China top paper warns officials against ‘spiritual anaesthesia’, the root of corruptions


The founder of modern China chairman Mao Zedong.

 

BEIJING: China’s top newspaper warned Communist Party officials not to “pray to God and worship Buddha”, because communism is about atheism and superstition is at the root of many corrupt officials who fall from grace.

China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices like visiting soothsayers.

The party’s official People’s Daily yesterday said in a commentary it had not been uncommon over the past few years to see officials taken down for corruption to have also participated in “feudalistic superstitious activities”.

“In fact, some officials often go to monasteries, pray to God and worship Buddha,” it said.

“Some officials are obsessed with rubbing shoulders with masters, fraternising with them as brothers and becoming their lackeys and their money-trees.”

Chinese people, especially the country’s leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, looking for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid a sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption launched by President Xi Jinping upon assuming power in late 2012, in which dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

The People’s Daily pointed to the example of Li Chuncheng, a former deputy party chief in Sichuan who was jailed for 13 years in 2015 for bribery and abuse of power, who it said was an enthusiastic user of the traditional Chinese geomancy practice of feng shui.

“As an official, if you spend all your time fixating on crooked ways, sooner or later you’ll come to grief,” it said.

The People’s Daily said officials must remember Marx’s guiding words that “Communism begins from the outset with atheism”.

“Superstition is thought pollution and spiritual anaesthesia that cannot be underestimated and must be thoroughly purged,” it said. — Reuters

 

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All in a day’s words in politics


 

Some phrases have become jargon for lawmakers. Many have been overused, and in most cases misused, by this category of people.

 

Ten most incredible remarks by our (or any other) politicians:

 

1. Playing politics – One politician accusing another politician of “playing politics”. If politicians are not playing politics, then what are they supposed to be doing? We expect politicians to, well, play politics and to engage in politicking. That’s their job and that’s the skill they’ve honed. Can we imagine, say, a footballer accusing another of the same act – “he is only playing football.” It’s bizarre when politicians point fingers at their counterparts for playing politics, often with negative connotations, as it amounts to accusing their reflection in the mirror.

2. Serving the people and country – Every politician in any given country says the same thing. They are supposedly only interested in serving the people, the country, religion, race, pets, families and everything they can think of – except themselves! And we are expected to believe that that’s their noble cause and that they don’t have any ulterior ambitions. Yet, they will spend their entire time and resources kicking, back-stabbing, bad-mouthing and clawing their way to the top! Of course, we will duly be told that they can serve the people “better and effectively” the higher they reach, all in the name of the people’s benefit, of course.

3. I will “take note” of the proposal – Which means the politician will do nothing. In fact, if your staff or colleague spouts
the same phrase, it only amounts to the person not deserving a pay rise. Lazy bones syndrome? Highly likely! It’s almost an expression of inertness. Amazingly, it has now become the standard “tactical response” used by politicians to answer fellow Members of Parliament on the opposite bench during Question Time.

4. I “will study” the proposal – This gives the above a run for its money.

The same disinterested, non-committal reply, aka, “I am doing nothing about it”. This merely amounts to, “We will form a sub-committee/a committee/a task force/action committee to study the matter and a report will be submitted to another committee, which will then deliberate the findings.” In short – nothing happens for a while, or probably in the end, nothing happens at all.

5. “I have been misquoted by the press” – This means the politician has screwed up by putting his foot in his mouth (foot-in-mouth disease?), and the only way to get out of the mess, is well, to deny having said it all together.

And if he did say it, then blame the media for taking it “out of context”. And in their minds, this equals: the media has an ulterior motive; the media is biased; the media has an agenda; the media creates fake news.

Well, if the media produces audio or visual evidence to prove the politician’s folly with the said contentious remarks, then the standard operating procedure would likely be “well, I did say it, but I did not mean it THAT way,” or “you did not quite understand what I said”.

6. Fake news – It has frighteningly and sneakily crept its way into Malaysian politics from the United States, President Donald Trump its greatest purveyor. The fake news accusation is a good tactical move to defend illogical/embarrassing situations created by politicians, and used to near perfection by Trump.

It is just as handy for scatterbrain politicians.

7. Trust me – When a politician requests this faith, you know you should believe in your own instincts and scurry in the opposite direction. But it has to be the most overused and, consequently, misused phrase by politicians everywhere, perhaps perfected by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who doesn’t even have to worry about standing for elections!

8. Dementia – It’s a disease all politicians should contract if they wish to survive long in the merciless business of politics. You are expected to lose your memory of past actions against your opponents, if it means, you are now required to swallow your indignation to forge a new political partnership.

“What? I took action against you? Did I? It can’t be, it’s someone else who did it. Not me. If I did, well, I hope to pardon you soon.” Sound familiar?

9. The opposition is only interested in toppling us – Well, that’s exactly their job scope, isn’t it … to take over from the present administration? If they are not interested in toppling existing governments, then aren’t they wasting their time in the opposite side of the camp?

10. There are no permanent enemies, only common interests – In Malaysia, our politicians have turned this into a near artform, hopping in and out of bed so much so voters end up losing track of the number of strange bedfellows.

Let’s not even get into the pillows and strange dreams, or nightmares that have been created for getting in the same sack. One day, a party is accusing another of being an “infidel”, and the next, it is actually working with “infidels”. Almost predictably, after that, it is seen to be friendly with the same party that it has been crossing swords with for decades.

Meanwhile, divorces are announced for the break up with the infidels, yet, the desire to stay in the same house remains, because, well, the rakyat needs to be served.

That’s not all, and this one is even more incredulous – a leader once threw his opponents into the slammer for all kinds of offences, ranging from threatening internal security to sexual perversion, but in the very next instance, touted his once greatest enemy as the leader-in-waiting and probably gave him a BFF status on his FB. Of course, our voters are expected to subscribe to all of this and believe it’s for their own good.

On The Beat by Wong Chun Wai

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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Everybody has Buddha nature


‘Everybody has the Buddha nature’: Experts analyze Buddhism’s global appeal

As one of the world’s major religions, Buddhism is popular in the West despite its foreign origins and language barriers. And with exchanges of ideas between different regions, such as this month’s first China-Canada-US Buddhist Forum, Buddhism is likely to become more influential.

Buddhism’s appeal internationally is despite significant cultural and ideological differences between continents. Shen Weirong, a professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies at Tsinghua University, told Dialogue with Yang Rui that Buddhism has entered a “golden age” worldwide.

The religion is developing at speed, not only in Tibet and across other parts of China but abroad, said Shen.

In these violent times, one of the notable aspects of Buddhism is its teaching of peace. It is said that no wars have been fought in the name of Buddhism.

Dayi Shi, president of the Buddhist Association of Canada, thinks Buddhists’ sense of compassion is important.

“In Buddhist history, we don’t have any violence, because Buddha always tells us we have to have compassion,” he explained. “We have to respect each other even though we have different beliefs, we have different religions. But we still have to respect each other. Why? Because everybody has the Buddha nature.”

By Yao Nian ,Wang Dong  – CGTN  

How to Spot Fake News?


 ‘Essential to tackle fake news correctly’

 
KUALA LUMPUR: Your office is swamped by phone calls from impatient customers, asking why they have yet to receive their free plane tickets as promised for ha­­ving participated in a survey.

You find out later that they had completed the survey which was featured on a dubious website.

Or, when you come to work, you see a horde of unhappy customers waiting outside the building, demanding to know why they were not informed that they would have to pay a fee if they did not get their membership cards renewed by the month’s end.

Apparently, there had been a Facebook posting about the new fee ruling.

The above two incidents happened in Kuala Lumpur over the past year.

In the age of scams, fake news and “alternative facts”, such cases are getting more frequent.

A recent incident involved shoemaker Bata Primavera Sdn Bhd, which was accused of selling shoes with the Arabic word “Allah” formed in the pattern on the soles.

Bata ended up removing 70,000 pairs of the B-First school shoes from its 230 stores nationwide.

It was a step which cost them RM500,000 in losses.

The shoes were returned to the shelves only after Bata was cleared of the allegation by the Al-Quran Printing Control and Licensing Board of the Home Ministry on March 30.

In February, AirAsia came under unwanted attention when its brand name was used in a purported free ticket survey and fake ticket scam.

Back in 2014, the airline had also asked its customers to be wary of an online lottery scam which made use of its name to solicit personal information from them.

What is more astounding is that the e-mail highlighting the lottery had been circulating since 2011.

And in January last year, Public Bank saw a rush of customers crowding its branches to renew their debit cards.

A Facebook post that had gone viral claimed that they would be charged a RM12 fee if they did not renew it by Jan 31.

What are the dos and don’ts for companies under attack by fake news?

“A quick and concise response is the way to go,” said AirAsia’s head of communications Aziz Laikar.

“Be prepared. The more high profile the brand is, the quicker the response should be.”

The communications team have to be able to draw up a statement fast to deal with the issue head on before it grows to a full-blown crisis, Aziz said.

He listed out four steps that a company could take.

“Start by immediately responding with facts via a short statement to the media, as well as on social media platforms,” he said.

Aziz also advised companies to lodge police reports and to make use of the chance to educate the public that they should always refer to announcements made via official platforms.

“Also, disseminate the information internally to your colleagues. Every employee should be a brand messenger.

“They are a powerful force to spread the correct message.

“The best way to effectively ma­­nage an issue is to make sure the entire company is aware of the situa­tion and able to communicate it correctly,” he said.

Ogilvy account director Clarissa Ng said that loyal clientele and employees were usually a company’s “first line of defence” and must be treated well.

Ng, who has handled the case of a client hit by rumours of exploding phones, preferred a “low profile” approach in dealing with such fake news.

She opted by focusing on promo­ting the phone’s safety features.

The campaign reassured consumers that the phone underwent rigorous testing in their laboratories in Shenzhen, China, and how its electrical current would be cut off automatically to prevent the gadget from exploding.

“Sometimes, the more you explain, the public will demand more answers. How we handled it was to remain low profile,” she said.

Source: By ADRIAN CHAN The Star

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Where is your Datukship from, Datuk? The trouble with titles


Malaysia is in danger of becoming a nation with the most number of decorated people

THIS has to be a record of some sort – a notorious gang of 60 hardened criminals including four low-level politicians with the titles of Datuk and a Datuk Seri, has been netted in a series of swoops.

The Gang 360 Devan gang, involved in murder, drug-pushing, luxury car theft and hijacking, has to be the gang with the most number of titled leaders.

Then, there is also the leader of the notorious Gang 24 – a Datuk Seri – who was among 22 men held in another spate of arrests.

Last December, a gang leader known as Datuk M or Datuk Muda was shot dead by his bodyguard while they were driving along the Penang Bridge. The Datuk was a detainee at the Simpang Renggam centre.

A day later, a video went viral showing a heavily tattooed man being violently beaten up by a group of men believed to be gangsters, at the late Datuk’s funeral.

Three days ago, there was a series of arrests by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) which saw a number of Datuks being arrested and charged.

If we hold the record of being the country which has the highest ratio of government servants, we may also soon be the country with the most number of titled people.

And if we are not careful, we could well be a country which has the most titled criminals.

The people being conferred a Datukship seem to be getting younger and some are surprisingly under 30 years old, which begs the question – what have these youngsters contributed to society to deserve such titles?

Last October, Singapore’s Straits Times carried prominently a news report of a teenager who purportedly became the youngest “Datuk” in the country.

“The image that went viral shows the apparent recipient of the title standing in a crowded waiting room while dressed in ceremonial attire with the caption reading: “Youngest Dato in Malaysia … 19 years.”

The Malaysian media, which carried the news earlier, has not been able to verify the age of the person in the photo. And no one has denied the authenticity of the article, not even the person in the photo, who may actually be older than he looks.

Regardless of which state these titles are from, many Malaysians rightly deserve the recognition from the royal houses because of their community work, in various forms.

One or two states, especially Pahang, seem to be more generous in conferring awards while states like Selangor, Johor, Perak, Sarawak and Kelantan are more stringent in their selection.

The Selangor state constitution states that only a maximum of 40 Datuk titles can be conferred each year.

The Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has imposed stricter conditions – including the minimum age of 45 – for a person to be conferred the state’s Datukship, to limit the number of recipients and protect the image and dignity of the awards.

In the case of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has expressed his frustrations openly, saying sarcastically “that it has come to a point that if you throw a stone, it will hit a Datuk and when the stone rebounds, it will hit another Datuk”, to illustrate the point that Malaysia is in danger of becoming a nation with the most number of decorated people.

While the increasing number of people with the Datuk title has long been a contentious issue, what Malaysians are concerned about is the number of such titled persons being involved in crime.

Pictures of a certain Datuk with a visible tattoo on his hand, purportedly depicting his gang allegiance, have long gone viral on social media.

Malaysians are asking whether royal houses submitted the names of potential recipients to the police for vetting before conferring them with titles. This is a practice of the Sultan of Selangor. If that were the case with every state, criminals would not have been awarded.

I have complete faith in the ability of our police force. They will carry out their duty of checking the background of such people if asked to do so.

But what is taking place now in Malaysia is also a reflection of our people’s obsession with titles, honorifics and even fake academic titles.

Our former deputy prime minister, the late Tun Ghafar Baba, was just plain Encik, until the day he retired from office.

In Tunku Abdul Rahman’s first Cabinet, after we achieved independence, only five of 15 ministers were made Datuks.

The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, only held the title of Justice of Peace – which is recognised in Commonwealth countries.

Penang’s first Chief Minister, the late Wong Pow Nee, had no title until he retired, after which he was made Tan Sri. Another was the late Gerakan president Dr Lim Chong Eu who only became Tun upon retirement.

In short, things were pretty simple back then, with proper methodology when it came to conferring decorations, medals and titles. But not today.

There are now so many variations of the Datuk titles – Datuk Seri, Datuk Sri, Datuk Paduka, Dato’, Datuk Wira and Datuk Patinggi (depending on the states) – it has become confusing, even to members of the media.

There are now calls from some titled people that the press should use their titles accurately. I can only imagine the number of corrections the media has to deal with if mistakes are made and some snooty individual gets upset.

In the 1970s, the media decided to standardise how these title holders should be addressed by calling them all “Datuk”. The press also decided to call the Datuk Sri from Pahang “Datuk Seri”.

It is just impossible to check every single title or pre-fix when naming a person.

The reporter does not ask the police where the criminal suspect got his Datukship. Neither can we ask the Datuk criminal as he is being led to the courts in handcuffs, “Where is your Datukship from, Datuk” ?

Besides Brunei, the Malaysian press must be the only one that includes the titles of individuals. Well, there is the British media but they only address those who are knighted with the title “Sir”.

The royalty shouldn’t be the only party blamed for the increasing number of Datuks. Malaysians are willing to go to all lengths to buy the titles, even from bogus sources.

But the titles must not be bestowed on any one with a criminal record or it makes a mockery of this honour.

By Wong Chun Hai The Star/ANN

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Penang Free School: Learning religiously – without religion !


Penang Free School:

Penang Free School, the first English school in the country, turns 200 in a week. It was, and remains, a school for the brave and the true. And for the Free.

WE’RE on the cusp of history. A week from today, the oldest English school in the country, Penang Free School, will turn 200. It’s a proud moment for the school. And for yours truly. I spent my formative years in that school.

It’s the kind of school that cliches are made off – you can take a student out of Free School but you can never take the Free out of the students. We will always be Old Frees.

The old boys are already celebrating. There have been golf tournaments, dinners and get-togethers lined up. There was a 73-day, 20,000km road convoy from Penang to Dittisham, Devon, in Britain, where the founder of PFS, Reverend Robert S. Hutchings, was born.

The six-vehicle convoy left on July 17 and arrived at its destination on Oct 3.

The huge school field is now covered with canopies waiting for the thousands of Old Frees who will gather there on Oct 21 to celebrate the grand old dame’s birthday.

The field is one of the things most Old Frees would remember. It was both a blessing and a bane. With two football fields, three hockey pitches and a cricket pitch, it was great for outdoor activities.

The track around the field was good training ground for long-distance runners. But for the errant ones in school, it was a pain. The teachers made you run around the field as punishment. If you were not athletically inclined, that was punishing indeed.

But it was the teachers who made the school wonderful. We had some of the best and most dedicated teachers – not just in the subjects they taught but also in sports.

There was Wilson Doss, the cricket-mad teacher. He played for Selangor, Penang and even in international matches and he would try to get every lad in the school to give the sport a try-out.

I have to admit to being an absolute flop at it. With only the experience of playing “rounders” with the neighbourhood gang, I would hurl the cricket bat away as I ran. And Mr Wilson would growl.

There was N. Vallupillay, the hockey coach with the kindest of souls. He, too, would try to get everyone to play hockey and among the top players he nurtured was former national captain Ow Soon Kooi.

With Vallupillay at the helm, PFS was the state’s school hockey champion for 20 years from 1964 to 1984. The rivalry with St Xavier’s Institution and the Bukit Mertajam High School was intense, sometimes even rowdy.

Vallupillay then moved to George Town Secondary School and voila, that school became another hockey powerhouse in the state.

Then, there was Johnny Ooi, yet another teacher who was very much into hockey and who took over when Mr Vallupillay left.

Ooi Bee Seng was the basketball man. Under his watch, more basketball courts were built and more of the students turned to the game.

Nai Bej Sararaks was the athletics guy. Every now and then, he would bundle a gang of us into his beat-up jalopy and drive us off to training. The one I vividly remember was when we ran up Penang Hill from what Penangites know as Moongate.

The man waited at the bottom of the hill as the bunch of us ran up to the top of the hill and later scrambled all the way down. He was there with some juice before taking us all back to the school.

There was no need then for sports schools or schools of excellence. The teachers delivered. It’s been some years but I believe the teachers in the school are still a dedicated bunch.

But the real wonder of the school is the belief on which it is built – that it should be free from religion and open to all.

It’s a very strange thing. At a time when almost all education was under the care of priests (or brothers), there was one Rev Hutchings who did not want to impose his religious beliefs on the local populace.

When Hutchings first petitioned for a “free school”, his aim was to provide a school to educate, feed, and clothe orphans and poor children. It wasn’t about religion – only about education.

Yes, there was a bit of “free” in the financial sense. Only those who could afford it were asked to pay $3, $2, and $1 per year. Poor children were exempted.

The country has come a long, long way from then. Education standards have slumped. We have been dithering over the direction we want to take. Sports in schools is no longer a big thing. Few teachers believe in the power of sports.

Instead, religion has come into schools in a big way. There is a lot of emphasis on religious education and rituals, causing our children to drift apart from one another.

There really is a need for more new “free” schools – schools where education and sports are where the emphasis is.

 

Why Not? By Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.

The writer, who can be reached at raj@thestar.com.my, still salutes the gates of the school when he drives by. She is, after all, alma mater – the mother who nurtured him.

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Islamic State terror attacks on eve of Malaysia’s National Day foiled


KUALA LUMPUR – For months, the three men laid low, going about their daily routine while waiting for the signal to attack to come from Syria.

When at last the instruction came from notorious Islamic State (IS) militant Mohamad Wanndy Moha­mad Jedi at the end of July, the men quickly started gathering arms and putting together a chilling plan.

They were going to attack on the eve of National Day when the rest of their countrymen were celebrating what it meant to be Malaysians and among their targets are a temple in Batu Caves, the Kajang police headquarters and various entertainment outlets.

The men were in the last phase of their plans – even going to the extent of monitoring their targets – when the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division moved in on them.

Anti-terror officers detained the men – a 20-year-old contractor, a 27-year-old butcher and a college student, also 20 – in Selan­gor, Pahang and Kuala Lumpur between Aug 27 and 29.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said all the planning and logistics had been masterminded by Mohamad Wann­dy, who appeared to be pulling the strings among the network of IS militants here.

“They were taking orders from him,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Sources revealed that the contractor was arrested on Aug 27 when officers raided his home in Sungai Merab Luar in Kajang.

“We seized a K75 grenade and a CZ 2075 RAMI pistol along with 24 .9mm bullets. We believe he obtained the weapons from a middleman,” said Khalid.

The man was believed to have picked up the weapons from a drop-off location at a cemetery in Damansara at about 9pm in late July.

“It was no doubt arranged by Mo­hamad Wanndy. Authorities believe that militants from another cell supplied the weapons and placed them at the drop-off point.

“Militants from different cells often do not know each other to reduce the risk of being tracked by the authorities,” a source said.

It is learnt that the butcher was detained in Kampung Paya Kecil in Temerloh, Pahang, while the college student was picked up from his home in AU3, Keramat, in the city.

“The other two did not have weapons with them but authorities believe they were waiting for supplies,” added the source.

Authorities are also not ruling out the possibility that one of the men could have been tasked to pick up a ready-made Improvised Explosive Device.

“Some of their targets were police patrol units in Kajang. The authorities believe that Mohamad Wanndy really wanted his cell members to carry out a big attack on the eve of National Day.

“He wanted to make a big impact as he was not satisfied with the scale of the Movida bomb attack,” a source said.

It is learnt that the three men had been communicating with Moha­mad Wanndy since January but the order to attack was only given on July 30 once they had gotten hold of the explosives and ammunition.

It is also believed that they were planning to escape to Thailand before eventually making their way to Syria, where they are expected to meet Mohamad Wanndy.

With the grenade seized in this latest case, this brings to seven the number of those still unaccounted for after the Movida attack on June 28.

The first known IS attack on home soil injured several people after a grenade was thrown at the Movida Restaurant in Puchong.

Four people are expected to be charged in various courts in Johor for abetting in the bombing of Movida today.

With the latest arrest, the number of militants detained since 2013 has risen to 239 and the attacks foiled to date, 13.

When police detained nine IS mi­­li­­tants in early August, three of them – two were involved in the Mo­­vida bombing – had also been taking orders from Mohamad Wanndy.

They were ordered to launch another attack against an entertainment outlet in Johor.

Mohamad Wanndy has emerged to be the main influence on the IS militant network in the country, with people caught following his orders and raising funds.

By Farik Zolkepli The Star/Asia News Network

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