China committed to upholding peace, stability in S. China Sea island-building, rejects US criticism to isolate China in Asia


Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) addresses the fourth plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, May 31, 2015. Sun Jianguo elaborated on China’s foreign and defense policies. (Xinhua/Bao Xuelin)

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China must insist on island-building

During the just-concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, military representatives from China and the US did not engage in the bitter brawling predicted by the media. Both sides have reaffirmed their own stance. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asked all claimants, especially China, to cease island-building in the South China Sea, and by cautiously skirting around the question of how the US will respond if China continues its construction activities, Carter didn’t issue further threats against China.

But the US is still able to launch more provocations in this region, perhaps by sending surveillance planes and warships to the periphery of 12 nautical miles from China-controlled islands.

No matter how disturbing the US can be, China must not stop its construction, which is in line with China’s sovereign integrity. If Beijing backs off due to Washington’s threats and some Western countries’ protests, this will create a horrific precedent, which will embolden US-led forces to set tougher positions against China. China should try its best to inject prosperity into the South China Sea, promoting regional economic development and enhancing its disaster resistance ability. Only in this way will the ongoing quarrels calm down.

If China can play its cards right, these expanded islands will not only prevent the South China Sea situation from becoming intensified, but initiate a new constructive thinking for regional development. China’s construction activities will offer an opportunity to break the vicious circle that has been haunting the South China Sea for decades.

These expanded islands will allow China to acquire more initiative to carry out its South China Sea policies. For now, it is China that values regional peace more than any other state, because the stability of the South China Sea is a prerequisite for China to make use of this important period of strategic opportunities.

As of now, military confrontation is still the last choice for all stakeholders in the South China Sea. However, different desires and expectations have caused the complexity in the South China Sea issues. When China can set a firm foothold in the area, it will bring along more elements that can drive peace and stability.

China needs to make broad plans including countermeasures against more US intrusions. Beijing should be fully prepared, both mentally and physically, for possible military conflicts with the US. China needs to clearly express its unwillingness as well as fearlessness to fight. The more prepared China can be, the lower the possibility of military conflict.

This round of contest in the South China Sea is more like a strategic dialogue, through which China and the US can come up with a set of models and principles under which they can show mutual respect around China’s offshore areas.

If China insists on its island construction, publicizes its peaceful purposes, and avoids making these expanded islands a focal point of Sino-US military competition, we believe it will be eventually accepted by the widest number of parties concerned. – Global Times

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China’s plan to lead the globe?


Globe As tensions in the South China Sea between the US and China continue to rise, the US Navy and Air Force are quietly gearing up to fight a war in the disputed region.

If necessary, that is. Both sides say they don’t want any military confrontation on China’s extensive coastal waters, but both are acting as if a military conflict is increasingly likely.

Optimists say that a peaceful resolution of China’s rise as a great power is achievable. The economies of the two powers are so enmeshed that a war sounds unthinkable.

Such is theChina_Prof Gen Liu Mingfu thesis of an important new book just out, “The China Dream,’ by Professor General Liu Mingfu (px), a leading Chinese military thinker and commentator who speaks with the voice of China’s military.

US-China trade accounted for $579 billion last year. Beijing holds $1.2 trillion of US Treasury securities, thus financing a big part of America’s massive trade deficit. China claims its low-cost exports to the US saved American consumers $600 billion in recent years.

China only wants its place in the sun, say its strategists, using the same words as German strategists did before World War I. It’s time for a multi-polar world. The age of American world empire is over, writes Liu Mingfu, words that will not endear him to Republican hawks and neoconservatives.China's Dream_Prof Jen Liu Mingfu

Pessimists retort that Britain and Germany fought two world wars even though they were major trading partners. History is replete with examples of rising powers eventually going to war with the status quo powers resisting their rival’s economic and military growth. The Franco-British-Russian alliance against Germany prior to World War I is a perfect example.

One need not be a swami to see that China’s surging power will soon clash with that of the American hegemon. The battle lines are already drawn: China’s aggressive claims to the South China Sea – viewed by the US Navy as an American lake. Taiwan. Tensions over Burma. Korea. China’s access to the open seas.

According to Prof. General Liu, the days of America’s world domination, or hegemony, as he terms it, are just about over. By 2030, China will be the world’s largest economy in absolute terms (today it rivals the US in purchasing power parity), regaining the geopolitical primacy it formerly enjoyed until the 1500’s when it was the world’s leading economic power.

The US must find a way to accommodate China’s growing power, a point also made for many years by this writer. A policy of containment is not likely to work unless India becomes a principal participant. My first book “War at the Top of the World” deals with the scenario of a future India-China war in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Burma. India has been very cautious in joining any American-sponsored alliance against China.

Liu writes that America must quietly cede some of its power to China in the same manner that the British Empire did to the United States after 1900. The United States and China must share power and jointly rule the world as benign hegemons.

He insists that China has no territorial ambitions and never will. “China suffered 470 foreign invasions within 65 years from 1840 to 1905,” asserts Liu, though incursions would be a more accurate term. During this period, China was raped and pillaged by the western colonial powers and Japan. Hatred of Japan seethes throughout Liu’s book, as it does among most Chinese.

One could argue that China’s annexation or ‘reunification’ of Tibet and Sinkiang were aggressions. China considers them part of historical China, along with truant province Taiwan.

Liu points out that China never invaded or seized its smaller neighbors Korea, Burma, Thailand, or Laos.

Instead, China’s emperors always preferred to dominate without aggression so that its smaller neighbors respected the will of China and acted respectfully – rather as the United States in the 20th century with Latin America. China, writes Liu, wants peace and prosperity in order to keep growing its economy. China remains an inward-looking colossus, content to be the Middle Kingdom.

America, according to the undiplomatic Liu, is a paranoid giant, afraid of the outside world and addicted to the need for enemies abroad. “Americans feel lost without any enemy.” Washington’s occupation and despoliation of so many countries, notably in the Muslim world, generates endless enemies and a war psychosis. America, he claims, is a half-democracy: democratic at home but promoting dictatorships abroad. He seems to believe that China is as democratic at home as the US – a claim that defies reality.

Liu asserts that China is devoted to peaceful relations, non-interference in other nations, and the desire to help build world prosperity, not just its own power or political system. What’s more, Liu modestly asserts, China should lead world development since Chinese are more intelligent and cultured than any other people and heirs to a 5,000-year history!

Interestingly, Liu depicts the 1950 Korean War as a major victory for China because it showed that an Asian nation could fight off the world’s greatest military power. He claims that the US did not invade North Vietnam out of fear of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army after its bloody experience in Korea.

Will Washington back off and allow China to be the master of Asia? It seems highly doubtful. But unless some kind of modus vivendi is found, a military confrontation is likely to follow, one that the US might very well loose. China would be fighting virtually at home or just off its coast. The US, by contrast, would fight thousands of miles across the Pacific from its distant bases. The US might even win, but China would undoubtedly come back for more.

The “China Dream” thesis has been actively taken up by China’s communist leadership. But two things might derail China’s rise to world domination. First, China’s history is replete with example of internal strife, civil wars, and regionalism. This “Chinese curse” could come back to haunt Beijing.

Second, as I read Liu’s panegyric to Chinese greatness and peaceful humanism, I kept recalling Lord Acton’s wise maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely. It happened in Washington, and there’s no reason why it might not occur in Beijing.

By Eric S. Margolis who is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. http://ericmargolis.com/

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US dangerous gamble in S. China Sea, tarnishing China’s image to scare ASEAN; S’pore PM keynote address


http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swfSouth China Sea Dispute: Tension escalates between China and U.S

US takes dangerous gamble in S.China Sea

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday claimed that China’s actions in the South China Sea would bring countries in the region together in new ways and the US will continue to beef up its engagement in the Asia-Pacific at the increasing demands of those nations. “There should be no mistake in this, the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Carter said.

Freedom of flight over and navigation in the South China Sea in no way means that US military planes and vessels can bluntly defy the legal construction activities of China. Based on international law, China will resist any sabotage of its island construction within its own sovereignty and will carry the activities through to the end.

Washington is taking dangerous gamble in the South China Sea. With aggressive US interference, there has been much speculation about the possibility of a US-China military clash in the region. Washington hopes this will convert into pressure on China. It may not expect a compromise from China over island construction, but hopes China would be psychologically burdened in its maritime development.

Is the China-US relationship approaching a tipping point? Some Chinese scholars hold that the US is merely flying a kite. It’s testing China’s determination and strategy to counterstrike US provocation. It’s probable that the US military and diplomatic circles haven’t yet reached a consensus. Washington will make the decision after assessing China’s reaction.

Nonetheless, Washington has taken a step in displaying its hard-line stance toward China. Some Americans are highly vigilant of China’s newly released military strategy white paper, but they can’t be unrestrained in showing their anxiety. How could China, the world second-largest economy, neglect maritime security?

China has made it clear that relevant facilities under construction will be used for peaceful regional development and cooperation. The US suspects the sites may be turned into military outposts to confront US maritime hegemony. But those reefs and islets are China’s own territory. Blocking China’s legitimate actions out of imaginary worries and suspicions is a blunt violation of the norms of international relations and diplomatic principles.

At a time when China is having strong momentum of development and seeking external cooperation for implementing the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, it’s unnecessary for China to divert attention by building military outposts.

The dangerous provocation of the US, driven by their illusion of the worst-case scenario, is unwise and reckless. It is pressing Beijing to act in compliance with Washington’s desire. However, China won’t dance to the rhythm of the US.

US tarnishing China’s image to scare ASEAN

The 14th Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, opened Friday in Singapore. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s deputy chief of staff Sun Jianguo will both give speeches there. The South China Sea issue is expected to be the focus point of this annual meeting.

Before Carter arrived in Singapore, he made strong remarks about China, claiming that China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea will push countries in this region to join hands with the US. It is becoming an increasingly prominent theme for the US in its efforts to drive a wedge into the cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries.

It is true that territory disputes exist in the South China Sea. But the region has the capability to digest the disputes gradually. The blunt interference by the US is worsening the South China Sea disputes. The risk of friction between China and the US over the sea is rising.

China is ASEAN’s largest trade partner, while ASEAN is China’s third largest trade partner. Cooperation between China and ASEAN is the foundation of regional prosperity. The US is losing in the competition for economic cooperation in this region. It is desperately trying to find a way to fill in this gap.

Regional countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam need outside powers to balance a regional power. The US has been taking advantage of their interests in this regard.

Now China is painted as a pursuer of regional hegemony, and the monitoring of China’s attempts to artificially expand islets in the South China Sea have become landmark moves to put a hold on China’s supposed hegemonic efforts.

This is a situation that Washington is pleased to see. But China and ASEAN countries will have to pay the prices for the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

Some are worried that China may use the expanded islets as outposts for military aggression against neighboring countries. But such confrontations are not in China’s interest. China’s latest “One Belt, One Road” initiative promotes developing trade with countries, including those along the “maritime silk road.”

The biggest challenge for China is to find a difficult and subtle balance between its own national interests and regional peace. Some countries wish China to sacrifice its own interests for regional peace. This is unrealistic.

We emphasize an Asia of the Asians, because we believe only Asians really care about Asia’s peace and stability, and still remembers the pains of past turmoil. The US will not take responsibility for Asia’s prosperity, let alone sacrifice itself for Asian countries. ASEAN countries must be clear about this

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-29 & 30 Posted in: Editorial

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Malaysian Strata Management Act 2013 will be enforced from June 1, 2015 in Penang


Cheers for high-rise house buyers

GEORGE TOWN: The state government has endorsed the Strata Management Act 2013 (Act 757) which will be enforced from June 1.

In making the announcement, State Housing, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the new Act was introduced to replace Act 663 or the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007.

It was reported that the new law allows both the landlords and tenants to be brought to court, compared to the previous Act which only allowed action to be taken against the landlord.

Gazetted in 2013 but still awaiting all states in Malaysia to endorse it, the Act streamlines the issuance of strata title and makes it faster for an owner to obtain it from the housing developer.

Besides this, it will impose higher penalties for non-compliance, put more responsibilities on the housing developer for the strata buildings and make sure the management of strata properties is more responsible.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Act would ensure that application for strata titles, the management of buildings and the issues involved would be eased.

“The state exco decided today to give its endorsement so that there will be no disruption to application for strata titles.

“At the same time, we decided to show our willingness to cooperate with the Federal Government by endorsing the Strata Management Act which was approved by the state exco just now during our meeting.

“This means that Penang will be a part of the national implementation of the new Act,” he told a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

Lim added that the endorsement was important as around 60% of housing on the island were stratified units. – The Star/Asia News Network

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Counterfeit medicines and drugs, a public health menance !


Fake medicines may contain toxic substances that include heavy metals (e.g. aresenic) and additives (e.g. steroids). – AFP

The drugs you are taking may be fake

Counterfeit drugs are a booming criminal industry with serious consequences for public health.

Many of us have a strong faith in the power of modern medicine.

We go to the doctor or pharmacist, get the prescribed pills, take them religiously and expect to be cured of whatever ails us.

Oftentimes, this faith is justified, but in an age where fake products abound, have you ever wondered about the authenticity and quality of the drugs that you are ingesting?

According to a 2013 Emerging Markets Health Network report, 3-5% of all medicines being circulated in Malaysia were fakes.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam has also been reported as saying that the ministry had seized some 33,704 unregistered products worth RM43.22mil last year alone.

While this is not high compared to other middle- and low-income countries – for example, the International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group in Indonesia estimates that about one-quarter of medicines on the Indonesian market are fake – it is certainly something to be worried about as it concerns our health.

University of Oxford’s Reader in Tropical Medicine, Prof Dr Paul Newton says that it is difficult to estimate the global size of the problem as there is not enough data.

According to him, there are very few studies, and very few of those are done in a scientifically-rigorous manner, adding that there are certainly hotspots of such problems around the world.

Pfizer Global Security director Mark Robinson shares that the pharmaceutical company sees the highest number of fake drug seizures in Asia, compared to the rest of the world.

But he adds: “That’s because we are targeting (illegal) labs, seizing the drugs before they reach the market.” He observes that in 60 countries around the world, patients went into a legitimate, licensed pharmacy and got counterfeit drugs.

In addition, he notes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over half of those who buy drugs online from unverified websites receive counterfeit medicines.

Two types of fake

Fake drugs, also called poor quality drugs, can be divided into two types: counterfeit and substandard.

Prof Newton explains that counterfeit medicines are made by criminals with the intent to deceive patients and healthcare workers for monetary gain.

According to Robinson, these criminals include entrepreneurs, terrorist organisations, drug syndicates and weapons dealers.

 Brick dust, used to hold the fake pill together, as well as boric acid, leaded highway paint to provide the yellow colour, and floor wax to provide shine, were found to be used in the production of counterfeit mefenamic acid by an illegal lab in Colombia. – AFP

They do it, he says, because it is profitable, because they are pretty sure they won’t get caught, and because even if they do get caught, the penalties are very low compared to the amount of money they can make.

The danger of these drugs is that they can vary from not having any active pharmaceutical ingredient to containing toxic materials. (See What’s in your fake drug)

Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the chemical compounds that treat the medical condition.

Unlike counterfeit drugs, substandard drugs are made by the original or licensed manufacturer, but do not conform to the proper standard of quality.

They are “medicines with mistakes”, says Prof Newton.

These medicines occur due to errors in the factories. Sometimes, they can be small errors, and sometimes, they can be large errors, like using the wrong active ingredient, he says.

He opines that this problem is more likely to occur in low-income countries where there is a lack of drug regulation and quality control measures.

However, as with counterfeit drugs, it is difficult to estimate the size of this problem due to the lack of data.

“Not many people are actually looking (for this problem), so we might have an unpleasant surprise,” he says, adding that in terms of public health, substandard medicines are as dangerous as counterfeit drugs.

He adds that some companies are very active in ensuring that their products are good, but, like any human activity, some cut corners and skip the quality control.

Poor regulation

According to the WHO, only one-fifth of its member states have well-developed drug regulation; half have varying levels of regulation and enforcement; and the remaining 30% have either very limited or no drug regulation at all.

In Malaysia, Dr Subramaniam was reported as saying that online drug sales are a particularly hard area to enforce as the Customs Department does not screen packages valued below RM500, due to the very high number of such packages.

“We have asked the Customs Department to screen all packages, and they are trying to do it, but I think it is quite expensive to put such a system in place,” he said after opening the Access to Safe Medicines Training Conference organised by Mediharta Sdn Bhd in January.

Prof Newton was a speaker at the same conference, while Robinson was a speaker at the launch of Pfizer’s anti-counterfeit technology, Patient Authentication for Safety via SMS (PASS), in Malaysia.

According to Robinson, the top three drugs produced by Pfizer that are found to be counterfeited in Malaysia are erectile dysfunction drug, sildenafil; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammation, celecoxib; and hypertension drug, amlodipine.

He adds that it is not only branded drugs that are counterfeited, but also generic drugs that are no longer patented, like the NSAID mefenamic acid.

“People just want to use our good name (to sell fake drugs),” he says.

Prof Newton notes that antibiotics and cardiovascular drugs are also being increasingly counterfeited in South-East Asia.

He adds that it is not only drugs that are counterfeited, but also medical devices like cardiac stents, rapid diagnostic tests and insecticide-treated bed nets – a problem particularly rampant in Africa.

Bad effects

The effects of fake drugs can be felt both on the individual level, as well as on a wider scale. For the patient, taking counterfeit drugs can range from death to developing more serious health complications.

These health complications may be caused by the actual illness being untreated due to a lack of active ingredients in the counterfeit drug, or the drug containing either toxic ingredients or the wrong active ingredients.

The latter will also make it more complicated for doctors to treat the patients, as they might be confused by the incongruent symptoms.

Counterfeit or substandard drugs that contain less active ingredients than required can also cause drug resistance, particularly if they are antibiotics.

Prof Newton adds that consuming fake drugs also ends up incurring more expense on the patients’ part, as they don’t get better and keep on buying more medications.

Patients might also lose faith in the healthcare system, he says. “If you don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies or doctors, you won’t go back and might seek other alternatives.

He notes that fake drugs will also affect genuine pharmaceutical companies, as well as government healthcare systems and non-governmental organisations that inadvertently purchase these drugs.

Both Prof Newton and Robinson hope that governments around the world will take a stronger stance against counterfeit medicines, both in terms of enacting relevant legislation with much stronger penalties for those producing fake drugs, as well as in terms of enforcement.

Patients should also be more careful of what they consume.

For example, signs that a medicine could be fake include an excessively low price, flimsy or unprofessional packaging, and not requiring a doctor’s or pharmacist’s prescription for non-OTC (over the counter) drugs.

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo:

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

In Malaysia, registered drugs also have a holographic security sticker on their packaging.

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Blacklist the errant and greedy developer who destroyed old building in Penang


What a shame: A file photo of the entrance to the Prai market in Butterworth before it was demolished.

Penang State govt wants firm which tore down market barred from building in Penang

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government wants the developer who demolished the Prai market barred from undertaking future projects in Penang as well as disciplinary action against the police officer and lawyer for allegedly colluding with the builder.

Deputy Chief Minister ll Dr P. Ramasamy said the developer must be blacklisted and prevented from building in Penang for tearing down the 76-year-old market.

He said action must also be taken against the police officer whom he alleged had colluded with the developer during the demolition on May 17.

“I have written to the Penang police chief (Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Abdul Rahim Hanafi) and the Home Ministry to investigate and take action against the police officer.

“I personally want the developer prosecuted and jailed and disciplinary action taken against the police officer who abetted the demolition which is a ‘daylight aggression’ and a total disregard for the law,” Dr Ramasamy said yesterday.

On the action sought against the developer’s lawyer, Dr Ramasamy claimed that the court order was for only the eviction of the people and not for demolition of the market.

“The Bar Council must act on this.”

He said there were plans to conserve the market as a heritage building but the demolition ‘threw a spanner into the works’ to restore the building.

Three police reports had been filed against the developer over the demolition.

The Seberang Perai Municipal Council has now cordoned off the site.

The case against the developer for violating the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 was mentioned in the Bukit Mertajam magistrate’s court yesterday and would be brought up again on June 23

– Nu R. Sekaran The Star/Asia News Network

No getting off the hook – Greedy developer should be taught a lession, Says DCM II

Deplorable: A filepic taken in June last year of the rundown Prai Market that was flattened on Sunday.

GEORGE TOWN: The state government will hold talks with the Seberang Prai Municipal Council on action to be taken against the developer for demolishing the 76-year-old Prai market.

Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said they would look into all avenues, including getting the developer to restore the structure and arch.

“We don’t have many buildings with heritage value on the mainland so we need to go all out to preserve these buildings.

“This greedy developer should be taught a lesson. The council has taken legal action against the developer before and I will ask them to do it again,” he said when contacted yesterday.

It was reported on Monday that a developer had demolished part of the 76-year-old Prai market despite a stop-work order being issued. The developer had gone against the council’s orders for a second time.

Dr Ramasamy was earlier quoted as saying that although the company managed to obtain vacant possession from the court in June last year, it still needed the council’s approval to carry out demolition work.

He said the state had identified the buildings surrounding the Prai market with heritage value, although it had not been gazetted yet.

A check by The Star showed that the arch at the market entrance with the year ‘1938’ on it was also torn down.

Meanwhile, a reader said it was disgraceful to read about the demolition by a developer who could not be bothered about heritage.

Sanjay C.S. said back in the early 70s, his mother used to cycle from their house in Jalan Baru to the market.

“And today, it resembles as if earthquake had struck there.

“In Nepal, their heritage was ruined by nature, but here, it was selfishly destroyed by human greed.

“The nonchalant developer should be heavily punished!” he said, adding that the state needed to protect its heritage buildings outside George Town as well. – By Tan Sin Chow The Star/Asia News Network

Destroyed despite MPSP’s order – Prai market torn down, Penang govt wants action against developer

Destroyed: Workers demolishing the Prai market in Butterworth and (inset) the arch before it was torn down.

BUTTERWORTH: A developer has demolished part of the 76-year-old Prai market despite a stop-work order and the state government wants action taken against the firm.

What’s worse, the developer had gone against the Seberang Prai Municipal Council’s (MPSP) orders for a second time.

Deputy Chief Minister (II) Dr P. Ramasamy said the company managed to obtain vacant possession from the court in June last year but it still needed the council’s approval to carry out demolition work.

“I’ve instructed the council to take legal action against the company. The state government gazetted the buildings surrounding the Prai market, which have been identified as a building with heritage value.

“The workers moved in on Saturday morning and started to demolish the buildings during heavy rain when no one was around.

“This is the second time they’ve done this. They demolished three buildings the first time, and now four buildings,” he said yesterday.

Dr Ramasamy, who is also Prai assemblyman, said 50% of the compensation had been paid to the occupants and the rest would be paid when they move out.

“I would like to remind the company not to touch the Prai market as the council has listed it as a building with heritage value.”

Barber M. Thirunavakkarassu, 61, said he received a call from a friend at about 8am telling him that his shop was being demolished.

“I quickly rushed to my shop but it was too late. Someone could have gotten hurt as the electric supply was not disconnected,” he said.

A check by The Star showed that the arch at the market entrance with the year “1938’ on it was also torn down. MPSP president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said they would prepare the necessary documents so that the landowner-cum-developer could be charged in court for tearing down the buildings.

“This is the second time the developer had committed the offence without obtaining approval from us.

“The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 states that a planning approval is needed before a building is demolished,” she said at the council building in Bandar Perda, Bukit Mertajam.

– By M. SIVANANTHA SHARMA and CHRISTOPHER The Star/Asia News Network

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The Malaysian Education: bleak and bright side, a wake-up call


PISA-banner

The bleak and bright side of Malaysian Education

Malaysia may be getting dismal marks for education but there are dedicated people making a difference to improve scores.

IT’S probably the best definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The famous quote is often wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein but whoever said that, it makes sense, especially in the context of the Malaysian education system.

It’s madness to continue spending billions on education without seeing any improvements in quality.

The Education Ministry has been allocated RM56bil this year, RM1.4bil more than what it received last year.

Our expenditure on basic education is more than double that of other Asean countries and also South Korea and Japan.

Yet Malaysia remains stuck at the bottom third of the global schools league, as confirmed by the results from recent assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2012 study, based on test scores in mathematics and science among 15-year-olds in 76 countries, shows that Malaysia is languishing at 52nd, way below top-ranked Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Our students were out-performed by Vietnam (12), Thailand (47), Kazakhstan and Iran (51). In Asean, Malaysia only ranked higher than Indonesia (69).

In March, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was shocked by Malaysia’s poor results in international education assessments and admitted that the standards were not good enough.

He said the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Preschool to Secondary) and the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) were designed to improve the system, stressing that time was needed to see the changes.

The truth is, we don’t have the luxury of time and patience is wearing thin.

We inherited a solid education system after independence, just as Singapore did. But over the past three decades, successive ministers of education have made a mess of tinkering with the system, mostly for political motives.

Earlier this month, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar suggested that Malaysia emulate Singapore’s education system with English as the sole medium of instruction.

Urging the people to be open-minded about the proposal, he said Singapore’s single-stream education system had not only helped to foster unity in the republic but also created a prosperous society.

It is still not too late to bring back the era of racial harmony and unity experienced by people of my generation, who are products of English schools during the 60s and 70s.

As the Johor Sultan has pointed out, there would always be a gap between the races in the country if our education system continues to be based on race and language, not to mention the increasing influence of religion.

But in spite of the weaknesses in the system, it is heartening to see committed parent-teacher associations and non-governmental organisations pushing fervently to get situations improved.

Last Saturday, I was at Sunway University where groups of eager teenagers were taking part in a Young Inventor Challenge, organised by the Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI), an NGO of volunteers who have been mentoring and encouraging students to excel in science.

ASTI is led by the unassuming Dr Mohamed Yunus Mohamed Yasin, who is credited with bringing about change in the attitude towards science and maths in Tamil schools across the country.

I wouldn’t have known about the quiet science revolution if not for blogger Syed Akbar Ali’s recent post about what Dr Yunus and his group of dedicated friends have been doing over the past 12 years.

As a result of participating in ASTI’s Science Fair for Young Children, Tamil schools are scoring top grades for science and maths in the UPSR.

Last year, SRJK (Tamil) Taman Tun Aminah, Johor Baru, emerged as the top school for the UPSR with 43 pupils scoring straight 7As while others scored 7Bs.

They are making headlines abroad too. In March, three students of SJK(T) Ramakrishna, Penang, beat 300 contestants from all over the world to win first prize at the 35th Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition.

Durgashini Srijayan, Kumurthashri Ponniah and Sugheson Ganeson won the gold medal under the Excellent Youth Science Creation category of the contest for their invention of an eco-friendly thermo container.

In October last year, SJK (T) Kulim’s R. Prevena, V Susheetha and former student R. Rasyikash won the Double Gold Award at the British Invention Show in London for their energy-saving drinks-dispensing machine.

Building on the successes of the science fairs, ASTI started the Young Inventors Challenge, which is open to all secondary schools, three years ago. From the initial 19, the number of schools has since increased to almost 200, including a team from Singapore.

ASTI also organises Creative and Critical Thinking Camps designed for primary schools up to tertiary level, and the ASTI Innovation Community Award to recognise the contributions of individuals or groups using science and technology for beneficial projects.

It also works with Germany’s Goethe Institute in organising the annual Science Film Fest to produce documentaries and teaching films about science.

And it has been doing all these with an annual budget of RM800,000, raised largely from well-wishers, including its 400 volunteers.

Dr Yunus’ philosophy is simple: “Stop complaining, get involved. As patriots, we can help the country do well too.”

By Veera Pandiyan

> Associate editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes William Butler Yeat’s definition of education: it is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.

Take OECD education report as a wake-up call
The Star Says

ITS does not feel good to know that a new report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development places us at 52nd among 76 countries in terms of our students’ grasp of basic skills.

Singapore takes the top spot, thus reinforcing the recent call by Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskandar that we emulate the island nation’s single-stream education system, which uses English as the medium of instruction.

He said having schools in only one stream would unite Malay­sians and boost their competitiveness.

These developments tell us that our education system can be a lot better. Then again, we all know that.

The fact that Malaysia has two education blueprints – one focusing on preschool education and primary and secondary schools, and the other on higher education – shows that the Government is already taking steps to transform our education system.

The blueprints’ plans stretch until 2025, which means we should not hope for many overnight improvements.

Meanwhile, it is wise for us to keep enhancing our understan­ding of exactly how our shared prosperity is built on education.

New ideas and insights in this area are valuable because they help us to shape and refine policies and practices relating to the education system. At the very least, they encourage us to see things in a different light.

It is clichéd to say education is the cornerstone of development, but what if somebody comes up with projections of how much economies can benefit if school enrolment and education quality go up?

In fact, the OECD has done just that in a report titled “Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain”. Published on Wednesday, it is the same report that has Malaysia in the bottom third of the class based on our teenagers’ mathematics and science scores in international tests.

Let us not get hung up on these rankings. The report is 116 pages long and has a lot more to offer than bragging rights and naming-and-shaming opportunities.

For instance, it makes abundantly clear that an underperforming education sector costs a country dearly. The OECD warns that poor education policies and practices will result in a loss of economic output amounting to a permanent state of economic recession.

The organisation also points out that high-income status does not automatically eliminate shortco­mings in education.

It is also interesting that the OECD argues that when there is universal achievement of basic skills in a country, its economic growth will be more inclusive.

The report suggests that there is still much to learn about how we can strengthen our education policies. We should be open to fresh thinking and approaches.

At the same time, we must not waver from the commitment and noble intentions reflected in the blueprints.

Related post:

05 Dec 2013
Malaysia, US, UK and Australia lag in global education rankings as China and Asian countries rise to the top. Chapter 1. What is PISA? Malaysia students score below global average.
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