Archive for May, 2011

18
May
11

 

BOOK LAUNCH

 

SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT

Salams and PEACE to our esteemed host Tunku Abdul Aziz and to our distinguished guests.

 About two and a half weeks ago when I received the good Tunku’s email asking if I would agree to launch his second book I said YES without any hesitation. It did not occur to me to ask “Why Me?”. I accepted in good faith thinking “Why Not Me?” As someone who admired Tunku’s writings in his New Sunday Times column and someone who had written a blurb for their compilation in STRAIGHT TALK, this, I thought, is another gesture of the solidarity I feel with some, if not all, of Tunku’s ideas and ideals. I, too, am a firm believer in the moral virtues of ethics and integrity, the democratic fundamentals of justice and equality and the good governance principles of transparency and accountability.

 Tunku’s stand on these universal societal and human “truths” rang loud and clear. And he expressed it in the most beautiful of English – sometimes almost poetic – with such apt metaphors and turns of phrases. Tunku’s command of English far surpasses that of an English gentleman for Tunku is indeed the genteel old-world Malay gentleman, educated in the best of English traditions.

 Not having read the more recent writings in his SinChew column, I was initially startled when I started reading SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT. My initial reaction was that Tunku had become ruthless and relentless in pointing fingers at the  corruption and abuse of power in UMNO and among the top UMNO leadership. But after a while I calmed down and told myself  Tunku’s  political affiliations are now with the DAP and as the party Vice- President he must surely echo the party’s  aggressive opposition.

 In this book no errant UMNO leader or government institution in Tunku’s eyes is spared as he whips his quill at their misdemeanours using the most scathing epithets and exaggerated hyperboles. Again his language use is astounding and shows how mighty the quill or pen can be in admonishing real or perceived unfairness and injustice.

 I grit my teeth as he sweepingly condemned some of my heroes and thought “How dare he?” when they had contributed so much to the nation’s development. Otherwise, how on earth do we explain the tremendous inroads Malaya later Malaysia has made from the undeveloped third-world country that it was pre Merdeka and the nation poised to join the ranks of the industrially and technologically successful by 2020. Indeed, this can’t be a boast or dream! It is a national vision which is becoming a reality before our very eyes.  Surely Tunku and the DAP cannot deny this I thought! Have they done as much?

 But as a concerned citizen, Tunku is entitled to express his unhappinesses with the nation’s moral and ethical degeneration, with the corruption and injustice, with the lack of integrity and moral scruples – as much as you or me. Except that you and I would do it huddled in our coffee or lunch circles but not at a public forum or to be immortalised in a book. Being a bit writer, I sometimes try to push my opinions and interpretations of current issues one controversial step further – but I’m always reminded to remain within the bounds of my conscience and reason. At the end of the day, writers have to take responsibility for being opinionated or slanderous, bearing in mind they may have to concede should they be proven wrong. Just as I’m sure Tunku will concede that an individual’s private and public morality do not always concur.

Ideally, a leader’s private morality should reflect his public morality and vice versa, but as we look at our leaders on both sides of the political divide, we know this is not so. We are all God’s creatures with a mixture of vices and virtues. However, I agree that when you are in a position of leadership or public service, you have an obligation to the people you serve to be exemplary in upholding the highest ethical principles and exhibiting the most scrupulous conduct and behaviour – verbal and non verbal.

So I convinced myself that my launching of Tunku’s book does not mean our public political solidarity – perhaps just a private mutual admiration club! And so I’ve cast aside the pages of jottings and notes, quotations and points to rebut – to adopt a more intellectual approach to the book.

 It will serve us well to read the book with an open mind and to take cognizance of Tunku’s and the DAP’s harsh criticisms of the government, of UMNO and its leaders – some of which are justified. But we must do this with the intention or “niat” not to slander but to build a better society. In doing so, we must be prepared to come up with constructive ideas and proposals, fair and equitable policies, accountable and transparent models of good governance as well as codes of ethics for every public institution, agency as well as private and non-governmental ones. And we must ask “Are we cleaner than clean ourselves?”

 In the end, the public servants, political and corporate leaders who are the movers and shakers of society must be able to stand tall, look one another in the eye and say they have served the country to the best of their ability, with the purest intention and the highest integrity. If our democracy is indeed moving towards a two-party system, our MPs, ADUNs and politicians must also start polishing their language and communication skills to articulate their views and suggestions logically and coherently. Cursing and name calling must stop. The hate must cease.

 I’d like to end by insisting that I do not agree with one crucial point Tunku makes on page 163 “ Corruption is not part of our culture and yet we have allowed it to become our way of life”. I believe it’s always been our way of life from the “bunga mas” brought in by foreign merchants to appease the Malay Ruler and his court in the days gone by, to the “upah” (monetary reward) and handouts in Malay and Indian culture, to the “ang pow” and coffee money in Chinese culture? It’s always been there, only now it’s grown huge and ugly and insidious with the sophisticated administrative, political, commercial and business undertakings.

 It’s for us to redefine the complex concept of “integrity’ in simple meanings that the people understand using words such as honesty, trustworthiness, openness, sincerity or in Malay “amanah”. The same must be done in the other local languages. The composite concepts of “corruption” and “ethics” must be dissected into their numerous forms and each made explicit with clear examples.

 As language and meaning is my favourite topic, I’d better stop here before I bore you to tears. Thank you all, and congratulations dear Tunku.

Someone had to say it, Tunku Abdul Aziz’s second book launched

KUALA LUMPUR: Tunku Abdul Aziz, a regular contributor to MySinchew and Sin Chew Daily, has recently launched his second book titled Someone Had To Say It…

A big-time traveller, Tunku is best known for his robust advocacy against corruption here and abroad. Having served for some years as the vice chairman on the board of Transparency International, Tunku led a group of like-minded individuals to set up Transparency International Malaysia at a time when Dr Mahathir, well known for his ambivalence towards corruption in public life, was the country’s prime minister.

In recognition of his staunch anti-corruption effort, Tunku was appointed Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General in 2006, and in that capacity he established the UN Ethics Office in New York.

Published by Research For Social Advancement (REFSA), Tunku’s new book was launched on May 18, Wednesday. Protem president of PCORE (Voices of Peace, Conscience & Reason) Datin Halimah Mohd Said officiated the launch held at the Royal Lake Club in Kuala Lumpur

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16
May
11

 

ENGLISH IN HISTORY

Instead of burdening students and teachers with extra school time to learn English in the weekend when they should be given the space to refresh their minds for the coming school week, the nation’s educatioinists must seriously rethink the strategies and methodologies for educating the nation’s children.   

While it is imperative that the teaching of English be conducted by the best of teachers using the most effective tools, it is a fundamental principle of successful second language learning that learners must receive maximum exposure to the language. The “total immersion” principle of mother tongue acquisition where children pick up the language in a continuous stream of socio-cultural experiences in their home environment need to be recreated in the school language learning experience. There must be simulations of these experiences in the classroom where the students must hear and read good models of English.

While the English language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing  can be taught in various tested ways in the English classroom, it is necessary to simulate exposure to or immersion in the language more naturally. The most effective way is to expose them to the socio-cultural aspects of the language through its literature.

The language curriculum must include at least one library period a week where the students explore the language in their reading of the various genres of literature including the classics of the outstanding epochs – Shakepearean, Victorian, Dickensian, Romanticism, modern. Abridged editions should be made available for easy comprehension at different levels. More current reading materials in reputable magazines like the Readers Digest will appeal to some.

Students should be given the freedom of choice in reading the novel, play, journal, letter, short story or feature article that appeals to them. Gone are the days of poring over the same prescribed text throughout the year when the same questions are repeated in examinations for teachers to spot and train their students to answer. Language learning has to be fun, relevant and communicative for learners to achieve a high level of proficiency.

For practical management of the classroom, the students can be grouped in fours or fives and student facilitators appointed to conduct the group discussions which the teachers will go around to monitor. At the end of the oral discussion on story line, characters, message, quotable quotes, words and expressions students will settle down to write a structured report to be completed as homework and handed in for assessment.  Through role play and participation, the students take ownership of their own learning experience and will feel a greater sense of involvement.      

To strengthen the national education system and produce citizens who can communicate with confidence in the languages relevant to the nation’s growth and development, the Minister of Education should seriously consider the teaching of History in English to provide further reinforcement in the students exposure to and immersion in the language. History requires much reading and reference work which will provide the natural environment to learn about the events and happenings of the past and its relevance to the present, both locally and globally. Outstanding leaders and national icons can be the subject of class discussion and project work.

Besides, recording the nation’s history in English for school text books and teaching it through the emotionally neutral medium of instruction of English will remove the perception of bias and imbalance in the history syllabus. If anything, the education system and curriculum inspired by the British was the source of the unity and integration the nation boasted in the post Merdeka era of the late 50s and 60s.

There was solidarity in learning the wisdom of Shakespeare’s enormous philosophies manifested through the characters in his tragedies and comedies, and in the peaceful gentleness of the Romantic poems of Wordsworth and Keats.  Unity and racial integration came naturally with the fair and balanced understanding of world and Malaysian history and the roles played by our ancestors in the History lessons experienced through the English language.

11
May
11

  

 

CITIZEN CONCERNS

The Prime Minister’s call for civil society organisations (CSO) to become frontliners in a race to find solutions for the community and to provide feedback on civil society matters is not only timely but profoundly relevant.

At a time when politicians are busy politicking and the corporate and business community are focused on profit making, there must be people out there who are driven by more altruistic considerations, in particular the reawakening of the sound values that are at the very heart of a civilisation.

At a time when much of the rhetoric and public discourse whirls madly around the sordid side of sex, unsolved crimes, failed justice, educational flip-flops, socio–cultural and religious supremacy, the people need to be engaged at a more caring, sharing level if, at all, the growing societal chasms are to be bridged.

At a time when the concepts of “integrity”, “corruption” and “abuse” are being thrown around by every Ali, Ah Chuan and Apoo without their complex, multifarious meanings being properly explained, the people must be taken through the baby steps of rebuilding their minds and hearts through the language and meanings they understand.

Where parents have not fulfilled their responsibility of raising fine children with fine values and the void has been exacerbated by a national education system manned by officers, head teachers and teachers who do not know better, civil society organisations can contribute their skills and expertise through  public forums, community activities and programmes.

In order to achieve a high level of synergy between the official and unofficial sectors, the community must first of all welcome the good intentions and efforts of the CSOs. There is no point seeking government support or corporate donations if minds remain warped and suspicious on both sides. For real collaboration to work there must be openness and trust over and above sincerity and honesty – all ingredients of integrity. There must be the genuine desire to seek a better Malaysia and to build it with one’s own tears, sweat and blood. Pointing fingers and apportioning blame must stop.

The focus of the government and the political parties should be less on garnering votes in the next general election than on addressing the real fears and concerns of Malaysians that our beloved country is going to the dogs, and the unity and integration we hold dear are in disarray.

What is one extra vote or one extra seat in the State EXCO or the Federal Parliament when in reality, the ADUNs and MPs are fighting losing battles on both sides of the political divide? If our democracy is heading towards a two-party system, let’s ensure that it is led by people with a genuine concern for peace, and motivated by a clean conscience and sound reason.

We’ve had enough of leaders with shady backgrounds and shoddy behaviour, both verbal and non-verbal!




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