Monday, June 24, 2013

The Haze....Clime or Crime?

It's very sad to see everything in Malaywsia wrapped in a whitish pall. The API reading has reached hazardous levels of over 800 in certain areas and hovered around 200 in other areas. Many schools in Johore Bharu and Selangor have been closed. Warnings have been issued to Malaysians to keep indoors and wear a mask if you've to go out into the street. Streets are becoming deserted, an eerie silence creeping into the Malaysian scene, especially at night. Except for a car or two breaking the silence in residential areas, they are becoming almost like ghost towns. One can expect the walking dead to totter around seeking a victim....

This has been happening to Malaysia year after year since the 90s. A lot of discussions and so-called negotiations between Indonesia, Malaysioa and Singapore have taken place but no results. In fact the haze gets thicker and more dangerous each time around. Now people are beginning to suffer saw eyes, sore throats etc in greater numbers. Cloud seeding has been started in Indonesia it is reported while the authority in Malaysia says there's no thick cloud to be seeded. Singapore has brought up the matter with the Indonesian government and the same reply has been given: that some land development companies with link to Malaysia have been undertaking open burning. Malaysia keep saying that the Indonesian government has been offered help to put off the fire outbreaks in Sumatra but no response has been received. The Indonesian government had already identified a few companies as suspects for causing the haze. But Malaysia has not undertaken any investigation itself on these suspected companies nor issue any warning to them, if they are indeed owned by Malaysian.

To us, the victims of the opening burning infraction of the environmental law, it doesn't matter who the culprits are. They should be hauled up under the law as quickly as possible, and perhaps kept in a smoke house to taste their own medicine for a few days or weeks. But that is easier said than done. Aside from the legal procedures involved to convict these slippery, big-time, land developers what happens to land development if they're stopped from doing their thing. The easiest way to clear up the jungle and the wild undergrowth is to cut, pile them up and burn them. Huge areas of land can be cleared up that way in a jiffy and at minima cost. If that is not allowed who'd bear the cost of clearing up the land in other ways? Have the government experts thought of that problem and not just issue orders to stop open burning. This reminds me of how the police try to avoid traffic jams in certain area by closing the road and diverting traffic elsewhere. You just create traffic jams elsewhere without solving the problem.

What's the alternative to open burning when clearing up the forests? An easy answer is to dig up some huge holes and bury the unwanted forest residue. If tree trunks and huge branches are buried that way, we might be even be creating coal for future generation.We can also create artificial fertilizer (compost) by burying the leaves from trees and ilalang. And how about chopping up and grinding the unwanted wood residue of the forest to make papers and other useful things? Hey, the government want people to be innovative but can't even solve the problem of clearing up the unwanted forest product!
Between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, certainly something can be done quickly to solve the problem of open burning and stop the haze from burying us in a white pall. Undertake cloud seeding if you will. If there's no cloud, employ cloud machines to create the cloud.

As it is the haze is rumored to last until August. Can we all take it with Ramadhan coming up fast? This is the time to see how fast the new (or old) government can act. If it can't clear the haze enveloping the country quickly- a mere physical thing - can we clean up the nation of its ethical haze - corruption?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Awards and Rewards....

There's no doubt that the awards and rewards given out by a country to its citizen are meant to be a form of recognition and an incentive for others to emulate the recipients. The awards can be in the form of an honorary title such as Tun, Tan Sri Dato etc in Malaysia. It could also be a title given for specific achievement such the 'Father of Independence', 'Father of Development','Exemplary Father, Mother, Teacher', Sportsman of the year, Sportswoman of the Year, National Laurette etc. It may carry some cash awards with it or otherwise the recognition and incentive just takes the form of a cash reward with no lifelong title attached to it.
some award recipients

The significant thing about such award or reward is that it establishes or affects the social value system in the country, and may even influence the cash value of certain skills and choice of vocation.In years gone by the Datukship and other higher titles awarded by the Federal and State government were only given to those who have served the Nation or the State as a public servant in an outstanding manner. Now, they have been rightly extended to citizens who have promoted the good image of the nation or State or contribute a lot to its progress. A very pronounced extension of the awards is made to film stars and singers and other entertainment personnel, sportsmen and sports women, and foreign dignitaries who have contributed to the good name of the Nation or State although they have not served as a public servant.a winner of many awards and rewards

Aside form the general complaint that too many of such awards are being made each year and we are being entertained everyday by Datuks (both male and female) through the radios and tvs or through the sports arena, there are also grumbles over the fact that some recipients are too young to be called a Datuk ( which literally means grandfather).With the rapid expansion of trade and business in the country, almost all business leaders have of course been awarded a Datukship or a higher title. Their number is only exceeded by the number of politicians who have received the award. The only noteworthy grumble over the matter is that some very worthy personnel with no contemporary in a position of power in the government to recognize them, have not been duly awarded. candidates for a RM250,00 reward

But more disturbing is the cash rewards given to entertainers, sportsmen and women, writers and academicians and outstanding artisans in many fields of expertise. We see that the rewards for entertainers and sportsmanship have been increasing by leaps and bounds while rewards for literary and scholastic talents have not increased much. The most outstanding example of an award far outstripping that given for literary talent is in regard to comedy performance on TV - the Maharaja Lawak competition. The reward for the first place winner is RM250,000 compared to the the National Laurette recipient who gets only RM30,000 before and increased to RM60,000 in 2003. Today, we cannot, of course, compare what a star footballer or a star golfer gets as compared to a winner of a book-writing competition who spends at least a year to produce his or her work. Little wonder that young boys and girls would rather become a footballer or a golfer rather than a teacher or professor, while a writer can hardly live on his literary earning in Malaysia.

Talk about academic recognition, we also have a plethora of honorary PhDs now,awarded for anything from political achievement to achievement in the fieled of entertainment. Thus, even after the scamp of PhDs being bought from some oversea universities is over, the real academicians become less and less recognizable unless he or she is teaching in the university and is, therefore, called a professor. So, why study hard to become a doctor with a PhD now? Why blow your brains out when you can get an honorary PhD by just singing, politicking, doing business and anything else that can make you rich and famous. Some even say that you can buy an award. If you can do so, you certainly don't need a cash reward for anything at all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beutification of the Villages...

With all the heehawing about development and modernization, urbanization and technological advancement, do Malaysians especially the Bumiputras often ask themselves what happened to the villages and the rural abode they hailed from? Even if they visited the "kampungs" once in a while during weekends, have they really noticed what's happening to the land and the village folks? Do they often think of those who have gone and those who remained behind to form the elderly population of the village? Have they realized that the young friends they left behind before had become white-haired and haggard looking old geeks, grandfathers and grandmas?the eyesore

It's most sobering to hang around in a popular coffee-shop in the morning or evening, and meet these old friends coming around for a cuppa. Those who come on foot, on a bicycle or an old Honda Cub with many modern names and variations, will certainly look older than you are, even though they could be younger than you by a few years. Some might look very frail and pathetic for they did not enjoy the benefit of modern medicine as you did or could not afford the price of special attention by private doctors. At the government hospitals and clinics they could only get the usual few-minutes attention and medication.The popular belief that the village elders are healthier and stronger than their city counterparts because of the healthier food they imbibed cannot be further away from the truth. Except in a few case they look much healthier and younger than you because you have neglected to take good care of yourself.another eyesore

In spite of the many rural development projects we hear of, we seldom hear funds being allocated for village beautification and landscaping. Those terms seem to be the prerogative of only the urban folks.Walk through the villages (not just drive through although even that might be enough to give an idea) and note the lush greeneries of wild elephant grass and thorny weeds overgrowing almost everywhere. Note the acres and acres of unutilized lands which were once productive paid fields. Observe the uncared for housing compounds with beautiful but dilapidating houses probably not occupied because entire families have moved to the towns and cities. The kampung scene is more often one of neglect and haphazard construction rather than the scenic gardens and sculptured landscape that one can see in the neighborhood of towns and cities in the west, in Japan and in China.With few exceptions, the villages in Malaysia had been left to become eyesores. Even children playgrounds constructed in some new housing areas often look more like a secondary rubbish dump and a haven for wild weeds. When even personally owned housing compound are often lifted uncared for what else could be expected of company or publicly owned properties, when the authority concerned could not be bothered to maintain them?the desired

The river banks and their surrounding areas in many cases had become a no man's land. Who is responsible for clearing and landscaping them? Is there any funds at all allocated for their maintenance and development? With flash floods becoming a regular phenomenon nowadays, the flood plains of many rivers had become a repositories for river pollutants.

It appears to me that village beautification and maintenance has never become an item in the local authorities development and management budget. I wonder if the State and Federal Budget has any allocation in this matter. When such matters are hidden in the budget for rural and village development in general, one can rest assured that actual beautification and landscaping program had never been specifically identified. While many villages had been made a tourist center throughout the home-stay program, only a very few villages had been really beautified and groomed for the discerning eyes. Most of the rest remained a testimony to underdevelopment and neglect, although the nation is on the brink of becoming a so-called developed country.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Is Religion supposed to be Divisive?

Prophet Muhammad SAW once said that Islam would break up into 23 sects while Chritianity would break up into 22. What we see today is that not only is the world being divided up by religious beliefs more than racial origins, but people of the same religion are going against each other. Be it in the same country and nation or between countries and nations.

Religious beliefs or faiths, therefore, seem to be the most devisive social element in society today, causing open violence and deep seated hatred between people, as it used to be in the days of ignorance and brutal intolerence between people of different racial stocks and cultures. We see instances of such violence and brutalism in both the west, the middle east and the east, with the middle east capturing the limelight.

Is religion supposed to be such a social element in society? Is it not supposed to be the bridge between human beings and their Creator, the compendium of human goodness and ethical excellence, the source of human kindness and benevolence, the source of righteousness and divine justice etc. So what has human beings turned religion into? An excuse for destroying and killing each other, a dogma that sanctified the shedding of human blood and taking away innocent lives and sowing the seed of hatred among fellow human beings?

As people living in the age of knowledge and wisdom,high technology and culture, refined in customs and ethics, the reality of religion today defies what we believe ourselves to be. There is so much of ruthlessness, violence, barbarianism going on that can make us ashamed to be considered as human. There are animals that show more love, kindness and consideration for each other than what some humans are are doing to each other in the name of religion although the evils of politics seem to hide behind all such action. We speak about religion in the most reverent and God fearing manner but we often act in a manner that negates those show of piousness.

In many of the Islamic countries,the age-old war between the various mazhabs such as between the Shiites and the Sunni, the Sunnah wal-Jamaah and the followers of other mazhabs like the Wahabbis, continue to break up people and nation. They are all supposed to be Muslims, praying to and prostrating themselves before the same Allah. But they never seem to be able to tolerate each other let alone live in peace and harmony, each claims that their approach towards attaining Allah's grace and Jannah ( heaven) is more in line with the teachings of the al-Quran and the Prophet Muhammad SAW. The problems they raised in society far outweigh what religion is supposed to do for society.

While the teachings and prescriptions of religion seem to bear less and less influence in the everyday decision-making of the modern Man, the pride over one's religion seem to be on the increase. So much so that religion ceases to become a moderating factor in our attitude towards each other, a pacifying factor in our search for internal peace and external relations, and a universal torch for leading us to world peace, but rather a magnifying glass that highlights differences and incompatibilities, and the rationale for fighting each other.

When, therefore, is human beings going to put religion in its rightful place as a common bridge towards seeking the love of our Creator, no matter what structure or shape the beige takes. It's just the bridge between our terrestrial life and the kingdom of heaven, between our selfish self and our our soul wherein the feeling of Godliness lies. When can we modern people of the world make religion an instrument of world peace rather that an adjunct to the pursuit of human bickerings and warlike tendencies?