I am Malaysian

AS citizens of Malaysia we have all the reason to be proud of ourselves given what transpired post-GE14. It is perhaps not too early to claim some credit for ourselves. Even May 13 went by unnoticed. To the younger generation, it was just another day of no historic significance. For the older ones, it seemed to be overtaken by the “jaw-dropping” GE14 result which quickly “unified” Malaysia as a nation. It was almost spontaneous without manufactured slogans to make it happen. This must have come from our hearts that bind us for the love of our only country.

A clear indication of this came from a press conference where the new finance minister said: “I don’t consider myself as Chinese. I am Malaysian.” His reply was followed by loud applause. It was in response to a question from the press deliberately framed to project the “racial” dimension. Fortunately, this was wisely handled to drive the all-important “Malaysian” message home.

It was also timely considering a race-based coalition was “devastated” in the election. In particular, the Chinese-based component party that contested 39 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats could only secure one and two seats respectively, compared to winning 31 parliamentary seats in GE11.

To nail the coffin, its president lost the seat he held for many years and the party only had slim majorities in the few seats it won.

Interestingly enough members of the party preferred to be called “Malaysian Chinese” as reflected in the name of the association. Not even “Chinese Malaysians” – if at all ethnicity is considered relevant as in the case of African-American for US citizens of African descent (like Barack Obama). Otherwise they are happy to be just Americans. So why not just Malaysians for us?

This is what makes the statement “I am Malaysian” such a great departure, given that his party is now part of the new ruling coalition. It was a resounding “vote” for Bangsa Malaysia as per Challenge 1 of Wawasan 2020.

It is also imperative to send a clear and strong signal to some embassies and their governments that allegedly claimed to be “defenders” of overseas Chinese despite that the latter are now loyal citizens of another sovereign nation. This claim was heard not too long ago leading to a “diplomatic spat” because it was deemed as “interference” in the internal affairs of Malaysia.

This should not be allowed to happen again bearing in mind that investment and interest from China is pouring in to a tune that has caused unnecessary “anxiety” among most Malaysians. Add this to the insistence of playing a “defender’s” role, it raises more questions than answers that are bound to ruffle local sensitivities, scenarios and practices (think Africa).

As it stands, the first branch campus from China located near Nilai stood like a sore thumb with only Chinese and English words chiselled on its foundation stone with not a single word of Bahasa Malaysia. So too for many of that country’s factories in Malaysia. Similarly during official events involving top officials from both countries; the launch of the ECRL project is a notable example where our national language was not used. This would not happen in China. So why did it happen here?

The implication of such a move is a grave one. Not respecting our national language (what more not speaking it well) is tantamount to negating the existence of our nationality as Malaysians. And that is also the main reason why many still cling to their ethnicity rather than being full-blooded Malaysians. This is not limited to just uneducated elderly people (this is understandable) but surprisingly use of the language is also a problem for many corporate leaders who cannot string a single decent sentence in good BM. It is shameful. This means “I am Malaysian” is void to the extent that the previous prime minister had to address some of them in English or broken BM in their ethnic dialect after 60 years of Merdeka.

For this reason alone “I am Malaysian” is a vital force that must be seriously maximised to strongly mould it to create a sole identity for Bangsa Malaysia in shaping the “new” Malaysia. At once subordinating the ethnic tendencies, including state-based “bangsa” that some “clans” are dubiously popularising. If not this will only dilute or confuse the situation further, including the use of superfluous logos and taglines (think sehati sejiwa, 1Malaysia, etc) which are utterly superficial and a waste of resources as glaringly evident from the election result for the losing coalition.

Hence, it cannot be overemphasised that “I am Malaysian” was a key take home message when a “fresh” government was voted in decisively. It was done on the basis of “Harapan” and NOT based on political parties, what else racial and chauvinistic ones in whatever form. It is time to bury the latter once and for all as a form of toxic thinking. Yes, we are proudly Malaysians. Are you?

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The pen is mightier …?

HOW is it that marking “X” against a symbol on a ballot led to an avalanche of change that transformed the political landscape of Malaysia? Is this what is meant by “the pen is mightier than the sword”?

As an educator, that this took place in a school where I chose to vote made it even more meaningful. Imagine if we can move the status quo each time we “jot” down our thoughts as matter of choice as part of education. Yet this seems to be the most difficult part of schooling (learning) often made worse by the challenge of “screen addiction” prevalent among students today. Why I am not sure but it must be related to what we take “education” to mean for us – individually and collectively. As for the former, it is about enhancing our self-awareness (know thy self), whereas the latter it is about embracing that collectively for humanity. The two need to connect immediately to give a deeper meaning so that it can be used to navigate our lives consistent with our surrounding including the natural world and other life forms. This takes more than isolated intellectual class-bound activities targeted for standardised assessments (be it PISA or TIMMS or the ranking games). Instead it should be at once spiritual, emotional as well as physical – all set in a balance harmoniously (sejahtera). After all this is what education truly is about – “learning how to live a life with dignity” rather than about “making a living without one” – the way it is generally phrased today.

In other words, education has lost its original purpose (“soul”) hoodwinked by the neoliberal slant as it creeps in insidiously thanks to “free market” forces. In essence, it defines what is educationally desirable or marketable and what is not. It aggressively skewed “education” at a tangent to the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan (1996). The “pen” so to speak is no longer as mighty, blunted by “false” targets set by the marketplace. Worse it distorts the falsafah and undermines it the moment we set foot onto the schoolyard.

The evidence was obvious at the school where I cast my vote. It is of “premier” status, in an upper middle class area with impressive facilities, structures and location. One cannot ask for more. It was well decorated with motivating words and phrases, the frequently asked questions on the Education Blueprint and, there was even the Rukun Negara (surprise! surprise!). There is even an inspiring mural entitled “MalaysiaKu”.

What is sorely missing, however, is the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan (FPK). It was no where to be seen whereas this is what schools are supposed to instil and live by – the very basis of nation-building and national aspirations as detailed by Wawasan 2020 (which was also absent). My suspicion is that a good majority are oblivious to what the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan is. So what?

Not much except that the FPK was ahead of its time by more than 30 years. It even preceded Unesco’s four Pillars of Learning by a decade. We had a gem in our hands but did not do much about it. Worse, we are not in tune with the depth of its meaning relative to the global agenda. So we keep on looking at what others have and try hard to emulate them disregarding our own context, values and of course FPK (and W2020) – even long after Unesco had released its own version that mirrors closely that of the FPK.

Succinctly, we missed an opportunity to give a whole generation an education far superior, intentionally or otherwise. And we are now paying a high price for it as the neoliberal agenda seeps in deeper and deeper – STEM and 4th Industrial Revolution (to name the two latest “dehumanising” craze) making our education system WEIRD. That is, westernised (neoliberal); economic-centric; industry-led; reputation-obsessed; last but not least, dehumanising (see MyView Jan 17).

We have lost the proverbial pen to the sword, and the onslaught is not difficult to see and experience. This must be urgently attended to at all cost.

When is this better to do if not during the auspicious day of Hari Guru. Aided by FPK, teachers are that reservoir where the “pen” derives its vital forces to be mightier than the sword. If by marking “X” against a symbol can cleanse an entire nation; why not its education system. Provided we are equally determined to put an “X” against the “real” meaning and purpose of education as inspired by the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan to create an alliance of hope for a “new” Malaysia. Unless this is done in earnest it is inconceivable to chart a course based on an “archaic” 19th century worldview. The time to do so is now!

We wish all teachers Selamat Hari Guru 2018. Education can be the new fountainhead of hope for Malaysia.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Listen to your conscience

TOMORROW is D-day. About 15 million citizens are expected to vote with a few million still not decided of their roles. Those who are enthusiastic are unsure if they will be able to make it.

There seem to be many (un)intended “barriers” – one being the weekday. But the fighting spirit is high: “Rabu” is now “Ramai Akan Balik Undi”– not just Wednesday any more.

It is heart-warming to see many citizens’ initiatives are keeping the “Rabu” spirit burning. It truly is a beacon of “hope” signalling that Malaysians are desirous of a democratic way of life not just for today but post-GE14.

By insisting on a firm stand to ensure that electoral processes are duly respected and not compromised in any way, Suhakam adds the much needed sense of confidence not to turn GE14 into a political circus.

The air of confidence is also bolstered by the many “new faces” (especially women) being fielded.

Unfortunately for some quarters this seems to be more of a political ploy to strike home the message that they are willing to embrace – but only in their favour.

This is apparent from the subsequent (veiled) warnings to toe the line or else – which encompassed “old faces” who were axed for just that.

So what chance do the “new faces” have? Looks like the grip on the “old ways” is still the mindset advocated by the tired, desperate faces come what may.
So voters must make critical choices.

The desperation is more obvious when it is arbitrarily “ruled” that not all faces especially the “old” ones are allowed to be publicly displayed.

The double standards are unmistakeable. Those affected are relatively “young” looking (with full black hair) exuding charisma that could be a crowd-puller for the undecided.

Likewise, the reverse holds true; over publicised faces could be a double-edged sword. Beware!

In the same vein, not all “new faces” are welcomed by the “oldies” who felt that they are being short-changed. What is more when some of the latter are privileged to contest both state and parliamentary seats.

How the political correctness factors in is hard to fathom leading to allegations that the system is “broken”. Worst when told it is a “reality” that must be accepted, else.

Thus as envisaged the “new faces” are not spared. A case in point is when one was unfairly singled out as being a “communist” by virtue of a family history going back so many decades.

We conveniently forget that never before has Malaysia as a sovereign nation been so beholden to an ambitious “communist” entity.

Yet when similar reminders were raised knee-jerk counter-attacks were launched in defence of the “communist” stakeholders and their local “beneficiaries” enticed by the billions of ringgit invested.

A banner involving one leading local politician grinning away with a leader from China has also been sighted as evidence.

So why pick on a young novice when some veterans are openly flirting with the same kind to the extent even election banners proudly displaying information that they are made in the “communist” entity, as though to snub our local national pride (if any left)!

It is due to these muddle-ups and the finer hidden ramifications for the future that this election can be a vital turning point.

Hence we need to walk tall as Malaysians and vote with our conscience fully intact.

We have heard how elections in other countries (no less the US) have been manipulated by foreign interest(s).

By listening to our own conscience, we the rakyat can collectively safeguard the future of this beloved country from the unscrupulous.

So vote well and turn the Rabu initiative of “Ramai Akan Balik Undi” into a movement of “Rakyat Asas Benteng yang Utuh” (the Rakyat As the Basis for Unity) to save Malaysia! God willing.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The ethics of winning an election

DISCERNING students of leadership are convinced that the “election campaign” began long before the dissolution of Parliament last week. The hint is not hard to find. It is most apparent with the change in leadership style. Earlier, we were accustomed to being bombarded with the word “transformation” (think ETP, GTP, TN50), but of late it is something different. The rhetoric may be similar but what is translated on the ground is hardly the same, be it consciously or otherwise.

Slowly but surely the style of leadership has taken a major twist to what looks like a “transactional” model. So what is the difference?

For one it is not necessarily transformational in nature, in fact it can be the contrary. In this case, the model is often regarded as “inferior”, rather passive and inefficient because it can recede into the “laissez-faire” type. Therefore it is less preferred except for the purposes of some quick short-term gains.

By definition transactional leadership is more commonly regarded as one that seeks to maintain the status quo rather than change, let alone a transformational one. It is often routine- and procedural-based, locked down on existing rules with a business-as-usual mindset. It is not known as being proactive or creative. And more about authority, supervision and command-and-control focused on “finding” fault and deviation from the existing norms instead of empowering the followers. Indeed transactional leaders are keen to promote “compliance” among the followers through the use of both reward and punishment. This enhances the culture of fear and even blind loyalty or herd mentality since most are averse to risk-taking thus preferring to play it safe. Hence maintaining the status quo.

As such the leadership style works on motivating the followers by appealing to their self-interest while asserting the leadership authorities to get the “transaction” done as a measure of performance. The level of performance will then be the measure of reward and/or punishment depending on what suits the interest of the leaders. The analogy that best describes the situation is: “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” If either one fails to live up to what was agreed then the transaction lapses. It is therefore easy to see why and how leaders switch to the transactional mode when election is in the air where power becomes the most decisive means to an end. After all transactional leadership style is most suited for short-term, project-based activities (as in political elections) where the use of “money” acts as a very convenient form of medium to facilitate and forge a transaction in exchange for votes.

It is therefore not a coincidence that in almost all election-related speeches or activities some amount of “money” is being mentioned or offered “dressed” in various forms (perks, projects, positions) for various reasons – right or wrong. At times it is more directly “given out” to those purported as “needy” in full view of the media with the giver smiling away at the camera rather than sympathising with the recipients. There is also no shortage of billboards and advertisements depicting picture of “cash” as some form of incentives promoted by political parties.

What is sad about all this kind of “transaction” is the pressure to stay beholden to the “giver” taking away the democratic rights of the “receiver”. Some dub it as “voter buying”. Sadder still is when this breeds a culture of dependency and subtly corruption latched to the perks, projects and positions as a form of unethical political favours.

The concern for such subtleties is heightened in today’s era of sophisticated technology, when transactional leadership is easier to abuse away from the scrutiny of the public eyes. Firewalled by the specially designed programmes (even laws) most “transactions” can be clandestinely protected and executed. This seems to be at the very heart of what is plaguing modern democracy as witnessed in some recent elections involving democratically matured nations. That leaves a gaping question as to where developing and less democratic countries stand in the practice of the same beginning with the electoral process.

To what extent will the all-encompassing “transformation” previously promoted remain ethical is the crux of the question that continues to be asked. More so taking the perspective of James MacGregor Burns who replaced the “transactional” leadership model with the “transformational” version. He defined the latter as “leaders and followers racing each other to a higher level of morality and motivation” in achieving common goals. Unlike the transactional approach, it is not based on a “give and take” relationship but governed by integrity and ethical values which are of absolute importance as in all manner of elections. Because it will ultimately colour the kind of democratic principles and processes shaping the “real” future of the nation. Our duty is to ascertain that elections are ethically won before they can be regarded as truly transformational.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The ethics of winning an election

DISCERNING students of leadership are convinced that the “election campaign” began long before the dissolution of Parliament last week. The hint is not hard to find. It is most apparent with the change in leadership style. Earlier, we were accustomed to being bombarded with the word “transformation” (think ETP, GTP, TN50), but of late it is something different. The rhetoric may be similar but what is translated on the ground is hardly the same, be it consciously or otherwise.

Slowly but surely the style of leadership has taken a major twist to what looks like a “transactional” model. So what is the difference?

For one it is not necessarily transformational in nature, in fact it can be the contrary. In this case, the model is often regarded as “inferior”, rather passive and inefficient because it can recede into the “laissez-faire” type. Therefore it is less preferred except for the purposes of some quick short-term gains.

By definition transactional leadership is more commonly regarded as one that seeks to maintain the status quo rather than change, let alone a transformational one. It is often routine- and procedural-based, locked down on existing rules with a business-as-usual mindset. It is not known as being proactive or creative. And more about authority, supervision and command-and-control focused on “finding” fault and deviation from the existing norms instead of empowering the followers. Indeed transactional leaders are keen to promote “compliance” among the followers through the use of both reward and punishment. This enhances the culture of fear and even blind loyalty or herd mentality since most are averse to risk-taking thus preferring to play it safe. Hence maintaining the status quo.

As such the leadership style works on motivating the followers by appealing to their self-interest while asserting the leadership authorities to get the “transaction” done as a measure of performance. The level of performance will then be the measure of reward and/or punishment depending on what suits the interest of the leaders. The analogy that best describes the situation is: “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” If either one fails to live up to what was agreed then the transaction lapses. It is therefore easy to see why and how leaders switch to the transactional mode when election is in the air where power becomes the most decisive means to an end. After all transactional leadership style is most suited for short-term, project-based activities (as in political elections) where the use of “money” acts as a very convenient form of medium to facilitate and forge a transaction in exchange for votes.

It is therefore not a coincidence that in almost all election-related speeches or activities some amount of “money” is being mentioned or offered “dressed” in various forms (perks, projects, positions) for various reasons – right or wrong. At times it is more directly “given out” to those purported as “needy” in full view of the media with the giver smiling away at the camera rather than sympathising with the recipients. There is also no shortage of billboards and advertisements depicting picture of “cash” as some form of incentives promoted by political parties.

What is sad about all this kind of “transaction” is the pressure to stay beholden to the “giver” taking away the democratic rights of the “receiver”. Some dub it as “voter buying”. Sadder still is when this breeds a culture of dependency and subtly corruption latched to the perks, projects and positions as a form of unethical political favours.

The concern for such subtleties is heightened in today’s era of sophisticated technology, when transactional leadership is easier to abuse away from the scrutiny of the public eyes. Firewalled by the specially designed programmes (even laws) most “transactions” can be clandestinely protected and executed. This seems to be at the very heart of what is plaguing modern democracy as witnessed in some recent elections involving democratically matured nations. That leaves a gaping question as to where developing and less democratic countries stand in the practice of the same beginning with the electoral process.

To what extent will the all-encompassing “transformation” previously promoted remain ethical is the crux of the question that continues to be asked. More so taking the perspective of James MacGregor Burns who replaced the “transactional” leadership model with the “transformational” version. He defined the latter as “leaders and followers racing each other to a higher level of morality and motivation” in achieving common goals. Unlike the transactional approach, it is not based on a “give and take” relationship but governed by integrity and ethical values which are of absolute importance as in all manner of elections. Because it will ultimately colour the kind of democratic principles and processes shaping the “real” future of the nation. Our duty is to ascertain that elections are ethically won before they can be regarded as truly transformational.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The Shinkansen experience

MENTION “bullet train” and the word Shinkansen comes to mind. The phrase “bullet train” was born out of the high-speed and ergonomic shape of the train translated from the Japanese description. The idea captured the world’s imagination in 1964 when Japan launched the world’s fastest train on the Tokyo to Shin-Osaka (515km) line after heated political debates and resignations leading to a “new trunk line” (which is what Shinkansen means) specifically named New Tokaido Line. It remains the world’s busiest route and has not stopped expanding. In 2015, a new train set (the 7 series) set a record as the fastest in the world.

While the US was busy gunning for the Moon in the 60s, Japan had its feet firmly on the ground providing mobility solutions for millions of people. If you think that this is just another technological marvel that Japan is noted for, think again. It has grown into a culture that has far surpassed the technology.

Historically similar to the invention of the steam engine in Europe, it too brought many ruptures notably in economic terms that helped Japan surge forward as a community with bold innovative mindsets. After all the pioneering “architects” were aircraft designers during WWII. The stark difference is that the speedy train is cleaner in all counts. So much so others are imitating and competing while Japan continues to lead. And other technologically less capable nations also desire it for some reason.

While all these are commendable developments, it is the easier part. More challenging is to emulate the experiences that make the Shinkansen a cut above the rest. It is not just about being top-speed and efficiently so, but more to be culturally connected and relevant to all things Japanese that others, especially the non-Japanese, would find hard to match. For another, one would be hard pressed to cite an example where a transport organisation apologises to its commuters because the train left the station 20 seconds early. This can only happen in Japan as it did lately which at once reaffirmed the “on time” and “meet need” promises differentiating it from other railway experiences worldwide.

Such is the standard accultured by the Japanese where technology and cultural values are fused and practised side by side seamlessly. Travelling on the Shinkansen makes this apparent right from the moment passengers queue. The etiquette and impeccable service make the journey a restful and secure one. More so in the silent coach that tolerates no unwarranted sound even as faint as flipping a page. What more whispering into a phone because it invades the privacy of others. This is frowned upon on all Japanese public transport.

All these acts are difficult to follow if not culturally embedded as habits the way the Japanese have done it. Otherwise it becomes a farce that misses the features central to the Shinkansen experience reducing it to a frivolous technological ride sans the human touch. Along with it comes several disturbing acts as seen during the MRT launch. We forgot that technology is for people and put technology before people.

This should be noted for the southbound HSR project. Can the “fusion” be achieved as the Japanese have impressively shown? Or are we going to see other unacceptable behaviour like beating the queue. In short, have all these been thought through in formulating the type of training or is it just about technical transfer. How about the socio-cultural aspects which can be undertaken by local institutions working with the technical vendors.

Japan has a wealth of experience based on the Look East Policy that took off in the late 1970s, and kept fresh through trust and relationships built over more than 30 years. Under the policy, one cannot help recognise how much the exchanges benefited the youth leaders, academics, professionals and also those from other Asean nations. All these are pluses that underscore the understanding forged with Japan as both countries enjoyed 60 years of cordial diplomatic relationship since Merdeka in 1957 – incidentally the same year the bullet train was first mooted. And speaking about “trust”, Japan again stands out relative to others that are either embroiled in massive corrupt practices or bizarre socio-political intrusions.

Malaysia must therefore set its sights high to ensure that similar Shinkansen-type experiences will be sampled by our commuters as the hallmark of a truly advanced nation come 2020. The Japanese dubbed theirs as the “super express of dreams” attributed to “the wisdom and effort of the Japanese people” as engraved on the launch plaque on Oct 1, 1964 just before the Tokyo Olympics.

How different will ours be?

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that another world is possible. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Productivity beyond the workplace

THE assumption that “productivity” is a technical concept relevant only to workplaces is not accurate. Broadly, it can be described as a way of thinking and “the way of life” regardless of one’s vocation.

In this context, “productivity” is often linked to five basic necessities that must be promoted and protected as the basis of action to attain a “productive” life that is sustainable, balanced and harmonious (sejahtera). It needs to be (re)aligned with the conventional idea of “productivity” as humanly as possible beyond the material dimension. In this way, it can also act as a motivational force that has a direct impact on “productivity” as a human person more than just human capital. This completes the loop in articulating what “sustainable productivity” ought to be for everyone, everywhere and every time.

For this to happen, each of the five “necessities” must relate to one another in such a way that all are interdependent to ensure “productivity” is culturally sustainable. The first necessity is the promotion and protection of “life” (inclusive of health and safety), second “intellect”, third “progeny”, fourth “(natural) resources”, and last “the way of life” that connects all the rest as essential parts of productive living.

There is little awareness on how the five necessities can be applied in managing and achieving better “productivity” that is sustainable, balanced and harmonious; while at the same time warding off loss and injury, thus injustice, chaos and disarray in all situations keeping unhappiness in abeyance. Instead, it helps to restore “discipline”, “well-being” with “higher sense of purpose” by being exemplary regardless of place and time.

In practical terms, to better promote and protect (all forms of) “life” through “productivity” – not only must individuals nurture and exercise discipline and thoughtfulness, the systems must also be deployed in such a way that the management and governance is directed to achieve the maximum in the most dignified and human way.

This, in turn, will depend on the level of intellect and rigour of reasoning engaged to bring out the best impact and outcome to reflect the overall status of well-being based on values of morality, integrity and authenticity.

Ultimately, over the long term, these will be embedded in future generations (progeny) who will foster even better productive futures for the community, nation and world. They are the leaders of tomorrow forged on values founded on the principle of five necessities to pursue productive lifestyles.

In more tangible terms, this can be “measured” through short-term outputs – not just economically, but also culturally and even socio-politically. Over the long term, it portrays equitable prosperity, justice and social cohesion to develop a sustainable community. As such it addresses larger societal values and concerns of environmental ethics as part of the shared communal values and stewardship related to “resources” held in trust for humanity.

All these are interlinked to shape “the way of life” rooted in universal values whereby all the five necessities are held together to be promoted and protected as the overarching indicator of “sustainable productivity”. And as productivity increases “the way of life” will continue to evolve attaining even higher stature and state of well-being. This feeds back into the principle of five necessities ensuring that each of the necessities remains relevant and applicable laying the foundation for a holistic and evolving values-based productivity system.

This will form the main framework to acculturate sustainable productivity extending beyond the industry into the larger (global) community and individuals.

The quintuple model of “sustainable productivity” ventures to motivate via the sense of accomplishment and attainment of higher order and purpose in life that is sustainable, balanced and harmonious. By being deeply self-motivated and engaged, other forms of incentives, recognition and rewards can be rendered less important, thus thrusting forward the importance of “sustainable productivity” as a social movement boosted by the principle of five necessities.

The writer is the chairperson of the Consultative Panel on Productivity Culture at Malaysia Productivity Corp.

A multiversity called CAP

IN 1969 the second Malaysian university was established in the north known as Universiti Pulau Pinang. It was later renamed Universiti Sains Malaysia. Under the dynamic inaugural vice-chancellorship of Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut, UPP made its mark worldwide with many firsts to its name. I was privileged to be among its pioneer students.

Little did I know then that there was another organisation in the making at the same time. Soon enough I got entangled with it in my search for a balanced education.

In a short time, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) took its rightful place in society, led by SM Mohamed Idris as its president. Like USM it too has many firsts to its name, perhaps more. Indeed I was fortunate to be a student of both institutions right from their inception.

In more ways than one, CAP seemed to be the type of “university” that I had been preparing for. It is community-based and people-oriented, fiercely independent (autonomous), “real” and “engaged” with issues of the day, passionate and inclusive. Conventional universities were then proud “ivory towers” and “elitist”. Only in recent years have they managed to shake off the stubborn old image and tried to adopt many of the ones that CAP is known for.

Meanwhile, while CAP continues to take on bigger and more globally relevant issues affecting humanity, universities seemed to have fallen back to their “ivory tower” days thanks to “rankers” and their commercially-driven numbers game. Humanity is not part of the criteria.

CAP launched itself with a mission “to promote and strive for a more ecologically sound and socially just society” – lending a voice to the little people. This remains unmatched by the universities.

In 1982, the minister of environment, Datuk Stephen Yong visited CAP and attributed the reason for the ministry’s formation to CAP – a singular honour that put CAP in a class of its own ahead of the time. In the same year CAP proved its mantle when it vehemently “spoke up” for the farmers of Thean Teik Estate in Penang against the “big” boys.

The rest is history as CAP touched more hearts and minds in an honest, sincere, and direct way. CAP became a household name nationwide and even globally as the icon in the fight for ecological and social justice. Something that was sadly missing then and even now at tertiary institutions where the next generation of “consumers” are “taught” often at cross-purposes as human capital.

I benefited (and still do) from the best of both worlds. Maybe more from CAP because its concerns are just a pulse away and well-contextualised in terms of co-learning.

Their concerns are not textbook stuff (especially when most are “imported” laced with alien orientation and worldview) with local and indigenous wisdom adding value to the search for the most appropriate solution at hand. CAP walks its talk.

Its call to “think global, act local” resonates well with activists who devote their lives (literally) to CAP to the extent that they are able to articulate a comprehensive localised narrative in contrast to those with vested interests. Often it is an eye-opener to the latter who are fixated on civilising the world. But for CAP the process is reversed – differentiating it from the “world-class” institutions that prefer to “copy” rather than be “original” in order to slavishly remain so.

In a nutshell, CAP by any standard is a “university” in its own right based on 50 years of contributing and pioneering a whole new (original) body of knowledge that is truly “translational” in character – something that universities have just been instructed to do recently with mixed feelings.

I would venture to argue that CAP is beyond that – it is a multiversity – for being able to connect the dots far and wide not only local to global, but also theory to practice, past to future, people to leader, the young to the elder, hi-touch to hi-tech, passion to (just) action while staying clear of corrupt and unethical practices with unwavering courage and resilience. And with a deep-rooted sense of accountability as well as respect in keeping with the trust invested by the little people that it seeks to humbly serve over the last five decades and counting.

The time has come for others to discard their blinkers and learn from CAP how to stay ahead of the curve in igniting an “education revolution” (think Pak Lah); not just to reform or reimagine one. In so doing the ministry will gain enormous unique Malaysian “expertise” from bodies like CAP, Makna and Mercy (to name a few) in expanding Malaysian-led vistas and putting Malaysia on the map as a true world leader.

The writer greatly benefited from the CAP philosophy, its unique and courageous ways in the bid to make USM an APEX status university in 2008 and reliving the USM motto “We (Truly) Lead”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com