Malaysia’s own game of thrones

Malaysia’s own game of thrones

If we take the idea of democracy as implying the elevation of the voice of the masses and compare it with the idea of monarchy, the elevation of an individual voice, then we obviously have something of an ideological clash, though our system does give a passing nod to the idea of royal opinion having an effect on the making of law. That being said, royal consent for laws was made little more than a formality after the constitutional crisis of 1993.

Given the roots of the crisis and Johor’s role in it, one can understand why Sultan Ibrahim of Johor is reportedly seeking the re-establishment of the monarchy’s power to approve legislation. Under the Federal Constitution, as it was amended in 1993, a bill becomes law 30 days after Parliament passes it, regardless of whether the King approves.

The Sultan has called the curbing of royal power inappropriate and is seeking the relevant constitutional amendments necessary to restore royal authority to approve or veto legislation. Some elements have welcomed the Sultan’s call, judging by comments on social media.

It is understandable why the Sultan’s suggestion has appeal. The ruling government has long been in need of a check-and-balance mechanism. In the absence of a strong and vibrant parliamentary opposition, checks and balances provided by even-handed, fair rulers guided by noblesse oblige would be the last barrier against the excesses of the executive branch of government.

The Johor royals, in particular, have lately endeared themselves to the people of Malaysia like never before. For example, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail is a tremendously popular figure among the youth. The Sultan and the Prince have built this love around their Bangsa Johor rhetoric and have demonstrated a fiercely independent streak. Today, they can be considered among Malaysia’s most influential royals, not because of the powers conferred on them, but because they are seen as leaders who contribute to the shaping of the nation’s consciousness, press release by press release.

However, the DAP’s Ramkarpal Singh has raised some valid points that bring us back to the question of how a constitutional monarchy fits into the idea of democracy. While the two can complement each other, a royal ruler is nonetheless ruler by right of extraordinary privilege while a politician can come from any background and thus be supported by the people as one of their own. He leads by right of having earned votes.

But an apolitical monarchy, like the one currently headed by Queen Elizabeth II, also has its uses as a neutral institution. The English royal family is like a branch of a state department, earning its keep by performing diplomatic functions.

But the true argument against empowering royalty rests on the fact that agendas and policies change with each ruler, who is, furthermore, not vetted by the people. It is because of this that kingdoms have risen and fallen. While we do live in the modern age, we are often reminded of that fact when we become aware of unfair elections and the like, which keep a dominant party and a dominant ideology in power, not necessarily in accordance with the wishes of the people.

Nonetheless, the Sultan’s proposal is interesting indeed. On this, it is perhaps best to concur with historian Khoo Kay Khim, who feels like it is us, the public, who should decide whether or not to restore power to the monarchy. After all, we are a democracy, and it is still our choice, nominally at least.

Malaysia’s own game of thrones

Malaysia’s own game of thrones

If we take the idea of democracy as implying the elevation of the voice of the masses and compare it with the idea of monarchy, the elevation of an individual voice, then we obviously have something of an ideological clash, though our system does give a passing nod to the idea of royal opinion having an effect on the making of law. That being said, royal consent for laws was made little more than a formality after the constitutional crisis of 1993.

Given the roots of the crisis and Johor’s role in it, one can understand why Sultan Ibrahim of Johor is reportedly seeking the re-establishment of the monarchy’s power to approve legislation. Under the Federal Constitution, as it was amended in 1993, a bill becomes law 30 days after Parliament passes it, regardless of whether the King approves.

The Sultan has called the curbing of royal power inappropriate and is seeking the relevant constitutional amendments necessary to restore royal authority to approve or veto legislation. Some elements have welcomed the Sultan’s call, judging by comments on social media.

It is understandable why the Sultan’s suggestion has appeal. The ruling government has long been in need of a check-and-balance mechanism. In the absence of a strong and vibrant parliamentary opposition, checks and balances provided by even-handed, fair rulers guided by noblesse oblige would be the last barrier against the excesses of the executive branch of government.

The Johor royals, in particular, have lately endeared themselves to the people of Malaysia like never before. For example, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail is a tremendously popular figure among the youth. The Sultan and the Prince have built this love around their Bangsa Johor rhetoric and have demonstrated a fiercely independent streak. Today, they can be considered among Malaysia’s most influential royals, not because of the powers conferred on them, but because they are seen as leaders who contribute to the shaping of the nation’s consciousness, press release by press release.

However, the DAP’s Ramkarpal Singh has raised some valid points that bring us back to the question of how a constitutional monarchy fits into the idea of democracy. While the two can complement each other, a royal ruler is nonetheless ruler by right of extraordinary privilege while a politician can come from any background and thus be supported by the people as one of their own. He leads by right of having earned votes.

But an apolitical monarchy, like the one currently headed by Queen Elizabeth II, also has its uses as a neutral institution. The English royal family is like a branch of a state department, earning its keep by performing diplomatic functions.

But the true argument against empowering royalty rests on the fact that agendas and policies change with each ruler, who is, furthermore, not vetted by the people. It is because of this that kingdoms have risen and fallen. While we do live in the modern age, we are often reminded of that fact when we become aware of unfair elections and the like, which keep a dominant party and a dominant ideology in power, not necessarily in accordance with the wishes of the people.

Nonetheless, the Sultan’s proposal is interesting indeed. On this, it is perhaps best to concur with historian Khoo Kay Khim, who feels like it is us, the public, who should decide whether or not to restore power to the monarchy. After all, we are a democracy, and it is still our choice, nominally at least.

Former MCA chief Tan Siew Sin’s wife dies

Former MCA chief Tan Siew Sin’s wife dies

KUALA LUMPUR: Catherine Lim Cheng Neo, wife of former MCA president Tan Siew Sin, died peacefully on Tuesday.

She died less than a month after her 95th birthday and a week before what would have been her husband’s 100th birthday, Star Online reported.

Tan was Malaysia’s second finance minister and first minister of commerce and industry.

In her eulogy, daughter Tan Siok Choo recounted her mother’s love for baking cakes and incredible luck in playing mahjong. She also remembers her mother as the caring and generous counterpart to Tan’s strict frugality.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai paid his last respects at the Xiao En Centre in Cheras late on Wednesday, as did Rahah Mohammad Noah, widow of the late former prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein.

“Even younger people will remember Tan’s contributions to the nation, and the demise of Catherine Lim brings us a lot of sadness,” Star Online quoted Liow as saying.

Lim had previously agreed to attend the centenary birthday celebration of Tan to be held by MCA later this month. Liow said the party would instead be paying their respects in remembrance of her on the day of the event.

Former Malaysian Senate president Michael Chen Wing Sum, among the first to pay his last respects, has fond memories of Lim from the time Tan served as MCA president.

“We, the central committee members often went to their house for meetings, and being the president’s wife, she always looked after us like family,” Chen was quoted as saying.

Lim will be taken to Malacca to be laid to rest with her late husband today.

Former MCA chief Tan Siew Sin’s wife dies

Former MCA chief Tan Siew Sin’s wife dies

KUALA LUMPUR: Catherine Lim Cheng Neo, wife of former MCA president Tan Siew Sin, died peacefully on Tuesday.

She died less than a month after her 95th birthday and a week before what would have been her husband’s 100th birthday, Star Online reported.

Tan was Malaysia’s second finance minister and first minister of commerce and industry.

In her eulogy, daughter Tan Siok Choo recounted her mother’s love for baking cakes and incredible luck in playing mahjong. She also remembers her mother as the caring and generous counterpart to Tan’s strict frugality.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai paid his last respects at the Xiao En Centre in Cheras late on Wednesday, as did Rahah Mohammad Noah, widow of the late former prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein.

“Even younger people will remember Tan’s contributions to the nation, and the demise of Catherine Lim brings us a lot of sadness,” Star Online quoted Liow as saying.

Lim had previously agreed to attend the centenary birthday celebration of Tan to be held by MCA later this month. Liow said the party would instead be paying their respects in remembrance of her on the day of the event.

Former Malaysian Senate president Michael Chen Wing Sum, among the first to pay his last respects, has fond memories of Lim from the time Tan served as MCA president.

“We, the central committee members often went to their house for meetings, and being the president’s wife, she always looked after us like family,” Chen was quoted as saying.

Lim will be taken to Malacca to be laid to rest with her late husband today.

The changing face of nursing

The changing face of nursing

By Dr Chris Anthony

Nurses’ Day which falls on May 12 is a day to honour our nurses for their hard work and dedication in caring for the sick and dying. It is the birthday of Florence Nightingale who is credited as being the creator of modern, professional nursing, the fraternity to which our nurses belong.

I asked a retired nursing matron the other day what she thought about profession today. Without hesitation she said, “It is not as good as it used to be. I miss the days when nursing used to be a real vocation, not just a form of employment as it is now”. This sentiment unfortunately is shared by most other senior and retired nursing staff.

One could argue that many senior nurses feel this way because they are ill-prepared to handle the sophisticated systems of operations in the medical field today. Nevertheless in the name of progress and modernisation, we must admit that we have lost some of the cherished values of the nursing profession of the past – the personal human touch, which is so important in the care of the sick. In fact the virtues of empathy and human touch are the basic qualities that makes the nursing profession exceptionally unique and noble.

Nursing the sick is no ordinary task especially when those nursed are total strangers and there is no love attached to them whatsoever. It used to be a vocation where a nurse had to have some feelings for fellow men who were sick and dying, the absence of which made it extremely difficult to be a good nurse. However with today’s advances in medicine, this human touch is slowly but surely being replaced by high-tech mechanisation.

Moreover with commercialisation, privatisation and lately corporatisation of the medical services, not only are our nurses losing the human touch, they are being subjected to numerous clerical and accounting jobs, leaving little or no time for true nursing duties for which they were trained. The corporations they work for are driven solely by monetary profits and in this system there is little or no appreciation for the loyalty and dedication of the nurses who are often abused not only by the authorities but by patients and their relatives when things go wrong.

Not only are hospitals run like big corporations, even the training of nurses are corporatised. As such nurses are churned out in large numbers with many receiving inadequate clinical training as opposed to the situation before. Therefore we have a situation where hospitals are flooded with poorly trained junior nurses who have to cope with the management of patients relying mostly on the theoretical knowledge they have. The sad thing is there are hardly any seniors to guide them as the majority have migrated to greener pastures.

Nurses today work under great difficulties and are under tremendous pressure from within and without. The demands on them are tremendous, at times almost unreasonable. Amidst these limitations we salute those who still hold on to the age-old tradition of offering a smile and a personal touch when the sick and dying need it most.

The nursing profession is in for major changes as it strives to meet the present day needs of the people which have become extremely complex. We may not have the Nightingale model of nursing education anymore but of course we can adopt a system to produce our own Nightingales who can care for our sick with passion and with a human touch.

The adage, “Doctors diagnose nurses cure” highlights the extremely vital role nurses play in the total care of the sick. While the technical aspects of the profession may change with progress, the basic needs of the sick, love and concern, will forever remain unchanged.

Happy Nurses Day!

Dr Chris Anthony is an FMT reader.

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

The changing face of nursing

The changing face of nursing

By Dr Chris Anthony

Nurses’ Day which falls on May 12 is a day to honour our nurses for their hard work and dedication in caring for the sick and dying. It is the birthday of Florence Nightingale who is credited as being the creator of modern, professional nursing, the fraternity to which our nurses belong.

I asked a retired nursing matron the other day what she thought about profession today. Without hesitation she said, “It is not as good as it used to be. I miss the days when nursing used to be a real vocation, not just a form of employment as it is now”. This sentiment unfortunately is shared by most other senior and retired nursing staff.

One could argue that many senior nurses feel this way because they are ill-prepared to handle the sophisticated systems of operations in the medical field today. Nevertheless in the name of progress and modernisation, we must admit that we have lost some of the cherished values of the nursing profession of the past – the personal human touch, which is so important in the care of the sick. In fact the virtues of empathy and human touch are the basic qualities that makes the nursing profession exceptionally unique and noble.

Nursing the sick is no ordinary task especially when those nursed are total strangers and there is no love attached to them whatsoever. It used to be a vocation where a nurse had to have some feelings for fellow men who were sick and dying, the absence of which made it extremely difficult to be a good nurse. However with today’s advances in medicine, this human touch is slowly but surely being replaced by high-tech mechanisation.

Moreover with commercialisation, privatisation and lately corporatisation of the medical services, not only are our nurses losing the human touch, they are being subjected to numerous clerical and accounting jobs, leaving little or no time for true nursing duties for which they were trained. The corporations they work for are driven solely by monetary profits and in this system there is little or no appreciation for the loyalty and dedication of the nurses who are often abused not only by the authorities but by patients and their relatives when things go wrong.

Not only are hospitals run like big corporations, even the training of nurses are corporatised. As such nurses are churned out in large numbers with many receiving inadequate clinical training as opposed to the situation before. Therefore we have a situation where hospitals are flooded with poorly trained junior nurses who have to cope with the management of patients relying mostly on the theoretical knowledge they have. The sad thing is there are hardly any seniors to guide them as the majority have migrated to greener pastures.

Nurses today work under great difficulties and are under tremendous pressure from within and without. The demands on them are tremendous, at times almost unreasonable. Amidst these limitations we salute those who still hold on to the age-old tradition of offering a smile and a personal touch when the sick and dying need it most.

The nursing profession is in for major changes as it strives to meet the present day needs of the people which have become extremely complex. We may not have the Nightingale model of nursing education anymore but of course we can adopt a system to produce our own Nightingales who can care for our sick with passion and with a human touch.

The adage, “Doctors diagnose nurses cure” highlights the extremely vital role nurses play in the total care of the sick. While the technical aspects of the profession may change with progress, the basic needs of the sick, love and concern, will forever remain unchanged.

Happy Nurses Day!

Dr Chris Anthony is an FMT reader.

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

Those who eat together, stay together

Those who eat together, stay together

A few days ago, a columnist wrote of her experience in Penang, and how “disconcerting” it was to witness how segregated Malaysians had become in their dining habits. She claimed the “unhealthy obsession” Malay-Muslims had with halal food discouraged many from dining with Malaysians of other races.

Being a Penangite who grew up indulging in all kinds of “island” food, and having a bevy of friends of different races who all ate together, I had to speak out.

For one, the columnist was obviously taken to all the wrong makan spots on the island, hence her observations.

When I take friends to Penang, it’s to places that portray the island at its best. The first stop is usually Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng – a Muslim stall located inside a Chinese coffee shop at the centre of Pulau Tikus; followed with Padang Brown Food Court in Jalan Dato’ Keramat – where an amazing spread of food can be found from Bah Kut Teh to Gado-Gado; and not forgetting Kedai Kopi Bee Hwa at Lebuh Dickens that serves mouth-watering dishes, the most notable being Hokkien Char and Wantan Mee.

All these places are teeming with diners of different races and religions – including the halal-obsessed, who apparently don’t seem to mind dining in predominantly Chinese makan spots.

I can go on and on about all the other wonderful places in Penang serving unity on a plate, but I think you get my drift.

I am happy to say Penangites do eat together and that is precisely why we’ve stayed united and harmonious. We do not look at each other’s food with “suspicion” or dread but do check each other’s plates out so we can better decide what to order next. Instead of scrutinising the menu, we Penangites prefer pointing at the next table and saying: “I want that!”

Let’s be honest – food is a personal thing. So much depends on one’s taste, preferences or culture. If some Malays do not wish to dine in certain places, suka hati dioranglah! There is no need to force one to sit at the same table with those of a different race or religion simply to portray a united front. And even if one did, its hardly worthy enough to prove unity in the real sense of the word.

The next time anyone heads up to Penang, give me a buzz. I’ll gladly let you see all that Penang has to offer in terms of good food and racial harmony.

Malays, Chinese, Indians, Bangladeshis, Burmese, Nepalese, Indonesians or the “lain-lain” – Penangites just love to makan until we drop. The only time we would kick up a fuss is when our food starts tasting like KL food – but that’s entirely a different story.

Teras to be dissolved after exit of leaders

Teras to be dissolved after exit of leaders

KUCHING: Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras), a state Barisan Nasional (BN)-friendly party is in the process of being dissolved, acting President Peter Nansian said today.

He said the decision was made after consulting the party’s principal central executive committee members.

“The reasons for deregistration are: Teras was formed for BN-friendly Yang Berhormat under the BN-plus concept but for the just-concluded 11th state election, three of (former) Teras YBs stood as BN direct candidates.

“When they stood (election), they pledged to join existing BN component parties only. Therefore, now they cannot come back to Teras.

“Thus, Teras has exhausted its purpose and it is pointless for it to continue,” he said in a statement here today.

Teras, a splinter of the BN component Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), was formed in 2014 amid party infighting.

To resolve the disputes between SPDP and Teras, Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem initiated the strategy of fielding “direct candidates” in the May 7 state polls.

All direct candidates resigned from their respective splinter groups to stand in the election.

In the state election, three former Teras assembyman, namely former President William Mawan, incumbent for Bekenu, Rosey Yunus, and incumbent for Batu Danau, Paulus Gumbang, were among the BN direct candidates who won in the election.

Nansian said it was easier for the three elected direct candidates to decide which BN component parties to join.

He said joining BN component parties would strengthen the state BN as there would be fewer political parties and the members would not be spread thin among them.

He suggested that Teras members, comprising more than 20,000, join any BN component party of their choice.

– BERNAMA

IPIC demands compensation over 1MDB debt row

IPIC demands compensation over 1MDB debt row

KUALA LUMPUR: Disputes between Abu Dhabi state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and the troubled Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB intensified on Wednesday, with IPIC saying there was a fresh default by 1MDB.

IPIC claimed that 1MDB and the Malaysian Government now owe it more than USD1.2 billion after a complex series of agreements between the two former partners went sour.

The latest turn came on Wednesday, when IPIC said it had to stump up a USD52.4 million coupon payment after 1MDB defaulted on USD1.75 billion on bonds due in 2022.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) said it had “more than sufficient” funds to make the interest payments on that bond and another USD1.75 billion declared in default in April, but did not due to its dispute with IPIC.

1MDB has been locked in a dispute over its obligations to IPIC under a debt restructuring agreement reached in June.

After the default in April, 1MDB maintained that it would meet all its other liabilities but its CEO Arul Kanda had also said “we are keeping our options open on the May 11 coupon”.

The April default, the continuing stand-off with IPIC and a widening investigation across at least six countries into possible corruption and money-laundering connected to 1MDB have been weighing on Malaysia’s economy and its currency ringgit.

On Wednesday, IPIC said it would now step up its demands for 1MDB and the Malaysian Government to compensate the Abu Dhabi firm USD1.2 billion, plus accrued interest.

The 1MDB statement said it is “committed to working openly with IPIC to resolve the dispute”.

It also said that the fund recently started an “engagement process” for its US dollar denominated bondholders and encourages all of them to register at a company website.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said on Tuesday that Malaysia’s and 1MDB’s contractual dispute with IPIC is not considered a sovereign default. S&P said it does not expect 1MDB to represent a large contingent liability to the Malaysian government.

Earlier on Wednesday, Malaysia’s new central bank governor said he was confident the government would honour all its debt obligations.

“I’m quite confident the government will honour all of its debt obligations,” Muhammad Ibrahim told reporters in response to a question about 1MDB at an event in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier this month, Malaysia’s Finance Ministry said it was taking over 1MDB’s remaining assets, but it was unclear how much of the fund’s debt, would be shouldered by the government.

The fund piled up about USD12 billion in debt since its inception in 2009. Some of that was paid off through asset sales late last year as part of a restructuring of the fund.

The defaults at 1MDB come at a difficult time for Prime Minister Najib Razak, with a political controversy raging over the fund, which is the focus of a multi-billion dollar money-laundering investigation in at least six countries.

1MDB’s advisory board was chaired by Najib until its dissolution earlier this month.

-REUTERS

DAP’s strength in S’wak lies in smaller, higher-density seats

DAP’s strength in S’wak lies in smaller, higher-density seats

PETALING JAYA: The DAP’s strength in Sarawak lies in smaller, higher density constituencies, said Universiti Malaya’s Dr Rosmadi Fauzi today.

At a forum on the recently-concluded Sarawak election today, Rosmadi, who is an associate professor from the university’s Department of Geography, said the election results highlighted this.

He told FMT that this could be due to the fact that higher-density areas were also urban ones, where national politics was more of a concern.

In rural areas and larger constituencies, local issues were especially pertinent.

He also noted that the BN won in almost all the areas where the Pan Borneo Highway runs through, signifying the importance of the project.

Rosmadi also observed that this time around, BN won with a two-third majority in most of the constituencies it emerged victorious, compared to the 2011 election, where it did not secure a two-third majority in constituencies it triumphed in.

Meanwhile, UM political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi attributed BN’s victory to “Tsunami Adenan” which hit the state.

Awang said Adenan’s popularity was the main factor for BN’s sweeping win.

“Adenan is seen as a firm, open, respectable, simple and knowledgeable leader.”

Awang also said Adenan had in a short time, resolved many of the issues used by the Opposition in the last election, leaving them with few local issues to raise this time around.

This, he said, included the abolition of tolls, reduction of electricity tariffs and more, which were reflective of Adenan’s people-centric policies.

Awang said the Opposition’s campaign in the election centred too much on 1Malaysia Development Berhad and GST (goods and services tax), which were irrelevant compared to local issues.

He, however, noted that such national issues could very well prove crucial in the next general election, when people elect their parliamentarians.

In Saturday’s state election, Adenan led BN to a sweeping victory, winning 72 out of 82 seats.