HIJAU is GREEN … news & views

Malaysia tables minimum wage bill

Posted in LABOUR ISSUES,MALAYSIA by Faezah Ismail on June 22, 2011
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Photo of the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Image via Wikipedia

The Dewan Rakyat yesterday tabled a minimum wage bill for the first and second reading, reports the New Straits Times.

The National Wages Consultative Council Bill 2011 will pave the way for implementing a structure for minimum wages in Malaysia.

The Bill wants to replace the Wages Council Act 1947 and set up a National Wages Consultative Council to conduct studies on minimum wage.

Click here for more.


ILO standards to protect domestic workers

Good news for domestic workers all over the world.

Delegates at the 100th annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) today “adopted a historic set of international standards” to improve the lot of domestic workers who number between 53 and 100 million.

“We are moving the standards system of the ILO into the informal economy for the first time, and this is a breakthrough of great significance,” said Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General. “History is being made.”

More here.

Singapore ratifies MLC, 2006

Posted in LABOUR ISSUES by Faezah Ismail on June 15, 2011
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Singapore has ratified the International Labour Organisation‘s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) — making it the first Asian country to do so.

Click here to read.

Nuclear power issues

Posted in UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS by Faezah Ismail on April 9, 2011
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Nuclear Reactor Crisis in Japan FAQs. Click here to read.


Making sense of Japan’s nuclear crisis

The current crisis involving several of Japan‘s nuclear power reactors continues to evolve. Regular updates are available on “All Things Nuclear”, a blog by Union of Concerned Scientists.

For background information on nuclear accidents and the use of terminology read Nuclear Accident ABCs factsheet put together by Union of Concerned Scientists.

Peace: What the media can do

Posted in MEDIA,PEACE by Faezah Ismail on February 21, 2011
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Ties that do not bind

The following article is the result of my interview with Distinguished Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, founding director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (or KITA) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.


The tourism industry has managed to flaunt Malaysia’s diverse cultural life. But this diversity has never been really captured research-wise, writes FAEZAH ISMAIL

Shamsul Amri Baharuddin

The last bibliography on ethnic relations in Malaysia was published in 1992.  The compiler was Tan Chee-Beng and the title, appropriately enough, is the Bibliography on Ethnic Relations with Special Reference to Malaysia and Singapore.

Regrettably, an updated version has yet to appear.   “Bibliographies tell a lot about the state of a discipline at a point in time. Can you imagine the level of our knowledge about ethnic relations in this country?” asks Distinguished Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who is the founding director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (or KITA) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Malaysia’s inability to bring up to date an important text such as this one  suggests “a deep-rooted knowledge problem”,  says Shamsul, who is also the chief editor of the ethnic relations module.  And a thorough knowledge of Malaysia’s ethnic diversity is sorely needed to deal with tensions that occur every now and again, he adds.

The failure to update the 1992 ethnic relations bibliography and the frictions that arise as a result of differences in a plural society — the Interlok dispute and the hair-trimming incident involving a Sikh teenager being the most recent — are a sad commentary not only on the state but also the study of ethnic relations in Malaysia.

The clashes “will continue because we do not seriously prepare ourselves to deal with them,” says Shamsul.  “When a conflict emerges we make a lot of noise hoping that it will go away but it will persist unless we choose a mature approach to ethnic tensions.”

The quarrel about the move to adopt Datuk Abdullah Hussain’s novel Interlok as a Malay literature text for fifth-formers, or any others of that ilk, illustrates the “stable tension” theory that Shamsul posits.  The theory holds that ethnic tensions will take place from time to time but they are manageable provided Malaysians take measures to ease them.

For Shamsul the first step towards becoming “mature” is to have a sound grasp of the issues in question. “We cannot make sense of the situation without deep and researched-based knowledge. We cannot survive on racial prejudices and communal stereotypes,” says Shamsul.  Malaysians tend to view their “other” through racial prejudices, ethnic slurs and stereotypical images of the other’s behaviour.

How do you deal with disagreements among the different ethnic groups in Malaysia?  “You are asking me a question about a disease that has not been adequately studied. We can only make an accurate diagnosis after a careful study of the malady.  “Have we thought of the tools for finding solutions to the problem?  We have to develop a plan to deal with this because it keeps returning.”

KITA is ideally placed to craft a framework for problem-solving. One of its projects in 2009 was the Monitoring Ethnic Relations System (MESRA for short) which acts as an early warning system on issues linked to ethnic relations in Malaysia.

The Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which produces the annual Global Peace Index (GPI),  is interested in the scheme.  The two institutes will sign a memorandum of understanding soon to collaborate on endorsing a part of MESRA as a country-based peace index to complement the GPI.

KITA  also hopes to study Malaysia’s intellectual history besides finding out how “mundane activities” such as inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriages play their roles in fostering national unity.

It wants to do more and Shamsul is brimming with ideas.  But KITA  faces financial and manpower constraints.  “We are only a small institute in UKM. If the government is really interested in resolving ethnic conflicts, it should elevate KITA to a national body.

“We have lots of ideas but we need dedicated people and generous funds to do our work. If we do not invest time and money in this, the psychosocial traumatic impact and the  economic cost of worsening conditions are too awful to contemplate.”

A discussion on ethnic relations raises many important questions but there are no easy answers.  In the case of the Interlok squabble, it has nothing to do with the novel, says Shamsul, who is a member of an independent panel to amend Abdullah’s work.   Instead, it has to do with the “dividedness” of Malaysia’s ethnic groups, as Shamsul puts it.

“We are not a homogeneous society. The Malays are one group of people but there are many types of Malays, and the same is true of the others.”  Even among the Indian community there is no consensus on the choice of Interlok as a text for the literature part of the subject Bahasa Malaysia for fifth-formers.  Some are against it while others are not.

Similarly, every Malaysian has his or her own vision of national identity “based on a particular ideological framework” and the various attempts to construct this from the perspective of each public interest group represent “many nations-of-intent”.

The non-Malays prefer a definition that accords the “culture of each ethnic group in Malaysia a position equal to that of the Bumiputera,” writes Shamsul in his essay “Nations-of-Intent in Malaysia”.  The suggestion that “Chinese language and rituals be an integral part of the national identity” is a case in point.

Interestingly, the tourism industry has managed to explain Malaysia’s ethnic and cultural diversity through traditional dances, folk songs and construction of ancestral villages, among others.  And the main beneficiaries of this are the tourists.

“But this diversity has never been really captured research-wise,” says Shamsul, who recently examined a PhD thesis on the Indians in Malaysia.  The postgraduate had assumed that the divisions within Malaysian society are straightforward and did not show any understanding of the “dividedness” that exists in each community.

“My comment was to rewrite the thesis. For a PhD candidate not to have recognised the diverse dissenting voices in each ethnic group does not augur well for the future of ethnic relations in Malaysia.”

Click here for the original article.

John R. Malott attacks Malaysia

Posted in MALAYSIA by Faezah Ismail on February 9, 2011
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Former United States ambassador to Malaysia John R. Malott has rubbished the 1Malaysia slogan in a scathing attack published today in the Asian Wall Street Journal.

Click here for details.

Chernobyl disaster: Chilling reminder

The story below from BBC Earth News is a chilling reminder that nature will never allow us to forget the harm that humans have inflicted on it.

Click here to read.

Chernobyl disaster

Good health, peace and prosperity!

Posted in SEASON'S GREETINGS by Faezah Ismail on February 2, 2011
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Chinese all over the world will welcome the Year of the Rabbit tomorrow.

Hijau is Green wishes its readers Gong Xi Fa Cai.

The first two days of Chinese New Year are public holidays in multi-ethnic Malaysia. Ethnic Chinese make up 25 per cent of the 28 million people in the country.

Most Chinese in Malaysia and elsewhere will celebrate the occasion tomorrow by offering mandarin oranges or red envelopes stuffed with cash to family members especially children and close friends.

The 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar returns to the Year of the Rabbit and good fortune is expected throughout the year.

Chinese tradition views rabbits as social, sensitive creatures and their homes and families are important to them. They symbolise beauty, composure and wealth.

If you are a Rabbit, click here for more about yourself.

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