Debtors not always to blame

I AGREE with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that these loan defaulters are embarrassing and should feel ashamed.

As someone who has spent most of his career as a debt collections manager and trainer, I find bad debts are not caused solely by the debtors.

They have two main causes:

> Poor credit assessment at point of entry. The wrong people were given credit.

> Poor senior management support for collection efforts. For example, senior management not wanting to be tough, to “let it slide this month”, to avoid bad press and complaints.

You can’t always blame the debtors if the management created the problem.

But fixing a bad debt problem is easy. The first thing you need is senior management with the courage to set the credit and bad debt expectations.

Second, management must get out of the way and allow the collectors to collect – by all legal means possible. Then watch the money roll in.

Steve Coyle
Kuala Lumpur

Sad and shocking

IT IS sad and shocking that so many people have died after consuming some allegedly cheap liquor and beer.

This has not happened since the almost forgotten times in the past when illegal “samsu” drinks used to kill.

The drinks blamed, like India’s kingfisher, cannot be the cause as they are a reputable brand that commands a big market in their country.

It is highly likely that the poisonous drinks are from illicit “samsu producers” in our own backyard.

The authorities, by now, should have traced the origins of the drinks and should be taking quick action.

As these operators can produce reputable brands, how is a consumer to tell the fakes apart?

There is, therefore, a need for quick and very stern action against these producers or importers.

Lives are at stake, no delay should be tolerated in putting a stop to this menace.

Maniam Sankar
Kuala Lumpur

Lift ban on book

I CONCUR completely with prominent law professor Azmi Sharom who questioned the government’s criteria in banning books on religion, saying authorities appears to focus on the Malay readers as though they cannot think for themselves.

I wish to refer to my letter to the editor Jan 1, 2016 in a local daily under the title “Is blocking digital work doable” when Jakim banned a book on the Bahai faith titled Baha’U’llah and the New Era, which was in circulation for 50 years along with other Islamic books by the previous government.

It has been more then two years since it’s banned, but there is no sign of lifting the ban of the book.

The reason given was that the books contained elements that could confuse Muslims and damage their faith.

Though I am not an authority to comment nor suggest on the banning of the four of the books related to Islam I was taken back and surprised on the ban on Baha’U’allah and the New Era an introductory book about the Bahai faith originally written by J. E. Esslement published in 1923.

The book consists of 15 chapters that describe the evolution of the faith.

It has been revised and updated several times, and is published electronically and available online, accessible to anyone for free.

In this country, this book has been available for 50 years, widely used by Bahais to inform and educate the non-Muslim public about the Bahai faith
This particular book was not at anytime used to preach nor proselytise the Bahai faith to Muslims in Malaysia.

Bahai are law-abiding citizens in any country they reside, which is one of the cardinal principles of the faith, to be loyal to the government of the land, at any particular material time.

I agree with what professor Azmi Sharom said: “The pattern indicates that the authorities are very concerned about the Malay mind rather than the Malaysian mind and this is very insulting because it’s as if we can’t read English books on certain topics which aren’t banned … I believe the authorities want the Malay mind to be obedient and follow the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) brand of Shafie school of Sunni Islam.”

Under the New Malaysia such thinking should change. Regardless of race, religion or school of thoughts everyone must enjoy the freedom of expression and this includes freedom to get information.

I hope the authorities, especially Jakim, will review its decision made on the banning of the book and to lift the ban. This will remove the contradictions and ironies of the book which is available online (digital) and hardcopy being banned, creating curiosity to access it online.

K. T. Maran

Do you know?

I WOULD just like to draw attention of the general public towards the redeemable Touch ‘n Go PLUSMiles points, which can be used to reload our cards.

I had been using the Touch ‘n Go for so many years, ignorant of the fact that as I reloaded my card there were PLUSMiles points that were automatically credited into my account, which could be redeemed after a certain amount had been used.

In a WhatsApp video I saw that such PLUSMiles points are liable to be converted into credits in our Touch ‘n Go cards.

To find out if there were actually such points, I stopped at a customer service centre in one of the toll gates. To my dismay, I learnt from the counter clerk that it is only possible to redeem the points provided customers had registered online on the PLUSMiles point redemption scheme.

What puzzled me was that if such a PLUSMiles redemption programme exists why didn’t PLUS inform customers upon purchase of their Touch ‘n Go cards? Why had this information been deprived from customers?

Pleading ignorance cannot be an excuse, is it fair for the highway authorities to deprive all the older generations or even the younger generations who are not computer savvy of their right to claim this discount from them?

Why not create a system, when upon purchase of these cards an automatic registration is executed by PLUS based on customer’s details, which will hardly take a minute to process.

I hope the new government and our very steadfast and innovative transport minister will act to compel PLUS to return all the moneys, which are due to the customers of PLUS. Please help the people to ease, albeit in a small way, their cost of living.

This will go a long way to show that Transport Minister Anthony Loke walks the talk and that we actually have a people-centric, caring government.

Sundra Raj Peruma

UN Global Goals – Taiwan can help

THE 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, adopted at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, set bold goals to shift the world onto a sustainable, resilient path. Here was also pledged the formation of a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development including all countries, all stakeholders and all people, such that no one would be left behind.

Despite such a pledge, Taiwan’s 23 million people have been left out of this global effort. This violates the principle of universality upon which the UN was founded and deprives Taiwan as well as the international community of opportunities to work together for the common good.

Taiwan, though not being allowed to participate in the UN’s meetings, activities and mechanisms, has never shirked its duties as a responsible stakeholder. In line with the agenda’s recommendation, Taiwan has released its first Voluntary National Review last year, detailing our whole-of-government approach to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The concrete results we have achieved include alleviating poverty, zero hunger, reducing the percentage of low-income households to under 2%, cutting the maternal mortality rate to just 11.6 per 100,000 people and under-five child mortality rate to just 2.4 per 1,000, and improving our literacy rate to 98.7%. All of these are well above UN SDG standards.

Taiwan also provides development assistance to other countries. Through the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), Taiwan’s official development assistance organisation, we have launched various programmes in the Pacific, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. These programmes aim to help countries in these regions to achieve clean energy, food security, food safety, sustainable agriculture, better education, health and well-being for all age groups, and disaster reduction and adaptation.

TaiwanICDF also works with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to assist countries in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe to develop market economies and a green economy.

While Taiwan’s valuable contributions have been widely acclaimed around the globe, the UN continues to ignore what Taiwan can offer.

Taiwan’s tourists, experts and professionals are denied entry into UN premises simply because the UN does not accept the Republic of China’s (Taiwan) passport, which is recognised by almost every country in the world. The UN has refused to accredit Taiwan’s journalists covering its meetings and activities, yet the work of such people is in the interests of the people of Taiwan and the world.

We are extremely disappointed that the UN continues to misuse 1971’s General Assembly Resolution 2758 (XXVI) to justify Taiwan’s exclusion and isolation.

As we have pointed out before, this resolution neither addresses the issue of representation of Taiwan and its people in the UN system, nor defines the relationship between Taiwan and China.

The so-called one-China principle has been challenged by many UN member states. It is wrong for the UN, an organisation created to serve all of humankind, to unilaterally define Taiwan’s status.

Article 1 of the UN Charter proclaims that the purposes of the organisation are to “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights”.

At this critical juncture when humankind is facing multiple challenges, global cooperation that includes all countries, all stakeholders and all people is ever more important.

By excluding a willing and able partner like Taiwan, the UN not only violates the fundamental human rights of Taiwan’s 23 million people but also greatly harms human welfare.

To ensure the UN remains relevant to all people, the organisation should stand up to external pressures and open its doors to Taiwan.

Jaushieh Joseph Wu
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Encouraging our children’s interests

ON my recent trip to Fraser’s Hill to escape the heat in city, I discovered how easy it was to get to this retreat destination. It is only two hours away from Kuala Lumpur.

As we were approaching the town centre, we saw a big orange sign by the road that read: “Bird Interpretive Centre”.

The next day, we decided to check out the centre. I asked Puncak Inn Hotel receptionist cum tourist information if I could visit the centre.

Immediately he arranged his colleague to unlock the door for me. To my surprise, there were many pictures of beautiful birds found in Fraser’s Hill, information about birds and also their importance.

Besides that, there were also pictures and write-ups about the functions of NGOs like Malaysia Nature Society and WWF-Malaysia. Lovely sound of the birds chirping also filled the centre.

Sadly, I was informed that the centre was underutilised. Holiday makers to Fraser’s Hill no longer visit the facility. Perhaps the visitors are unaware of the facility.

I also discovered that the public library right downstairs also was not popular with visitors. It was empty when I stepped in. What a pity!

It would be lovely to have all those children playing outside to do some reading and activities in the library. Parents could spend some time flipping through the books with beautiful pictures of the wildlife.

Visiting these two facilities reminded me of the field trips my daughter participated during her schooling years.

She has been to the chocolate factory, bread factory, Zoo Negara, Bird park, National Museum, and Petronas Science Centre. Many schools also organise trips to destinations like Malacca, Langkawi and Singapore for older students.

Even theme parks. I believe these are the standard field trips most schools including private schools make. The same destinations year after year. I have never heard of a visit to place like the Bird Interpretive Centre to inculcate their love for nature or to stimulate their interest in certain subject.

Ironically, after the trips, teachers do not hold sessions to discuss on what they could have learned from the trips or to enhance it. There seems to be a misleading objective of the trips. Is it another source of revenue for the schools or just to keep the students occupied while other students are sitting for their core exams?

I hope the Education Ministry could look into the matter to see if these school field trips are truly beneficial to the students. A serious look into how to make good use of their time after year-end exams is needed urgently.

A lot of the time, students are left unattended in their classrooms or school fields. Students who are involved in sport activities are left playing among themselves without a coach.

This results in students skipping school or playing truant due to boredom.

Perhaps more sport related activities could be introduced. For example, bowling, skating, archery and cycling. Or non-sport related activities like debating, public speaking, general knowledge and performance art.

I believe many parents share the same sentiment in this matter. Let’s work together to cultivate our children’s interests and get them inspired.

Jenny Ngiam
Kuala Lumpur

RM50 increase in minimum wage not enough

THE government should listen to the advice of the National Wage Consultative Council and not almost entirely, to the employers’ advice.

Employers would generally want to maximise their profits by minimise wage increases, so please don’t be unduly influenced by them. The majority of the voters are workers who deserve more priority attention.

> The Pakatan Harapan government must honour its manifesto and election promises to increase minimum wages to RM1,500 per month in five years, by immediately raising wages – not just by RM50 per month, but by at least a further RM150 per month. Then as the economy grows, the government could implement more wage increases.

> Meanwhile, the government should spend more on improving Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teaching and training programmes, to raise productivity for working individuals as well as students.  

> Income inequality is widening and could cause social unrest if not addressed in time. So the government should give greater priority to raising wages urgently and more substantially, to overcome this serious problem of worsening income inequality.

> The government should also ensure that the rakyat gain from Malaysia’s still strong economic fundamentals and good economic growth and not favour mostly the wealthy.

We must ask ourselves whether our policy planners should aim to benefit the poor much more than the already blessed rich.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Corporate Adviser
Sunway Group

What took you so long, Puspakom?

I REFER to the recent Bernama report “Puspakom making great strides over the years”.

Puspakom chief executive officer Mohammed Shukor Ismail told Bernama in an interview that the waiting time for vehicle inspections had been reduced from four to five hours previously to less than one hour.

Vehicle inspections were initially conducted by the Road Transport Department until it was privatised to Puspakom from 1994.

I drove taxis from 2000 to 2010 and the most dreadful times were the days I had to send my cab for routine inspections every six months.

First, I had to join a long queue that snaked out of the inspection centre located at Taman Bukit Maluri or Desa Tun Razak Industrial Park, both in Kuala Lumpur. I avoided the main one at Wangsa Maju as it was usually packed with hundred of vehicles within the large compound.

Under the hot sun and sometimes in the rain, we had to keep moving in the queue until we reached the gate where our documents are checked before paying for the inspection fee at the cashier’s counter.

After parking my taxi on the correct lane and leaving the bonnet open, I would act like most drivers do, behaving sheepishly so as not to incur the wrath of vehicle examiners, who could determine our fate for the day by passing or failing the inspection.

This was a natural response when vehicle examiners were lording over drivers, as clearly shown by their body language. It was a worst form of customer experience overlooked by the management of Puspakom.

While innovations such as MyPuspakom, an app for the public to make appointments are convenient, it should be noted that customer service will remain poor if the staff do not show courtesy to the public.

On Aug 1, Deputy Transport Minister Kamaruddin Jaafar told Parliament that the Ministry of Transport will decide on the review of the concession of Puspakom by year-end.

Puspakom had spent RM2 billion on operating expenditure and RM550 million on development. For sure, it had done its utmost in recent years to transform itself and not take for granted its monopolistic position.

However, its mission will only be complete if it engages outsiders to look into their operations, and none better than mystery shoppers who could also mingle with other drivers at Puspakom to seek their views.

CY Ming

Right to freedom of religion

THE Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is deeply concerned with the most recent crackdown on a Shia minority group in Kelantan for practising their religion, a right guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. The arrest of 50 individuals including children, in Suhakam’s view, indicates a severe intolerance for minority faiths, including Muslims, and can be construed as a move towards extremism.

As a result, a population of Malaysians have been deprived of their basic constitutional right to freedom of religion. Suhakam believes that the constant threat of raids, arrests, and detention by religious authorities acting with the police amounts to a government-led persecution of Shias despite Malaysia having a constitutional framework to guarantee all citizens the right to freedom of religion.

The glaring inequality facing religious minorities has not changed since Pakatan Harapan came to power and despite the government’s promise to end discrimination in a moderate, progressive and tolerant Malaysia.

Suhakam would not want to see a situation where religious intolerance, discrimination, social hostilities and incitement to violence based on religion or belief reach a new depth in our new Malaysia and believes sensitivity of the subject matter can no longer be a barrier to a firm resolution.

The government must immediately take steps towards guaranteeing legal protections and rights for all religious minorities and to reinforce peaceful and sustainable coexistence among Malaysians.

Therefore, Suhakam advises the government to take immediate steps to strengthen the enjoyment of the fundamental human right to freedom of religion, as opposed to restricting this constitutional right. Suhakam stands ready to play a facilitative role and hopes that the government will take fair and constructive steps towards providing equal rights for all religious groups in Malaysia.

Therefore, Suhakam advises the government to take immediate steps to strengthen the enjoyment of the fundamental human right to freedom of religion, as opposed to restricting this constitutional right. Suhakam stands ready to play a facilitative role and hopes that the government will take fair and constructive steps towards providing equal rights for all religious groups in Malaysia.

Suhakam believes that the Council of Rulers has a responsibility towards sections of Malaysian population victimised on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Tan Sri Razali Ismail
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam)

We did not vote for this kind of Malaysia

MAY 9, 2018 was a very special day for Malaysians. For those of us who voted for a change, it meant waking up to a renewed sense of pride.

Because let’s face it, for the longest time, so many of us have been feeling quite embarrassed by our own country. For so long, Malaysia has made international headlines for all the wrong reasons; corruption, fraud, misappropriation. It had become difficult to face the international community without feeling a bit of shame for allowing such exploitation to fester in our country.

So during this election, we changed that, because truly at the core our love for this country speaks louder than our urge to just run away from it. And so we did.
And we thought that given the questionably low bar set by the previous government, where connectedness with the community was concerned, it would be pretty hard for a political party that claims to be people-centric to let us down.

So excuse us for feeling disappointed that it has come to this, because we voted for a progressive new Malaysia that is eager to be recognised by the rest of the world for all the right reasons. A Malaysia that we can be proud of.

We did not vote for a Malaysia that condones oppression, silencing and fundamentalism. We did not vote for a Malaysia that wishes to travel back to medieval times of public cruelty and torture.

It is appalling that not only are videos of the public caning circulating via social media, but also that there are people encouraging this to be normalised in the country to a point where caning should not be something that people are shocked by anymore, according to the Terengganu executive councillor (exco).

It is indeed a disturbing sign of times when a state government actually wants people to be desensitised to seeing other people get publicly humiliated and hurt.

It is even more troubling that Islam is being used to justify such conditioning of the community.

In the Holy Quran, Allah s.w.t. tells us that, “those who love (to see) scandal published (and) broadcast among the Believers will have a grievous penalty in this lifetime and in the Hereafter” [24:19]. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said that it is wicked for someone to demean a fellow Muslim (Bukhari).

Every human being, by virtue of being descendants of Prophet Adam (peace and blessings be upon him), has been granted dignity and honour (karamah) [17:70] and this is something no one can deny. We are obligated to recognise that all humans are Allah’s vicegerents (khalifah) on this earth, for even when questioned by the angels, Allah tells them that “I know what ye know not” [2:30].

To be respectful of each other’s dignity is so sacred, that Allah tells us that it is wrong to defame and be sarcastic to each other or call each other by offensive nicknames because we can never know if they could be better people than we are [49:11]. Surah Hujurat goes on to explicitly tell us to avoid suspicion because to even be suspicious of another person can be considered a sin and this includes going out of the way to spy on each other behind their backs [49:12].

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) himself tells us not to search for each other’s faults, “for if anyone searches for the faults of others, Allah will search for their faults,” (Hasan Sahih [Al-Albani]). Even in doing so, the hadith goes on to say that, “If Allah searches for the fault of anyone, They will be disgraced in their house,” – such is the grace and mercy of Allah who dislikes public humiliation and mockery [104:1].

It is about time that we stopped using Islam as an excuse to exert oppression onto others, and accept that Islam is and must be known foremost for its gentleness, kindness and mercy.

Some of the most sacred names of Allah are Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving: mentioned over 70 times in the Holy Quran), Al-Rahman (The Most Merciful: mentioned 57 times in the Holy Quran) and Al-Raheem (The Most Compassionate: mentioned 115 times in the Holy Quran). So mighty is Allah, that They can forgive every (other) sin from whomsoever They will [4:116] and Allah, in fact, loves to forgive (At Trimidhi and Ibn Majah).

This is the beauty of Islam, which must prevail over everything that we do as a people and as a country. This is what our country must be known for. This is the country that we want to be proud of.

Majidah Hashim
Communications Manager
Sisters in Islam