Archive for December 3rd, 2007

Extremist demands for removal of cross and demolition of Christian statutes in mission schools

There is growing intolerance and increasing extremism in Malaysia which are inimical to successful nation building and the latest instance is the demand for the removal of the Christian cross and the demolition of Christian statues in mission schools.

I raised this issue in Parliament this morning during the winding-up of the Education Ministry in the 2008 Budget committee stage debate by the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Noh Omar and expressed my concern why the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had not said anything to dissociate the government from such extremist demands.

During the policy debate on the 2008 Budget on Oct. 29, 2007 the Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament for Parit Sulong, Syed Hood bin Syed Edros, supported by the BN MP for Sri Gading, Datuk Haji Mohamad bin Haji Aziz called for the removal of the Christian cross and the demolition of Christian statues in the mission schools.

The loyalty of mission schools was questioned, with the baseless allegation that they refuse to observe Aidilfitri public holiday and close the schools. There was even the preposterous accusation that the mission schools were administered by churches outside the country, including the Vatican.

I asked Noh Omar whether he is aware that the extremist demands by the two BN MPs have created a furore, particularly on the Internet, and why the Education Ministry was condoning such extremism by its silence when such statement should be denounced without equivocation. Read the rest of this entry »


Zero-negligence in hospitals and not Chua Soi Lek’s “medical mistakes inevitable”

The Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek’s statement in the press yesterday that “medical mistakes are inevitable” however careful the doctors are is most regrettable and must be deplored by all MPs as it is tantamount to giving a blank cheque for hospital negligence endangering lives and welfare of the people seeking medical treatment.

We claim to want to be a first-world developed nation which is not matched by a first-world mentality and mindset, such as making an important distinction between mistakes and negligence in hospital. The former is understandable and acceptable but the latter, i.e. negligence, is totally unacceptable and unforgivable.

Tragic cases like the baby girl Lai Yok Shan who lost her left forearm because of a chain of negligence at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang or a private hospital nurse Kalaiyarasi Perumal, 44, who went through the nightmare of a pair of forceps left in her abdomen after an operation at the Sultan Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru cannot be accepted as unavoidable incidents. Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia’s Identity Crisis

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007
By Hannah Beech/Kuala Lumpur

Revathi Masoosai should be the perfect embodiment of Malaysia. Her ethnic Indian parents were both born in the ancient port of Malacca in 1957, the very year the colony of Malaya gained independence from the British. Her father was Christian, her mother came from a Hindu family, but they both officially converted to Islam, the religion practiced by Malaysia’s majority Malays. Yet Revathi does not feel welcome in her ethnically and religiously diverse homeland. According to Malaysian law, Muslims can only marry other Muslims. Revathi, who was actually raised in the Hindu faith, had fallen in love with a Hindu man. But because of her parents’ earlier conversion, she was deemed a Muslim and a judge refused to change her religious status. Revathi’s marriage was never recognized by the state, nor was her daughter’s birth. Earlier this year, an Islamic Shari’a court ordered her to spend six months at a Faith Rehabilitation Center, where she had to wear a Muslim headscarf and pray five times a day. “The constitution says there’s freedom of religion in Malaysia, but I have not felt that freedom,” says the 30-year-old homemaker. “How can they force me to believe something I do not believe? What has happened to my country?”

Malaysia commemorated 50 years of independence this past summer, but the celebratory pageantry masked an underlying identity crisis. In many ways, the country is a success story, the very model of a modern Asian nation. Buoyed by oil revenue, capital Kuala Lumpur bristles with skyscrapers and industrial parks, while a massive administrative capital called Putrajaya has risen from what were palm-oil plantations two decades ago. In September, Malaysia’s first astronaut blasted into space, his flight mirroring the nation’s ambitions. Poverty has been reduced from half the population at independence to just 5% today, as an affirmative-action policy created a prosperous Malay middle class that had never before existed. In Asia, only the nations of Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Brunei rank higher than Malaysia in the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Most impressively, while other multiethnic nations like Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Rwanda fractured into conflict, Malaysia has largely kept peace between groups that include Muslim Malays (about 50%); Buddhist and Christian Chinese (roughly 25%); Hindu, Sikh and Muslim Indians (less than 10%); and indigenous peoples, who abide by many faiths including animism (around 10%). “Our biggest achievement is that we have not only survived but we have progressed and thrived,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told TIME in a written statement in August.

Yet for all these accomplishments, Malaysia is suffering from midlife anxiety. Increasingly, the nation’s diverse ethnicities live in parallel universes, all Malaysians, yes, but seldom coming together as they once did for meals or classroom discussions. Religion, too, has divided the nation, as some Malaysians assert that a conservative strain of Islam is causing a segment of the faith’s worshippers to withdraw from a multicultural society. Malaysia’s economy is being challenged by regional competitors, with many questioning the future of the affirmative-action scheme that has served as the country’s financial bedrock. At the same time, a nation that once prided itself on its robust institutions is finding these foundations eroding. Little wonder, then, that up to a million Malaysians, mostly the white-collar talent needed to keep the economy humming, have simply abandoned the country since independence; by the government’s own estimate, 70,000 Malaysians, the majority ethnic Chinese, have renounced their citizenship over the past two decades, although far more have emigrated without officially giving up their nationality. Many local companies are leaving, too, investing so much offshore that as much money now leaves Malaysia as is attracted to it. “There’s no question we accomplished a lot over the past 50 years,” says Ramon Navaratnam, president of the Malaysia office of Transparency International, the corruption watchdog. “But if we don’t face up to [our] problems, we will not be able to sustain the same level of success over the next 50 years.” Read the rest of this entry »