27 December 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday December 19, 2007

Facets of Malaysian voices


The events of the past few weeks have thrown up a myriad of Malaysian types – from the I’m-OK-I-don’t-care-what’s-happening to the voice of the public and the sanctimonious.

WITH all the recent events going on the country, as well as past events, any astute observer will have noticed some common traits in our countrymen and women in the way we respond to what is happening around us. Many of us can be grouped into several different categories.

There’s the I-Don’t-Care-What’s-Happening-As-Long-As-I’m-OK crowd which prefers to remain oblivious to everything in the belief that as long as they keep their heads down, they will be able to carry on with their lives in much the same way as they always have done.

These are the types who complain because they were delayed two hours to their Sunday football match because they got caught in a roadblock several miles away from the events that the police decided required monitoring.

They are not even remotely interested in why there were these events in the first place.

Then there’s the lot that believes that everything should be done strictly by the book and that people who don’t follow rules are basically thugs and anarchists.

No doubt these are also the types of people who would never dream of “pulling any cables” or “persuading” a tester not to penalise their kid too much in their driving test or a cop for catching them talking on their handphone while driving.

It’s only when other people don’t play by the rules, or use “proper channels”, that they are wrong, not when they themselves do it.

These are similar to the lot that fervently believes that Other People are always capable of Extremely Bad Behaviour, even when they don’t know the Other People at all.

For instance, if Other People are allowed to demonstrate on any issue, They are bound to get emotional and turn to violence in the blink of an eye, unprovoked by anything as trivial as a water cannon of course.

Whereas, this lot, if given the chance to demonstrate, would always be nice, polite and smiling. Hence the reason why only They, and never Other People, should ever be given permits to hold any sort of march or rally. Or present memoranda.

Then there’s the bunch that thinks that we really should never whine or complain because, really, things are not that bad.

That really depends on who’s talking of course.

Those who have nice homes and cars, send their kids to good schools and go on holiday a couple of times a year probably should just keep quiet.

But anyone who has some awareness cannot help but see that not everybody enjoys such good fortune, and if they have a conscience at all, surely cannot rest easy with such inequalities.

Since many of those who aren’t so lucky cannot voice out their problems to those who can help, then it behoves those who can get themselves listened to to say something. They may come out sounding like they are whining but they aren’t complaining about their own situations but that of their fellow citizens.

I am pretty tolerant of most of these types except for the ones who always believe that everyone else is naturally bound to behave badly. Usually the word “sanctimonious” is used for them.

These types truly believe that they will never commit sins whereas other people will do so at the slightest opportunity.

It’s the type that believes that everyone else’s child is a potential drug addict while theirs will never be. Or that any three people in a group are bound to start throwing rocks while they themselves wouldn’t dream of it.

I don’t know how we got to a situation where we trusted our fellow citizens so little.

Perhaps it is because we now live in an environment where we trust so few people at all, least of all those in charge of our lives.

We look appalled at some of our parliamentarians and ministers and wonder how did we trust them with our vote.

We are aghast at how our own police cannot be trusted to care for our safety and go after those who rob our homes and murder our children.

Sometimes we find our doctors can’t be trusted to treat us properly, nor our teachers to teach our kids the right things. How then can we be blamed for not trusting our neighbours?

Couple that with an environment of impunity where all sorts of wrongdoers seem to get away with everything, from building homes they should not be able to afford to insulting half the population with sexist jokes. When so-called leaders behave badly, what can we expect from regular people?

My resolution for 2008 is to continue going against the grain and believe in the best in people and that people are inherently good. That includes believing them when they say they will behave peacefully.

10 December 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday December 5, 2007

Women the forgotten victims of AIDS


WORLD AIDS Day this year brought good news and bad news. The good news was that the numbers of people getting infected every year in Malaysia dropped a little. (Not that anybody can really explain why.)

The bad news was that among the people who did get infected, more of them were women.

There is a tendency to ignore the fact that women have been getting infected. About 10 years ago, there was a national conference on women and AIDS that expressed concern over women’s vulnerability, and made many recommendations about what to do. Nothing came of it.

The recommendation to have women represented on the National Coordinating Committee on AIDS was met with “If we have a women problem, we’ll ask you to come.” Now, according to government statistics, we do have a “women problem”.

Ten years ago, barely 1% of total reported infections was among women. Now it’s 10%. Last year, 15% of new infections were women.

But it’s important to remember that this is a national average. Local figures may be hugely different.

In Sabah where heterosexual sex is the main mode of transmission, a delegate at the First National AIDS Conference last weekend reported that one woman was infected for every three men. That’s more than double the national average.

I have to grind my teeth in frustration. Nobody takes the issue of women and HIV seriously, I suspect, simply because they are women.

A few months ago, when this newspaper highlighted a study I had presented, that HIV-negative men who married HIV-positive women still refused to use condoms consistently, a political leader from the state the study was done in blamed women for trying to infect their husbands!

When asked for an explanation why women are increasingly becoming infected, another politician said that since women wanted so much to be equal to men, this is what happens! Implying, presumably, that women equal men in loose morals.

But women are becoming infected precisely because they are not equal. Forty per cent of women who have become infected are housewives. Their husbands are almost all injecting drug users who have AIDS.

Most of these women had no idea what AIDS was and, even if they did, there was nothing they could do to protect themselves when protection essentially means either asking their husbands to use condoms or simply refusing to have sex with them.

How many married women can even consider refusing to have sex with their husbands?

That’s why it’s ridiculous to make unqualified recommendations to abstain from sex. Abstaining is not in the vocabulary of married people, especially women. Nor is simply saying “use a condom” as easy as all that when it is not women who have to use them.

Over the weekend, I sat in a time-wasting meeting called to impress on various Ministries the importance of the gender perspective in dealing with the issue of women and AIDS.

For one thing, few people beyond the usual suspects bothered to attend. Secondly, those who did come had no idea what ‘a gender perspective’ meant, not even the ones you would expect should know.

People tended to think that if things were put down on paper that meant that something had been done.

Follow-ups to see that words translated into action were non-existent.

Actions that were taken were evaluated only in terms of how many people were reached by a project, not whether the project actually achieved its objectives.

The much-touted National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS mentions women only once, and even then only in a section title and not in the content of that section.

If you don’t want to understand, you never will. Fifteen years ago, I had no idea what ‘gender’ was but now, because I wanted to understand, I do.

I see people in positions of responsibility who don’t think they need to learn anything who are given to flippant comments, who trivialise everything, as if people’s lives are unimportant.

But if some VIP decides it is important, suddenly they are rushing all over the place trying to spend money to please their bosses. It would be nice if their understanding of an issue were commensurate with the money they are prepared to spend on it.

One of the things I have never understood is why is it that there is such a gulf between government departments and NGOs in terms of a critical understanding of issues.

Why is it that NGOs routinely provide analytical reports while their government counterparts simply report facts and figures without attempting to understand what they are reporting?

Doesn’t anyone even want to know why women are getting infected?

Allowing women to become infected is symptomatic of a larger mindset: women don’t matter.

22 November 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday November 21, 2007

Stop embarrassing the public


We need to restore a sense of public shame. We need to define it, and we need leaders who live and behave in an exemplary way.

I WAS observing recently how different people had different definitions of shame. Most define it as a sense of embarrassment when something they cannot control happens.

For instance, one person said it was what he felt every time he saw a foreign tourist go into a public toilet. Another said it’s when she can’t repeat what she just said in front of her kids.

I was curious about this because of the way the word “shame” kept coming up in relation to recent events.

There were some people who felt shame that Malaysians had taken to the streets in protest because they felt that this was “uncivilised’ behaviour.

Then there were others who saw shame in the opposite perspective: they felt embarrassed that their fellow citizens were treated so badly by the authorities. Surely, they said, we have become civilised enough to tolerate dissent without having to react to it with violence.

Thus “shame” and “civilised behaviour” appeared on both sides of the fence.

Then there were those who felt embarrassed and ashamed that a politician could expose himself as an inarticulate buffoon on international television.

Herein lies the puzzle: how is it that poor performance can invoke pride rather than shame? Is that symptomatic of something else these days?

In the old days (which didn’t seem too long ago), people did not talk about parts of the body or bodily functions in public, especially at inappropriate moments.

But these days we get parliamentarians and other public officials making crude remarks, almost always about women’s anatomy and bodily functions, without even so much as turning the slightest shade of red.

And what do their audiences do when they hear this? They giggle and laugh.

Perhaps, secretly, the mostly female audience felt shame and embarrassment but because they are dependent on male authority figures for their positions, they say nothing and play along instead.

And in so doing they betray their own sex once again.

How little we value our dignity.

These are the times when I feel so old-fashioned.

Which people may find ironic considering that I am accused of being shameless a lot of the time for wanting to talk about sex education for young people and about how to make sex safe.

But the one thing one never does when educating others about sex is to make it crude, because that’s what turns people off. Appropriate terminology and approach is key.

But outside of the educational context, when the intention is to humiliate, referring to the anatomy is crude and unnecessary. People should be embarrassed not only to have to listen to it but also to even mention it.

Thus I wonder at what point will we decide that our tolerance for such crudeness has finally reached its limit.

When are we truly going to censure public figures who talk trash regardless of their station in life? When are we going to shame them into stopping?

Instead we see endless displays of shamelessness.

There are public figures who build humongous mansions with unexplained funds and then try to look charitable by inviting orphans for a one-night stay. I blush at the thought of it; how come they don’t?

Others, obviously endowed by the thickest of skins, buy support by giving out honorifics even to those who patently do not deserve them or even have criminal records. Not an ounce of shame whatsoever.

Everyone else laughs at them but they actually think they are being exemplary human beings.

No shame in the least about redefining humanity as being corrupt. Incredible!

Maybe I should develop a thicker hide.

But the thing is I have a young daughter who reads the newspapers and I wind up red-faced when she asks me how come these people she reads about do and say things that I have always taught her not to.

Although not everything gets into the newspapers (perhaps their limits for shame are lower than the people they cover?), my daughter sometimes hears my friends and I talking about the latest public embarrassment.

How do I explain these to her?

We need to restore a sense of public shame.

To do that, we need to define it and we need leaders who live and behave in an exemplary way.

We need leaders who have a sense of diffidence and restraint, who understand that they can’t say one thing and do another.

Who do not treat the public as if they are fools who will take anything they dish out.

That time is no longer far off because we, the public, are beginning to feel we no longer want to be embarrassed.

12 November 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday November 7, 2007

Lessons from a nostalgic trip


Onstage a colourful multiracial and multilingual community celebrated the musical talent of P. Ramlee. Offstage, music and dance has become controversial.

I WENT to see P. Ramlee: The Musical recently and it was an enchanting experience in so many ways. For one, I felt proud that a musical of such high standard could be produced by a Malaysian team (with some neighbourly help).

It had energy, creativity, talent and great music in spades, and was an overall enjoyable treat. Congratulations to the entire cast and crew.

The musical was of course a nostalgic trip down the story of P. Ramlee, perhaps our greatest artiste.

But it was nostalgic in more ways than one. It spoke of a more carefree time, and despite being partly set in pre-independence years seemed a lot more liberated than we are today.

If we only looked at the characters portrayed onstage and looked at the audience, we can see the stark difference, even if the play is largely fiction.

Onstage a colourful multiracial and multilingual community celebrated the musical talent of P. Ramlee. Women dressed in the demure dresses of yesteryear. They danced and sang with abandon.

Yet offstage, music and dance has become controversial. Women’s clothes have changed from traditional to modern forms, but at the same time become more confining.

We can’t just say this was stage dramatisation, because if we look at old photographs from the 50s and 60s women’s heads were uncovered.

Onstage, Malay movie stars wore glamorous clothes and went to nightclubs without anyone shaking their heads in judgment. The entertainment press reported romances between stars, but did not moralise.

Now actors and actresses who want to get anywhere have to lead almost inhumanly exemplary lives or risk all sorts of censure.

Perhaps the stars of old were not always exemplary in their behaviour but people were more forgiving and society didn’t particularly suffer.

Nowadays, every social ill is blamed on people not being religious enough, even though despite having so much more religion around us we in fact have more social ills.

Perhaps it is unfair to compare life today with that portrayed in a stage play. But we can research the era and see what has changed.

Why was it that in the 50s and 60s, P. Ramlee could come up with movies and songs that have endured the test of time? Perhaps it was because he was given the artistic freedom to do what he wanted? Perhaps he was trusted?

Today what passes for popular cinema is of such low standard that it seems almost amazing that we even have such a cinematic heritage as P. Ramlee movies. Did all these spring from the same traditions? Or did our perspective on life change?

I watched the audience and even though there was uproarious reception from some quarters, you could still feel some disapproval.

Perhaps it was the depiction of nightclub life? After all, these days we raid nightclubs to rid them of Muslims. Was it the strapless tops? Of late, female singers are being hauled up for wearing more.

Was it the portrayal of strong women who didn’t want to take any nonsense from their men and walked out rather than stay and put up with it? These days, the misbehaviour of men are blamed entirely on women, both the ones they are married to and the ones they are not.

I get nostalgic for a freer time, when we still had to fight for something and not yet become mired in complacency. When we were still hungry for success and knew we had to work hard for it. When we didn’t know that there were shortcuts to success and that there were people who were extremely successful that way.

Why do I think that was a freer time? Because we were free to think that we all had potential and could fulfil it if we were willing to work hard. Now we have potential we don’t have the freedom to fulfil. Or we don’t believe we have potential because we don’t have connections or are not protected by privilege.

To achieve that we need to be able to think and speak, to explore unfettered. Even in Saudi Arabia, the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has been set up with a commitment to academic freedom and international collaboration.

Here we can’t even manage to teach Mathematics and Science in English, the international language. Which basically means we can’t even dream of sending our students to KAUST or to any other good university abroad.

We don’t even have the freedom of making good policy. A little bit of opposition and we pull back hurriedly.

We don’t have P. Ramlee anymore, and we don’t have that time again. We may have progressed but maybe we lost a lot, too.

05 November 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday October 24, 2007

Winning votes soul-ly on talent

Jindal, a first-generation American from India to win the governorship of a traditionally conservative state like Louisiana speaks volumes for opportunity in the US for talented people with a penchant for hard work.


I READ on Monday morning that Bobby Jindal, the American-born son of Indian immigrants was elected Governor of Loui-siana in the United States. A young two-term Republican Congressman, he is a conservative who became the first non-white Louisiana governor since 1870 after running on promises to end political corruption, cut taxes and improve schools.

We cannot know how Bobby Jindal will do just yet, but I am intrigued by his win. The fact that a first-generation American from India could win the governorship of a traditionally conservative state like Louisiana speaks volumes for opportunity in the US for talented people with a penchant for hard work.

On TV I watched as all these little old white ladies shook his hand with great enthusiasm. He had replaced a white woman Governor who had been severely criticised for bungling rehabilitation efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

The fact that Jindal is very educated and had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford is definitely a plus point.

In Perak recently, the MB called for graduates to be selected as election candidates. That’s all very well but let’s hope they are real graduates and not the ones who get dubious doctorates from unheard of universities.

But we also know, having a degree from a prestigious university is no guarantee either that you’ll be a good politician or leader. For some people, entering politics is license to throw all that education out of the window in favour of the crassiest politically expedient slogans. Which makes them no better than the local village thug in my book.

Jindal also has a CV that is heavy on experience in public policy. For twelve years he successfully managed Louisiana’s health and hospitals department, sought to reform their Medicaid system and then went on to the Federal Government to become Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of Health and Human Services.

All that experience brought to bear when he returned to his home state to enter politics where he successfully ran for election to the US Congress twice. So he’s not a parachute Governor by any stretch of the imagination, despite his young age.

I have to sigh when I read about Bobby Jindal. When faced with the dimwits we have in Cabinet and Parliament, I have to feel depressed.

Are we ever going to hear our politicians say, as Bobby Jindal did in his victory speech: “One thing I know for sure, you can get a distorted view sitting in the halls of government. Things start to look different.

“The lobbyists begin to look larger and the people begin to look smaller. Reality becomes distorted. I’ve seen it in Congress as well. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”

Or this: “I have said throughout the campaign that there are two entities that have the most to fear from us winning this election - One is Corruption, and the other is his sidekick Incompetence. If you happen to see either of them, please let them know the party is over.”

Now this is no opposition politician speaking. He’s in the same party as George W. Bush. But all the same, he’s talking about corruption and incompetence generally, not corruption and incompetence only if they’re by anyone not in the same party. Is it any wonder that I find it refreshing?

It would be really great if we could only scrutinise all our political candidates closely before they stand for elections. We should be able to ask them what their stand is on many issues such as the Constitution, freedom of speech and of religion, on women, on the judiciary. They can have whatever opinion they want but whether we agree or not is what will decide whether they get our vote.

Instead we have to vote on what party the candidate is from, rather than the individual him or herself. That’s maybe OK for the truly useless candidates but for those who do have some integrity and talent, it must be a bit insulting.

I’m sure there are people out there dying to showcase their talents and ideas and market those ahead of the next elections. But they won’t get much of a chance because there is no room for individuality in our system, especially not individual integrity.

I read an article the other day about how campaigns by candidates with real integrity in the US get taken over by the party political marketing de-partments so that they become moulded into the type of candidate that the party wants them to be.

Some of them become successful politicians but with the sacrifice of their own souls. Those who cannot hack that loss of personal integrity eventually quit politics altogether.

Guess that isn’t a problem when we start off with soul-less politicians anyway.

18 October 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday October 10, 2007

Whimsical art of making policy


It seems that these days, instead of a well-researched, well-thought out comprehensive plan to tackle any problem, we get ad hoc suggestions here and there.

SOME motorbikes overtake a minister’s car and he immediately wants to ban big bikes from the highways.

A deputy minister claims that his ministry has no plans to institute an intrusive blood test on everyone, when his own official documents state that that’s exactly their policy.

Another parliamentary secretary, speaking entirely outside the field of his expertise, ‘thinks’ that we should have a certain policy.

A minister happens to hear a doctor’s advice on radio, gets offended, and cancels the entire programme.

All this leaves me wondering how policy is actually made in this country. Is it by whimsy? Is it when some politician’s ego is bruised?

Or is it through careful study of whether that policy is really beneficial to the most number of people, rather than to appease the easily deflated self-esteem of the pompous?

Appeal to ego: Superbikers like these should invite the minister concerned, give him the biggest bike and let him go for a ride.
Is there some grand plan to anything? Is the banning of motorbikes on highways part of some major plan to improve road safety?

If so, wouldn’t time and energy be better spent dealing with the Mat Rempit problem that contributes to more broken heads at Friday night emergency rooms than anything else?

Or some campaign to get people to buckle up their children in cars?

It seems that these days, large pictures are ignored in favour of small peeks at a problem. Instead of a well-researched, well-thought out comprehensive plan to tackle any problem, for example, public security and safety, we get ad hoc suggestions here and there.

Real serious debate on the pros and cons, based on sound information rather than personal opinion, is absent.

Then you have to wonder how good a policy is when it is finally made.

In the meantime issues that need immediate leadership response are not managed.

For instance, there needs to be strong messages that vigilantism will not be tolerated when it comes to dealing with crime suspects, especially those accused of child abuse or murder.

I hear the most appalling comments about people not yet charged with anything. Then they are released.

Yet the public is never reminded of the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

I read about how some people beat a foreigner to death because they suspected him of stealing a watch.

While they were pounding him to a pulp, the woman who lost her watch found it. By that time it was too late.

What causes these things? It is nothing but sheer prejudice against foreigners whom we assume are the source of all crime in this country.

Yet, the police themselves have come out to say that locals commit 80% of all crimes in this country.

When we do have evidence, nobody then uses it as the basis for a policy to prevent discrimination against foreigners, which would also help our relations with other countries.

Instead we let these fester, perhaps because they are politically useful.

When we do have sound policies, nobody keeps an eye on their enforcement.

The other day, it was mentioned in newspaper headlines that a suspected child murderer died of AIDS-related complications.

In the first place, we have a policy of confidentiality about people’s health status in this country, especially for highly stigmatised diseases like AIDS.

This confidentiality does not end with death because of the effect on families left behind.

Secondly, what has the health status to do with the case? The guy died, so you can’t proceed with the case.

But to specifically mention that he died of AIDS-related causes immediately implies that people with HIV/AIDS have a special propensity to commit heinous crimes, despite a total lack of evidence that this is so.

Did anyone from the ministry concerned come out and slap the wrists of whoever was responsible for the revelation?

As a result, the prejudice continues and the work to manage HIV in this country becomes ever more difficult.

When policymaking is based on the whims and fancies of whoever wants to say anything about it, it leaves an environment of uncertainty and unease.

Does it mean that if someone else has another whim, the policy will change?

Assuming policies are meant for the benefit of the most number of people, how do we even know if they are any good when the process by which policy is made is less than transparent?

Whimsical policymaking also means that policies can be changed also by appealing to whimsy and ego.

If I were a superbiker, I’d invite the minister concerned, give him the biggest and most powerful bike around, some handsome leathers and let him go for a ride.

Accompany him, but make sure you never pass him.

Then we’ll soon see that there’ll be no more talk about banning bikes on highways.

Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir bathin, everyone!

01 October 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday September 26, 2007

Be sympathetic, don’t speculate


One of the results of media sensationalism is that it creates and perpetuates certain myths resulting in certain responses. In the case Nurin Jazlin Jazimin one of the main ones is that somehow the parents are responsible for her death by being negligent. The response to that is to say that they can be charged under the law.

It’s often said that rape victims suffer twice, once during the actual trauma of the act and again when the media reports on it.

Salacious bits about the crime are repeated endlessly, gossip is flagged and when the case goes to court, curiosity about the victim sometimes exceeds that of the perpetrator.

Show understanding: It was not necessary to say Jazimin and his wife Norazain Bistaman can be charged as they had just buried their child. The statement only seems to serve public relations purposes.
Worse still when the victim is killed. One only needs to remember Canny Ong to know how true this is.

This seems to be true again in the murder of little Nurin Jazlin Jazimin. Initially her disappearance receives some mention but as the days go by, little alarm is raised.

Then 28 days pass by and things start to heat up. A body is discovered and the frenzy begins.

I have to wonder about media ethics. If a child is sexually abused and killed, does it really matter how? Is there really a need to report the more abhorrent details of her suffering?

Is there really a need to print photos of the dead child, even if the initial intention was to find out her identity? Don’t little children deserve some respect too?

Then what is the need to raise speculation about what happened and why? These are not things we will know for sure until the killer is found and caught. So why speculate?

Why not concentrate energies firstly on finding the killer and secondly on ensuring that no other child will ever suffer the same fate?

What use is it to spend time speculating on the possible reasons why this happened when each and every case may be different?

I feel sorry for the parents. Bad enough that they had to face that long agony of searching for their child and then its terrible conclusion without having to also face each day screaming headlines about things that are untrue.

It only illustrates the way the Internet and blogs have become so essential because it allows their side of the story to be heard when there is no other way.

What is the result of the media sensationalism? It creates and perpetuates certain myths resulting in certain responses.

One of the main ones is that somehow the parents are responsible for the death of their child by being negligent.

The response to that is to say that they can be charged under the law.

Firstly, whether they are or not are debatable and cannot be ascertained without proper investigation. That investigation does not need to be done immediately because it is not urgent.

Secondly, even if they can be charged under some law, is it necessary to bring it up now when they’ve only just buried their child?

When leaders are expected to have some wisdom, one has to wonder what possessed some of ours to immediately start talking as if the guilty ones are the parents. Is there not a killer still at large?

Would not issuing a statement of sympathy and condolence first be the right thing to do as well as a strong commitment to find the killer? If nothing else, statements such as these serve public relations purposes.

In countries like Japan, public officials sometimes issue apologies for failing the public. Here, they turn on the victims and make them feel like criminals.

What if in the meantime another child disappears? Do the parents immediately get arrested?

What has happened to our priorities that they can be turned so upside down?

How is it that a Government that issues ‘caring’ budgets can be so cavalier in its treatment of ordinary citizens, citizens that it has in fact failed?

If I were to call myself a leader, firstly I would visit the parents and extend my sympathies. I would have attended the funeral.

Then I would say exactly what I would do to find the killer and make our streets safe for citizens, especially our children.

I would say that that’s my responsibility and promise to the nation, not anyone else’s.

Then I would take action. A campaign to tell parents how to talk to their kids about safety would be the first thing.

Then there would be signs in public places asking people to look out for anything odd involving children, and to report those immediately.

Meanwhile the police will not rest until they catch the killer.

But I would also warn the public not to take the law into their own hands, no matter how angry they get with possible suspects.

The law must be seen to work.

Leaving it to the public may result in vigilantism. What if they get the wrong person?

Two wrongs do not make a right.

There have been too many Nurin Jazlins. People are fearful for their kids. It wouldn’t hurt for our leaders to be more sensitive to that.

14 September 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday September 12, 2007

People coming together as one


When people of all faiths gathered last Sunday for a special prayer session for the successful surgery and speedy recovery of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as well as for the continued health of the country, for peace and harmony, it was an emotional experience many will never forget.

THERE are occasions when people come together in our country as part and parcel of our custom. We come together for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and of course funerals. We also get together to give our thanks when someone has passed exams, or gotten through a difficult experience or major surgery.

In the past week many people have gathered together to give thanks to God for my father’s successful surgery and to pray for his speedy recovery. Most of these have taken place in places of worship or in private homes where members of each respective faith have given thanks and prayed in their own religious traditions.

On his way to recovery: Dr Mahathir, his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and staff members of the National Heart Institute posing for a picture at the hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Monday. — Bernama
But on Sunday a very different thanksgiving gathering took place. Since my father underwent surgery we have received numerous messages of support and encouragement from Malaysians from all walks of life, race and religion. Everyone has offered prayers for his safe surgery and complete recovery afterwards. We have been enormously touched by this unexpected groundswell of love.

Last Friday, my family organised our own thanksgiving prayers at the Masjid Wilayah. But we were also acutely aware that in doing so, we were leaving out whole swathes of people who had no less sincerely offered their own prayers with much concern for my father. So in appreciation of that, we organised a multi-faith thanksgiving gathering on Sunday evening.

Although it was organised in only two days, it was heartening that people of all faiths responded to our invitation without hesitation. First to confirm his presence was Archbishop Murphy Pakiam representing the Christian community. Then Swami Samyam Ananda was named to represent the Hindu community. The Taoists and the Baha’is confirmed next and finally the Chief Buddhist Monk of Malaysia said he would return all the way from Kuantan just to attend.

I then had to find a Muslim imam who would be able to grace the occasion and respond to the presence of the other faiths in the warmest way possible. A moment of inspiration made me think of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, an imam from New York, who has many ties to Malaysia and who, as luck would have it, happened to be in town. He also agreed without hesitation.

Although friends had spread the word as much as possible, I had no idea who would turn up. But as friends, acquaintances and even strangers arrived I could not help but become emotional. People don’t necessarily express themselves through words, but their actions spoke louder than the thunder above our heads.

The evening began with the maghrib prayers led by Imam Feisal. While we Muslims fulfilled our obligations, the others respectfully listened quietly outside. When we were done, the religious leaders took their places in a semi-circle of seats in front of everyone. Then each in turn, beginning with the Buddhist Chief Monk, began prayers in their own way. Each also said something in English so that everyone would be able to understand that they each gave thanks for the success of my father’s bypass and for his continued good health.

After each one had spoken, Imam Feisal then ended the session by saying a few words about how, even though we each had our own ways, we all prayed to the same God and we were united in praying for the same thing. Not only did everyone pray for the health of someone they held dear but also for the continued health of our country, for peace and harmony.

I don’t think anyone was left unmoved by the whole ceremony. They had come to wish my father well and to lend me support and then experienced something that seems so rare these days, a coming-together of Malaysians for a common cause and unity but with so much respect for the diversity of beliefs.

Everyone prayed in their own way, nobody felt that their beliefs were trampled on. Nine days after Merdeka and a week before Malaysia Day, those present experienced what it felt to be truly Malaysian. If only it wasn’t so rare.

My father’s heart, which has always belonged to all Malaysians, is mending well. I truly believe that it is because all Malaysians, through their prayers, have donated pieces of their own hearts to him that he is making so much progress. I have no doubt that when I tell him what happened on Sunday night, he will be equally moved.

We need more events like these, not just when we need to show concern and sympathy, but also when we want to express joy and celebration. It is when we are able to witness how each of us worship that we are able to respect one another’s beliefs, to know that no religion wishes bad things on those of other faiths.

01 September 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday August 29, 2007

A truly Malaysian dinner


We were all mixed up – Chinese, American, French, Irish, Javanese and I don’t know what else – and we ate the same food and enjoyed the same entertainment.

MY aunt celebrated her 80th birthday recently and her daughter, my cousin, had a party to celebrate.

Held at a hotel with an eight-course Chinese dinner, the evening gathered everyone from my family as well as my aunt’s and her daughter’s.

This meant that the relatives present that evening were Malays, Chinese (because my aunt is Chinese) and my cousin’s American in-laws.

I wore a Nyonya-style sarong kebaya in homage to my aunt’s heritage while my best friend, who is married to my cousin, wore a cheongsam. There were baju kurung, sari and dresses, while men wore batik shirts or suits.

To me, that room was Malaysia. I looked around that room with pride because all these people were family or related to me by marriage. And we were all mixed up. We ate the same food and we enjoyed the same entertainment.

At the same time I felt sad because I knew there were people outside that room who would have clucked in disapproval.

There are people who think we should not greet people of other races and religions. Yet that would mean I couldn’t greet my own relatives.

There are people who think we should not share meals with people of different faiths. But isn’t it when we share a meal that the best spirit of warmth and understanding among friendly conversation is born?

In my family I have relatives who are Chinese, American, French, Irish, Javanese and I don’t know what else. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about race and nationality. I never thought of my aunt as Chinese until her party, at which time I felt proud.

There may be people who think well, it’s okay to accept all these different races into your family because after all, they had to become Muslim. Well, that is true.

But the foundation of our respect and love for each other is not the fact that we all have the same religion but because the same ties of loyalty and unity that every family enjoys bind us too.

After all, there are certainly mono-religious and mono-ethnic families that quarrel and break up too.

I kept wondering if families like ours would be possible in 50 years if some people have their way. Would our society be as welcoming of other races as we have been?

I worry about the type of supremacist ranting that we hear these days and think who in their right mind would want to marry into families of another ethnic group?

After all, marrying may change your religion, but it doesn’t change your race. Wouldn’t you always wonder if your in-laws thought you were inherently inferior?

I conducted a small poll recently to ask people how they felt as our 50th Merdeka nears. An overwhelming 84% said they felt sad because we were going backwards. I can well understand that.

I had to take my daughter out of a national school because I felt that she was not learning to be Malaysian there. How ironic is that?

As an impressionable young child, she was learning very early to differentiate everyone by race and religion, with the underlying assumption that hers was superior to everyone else’s.

Her friends were doing the same. It was not the environment I wanted for a child who has siblings who are only partly the same race as her.

If race and religion are the primary criteria for one’s choice of friends, what about values like honesty, loyalty and mutual respect that are normally the ones that we look for in our friends?

Do they become secondary? Do we have to assume that the only people who will treat us well and who deserve our respect are those who, by total chance, share the same ethnic genes and faith as us?

A Malay father was telling me how the Malay teachers in the Chinese school his kids go to treat them. He taught them to always greet their teachers respectfully when they see them.

But those particular teachers refuse to return the greetings. Is this what good Muslim adults should be teaching children?

We celebrate our 50th anniversary of independence in a couple of days, yet we have not freed ourselves from mindsets that are narrow, communalist and intolerant.

Some people are threatening to wipe out our entire legal history by throwing out our present legal system and substituting it with one that has rarely been applied with any true sense of justice.

Today, there are people who think our present Constitution was a mistake. If these moves mean we have progressed, then we are living a joke.

I am going to celebrate Merdeka with a little neighbourhood tea party. After all, our little street is a microcosm of the Malaysia we love. So why not get together?

Maybe in the future, gatherings such as this will be forbidden. I will surely grieve then.

19 August 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday August 15, 2007

Something is very wrong with us


The 2,718 male children aged 14-20 being remanded in prisons to abuse of toddlers, some resulting in death, by young parents, are indeed worrying to say the least. Yet little seems to be done to reduce or to prevent this from happening altogether.

YOUNG people are in the news again, with the recent furore about them being remanded in prison. Although it may be too late for many of them, hopefully the concern expressed by NGOs, the public and the Government will mean that no more children and young ones will be subject to prison for the smallest of offences.

However, we have to wonder why there are already 2,718 male children aged 14-20 in prisons before someone finally made a fuss. Surely it was already an injustice for the very first child to have been held in prison. Why had nobody raised the issue earlier? Surely even prison wardens must have known this was not right.

Some of these children were arrested for not having their identity cards on them. As much as this is an offence under the law, surely it should not lead to prison especially for children. Do we follow the law in automatic fashion leaving no room for humanitarian considerations?

Having now realised that there are all these children in prisons, in what way will we compensate for their loss of childhood? Prison is hardly the most conducive place for children.

Who knows what sorts of things are now wired into the minds of these unfortunate young people setting the course for their futures.

Teenage years are a particularly sensitive time and not handling them correctly can lead to later misbehaviour. How do we prevent that from happening? Or do we simply blame them later without considering our own complicity?

It seems to be a particularly Malaysian thing to not spend much effort on prevention when often it is much easier to do than to sweep up the after-effects of lack of forethought later.

Our refusal to teach young people proper sex education means that unwed pregnancies are not prevented. Even if young people get married because there is a baby on the way, what do we do to prepare them for the many responsibilities of marriage including the stresses and strains that one can expect?

If there is one thing that seems to be common among the recent cases of child abuse is how young the parents are, barely out of childhood themselves. In the recent death of a 17-month-old toddler, the mother was 18 and the father was 22. The child was the elder of their two children.

In Penang, a 22-year-old man pleaded guilty to physically and emotionally abusing his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter. Another 25-year-old man in Kota Kinabalu was accused of abusing his lover’s four-year-old son.

Perhaps when a baby ceases to be cute and becomes ever-more demanding, young parents become less patient. Perhaps they are no longer with their child’s other biological parent and feel less secure with their new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Nothing could be less attractive than a wailing child. Perhaps one day it just got too much.

We should realise that sometimes prevention has to start several steps before the very dangers we want to prevent. If we had good sex education in schools which talks about risks and responsibilities, we might avoid teenage pregnancies altogether.

If we counselled couples that did get pregnant and had to get married, we might be able to teach them better ways of handling conflict. As it is, many premarital courses are just another step on the way towards getting that marriage certificate.

As the Mufti of Perlis has pointed out, for all the premarital courses we’ve had, the divorce rates (among Muslims) hasn’t reduced. Perhaps if we taught young people parenting and relationship skills, and told them where they can get help, their young children may not become vulnerable to abuse.

Of course, it’s not just young parents who are the ones who abuse children but it does seem to be a common thread in recent cases that have not been remarked on.

Ultimately what will happen to these cases? The abusers will probably wind up in jail, which leaves the question of what will happen to their children.

Are they likely to abuse children who are not theirs, that they should be put away from society? Or do we serve society better if we rehabilitate these parents, perhaps help to solve the problems that may have put unbearable pressures on them. That may include having to deal with adult abuse as well.

In order to really deal with the many social issues that we have, we need to approach things from a holistic perspective, with the understanding that they rarely occur in isolation. Factors in the environment create the dangerous scenario and then something triggers it off. We need to ascertain what those are.

Otherwise we’ll continue to shake our heads at more child tragedies

06 August 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday August 1, 2007

Salute to the man in the street

There are lots of ordinary unsung heroes out there, unrecognised and unappreciated. These are the people who deserve to be honoured.


AS PART of our upcoming Merdeka celebrations, a local TV station had a poll for people to name the most outstanding Malaysians since 1957. As people had to vote for the “winners” a la Akademi Fantasia, the poll attracted much controversy and derision.

But what I thought was interesting was that everyone on the list of nominees had already passed on. Which seems to suggest that nobody living deserves any such accolades.

There is something to be said in that. At the moment, there are no living persons in leadership positions in this country that deserve any sort of accolade.

If anything, they probably deserve the equivalent of the “Razzies”, the annual “non-Oscars” that people give to the worst actors, worst directors and worst films, rather than the best.

In fact, if anyone decided to do a poll for the Worst Malaysians Award, I bet there would be no shortage of nominees.

At the top of the list would be various politicians. For instance, those in Parliament who forgot that they had mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, insulted all women, and were completely unrepentant about it.

Then there are all the ones baying for the blood of bloggers, as if bloggers are the root of all evil in this country, and not their own inadequacies.

I would not only name them the Worst Malaysians in the Past 50 Years but also the most ignorant and imbecilic.

None of them actually know what a blog is or what a blogger does, yet are happy to label them all sorts of names, including unpatriotic, unprofessional and liars.

Funnily enough, they also label bloggers “not read by many” and “goblok” (stupid), which apparently means “political bloggers”. That is a sure sign that some people just have no clue.

I would also give a Sharp-Box-on-the-Ears award to those who could have reprimanded bad behaviour among their colleagues, but did not, just for political expediency.

Quite obviously something happens to the brains of people in politics, where they think that everyone only thinks in terms of elections, instead of sheer human decency.

So their rule is “never tell off one of our own because that would give the opposition an opportunity to hit us”. What they forget is that the rest of us are watching, in total disgust.

Of course it’s not only politicians who deserve the Worst Malaysians Awards. Leaving aside total criminals, drivers who don’t signal and who throw rubbish out of their car windows, I would nominate the civil servants who make life for us more difficult than it needs to be.

I would nominate those people who give you an appointment and when you turn up, are out at a meeting that involves lots of teh tarik and kuih.

As a subsidiary nomination, I would put up those who work under the missing bureaucrats who cannot tell you when their bosses are supposed to be back, sometimes hazarding a guess like “maybe in a few weeks or months”.

Meantime, a small consideration might speed up whatever processes you were hoping to go through.

I’d also put up salespersons who have no idea what it is they are selling and are too lazy to go and find out. High on the list would be those to whom you pose a question and who go off supposedly to find the answer and never come back.

People who have bad toilet habits are of course natural nominees but somehow you can’t help think that they’ve been covered already among those listed earlier.

After all, not flushing, or throwing inappropriate stuff down, the loo are selfish and ignorant acts, and that is pretty much what’s common among my earlier nominations.

I would also like to nominate those people who are so quick to judge people they don’t know, just based on appearance or their own prejudices.

In particular, those people who articulate, for want of a better word, those same judgments and prejudices as loudly as possible so that other people cannot put in a word in defence.

If we sit down and think about it, there are really a lot of people we could nominate. Which in a way is rather sad really. Maybe this is always what makes news, those people who do bad things, while those who do good things rarely or never do.

Despite my grouchiness, I do believe that there are lots of ordinary unsung heroes out there, unrecognised and unappreciated.

So my nomination for Best Malaysians are all those ordinary people who every day go about helping someone out, being nice to someone else, making no judgments and expecting no rewards.

So here’s to celebrating the ordinary Malaysian. It’s high time someone recognised them.

21 July 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday July 18, 2007
Currents hide beneath the calm
If most of us continue to believe that life is a whole string of peaceful Sunday mornings, then we are closing our eyes to dangers that await us.
AS I write this on a quiet weekend, I have to ponder on the strangeness of our existence these days. There are Sunday mornings that are so peaceful that it makes us feel that everything is right with the world, and to complain about anything is sacrilegious.
It would be so nice to believe that our future is secure, our well-being guaranteed, our safety assured and our lives will go on as they always have.
We have been so lucky in the past 50 years to have never really known hardship in our country.
We have to read books about other countries to know what it means to have your lives turned upside down overnight, from one where you can walk freely down the street to one where it is unsafe to even look out the window.
Most of us will never know what it’s like to hear a knock on the door and fear what it means, like they have done in Chile or Argentina.
Nor what it’s like to feel constantly choked by the lack of freedom to do anything, not even to go about your business without fearing harm from anyone.
In many countries, people languish in prison without knowing why, apart from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When I ponder these things, I breathe a sigh of relief that I live here.
Yet I can’t help but feel pessimistic that all these things we take for granted will last forever.
Things change, very quickly, for the worse.
I was always taught to be fair and to empathise with those less fortunate.
Therefore, I find it hard to understand why others insist that injustice is fine for some people because it is apparently religiously correct.
I have never heard of religions created to sow injustice among people, only to bring good.
So when I hear of people being subjected to cruelty and punishment in order to make them believe in something they don’t believe in, it is hard for me to understand that it is good for that person’s faith.
I don’t join clubs that have rules that I don’t believe in and I would not dream of forcing anyone to join mine for the same reason.
Why do people not believe that love and compassion is more persuasive than hate and cruelty?
Today I read in the papers that caning of schoolchildren will be banned because it does more harm than good and infringes on children’s rights.
Why then is it all right to punish adults even though they have harmed no one and expect them to love the punisher’s community afterwards?
I don’t expect any of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to ever harbour goodwill towards the United States after what they have been through.
Likewise, I don’t see how anyone who has undergone “rehabilitation” at our religious Guantanamo-like camps can come out feeling any love for the ones who put them there.
It is easy to dismiss as mere rumour that such camps are unsavoury places where bad things go on.
If so, why is the existence of these centres kept secret?
Why not have open days to show what happy places they are, filled with friendly people who only want others to be more knowledgeable about religion?
Otherwise, why not investigate whether they are run properly, with minimum standards of care and hygiene?
In fact, why have rehabilitation camps at all, since faith is not something that can be forced on people anyway?
Yet there are people in this country who believe this is the right way to go about things.
Worse, they think not enough is being done and more repressive measures should be put in place.
There are people who really believe, 50 years after independence, that the very foundation of this country, our Federal Constitution, is all wrong at least for the majority of our people, who are quite prepared to ignore it and even change it to a more oppressive system. They seriously think this would make this country a better place.
If most of us continue to believe that life is a whole string of peaceful Sunday mornings, then we are closing our eyes to the dangers that await us.
If we remain ignorant and oblivious, then there will be a very black Monday ahead when our belief that we are all equal under the law in this country will be severely shattered. By then, it may well be too late.
But maybe we do need to undergo some hardship to make us less complacent. The point is: do we want to subject our children to it?

16 July 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday July 4, 2007

Catch the ‘cat’ rapist fast

There have been three cases in the past month. What are the police doing about this serial rapist, and what should parents do to protect their children?


If I needed proof that our sense of proportion has become very skewed, then the other day’s news was it.

On the front page were the usual sensational headlines about the ongoing murder trial, as well as a little teaser about some billionaire who managed to stop his house from being sealed.

As much as these are distressing to the individuals above, we skim through them and file them away as “bad stuff happens”.

But inside I found truly alarming news. Buried deep inside the newspaper pages was a story about a serial rapist currently on the prowl in the heart of KL whose victims are, disturbingly, little girls.

He lures them by asking them to help find his cat. Then the girls turn up many hours later dirty, bruised and traumatised.

So far there have been three cases in the past month while two other little girls may have escaped the same fate.

As the mother of a little girl exactly the same age as these victims, the news made me shudder. I cannot imagine anything worse happening to my daughter.

But I have to ask, why is there no outcry? Why aren’t outraged parents demanding the police do something to apprehend the rapist immediately?

Why have there been no warnings to other parents about the rapist’s modus operandi? Why aren’t there frontpage headlines?

Is it because there are no VIPs or celebrities involved? As tragic as some high-profile cases may be, doesn’t the trauma of little girls warrant attention as well?

Just what is going on these days? In Johor Baru, crime has become so bad (including violent crimes against women) that people actually had a signature campaign to demand more effective action against criminals. And it worked, because then the Cabinet decides to deploy extra police to man JB streets.

But, what about in KL? In the first few months of this year, I had so many friends who had their homes broken into, themselves and their families tied up and property taken.

The whole series of similar crimes in one area of PJ ended up with one prominent ex-policeman dead.

Yet still, none of my friends have had any of their burglaries solved, they have had to put in extra security and nobody feels any safer.

The other day at a chance meeting, someone asked if I could help do something about crime in her area.

Why are people turning to me about this? Is it because, like everything else, it is only if a VIP complains that action will be taken?

Since when has security become a commodity that needs to be sold?

The price is to know somebody who can actually go and do something about it. But every citizen surely has a right to basic security that is the Government’s job to ensure. Why wait until people are just sick of the situation?

As former IGP Tun Hanif Omar said in his column last Sunday, in talking about how police accountability depends on media, “for citizens to make the best choice, we need the best information possible.

So, barring sensitivities to national security and public order, our society should be as transparent as possible.”

If we don’t complain, then nothing gets done. And the best avenue to complain through is the media.

But what if the media picks and chooses what it will allow the public to complain about?

What if, for reasons of law or sensitivity, it simply ignores issues even though these are troubling the public a great deal? Is this wise in the long term?

I see speeches about the media by the powers-that-be at the Internal Security Ministry, which of course oversees the police, which can only send chills down one’s spine.

The media are quite explicitly told that they have to behave themselves or else they will suffer the big stick.

Now this is hardly conducive to giving citizens the best information possible in order to make the best choices.

What do we really want? Do we want to take our place in the world as a developed nation or do we want to hide in our little cocoon?

Today nobody is isolated from anyone else, thanks to the Internet. Every clever thing we say here reaches the other side of the world in seconds.

Similarly, every single unintelligent word does the same. The key is to ensure there is more of the former than the latter.

Meantime, I want to know what the police are doing about this serial rapist in Kampung Baru, and what should parents do to protect their children, who obviously cannot be kept at home all the time.

If we fail to protect little girls, how confident can we be about security for everyone else?

26 June 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday June 20, 2007

Oops YB, stop being boorish



When politicians behave badly, their party-mates are more often than not reluctant to tell them off so as not to give the ‘enemy’ any reason to point out faults.

IN ANY family, when a child has done something wrong to someone else, the parents take it upon themselves to admonish the child and then insist that he or she apologise to the other person.

This was why I, at age six or so, had to say sorry to our gardener for sticking my tongue out at him.

Part of the reason for the admonishment was to teach the child to behave properly towards other people.

The apology, besides being the right thing to do, restores the family’s image, since a badly behaved child reflects badly on his or her parents.

I wish things were quite as simple in the political world. When politicians behave badly, their party-mates are more often than not reluctant to tell them off.

Apparently this is seen as giving the opposition ammunition to destroy the reputation of the party as being united in all things. Everything is seen in terms of not giving the “enemy” any reason to point out faults.

But the trouble is politicians forget that the public is also watching. When politicians behave badly, it is the public that they should worry about, not the opposition.

As an example, when two government MPs displayed crude and boorish behaviour towards a woman MP recently, not only did they take nine whole days to issue an apology of epic insincerity, but also none of their fellow party-mates told them off, including the female ones.

The reason was that they did not want the opposition to “take advantage” of the situation.

But the world is not just political parties and their opponents. There is also the larger public, many of whom vote.

If members of the party they usually vote for behave badly, they will not necessarily immediately vote for another one but they will certainly think much harder about voting for the same one again.

There are other ways to skin a cat, and voting for other people isn’t necessarily the only option.

Like families, individual members of any organisation, including political parties, represent their family wherever they go and whatever they do.

If they behave well, then people think highly of the entire family. If they behave poorly, then the image of the whole family becomes tarnished. Therefore the only way to restore the reputation of the family is to admonish and apologise.

When children do not get admonished for their bad behaviour, they grow up believing that the family sanctions that behaviour, and be-come spoilt brats.

They continue that sort of behaviour and increasingly annoy others until they become unproductive and anti-social elements in society.

Their behaviour reflects on their parents, who seem to have been lax in their disciplining of their children.

Today, we see a continuous stream of bad behaviour from spoilt brats in Parliament. They are almost never told off, and are often quick to claim that they can’t help being emotional sometimes; after all, they are defending the integrity of their party.

Of course, if anyone else does the same, then “emotional” becomes a derogatory term.

The public can only watch with horror at these antics. From fascinated horror, it quickly becomes disgust. We are disgusted that people we vote for should behave in such a manner, and at the cavalier way that the voting public is treated, as if we don’t matter at all.

In insulting one female, for instance on a condition that affects all women, they forget that they in fact insulted all females. Politicians seem to think that getting into Parliament is a licence to become the worst sort of hoodlum, only dressed questionably better than the ones outside.

And we should ask, where are the parents? Why don’t the parents tell off their children? Don’t they feel ashamed and embarrassed at such behaviour?

Are they simply blind to what damage this sort of crassness does to the entire family?

If they can’t see that, then there is really no hope in ever changing the situation.

When people who are supposed to be in authority behave badly, they set an example to the rest of society of what norms of behaviour are now acceptable.

They should not then complain when members of the public start behaving in the same way.

This can only be countered if there is an authority that comes out and says that this type of boorishness is not acceptable anywhere, whether in the privileged halls of Parliament or outside.

But this has been noticeable absent. Nobody, it seems, has the moral courage to call out people for unacceptable behaviour even when you are supposed to stand together in unity. Nobody has the gumption to do just simply the right thing.

Everything is calculated for political expediency. But what if the calculations are wrong?

14 June 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Friday June 8, 2007

Shouting down the majority voice


Many sensible people keep quiet on issues because they think they’re the only ones who think that way.

IN AN article, physicist Mark Buchanan recently talked about a common phenomenon where people fall in with the majority view, even when they disagree, because they assume – mistakenly, in many cases – that they are in the minority.

Psychologists in the 1930s termed this phenomenon “pluralistic ignorance,” and in 1976 researchers described it as when “moral principles with relatively little popular support may exert considerable influence because they are mistakenly thought to represent the views of the majority, while normative imperatives actually favoured by the majority may carry less weight because they are erroneously attributed to a minority.”

What this really describes is that entity called the Silent Majority, the many sensible people who keep quiet on issues because they think that they’re the only people who think that way.

To say something may invite contempt or worse, violence. And they are right. But just because the reaction they may get is nasty doesn’t mean that reaction reflects the majority opinion.

When we live in a society that is closed to open debate and discussion, the problem of the silent majority becomes more acute. As Buchanan says, the process of pluralistic ignorance disturbingly lends itself to the “noisiest and most visible.”

For instance, psychologists have noted that students on American campuses who are the heaviest drinkers tend to speak out most strongly against measures to curb drinking, acting as “subculture guardians” in support of their minority views.

This produces what is known as “false consensus,” as others, who think they are in the minority, keep quiet. The result, says Buchanan, is that “the extremists gain influence out of all proportion to their numbers, while the views of the silent majority end up being suppressed.”

We see this happening in many places. For instance, when people who are not part of the establishment say something silly, everyone else happily jumps on them because it is seen as the okay thing to do. But when establishment people say something equally silly, people hesitate.

If no criticism is forthcoming, then people keep quiet, afraid that if they say something, they themselves may attract unwanted attention and negative feedback.

This is particularly true in male-dominated societies on issues that concern women. We’ve seen several cases of despicable and insulting behaviour by men in public positions, yet very little reaction from female public figures on the same political side.

Privately, they are probably just as angry as the ordinary woman, but they fear that speaking out on principle may not be politically expedient and may cost them their careers.

I was once at a women’s forum overseas where I asked why it is that when women come into power, they very rarely do much to benefit their own sex. A woman from Chile gave some insight into the phenomenon.

One reason is that many women leaders, especially in the developing world, come into power with very shaky legitimacy.

They may have been voted in because of their family connections, having been the widow or daughter of a man who had been in power previously. Often they owe their position to men, and therefore are always beholden. Once in power, they try not to upset any of these men.

Even those who come in on their own steam tend to tread carefully because often, as women, they are in the minority. Thus we hear statements like “I can’t be seen to be only favouring women,” as if women themselves are a voting minority.

The solution may be to follow the example of Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first woman president, who was elected last year. One of her first moves was to appoint nine capable women to her Cabinet of 24.

Besides sending a strong message to the country about the capability of women, appointing so many women also gives her strength in her Cabinet to push for women’s issues.

Indeed, since she has been in office, she has legislated for the right to breastfeed in the workplace, offered greater protection against domestic violence, and cracked down on alimony dodgers.

On International Women’s Day this year, she promised no return “to the days when the top jobs were filled with dark suits and neckties.”

Given that we have so few women in Parliament and even less in the Cabinet, it is not surprising that when women are insulted, we cannot really rely on them to stand up for us. The solution therefore is to up the numbers of smart no-nonsense women winning seats in the next elections. Only then will women’s rights be upheld.

25 May 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday May 23, 2007

New signs of hope for the HIV+

If we continue our policy of providing almost-free treatment to Malaysians living with HIV, we can prevent many more deaths.


IT WAS one of those pieces of news that went both ways. At this past Sunday’s annual International AIDS Memorial Day commemoration, I caught up with many colleagues whom I had not seen for a long time.

One of them, from support group Prihatin for HIV-positive women in Kota Baru, told me that they were doing well after only three years. When they first started, they had over 100 women as members, mostly single mothers left widowed by AIDS. Now they have over 300.

On the one hand, it was good that these women had found a place they could go to for information, counselling and other help, as well as meet others in the same situation.

Many of them had in fact been HIV-positive for many, many years and had led lonely lives thinking they would always have to live hiding their status from the world. Learning about Prihatin had given them hope.

But on the other hand, I could not help but wonder. If Kota Baru alone had 300 HIV-positive single mothers, how many more must there be in other towns and cities around the country? Who would provide the type of help they need?

Still, there are signs of hope. Prihatin is training some other HIV-positive single mothers in Kedah to be peer educators and to start support groups to others like them. In Perak, the Buddies of Ipoh provide the same service to people with HIV.

One remarkable woman, known as Kak Pi, defies every negative stereotype that is placed on religious women by giving comfort and solace to women living with HIV without making any judgement on them.

While these efforts are examples of “leading the way to a world without HIV/AIDS”, the theme of this year’s commemoration, still it is hard to ignore the fact that there have been 79,389 reported cases of HIV/AIDS since the first one was detected in Malaysia 21 years ago. And of that, 9,155 have died.

The truly sad fact is that none of this is really necessary. If we had instituted realistic prevention programmes all those years ago, we would probably have not had these numbers by now.

And if we continue our policy of providing almost-free treatment to Malaysians living with HIV, we can prevent many more deaths as well as the family and community devastation that comes with them.

The only snag would be the lack of political will. If the political will to tackle HIV/AIDS slackens, we will hear nothing about AIDS in our country except for those few occasions during the year when events such as this are held.

If other priorities get in the way of people’s lives, the medicines to treat people with HIV will become unaffordable again and more lives will be lost. If effective prevention programmes lose out to political expediency, opportunities will be lost and may never be found again.

Recently, a delegation from our Prisons Department visited Iran to see at first hand how the Iranians tackle HIV/AIDS in the prison system. Despite its conservative image, Iran runs both needle exchange programmes and distributes condoms to prisoners.

Our delegation was impressed and is keen to do the same back home. The only thing that would stymie that would be weak or non-existent political will.

In the meantime, we need to open our eyes to more hotspots, at people who remain very vulnerable to HIV through no fault of their own. While HIV prevention for our own people is still inadequate, what is there for those among us whom we don’t even acknowledge exist?

What information do we provide for migrant workers who don’t speak any of our languages? How do these messages reach those whom we don’t even recognise such as refugees? We can’t wish them away when they are healthy, what more when they get sick with AIDS.

My colleagues working with refugees tell me that, increasingly, they are seeing HIV infections among them. Deporting them is no answer when there is nowhere that will take them.

Besides prevention and treatment, the component of a comprehensive response to AIDS that is still missing is care. Care means ensuring that people remain productive citizens even if they are HIV-positive, with jobs and homes and the means to care for their families.

Care includes policies that ensure stigma and discrimination against people with HIV is simply not tolerated. It means devising policies and frameworks that keep children with HIV and AIDS orphans in school. It involves providing micro-credit loans to AIDS widows so they can provide for their children.

None of this comes under the Health Ministry, the traditional domain of HIV/AIDS. Unless other ministries also have HIV/AIDS policies, care will forever remain neglected, and that caring society we want will never emerge.

16 May 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday May 9, 2007

Blogging 101 for politicians


Blogs and bloggers have come under the microscope once again but for the most part the people complaining haven't the faintest idea what blogging is all about, to the point that it's almost embarrassing.

IN most fields, differentiations are made between those considered amateurs and those deemed professionals.

Talented singers are amateurs when they go on American Idol and immediately become professionals when they win. Those who lug their clubs around the greens on a weekend will never be considered professional unless, like Tiger Woods, they do nothing else but play golf and get paid for it.

Your best friend may be spot-on in diagnosing what’s causing your headaches but you still need to go to a certified doctor to be able to do anything about it.

In other words, there is a line drawn between the amateur and professional worlds that is determined either by entry barriers such as full-time study, exams and other means of certification or by payment for the work done.

The one exception is, perhaps, fulltime homemakers who do not have to pass any exams to become professional, nor are they ever paid.

There are lots of areas of interest where there are very few entry barriers except for enthusiasm and staying power.

In the modern world of the Internet, there is of course the phenomenon of blogging.

For those who do not understand blogging, by and large most bloggers are basically writing public diaries. They may write about their everyday lives, almost as if to themselves, except that they put it up for public viewing.

What differentiates one from another is basically the quality of content and writing. A person who leads an interesting life and can write eloquently about it online is going to have a much more popular blog than someone who has a very routine life.

There are millions of blogs and some of the most interesting ones are those written by people who are, for example, cancer survivors who write about how they cope with everyday life and people who live in war zones like Iraq who give literally an insider’s view of the conflict.

What is wonderful about blogging is that there is no entry barrier except perhaps access to the Internet and a facility for language. Anyone and everyone can start one, on any subject. A friend of mine who lives in France writes about Malaysian food in French.

Bloggers do not have to study how to blog, sit for any qualifying exam, nor are paid for it. So there is no such thing as a professional blogger and a non-professional one. True, there are some full-time ones, people who seem to do nothing but blog.

But most bloggers have a life outside the Internet and write their thoughts for public consumption mostly as a hobby. It is however a hobby that is absorbing and exciting because unlike most hobbies, you do have an audience that is eager to and avidly does interact with you.

The wonderful thing about blogging is that it allows an individual to give voice to their thoughts when there are few other avenues available. Some of these thoughts are not necessarily positive and it has always mystified me why people complain about “political” bloggers who generally can make very erudite comments about national issues, and then say nothing about the fascist and racist bloggers who write under the guise of religion.

But for the most part, most bloggers are people who simply want to air their views through this exciting new medium.

Recent proposals to register bloggers or to categorise them into “professional” and “non-professional” bloggers only serves to confirm what anyone savvy with the Internet thinks: that politicians are clueless as to what blogging is.

Which is rather odd since politics is the other area where “professional” and “amateur” has no meaning. It makes even less sense when many bloggers are writing under pseudonyms. If this were another time, would you register Mark Twain or Samuel J. Clemens?

Perhaps what we need to professionalise are comments made about bloggers. At the moment, their amateurishness is laughably embarrassing.

07 May 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday April 25, 2007

Competing for sympathy and money


There is a mistaken belief that charities must always be run by volunteers, but there is no such thing as a full-time volunteer.

RECENTLY an article appeared in this paper commenting on the rise in the numbers of professional fundraisers for charities. Much justifiable tut-tutting was done at the very idea that fundraising for charity could have a commercial element.

But what was interesting to me was the reaction by several people who e-mailed me, saying they thought that the article would be very detrimental to genuine charities because people would simply become even more cynical about donating.

It will be good to put the whole issue of fundraising in this country in context. Despite the constant stream of news of people donating money to various causes, fundraising is still a difficult thing to do for individual charities.

For one thing, it takes a lot of time, and unless you have people dedicated to just doing this, fundraising can distract from doing actual work. Anyone who runs an orphanage or shelter knows that there are daily issues to deal with, which leaves very little time to go out and look for money.

Secondly, fundraising is competitive. You have to “compete” for the sympathy, and therefore the wallets, of companies who get dozens of appeals every year, with bigger better-known charities, politically-favoured causes and with unexpected natural disasters.

Nobody is saying that the tsunami, for instance, was an undeserving cause, but it did sweep up a lot of money, leaving very little for others. At least that’s what many companies said.

In this type of environment, it is no wonder that charities find

professional fundraising tempting. It guarantees you some money and it frees you from the hassle of actually having to go out and raise funds.

Basically, if a charity agrees

with the fundraiser on what they expect to get, then that is their business.

The question is really about the public’s perception of this. In some ways, the public view of charity has not evolved with the times. Often, charity means giving money directly to someone in need, which is fine for individual cases.

But a charity that is providing a service for people in need also needs money to run itself. Without the ability to pay for the right people to run homes or do counselling, they cannot provide the service. Yet this is often what people refuse to pay for.

There is a mistaken belief that charities must always be run by volunteers, but there is no such thing as a full-time volunteer. Unless the person is a very wealthy person already, charities are run by professionals.

Rather than condemning professional fundraisers outright, there should be some sort of regulatory action instead.

There has to be, first, some way of ensuring that all genuine charities get funding in an equitable manner. This will stop the dependence on VIPs as patrons, because those who have no access to such VIPs will obviously be disadvantaged.

Second, all charities should be required to be accountable for the money given to them, whether by the Government or the private sector. There is a need to develop the capacities of smaller charities to keep accounts and reports properly.

Third, there should be a way of defining and regulating professional fundraisers. There are many people who offer to raise funds for charity as a way of getting round some tax regulations.

Some charities are so pleased to be beneficiaries that they allow their names to be used in such a way, and receive very little for it. It would be up to the charities themselves to ensure that they are not exploited.

What I find most disturbing is the more ad hoc fundraising by organisations that people know very little about. I often see young people hanging around banks and restaurants in my neighbourhood asking for donations and showing supposed letters of support from so-called VIPs.

Often they can tell you nothing about either the cause, the organisation or the VIP. You can never know whether the money gets to the people it is purportedly for, because you will never see anything that confirms that.

But the people most exploited are these so-called volunteers. Some of them receive a “commission” for each donation they get.

But that commission is a pittance. They have to put up with the humiliation of having to stand on street corners to appeal for donations.

The public is often sceptical, not least because the volunteers often cannot explain the cause they are supposedly raising money for. This is not surprising; they are not “volunteers” for the cause, they are “volunteers” for the fundraiser.

It is this exploitation of young people in need of a job that should be stopped. But mostly, there is a need to stop the factors that cause cynicism about charity.

Ensuring causes are genuine would be a good start.