Malay Muslims need to speak up against extremism

by Gan Pei Ling, 22 October 2017 © The Malaysian Insight

MORE Malay Muslims must speak out against religious extremism and curtails on intellectual freedom, say panelists at a forum on reason and faith in society today.

Citing the ongoing debate over the Muslim-only launderette as an example, social activist Marina Mahathir said it would have been akin to the beginning of apartheid.

“It’s about dividing the Muslims and non-Muslims. It’s the beginning of apartheid. Therefore we have a right to say stop,” she said to a packed room at the University of Nottingham Malaysia teaching centre in Kuala Lumpur.

She added that the royal backlash against preacher Zamihan Mat Zin, who supported the establishment of Muslim-only launderette, was unusual.

“When it comes to religion, people are quite afraid to speak up because they have seen what happen to people who speak out like the late Kassim Ahmad.

“Not everyone agree with what’s going on. It’s a culture of fear. We need more people to speak up, not just us the usual lot (on the panel), to say enough is enough,” said Marina.

Beside the culture of fear, Zaharom Nain from University of Nottingham Malaysia believes an insular siege mentality among Malay Muslims also restrict them from speaking their minds freely about religion.

“Some of the polls that have been done indicate that. Media like Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and TV3 that is the dominant media in rural areas provide a skewed picture of Malaysia,” said Zaharom.

Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom added that few political parties with a Malay Muslim majority dared to speak up against the growing extremism.

“What we need are the people from Amanah and Bersatu to say no we cannot allow this to continue,” he said.

He added that none of these political parties have been brave enough to openly oppose PAS president Hadi Awang’s proposal to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to implement hudud.

“They think it’s political suicide, that they will be accused of being a murtad if they don’t support it,” said Azmi.

He added that it is up to Malay Muslims on the ground to make intellectual freedom a political issue otherwise politicians will not care.

Azmi was referring to the recent ban on a book authored by a US-based Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol and Mustafa’s detention by Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi).

Isham Pawan Ahmad from the International Islamic University Malaysia said Malay Muslims must be more discerning between man-made and divine ideas.

“It’s your right to listen to different ideas and make a decision for yourself.

“When the Prophet said something, his followers would ask: Is that a revelation or your opinion? If it’s your opinion, we can discuss it. Islam values shura (mutual consultation),” he said.

Overheads, not greed, cause of higher fish price, say Sekinchan fishermen

by Gan Pei Ling, 13 October 2017 © The Malaysian Insight

ANGER is brewing among fishermen in Sekinchan, the largest fish supplier in Selangor.

The mere mention of the name Jamal Md Yunos is sufficient to set off a tirade from most of the Teochew fishermen here, or earn you a scowl.

“Diesel price, the costs to maintain our fishing boats, to repair fishing nets and wooden jetty, the wages of workers have all increased over the years.

“How can we make a living if the price of fish stays the same?

“Let’s see if Jamal can actually sustain a business selling the fish for RM5 a kilo every day,” said a villager who only wanted to be known as Su, when met at Bagan Sekinchan.

Jamal, Sg Besar Umno division chief, sold ikan kembung at RM5 per kilo at Sekinchan and Ampang last month in a bid to prove his allegation that unscrupulous middlemen, backed by DAP, are marking up the price of fish.

Su’s husband owns two fishing boats – one run by Myanmar workers and another by Indonesians.

She has been helping out with the fishing business for the past three decades.

“We’re also at the mercy of market forces. We don’t set the fish prices,” she said.

Chia Tiang Engi, a wholesaler and fisherman with seven fishing boats, said fishing is an expensive and risky business.

Buying a fishing boat can cost up to RM1 million or more, he said.

Most fishermen here, who inherited the trade from their families, took out loans to buy a boat. A boat could last up to 30 years with careful maintenance.

“The diesel cost for a fishing trip is easily a few thousand ringgit. We must make sure we get enough catch to make a profit.”

To save cost, Chia said most fishing boats would stay for at least three days, some up to eight days, at sea.

“On top of that, we are always at the mercy of the weather and the sea. The monsoon winds have become unpredictable since more than a decade ago.

“Our catch has also decreased over the years. Every ringgit we make is hard earned.”

Chia added that he pays his workers, mostly from Myanmar, at least RM1,200 a month.

A fishing net, which needs to be replaced every six to 12 months, costs between RM10,000 and RM20,000.

Sekinchan assemblyman Ng Suee Lim also rubbished Jamal’s allegation that DAP is manipulating the fishermen and middlemen to pump up the price of fish, as “baseless and politically motivated”.

“The overhead costs for local fishermen have increased significantly because many of their subsidies were removed and the 6% GST (goods and services tax) has also hit them hard. The wages of their workers have also gone up.

“That’s why fish prices have increased,” Ng told The Malaysian Insight.

He said Jamal’s RM5 per kg fish gimmick is unsustainable and advised the Umno division leader to lobby Putrajaya to restore subsidies for fishermen and remove the GST if he wants to bring down the price of fish.

Jamal said he will be selling fish at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya tomorrow at the same time as Pakatan Harapan’s anti-kleptocracy rally.

He will be bringing in 10 tonnes of fish – from Sg Besar and Perak – in three lorries.

Petaling Jaya mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain, however, warned Jamal that he will need a permit from the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) if he wants to carry on with the plan to sell fish at the rally venue.

Azizi said enforcement officers will take action if Jamal insists of selling fish without a permit.

Piano prodigy to raise funds for autistic kids

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 17 August 2017

Charitable move: Ticket sales from Andrew’s concert will go towards raising funds for autistic children and buying a piano for his former primary school.

SERDANG: An award-winning 12-year-old music prodigy is dedicating his first solo piano concert on Sept 2 towards raising funds for autistic children and buying a piano for his former primary school.

Andrew Kuik Jie En started learning the piano at the age of seven.

He won first prize in the children’s category at the 2013 Abing­ton (Oxfordshire) Music Festival in Britain when he was eight.

Since then, he has won several prestigious piano competitions in the country, including the Steinway and Sons Youth Piano Competition (Category 2, for contestants aged 11 to 14) and the Kingsburg Inter­national Piano Competition (Inter­mediate Category) Excellent Gold Award last year.

Half of the ticket sales for his recital – priced at RM40 for each ticket – will be donated to the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom).

“I learnt about autism through a play (adapted from British author Mark Haddon’s mystery novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) in drama class in school and I sympathise with them,” said Andrew, who enrolled in the Nexus International School in Putrajaya last year on a scholarship.

He has also met autistic children and learnt the challenges of communicating with them.

The organiser of the Steinway and Sons Youth Piano Competition, Bentley Music, will be hosting Andrew’s hour-long recital at the Bentley Music Academy in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, from 3pm to 4pm.

Andrew said they had raised about RM18,000 for Nasom and RM40,000 to buy a baby grand piano for his alma mater, SJK (C) Shin Cheng (Harcroft).

“I want to buy a new piano for the school because the existing one is very old and sounds off,” he added.

Andrew has been practising five hours a day for the past two months to give his best at the recital.

He will be playing eight classical pieces from composers such as Bach and Chopin.

To buy tickets to his recital, call Madam Chua at 010-286 6809.

Review to stop illegal wildlife trade

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 8 July 2017

BENTONG: The Transport Ministry will review its transshipment procedures in a bid to curb the illegal wildlife trade, its minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.

“We support Hong Kong’s seizure of illegal elephant ivory because we won’t allow this sort of illegal activity to go through our port,” he said after attending a Hari Raya celebration at Felda Sungai Kemahal.

He was commenting on Hong Kong Custom’s seizure of 7.2 tonnes of tusks, valued at about HK$72mil (RM40mil), in a 12.19m (40ft) container shipped from Malaysia on Tuesday.

Liow said all shipments destined to enter the country were screened thoroughly but only random checks were conducted on transshipments.

“Definitely we’ll look through the procedures again,” he said.

He said the ministry had previously strengthened the transshipment policy to enable authorities to keep better tabs on goods entering its ports.

“I suspect there is manipulation of the (customs) manifest,” he said.

Illegal wildlife trade watchdog Traffic South-East Asia acting regional director Kanitha Krishnasamy said smugglers could be shifting to seaports due to several seizures of trafficked wildlife at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“The onus to end Malaysia’s reputation as an illegal trade hub falls not only on enforcement agencies but also port and airport authorities, logistics providers and the Transport Ministry.

“The fact that these shipments were being identified and searched as a result of risk assessments should show port and airport authorities how serious the situation is for Malaysia,” she said.

Liow said he organises celebrations at every village in his constituency during Hari Raya and this year’s will continue until July 25.

Troupe drums up support to perform in France’s folk art fests

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 3 July 2017

Beating a path: The Orang Orang Drum Theatre and JB Drum Enterprise will be bringing the 24 festive drum performance to eight folk art festivals in France.

KUALA LUMPUR: A troupe of Malaysian Chinese drummers tirelessly raised enough funds to fly themselves to France this Wednes­day to perform at eight interna­tional folk art festivals from July 7 to Aug 22.

The team includes 20 profes­sional and part-time drummers from the Orang Orang Drum Thea­tre and JB Drum Enterprise.

“Whenever we perform overseas, people always ask if we’re from China or Taiwan.

“This is our way of showcasing the Malaysian Chinese story,” said Leow Sze Yee, 35, who is one of the more seasoned performers in the troupe.

“We’ve prepared four performances.

“Two are pure 24-festive drum performances while the other two are a fusion of the 24 festive drums with other Malaysian traditional folk instruments like the Malay kompang.”

Leow, who picked up drumming two decades ago, co-founded the theatre with her husband Boyz Chew, 36, in 2013.

Since then, the Orang Orang Drum Theatre has been invited to perform in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

When the theatre received the invite from France last year, it extended the opportunity to the JB Drum Enterprise.

Founded in 2006, JB Drum often performed locally besides Singapore and China.

Leow added that their signature 24-festive drum performance, An Era, relates the story of Chinese immigrants in Malaya.

The two drumming groups raised about RM90,000 to fund their flight tickets to France.

Their foreign hosts will cover accommodation, food and local transport.

Leow’s younger brother, Damien, 29, who studied theatre in France previously, has been giving French classes to the troupe in preparation for the trip.

Tok Yong Shan, 18, the group’s youngest performer, is excited and anxious to participate in the six-week tour and visit Europe for the first time.

“We learned a bit of French but I don’t know if that’s enough to converse with the locals,” said the school leaver from SMK Taman Desa Skudai.

Tok picked up drumming after being pressured by her friends to join the 24-festive drum classes when she was in Form One.

Her friends eventually dropped out while Tok stayed on as her passion for drumming grew.

Upon their return, the group will be performing at the George Town Festival on Sept 1 and 2.

They presented a token of appreciation to their sponsors, including Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday.

Tan Chai Puan, who founded the 24 festive drums with the late Tan Hooi Song in 1988, was also present at the press conference.

A driving passion to care for senior citizens

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 12 June 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: As the founder of two old folks homes, Cheong Loy is responsible for the welfare of some 84 senior citizens.

Asked what it takes to run the homes, the humble businessman replied: “Not very much.”

Cheong, 64, was running a funeral parlour business at the Kwong Tong Cemetery in 1999 when he allowed former hospital patients to live on the floor above his parlour.

“They needed to visit Hospital Kuala Lumpur frequently. Upstairs was vacant so I let them stay, then it spread by word of mouth,” Cheong recounted.

When he accepted senior citizens abandoned by their families in public hospitals, the space evolved into the old folks home that it is today.

“It all had to do with the first lady resident, Siew Mun, who started cooking for the others. There were only about seven to eight people living upstairs then.

“If she had not volunteered to cook, we wouldn’t be able to accommodate more people,” Cheong said.

Now the Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre houses 64 residents at its original site at Jalan Dewan Bahasa and another 20 at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan.

Cheong bought two pieces of land at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan and planned to move all the residents to the Chinese new village eventually.

He spent more than RM1mil to buy the land and build the facilities.

Cheong also hired two Indonesian maids to take care of the residents at Jalan Dewan Bahasa and a driver to send them to hospitals for check-ups.

Most of the residents at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan are capable of taking care of themselves whereas those in Jalan Dewan Bahasa require more care due to their medical conditions.

Some are mentally ill while many others are bedridden.

“The care we provide is not perfect but it’s the best we can do,” Cheong said.

Yet, he has been scolded by some who denied abandoning their parents at the home and instead accused him of meddling in their family affairs.

“I believe strongly in filial piety and gratitude. I don’t know what the parents have done to make the children behave like that.

“But I hope my children would carry on taking care of them,” said Cheong.