In defence of Merdeka


Independence has been achieved, yet has to be constantly defended, continuously renewed and expanded as the process of de-colonisation is on-going and new threats arise.

THIS week marks the beginning of our 58th year of Independence. Much has been done to entrench sovereignty and independence on our land. But much more needs to be done.

Colonialism did a comprehensive uprooting of traditional systems and replanted them with new ways, methods and systems to produce a chaotic and confusing amalgam of people, social patterns and economic modes.

We are still shaking off the vestiges of that colonialism, whose shadows still fall large. We are still in the process of building independent policies, structures and systems

This is so in post-colonial developing countries in general. As the leaders of the Group of 77 and China stated in their summit held in Bolivia recently, the process of de-colonisation is incomplete and on-going, even decades af­ter the winning of Independence.

That is a good reminder. In particular, the structures and levers of the global economy are still under the domination of the rich developed countries.

The former colonial masters may have let go of formal control of the colonies but they made sure to set up a system in which they could continue to control the important components of world finance, trade and economy.

For so many decades, even until now, the major economic and social trends and policies were set by the combination of the Interna­tional Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Group of 7 rich countries.

These policies, made by institutions based in Washington, became widely known as the “Washington Consensus”. Countries that were indebted especially had to abide by the rules, which were often against their own interests.

Some countries, including Malaysia, were fortunate enough not to have been caught in the debt trap and thus escaped the Washington Consensus. We had a close shave during the Asian financial crisis in 1997-99, but unlike other Asian countries, we did not have to borrow from the IMF, and could devise our own policies from the crisis.

Many other developing countries (almost a hundred) that fell under the IMF-World Bank spell could not chart their own policies, had their economies shaped the wrong way and their development postponed. Independence was much constrained, often present only in name.

Malaysia has been able to shape and re-shape its own policies. If mistakes were made, they could and can be corrected.

Years after Merdeka, the economy was still under British domination. The plantations, tin mines, banks, wholesale trade, industry, were mainly in foreign hands. In 1970, 70% of the corporate assets were owned by foreigners.

A strategic policy was designed to reduce the foreign share while boosting the local share, and to restructure the participation of the various local communities in the economy. Society is still debating the effects and implications of that policy and its implementation.

However, there is appreciation that a successful part of the policies was the wresting back of control over the natural resource-based sectors and obtaining national benefits.

Malaysia has been one of the richest expor­ters of commodities. It helped make Britain rich during colonial times and its companies still dominated the sector long after Merdeka.

Through a series of policies over decades, Malaysia took back ownership of the biggest plantation and mining companies (through the famous “dawn raid” at the London stock market). It signed production and revenue-sharing agreements with the international oil companies.

These policies opened the road for more of the revenues from our important commodities to be retained locally. They also became major sources of government revenue that financed development projects.

Value was then added to the raw materials through processing, refining and manufactu­ring. Rubber exported as gloves and tyres, palm oil exported as cooking oil and wood ex­­ported as furniture bring more revenue and jobs to the country than if they were exported in raw forms as latex, crude palm oil and timber.

Research and development as well as marketing institutions were created to find more efficient ways to produce new uses for the processed materials and more markets. In contrast, those developing countries that fell under IMF-World bank policies were not able to provide state support for their agriculture.

When foreign manufacturing and services firms entered, they were told to set up as joint ventures with local companies, with limits on equity. This could facilitate benefit-sharing and participation in the economy for locals.

Yet Malaysia still became a favourite location for global investors.

In the years leading to the mid-1990s, external debt built up, the current account of the balance of payments went into high deficit, and the financial sector was liberalised, which made the country vulnerable to external shocks.

The 1997-99 crisis taught the lesson that excessive debt, a wide current account deficit and too much financial liberalisation can lead to a major crisis.

In the 2008-2010 global crisis, Malaysia had built up enough defences (especially foreign reserves and balance of payments surpluses) to be resilient.

Economic growth has recovered, but care has to be taken to address the significant budget deficit and increase in foreign debt.

On the global front, developing countries that were fed up with dependence on the IMF and World Bank and their lack of reforms have created their own institutions, such as the Chiangmai Initiative and the BRICS Bank.

The objectives are laudable. Developing countries that need finance either to avoid a debt crisis or to fund development program­mes should have alternative sources that hopefully will have less conditions or more appropriate conditions attached to their loans. It is another big step in de-colonisation.

Needless to say there is much more to be done to safeguard Independence and to move forward on independent development pathways.

If only the state could be prevented from taking policies that place conditions on foreign firms, investors and speculators, the world would be free for those global corporate and financial giants to maximise their profits.

But if global binding rules are established to create such a world, then big corporations would again rule the world, backed by their governments. Then the governments of the developing countries would be unable to protect their own citizens, and a new battle for independence would have to be waged again.

Better to preserve the independence we have, and expand it, than to whittle away the gains and then having to fight old battles anew.

A lesson is that Merdeka has been achieved, but should not be taken for granted. It has to be constantly defended, renewed continuously and expanded. To Malaysia and Malaysians, Happy 58th year of Merdeka!

- Global Trends by Martin Khor > Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre based in Geneva. You can e-mail him at director@southcenter.org. The views expressed here are entirely his own. The Star/Asia News Network

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Today our Malaysian National Day in pensive mood: Hate politics taking its toll!


Malaysia Flag_57

Malaysian raise the Jalur Gemilang during the Amanat Merdeka deliver by Datuk Seri Najib Razak at MATIC..– M. Azhar Arif/The Star

TODAY is our National Day but the mood in the country is pensive. This has been a year when the mood has been severely dampened by those who spew divisive remarks on a continuous basis.

TODAY is our National Day. I wish I could say that I woke up early to wave the Jalur Gemilang. And that my heart is bursting with pride because it is all pumped up with extra doses of patriotic fervour.

I do recall a time not too long ago when everyone was indeed eager to wave the flag. We even had little flags on our cars and there was a genuine spirit of patriotism. We needed no reminders that we are one as a nation.

Sad to say, the mood in my neighbourhood, and in the country overall, is pensive.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a patriot. And most of us, as citizens of this blessed land, do know what allegiance to the nation means. We not only love our nation but have full respect for the institutions that bind us together.

But on a day-to-day basis, this has been a year when the mood has been severely dampened by those who spew divisive remarks on a continuous basis.

From politicians who seek the limelight for all the wrong reasons to self-appointed champions of race and religion, these people have created an environment to embolden even the lesser-known individuals and instant NGOs to amplify their extremist views.

I dare say that I am more loyal than these people. Many of us wonder why they continue to find space in the media to arti­culate their outrageous views. The publicity given them by some media outlets is akin to providing oxygen to these dangerous elements.

A vibrant democracy should provide space for the healthy discourse of differing views and perspectives. We can certainly benefit by disagreeing without being disagreeable.

But hate politics does not deserve space.

I would like to put on record that like the majority of Malaysians, I am proud that we have come so far as a nation. In just over five decades, we have surely come a long way.

There were many naysayers when we achieved independence who did not give us much of a chance of making it. They predicted that the natives, as we were called, would end up fighting each other and the whole country would end up in chaos.

Well, they thought we would be like one of those countries in Central Africa which are forever locked in a civil war involving one ethnic group or another.

Malaysia has proven them wrong. Not only did we survive but we have progressed well and we remained intact too.

So what is it that disturbs me greatly this Merdeka?

Perhaps it is the sadness over the loss of the two Malaysia Airlines planes within the same year. The meaningless loss of innocent lives on board MH17 is so hard to bear even as we despair over the fate of MH370 where the plane has yet to be found.

It has been a horrible year indeed.

But it is also the never-ending, disturbing and offensive statements from extreme personalities. Many of us wonder why these people can get away with what they say. Shouldn’t they be charged with sedition or do they have powerful backers, as some have questioned?

Sadly, it is not just these politico-types but also ordinary Malaysians who post outrageous remarks on social media. They involve normal people, some of whom I thought I know well enough. But their inability to exercise some form of self-restraint and not add fuel to the fire is highly ­worrying.

No one is spared now. Thanks to social media, these people seem to believe that they can post and put up whatever comments they want without a second thought. They do not care if their sweeping comments affect the feelings of fellow Malaysians.

Everything seems to be fair game. While politicians are expected to take even the harshest criticisms in stride, there has always been an understanding that we do not undermine the various institutions that not only make Malaysia unique but also hold us together as a people.

Even the royalty has been targeted, and many of the remarks made are not only improper but outrightly seditious. It does not help that some politicians are leading by example. If they are in Thailand, they would be in jail now.

I am sure our founding fathers, if they were alive now, would have been shocked, if not saddened, by what they see of us today.

Yes, in terms of physical development and our standard of living, we have been a shining example. We have a huge middle class, unlike other neighbouring countries where the gap between the rich and poor is wide.

This is a country where people have no worries over the next meal although many are unfit because they eat too much. We spend huge sums of money to reduce weight and even bigger amounts to slim down.

We have also become a country of whiners. We complain over our high electricity bills but we want to sleep with the air-conditioners on, while wrapped up in our blankets. Of course, it is much easier to blame the government for increasing our electricity bills.

We should be glad that we have taken away preventive laws such as the Internal Security Act and the famous detention camp in Kamunting has closed down.

But, to some people, this seems to have opened the floodgates for unrestrained remarks, often laced with extreme racial elements, to flourish.

Many of us seem unable to articulate a point or a thought over an issue without dragging the racial element in.

Many of us also cannot draw the distinction between criticism and insult.

Some have become arrogant in their line of comment while some have become so thin-skinned and sensitive that they take offence easily, sometimes blowing up over a minor issue.

I grew up in Penang where places of worship were built next to each other. This is similar in many parts of the country too. We take pride in it. Now we have bureaucrats and politicians who tell us it’s not possible because it is sensitive.

Sensitive to who? The racially twisted bureaucrats and politicians themselves, perhaps? Real people have no issue with one another.

This is a multi-racial country even though the demographic landscape has changed drastically. A plural society is an asset, not a political liability. But we seem to have reached a point where many of us are frightened, not just shy, of upholding such values lest we be seen as going against our own community and religion.

Like it or not, there are certain realities that we, as Malaysians, must accept so we can be realistic in our expectations.

For a start, the Malays are the majority and they are Muslims. We must acknow­ledge and respect their deep reverence towards Islam, the race and the royalty.

But the Chinese and Indians are here to stay, so please stop these nonsensical pendatang remarks. Together with the many other races, and especially the original inhabitants of this land, we are all Malaysians.

We need to focus on real issues within our country, which include education, health, crime and a healthy business environment. Our priority must also be to ponder seriously on how to handle race relations, religious freedom and the sentiments of the people in Sabah and Sarawak who are an integral part of Malaysia.

We need to get our act right so we can compete efficiently as a member of the global community.

We should spend more time thinking, listening and reflecting instead of making silly remarks. We can help chart a better future for Malaysia. Then we will not only fly the flag on Merdeka Day but our heart will always beat as a Malaysian too, all the time.

By Wong Chun Wai On the beat –  The Star/Asia News Network > The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own..

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Evaluate enemies and friends


Friends_Enemies

Illustration: Liu Rui/GTChina must evaluate friends and enemies

Since 2013, China has been engaging in “major power” diplomacy. In the past, the term “major powers” referred to countries such as the US, Japan, Russia, the UK and Brazil, while now the major power is China itself.

The shift in China’s diplomatic status means the country’s diplomatic approaches face a new challenge: Does diplomacy have to distinguish between enemies and friends?

Before China’s non-alignment policy was raised in the report to the 12th CPC National Congress in 1982, China’s diplomacy distinguished between enemies and friends.

In the 1950s, based on the different social systems, China categorized other countries into imperialist states, capitalist states, nationalist states and socialist ones.

In the following two decades, these countries were divided into the superpowers, developed countries and developing ones, given the international status of different countries.

These two categorizations differ in standards, but reflected the then diplomatic notion of distinguishing between enemies and friends.

The report to the 12th CPC National Congress also said that “the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are applicable to our relations with all countries, including socialist countries.”

From then, China began to discard the “enemies-or-friends” concept and focus on economic cooperation with all the countries based on an equal footing.

There have been some variations in China’s diplomacy, particularly in relation to how it categorized other countries after the Tiananmen incident in 1989.

One means adopted in 1997 classified the countries into neighboring, developing and developed ones. In 2002, the sequence was changed into developed, neighboring and developing countries.

Such categorization adds flexibility to diplomatic principles and, as some believed, fits the globalization era and discards the Cold War mentality that stuck to the old way of distinguishing between enemies and friends.

However, such categorization and sequence also have their flaws. When a principle is too flexible, its guiding role is weakened.

For instance, both Cambodia and the Philippines are China’s neighboring countries and belong to developing countries, but the latter can sometimes pose diplomatic trouble for China.

Similarly, Russia and Japan belong to the same category, but we can enhance strategic cooperation with Russia while isolating Japan politically.

In the following decade, the overall national strength of China will remain greater than that of all the other countries except the US. China has to shoulder more international responsibilities and maintain international order by providing public benefit, so as to maintain its own interests.

But if China doesn’t distinguish between enemies and friends, it will find it difficult to do so.

Only when China is clear about which country it can hold responsible on certain occasions, or which country can enjoy more public benefits, can it make the right decision.

Any big country, when helping shape international order, will protect its friends rather than enemy countries. It will raise proposals beneficial for its partners rather than competitors, and provide public benefit for those playing by the rules rather than breaking the rules.

If we don’t distinguish between enemies and friends, it will also be difficult for us to adopt the diplomatic principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness.

For example, politically we can get close to Russia and Cambodia but not Japan’s Abe government or the Philippines’ Aquino III government, because otherwise the latter two may dare to adopt even more hostile policies toward China.

Diplomatically, we can stick to the principle of credibility only with countries that we have established diplomatic ties with, but not with those who don’t admit China’s sovereignty or support the so-called “Taiwan independence.” Economically, China can take the initiative to help developing countries rather than the US which has already entered the developed phase.

To build up an international environment that best works for China’s rejuvenation, China’s categorization of foreign countries can be based on interests.

We can classify all the countries into friendly, cooperative, ordinary or conflicting ones.

To friendly countries, China should lend a helping hand; to cooperative ones, it can offer some preferential policies. We should work on an equal footing with ordinary countries, while taking countermeasures to conflicting ones.

The US is the only country that is more powerful than China. We may consider listing China’s relationship with it in a single category as “a new type of major power relationship.”

It is a relationship between a rising country and a dominant one, and as the US is more powerful than China, the two should stay equal and be mutually beneficial, which is more favorable to the US. Therefore, this also reflects tolerance of China’s foreign policies.

Since the Opium Wars in the 19th century, China has accumulated rich diplomatic experience to counter countries stronger than itself. But in modern times, it lacks the experience of dealing with countries weaker than itself. It tests China’s diplomatic wisdom as whether or not to distinguish between enemies and friends.

By Yan Xuetong Viewpoint, Source: Global Times Published: 2014-8-27 18:58:02
The author is director of the Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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What makes us Malaysian? Happy Mereka!


Malaysia Spirit 57

I always get excited when I meet fellow Malaysians, whether at work or during social functions. – Lee Yee Thian

Our sense of belonging is strong, despite living miles away from our homeland.

BACK home in Malaysia, “Chinese” is one of the options in the race column, while in China, it refers to a nationality.

It took me awhile to get used to not nodding when I was asked if I am a Chinese.

“I’m a Malaysian,” I would answer, and get a bewildered look from the inquirers.

“Oh, so you are a Malay? But you look exactly like us. And your command of Mandarin is so good,” was their usual reply.

I would then launch into a lengthy explanation of how I am ethnically Chinese but a Malaysian national, and “Malay” refers to the largest ethnic group in Malaysia and not the people of Malaysia.

I would add that I can read and write Mandarin because I attended Chinese vernacular school, but I could tell they were confused.

“Were you born in China? How old were you when you left for Malaysia?”

“No, I was born in Malaysia. I’m a third-generation Malaysian Chinese.”

And then came the inevitable question: “Where do you feel you belong?”

I grew up singing Negaraku every Monday during school assemblies.

I learned how to draw our national flag when I was in Year One. Next to the crescent, I traced the outline of a 50 sen coin and then carefully drew 14 spikes around the circle.

And until today, I can still hum the tune of Sejahtera Malaysia, a patriotic song that was aired years ago on RTM.

When we say we are Malaysians, we say it with a tinge of pride.

In addition to Malay, English and Mandarin, most Malaysian Chinese here can also understand one or more Chinese dialects.

It is a fact that draws the admiration of many locals.

I asked a few Malaysians in Beijing what makes them Malaysian.

Lee Yee Thian, who has been abroad in the United Kingdom and then China since 2000, said our multicultural background was instrumental in helping him to adapt to living in a foreign country.

The sense of belonging is strong, despite living miles away from our homeland.

“I always get excited when I meet fellow Malaysians, whether at work or during social functions,” the 37-year-old chartered surveyor said.

“We speak freely with our Malaysian accent and pepper our sentences with slang that only Malaysians understand.”

Wesley Tan of Wav Music Production said it was the vast opportunities in the entertainment industry in China that drew him to the Chinese capital 10 years ago.

“The market is huge with endless possibilities to grow and expand,” he said.

“We have to admit that we could not do as much in Malaysia, but it does not make me any less patriotic. I grew up in Malaysia and it will always be my home.”

The advantage of Malaysians, Tan said, is our ability to create products that appeal to an international target audience, with our tolerance and diverse background.

With Beijing being a fast-paced metropolis, the quality of life has plenty of room for improvement.

Air pollution and food safety aside, trust between people is thinning. Tan said he misses the courteous and caring ways of Malaysians.

“My parents-in-law, who are Chinese nationals, were so surprised that Malaysian drivers would actually pause to give way to opposite traffic during their visit to Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

The little gestures, such as placing one’s left hand on one’s right forearm when receiving or offering something, speak volumes about Malaysians’ pleasant disposition.

I couldn’t agree more.

Two weeks ago, I made a brief return to Malaysia. When waiting for my family to pick me up at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, a Malay girl next to me kindly shared a packet of buah jeruk (pickled fruits) with me. In return, I offered her my chocolates.

We did not exchange names during our brief encounter; only smiles and snacks, but in that moment, I knew I was home.

Happy Merdeka.

Source:

Check-in China by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

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New lawyer Darren Tan, once 10 years in jail; S’pore CJ: do criminal and family law


Darren Tan_parent

10 years in jail, now a lawyer

Darren Tan, 35, is finally a full-fledged lawyer.

He reached that milestone yesterday when he was called to the Bar during a mass ceremony at Nanyang Technological University.

It was a far cry from his shaky start in life when drugs and gang activities led to over 10 years behind bars and 19 strokes of the cane.

“This is the culmination of what I’ve been working towards for the last 10 years,” he told The Sunday Times. “It’s like waking up from a dream and finding out your dream has become reality.”

His life of crime began at the age of 14, and he was in and out of prison for offences that included robbery and drug trafficking.

It was only when he was 25 and behind bars for the third time that his transformation took place. He found God, and decided to make something of himself.

He resumed his studies with help from the prisons programme, re-learnt English, a language he had forgotten, and aced his A levels, scoring four As and a B, including an A1 for General Paper. He was still in prison when he applied for law school, and became the first student with a criminal past to be admitted to the National University of Singapore law school.

Now, he has a job waiting for him. He did so well during his six-month practice training at TSMP Law Corporation that the firm has given him a permanent position as a commercial litigation and dispute resolution lawyer.

The firm’s joint managing director, Mr Thio Shen Yi, said that while he had initially decided to take a chance on Mr Tan, it had only been a six-month risk.

“He still had to earn his job. And he has,” said Mr Thio. “He is sincere; he has street smarts, maturity and EQ. You can see his transformation through his actions, and this resonated with us because we’re very much a firm that believes in giving back to the community.

“If I had ever thought there was any risk of the firm’s reputation being besmirched, I would not have taken him on.”

Said Mr Tan: “This is my first real job. I enjoy what I’m doing and the bonus is I get paid for it. I’m learning new things every day.”

He spends long hours at work, but tries to leave early every Monday. He and former inmate Kim Whye Kee, an artist, have set up an outreach initiative, Beacon of Life, based in Taman Jurong, to help at-risk boys and youths. On Monday and Saturday nights, they play football.

Mr Tan dined with Britain’s Prince Edward in a 16th-century castle earlier this year, when he was invited there to speak about the National Youth Achievement Award which he has received, and how its programmes could benefit others.

Mr Thio is hoping to rope in Mr Tan to work on the Yellow Ribbon Project to help former prisoners, a scheme which his firm supports.

“He will be able to give us direct insight into where the need is greatest,” he said.

The Singapore Academy of Law, which has supported the Yellow Ribbon Fund since 2011, is in talks with Mr Tan to be part of its upcoming corporate social responsibility programme, which aims to get more in the legal fraternity to join forces to help former offenders.

An only child, Mr Tan has a girlfriend and lives with his parents in a four-room flat in Jurong West.

With a steady pay cheque, he can finally help with family expenses and has promised to take his parents and godfather on a cruise.

His father, Mr Tan Chon Kiat, 67, who does not work, and mother, Madam Ong Ai Hock, 62, a production operator, could not be prouder.

Said Madam Ong: “I didn’t think he would have these opportunities but he has changed his own future. I used to be very worried for him, but now I’m very happy.

“It goes to show that if you work hard, the past is the past.”

Looking forward, her son said: “I have a mantra of sorts – ‘Be good in what I do and do good with what I do’. I used to take drugs because there was a void in my heart and my life. Now, I have something to get hooked on apart from drugs. My life is a good enough substitute.”

By Chang Ai-lien Straits Times/Asia News Network Sun Aug 24 2014

Once in jail, but he’s now a law grad

Darren Tan
For the first three years in law school, Mr Darren Tan kept to himself.

Now he wishes he hadn’t.

The 35-year-old, one of over 10,000 to graduate from the National University of Singapore this year, was afraid that he would not be accepted because of the more than 10 years he spent in jail for drug and gang-related offences.

But last July, he told his story to the media. “After I went public, I received messages of support from my classmates,” said Mr Tan, who will receive his law degree on Thursday.

He has secured a practice training contract with TSMP Law Corporation, but hopes to continue helping lawyers with pro bono work.

Fellow graduand Chua Koon Ting, the first polytechnic student to enter the Faculty of Dentistry, also said that he was not treated differently by fellow students.

“What I learnt is that in university, no one cares where you came from, it’s in the past,” said the former Singapore Polytechnic student, 27, who is now practising at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

This year, 10,282 will be graduating from NUS. They will include the first graduates from five programmes, including the master of Social Work and Public Health doctorate.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam presided over the main commencement ceremony yesterday, in which 160 students from the University Scholars Programme received their scrolls.

One of them was valedictorian Ow Yeong Wai Kit, 25, who received first class honours in English literature.

He will be heading to University College London to do a masters in literature on a Ministry of Education scholarship.

“It’s not so much about whether one has a degree. What’s more important is that we have certain intangible skills that can be used regardless of one’s vocation, such as a sense of curiosity,” he told reporters.

The ceremony was also attended by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. During his address yesterday, NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan spoke about former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who last month received an honorary Doctor of Laws from NUS.

Said Prof Tan: “The qualities and values he exemplifies, and in particular, his deep sense of purpose, these serve as a powerful beacon not just for all of us in NUS, but for the broader community in Singapore and beyond.”

By Stacey Chia, Debbie Lee The Straits Times/Asia News Network, Friday, Jul 12, 2013

CJ advises new lawyers to do criminal, family law

Lawyers-S'pore

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s newest lawyers have been urged to begin their careers in family and criminal law to hone their skills, instead of heading straight for corporate law, which is getting more competitive than ever.

The legal community yesterday welcomed 430 newly appointed advocates and solicitors at this year’s mass call to the Bar, up from 411 last year and 363 the year before.

The expansion in the number of lawyers means the newcomers will enter a market where the generous salary packages and multiple job offers their predecessors enjoyed will be harder to come by, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

This is also because other major legal centres around the world, such as New York and London, are cutting back in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, he added.

A week ago, Law Minister K. Shanmugam highlighted how Singapore could face a glut in supply of lawyers in the next three years as more aspiring lawyers pursue a law degree here and overseas.

During yesterday’s ceremony at Nanyang Technological University, the Chief Justice said the legal industry is adjusting from one of “undersupply” – when there were more jobs than law graduates – to one where supply and demand are more balanced now, especially in commercial law.

“This means that you will not be running with the wind to your back,” he told the new lawyers hoping to enter corporate and commercial practice. Instead, they can expect “more competition, fewer guarantees and less room for negotiation”. This is a trend that is happening not only in Singapore.

After a period of sustained growth in New York and London “in the later decades of the 20th century”, the pace of recruitment there has slowed down.

Singapore, which benchmarks lawyers’ salaries with those paid by New York and London firms, is no exception to these market forces, especially given how “we also compete in a South-east Asian market where starting salaries are generally lower”. Instead the Chief Justice challenged the new lawyers to take the plunge into family and criminal law – where there is a shortage – and cut their teeth there.

While he admitted that there may be a “good deal less glamour” in these areas of the law, there is no better place than community law for young lawyers to get into the thick of the action, said the Chief Justice.

New lawyers The Sunday Times spoke to said while the market may be getting tighter now, it is their juniors who will feel the pinch. Mr Asik Ali Sadayan, 26, a Singapore Management University graduate, said: “My juniors have told me that it has become a lot harder to get training contracts.

It was easier for my batch and we did not feel the competition as much.” Every year, about 400 local law graduates, along with a growing number of foreign-educated ones, apply for about 500 training contracts offered by law firms.

The six-month contract gives would-be lawyers the real world training they are required to complete before they are called to the Bar. In his speech yesterday, Law Society of Singapore president Lok Vi Ming said his organisation is considering various initiatives to ensure that every graduate eligible for a training contract will get it.

Other new lawyers told The Sunday Times that they had their hearts set on corporate law, and would prefer to give back to society through pro-bono work – something the Chief Justice said was important for lawyers to be involved in.

Not only does such work keep lawyers connected to the community, it also helps them to avoid thinking that their worth is reflected by how much they bill and little else.

Sources: The Straits Times/Asia News Network Sun Aug 24 2014

Burglar-proof your home


House_Burglar-proof
Fending off thieves need not be expensive

PROTECTING a home from break-ins is high up on everyone’s priority list.

But fending off burglars and thieves doesn’t always require one to buy expensive security systems, or plonking down cash to turn houses into impenetrable forts.

The following are some simple, inexpensive ways to burglar or theft-proof your house against unwanted intruders.

Reinforce the doors and locks

According to the The Telegraph’s “How to burglar-proof your home – tips from an ex-thief,” a shabby-looking door is an open invitation for thieves.

“If your front door looks tatty, or if it only has one cylinder lock instead of a cylinder lock plus deadlock, it will catch a thief’s eye.

Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate points out that thieves generally prefer to use the front door.

“Creeping out a window is hard, and it’s far more difficult when carting out a load of loot. Thieves typically test a house by first ringing the bell to ensure no one’s home, then trying the door handle and perhaps putting a shoulder to the door to see how solid and how firmly attached it is.

“To enter, the usual tool is a pry bar or a strong kick of the boot. Sadly, many doors fly open easily.”

Reinforcing your front entrance with a steel gate is a popular and common option to protect your front door.

Secure the perimeter

According to the Malaysian Department of Statistics, the bulk of burglaries tend to take place in the night rather than in the day. According to its Crime Index for the year 2009, a total of 27,060 burglaries took place in the night compared with 11,396 burglaries in the day.

This clearly justifies the need to reinforce the security around your home.

“Replacing porch lights and other outdoor lights with motion-sensor lights is cheap and easy,” writes Lewis.

With the bulk of burglaries taking place in the night, it makes sense to “light up the house,” says ABCNews.

“Scare off those burglars with motion-sensor lights. Look for ones with adjustable sensitivity to avoid getting a false alarm from things like tree branches rustling. And keep the outside of your home illuminated an all sides using energy-efficient compact fluorescent,” it says.

Buying a good alarm system is also a viable option – provided it doesn’t cost you a bomb. Lewis says many people spend thousands of dollars buying, leasing and installing electronic alarms, and then sign contracts requiring them to shell out thousands more to a company that monitors the alarm.

“A 30-second alarm blast should scare away intruders. Also, newer alarms can be programmed to do what monitoring companies do first anyway: phone you (or text you) when the alarm has been tripped.”

Make the house seem “lived in

Even if you’re not home (be it out at work or away on vacation), don’t give the impression that there’s no one at home.

“Make sure you don’t give obvious clues that you’re not home. Turn down the telephone ringer, so burglars won’t hear you aren’t there. Make the house seem like someone is home with lamps or a radio on a timer,” says ABCNews. “(Also) don’t leave mail piled up in the mailbox if you’re away. Again, you’re telling the thieves what’s going on, that you’re not home,” it says, adding that if you do go away on vacation, “don’t blab on Facebook when you’re leaving town.”

If you have newspapers delivered to your home, inform the vendor that you’ll be away, or get your neighbour to remove them from your doorstep.

Says Lewis: “When you’re gone, don’t let stuff like newspapers, real-estate cards and pizza fliers accumulate in front of your door.

“Leave a vehicle in your carport or in front of the house if possible. Ask a neighbour or friend to help you out by parking there. Get friends to pick up newspapers, cut the grass, water plants, feed pets and open and close curtains, varying their routine to add a note of unpredictability if possible.”

 Get a dog

Owning a dog is an inexpensive and effective way to keep robbers at bay.

House_Burglar-proof_dog

ABCNews, in its article “5 Ways to Avoid a Break-In: Confessions of an Ex-Burglar,” speaks to a former convict that actually confirms this fact: “No burglar wants to deal with a dog and so won’t take the chance and probably will avoid the neighbors’ houses, too.”

Lewis, meanwhile, notes that while owning a dog may not make your property impregnable, it can, however, make the home less approachable.

“You don’t want a pooch? That’s okay. Post a “beware of dog” sign anyway.”Lewis cites Chris McGoey, a security expert and consultant who doesn’t have a dog, but owns a sign and makes a point of asking service people to wait before entering his property, so that he can “put the dog in the house.”

“The sign is cheap. It makes people think twice,” says McGoey.

By Eugene Mahalingam The Star/Asia News Network

HSBC Bank officer charged for stealing money from victims of missing flight MH370


KUALA LUMPUR: A couple pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to multiple charges involving theft from the bank accounts of four passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Bank officer Nur Shila Kanan and her mechanic husband Ba­­sheer Ahmad Maula Sahul Hameed, both 33, were accused of making illegal transfers and withdrawals, amounting to RM85,180 in total, from the accounts.

Nur Shila faces 12 principal charges in relation to transferring money from the HSBC Bank accounts to other bank accounts, theft, getting approval for a debit card and making a new Internet banking application with intent to cheat, and using forged documents at the HSBC branch in Lebuh Ampang from May 14 to July 14.

Basheer faces four main char­ges, including one for allegedly using a debit card and an ATM card to withdraw cash from the bank accounts.

He allegedly committed the offences at the bank’s ATM centre at Ampang Point here between May 15 and June 29.

Each of them also face four alternative charges of stealing from the HSBC Bank accounts.

The money was reported missing from the accounts of two Chinese nationals, Ju Kun and Tian Jun Wei, and Malaysians Hue Pui Peng and flight steward Tan Size Hiang.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Fadhli Mahmud applied to the court to set bail for each at RM20,000 in one surety and asked that the couple be made to surrender their passports to the court.

Lawyer Abdul Hakeem Aiman Mohd Affandi, who appeared for the couple, asked that bail be set at RM10,000 in one surety for each and said that they were willing to surrender their passports.

Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah set bail at RM12,000 in one surety for each and impounded their passports.

He fixed Aug 25 for the case to be brought before him again.

The Star/Asia News Network

MH370: Couple claim trial to illegal withdrawals

KUALA LUMPUR: A bank officer and her husband pleaded not guilty in the sessions court today to multiple charges involving illegal transfer and withdrawal of money, amounting to RM110,643, from the accounts of four passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Nur Shila Kanan and her husband, Basheer Ahmad Maula Sahul Hameed, both 33, face multiple charges under the Computer Crimes Act, 1997, and Sections 379, 465 and 471 of the Penal Code.

Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah allowed them to be tried jointly. He set bail at RM12,000 each in one surety and ordered that their international passports be surrendered to the court.

Nur Shila faces 12 principal charges of illegal transfer of money from HSBC Bank, thefts, cheating and forging documents.

She also faces three alternative charges for theft, all of which she allegedly committed at HSBC Lebuh Ampang branch between May 14 and July 8.

Basheer faces four principal charges of using an ATM card and debit card to make illegal withdrawals and four alternative charges for theft, all of which had been allegedly committed at the HSBC ATM at Ampang Point between May 15 and June 29.

DPP Ahmad Fadli Mahmud asked the court to set bail at RM20,000 each in one surety.

Defence counsel Abdul Hakeem Aiman Mohd Affandi, however, requested for the bail to be reduced to RM10,000 on grounds that Nur Shila is a staff in HSBC earning RM3,000 a month, while Basheer, a mechanic, earns RM2,000 a month and have five people under their care, including three children aged between five years and six months old.

Mat Ghani fixed Aug 25 for mention before Judge Norsharidah Awang.

It was earlier reported that money had been missing from the bank accounts of four passengers of MH370 – Chinese nationals Ju Kun and Tian Jun Wei, and Malaysians Hue Pui Heng and flight steward Tan Size Hian.

Initial investigations reportedly revealed that the suspect had transferred funds from three passengers’ bank accounts into the account of a fourth passenger through Internet banking, and together with the fourth passenger’s account, the amount totalled RM110,643.

It was also reported that the missing money came to light on July 18 when a bank officer from a foreign bank detected a series of suspicious transactions and transfers from the four accounts.

Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens on March 8 as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. The plane has yet to be found, even after an exhaustive search in the southern Indian Ocean where it is believed to have gone down.

By Karen Arukesamy newsdesk@thesundaily.my

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