Florence’s Point of View

Ah, the effervescent Florence Looi.

A lawyer-turned-TV personality, Madam Looi, will produce and host NTV 7’s new talk show, Point of View. Her debut show will go on air tonight at 8.30 p.m. with repeats on Mondays at 12 midnight. 

Florence and I used to chamber together at Lee Hishammuddin in 1999. Five years later, she left legal fraternity in search of a greener pasture (who wouldn’t if you are rotting among thousands of lawyers in town?).

We got along like a house on fire. Our friendship was fostered with planning truancy during office hours, artificial rock climbing and cycling at Bukit Cerakah. Totally based on her power of persuasion, she managed to make me jog with her on Sunday mornings! For someone who thinks exercise is worse than childbirth, Florence did a good job in convincing me. 

Florence is an eloquent speaker. She can be rather opinionated at times, but only in getting her point across. She has a wicked sense of humor too. Prior to producing and hosting her own talk show, Florence anchored The Exchange on TV3 for three months. But The Exchange is far too clever for someone like me, so I look forward to watch her on Point of View.

The show will feature a lively debate on current affairs with two or three guests of dissenting points of view. I assume Florence will have to play moderator if the debate gets too heated. I am sure she has no qualm in doing so, her practice in law will lend her a helping hand in being a moderator.

The one-hour show seeks to be informative yet entertaining in pursuit of knowledge and balanced perspective. Let us show Florence our support by watching her on Point of View tonight. 

Good luck mate!

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Save IJN

Better late than never. All I want to say is leave IJN alone. Any privatisation is never good to the rakyat. Be back blogging soon, got to wait for the storm in the office to subside first (the aftermath of long holiday in December).

More on bloggers against the privatisation of IJN by Sime Darby on Rocky’s Bru. Click here.

Switch to English Medium

(Published in the Star on November 19, 2008)

I refer to Wong Chun Wai’s column on November 16, whereby I feel compelled to voice out my opinion in tandem with the issues raised by the Star Group Chief Editor.

I could not agree more with Wong’s apt observation about our students fairing badly in entrance examinations in the UK and US. On the other hand, our graduates also perform poorly at job interviews. It is disheartening to learn that these two issues plague the very fabric of our growing nation.

The quality of students and graduates – produced by our local schools and higher learning institutions – depends largely on the education system of our country. If our students, who scored string of distinctions in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, but performed badly in the college entrance exams, it is time for us to realise that our education system fails to nurture its students to gain entry at prestigious institutions in the UK and US.

I am of the view that one of the cogent reasons behind this plight is the medium of language used in our schools. I struggled beyond comprehension during the switch of medium from a local boarding school – where every subject except English, was taught in Bahasa Melayu – to A-Level Program where everything was taught in English.

It is hardly about the student’s ability to stomach the contents of the syllabus in college entrance exams; it is simply the language transition. It halts the student’s speed of comprehension thus slowing his or her progress in coping with the syllabus. The result, more often than not, would be catastrophic.

The laudable effort by the Education Ministry to teach Science and Mathematics in English needs a dose of reality check. By mixing the two languages, we end up having students who are not proficient in neither Bahasa Melayu nor English. In addition thereto, the teachers are also not predisposed to teach the two dreary subjects in English.

Therefore, I recommend the education ministry to consider teaching all subjects – with the exception of Bahasa Melayu – in English. After your SPM, there is hardly a reference book in Bahasa Melayu for everything is written in English. English is your window to the world. Being fluent in English does not mean disrespect to Bahasa Melayu. I also urge all quarters to stop politicising the use of English at our schools for the sake of our children’s future. Prior to switching the medium to English, the Education Ministry must first train to the teachers to be fluent in English to avoid possible frustration and rejection.

Education Ministry must also ensure the quality of the teachers assigned to grow young Malaysians. Dedication and interest alone will not be sufficient to motivate the teachers. Higher remuneration and perks, too, play an integral role to motivate the teachers and to entice graduates to enter the teaching force.

Our high-achievers could not browse through the classical work of Shakespeare and understand the poetry world of Robert Frost with ease, if Bahasa Malaysia is your first language. Bahasa Melayu is a young and developing language, a progress of which could be deeply enriched, if our aspiring poets and writers could gain a pointer or two from English literature.

Even in our courtroom, there is a signage which reads, “Sila Guna Bahasa Kebangsaan,” displayed right across the bench. To me, it is a blatant disregard to the signage, when in reality, most of the senior counsels and judges converse only in English. But who could blame them when all law reports, references and judgments are written in English? It is ridiculous to translate everything just for the sake of using Bahasa Kebangsaan.

The strength of our economic pillar relies heavily on human capital. In short, the kind of graduate our education system produces would – from all different perspectives – adversely or positively affects the economic progress of our nation. Sadly now, as pointed out by the columnist, 60,000 unmarketable graduates remain unemployed due to their lack of fluency in English and social skills.

It is time to go back to English for the sake of our future.

Make war a crime

(Published in Malaysiakini & Criminalise War website on November 11, 2008)

On October 24, I braved a mean traffic crawl along Jalan Tun Razak, en route PWTC, to attend a charity dinner hosted by KL Foundation to Criminalise Law.

Despite the glaring lapse of time after the event ended, I am still bereft of words to describe the cause champions by the foundation into a decent composition: guilt, anger and hopelessness consumed every fiber of my being in so far as any war is concerned.

According to of the foundation committee chairman, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah, the royal charity dinner was held to raise funds to facilitate the foundation’s voluntary programmes on a national and global basis as well as to acquire a suitable premise to serve as the foundation’s headquarters.

His Majesty, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, launched the foundation at this royal charity dinner.

One unforgettable aspect of the royal charity dinner was the ten-minute-long video footage featuring what casualties of war – mainly children and women – had to endure as hostile fire destroyed their homes and blown their family members into pieces.

Gory images of a massacre; maimed children bodies lumped into a mass grave; children soldier mechanically firing the guns away with little thought on humanity let alone compassion; torn limbs mounded up on a deserted ground; a howling mother beside a charred remains, one could only assume to be of her child; a teenager lying on a hospital bed with fleshless midriff.

As the guests cringed in their seat, in fact, some turned away from the giant screens around Merdeka Hall, Tun Dr. Mahathir thought that it is imperative for us to see the bloody images of war:

“It is not a pleasant thing to see, this video clip, but then if we do not see these we will not understand the horrors of war. If we not understand then we will not be concerned about the facts of these young victims, especially, and we will continue to subscribe to the idea that killing people, destroying countries is a legitimate way to solve problems between nations.”

What dawned on me – beside the generosity of corporate tycoons in Malaysia – is the fact that, here in our safe cocoon, we are relatively unperturbed with the hostility of war. We bask in our safe haven of domestic stability and economic growth since the Independence, with no armed conflicts at all, save and except for May 13, 1969. Even May 13, is pale in comparison with the recent war waged in Middle East and African countries.

But war, by any other names, has profound effect only on the helpless: women and children.

History and statistic by Amnesty International reveals that war has seen women being oppressed, raped, impregnated and infected with the deadly HIV virus. Children have been reduced to orphans and their basic needs of decent shelter, food and education sorely neglected.

Meanwhile citizens of war-torn countries are being illegally trafficked across the globe as prostitutes, cheap laborers or even to facilitate illegal adoption.

The repercussion of armed conflict robs a nation’s fabric of history and culture. Political upheavals in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen its museums looted, records destroyed and historical books torn apart.

In addition thereto, war is a multifaceted beast extending its formidable arm on the environment.

The residues from firearm and bombing activities cause radiological and chemical pollution which threaten our fragile environment. Million others face the risk of unexploded ordnance left after the conflict ended.

While we strive to be a developed nation with exemplary social, political and economic platforms, we must never take our country’s peace for granted, for the price of a conflict – be it political or otherwise – is just too expensive for us to pay.

Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

Make war a crime – that is the least one could do.

p/s: Thanks Rocky for the seat!

(Image stolen from here)

Razak Baginda: No Prima Facie Case

(Click Malaysiakini for comprehensive report)

Blogging live from Shah Alam Court:

I have to make this brief as I am typing from the blackberry’s pathetically small keyboard.

The trial of Altantuya Shaaribu took an interesting turn today when Judge Mohd Zaki ruled that the prosecution team failed to establish a prima facie case against Razak Baginda.

It means that  Razak Baginda won’t be called to enter his defence on the charge of abetting the murder of Altantuya, pressed against him almost two years ago.

Bizarrely, the other accused Shirul and Azilah, have been ordered to enter defence.

Razak was mobbed by the reporters but he refused to make any official statement to the press, just yet. He left the court complex in a chauffeured driven XC 90.

If you ask me, the prosecution team has no other choice but the seek the appeal avenue to save whatever credibility they have left.

RPK under seige

Malaysiakini reports at 1:30 p.m. today, that Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) will be sent off to Kamunting Detention Centre, to serve a two-year detention period under Internal Security Act 1960. The sentence warrants the authority to detain RPK  without first being tried in an open court of law: a serious infringment of one’s human rights.

Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, signed the detention order pursuant to Section 8(1) of the same draconian Act.

If you asked me, the ruling government has gone completely out of its wits to seal such order on RPK  during watershed moment such as right now. Barisan Nasional (BN) gives another reason for Pakatan Rakyat to trumpet on the former’s obvious inability to lead the country.

Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,  must bear in mind that invoking the ISA would not be a mere faux pass which can easily be forgotten by the people.

As I said to Anwar and I am now repeating the same to Pak Lah: “you have a distinct – but tiny – window of opportunity to do the right thing”. Please repeal the ISA.

Harris Ibrahim published in his blog, The People’s Parliament, a message from the famous blogger. RPK – just like thousands of PRK supporters – placed his bet on Anwar in the country’s most-watched power struggle. In the event Anwar fails to deliver his promise, I bet with all my money  (which is not much, thank God!) that RPK will lounge in Kamunting for a mighty long time. Worse, if Najib get to be Prime Minister in BN’s power reshuffle which looms near.

(Poster stolen from Mob without his permission)

Much Ado About Nothing

I am going to bed before the Husband comes home from his UMNO meeting and laugh on my face about the make believe crossover. BN is still the ruling government; Abdullah is still Prime Minister; the ISA detainees stay jailed at Kamunting Detention Centre.

Everything else is just rhetoric.

What I find disturbing is when Anwar confidently stated to the  whole world – in no uncertain terms – that Sept 16 takeover is a done deal. The joke is on me.

Politicians are all the same.

p/s: I should have sticked to the creative writing stuff, it’s easier on the blood pressure.