A Legacy of Gentlemen Politics

It has been quite some time since Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon appeared and speak in the public. And there he was last week at the Meng Eng Soo open day, speaking in front of a large crowd. There was a sense of astonishment when he was there speaking since he has retired from politics.

It was also a rare occasion as both the former and the current Chief Minister attended the event.

As it is a norm that the Chief Minister attends the annual event, it was unusual when it was heard that only one state exco confirms his attendance.

Hence, the Clan Council decided to invite the former Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to grace the event.

It was supposed that Tan Sri Dr Koh agreed to attend the event after he was notified that Lim Guan Eng is not able to make it as Dr Koh is not interested in getting into any confrontation.

However, the Clan Council Chairman was caught in an awkward situation when Lim Guan Eng confirmed his attendance at the last minute. Even the current Chief Minister didn’t come prepared in a dress code, possibly because it was an eleventh hour decision. As the organizing committee has clearly published in the news that the attire for the event is traditional attire whether you are Chinese, Malay, Indian or any other race. Lim Guan Eng came wearing a t-shirt.

As said, it was a really extraordinary occasion as both Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Lim Guan Eng was given the stage to speak.

From the speeches, it was very obvious that there is a huge contrast between the character of the two individuals. One is a mild-mannered gentleman with positive and humble words while the other is a skeptic with sarcasms.

In his speech, the Chief Minister kept on boasting on how he have contributed to the names of the road, the allocations and their contributions. His choice of message is to accentuate his importance towards Penang.

On the other hand, the former Chief Minister gave appreciation and tribute to every single person from the former state EXCOs, the government officers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individuals and generally the people of Penang towards achieving the UNESCO World Heritage status. His choice of message is to emphasize the hard work of every single person for Penang.

In fact, it seems like it has already been a norm that in almost every speeches that the Chief Minister gave, contain elements of politicking. Even at Jalan Pintal Tali last week, in his usual combative style, he simply cannot avoid talking about the ‘pink diamond’.

That is the huge contrast between the current and the former.

We ought to question ourselves, which type of leader do we prefer?

Or probably we should ask do we want a leader who makes every individual in the community relevant? Or do we want a politician who politicizes everything to make sure he wins the elections?

Do we want a combative culture where we argue and debate every single day?

In ‘New Politics’, we want the right thing to work. We want the right thing to happen. We want the right political culture to be practiced.

As many that know Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, I believe they would agree that he has left a legacy of positive and gentlemen politics in Penang.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 14th July 2017.

Don’t scold during the harmonious Chinese New Year celebrations

With just a blink of an eye, the Chinese New Year is about to end. The time flies simply so fast, so quick; that 15 days of celebrations is just a short moment.

The short moment that we have is a previous moment where it is one of the occasion for our friends and family to gather for a reunion.

In Malaysia, it is particularly unique when we celebrate the Chinese New Year. Not only the Chinese celebrates the occasion; but every other races comes together to celebrate. I feel it is even more special for a Malay-majority nation to observe the Chinese New Year with public holidays and we are one of the very few countries to do it. Among the other countries that observes the celebration as a public holiday are China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea and a few others.

As a Chinese, I believe many of us know that there are many rituals and customs during the Chinese New Year. One of the basic things is to usher the New Year with many positive messages and words. Our houses are decorated with bright colours especially red. Positive messages in red couplets are displayed. Beautiful greetings in Chinese New Year cards, emails, text messages were delivered to family and friends. All these are done is to hope that our family, friends and ourselves have a good year ahead. POSITIVITY is the key during the occasion. These are one of the things that we should do, but there are also things that we shouldn’t do.

I remember that my elders used to remind me and my cousins that we must not argue or scold during the CNY. We are supposed to create a happy environment. When we meet people, we must wish each other good luck, prosperity, good health, happiness and many other nice words.

This time around, there are many political leaders even trying to politicise such a harmonious occasion. I’ve been to some of the CNY events in the community, and certain DAP leaders who are up on the stage, simply just talk about politics throughout their speech. Even in the official CNY messages, politicising it and bringing negativity into it.

I agree that many Malaysians are having a difficult time with the increment of cost of living especially when families need to purchase lots of household items for the celebrations. But why can’t CNY messages be as simple as wishing Malaysians a better livelihood throughout the year ahead, hoping for our nation to develop in the coming months.

It is a matter of fact that we are facing many challenges ahead, but we are already working hard to strive through most of the time. Can’t we just put a few days off from the people to enjoy the time with the family and friends?

Even in the online news portal, Malaysiakini, tends to spin the story of the lion dance troupe who refused to perform for the Prime Minister during the Parti Gerakan national CNY open house.

Lion dance is a culture that has been practiced in Malaysia for generations. We all know well that part of the performance in the lion dance is to peel the mandarin oranges or pomelos and serves it to the guest of honour. And in the case during the Parti Gerakan CNY open house, the lion dance performer were crouching and peeling the fruits for the PM. It definitely will take some time to do a good peeling of it.

How can such a news portal spins it to a story of the lion dance troupe disrespecting the PM? How unprofessional can they be?

I wonder if they can live a day without spinning, twisting and politicking.
Again we must remind ourselves; it is not only about comparing who is the lesser devil; we must think and compare who is able to deliver better as the nation’s leaders.

And before we end the 15 days of celebration, let me wish everyone again a Happy Chinese New Year. May all Malaysians be blessed with prosperity, good luck, health and happiness!

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 2nd February 2017.

Shrine politicized?

The weather for the past week has been like a roller coaster. One moment it is hot, the next it’s raining and then it becomes hot again. Probably it signifies the change of weather from the El Nino to the La Nina phenomenon as reported by the Meteorological Department.

The same happens in the Penang State Assembly which we see an “unpredictable weather”. It was a normal debate on the state’s public policies, and suddenly a heated debate started. The two leaders from both sides of the bench were debating over a Taoist shrine in the Armenian Street Park. I was listening to the debate on that specific day, and it was a really long debate.

The DAP lawmakers were claiming that the UMNO state leaders suggested to demolish the shrine and the issue was reported over the news media as well.

On the other side of the bench, the opposition leader, Dato’ Jahara stated that she never mentioned the word “demolish” or “roboh” in her debate. The hansard of the state assembly is a strong prove to that. She was merely suggesting relocating the shrine to a more suitable place.

I am not for or against any of them in this issue. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has raised his stand over protecting the heritage value of the shrine. He is not wrong; heritage has been a huge value in our city. Dato’ Jahara was not wrong as well when she mentioned on the modern values in a modern park design. She was trying to debate on the design of a public park rather than specifically on the relocation of the shrine.

To me, what went wrong was the nature of the debate itself. The state assembly is a prestigious hall for the elected representatives of the people to draft and make laws of the state. In one of my previous article, I have mentioned that until today specific plans, guidelines and papers were not gazetted. What happen to the Penang Structural Plan, Special Area Plan, housing development guidelines and many more? It’s either not gazetted yet or it was not executed. The Penang State Assembly should have raise on these instead.

Now don’t get me wrong. Solving this shrine issue is an important issue; but it should not be debated in the State Assembly. Rather, this issue falls on the responsibility of the local government. The Speaker of the DUN should also explain why he accepted the debate question and not other more important topics such as limiting the terms of the Chief Minister.

In the debate, Lim Guan Eng has also proudly stated that he is protecting and preserving the heritage value of the shrine which is about 70 years old. His words and emotions were so strong that many would have believed that he is a fighter for the heritage of Penang.

But if Lim Guan Eng was so concerned about the heritage value, why hasn’t he spoken out on the demolishment of Runnymede, Soonstead mansion, Khaw Sim Bee mansion, Balik Pulau market and the Prai old market? These buildings are more than hundred years old. They definitely are equivalent or have more value compared to the shrine when it comes to heritage.

What about the trees and hills of Penang that has been destroyed? Trees may be very common to many, but these trees on the hills are hundreds or may be thousands of years old. It is part of the heritage of Penang as well. When destroyed, it would take another hundreds of years to grow it again; unlike buildings which we can build easily.

Looking back at the debate, one should re-think, what are the real stand of the DAP lawmakers who are the government of the day when it comes to different issues? Do they only raise issues which benefit them politically? Do they really pay attention to important issues that affects the people?

We understand that politics being politics and that politicking exists in our circle of life, but it should be limited to a certain extent. When it comes to governing the state and the nation, politics must be minimized.

In this particular shrine issue, I think we must retain the tokong in Armenian Street, but we must relocate the “Tokong” back to Melaka.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 20th May 2016.

“Kita menang sama-sama, kita kalah pun sama-sama”

Last week, a group of us went to watch the now popular local movie Ola Bola. We are lucky that we manage to invite one of the Malaysian football players Dato’ Shukor Salleh, who has qualified to the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games as what the movie is all about. The family members of another player, Dato’ Namat Abdullah who played for Malaysia in the 1972 Munich Olympics were also there.

The movie was a hit with many praises all over the nation regarding the message that the movie has delivered. It’s a local movie that has reminded us the “impact of unity” that we are craving for. The movie has shown us how unity is so important that has brought victory to the nation. How the Malaysian team from yesteryear who doesn’t differentiate themselves by race, ethnic or background made the whole nation proud.

I may not have been born during that era yet, but from the storyline of the movie, from listening to the stories of our Malaysian seniors and reading; the spirit of unity was much better then compared to today.

Coming back to the present day, I am sure many would agree that Malaysian unity has eroded since the days of our fathers and grandfathers.

What are our concerns of the day? How we should develop each other races? How one politician should fight for his or her own race?

Even political parties who claim to fight for Malaysians have been shouting slogans that mislead the people. They have stressed too much on the inequalities of the non-Malays which created more dissatisfaction and hatred instead of creating the “united Malaysian passion” in the people. Why? The only reason that I could think of is that it is much easier to win elections in creating hatred towards the opponents rather than trying to convince on their vision towards the nation.

Instead of bringing the people united, they are segregating the people even more.

How many of us actually sit down together with friends from other races to enjoy meals? How many of us watch local movies of another race, like what our seniors did during the P. Ramlee years? How many of us listen to songs from another race, similar; like how our seniors listen to “Getaran Jiwa” and “Tiada Kata Secantik Bahasa”?

Today, there are still many who talks about pushing for their own race to be better, to improve and to get more benefits from Government policies. There have been even calls within the community to make our respective races better.

No, I am not only talking about Malays. I am also talking about Chinese, Indian and every other race that is present in Malaysia.

For the Malays or Bumiputeras, we have the New Economic Policy to boost their equity and economic situation. Even for Chinese and Indians have various policies for their specific interests as well, thanks to the politicians that have advocated for their rights. But why haven’t we really heard of politicians fighting for Malaysian rights in the right way?

If we are really sincere in advocating the “Malaysian way”, we must learn to share; not only sharing our culture; but also to accept cultures from others.

Today, we must forgo the race-based political scenario and look things from the Malaysian perspective.

The only way to solve the issues of today is by facing it from the context of a Malaysian, and not any specific race.

High cost of living, drop of the ringgit value, increasing property prices, environmental issues, welfare issues and many more; does not choose to only affect a specific race, every Malaysian has to encounter it.

Whatever decision the government makes, it affects everyone as a nation. It will not affect specific race specifically. So we must work as a nation, not for specific race or group of people.

We are in a team; we cannot lose or win individually. As one of the players in the movie Ola Bola said, “Kita menang sama-sama, kita kalah pun sama-sama.”

All Schools Must Be Maintained

For the past one month, there has been calls by various groups of people, including politicians, academicians, and even the grassroots to implement a single stream education system for the sake of unity in Malaysia. In fact, it is not something new and has been advocated on and off since decades ago.

Of the Concerns

By nature, the Chinese and Indian Malaysians are usually the ones that advocate maintaining the vernacular schools due to several obvious reasons. Throughout the years of reading articles and listening to the people; I noticed that there are two major concerns of the Chinese regarding the matter of the education system. The first is the fear of losing the mother tongue and vernacular schools are one of the main educational institutions that teach Mandarin. The second is the responsibility to preserve Chinese culture in schools including the name and origin of the schools. Of course there are also other concerns such as the ownership of the school, the management of the school, funding, and examinations.

Of the Unity

In a nation with different ethnics, “Understanding” is needed to achieve unity with different cultural backgrounds. To attain “understanding” among the people, I believe there are two key factors that we need to look at: language and communication. Most of the time, people argue or fight with each other is due to misunderstanding; and avoid it, we need to make people understand each other through communication. To have an effective communication, the basic thing that is needed is to speak the same language.

The Education Blueprint is for Vernacular Schools and Unity

In the latest Malaysian Education Blueprint for the year 2013 until 2025, it is obviously written that vernacular schools will be maintained and implemented. In achieving unity, the Education Ministry plans to ensure that the education system provides all students with the opportunity to interact with individuals from a range of socio-economic, religious, and ethnic background as well as geographical locations. This is to make the young people to learn to understand, accept and embrace differences. The measures to achieve the goal includes raising the Bahasa Malaysia proficiency; scaling up the RIMUP programme to encourage intergroup friendships through co-curricular activities; introducing a compulsory community service component; and revising Moral and Islamic education elements.

The current situation of schools

Although there are one major race enrolling in each school, however there are also other races who are studying in each type. For instance, in the SK schools, there are students from all ethnics in the nation. In the SJK (C) schools, although the communication language is in Mandarin, however there are still Malays and Indians children enrolling into it.

According to the 2011 Malaysia Education Statistics; in SK schools, there are 94% of Bumiputera students, 1% of Chinese students, 3% of Indian students while the remaining are from other ethnics. Meanwhile in the SJK (C) schools; there are 9% of Bumiputera students, 88% of Chinese students, 2% Indian students and 1% from other ethnics.

To put it short, it means that the Government allows any Malaysian to enrol in any type of school as they wish to. There are no barriers for anyone to enrol in the type of school that they wanted.

Why the differences?

The differences between a national school (SK) and a national-type school (SJK) is perhaps the language classes, medium of language used in teaching, the management, and the name of the schools.

I did not do any professional survey on the reason why parents enrol their kids to the respective schools; but parents generally consider the quality of teaching, languages that are taught in the school and also the medium of language when it comes to choosing the best for their sons and daughters.

What if?

At the very base, what if all schools will be maintained, no matter a national school, a Chinese-based school or an Indian-based school? What if the only amendment is the syllabus of the education?

What if Bahasa Malaysia and English language are maintained as the compulsory subject in every school while the students are compulsory to choose Chinese, Tamil or any mother tongue as the secondary language? By doing this, every Malaysian has the right to learn and educate in their mother tongue.

What if all medium of teaching used in every school is the same language? Certain people may worry that the children may not be able to cope with lessons not taught in their mother tongue. But our Malay and Indian friends have proven otherwise when they studied in a Chinese-based school. Some even excel in it.

By then, I believe all parents will only have to choose a school for their children to enrol in based on the quality of teaching and the geographical location.

Maybe it is the way that the suggestions were portrayed by some people has created a perception of closing down certain schools. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, no matter what suggestions that we may have for now, whatever is tabled in the Malaysia Education Blueprint must be continued until the end of its term before making any review. One of the weaknesses of the implementation of Malaysia’s public policies is that the policies usually changes with the change of the Minister. Let the education policy be implemented first, and then only analyse the results of the Blueprint for future considerations.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 9th October 2015.