Tomorrow is Today.....
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Racism among Christians?
Once upon a time, two close friends and their families lived as neighbours in a quiet suburb in Selangor. Their only children were a boy and a girl respectively. As dotting parents, they showered their full measure of love upon their children. Naturally, the two kids spent a lot of time playing with each other.
As time went by, they grew up; they went to the same kindergarten, school and even tuition. Church meetings, youth conventions and care groups were also meeting places. They played at each others homes; everything from computer games to ‘masak-masak’. Eventually however, their friendship began blossoming into something else. Love had permeated their very being. Fun and laughter had deepened into care and concern. This went on unnoticed for a while, though their affection for each other was becoming impossible to hide.
He soon realised that they should inform their parents about this happy development. This also gained particular importance because she was about to enrol herself in a college degree program and he was accepted into a local university to pursue his tertiary education. They prayed about it and arranged for both the families to meet up. His parents agreed readily and even offered to host her family.
As they were seated around the dinner table, he plucked up his courage and told the quiet table of people that they loved each other and wanted to take their relationship a step further. Her father, who until now was listening intently, suddenly stood up and shouted loudly that it was impossible for them to be together because they are not of the same race. There are just too many differences in mindset and culture. It does not matter if they are in love with other but he would never agree to this relationship.
She broke into tears and began begging her dad to reconsider. As he moved forward to console her, her dad pushed him to the floor and stormed towards the door. At this point, his father grabbed a chair in retaliation for the attack upon his son.
A simple dinner between two close families to discuss the furtherance of the relationship between their children had descended into an ugly confrontation. What happened? Wasn’t the relationship just a manifestation of the close ties that the families had built over the years? Why is it that they can be best of friends but are not permitted to share their lives with each other in a more intimate manner? Isn’t the epitome of binding ties reflected in a lasting marriage?
This then leads me to my point. I have seen this happen in churches all over (without naming them). Multiracial relationships are still largely frowned upon. Is it ok if we practise this kind of discrimination as Christians? Is it alright to compartmentalise our Christian principles? We can help a stranger on the roadside but when a ‘stranger’ is about to become part of our family, we get uncomfortable. Shouldn’t culture and mindset be subsets of Christianity instead of the other way around?
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Family or Friends?
Every teenager goes through a phase in life when they think that their parents have only one objective: to make our lives miserable. And friends were our only source of support and self-affirmation. I too went through that period of disillusionment. But now I know, that’s utter rubbish.
"Friends come and go for various reasons but family stays with you forever", my uncle told me once. This comes from a man whose active social life I wanted to immitate. This is not to say that friends are unimportant. It’s just that most of the time we have different friends at different points in our life. Only a select few remain in contact throughout our life. Now I cherish my limited time with my family because I know that whether I like it or not they’re here to stay with me forever...
Budget 2004:A different viewpoint
Yo, what’s up…It’s been a long break for studies and exams. Just could not find the time to type out the articles, though it has already been written. However, many significant happenings occurred which I’ll try to write about in the coming days.
First and foremost, the annual budget for 2004. A rather mundane budget with no significant surprise for any sector of the economy. Even the announcement of the introduction of excise fees to offset the abolishment of excessive import taxes on vehicles was largely expected but more on this later. If you only scrutinized the document closely, the eccentricities are only too obvious of which I’ll go through one by one.
"The merging of Tmnet and Jaring as the two foremost Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country was so that better coverage and service can be provided to the consumer", according to our esteemed PM. The statement above is laughable and nearly as unbelievable. And to think that no representative of ours in Parliament (MP), actually had anything to say about it.
Jaring was the first to offer Internet access in Malaysia and offered a range of packages for home users and also to the corporate sector. And along came a huge Government-Linked- Corporation(GLC) to barge its way with our taxpayers money.However even after all these years, with millions of ringgit spent and billions more at their disposal, Tmnet’s services are inferior. And after the Streamyx fiasco, where many eager customers were put on waiting lists for up to 6 months, the realization that ultimately Telekom is just as any other government subsidiary hit hard. A behemoth that tries to meddle in almost every area of service and does it the easy way:buying up smaller,better competitors. A who are the losers?The customers,of course...
In Singapore for example,an Internet dial-up package with unlimited access at 56kbps is only 15 Singapore dollars and a broadband package with unlimited access at 3Mbps is only 76 Sg dollars!!!And you know why?Because there are many companies that are able to offer the same services. Because ultimately that’s what it’s all about: competition.
Look at how Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) has been able to miraculously lower their domestic rates (after years of claiming that it’s impossible for it to go any lower) when faced with Airasia’s no-frills approach. How has Perodua been able to maintain their price even with the introduction of newer models? That’s what we want as consumers. Better services with lower costs. Is it too much to ask?
China is enjoying its greatest years of economic growth after joining the WTO and opening up their economy. Prices of computers have dropped tremendously after Dell introduced their direct sales model. This and many more examples prove that competitiveness can only improve productivity and ultimately the consumer benefits. And it’s also proven that when prices drop, sales of a particular product increase. Therefore the company also benefits by passing cost savings to the consumer. If the government is for the people, they should heed this call. What is there to be afraid of?
Another example:Proton was incorporated in 1984. It has been almost 19 years but the basic models haven’t changed much. Proton Saga was given a facelift into Proton Iswara. Remember Proton Knight? It’s still around in the form of Proton Iswara Aeroback with different lights!?! And this from a company that claims to spend billions of ringgit each year in research and development. I wonder what there searching for: a new tissue box holder?
And isn’t it weird that the Government, after insisting so fervently for years that they would replace the import taxes with excise duties so that the lost of income can be recovered, still found it necessary to delay the implementation of AFTA by two years?
Another interesting observation, which has also been widely debated in our local newspapers, is the introduction of anti-dumping duties on newsprint (the paper used by publishers of magazines and newspapers). Anti dumping duties intend to protect domestic industries from the selling of similar imported products at lower than cost price. So what’s wrong?
Well, it’s because the so-called local Malaysian newsprint industry is of all but one company. A single company!!! MNI Sdn. Bhd. Therefore a decision that has implications for all subscribers of newspapers and magazines, publication companies-big and small and thousands of employees has been agreed upon to protect only company. I can only imagine a similar decision taken in another country. It would have probably invoked serious dialogue and maybe even demonstration and strikes. And in today’s parliament session (10th of October) only the opposition thought about raising the issue. Sigh…It looks bleak when even simple reasoning is ignored in the name of party unity.
Malaysia is a country that is developing across all facets. We, as the new educated class, should start thinking out of the box. It is NOT wrong to criticize the government. We voted them in and therefore we have say. However, we should also respect the laws of the land. Open dialogue with no malicious intent should be allowed and embraced by us. If we don’t say anything for this country that we love, who will?
The MCA conundrum...
Hey!!! Read about the latest headline news to flood our country? Which one? I’m referring to the changes in the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) leadership. Well, to the ‘kataks’ among us, the MCA president, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the vice-president Dato’ Seri Lim Ah Lek recently resigned from their respective posts. In addition to that, Dr. Ling also sent in his resignation letter for his position as the Transport Minister. Leaders step down and others take over all the time. So what’s new?
Hahahahhahahahahahha. I agree that it happens but just not in our country. In fact, remember the last time there was a prominent leadership change in the government? That leader is now serving time in a local jail. In Malaysia, leaders come but they just don't go even if they are accused of mishandling state affairs. Anyway…..
What’s my take on this? Before I say anything, just let me reiterate that all my facts were gathered from the local newspapers. I’m just putting together pieces of the puzzle, which has been strewn all over. Who says the local newspapers are just good for wrapping fish at the markets?
The crux of the problem at MCA was the allocation of cabinet seats by the Prime Minister. During the late 90’s, there apparently was a ‘gentlemen’s agreement' between Dato’ Seri Lim and Dr. Ling about Dato’ Seri Lim’s replacement in the cabinet when he stepped down. He wanted his protégé, Datuk Chan Kong Choy, to take over the vacant position. Instead Dr. Ling proposed Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting to be appointed as a full minister, which wasn’t part of the agreement. This lead to the formation of the factions of Team A (supporters of Dr. Ling) and Team B (supporters of Datuk Lim) in the MCA. The problem began to fester and ultimately led to the fracas at the MCA Youth Assembly meeting not too long ago.
And then it started getting interesting because the mud slinging propagated and we (the neutral citizens ) were furnished with the juicy bits, which otherwise would have been hidden.
Firstly, MCA’s problem became Barisan Nasional’s problem when BN lost in a by-election, in a constituency that was considered a ‘sure bet’. This was because the Malay votes were split between UMNO and PAS. MCA could have swayed the Chinese voters in their favour if they would only stop bickering among themselves. Then the PM stepped in and brought both sides together to agree to a truce till the next MCA General Assembly in 2005, i.e. all current district, state and national leaders would be reelected by default. It went well till Dr. Ling began to elect members of Team A into the central council (at the expense of the other side of course). Team B’s supporters then began laying some groundwork.
Secondly, things started getting ugly when Dr. Ng Yen Yen was thrown into the fray. Apparently she was a Permanent Resident in Australia when she was sworn in as a senator in Malaysia. Now I ask you, is it appropriate for a person who had sworn allegiance to another country, spent considerable time in that country (u have to fulfill a certain criteria pertaining to length of stay before being awarded PR) and has even sent her child overseas (Australia) to study at a time when the government was trying to promote educational facilities in the country, to be appointed as a member in Malaysia’s upper parliamentary hall? Thank goodness the Dewan Negara is redundant. Imagine the kind of policies our highest lawmakers could have made with that kind of conflict of interest? I don’t know the law very well but is this legal and allowed? The sad truth is that this whole issue was hidden (because everyone in the cabinet and MCA upper echelons knew about it) from us voters. If weren’t for the problem in MCA, we wouldn’t have found out about it. It makes you wish there were problems in UMNO and MIC too, doesn’t it?
So now, realizing the mess was too great to be cleaned up, Dr. Ling tried to buy some time by sending in a resignation letter to Dr. Mahathir, which was not accepted. This happened sometime last year. Surprised? Here’s more…
Thirdly, when MCA tried to buy over Nanyang Siang Pao (a national Chinese daily) against proper judgement (it was and still is debt-ridden) it became a financial problem. As expected, Team B opposed the buy-out but a narrow majority approved it. Then Dato’ Soh Chee Wen, an ex-aide of Dr. Ling who was in self-imposed exile till recently, accused him of reneging on a business deal. This time a foreigner, an Austrian, became involved. He sued Dato’ Soh and Dr. Ling for breaking off a business contract. Only that this time, Dr. Ling’s businessman son was the real culprit but was helped by his dad.
So has anything really happened? Nothing actually. Team A still holds power in the MCA central council. Dr. Ling ensured that before he left. Is there still a factional problem in MCA? Yes, but its been swept under the carpet for the moment. Who’s the biggest loser? Team B. Who’s the biggest winner (if I might call it as such)? The one person who has been wielding his hand behind the scenes trying to strengthen UMNO’s hold on BN. The Prime Minister, of course! In fact part of the peace deal that he brokered between the both ‘warring’ sides called for the resignation of Dr. Ling and Datuk Lim. Talk about forced resignation.(an oxymoron wouldn’t u say so?)
Of course there was this whole ‘stage-show’ when the central committee convened an emergency meeting to persuade Dr. Ling to stay on. How many of you noticed that Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting actually had a prepared speech from which he read out to the press? Where did he have the time to type and print it out?Did one of the emergency meeting’s agenda call for the preparation of an acceptance speech for the new president after choosing the new president and vice president of MCA? Or maybe it wasn’t a surprise after all.
This is a more plausible scenario: the PM approves of the new MCA president and vice-president after being advised by Dr. Ling. The central committee convenes meeting to nod in approval. Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Ting checks for typo in his speech. Everyone enjoys a cup of tea and some ‘kuih-muih’ (of which there was an abundance of if you were watching Bulletin Utama). End of meeting-unhappy members (Dr. Chua Jui Meng) drive off quickly to avoid giving contradictory information at the heat of the moment (was also on Bulletin Utama or Ntv7 if you noticed).
Anyway that’s politics for you. Every side has its own dirty linen. But it only makes matters worse, if the dirty linen is not changed even though everyone realizes it is soiled and stinks. That’s what elections are for. You choose a leader you can be proud of and not someone who can give the best defense speech. Never say it’s not your problem because in a democracy, however flawed it is, every vote counts except maybe in Florida, United States. But that’s another story altogether….
Merit or Demerit?
Ahhh…Meritocracy…A wonderful utopian idea that has been bandied around by the government recently but never implemented…Wait a minute, I got it wrong? It has already been used for the past two intakes of university students? Students are picked solely based on their academic proficiency. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh really? Are we really so ignorant to believe that? I don’t think so.
Consider this. Previously there was a quota of 55% for the majority population and the rest shared among the other races (Chinese:30% Indians:10% Others:5%). Now that quota has been abolished and everyone is thrown into the same selection pool. Good so far.
But here comes the interesting part. There still exists TWO separate(read:different) examinations and syllabus. Even the academic calendar differs. STPM (which is still considered one of the toughest examination in the world at this level-remarkable when compared to the rapidly falling rankings for our universities), is spread over a year and a half with the final exam at the end of it. If you screw up in that final 2 weeks of exams, tough luck. On the other hand,matriculation is only for a year and is run based on the semester system (3 semesters) whereby the results of all three semesters are averaged. Less taxing?!! It’s blatantly so. However when people noticed the discrepancies between the grading of the two exams, points were introduced for the different STPM grades ala the cumulative grade point average (CGPA) system practiced in our universities.
I’m neither a pro-opposition activist merely trying to stir up a situation nor am I a government pacifist. But I find it disturbing when friends and acquaintances receive offers of a place in a course that wasn’t even part of their top 8 choices. Even more mind boggling is when students who took biology,chemistry and mathematics in Form 6 are offered places to do engineering-which requires a basic pass in maths and physics. And have you heard about the student whose 5A’s in STPM were just not good enough to get the first choice of university? Well, I guess there were just too many straight A students competing for the same limited places. But then again who knows?
The government has, on its part, tried to appease all parties. 10% of all places in matriculation were offered to the non-Malays. And then the authorities chided the non-Malays for not taking up fully the places on offer. Maybe they didn’t take it because it was only in limited faculties as was recently published. I’m not supporting the quota system but I deplore that act of calling it something its not. At least when the quota system was in place, we knew when things weren’t fair. There is no such thing as semi-meritocracy. And until the government is prepared to implement a totally fair merit based selection system, stop lying to us. We are not stupid.
*all reference to the word university implied local public universities.*
SARS:Did it expose another malaise?
How many of you actually heard about SARS in November 2002?December 2002?January 2003?Did you all know that the outbreak actually began in China in November of last year? Of course the Chinese swept everything under the carpet, fatally wrong in assuming that the world won’t find out and that the epidemic will just taper off. Little would they have expected that in a few months later it would turn into a public relations and health catastrophe with terrible consequences. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) a few weeks back branded this new viral outbreak as the worst epidemic in recent history-since AIDS first surfaced in the 1980’s.
It has reached epidemic proportions so rapidly because of its highly contagious nature. A simple sneeze in an enclosed area is sufficient for the host to unknowingly infect those around him. In fact the symptoms are so common (flu, headache, nausea etc…) that some people just don’t bother going for treatment. Even Canada (Toronto) which is hundreds of kilometers away, was classified as SARS infected by the WHO. So now we have the whole world reacting to this new virus and working furiously to find a cure. Even Malaysia was not spared.
We, Malaysians, are a fortunate lot. The SARS epidemic didn’t reach our shores till March. Or so we are told. Sadly, we also ‘caught’ another malaise from China. If we remember well, there was a major inter-ministerial cover-up as to the extent of the outbreak in Malaysia until a brave and responsible act by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi. He issued a warning to all related parties to be truthful and to handle this issue transparently. There was an immediate reaction-number of reported cases increased rapidly and until now there has been 2 deaths. Or has there been more?
You see, the initial act of covering up the true story has only done one significant thing. It has established a doubt in the people’s minds about the credibility of the government. How are we, common citizens, supposed to be able to trust anything that the government says? Even in such a fundamental issue such as health, we were misled just so that the economy won’t have to suffer further. Had they thought of what will happen to the economy if everyone falls ill?!!(worst case scenario of course ) Thankfully someone high up had the courage to tackle the real situation. But if there wasn’t?? What would have happened? Only God knows.
In this present uncertain state, God has been the only constant. My prayer goes out to all that have been suspected, quarantined, isolated etc… of SARS. Even to the tireless doctors and medical staff all over the country. May His will be done.
The recent US-led invasion of Iraq
The war in Iraq is over. Duh!!! That’s just a gross under-statement of the obvious. Anyway, judging from the protests made before the US-led campaign against Iraq, I was proud to see Malaysians of all ages and races actually coming together to make a forceful stand against the war. However when images of these very people holding portraits of Saddam Hussein and shouting his name during the peace rally at Bukit Jalil were flashed on the television screen, it dawned upon me that something was just not right.
Here was a man who had authorised the use of chemical weapons against the Iranians and Iraq’s own Kurdish population that injured or killed more than 20,000 people. The mustard agent that was used, rapidly burns exposed skin, eyes, lungs and mucus membranes and is usually fatal within hours of exposure. He had even started an unprovoked war with tiny Kuwait and when faced with imminent defeat, launched missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. So why isn’t the US talking of invading North Korea or even India and Pakistan who have nuclear weaponry? Well the only difference is that Saddam is the only leader who has actually used these weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Critics say that the only reason the US is attacking Iraq is because it is a Muslim country. It is a well-documented fact that during the Iraq-Iran and Iraq-Kuwait war, more than a million Arabs, who are mostly Muslims, were killed. Where were the protests then? Do not get me wrong. I’m not supporting war at any cost, but there will be civilian casualties in any war. And I believe in the long run the people of Iraq will be far better off without him in power.
Despite all this, I have to say that Britain and the US have not done a very good job in convincing the rest of the world of the justification of the war on Iraq. What was the case against Saddam? On the 3rd of April 1991, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 687 that requires Iraq to declare, destroy, remove or render harmless under UN or IAEA supervision and not to use, develop, construct, or acquire all chemical and biological weapons-usable material including related material, equipment and facilities. Has Iraq conformed to that resolution or to any of the countless others that were subsequently issued by the UN? On the contrary, only after the recent threat of war and the build-up of forces in the Gulf has it reluctantly destroyed the Al-Samoud 2 missiles. But yet in its 12,000-page dossier detailing its weapons program, there was no reference to the 2,000kg of VX nerve agent, which it previously had claimed to have in its possession. VX is a classified as a WMD because it is lethal even in minute dosages.
The UN has only two ‘weapons’ in its arsenal; namely sanctions and the use of force. For 12 years, Iraq has repeatedly contravened the resolutions and had even thrown out the inspectors from Iraq. This is where the UN has to assert its authority or risk becoming irrelevant. If Iraq is able to defy the UN today, it might set a precedence for more such defiant acts by others in the future. Even the ‘arrogant’ and ‘mighty’ US has repeatedly sought the UN’s approval for the war. The world has to see that in this case the end justifies the means.