Liberating the Malay mindset, the right way to speak out


 

 

The right way to speak out

I REFER to the article “The real Malay Dilemma” ((The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics, Siti Thoughts, Sunday Star, Aug 26). Siti Kassim made her details as clear as they can be but not without error in her bewildering opinion on the subject.

Siti’s observation is near faultless and I wonder if she is sincere enough to defend the cause of changing the so-called Malay mindset. Firstly, why publish such a strong, emotional and provocative article in an English newspaper if she insists that she has studied her “targeted audience” well enough?

Learn and appreciate the views of a different mindset before telling everyone to change. According to Bakri Musa, a mindset refers to the outlook in or philosophy of life. It is a set of ideas, attitudes and opinions that we – as individuals or members of a group – share of reality, or of what we recognise to be reality.

Neurologically speaking, a mindset is the pre-existing neural pattern in our brain; conceptually, it is our mental hypothesis of reality. Having said this, the mindset is not really a result of the religion’s influence but rather of their past experiences.

It is common to see differing mindsets among people in other countries too, but why exactly wouldn’t anyone in those countries make a big fuss about it?

Malaysia is a progressing population and some of its characters do not wish to portray their advancement as a double-edged weapon. We need to be thoughtful and informed about it.

Not only is it the wrong thing to say but it is also the wrong way to do it. We understand that Islam is a way to help ourselves to improve. There is no flaw in Islam when we talk about civilisation; Islam is civilisation. It was a tried-and-true Islamic value that brought the ancient world to its golden age during its peak.

Some individuals who have a lazy understanding of Islam will describe its teachings as backward, prohibitive and jumud; and they repeatedly use Islam as an excuse for many problems. This unceasing stream of vitriol towards Islam is nothing new.

A change in government will not change the people’s mindset. The May general election did not bring about a change in mindset but rather a choice of two governments, one less benign than the other.

It is not surprising that the so-called liberal Malays are accused of being blasphemous because the accusers are not able to answer or defend a particular issue brought up by repugnant personas. With this in mind, if we let it continue, Malays will be further divided as liberals and conservatives.

Majlis ilmu, seminars and tahfiz schools are not harmful; on the contrary, they are as good as TED Talks if we want them to be. Let’s see them in a different light. Being obsessed with such things is not harmful. We are in dire need of getting the right contents and ideas to share – and we have many of them.

Why would we want to waste such golden opportunities for getting the right message across? If we need to tweak the content to make it more conducive, multicultural or suggestive, we will do better as multicultural societies.

If we can encourage the Malays to ask the right questions about development and their contribution as a Malaysian community, and ultimately shape the demand for knowledge, then every ustaz, ustazah and religious teacher will have to provide the right answers.

But why wouldn’t the Malays ask the right questions? Maybe that is when the fixed mindset comes into play. Rather than putting these forums in a poor light and defining them as the reasons for the nation’s problems, there are more effective ways to bring the change via the same existing ground.

We do not want to compare Malaysia with Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Switzerland for that matter. There are different dynamics in Malaysia, and even Aceh has its own uniqueness. Malaysia will never be like those countries and those countries will never be like Malaysia.

On the same note, we do not need to model Malaysia on other Muslim-majority countries, good or bad. We should stand on our own and set a new precedent for other Muslim countries to follow.

We are not going to focus on religion solely for the afterlife but as an equally important design to survive and compete globally together as a nation.

Any issues found in other Muslim countries are coherently found in non-Muslim countries: bad governance and corruption are universal. We can uphold syariah law and be 100% Islamic, yet there will still be people who circumvent the law to line their pockets.

We are moving towards changing the paradigm of Malays being supplicants. Most Malays are ready to lead the change. The only thing is they are not singing loudly enough. So who or what is holding them back?

Malays can’t dispel the stereotypical perception others have of them. And we always make efforts to maintain our self-affirmation, not surprisingly buttressing the stereotype in the process.

Some Malays fear more the threat of being seen as a stereotype rather than actually being the stereotype, and this could be one of the reasons why we see gaps in streamlining the grand purpose of understanding Islam among the progressive Malays.

Being apologetic for the bumiputra policy is not considered appropriate as it was properly studied and the implication was well understood.

Our forefathers would have known the long-term divisive consequences, and this is particularly poignant given the non-bumiputra’s outstanding contributions in developing the country.

However, all Malaysians must accept that such a policy is the right way to help the nation. Malays have already become aware of the reasons for such policies and of how the opinions of some of them are being manipulated by politicians to stay in power. We just need to know when and where to make a healthy distinction.

I celebrate Siti’s righteousness and her gifts but she has to be careful that she uses them wisely and avert some scenarios that will hamper everyone’s efforts.

If maybe one day Siti could share the good things she likes about Muslim and Malays, and share these as an agent of change, there would definitely be more who would listen to her and be inspired, I guarantee it.

Being an activist without having an action plan to change the people’s mindset is not going to work.

IKMAL BAHARUDIN Kuala Lumpur, The Staronline
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Are Malays powering the nation ?


The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics messed up!

Old politics: If the leadership keeps to the racialist, feudalist and religious-centric tactics and policies of the past, thinking this is what they need to do to keep the votes, it will just be the repeat of  past mistakes of the Umno era.

Malays are powering the nation

WE refer to “The real Malay Dilemma” (The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics./Sunday Star, Aug 26) by Siti Kassim. Siti’s rambling diatribe against Malay Muslims can be reduced to two baseless, provocative, insulting and defamatory allegations, namely:

1. Assimilation of Islamic values in governance is responsible for Malay backwardness and inability to compete with other races; and

2. Malays, constituting 60% of the population, are unproductive and parasitical, depending on the industry and labour of the remaining 40%, Chinese and Indians.

On the assimilation of Islamic values in governance, Siti questions whether “a Malay society, more insular and superstitious in thought… can compete on a fair footing with the rest of the Malaysian non-Muslim population.” She writes that Malays have been given preferred places in universities, GLCs and the civil service for over 40 years, resulting in “uncompetitive universities, a significant pool of unemployable Malay graduates and with most being employed by the civil service… failed GLCs and …corrupt administration…” She asks if more religion would help and continues, “This has been the unintended consequence of the assimilation of Islamic values in governance.”

What evidence has Siti got to link the above allegations of Malay backwardness to the so-called Islami­sation? Has she conducted any studies or consulted reports and research findings to come to that conclusion? Her claim is just hot air driven by prejudice towards Islam.

There has been no assimilation of Islamic values in governance as provided by the syariah. Having prayer rooms in government offices, teaching Islam to Muslim students in schools, broadcasting azan on TV or having an Islamic TV channel do not make governance Islamic. The Malaysian state is based on a constitution drafted by secular jurists and not on syariah. Most government leaders and top bureaucrats, products of Western education, are very much influenced by secular ideas and ignorant about Islam and its contributions to civilisations.

It is the separation of the moral from governance under a secular system that has facilitated the corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and cronyism of our government leaders and administrators. So, why blame Islam?

Siti condemns Malays as parasites. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a parasite as a person who is lazy and lives by other people working and giving them money.

Siti writes that the majority of Malays are satisfied with their lives and carry on being religiously obsessed because they have been “able to live off the teats of the government in one way or another”.

She continues: “Thirty per cent to 40% of the population cannot sustain 100% of us. You need the remaining, at least majority, of that 60% (Malays) to be able to truly contribute economically and not be consumers of tax from the minorities. And religion is not an economic contributor. It is an unproductive consumer of epic proportions with no returns.”

Obviously, she has not heard of Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. To Siti, Malay businessmen, professionals, workers, farmers, fishermen, civil servants, police and soldiers do not contribute sales tax, income tax, road tax and other taxes payable under our laws. They are only “consumers of tax from minorities (Chinese and Indians)”. In other words, they are parasites. This is an insulting and provocative lie!

She claims that the transformation of Malaysia from an agricultural to an industrial nation with liberal economic policies was “powered by an industrious non-Malay population and the liberal segment of the Malay society”. She must have been blinded by prejudice not to see the role played by millions of Malay workers, engineers, surveyors, architects, policymakers and administrators in the industrial development of Malaysia.

Good public education and healthcare services are essential to becoming a developed industrial society. In 2016, Irina Bokova, then the Unesco director-general, praised Malaysia for “leading the way in South-East Asia in fostering inclusive and equitable education as the basis of sustainable green growth”.

And in his message on 2018 World Health Day, WHO regional representative Dr Lo Ying-Ru Jacqueline stated that Malaysia has been acknowledged globally for its high-performing health system based on a well-trained workforce, excellent infrastructure and quality service delivery.

Since independence, infant death has fallen by more than 90% to 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. Maternal mortality has also decreased by 89% between 1963 and 2013.

Who are these “well-trained workforce”? Mostly “unemployable Malay graduates” from “uncompetitive universities” and other institutions.

Who are the members of “the liberal segment of the Malay society” who powered the industrial transformation of Malaysia?

Are they those who are blond and advocating “separation of religion and government; religion must be a private matter and kept private; take out religious education from the public arena”?

Or those who call for recognition of homosexual, gay and lesbian rights; criminalisation of polygamy and decriminalisation of adultery; and free sex?

Sorry Siti, if there was any contribution from this deviant group, it was very minimal as many of them look to green pastures outside Malaysia and migrate. The rapid transformation of the Malaysian economy has been powered by patriotic devout Malay Muslims and the minorities, Chinese and Indians.

It is not the Malays who face a dilemma in engaging the modern world because their religion teaches them to seek success in this world and in the hereafter (Quran 2:201). It is Siti who faces a serious dilemma on whether to decolonise her thinking and become a true Malay Muslim or remain a Western secular clone.

By MOHD AZMI ABDUL HAMID President
Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization

Endorsed by:

Syekh Ahmad Awang, chairman, International Union of Muslim Scholars Malaysia

Syekh Abdul Ghani Samsudin, chairman, Secretariat for the Assembly of Ulama of Asia

Assoc Prof Dr Roslan Mohd Nor, secretary-general, Ulama Association of Malaysia

Datin Ustazah Aminah Zakaria, chairperson, Persatuan Persaudaraan Muslimah Malaysia

Hj Baharudin Masrom, secretary, Kongres Ummah

Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan, committee member of SHURA

Prof Dr Rahmatullah Khan, committee of MaSSa

Dr Abdul Rahman Ahmad, committee of SUARA

Datuk Abdullah Mad Din, former director of Islamic Division, Ministry of Education

Datuk Hadzir Md Zain, former deputy director-general, Implementation Coordination Unit, JPM


Elaborating the dilemma in today’s terms

I REFER to the comments from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization in response to my latest column “The real Malay Dilemma” (The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics/Sunday Star, Aug 26).

Mine was an opinion piece. It seems the writer of the letter from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization and the characters endorsing it cannot differentiate between journalism and opinion. Having said that, whatever I say speak for itself.

Our former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn were all secularists. Our present Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Malay Dilemma” and what he continues to say today about how we Malays practise Islam still stands. I just elaborated the dilemma in today’s terms.

Is our Malay society not more insular or more superstitious than in the 80s? Ask yourselves. I won’t go into the nonsense and tahyul being preached on Malay sites that are popular today; let’s just look at the public universities that are managed and led by Malays. Did we use to have faculties in universities producing anti-hysteria kits or paranormal detection equipment or holding seminars on hell or how to interact with non-Muslims?

There’s a chief syariah judge proposing to have standard operating procedures for cases with “mystical elements”.

What is going on? Even in the 70s or 80s, such nonsense was unheard of among Malays leading our institutions.

Just reading the rants equating liberalism with perverts and everything to do with sex practically tells one of their mindset. They cannot escape from their dogmatic conservative religious notion of what makes a person a liberal.

They are intent on demonising liberalism so they can impose devoutness as they see it unto society.

Where were all these defenders of Islam and the Malays when our leaders were robbing the nation blind? Did we hear a peep from them?

I speak of leadership to change our society. I am so glad, in spite of the recalcitrant conservatives, that the Sultan of Selangor took the mantle of leadership and pronounced that the legal age of marriage be raised to 18 for Muslims. That is liberalism.

Only liberals have been calling for this to protect the childhood of our girls and to ensure they have the opportunity for education and a full life.

I am a Malay and a Muslim. I will speak up for the good of our society without fear or favour or intimidation. We need to face our demons and change to progress. Someone needs to tell the inconvenient truths.

By SITI KASSIM

National unity – an inconvenient truth?

Dear new government, if you continue to divide us, you will rue the day.

 

TWO events in recent days reminded me what is truly important to this nation.

The first was the National Day celebration on Friday in Putrajaya.

Although the euphoria over GE14 has waned, there was still enough to make me want to be part of the National Day celebration even if via my telly. So I did something I hadn’t done in years: got up early just to watch the parade.

The cameras at Dataran Putrajaya showed thousands of Malaysians who were more excited than me and had taken the trouble to line the thoroughfare to enjoy the spectacle and catch glimpses of members of the new Cabinet.

Indeed, it was deja vu to see Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali sitting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V on the VIP grandstand.

It was also a touch surreal to see several faces we once thought impossible to see in such a setting – Cabinet members such as Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Gobind Singh Deo, Lim Guan Eng, Mohamed Sabu, M. Kulasegaran and Teresa Kok.

On the pavement, the opening and closing acts by flag-waving young Malaysians dancing in unison warmed the cockles of my heart.

I appreciated the effort to ensure all races were brought together to perform in a show of unity, emphasising the slogan: Sayangi Malaysiaku.

Yes, I do love my Malaysia, as do millions of others who were born and bred in this gracious, blessed land. That birthright is what unites us all.

And that is the key lesson to the well-being of our nation – unity.

Which leads me to the second event: the GE14-inspired movie, Rise: Ini Kalilah.

I caught it on Monday night and relived somewhat that incredible time when Malaysian history was made.

While not perfectly told and it is a story that only Malaysians can fully understand and appreciate, the movie has enough to keep its audience interested and it ultimately delivers the feel-good factor as it too reinforces the power of unity; that is, what can be achieved when enough citizens unite for a common cause.

Yet that power was never properly developed because it was politically inexpedient.

For its own political survival, especially after the 2008 GE, the Barisan Nasional government preferred to use race and religion to divide and rule the nation. That ultimately wreaked havoc on our interracial ties, as stated in local human rights group Pusat KOMAS’ Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report released in March this year.

National unity, as far can I can remember, was trotted out as important only after something bad had happened.

It took the terrible May 13, 1969, racial riots for the government to set up the National Unity Council.

The council was disbanded in 1971 and replaced by the National Unity Advisory Council, whose secretariats were the Department of National Unity and the National Muhibbah Office.

The two agencies were merged to form the National Unity Ministry in 1972. But it only lasted till 1974, when it was replaced by the National Unity Board.

The next time national unity took the spotlight was after GE13. The results showed the need to do something to reduce racial polarisation and to build a “united Malaysian nation”. That led to the formation of the National Unity Consultative Council in September 2013.

The NUCC held a series of meetings with agencies and NGOs to formulate a National Unity Blueprint. In 2014, it proposed three so-called Harmony Bills to replace the Sedition Act.

But the Act remained and the Bills became mired in controversy since they would make it mandatory for the government and all persons to promote equality and prohibit discrimination based on religion, race, birthplace, gender and disability. That was somehow anathema to the Malay agenda and the Bills went on the backburner.

It would appear the previous government saw the need for better national unity as an inconvenient truth and continued to use it for “display purposes only.”

So whither national unity in New Malaysia?

Political scientist Chandra Muzaffar, in criticising Pakatan for leaving it out in its election manifesto, wants the new government to make its stand known and emphasise the Rukunegara to show “it is serious and sincere about one of Malaysia’s foremost challenges but would have also demonstrated that it is crystal-clear about the direction we should take as a people.”

But others take a different view. Prolific online commentator T.K. Chua says: “What is the point of declaring unity as our goal when our policies, programmes and actions are doing just the opposite?”

He adds: “It is time to stop the endless declarations and slogans typical of a third world country. We can’t talk ourselves to national unity. National unity is the product of years of inclusive policies, programmes and actions.”

And that is what he wants to see in the Pakatan government – action, or in today’s jargon, walk the walk.

I take both views to be important: talk the talk and walk the walk. In our fractured nation, we sorely need to hear Pakatan leaders openly and loudly embrace national unity as a must-do KPI and then see them implement it in all their policies and actions for the long haul. Only then can we hold them to their words and judge them by their actions.

For now, Pakatan still seems dazed by its own victory and further stunned to find government machinery that Dr Mahathir says is broken.

If that is the case, Pakatan has the chance to rebuild the machinery that was abused by its predecessors and set it right. No more “divide and rule” but “one for all and all for one”!

By June H L Wong
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The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics messed up!

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what they need to do to keep the votes, it will just be the repeat of
past mistakes of the Umno era.

 

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The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics messed up!


Old politics: If the leadership keeps to the racialist, feudalist and religious-centric tactics and policies of the past, thinking this is what they need to do to keep the votes, it will just be the repeat of past mistakes of the Umno era.

The issue is whether any of the Malay leadership  would be willing
to change its society from a religious-centric one to one that is
progressive and modern in character

A HIGH-level panel has been announced to review the administration of Islamic Institutions at the Federal level. Commendably, all views from the general public is welcomed. The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal is also quoted as saying, in the announcement of this Panel, that it was appropriate that the related institutions undergo improvement so as to protect the religion of Islam, as well as promote its universal values in the country.

So here is a short opinion – Islam does not need protection, nor does it need to be institutionalised.

As a Muslim, I believe in God Almighty. His religion does not need anyone’s help, least of all from fallible human beings. Islam and God has no need for anything, but human beings do. No one represents Islam. Everyone represents their version of Islam that suits their wants and needs. These include those in political parties that say it represents Islam but simply do not. They merely represent their personal human interest for power and authority.

We need our Government to protect us from people who want to wield powers upon others by using religion as their weapon. That is what we Malaysians, Muslims and non-Muslims need. I want to ask the political leaders of Malaysia, elected and unelected: What do you intend to do to protect us from those in power whose interest is to wield their religion over others?

In Malaysia today, we are obsessed with religion. Politicians and Ministers talk about religion and upholding religion. We have dedicated channels and programmes on religion on mainstream TV. Teachers force their religion and religious interpretations on children. Even the technical department, JKR (Public Works Department) for example, has set up sign boards espousing religious thoughts. Ever go to civil service offices? Observe just how many religious seminar banners and thoughts are plastered all over these places. Sometimes I wonder whether these are public services departments or religious propaganda functionaries.

Why this parade of religion in the public sphere? Is it because our people obsess on religion, as they personally have got nothing else of substance to promote that would enhance their work and the lives of the people they serve? Or that they have to cling to religion as that is their one and only part of their lives that provide them any sense of self-worth?

Today, our Malay society has become a society so religiously judgemental that the sight of a woman without head-cover is practically blasphemous.

Think about this, after all the hue and cry of the 41 year old with 2 wives, from Kelantan who groomed his third, 11 year old child bride from the poor family in Thailand, the state religious authority penalised him for an unregistered marriage and then, instead of voiding it, basically approves the marriage. A significant portion of our Malay- Muslim society rejoiced!

Can a Malay society, more insular and superstitious in thought, that is now funding thousands of religious schools and Tahfiz centres/boarding houses than ever before in its history, create a population that is competitive to succeed in the 21st century?

Can it even compete on a fair footing with the rest of the Malaysian non-Muslim population? Malays have been given preferential places in universities, GLCs and the civil service for more than 40 years now, what have we got to show for it? Uncompetitive universities, a significant pool of unemployable Malay graduates and with most being employed by the civil service and the failed GLCs, and such corrupt administrations that a 93- year-old man has to come back to be the Prime Minister, that’s what. Would more religion help? Or would it make the population less competitive? Let us all be honest.

This has been the unintended consequence of the assimilation of Islamic values in governance (“penerapan nilai-nilai Islam”) instituted in 1985. The road to hell, they say, is always paved with good intentions. If nothing is done this nightmare is just beginning for the Malay society and Malaysian in general will suffer for it.

If we want to see where our nation is headed with this type of ideology and cultural religious mind-set besetting 60% of our population, we don’t have to look far to Saudi Arabia or Iran or even Aceh, we just need to see the state of governance and life in Kelantan. Democracy is only as good as an informed and intellectually challenging population. The Nazis in Germany and the Mullahs in Iran were all elected by the majority. Today, the Iranians are rebelling against their repressive theocratic Government but the Mullahs are not going to let go of power that easily. Thousands are in jail. But our Malays don’t seem to see or learn the lesson. Erdogan is taking Turkey on that road to already disastrous consequences and many of our Malays applaud.

The only reason the majority of the Malays today are satisfied with their lives to carry on being religiously obsessed, thinking non-stop of the afterlife and judging others, while the non-Malays are focused on bettering themselves in this life, is that the Malays, by and large, has been able to live off the teats of the Government in one way or another. It has been a fulfilled entitlement that will end sooner rather than later.

This gravy train has stopped. Mahathir and Robert Kuok, two 90-year-old plus statesmen, had to go to China almost in tribute with offerings, to extricate us from the mess our Malay leaders have created.

Unfortunately, Malays are oblivious to this fact. In fact, even most non-Malays are oblivious to the fact that if we do nothing, 30 to 40% of the population cannot sustain 100% of us. You need the remaining, at least, majority of that 60% to be able to truly contribute economically and not be consumers of tax from the minorities. And religion is not an economic contributor. It is an unproductive consumer of epic proportions with no returns.

Mahathir came to lead the Government in 1981 and transform an agricultural hamlet into an industrial one with liberal economic policies powered by an industrious non-Malay population and the liberal segment of the Malay society.

This was the population that made the country progress. Mahathir was not popular as a result of Islamisation. Mahathir was and is popular because he brought progress, prosperity and in-turn unity and pride in the country to everyone as Malaysians. He brought revolutionary change to real life. For all intents and purposes, he was a liberal progressive leader.

A progressive leadership will only be elected by a progressive society. The only reason the Pakatan Harapan government was elected was because the progressive societies of the non-Malays and the liberal Malay voted for it. We saved the nation, again. Unfortunately, that liberal segment is now forgotten and vilified. Malay liberals who are capable and focused on a productive life are labelled blasphemous and extremists, and shunned by the leadership in power, no matter who are in power.

The religious conservatives, on the other hand, are courted and coddled as if they will be the ever-lasting vote bank that must be assuaged. Think again on this paradigm. Malay swing votes are persuadable but only if the leadership shows the way.

If the leadership keeps to the racialist, feudalist, and religious-centric policies of the past, thinking this is what they need to do to keep the votes, they will just be repeating past mistakes of the Umno era. More of the Malay population will move to the right of centre towards the Mullahs. It is an inevitable outcome of such a policy. Islamisation was a counter to PAS, it only made Umno the old PAS, and PAS the new Taliban and a stronger party every year from that time onwards.

Religion by its very nature will always veer towards conservatism and fundamentalism, no matter how one wants to spin those words. Because institutionalised religion is about following. The attractiveness of institutionalised religion is the abdication of thinking to religious leaders with easy answers one shall not question. More so, when the population is uncompetitive against the outside world. In Malaysia, we have one of the most sophisticated array of institutionalised Islam in the world today.

So, without a change from the religious-centric environment the Malay society is currently in, and an education system that indoctrinates rather than enhance critical thinking, Malay society will continually drift towards the insularity of religious conservatism and away from progressive capabilities to succeed in the modern world. And population demographic will ensure that a progressive Government will eventually lose out.

Therein lies the real Malay dilemma.

Would any of the Malay leadership be willing to change its society from a religious centric one to one that is progressive and modern in character?

Do you want our Malay society to continue to regress and be uncompetitive? Do you want it to drag the rest of us down the road of conservatism and economic ruin?

As Malay leaders, do you placate or do you lead for change?

How do you lead that change?

Credit to Siti Kasim –

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Star.

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School grades don’t matter much?



Accounting firms PwC and EY start a trend in recruitment to help business and society

Big Four

WE all know that good grades in school won’t necessarily land you that first job. They do however go a long way towards convincing a potential employer that you’re likely to perform well if hired. That’s why you’re routinely asked to produce certificates and transcripts during the application process. How else can the employer get a quick reading on the discipline, intelligence, diligence and knowledge of a school-leaver or a fresh graduate?

But what if an employer decides that your grades shouldn’t matter as much? How will that change things?

For the answer to that, we ought to be watching the Big Four accounting firms in Britain.

Starting in June last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) stopped using the UCAS tariff as an entry criterion for most of its undergraduate and graduate recruitment schemes. Developed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the tariff is the British system for allocating points to those seeking undergraduate placements.

The system applies to a long list of entry qualifications — for example, A levels, City & Guilds diplomas, and music examinations — and the points for each qualification are worked out based on the levels of achievement.

Before this, a person usually must have a minimum number of UCAS points before PwC would consider his job application, even if he’s a graduate. This is apparently a common practice in Britain. With the policy change, the accounting firm can now overlook mediocre A-level results if the candidate has gone on to soar in his degree programme.

PwC says the reduced emphasis on UCAS points is because it’s important to be a progressive and socially inclusive employer, and because it wants to reach the broadest range of talented students.

“There’s strong correlation that exists in Britain between social class and school academic performance. This data suggests that by placing too much emphasis on UCAS scores, employers could miss out on key talent from disadvantaged backgrounds, because they may perform less well at school. That’s why, from an academic perspective, we’re focusing on your degree,” it explains on its website.

And then in August, Ernst & Young (EY) announced that it would remove academic qualifications from the entry criteria for its 2016 graduate, undergraduate and school-leaver programmes. Instead of insisting on certain standards for UCAS points and degree classification, the firm relies on “a new and enhanced suite of online “strengths” assessments and numerical tests to assess the potential of applicants”.

In other words, EY recruits by evaluating the candidates’ strengths and promise, not just their past performance.

This decision came after talent management firm Capp had studied EY’s student selection process over 18 months. The analysis found that EY’s strengths-based approach in recruitment, introduced in 2008, is a robust and reliable indicator of a candidate’s potential to succeed in his role in EY.

“At EY, we are modernising the workplace, challenging traditional thinking and ways of doing things. Transforming our recruitment process will open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession,” says Maggie Stilwell, the managing partner for talent.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door.”

“Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”

It’s interesting that Stillwell describes an overriding dependence on academic qualifications as a blunt approach. Stephen Isherwood, the chief executive of Britain’s Association of Graduate Recruiters, has a similar view. The PwC press release on the firm’s move to drop the UCAS points entry criteria, quotes Isherwood: “Using a candidate’s UCAS points to assess his potential is a blunt tool and a barrier to social mobility. This is an innovative step by one of the most significant graduate recruiters in Britain. Other graduate employers should follow its lead.”

PwC definitely sees itself as a trendsetter, saying its new recruitment assessment process could drive radical change across its industry. However, these radical changes haven’t happened yet. So far, Deloitte and KPMG, the other two firms in the Big Four, are still sticking to their minimum academic requirements in Britain.

It’s too soon to conclude that the recruitment changes by PwC and EY are a failed experiment.

The war for talent is intense among accounting firms. Businesses can’t stay at the top without thinking out of the box, taking bold steps, and being caring. It should be no different when it comes to how they hire people.

By Errol Oh Optimistically cautious viewpoint

Executive editor Errol Oh joined an accounting firm right out of school. That doesn’t happen in Malaysia anymore.

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Big Four Corporation
The Big Four are the four largest international professional services networks, offering audit, assurance, tax, consulting, advisory, actuarial, corporate finance, and legal services. Wikipedia

Lawyers who refused to return client RM4.9mil house sale struck off rolls


Singapore Supreme CourtSingapore’s Supreme Court.

Latest case is second instance of lawyers being disbarred in two weeksSINGAPORE — Two senior lawyers were today (April 13) struck off the roll for taking advantage of a client who had transferred S$1.8 million to their wives for safekeeping.

Mr Manjit Singh Kirpal Singh and Mr Sree Govind Menon had claimed that the money paid by Ms Bernadette Rankine was a gift, and had refused to return the money when asked.

After Ms Rankine lodged a complaint with the Law Society, the duo fought proceedings against them, alleging bias by the disciplinary panel president and filing judicial reviews to challenge decisions of the Chief Justice.

Today, the Court of Three Judges – comprising Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang – ruled that the lawyers had been dishonest and ordered their disbarment. “In cases of proven dishonesty, a solicitor will invariably be struck off the roll, regardless of the solicitor’s mitigating circumstances,” the judges wrote.

Mr Singh was admitted to the Bar in 1977 and Mr Menon was admitted in 1998. Ms Rankine had approached Mr Singh for legal advice in 2009, when she wanted to sell her property in Joan Road to live off sale proceeds after breaking up with a Malaysian businessman. She feared her ex-beau would try to prevent the sale of the property, which he did by lodging a caveat against it.

In 2010, the lawyers helped in getting the caveat discharged and Ms Rankine netted S$6.9 million from the sale of the property. She received a S$5 million cheque from the lawyers’ firm and used another S$50,000 to pay her personal assistant. Mr Singh handed her a cheque worth S$1.8 million and the lawyers advised her to issue cheques of the same amount to their wives for safekeeping and future legal fees, which she did.

In Dec 2010, Ms Rankine complained to the Law Society after they refused to return the money. She withdrew the complaint in Nov 2012 after getting her money back, but the Law Society pursued its charges against the duo.

The Society found Ms Rankine’s characterisation of the S$1.8 million payment to be convincing and believable, and said the two lawyers had acted dishonourably and showed no remorse for reprehensible conduct.

The duo had embarked on an elaborate scheme to cheat Ms Rankine, while ensuring the payment could not be traced back to their firm’s account, argued the Law Society, represented by Mr P E Ashokan. Instead of directly transferring the S$1.8 million from the law firm’s account to that of his wife and Mr Menon’s wife, Mr Singh had used Ms Rankine as a conduit so that things would appear above-board, noted the Court of Three Judges.

The judges noted that Ms Rankine had already paid substantial legal fees to the duo and “a gift of this magnitude to a solicitor with whom the client had no previous dealings … simply defies belief”.

Mr Singh also faced a second charge for misusing a S$20,000 cashier’s order from Ms Rankine to pay for an unrelated matter, which the judges said “underlines his lack of…integrity and trustworthiness”.

This is the second time in two weeks that lawyers have been disbarred — veteran lawyer Pascal Netto was struck off the roll last week for professional misconduct that included unauthorised borrowing from a client’s firm.

By Neo Chai Chin chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

Woman takes due to court over refusal to return RM4.9mil from house sale

Certified dishonest

TWO lawyers who refused to return S$1.8mil (RM4.9mil) to a client were struck off the rolls on April 13.

The client had transferred the money to their wives for what she thought was safekeeping.

Manjit Singh, a lawyer of 37 years, and Sree Govind Menon, a lawyer of 16, were partners in the firm, Manjit Govind & Partners.

In disbarring them, the Court of Three Judges, with power to censure, suspend or strike lawyers off the rolls for professional misconduct, noted that the pair had acted dishonestly.

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In 2009, Singh was hired by Bernadette Rankine, then an art gallery owner, to handle the sale of her house in Joan Road, off Thomson Road, which was sold for S$12mil (RM32.5mil).

She had decided to sell the property and live off the proceeds after ending her 13-year relationship with Malaysian businessman Amin Shah.

But her former boyfriend lodged a caveat against the property to block the sale. In February 2010, the caveat was lifted and the net sales proceeds of S$6.9mil (RM18.7mil) held by the law firm were ordered to be released to her.

Singh gave her a cheque for S$5mil (RM13.6mil) as well as S$50,000 (RM135,000) for her assistant’s wages.

A few days later, he gave her a cheque for S$1.8mil, while she in turn issued two cheques, one for S$1.6mil (RM4.3mil) to Singh’s wife and the other for S$200,000 (RM544,000) to Menon’s wife.

Singh had advised her to place the money with their wives for safekeeping, saying that if her former boyfriend launched more legal action against her, her money would be frozen and she would not have the means to pay for lawyers.

Nine months later, she asked them to return the money. When they refused, she complained to the Law Society. They have since returned the full sum.

In April last year, a disciplinary tribunal found the pair guilty of misconduct – Singh for advising her to pay the money to the wives and then refusing to return it, and Menon for agreeing with the advice.

The pair contended that the money was a gift from Rankine but the tribunal found this “inherently absurd”.

Yesterday, the court agreed, saying it was unlikely that Rankine, who needed money for pending legal matters, would give away one quarter of her key asset to the wives of the two lawyers she had known for less than six months and to whom she had already paid fees. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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Money, money, money … Love of money is the root of all evil !


Lets not use Money as an all-powerful weapon to buy people

ONE can safely assume that the subject of money would be of interest to almost all and sundry. ABBA, the Swedish group, sang about it. Hong Kong’s canto pop king, Samuel Hui made a killing singing about it. Donna Summers, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Rick James and quite a few more, all did their versions of it.

Is money all that matters? The ‘be all and end all’ of life?

This will certainly be a fiercely-debated subject by people from both sides of the divide; the haves and have nots.

Just last week, my 12-year-old asked if the proverb Money is the root of all evil is true. Naturally, like most kids of his generation, he would not have a clue as to how difficult it is for money to come about. Or why, when it does come about, it has the power to make and break a person. To a Gen-Z kid, the concept of having to ‘earn’ money is somewhat alien. Simply because everything he ever needs and beyond is ‘magically’ provided for.

Forget about teaching this generation to earn their keeps, just expecting them to pick up after themselves is a herculean ask. But we are not here to talk about that, instead, is money really the root of all evil? Perhaps, the proper answer would be ‘the love of money is’.

Let’s see what sort of evil comes with this love of money. Top of mind would be corruption, covetousness, cheating, even murder, just to name a few. These, of course, are of the extreme.

What about at the workplace? How does the love of money or rather the lure of money affect the employment market? Let me take on a profession closer to my heart, the advertising industry. Annually, our varsities and colleges churn out thousands of mass communication and advertising grads. Of these, only a handful would venture into the industry. Where have all the others gone?

A quick check with fellow agency heads reveals that many have opted to go into the financial sectors as the starting packages are somehow always miraculously higher than those offered by advertising agencies. A classic case of money at work. For those who have actually joined the ad industry, some get pinched after a while because of a better offer of … money, and more. (As if this is not bad enough, the “pinchers” are often not only from within the industry but are clients!)

The fact is there is absolutely nothing wrong in working towards being the top of one’s profession and getting appropriately remunerated for it. The problem starts when money is used as the all-powerful weapon to ‘buy’ people. Premium ringgit is often paid to acquire many of these hires, some of whom, unfortunately, are still a little wet behind the ears. Paying big bucks for talent is all right, as long as the money commensurate with the ability and experience of the person.

Case in point is if an individual is qualified only as a junior executive with his current employer, should he then be offered the job as a manager and paid twice the last drawn salary? All because some of us are just so short on resources.

Now, hypothetically, if this person was offered the managerial post anyway, would he be able to manage the portfolio and deliver what is expected of him? Would he, for instance, ask what he needs to bring to the table? After all, he has suddenly become the client service director and draws a salary of RM20k a month. Does he actually need to bring more new businesses, or what? We can call ourselves all sorts of fancy titles but the point is we have got to earn it. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Having served on the advertising association council for the past nine years and presiding over it the last two, it concerns me greatly to see the how money is affecting and somewhat thinning the line of qualified successors to the present heads.

The lack of new talents coming into the ad business is increasingly worrisome. Though it may look a seemingly distant issue to most clients, they must now take heed. The agencies are business partners and if there is going to be a dearth of talents it will surely affect the clients’ business in the near future. So rather than pinching the rare good ones from the agencies, would it then not be in the clients’ best interest to instead remunerate the agencies so to secure better and higher standards of expertise? Food for thought, eh?

Pardon me for being old school. I am a firm advocate of the saying that one should not chase money. First learn to be at the top of your trade and money will chase you. Then again, we are now dealing with and learning how to manage the present generation. A generation of young, smart, fearless, and somewhat impatient lot who may not be as loyal as their predecessors. A generation that loves life and crave excitement. Adventure is in their blood and ‘conforming’ is a bad word. And money, lots of it, makes the world go faster for them.

As elders, we need to look hard and deep into how to inculcate the right value of money in this new generation. These are our children. They are the future. If we make no attempt to set this right and instead keep on condoning the practice of over-remunerating them, we will be in trouble. The fact that Malaysia will soon have to compete in the free-trade region further allows money to flex its muscles more. I shudder to think what would happen to our young ones if we keep on mollycoddling them with the wrong idea that they ought to be highly paid just for breathing.

Folks, my sincere apologies if I have inadvertently touched some tender nerves but a wake-up call this has to be. For our dear clients, think about the proposition to review your agency’s remunerations – upwards I mean. This, over taking people from the industry, will save you more in the long run.

For those of us in the agencies, let us keep polishing up our skills and not let money be the sole motivator. If you are good, others will take notice. Work hard, the rewards will come. Just exercise some patience.

I leave you with a saying that one Mr Jaspal Singh said to me when I was a rookie advertising sales rep with The Star eons ago: “Man make money, money does NOT make a man”. (Or woman, of course.)

Till the next time, a very Happy Deepavali to all.

God bless!

By Datuk Johnny Mun, who has been an advertising practitioner for over 30 years, is president of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents. He is also CEO of Krakatua ICOM, a local ad agency.

Big bosses are watching you !


Big Bosses watching youTracking device: Asia Insight employee Steven Li conducting a survey near Bugis Junction. He is using a tablet which has mobile data collection software, allowing his employers to track his work patterns. – The Straits Times / Asia News Network

BIG bosses are watching. Firms are keeping a closer eye on their employees’ punctuality and efficiency – thanks, or no thanks, to technology.

Larger companies are investing in advanced software in mobile devices that can detect location – and record the time taken to complete tasks.

And smaller firms have found that run-of-the-mill but inexpensive instant messaging apps can also be used to monitor workers. Employees of local property valuation firm GSK Global, for example, when out at meetings are told to send a picture of the venue to their departments’ WhatsApp group chat within 15 minutes of the designated time. Those who are consistently late will get their bonuses docked.

Bosses say they are not spying on their staff. Rather, they want to improve efficiency.

GSK Global boss Eric Tan said: “I want my staff to be punctual so they can be done with work earlier and go home by 8pm.”

Market research consultancy Asia Insight chief executive Pearly Tan agrees.

Her firm engaged local tech start-up Epsilon Mobile earlier this year to develop mobile data collection software that records the time employees take to interview people and co­m­plete surveys, among other things.

It costs “a few hundred thousand” but Tan said it was worth it. The software helps the company spot patterns in the way the surveyors work, and also intervenes to reduce errors and boost productivity.

Her firm plans to use the software, which is enabled with Global Positioning System (GPS), to detect its employees’ location.

Epsilon Mobile boss William Vo said besides market researchers, organisations such as voluntary welfare groups and chain restaurants had also shown interest in his data collection software.

Similarly, tech company FPT Asia Pacific provides a few fast-moving consumer goods firms with GPS-enabled data collection software to monitor roving sales staff.

While most surveillance techno­logy now focuses on tracking location and time, firms may soon be able to use it to monitor their wor­kers’ interactions with customers.

Local tech company FXMedia is in talks with some retailer groups to roll out a visitor analysis system in stores. The software detects the number of customers and consu­mers’ emotions using webcams.

However, bosses admit there are some drawbacks to using workplace surveillance technology; workers face extra stress and loss of privacy. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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