with corruption will make or break the nation’s reputation in the global arena.

However, on the local front government  enforcement agencies  – even the law courts – are beset with accusations of practising selective and biased prosecution. Because the civil service, government enforcement agencies and the law courts have a majority of Malay staff,  they are rightly or wrongly perceived as being biased.  A predominantly Malay staff will be perceived as being biased towards the Malays and against the other races. If the MACC does not change to  reflect a more racially- balanced composition, they will be perceived as being biased towards or against particular racial groups.

Datuk Abu Kassim is spot on in wanting to understand the views and aspirations of the Chinese business commnity and in determining why they feel  they are obliged  to give bribes when dealing with the government agencies. They will in turn learn that it is no longer acceptable to give coffee money or ang pows in order to expedite their business ventures. Giving inducements in whatever form is considered as graft which is not only unethical but illegal. Bribery and corruption in the public and private sectors have become national abominations which must be wiped out by effective enforcement and a strict adherence  to the country’s laws.

It is high time all the races in Malaysia contribute towards building up a truly integrated nation that is progressive and  abides by the highest ethical standards and practices. There is really no point in standing on the side and pointing fingers at the government, its ministries and its agencies when we ourselves are the biggest culprits and abusers of law and order!

The Chinese community must come to the fore and take up the challenge posed by the MACC!

07
Feb
10

 

THE MALAYS

In IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG  (2004) the writers (Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid) have this to say:

The Jawi Peranakan of Penang can be considered the earliest community of town or urban Malays when their migrant Indian Muslim forefathers established a trading community in George Town in the mid 18th century.The alternative term by which they are known , Jawi Pekan ( town Malays) and its use in the British census categories from 1881 to 1911 bears testimony to a formal recognition of this status. The indigenous Malays of the time were found in the hinterland and were mainly occupied with farming activities.Historically, these differences in demographic and occupational distribution brought about early differences not only in the socio-economic and educational developments of these communities (see Chapter 2) but also in the development of their mind and personality.

Most of the second and third generation Penang Jawi Peranakan today were brought up in the urban environment of George Town in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s where they attended English schools and interacted with teachers and peers from different ethnic backgrounds. They had to compete openly and cooperate with each other in their academic work and co-curricular activities as well as sporting interests.Outside of the school in the multi-ethnic environment of Penang there were plenty of opprtunities for socialising with the other races.In kuala Lumpur where many of them migrated, these conditions are replicated in their work place and in their areas of residence.This generally unrestricted urban environment has nurtured a personality that is outgoing, friendly and sociable, personality traits which are typical of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang. A general observation is that they are socially adaptable and accomodating. They are usually confident and uninhibited in a social setting and try hard to fit in at whatever level of society. They appear tohave no hang-ups about their social abilities and have a high self esteem. Their social ease is greatly aided by the fact that they are ready talkers and eloquent speakers, expressing themselves directly and openly. A socially hesitant and reticent Jawi Peranakan would be challenged to forge ahead with the metaphor “Tak ada hidungkah?”(Don’t you have a nose/confidence?). For this the more verbose among them have earned the reputation of being brash, abrasive and pushy – negative traits which are discouraged in the traditional Malay metaphor “hidung tak mancung pipi tersorong-sorong (pushing their cheeks ahead of their flat noses), which has the effect of restraining initiative and drive. 

There’s no doubt that a well-rounded education in English opens the doors to a greater body of knowledge in many fields of study including religion, and armed with this knowledge a person has greater opportunities for communication.

This does not take away the importance of receiving one’s early education in the national language Malay or religious education in Arabic but when one is able to articulate one’s higher  thoughts and arguments in the most widely spoken international language English, one will reach a wider audience (local and global) who are likely to take note of what one has to say.

Speech/ writing and articulation are proven paths to building up one’s  self confidence and self esteem. And being confident definitely allows one greater opportunities for communication!

A vicious circle no doubt but one that spirals upwards and outwards towards success and accomplishments!

In Chaper Two, we wrote:

The present-day Jawi Peranakan of Penang are a sub-group of Malays whose ethnically-mixed ancestry is a result of intermarriage between the migrant Indian Muslim men and the indigenous Malay women. Several generations of Indo-Malay unions and endogamous intra-community marriages have produced a group of people who have assimilated socio-culturally, economically and politically into the more dominant core Malay society, yet display distinctive traits and characteristics that stand them apart from the Malays of other ethnic compositions.

The psychological effect of being a migrant minority in the commercially competitive and ethnically-mixed urban environment of Penang, and their early exposure to English secular education have developed in this group of ‘Penang Malays’ – other regional sub-groups include ‘Johore Malays’,  ‘Kelantan Malays’, ‘Perak Malays’ – a certain pragmatism in adapting to the core culture of the Malays, and a resilience in handling the many challenges of a commercially-centred urban existence. As with the success stories of other migrant communities, the Jawi Peranakan turned an initial social disadvantage into a psychological strength, taking an early lead in the economic, educational and political development of Penang.

The migration of the Jawi Peranakan families to Kuala Lumpur in search of better educational and career opportunities from the 1960s until the present time has exposed them to a cultural, socio-economic, educational and political environment which is dynamic and fast-growing. Kuala Lumpur has become the melting pot of various racial groups and ethnicities from all over the country where the Malays of different groups interact with each other and with the other major ethnic groups in a swirl of socio-cultural exchanges and mutual influences. This will no doubt give rise to a universal Malay culture that manifests itself in a more uniform set of behaviour, beliefs and values and attitudes. A more homogenous Malay ethnic identity will then emerge which satisfies not only the technical definition of  ‘a Malay’ entrenched in the Federal Constitution (see Chapter One) but also the spirit or psyche of what it means to be a Malay. Only then will the differences among the different Malay etnic sub-groups no longer be questioned or highlighted, and their common Malay identity be accepted by all. When assimilation at the level of identity or identificational assimilation takes place and where there is an absence of value and power conflict with the achievement of civic assimilation, only then will the minor differences in cultural behaviour, beliefs, values and attitudes disappear or become irrelevant (see Chapter One : Conceptual Framework of Assimilation) . Whether or not this ideal of assimilation is possible for the Jawi Peranakan or, for that matter, any other minority sub-groups, is a question to be addressed by further research.

For the purpose of this study, it is important to highlight the positive attributes of this group of Malays in order that they be known and acknowledged. Old perceptions must be reconstructed and given a fresh interpretation in the light of modern developments. The open and pragmatic attitude of the Jawi Peranakan who have the courage to push themselves forward to climb up the social ladder in the pursuit of their business and career interests can, at one level, be interpreted as brashness or aggressiveness by the meek and mild, However, in the climate of rapid economic development and globalisation that the country is now experiencing, the nurturing of positive attitudes in the attainment of one’s ideals and visions can only be interpreted as drive, motivation, initiative and dynamism – attributes which Malaysians in general and the Malays in particular are encouraged to develop in order to be competitive.

04
Feb
10

 

REASONED ARGUMENTS

Do read this very interesting contribution from GOPAL RAJ KUMAR – lawyer and former lecturer, now practising in Australia:

NEED FOR INTERFAITH DIALOGUE OR COMMISSION OF INQUIRY?

There is no need for a commission of inquiry, for inter faith dialogue or a Royal Commission at this stage of Malaysia’s development as a vibrant and robust democracy.

Faith and goodwill like good manners cannot be imposed on anyone by laws without their own recognition and acceptance of the value of these concepts.

Closed door dialogues are an anachronism in a democracy which requires openness and transparency where necessary.

Commissions and Commissions of inquiry are often a device for people (from various faiths in this instance) seeking to wield power and their influence outside of the constitutional parameters set up to deal with issues for which powers and limitations already exist within the same framework of the constitution.

That lawyers and clergymen from all sides seek to access power or more power within a system that already empowers them as citizens is itself evident in the Allah issue.

I pose the challenge once more to all and sundry who claim that an unfettered right to religion or an unqualified right or guarantee exists within the Federal Constitution of Malaysia to show me that right within the constitution. Then show me how that right or guarantee within the constitution has been trampled or curtailed unlawfully by the government exercising its sovereign and constitutional right in prohibiting or limiting the use of the word Allah.

THE ORIGIN OF COMMISSIONS AND ROYAL COMMISSIONS

This is an 18th Century device used to deal with matters of public importance and noteriety. It is dangerous as it often involves a member of parliament setting terms of reference in which process the protagonists have lobbying power and influence to set out. These terms of reference then are applied and manipulated to gain whatever advanatge it is the protagonist seeks to gain out of the inquiry which they may not be able to under the more watchful and protective stewardship of law courts. The normal civilized rules of evidence do not apply. Innuendo, hearsay (thirdhnd and so forth).

Once begun it can’t be stopped by government. The rules of evidence are discarded and normally indadmissible evidence can be led and admitted to the inquiry resulting in damaging unenforceable findings against individuals and institutions alike which could smear their reputaitons for life. (Kerry Packer late media baron in Australia was accused of being a drug peddlar and murderer by statements made by discredited witnesses in the Costigan Royal commission of inquiry into the Painters and Dockers Union in the 1980’s in Melbourne). Packer was never able to clear his name inspite of being arrguably Australia’s most powerful man and its wealthiest for a while.

In the United Kingdom, royal commissions are committees of inquiry established by royal charter or warrant at the behest of the cabinet to look into issues of considerable public importance.

Their membership and precise terms of interest are set by a member of the cabinet, but it is then intended that their collection of evidence, deliberations, and submission of a report to the cabinet are carried out independently.

Royal commissions have at least an educative impact, and may contribute policy proposals which are taken up by the cabinet. At worst they are used as vehicles for diffusing political problems, or are overtaken by the need to respond to events more rapidly. They fell out of favour after 1979 but are still very much a threat to the rights and freedoms people enjoy under the prootection of the law. It is also a useful weapon against a non compliant and out of control government. Whats required is balance. Balance between the knoweldge required to use it effectively and knowledge to prevent its abuse. It ought not to be used simply because there is a call for it.

DANGERS OF COMMISSIONS AND INQUIRIES DRIVEN BY A POLITICAL AGENDA

A recent case in point of the abuse of aa Royal Commission of inquiry is the one that arose out of the “Lingham tapes Affair”. I will not labour the numerous points raised for and against the lingham but instead invite a wider and more detailed reading of the Lingham Tapes Affair on the following link:

http://takemon.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/lingham-tapes-a-record-of-ignorance/

The issue of the provocative and unnecessary incorporation of the word Allah into the Catholic vernacular was correctly and accurately foreseen by the Attorney General and in his pre emptive action to prohibit it use.

The resultant anger and retaliation blamed on Malays in a torrent of emails doing the rounds and in websites and blogs run by politicians and anti UMNO (read Malay Muslim) groups, played out like a self fulfilling prophesy. It invoked and stoked the anger and ire of a large part of the population who after the Lina Joy affair did see this episode as another assault on their religion and the sanctity of those symbols and words uniquely identified with it.

Having failed to establish their case for use of the word Allah under the constitution, the driver of this issue PKR and its acolytes within the Christian polity have now set out to use a more sinister means though an amorphous system to establish what they and an erroneous High Court decision on the use off the word Allah have failed to do for them. Provoke the Malay Muslims into division and a violent confrontation in the hope of gaining international sympathy for their cause.

ACTION NEEDED

If the Malays want to reinforce all the negatives about them, they can remain silent and silent observers of their own demise.

The government of the day must with a greater deal of conviction take the courts and their bad decisions to task. There is precedent for the government of the day (the executive branch) to intervene where the courts fail. It is after all one of the three arms of government and the more powerful and active in day to day matters than the courts.

The problem with this proposition though is that many of the judges are weak and the government has allowed itself to be fooled into believing that the closed shop of the Malaysian bar is all that it is entitled to as consumers of legal services.

The present government by inviting as a first step, foreign practitioners with a specialty in Islamic law has taken a small but bold step in the right direction. It must now hastily open the door wider for quality legal services from abroad in cooperation with local firms in keeping with the NEP.

A nation cannot develop in a stable and lawful direction where the quality of its legal profession and its legal services are woefully inadequate and clearly out of step with its industrial and economic development.

The ISA has a purpose and it ought not to be used sparingly if it is a tool to achieve peace, stability and tranquility when it is most needed.

There is a price to pay for our democratic freedoms. There are no absolute democracies anywhere in the world. That price for our freedoms ought to be extracted from those who threaten it and act generously with the lives of others in trying to achieve their own narrow political objectives in the process.

 Gopal Raj Kumar




February 2010
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