Taiwan police grapple for control of crowds

TAIPEI — Police are struggling to control crowds at a hot springs park in Taiwan that has become a hub for Pokemon Go players after gaining a reputation as a spot to catch rare creatures.

The normally quiet park in Beitou, just outside here, has been thronged in recent days by enthusiasts of the wildly popular mobile gaming app.

Pokemon Go has sparked a global frenzy since its launch last month as users hunt for virtual cartoon characters overlaid on real-world locations using augmented reality technology.

Police are now having to divert traffic around the Beitou park and bring in additional manpower to control crowds, they said this week.

A video that appeared to show thousands of people rushing across a traffic intersection in Beitou, apparently chasing after a Pokemon, went viral this week.

Police say they have now downloaded the app Go Radar — which players use to locate Pokemons — to predict where the crowds will gather.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of people of all ages swarmed through the park, an AFP photographer said.

The crowd rushed in one direction when someone cried “Dragonite! Dragonite!” — the name of a Pokemon considered hard to catch.

Others were playing the game while riding their scooters.

A total of 474 traffic fines have been doled out around the Beitou park over the last two weeks.

Earlier this month, police said more than 1,200 drivers around the island had been caught for violating traffic rules by playing the game while at the wheel, within days of Pokemon Go’s launch in Taiwan.

But while authorities may be struggling, some local businesses in Beitou — famed for its hot springs — are tapping in to the trend, with hotels offering discounts to players and eateries drawing long queues.

Earlier, Taiwan demanded developers of Pokemon Go make its highways off limits for the augmented reality game after more than 1,200 people were caught playing while driving.

The National Freeway Bureau said on Wednesday it asked game creator Niantic not to use the island’s motorways and rest stops.

“We have asked them not to place any Pokemon treasures in areas surrounding highways,” Chen Ting-tsai, a spokesman at the bureau said. — AFP

Milder haze expected with fires under control

PUTRAJAYA — The haze this year is expected to be milder compared to last year as Indonesia does its part to contain open fires, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said yesterday there were 27 locations nationwide categorised as having good air quality, with only five to six places as moderate on the Air Pollutant Index.

“There are two to three hot spots in Sumatra and West Kalimantan in Indonesia where we can noticeably detect forest fires for the time being,” he said at his ministry’s monthly gathering.

Wan Junaidi said there were two reasons to expect a milder haze, the first being the efforts of the Indonesian authorities in curbing the forest fires.

“The Indonesian government has fulfilled the promise it made during the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on Aug 11, having deployed its police force and fire bomber helicopter to quickly put out forest fires as soon as they are spotted,” he said.

The second factor, he said, was rainfall which was helping to make the extinguishing process easier.

“I hope the current conditions persist until we enter October at least when the wind directions change,” he said.

On the Pahang bauxite moratorium, Wan Junaidi said he would make an announcement next week once he had an updated report on the stockpiles to be exported.

The moratorium has been extended to Sept 15 from its original date of July 15.

“As it stands, the cleaning procedures and environmental conditions in Kuantan are satisfactory, with many parties agreeing with what we have done,” he said.

He said the moratorium could be extended again unless the Cabinet decided otherwise.

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Malaysia steps up action against ivory smugglers

PETALING JAYA — The seizure of a tonne of ivory on July 21 has cast a glaring light on the country’s reputation as a top transit destination for such contraband.

In the Customs Department seizure at KL International Airport, ivory estimated to be worth RM10 million were believed to have been flown in from Turkey, from its original destination in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Customs sources told Malay Mail there had been 24 cases of ivory smuggling from 2011 to early this month, involving a total of RM43.4 million.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) had also seized 216 units of whole or partial elephant tusks and ivory-manufactured products weighing 920kg from 2013 to 2015.

The statistics were based on seizures made at the nation’s major airports.

The most recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) report on the Elephant Trade Information System said the scale of trade directed to Malaysia remained a serious concern with increases in the past few years. However, it also noted the country had no known internal ivory market, making it unlikely Malaysians were demanding ivory goods.

In response, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the perception of Malaysia as an increasingly popular transit hub was due to the tightening of national borders that resulted in the recent spate of ivory seizures.

“Malaysia’s geographic location is central, allowing for the smuggled ivory to be transported to China, Thailand and Taiwan, which are the three main countries with the strongest demand for ivory,” he told Malay Mail.

He acknowledged the concerns highlighted in the report, saying that as one of the eight countries listed as being of primary concern, Malaysia had developed its own National Ivory Action Plan.

“In addition, every case of ivory seizure is recorded and documented as government-held stockpile. Following that, Malaysia is obliged to report the government-held ivory stockpiles on Feb 28 every year to the CITES Secretariat,” he said.

Another initiative is the Malaysia Wildlife Enforcement Network, formed by the ministry to coordinate inter-agencies’ roles in combating wildlife-related crimes.

At the regional and international levels, Wan Junaidi said, Malaysia was actively involved in enforcement operations conducted by the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network in conjunction with anti-wildlife and human trafficking NGO Freeland Foundation as well as Interpol.

Asked whether the government was planning to augment the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which replaced the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Wan Junaidi said it was being looked into by the ministry.

“For the time being, we will continue to cooperate with CITES and the relevant local and international governing bodies,” he said.

Wan Junaidi emphasised that the efforts in combating ivory smuggling and wildlife trafficking should not solely be left to the government.

“The public are encouraged to report to Perhilitan should they come across any instances of suspicious activities which may involve endangered wildlife,” he said.

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Grads need two jobs to make ends meet in Klang Valley

KUALA LUMPUR — Despite his Bachelor’s degree in IT engineering, John Zachariah works two jobs and six days a week: He is a telecommunications engineer by day and an Uber driver by night.

He believes his qualification does not necessarily guarantee him an adequate income, so he works two jobs and long hours in order to own a car and service the loan, something past generation degree holders could have done with just one job as recent as 10 years ago.

After four years into his job, John makes roughly RM4,000 a month. His salary increased gradually through the years, but is still far from enough to service the car’s monthly installments he took over from his sister, who has since left Malaysia for Singapore for a better-paying job.

“I didn’t think I would have to work two jobs. Honestly, then (studying) I thought I could earn enough (with my qualification),” John told Malay Mail Online, adding the sharp rise in cost of living in the city forced him to confront the harsh reality that his fulltime earnings alone were not enough to pay the bills.

For the well-groomed and articulate 26-year-old, ride-sharing services company Uber was heaven-sent. Its flexible hours give people like John the time to clock in after working hours.

He says he drives around three to four hours a day, which adds up to about 14 hours of work daily. He also works the weekends, which nets him around an extra RM500 a month… just enough to pay for his car.

But John isn’t complaining. To him, and many other graduates around his age, what they earn is based on market rate, although he wasn’t aware the rate has been relatively stagnant for the past 15 years.

Being a degree holder today may not hold as much value as it did as recent as 15 years ago. Worse, degrees are acquired at a big cost thanks to skyrocketing education fees are no longer the magic ticket to a sustainable income, nevermind a lucrative one.

One of the primary factors contributing to the devaluation of degrees today is wage stagnation. Millennial degree holders today are still being paid around the same starting salary as their older counterparts 10 years ago.

Adjusted to inflation, which has more than tripled in the past decade, today’s pay for degree holders in terms of value is equivalent to the earnings of lesser-skilled workers a decade ago.

“Ten years ago, a starting salary for a fresh graduate was about RM1,800. Now it’s about RM2,000 to RM2,200. So the increase is really marginal compared to the inflation rate,” Sharon Soon, director of Savant Search Malaysia, a headhunting firm employed by corporations like the Berjaya Group and multinational Emerson Electric told this news portal.

Cost vs earnings

For educated millennials, often stereotyped as the “bratty” and “unrealistic” generation, working two jobs has become quite the norm in the country’s industrialised states like Penang and Selangor where cost of living is definitely higher than say, in smaller towns.

And Uber, and its competitor Grab, have become a popular second job option for educated millennials looking to supplement their low full-time earnings. And the numbers are growing by the day, Soon said.

“It’s hard for them to sustain and a lot of them are actually getting financial aid from their parents… without parents it can be quite difficult. A lot of my candidates are doing Uber and with Uber you can make quite a bit if you’re hardworking.”

But working two jobs can be taxing in the long run. And millennials are beginning to ask if investing so much in their education, which can go up to half a million ringgit for an overseas degree, is worth it since most end up having to work low-paying jobs, and drive Uber on the side so they can pay their mortgages or car loans.

“Realistically, I don’t think I can earn enough to buy a house in 10 years with my pay… and with the situation in the market, I don’t think our salaries are going to get any better,” Gerald Wan Tom, 28, who works in a hotel staff and has a degree in hospitality, was quoted over MMO.

Gerald earns RM4,500 a month after five years into his job. Half his salary goes to rent (RM1,000 for an apartment in Damansara Perdana) and servicing his car loan (RM700), which leaves him with only around RM2,000 to spend.

Buying a house, a dream he calls it, is out of the question with what he makes so he drives for Uber daily after work and the weekends too. That’s seven days of work a week around the clock.

“My total education cost was about RM35,000. With expenses I think it went up to RM40,000… when I was studying of course, I expected to make enough with my qualification,” said Gerald, a graduate from Taylor’s College, one of many private colleges here.

In Malaysia, most parents believe a degree, especially those acquired from Western countries, would give their children the edge in an increasingly competitive labour market.

This is understandable since colleges spend heftily to market their services to parents as insurance for their children’s future, which explains why some parents go to great lengths, and sometimes even beyond their means, to secure their children university degrees.

Jason Chi, 31, is one such example. His parents spent RM500,000 sending him to Switzerland to study hospitality. But like Gerald and John, he too drives for Uber after his working hours as a manager in a factory in Ipoh, where the cost of living is comparatively low compared to that in Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru.

“I do it out of necessity. It helps me pay for the car (a Perodua MyVi) and give me some extra cash to spend. With the qualification I got ofcourse I didn’t expect to fall under the category of urban poor. I mean I live above the poverty line but that doesn’t mean I’m doing well. I’m struggling to even have a medium (income) life,” Chi told Malay Mail Online.

Global problem

Wage depression among millennials is not unique to Malaysia. In developed countries like the US, today’s 30-year-olds make about as much as a 30-year-old would have in 1984, and a dollar less than a 30-year-old in 2004, a study by the Centre for American Progress showed. And this is despite the fact most millennials there, just like their counterparts in Malaysia, have degrees.

Bank Negara Malaysia in its income report last year showed that for the bottom 20 per cent of urban poor ― defined as households earning RM2,000 and below ― daily expenditure outpaced their income growth.

A straw poll conducted by Malay Mail Online found the majority of millennials with degrees interviewed earn around RM3,000, just RM1,000 above BNM’s unofficial definition of urban poor. Malaysia has yet to develop a standardised gauge to define urban poor.

For a top Malaysian student like Priya (a pseudonym), who graduated with a degree in information technology with a near-perfect CGPA of 3.8, the problem of wage stagnation coupled with rapidly shrinking buying power caused by a weak ringgit means a RM5,000 monthly salary ― once considered a high pay ― is no longer enough.

She is planning to get married soon but she’s worried she may not make enough to sustain a family. As an additional income, she has turned her passion of cake decorating into a part-time job.

A good month means she can make RM2,000, a decent amount, and RM1,000 on a bad month. But all that has changed since Malaysia’s economy tumbled.

“The economic downturn started last year and since then I don’t get many orders. Even if I do get, it’s just simple orders. It’s not great but I’m still surviving,” Priya said.

Priya said she and her fiance are planning to buy a house, only if they can afford it.

With Malaysian house prices close to doubled in the past 10 years, according to BNM data, most millennials have resigned to the fact they may have to rent all their life.

In a special report on wage stagnation published by Malay Mail Online recently, official data indicates wages in Malaysia have grown at a 90 per cent slower rate than productivity. For major states like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, wage growth the past two years is in the negative when adjusted to inflation.

Soo said businesses have now exploited the slowdown to keep starting salaries for degree holders low since hiring opportunities have lessened: “Now the rate is RM2,200.

“Before it was RM2,500 but they have lowered it because they know graduates have no choice but to take it.”

Critics have long called for the government to address the wage problem. Some say Malaysia needs to invest more in education and human capital to move away from a commodity and export oriented economy, to an innovative driven one. But an immediate solution would be to help keep costs low for urban dwellers, a view shared by many millennials. Malay Mail Online

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Taking sightseeing 
to new heights

KUALA LUMPUR — Foreigners and Malaysians alike will now have the opportunity to take in an aerial view of the city skyline with the launch of a helicopter charter service yesterday.

It is part of City Hall’s efforts to boost tourism in the city.

The sky tour, which officially starts today, will enable tourists to have a different sightseeing experience of the city and its popular landmarks.

The KL Sky Tour service, offered by Subang Jaya-based Cempaka Helicopters, was launched by Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Loga Bala Mohan and special adviser to the transport minister Tan Sri M. Kayveas.

Its helipad and operations office are located at a site overlooking the popular Titiwangsa lake off Jalan Tun Razak.

“We cater to a wide range of people with different budgets. Our aim now is to work closely with tourism partner companies to develop this new product into one of Kuala Lumpur’s main attractions,” company executive director Datuk James Iskandar Jaafar-Greaves said.

The helipad is in a strategic location, easily accessible with a short drive from anywhere in the city.

Helicopters used for the city tours are single-engined Robinson R44 and Robinson R66 that are capable of carrying four and five passengers respectively.

Those interested can choose from four packages, ranging from a six minutes’ ride to 45 minutes.

Residents of the affluent Titiwangsa lakeview neighbourhood, who previously voiced objections to helicopters hovering above their residences, have now warmed up to the idea.

Student A. Vijhay, 21, said he could barely hear the whirring helicopter blades from his house on Jalan Titiwangsa.

“My family and I were just worried the helicopter service, which operates daily, would be noisy. But, it does not make as much noise as we thought.”

Businessman Siew Koon Soong, 51, said he was happy to have an up-and-coming tourist hotspot some 200m away from where he lives, as it would boost the value of his property.

“In two or three years’ time, I plan to sell the house and retire to a village. The more tourist-friendly this area becomes, the better it will work in my favour,” he said.

Some, however, expressed their concerns over the volume of crowd the new tour service would bring to the area as they feel it would attract untoward incidents.

Head of an orphan care centre at Jalan Mentakab, Haslinda Mat Dol, 42, said she was worried about the safety of some 40 children living in the home if a huge number of tourists flock in daily.

“The crime rate in the area is already high. Just last week, I saw someone got mugged. The muggers rode away on their motorcycles and disappeared among the fleet of cars. I could not do anything,” she said.

“I am worried something similar would happen to the children (living in the home), who mostly walk to a nearby school. Their safety is compromised here.”

She said she would now have to be stricter with allowing the children leave home.

Copywriter Terry Ng, 38, said he was concerned about the limited parking space in the area.

“I foresee people randomly parking their cars in front of my house. I would not be happy with that,” he said.

“They could have chosen a better place to build the helipad. I do not think they have thought it through.”

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Glory for Malaysia at robot contest

SEPANG — Six Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) students created history when their robot inventions emerged champion at Asia’s most prestigious robocon, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Robocon in Bangkok on Sunday.

Their feats at the Huamark Stadium against the strongest teams from China ended a 14-year wait by UTM to win in the competition which was introduced in 2002.

Team manager Dr Mohd Ridzuan Ahmad said on Wednesday it was the best gift for Malaysia, which will be celebrating its 59th Independence anniversary on Wednesday.

Lim Wen Jin, 22, a mechanical engineering student who spoke on behalf of the students, said each team had to build an eco-robot and hybrid robot which had to do a variety of tasks.

The other members of the team were Kevin Lau, Chai Kim Hung, Low Kah Seng, Chik Wen Xin and Muhammad Khairul Baihaki Mohd Jafry, all 21.

Seventeen teams from 16 countries competed in the contest. — Bernama

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Fight climate change together

NATURAL Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the haze has returned to several areas in the Klang Valley, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan, following the increasing number of hotspots in Indonesia.

He said the situation was influenced by transboundary haze due to land and forest fires in central Sumatra brought by southwest monsoon winds and may lead to transboundary haze pollution moving to the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.

Wan Junaidi said three hotspots have also been spotted in Malaysia — one in Pahang and two in Sarawak — which would be investigated and acted upon.

WWF-Malaysia calls all parties to collaborate to overcome this challenge in order to protect the planet. WW-Malaysia conservation director Dr Sundari Ramakrishna appeals to the ministers of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia to speed up implementation of the decisions made by at the 18th Meeting of the Asean sub-regional ministerial steering committee (MSC) on transboundary haze pollution held on May 4.

Concerted national efforts and regional and international cooperation are crucial to monitor and prevent the pollution.

She said the four countries need to collectively take action to combat climate change and haze.

Sustainable and long-term efforts to prevent land and forest fires are critical to address the challenges of climate change.

Forests and other ecosystems contribute to both carbon removal from the atmosphere and also climate resilience building.

All environmental impacts could be reduced or even avoided if ecosystems are allowed to function properly. Forests regulate the water cycle, provide soil stability, and also regulate the micro climate.

If forests are degraded or destroyed, human beings can no longer enjoy these irreplaceable services which all of us depend on but largely take for granted.

Considering the haze’s immediate and expected long term societal and ecological impacts, efforts to maintain, repair and improve the integrity of the natural world is critical for our continued growth and survival.

In Dr Sundari’s words, we must protect our forests and other natural ecosystems including peat areas and mangroves, so they can continue to provide natural defences and in turn protect us against adverse climate change impacts.

This at the same time reduces further accumulation of carbon concentration in the atmosphere to avoid further changes in future climate.

FARISHA ZAINOL

SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, WWF-MALAYSIA

Chong Wei could have won if draw was based on seedings

THIS may sound like sour grapes.

But if one looks at the final results of Rio Olympics men’s singles badminton competition, one can conclude that if the draw was conducted in accordance with seedings, the final outcome could have been much different.

Why do I say this?

In a badminton competition as we know it, the top seed will be in top half and the second seed will be in bottom half.

Yes, it was done that way.

But, traditionally it’s always like this: Being top seed, you get the advantage to play 4th seed in one half.

Second seed will play 3rd seed in another half.

If it had gone according to plan, Lee Chong Wei (1) would have played Viktor Axelsson (4) in Semi1 and Chen Long(2) would have battled Lin Dan (3) in Semi2.

What happened was Lee Chong Wei had to play two China players, seeded No. 3 and No. 2 in the semifinals and final respectively. He was totally drained of energy playing three games with Lin Dan, before enduring a final battle with
Chen Long.

That probably explained his loss to Chen Long, who as the second seed, got a better deal than No. 1 seed. He swept past Axelson in two games to conserve his energy for the final.

Furthermore, most people I spoke to agreed that Lee Chong Wei versus Lin Dan semifinal match was at least worth a final.

Another pertinent issue was that Lee Chong Wei complained of too much rest during the round robin stage, but he had hardly a day’s rest between semifinal and final.

How can a player perform well under such circumstances?

The Badminton World Federation (BWF), as the custodian of world badminton, should rethink to maintain and promote the worldwide interest in the game.

Onwards to Malaysia’s first gold medal in Tokyo 2020!

Majulah Sukan untuk Negara!

LEE HUI SENG,

CHAIRMAN

FAMEMAS SPORTS SUPPORTERS CLUB, MALAYSIA

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Composing a harmonic crescendo

IN Malaysia, the month of August always features a crescendo of patriotism. As the days go by more and more flags appear outside buildings and affixed to vehicles (sometimes dangerously) and there is a compulsory news item about someone’s car festooned with state and national flags.

The radio stations play patriotic songs (many of which I like, but some of my favourites are never played, including Ahmad CB’s original Tanggal 31 Ogos, Dato’ Zainal Alam’s Malaya Merdeka and the old song about our flag, before the current homage to the Jalur Gemilang came into use).

This year, however, patriotic fervour has been accelerated by our best ever showing at the Olympic Games. Indeed, there was a rumour that if we won our first gold medal at the Olympic Games — a feat from which we were a point away on two occasions courtesy of Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong in the men’s doubles badminton final — the feeling of euphoria would be so great that there might even be a snap general election, based on the theory that happy voters are more likely to vote for the party in government.

Although that did not occur, Malaysians are still chuffed with the best ever medal haul at the Olympic Games, with social media feeds emblazoned with tiger stripes in the last week (though it’s sad to note that there are more humans wearing them these days than actual tigers out in the wild). Naturally there continue to be alternative theories as to when the Prime Minister will ask the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament.

But not all shared in celebrating our sporting achievements. Some chose to see our Olympians through a racial lens; to lament that our sporting ambassadors were not of the “right” race.

It might be tempting to dismiss the people with this attitude; that they are in the minority and we who believe in a multiracial Malaysia are in the majority.

But we must always be vigilant in reminding compatriots of the spirit in which our nation was founded, including liberty and justice for all citizens. If we fail to do so, then we betray what Merdeka was all about, and we might as well surrender our country to the extremists.

Already, it is a difficult task to convince some Malaysians of the nature and primacy of our Federal Constitution: the only legitimate supreme law of our country that has been in existence since Merdeka and adopted as the supreme law of Malaysia in 1963 (despite many amendments since).

It is a difficult task because they have developed an interpretation that is completely out of sync with the intentions of the constitution’s authors; or worse, have been convinced that the document is simply not important: that there is an even higher law that should operate in Malaysia, and the Federal Constitution is an inconvenience that will eventually be relegated in favour of a different system altogether.

It is not enough to just acknowledge that this problem exists but action must be taken to arrest it if we are to close the rift that continues to blight our society.

Of course, many people in great organisations and civil society are doing their bit across so many parts of the country. I have often referred to my visits to schools, where I encounter young Malaysians who are absolutely fascinated by what I have to share about Merdeka, and I wonder why they did not know it before.

But the only way to truly arrest this phenomenon is a concerted national effort — ideally backed by the government and opposition parties and approved by parliament — to rebuild a consensus of what our country’s founders said and how that should motivate us for the future.

Some critics may see this as a form of intellectual authoritarianism in itself: but for as long as we celebrate national day, it seems logical that we should yearn to understand its context and importance.

Freedom of expression (including academic freedom) can ensure it is robust, and certainly nothing in this contradicts the ability of citizens to debate and critique their own country and its institutions.

Until we reach this consensus — one of the sort that was achieved in 1957 and 1963 — different groups of citizens will always see events from different perspectives, and use opportunities differently to advance conflicting agendas, itself deepening the chasm of distrust. And so, come political scandals or even sporting achievements, there will always be discord and dissonance motivated by emotion with a minimal interest in the facts: and certainly without due respect towards Merdeka.

Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is Founding President of IDEAS

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Clear skies ahead for Malaysia

Rain lashed Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of Aug 31, 1957, postponing the morning’s historic ceremony to usher in a new nation.

The festivities at the purpose-built Merdeka Stadium had to be delayed for an hour to allow the skies to calm and acceptable weather to return.

This would also allow newly-minted Malayans to prepare to work together as they had planned to ensure the success of programmes that great day.

A spectacular day began just shortly after dawn for all gathered at the stadium, and across the length and breadth of the country, to revel in their newfound freedom and unity of purpose.

This Wednesday — in just five short days’ time — we will be celebrating our 59th year as a country.

Undeniably, Malaysia has braved the economic, political and social storms that have confronted the people over the years with equanimity and strength of purpose.

Not everyone has been satisfied with how problems were resolved or “who got what.”

The storms that assailed the various races before Merdeka when rights and responsibilities were negotiated do not appear to have petered out.

There are still gnawing problems that confront us as a nation and a people.

Political squalls that exacerbate lingering problems between the races and religions are appearing with increasing regularity.

Admittedly, the inclement communal weather that has beset the multi-racial character of the nation with uncertainty and doubt from the start has abated over the years.

A few questions have to be asked at this juncture.

How long will it take for the day to dawn when we think as one, work as one and reap the dividends of unity as one?

How did our founding fathers think our nation would coalesce as one after ironing out the kinks that had threatened to derail the independence train?

Did first prime minister and architect of the nation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, expect his dream of a land where all would live in freedom, opportunity and multi racial calm to continue forever?

So many queries across the land — and so few answers.

Tunku experienced his first heartbreak in 1969 after which he tearfully left the helm, his hopes seemingly dashed.

But the nation pulled together after that as his dynamic successor Tun Abdul Razak set about establishing a new social order which would ensure justice for all.

And so we have come thus far, committed to a dream a Kedah prince shared with his Chinese and Indian political partners.

We need to seriously re-study the Merdeka message that wise men and women designed to last an eternity.

It is not too late for calm minds to prevail and a new dawn to arrive to take us to better times.

Nation-building is a herculean task which requires heart, unstinting effort and unity of purpose.

No one race can go it alone in this nation.

Our joint future demands input from all Malays, Chinese, Indians, Orang Asli, Iban, Kadazan and the beautiful blend of many of these groups created through inter-marriage.

Fifty-nine years is a long time for the average Malaysian who can expect to live on the average to 74 (men) and 76 (women).

But it is a relatively short period of time for nations whose national clock will continue to tick after unity, cohesion and character are established.

So, as we look forward to Aug 31, let us look at the positives birthed by this great nation and put the negatives behind us.

Let us walk through the storms ahead knowing we will be protecting each other from the inclement weather that is bound to hit in years to come.

DiverseCity 2016

Quite coincidentally, the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival begins on Aug 31, signalling the strides the nation and people have made in the arts.

Representatives of 19 nations will come to the capital to celebrate their culture with us with a smorgasboard of performances — street dancing, syair, mobile phone orchestra awaiting us.

It will showcase the diversity of Malaysia besides bringing in a weath of culture from around the world.

DiverseCity 2016 is expected to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at Berjaya Times Square.

Big names to be seen and heard include Gingger Shankar performing in Nari (it was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival), Hollywood flamenco maestro Antonio Vargas and our own Kathak dancer, Manjula Rathakrishnan.

The festival, to end on Oct 2, will culminate with Soumik Datta’s film and live music.

Festival director Datin Sunita Rajakumar said there were many exhibitions next month but Meraki (Indian miniature paintings) is likely to stand out.

Last year’s inaugural event, which involved 1,300 participants from 24 countries, drew 60,000 visitors, nearly a quarter of whom were foreigners.

She said the character of multi-cultural Malaysia was made for a melding of artistic expression which could be seen in the festival.

“We want to bring a diversity of artistic expression to Malaysia. We are glad to be doing it as we celebrate our diversity at Merdeka,” she said.

BALAN, associate editor in charge of content development, feels Malaysia has grown by leaps and bounds in stature as a nation. But there are still sharp edges in multiracial life that tend to cut into the unity forged 59 years ago. Let’s pivot towards the day when we act and speak as one.

He can be contacted at

bmoses@mmail.com.my

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