UEC – Two scenarios

The debate for Malaysia to recognise the United Examination Certificate (UEC) has gone on for some time – probably for the past four years or more. Those proposing that the nation recognise this certificate are mostly from the Malaysian ethnic Chinese communities, from the education collective to non-Malay majority political parties, particularly the MCA and DAP.

Those against, are mostly the Malaysian ethnic Malays – the most recent reason given by the prime minister is that UEC will only be recognised when socioeconomics allow it. Or directly from the prime minister, “when all sensitivities are considered”.

This phrase seems rather…cryptic, does it not?

Proponents of the UEC says that it is widely accepted in foreign universities, on the same level as the Malaysian government’s STPM or translated to the Malaysian High Education Examination.

At the same time, it is also considered on par with the acceptance of the British A Levels or American SATs worldwide, which is recognised by the Malaysian education system for university degrees, both public and private.

Thus, what is the approval of yet another internationally recognised certificate when it comes to university admittance? It isn’t.

So, what is the major concern?

In a utopian society without barriers, it wouldn’t – but let us take the scenario that Malaysia is not utopian and rather racist. After all, we had a Chindian young man being rejected from renting apartments in Penang for being “mixed race” rather than pure Chinese.

Taking that mentality into a scenario, the objection against the UEC is not against allowing it to be accepted for entrances into universities or even to be given scholarships to go overseas.

Instead, it is the concern that this will impact the job market.

Let us be rather frank – there is a rather racist job market in Malaysia, and the scenario is that allowing the UEC will impact hiring for the Malay community with only SPM and STPM level education.

And this is where the Malays against it see the highest impact – that employers will then overlook Malaysian certificate bearers and prioritise the UEC for hiring employees.

With it being an issue to even get an executive level job these days, there is a need for the government to consider whether there is equality in hiring, or is merit being made an excuse.

A similar scenario happened when it came to the new Pakatan Harapan cabinet, in which 30 percent were supposed to be women and this failed to be achieved.

While some women (read: Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz) believed that merit should be looked at instead of gender, I disagree. After all, there are enough women in politics with the same merit to become minister, unlike the age when said woman was a minister.

Similarly, a scenario allowing the UEC to be accepted for employment along with the SPTM, will impact the private sector most of all because if there is a racial bias, it will put the Malay community majority from public schools at an even further disadvantage.

Is it a believable, relevant and even a serious concern?

I think that is up to everyone to decide.

For myself, like I said, it is two scenarios based on perception.

If the perception is that the job market is racially biased, and the mentality of people is still stuck in tribalism on all sides, then having it recognised and official through an exam certificate seems to be a step backwards, not forwards.

Unless, the UEC is then taken by Malays at large and in high numbers, then perhaps we can remove this fear of it being a Chinese bias issue. Until then, it will be hard to convince anyone fighting for so-called Malay rights that this isn’t just another way to push the Malay community out of the running for a job using an exam cert.

The second utopian scenario is that nobody bothers and the job market puts the STPM, UEC and A Levels at the same level without bias. That the best candidate goes through a number of interviews to show that they are the best candidate for jobs, and that employers are not racially biased, gender biased, and threat all including foreign workers at the same level as locals.

It would be the two schizophrenic mindsets well implanted in all Malaysians, even if they won’t admit it.

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Letter – Can ICERD undo xenophobic barriers?

It seems the country is divided on whether Malaysia should sign the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

So, I would do what I usually do first — open up a web browser, google it, read a Wikipedia page and subsequently the links attached.

And this is what I found.

I find it ironic because this convention historically was introduced to contain anti-Semitism.

Just looking at our current Prime Minister, it is quite the irony.

While Lim Kit Siang is right in saying there are Muslim countries who have signed the ICERD, he omitted to mention that many of them do not bother recognising the need to refer disputes on racial discrimination to the International Court of Justice.

Of course, it is also interesting to note that the ICERD was used by the Romani people — also known as Gypsies — against both Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro, restrictions on freedom of movement and residence, and access to public spaces.

Meanwhile, the convention has also been signed by nations who do not see it implying any obligations beyond the limits of their existing constitutions.

So, now I have a few questions which seems to be asked to the legal sector. Let us start with the biggest one in the room. If Malaysia does sign the ICERD, will the government then guarantee the privileges (not rights) of the Malays as per the Federal Constitution?

Considering how this government could not even keep its promise of splitting up the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor roles per their manifesto, it is clear that anything requiring 2/3 of Parliament support will not happen any time soon.

Thus, the Malaysian Malays should not have such a concern.

However, there are a few more everyday issues in Malaysia that needs to be considered. What about things that are not guaranteed in the constitution and offered to the Bumiputera community?

Are these going to be reconsidered, and opened to become for all Malaysians?

There is nothing specifically in the constitution guaranteeing a Bumiputera discount on housing, or even a Bumiputera priority in business contracts or even bank loans.

Under Article 153, it does however put the right to a Bumiputera quota for the civil service, and universities, colleges — pretty much everything after the SPM in the hands of the King.

It is of course, up to the King to decide what is a “reasonable” proportion of “scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government” to be put aside for the Bumiputeras, as per the Article.

That being said, I see the ICERD with another point of interest especially since I live in a rented property in a condominium complex and have seen some racially tainted shenanigans going about.

For example, if the government does sign the ICERD, what action will they take against property owners who discriminate against Africans in Malaysia? What legal recourse is the government thinking against this form of racial discrimination?

Can the same action be taken against Immigration officers who decide to detain migrant workers, marking it a hate crime?

Also, can the Bangladeshis, the Africans, the Nepalese and even Indonesians here file hate speech reports against the authorities or even the daily angry customer or delivery boy who jeer on them with racial slurs at cash registers, in a fresh market or even at apartment security gates?

Similarly, since employment will be seen as needing to be racially equal, will there be further checks and requirements placed on listed companies to show their racial equality in their corporate structures?

Could people in the same company, on the same corporate level, with the same years of experience, proving they have had the same score in annual KPI reviews and yet earning different salaries, subsequently take their complaint to the authorities that the company was racially biased?

I am not so much concerned about the case of race and religious rights and leaving that for the King and the Sultans to act on this.

I am more concerned, however, towards the everyday actions taken for granted, where we see people mock migrant workers, miss a promotion in corporate structures over race, even unto foreigners who cannot rent a property or get a Grab car based on their skin tone.

The signing of ICERD will in fact police all of these under Articles 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the convention. In fact, should anyone bring up how a proposed rail line will bring in “foreigners into their township”, it will also be against the convention.

For myself, if signing the ICERD guarantees that everyone including migrants and Malaysians are treated with respect — that there will be legal recourse for them against discrimination based on race against companies, e-hailing car drivers and their app owners, listed companies who promote along racial lines, members of the police, the immigration department, and even teachers and lecturers who use racially tinged mockery for a laugh, then more power to it.

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

By Hafidz Baharom

In the last two weeks, this has been the campaigns leading up to the 14th General Election. It was initially to call us using the #undirosak hashtag as “immature, brain damaged, treasonous” and even going so far as “committing suicide”.

Since then, we have learned that our largest apolitical critic being the chief of the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) is joining politics under the PKR banner and allegedly offered a “safe seat”.

Thus, the clean is now clearly about to get muddy.

Continue reading “From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?”

The Malay Mail Online: Can Malaysian families afford a homemaker?

APRIL 29 — In the past week, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) once again raised the issue of how wives joining the workforce would neglect families.

For those who may not know, our labour figures show that 52 per cent of Malaysian women are participating in our workforce these days, with further encouragement by government agencies to increase that number further.

That being said, Isma’s argument is from the rationale that there needs to be someone to care for the family, particularly children require a mother to raise them.

This isn’t the first time they have raised this point and so, we could say their stance has been secure — as is my personal stance. And since the head of Isma’s women’s wing is in fact the daughter of economists, I am certain she understands the argument against women taking a passive role in economics.

It is a valid point to say that someone has to care for the kids, but to say that families need to single out moms as homemaker is wrong, particularly in current day realities where we have single parent families and are stuck in what Massachusetts junior senator Elizabeth Warren has explained as the “two-income trap”.

For the unfamiliar, Warren’s book details how the market was affected with women joining the workforce, thus the prices of assets increased to the point of normalising the need for two breadwinners for each family.

And in Malaysia, the economics of this argument rings true when you have official household incomes averaging more than RM6,000 and yet official wage figures averaging a lot less than that.

In simpler terms, our current economy — household income versus the cost of living — does not make it viable for a single income family to live a prosperous, less challenging life.

Of course, it is a worthy goal to aim for, no less, to have someone as a full-time homemaker, but it also raises multiple questions. For one, I would contend why the government would have to issue out scholarships and student loans to women who refuse to join the workforce since it would be counterproductive.

Unless, of course, Isma advocates wives to then start up cottage industries or micro-businesses for a secondary income stream instead of just depending on husbands to become sole breadwinners.

For myself personally, I believe both genders should be given the same consideration when it comes to parenting responsibilities. If the moms so chooses to join the workforce on flexible hours, then the fathers should receive the same.

Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with giving both parents paternity leave to learn how to care for a newborn.

This is the evolution of society itself these days in which there is no gender stereotyping of who can raise a child and take on the role of homemaker better. We have moved on from the concept of women knowing how to cook and clean while men go out and know how to earn money.

In fact I would contend that even in the history of the state of Kelantan and perhaps Negri Sembilan, for ages those roles were reversed.

But at the same time, if there are those with the belief that they should become dedicated homemakers, that is alright for them to do so as long as it doesn’t impact anyone else. That is basically liberalism — allowing such a choice.

Having been raised in a family where at times there was only a single income stream in the 1990s, even then it was not as easy as it sounds and sacrifices had to be made. And honestly I believe it will be tougher for this current new generation of families who have seen wages not tying up with the cost of living.

That being said, I wouldn’t advocate it in our country for a simple reason — women tend to be more level headed in Malaysia compared to men. We have a higher number of women entering and graduating from tertiary education, proving they’ve outperformed men from an intellectual standpoint.

I would like to see them fight for equal wages, breaking glass ceilings in the corporate world and still having the ability to multitask raising a family while still earning an income worthy of their contributions.

I have seen such women in action with awe, thriving in whatever they choose to do. And it is my personal belief that we need these individuals to lead us into the future back into prosperity.

And while Isma believes that there is no greater calling for married women than to become homemakers, I humbly disagree by believing women and men should have equal opportunities to prove they can be more than their gender stereotypes.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online. – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/can-malaysian-families-afford-a-homemaker-hafidz-baharom#sthash.HmdI2fer.dpuf

Letter – Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa

Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa

by Hafidz Baharom

Currently, a spate of cases on hysteria in SMK Pangkalan Chepa 2, Kota Bharu, has the nation wondering how to deal with such a situation. Insofar, authorities have decided to close down the school after a “black figure” was spotted on camera. The picture is currently making its rounds on social media.

The news has gotten international press recognition, most recently being covered by UK paper The Telegraph detailing the issue with testimony of teachers as well as students.

But for us back here in Malaysia, let’s have a flashback to May 2015. Continue reading “Letter – Use the anti-hysteria kit in Pangkalan Chepa”

On ageism and professional comments — Hafidz Baharom

MARCH 31 — The recent comments by Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid on how Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s (MAB) cabin crew brought to mind an incident between Clare Booth, 35, and Dorothy Parker, then an elderly socialite.

See, Booth and Parker apparently went to a social event in which both of them tried to exit through the same door. Being somewhat of an ageist, Booth stepped aside and held the door open for Parker, saying “age before beauty”.

Nonchalantly, Parker graciously exited before giving a stinging retort.

Pearls before swine.

On Wednesday, Nurulhidayah decided it was fair game to criticise MAS on Instagram, and this was highlighted on a news portal. In her post on the social media, she commented on chewing gum on the seats. Well, this was acceptable because that is rather disgusting.

In fact, I’m sure MAB could look into their cleanup crew’s performance to ensure the upholstery on their seats are properly cared for.

But here’s the thing; what did the age of the cabin crew have to do with anything?

Apparently Nurulhidayah, who is supposedly the Head of Corporate Communications for a national affordable housing company Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, decided that it was fair game to bring ageism as an issue with cabin crews.

Now if I may ask — with most of us here being Asians and all — when did we begin to have such an insolent and arrogant generation of yuppies?

Calling in someone’s age no longer makes it a professional critique in a workplace as she said in defending herself.

And yes, such insolence and arrogance does bring into question how Nurulhidayah was raised, especially considering that her father is our deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
In fact, I have always thought the reason we were served by “experienced” cabin crews for long haul flights was because they were veterans.

This is the fact I’ve experienced flying Qatar Airways, British Airways, KLM and even Japanese Airlines.

At the same time, I would ask everyone to consider the scenarios you are putting these flight attendants in.
A crude job description they are tasked with for long haul flights is to take care of sometimes more than 200 strangers in a cramped space over the span of more than ten hours in the most professional manner you can give.
Perhaps Nurulhidayah would like to take a challenge and try being a flight attendant for a week — being cramped with a flight attendant to passenger ratio of larger than 1:15 including chain smokers like myself who have no access to nicotine, random drunkards who insist on having liquor constantly and even the ones who ask for water every half an hour — all this in a span of 14 to 18 hours with nowhere to run.

Also, no vaping.

And upon landing, still be able to freeze a smile on your face, not a hair out of place and wish everyone well.  

And while women are not my thing, I will always be amazed that MAS flight attendants can be “old” and still look good in a kebaya.

Flight attendants truly go to hell and back on each and every flight because they have to treat total strangers professionally. While there are passengers who are mollified by being waited on by such a way, there are those who believe they maybe deserved to be pampered even more.

There are a lot of things that can be suggested to better MAB, from Chef Wan’s comment on the “naked nasi lemak” which falls on the inflight caterers and the recent incident which cause their London flight to divert to Manchester.

Nurulhidayah could’ve been professional and left it at how the plane needed proper cleaning.

Instead, all she proved was that parents and status don’t breed class.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

It’s not just about “learning overseas” – Hafidz Baharom

The argument over whether or not we should send Malaysians overseas for education under government scholarship is currently raging.

As revealed yesterday, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said pointed out that the government managed to save RM240 million this year by opting out of sending 744 students overseas.

Instead, these students will be educated locally in both private and public universities.

Continue reading “It’s not just about “learning overseas” – Hafidz Baharom”