On the eve of Malaysia’s 57th National Day Celebrations, I would like to, once again, express my feelings as how proud I am as a Malaysian. Long Live Malaysia. God bless. We achieved independence 57 years ago, a couple of months after I was born. I am a Merdeka (Independence) baby myself. I grew up witnessing the wonderful things which make up the fabric of the Malaysian society. I feel proud as a Malaysian to note that Malaysians are all so peace loving people. As a result we have maintained peace and harmony in this beautiful country of ours. We must all continue to do our part to preserve this wonderful feature and strength of our country. The last line in the National Philosophy of Education of Malaysia reads, “This effort aims to produce knowledgeable, ethical and responsible Malaysian citizens who can contribute towards the harmony and prosperity of the family, community and nation.” So it is our duty that we continue to cherish the peace and harmony in this country. We must remind ourselves that our mother-land is truly special to us. A line in the national anthem reads, “Negara ku, Tanah tumpahnya darahku” which literally means, the country where I shed my blood. Please remember, it is not we who shed our blood during war to defend our country, but our mothers who shed blood when delivering us on this land. So, no other land could replace this very special land. We must all be united to safeguard our country from any form of challenges. I have been blessed to visit almost 30 countries in the five continents. As a proud Malaysian, I must admit that no other land even comes close to our mother-land Malaysia. Whenever I return from abroad by Malaysian Airlines, the announcement just before landing at KLIA by the air-hostess touches my heart. “To all our visitors we wish Selamat Datang and to all our Malaysians Welcome home”. This is our home. Long live Malaysia. God bless. Selamat Hari Kebangsaan 2014. Happy National Day 2014. இனிய 2014 தேசிய தின வாழ்த்துகள்.
I think we need to support the suggestion put forward by YAYASAN 1Malaysia to form a Consultative Council on Religious Harmony (NST, 13.01.10). It is an excellent suggestion put forward at a time when we are revisiting the issue of racial harmony. This council should have representatives from various religious communities and other relevant parties to deliberate on important issues.
It is our strong conviction that this consultative council will provide a platform to leaders of various faiths to deliberate on critical religious issues in the country and suggest remedies. It is also our strong belief that through communication and interaction will emerge the solutions that will accommodate the interests and aspirations of the diverse communities that constitute our nation.
We would like to reiterate here that a particular religion and its details should be left to scholars of that religion and its followers to deliberate on and decide on matters related to the faith. However, there has be a platform for representatives from various religious communities to deliberate on and seek remedies for problems and issues which sometimes arise out of interactions of people of different faiths.
In a multiracial and a multi-religious country, such as Malaysia, where it is imperative that we interact with each other on a daily basis, there are bound to be instances where issues or even misunderstandings arise. Through discussion and deliberations, we can continue to help people respect the diversity amongst us and continue to cultivate the sense of mutual-respect. We are of the opinion that Malaysians, on the whole, have come a long way in safe-guarding the racial and religious harmony which exists in this country and the setting-up of this consultative council will further enhance the bond between the different communities.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen ended with an agreement by countries to cap the global temperature rise by committing to significant emission reductions, and to raise finance to kickstart action in the developing world to deal with climate change.
At the meeting, world leaders, including from Malaysia, agreed to the ‘Copenhagen Accord’, which was supported by a majority of countries, including amongst them the biggest and the richest, and the smallest and most vulnerable. The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below 2 degrees is required to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
In order to achieve this goal, the accord specifies that industrialised countries are required to implement, individually or jointly, quantified economy-wide emissions targets from 2020, to be listed in the accord before 31 January 2010. A number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, every two years, besides listing their voluntary pledges.
It was also acknowledged at the conference that the pledges listed by developed and developing countries may, according to science, be found insufficient to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees or less. As such, the leaders called for a review of the accord, to be completed by 2015.
The review would include a consideration of the long-term goal to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Heads of state and government also intend to unleash prompt action on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and capacity-building.
One of the significant outcomes of the conference was the decision to establish the “Copenhagen Climate Fund” to support immediate action on climate change. The collective commitment towards the fund by developed countries over the next three years will approach 30 billion US dollars. For long-term finance, developed countries agreed to support a goal of jointly mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.
The Malaysian delegation to the COP15 was headed by the Hon. Prime Minister. He told the delegates that, “Malaysia is committed together with all other countries to do our best to combat climate change. We realize that this is no easy task, in fact, it is nothing short of a herculean endeavour. This Convention under which we are meeting is our best hope for a global framework of cooperation on climate change”. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that Malaysia will continue to contribute to this extremely important process.
Many provided mixed reactions to the outcomes of the COP15. Many were disappointed by the fact that COP15’s failure to produce a legally binding climate change agreement was unacceptable. At the conference, some of the poorer developing countries kept the proceedings frozen with procedural objection after procedural objection, while major economies like the U.S. and China brought little new to the summit and barely budged from their negotiation positions. In the end, all that was produced was an interim accord barely worth the name. It was bitterly attacked by many environmentalists, and even its chief architect, President Barack Obama, admitted the pact was “not enough” and that “we have a long way to go” (TIME).
Nevertheless, the conference provided a platform for world leaders to address this urgent issue. As was reported by TIME, “For all its limitations, however, the Copenhagen Accord is the first real step to fighting climate change in the 21st century. The real value of Copenhagen of the summit may lie in what it teaches us about dealing with climate change — and much more”.
The next annual Climate Change Conference will take place towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, in June.
The issue of climate change is a serious issue which needs to be addressed immediately. While the heads of governments are trying hard to handle this issue, it is extremely important that every individual realizes his or her role in making a significant contribution. At the government level, Malaysia remain committed to ensure at least 50 per cent of our land area remain as forests as pledged in the Rio Summit. Currently our natural forests and agriculture crop plantations combined cover 75 per cent of the country’s land area.
Individuals, on their part, realizing that this is an urgent and a serious issue, need to adopt certain measures which will help safe-guard the environment. For a start, why don’t we reduce the use of plastic bags, and instead bring our own shopping bags to shopping malls. We need to recycle items, use both sides of the paper to print, reduce the temperature of air-condition units in our rooms, and if possible turn off air-con units and lights when we are out of our rooms for a long period of time. Let us do out bit to save our environment.
John Dewey, without doubt, is one of the educators in the United States who has left significant marks in the American school of thought and those marks are still obvious in the American Education System. He said that, Education is life itself. Many now seem to take education for making a living, when education is life itself. Swami Vivekananda reminded everyone that education is a light that shows the mankind the right direction to surge. The purpose of education is not just making a child literate. Education adds rationality to ones thinking, makes one knowledgeable and self sufficient. If education fails to inculcate self-discipline and commitment to achieve in the minds of children, it is not their fault.
The great teacher Thiruvalluar, who has been paid tribute by many including Gandhi who said, “I wanted to learn Tamil only to enable me to study Valluvar’s Thirukkural through his mother tongue itself. Only a few us know the name of Thiruvalluvar. There is none who has given such a treasure of wisdom like him”, and 1952 Nobel Price winner Albert Schweitzer who said, “There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find such lofty wisdom”, said 2035 years ago, “What Profit have those derived from learning, who worship not the good feet of Him who is possessed of pure knowledge?”.
In Malaysia, we have the National Philosophy of Education (NPE) since 1988 which is used as the guide to formulate curriculum from pre-school to tertiary education. The NPE requires the education system to produce Malaysians who are balanced individuals who possess intellectual, psychomotor, emotional and spiritual capacities. It is the belief that only when one is balanced in all four aspects, one will be an individual who will be knowledgeable, active, emotionally balanced with high moral and spiritual values. This is, no doubt, in line with what great scholars like Dewey, Vivekananda and Thiruvalluvar have said.
But, unfortunately religious education is not taught to students in Malaysian schools, except for Islam, the official religion, to Muslim students. This has been the policy in Malaysian schools since independence. It seems that the time has come to evaluate our education system when we claim that our NPE is the guide to all curricula used in Malaysia starting from pre-school to tertiary level. The NPE is clear in its focus to produce balanced individuals of Malaysians in all four aspects. The reality, however, is that about 40 per cent of the new generation of Malaysians do not receive education in one of the four aspects, that is, in the spiritual component. It is not difficult to imagine the effects of this practice.
In the Indian community, the crime rate among Indian youth has been increasing for the last few years. It has become the serious concern of the community. Every time news is published in the Tamil Newspapers about crime, the community becomes concerned, talk about it, and of course quickly forget about it. After all, we all have short memory and are busy with our own things. Very little is done by the community to tackle this issue. The question is what needs to be done.
One strategy which most agree will make a significant difference in the systematic and comprehensive Hindu Religious Education provided to Indian children from young. It has to be continuous and systematic. It also has to be developmental. It certainly cannot be a one-off session which may not leave any positive impact in children. Now, what needs to be done? Well, there has to be a syllabus, resource book for teachers, text-books, training for teachers and implementation in schools. If we have all these, can religious education take place in schools?
The government, of course, even as early as 1975, has given permission to Malaysian Hindus to teach Hinduism to Hindu students provided it does not use public funds, is conducted outside of school hours, taught only to Hindus, and more importantly after obtaining permission from the respective school principals. What this means is that the preparation of the syllabus, resource book for teachers, text-books, training for teachers and implementation in schools are all the responsibilities of the community.
The next question is did any individual or organization try in the past. Yes. Malaysia Hindudharma Mamandram and Malaysia Hindu Sangam as organizations, and numerous individuals have made attempts. Malaysia Hindudharma Mamandram (MHDM), even as early as 1999, prepared a syllabus, resource book for teachers, text-book, prarthanai paamalai (collection of religious hymns) and trained about 1000 Tamil school teachers nationwide to help implement this in schools.
Well, since MHDM is a voluntary organization with limited funding, MHDM was not able to continue doing this good project in schools. It was not easy sustaining the interest and enthusiasm of teachers in schools. The teaching of Hindu religious education is still on in schools where there are interested and committed teachers and headmasters. By any count, vast majority of Hindu children do not receive exposure to Hindu religion.
The other question often raised is, without doubt, why aren’t the Hindu temples doing this? Well, this is a one-million dollar question which is often asked but not often addressed fully. I intend to address this important issue another time.
So, because of the situation the community is in and the ever increasing social problems in the community, MHDM has been requesting the government to provide religious education to all Malaysians according to their faiths. This is certainly in line with the requirements of the National Philosophy of Education. This is not something unthinkable. Malaysia has been credited many times for being unique in many aspects. Measure to teach religious education to all Malaysians in line with NPE will add another feather to the already colorful cap, that is our beloved Malaysia.
Below is the call MHDM made to the government in 2003 to introduce Hindu religious education to Hindu students (NST, July 2003).
KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysia Hindudharma Mamandram has sought the help of MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to convey to the Government its proposal that religious education classes on major religions be introduced in national schools.
The association made its request known at its 21st delegates conference here today, which was opened by Samy Vellu, who is also the Works Minister.
Its president Dr N.S. Rajendran said students in national and secondary schools should have religious education similar to that taught to students in Tamil schools nationwide.
He said it had been conducting religious educational programmes in Tamil schools throughout the country since 1999.
Samy Vellu, in his speech, said it was essential for all children to begin receiving religious education and guidance at an early age.
Encouraging the community to be proactive, he proposed the setting up of a Malaysia Consultative Council for Hinduism to look into the needs of Hindus and the religion.
“Our main concern is Hindu temples. It is sad to note that many temples have been built haphazardly with no proper management. In one square mile, we can see as many as four or five Hindu temples,” he said.
He said the problem had been exacerbated by indiscriminate building on government land without permission and other unsuitable places, and that many of these temples would be demolished soon.
He said he had, at the recent Malaysia Hindu Sangam’s annual general meeting, proposed a solution to the problem which would ensure better care, management and protection for Hindu temples and religion.
He added that co-ordination among Hindu organisations was vital if they were to undertake this effort.
He said future courses and activities organised by Hindu-based organisations should take into account not just the religious aspect, but also the economic and social problems faced by Hindus in Malaysia.
Source: New Straits Times – July 07, 2003