Saturday, January 29, 2011

The downside of being young

A New York Times' article on older Japanese workers marginalising their younger colleagues underlines how little the old understand the young.

It is a biting commentary on older generations hanging on to their vested interests at the expense of their young's professional development.

Young Japanese workers are frustrated but are stumped by what to do about it.

They need to find an outlet for their many talents and interests.

Some young Japanese have not only quit their jobs -- after a period of trying to gain acceptance -- but left their country as well.

The phenomenon is not peculiar to Japan. At a certain publishing company in Malaysia you will hear a similar story.

Top executives are reluctant to promote promising thirty-somethings to decision-making positions for reasons best known to themselves.

An enlightened top-level executive may want to act on his middle manager's suggestion to move a bright young staff member to a higher rank but he will need all the energy he can get to overcome all hurdles put before him by people from the Human Resources Department.

It does not matter if the young worker in question is deserving of promotion.

We hear of great working environments in game-changing companies such as Google where the young are allowed to fully express themselves and rewarded for their creativity.

It sounds like a dream.

Talented young Malaysian employees, like their Japanese counterparts mentioned in the New York Times' article, are exactly the type of people that the publishing company needs to boost its falling circulation figures and change the face of an aging organisation.

It is unfortunate that they are not given a chance to show what they can do.

Many have left and further resignations are expected. Nobody wants to work in a firm where the negative attitudes of older workers foster a culture of failure.

A dramatic reversal of policy still seems light years away.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interlok: Amended version for fifth-formers


Picture shows the English translation of the novel Interlok.


The Malaysian government finally reached a decision about the adoption of an abridged edition of Datuk Abdullah Hussain's novel Interlok as a text for the literature component in the subject Bahasa Malaysia for fifth-formers.

Students will be allowed to read it but not before some amendments. That means removing the bits that hurt the ethnic sensibilities of the Indian community.

The result arrived at after heated debate was entirely predictable.

The Prime Minister is likely to call an election this year. And the announcement to end the Interlok impasse with a "formula that everyone can agree on" is seen by some as an attempt to appease the ruling government's constituents.

See below for details of the decision as reported by Bernama.



Interlok stays, but with amendments: Muhyiddin
By: (Thu, 27 Jan 2011)

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 27, 2011): The novel Interlok will remain as the textbook for the literature component of the Bahasa Malaysia subject for Form Five but with amendments to several aspects deemed sensitive by the Indian community, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin said.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, said an independent panel would be set up to study the types of amendments and would submit the recommendations to the government.

"The decision to continue using the novel, with amendments so as not to hurt the feelings of the Indian community, is the best solution," Muhyiddin said in a statement today.

Muhyiddin said the panel would comprise linguists, academicians, literary figures and representatives of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka as well as the Indian community.

"I expect the amendments to be carried out in the near future," he said, adding that the novel would only be used and distributed to schools once the amendments had been incorporated into it.

While waiting for the process to be completed, he said, the Education Ministry would instruct teachers to continue with the existing syllabus so as not to disrupt the teaching and learning process.

"I believe we have sufficient time to make a thorough amendment so that there will be no more dispute over Interlok," he said.

The novel, by National Laureate Datuk Abdullah Hussein, became a controversy following the ministry's decision to use the novel as a literature textbook, with several parties claiming that it contains words deemed sensitive to the Indian community.

Muhyiddin said that the decision was made after taking into consideration the views of all parties, which acknowledged that the book was good in nurturing and strengthening unity among the multi-racial and multi-religious society in Malaysia.

At the same time, he said that any amendment made to the novel would not affect the storyline and the noble message which the writer wanted to convey.

The deputy prime minister was previously reported as saying that he had a formula to resolve the impasse over Interlok.

Muhyiddin said that the consensus to resolve the issue was reach after he, together with MIC president Datuk G. Palanivel and MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam, met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to discuss the matter this morning.

He had also met Palanivel and Subramaniam over the issue yesterday.

In the Barisan Nasional (BN) spirit of consensus, he said, they agreed that the novel would continue to be used as a textbook for the literature component of Bahasa Malaysia for Form Five in Zone 2, namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

The amendment to the book would be made, taking into consideration the views of MIC, he said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interlok: Make a quick decision


The move to adopt Datuk Abdullah Hussain's novel Interlok as a Malay Literature text for Form Five students has aroused a heated debate over its suitability.

Copies of the abridged edition of the novel (see picture above) were distributed to schools in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya before the start of the new school year.

But the books have been temporarily put aside pending the Cabinet's decision on the matter.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants more discussions about whether the novel should be included on the reading list.

The idea is to find a solution that everyone can agree on.

Teachers and students, meanwhile, are getting restless and they want the Education Ministry to come to a decision about what to do next by tomorrow.

It is an exam year for the fifth-formers and they hope the decision-makers realise that.

Click here for more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Facebook: Don't befriend a stranger!

Facebook users in Malaysia readily accept "friendship" requests from strangers, says criminologist and Malaysian Association of Certified Fraud Examiners president Datuk Akhbar Satar.

Malaysians should think twice about approving appeals for friendship from people they do not know, he says.

Many feel good when they suddenly become "popular" as indicated by the numerous applications.

They reveal a lot of themselves such as birth dates, addresses, telephone numbers and alluring photos to the so-called Facebook friends who now have access to these details which are found on the users' profile pages.

They are particularly vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.

Trusting Facebook users are everywhere.

A friend from the Philippines recently picked up a message on Facebook from a man who wanted to be her friend. He told her that he was attracted to her profile picture on Facebook and pestered her with messages for more than a month.

He began to wax lyrical about her beauty. And then he confessed that he was in love with her. It went on and on.

She soon discovered that it was all a scam and the scumbag was not what he had portrayed himself to be.

All he wanted was money and he instructed her to inform her bank to wire it to him.

"I am not that stupid," was her response. "How can I fall in love with a man I have not met."

She sighed with relief after she told him off.

But other women who believed the sweet nothings whispered by the con artists were not so lucky.

They lost all their savings in a Facebook drama full of lies and deception.

Their real friends tried to warn them, but they would not listen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Call the dog whisperer

I am terrified of dogs. I was bitten by a dog once and I have been afraid of them ever since. Whenever I am near a dog, I would edge nervously past it.

I try to avoid visiting homes which keep dogs. It is no good telling me that dogs are adorable or that they make faithful friends. All I see is a dog baring its teeth and growling.

I relived the horror of being bitten on Monday (January 10, 2011) morning when I read a report in the New Straits Times about two mongrels attacking an Irish tourist, Maurice Sullivan, to death at an organic farm in Teluk Bahang, Penang.

Sullivan, 50, and his companion Agnieszka Izabela, 28, had arrived at the durian farm on Saturday (January 8, 2011) as volunteer helpers. The idea was to stay on the farm and help around for an average of four hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation.

Sullivan was fatally mauled by the dogs sometime on Sunday when he and Izabela were leaving Joseph Teoh's -- the farm owner -- house which was situated on a hilltop and about 50m away from the scene of the incident.

Sullivan sustained severe injuries to his arm, thigh, chin and ears -- which were both bitten off -- and died on the farm.

The dogs are now under observation at the Penang state Veterinary Department in Balik Pulau. They will be in quarantine for 10 days from Monday (January 10, 2011).

I wonder what Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan has to say about the change in behaviour of the seemingly "friendly" farm dogs?

The dogs were said to be playing with the couple on Saturday afternoon. What had triggered the dogs' violent behaviour?

My friend WL, who likes dogs, has an interesting hypothesis. She says that the mongrels were friendly with Sullivan and Izabela on Saturday afternoon because their owner was with the tourists.

But without Teoh the animals might have viewed Sullivan and Izabela as intruders and reacted the way they had been trained.

What was going through the killer dogs' minds is a matter for conjecture. We will just have to wait for the report from the Veterinary Department.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A perfect start to 2011

Words of wisdom.

Why do some think that they are preserve of philosophers or wise old men? Everyone has an opinion worth listening to. I am reminded of this time and time again.

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague early this week. It was on the morning of January 3, the first working day of the brand new year. I was in the office canteen and said hello to a colleague.

We exchanged greetings and proceeded to select our food items at the breakfast buffet. As luck would have it, we ended up sharing a table. Our conversation turned to our personal and professional aspirations.

I discovered that Kulwant is studying for a teaching degree on a part-time basis. Her enthusiasm drew me in.

Her commitment to her studies is inspiring. She describes it as "journey" -- to a whole new world. She is excited about the prospect of discovering new things and improving herself.

She talked about her love of the English language and her desire to master it. Words and more words! That's her current preoccupation.

We wanted to discuss more but work was waiting for us at the office. We reluctantly walked to our respective departments.

I was still thinking about her pearls of wisdom when I switched on the computer at my desk. Talking to Kulwant was a wonderful boost for my morale. It was a perfect start to what I now believe will be a great year for me!

Statements that express something about great peoples' attitudes to life are a rich source of inspiration for many of us.

But our friends, colleagues and even strangers have their own stories which may resonate with us.

Thank you very much, Kulwant!