Monday, January 27, 2014

Choi’s attire should not be blown out of proportion

Link to MSN

A 25 year old Muslim convert and primary school teacher lodged a police report against the school board’s director who had requested her to remove her headscarf if she wanted to continue teaching at SJK (C) Nan Ya in Kota Tinggi. Did she feel victimised and was therefore seeking help? And was it necessary for her to make the police report?

Choi Yi Shan, a 25 year old Muslim convert and primary school teacher, turned the tables on her colleagues over a remark that was made over her choice of dressing. She lodged a police report against the school board’s director, Phang Ah Ngang, 72, who had requested her to remove her headscarf if she wanted to continue teaching at SJK (C) Nan Ya in Kota Tinggi. Consequently, the news drew flaks amongst the Muslim groups that demanded action to be taken upon the school board’s director remarks.

The headscarf remarks uttered by the school board director were neither criminal nor seditious. Today, Choi received a public apology from the school’s board and along with the school’s principal. In a picture taken by reporters, Choi is seen shaking hands with the principal. She was seen donning a red headscarf, sunglasses and with a hand fan hiding her face.

The earlier events that transpired between her and fellow subordinates, prompted Choi to hastily make the police report over a remark which could have been solved through many other possible channels like requesting for an explanation through an official complaint letter.

Given the explosive nature of Muslim sensitivity in the country, the lass’s impatience has cost the nation another blow along the racial and religious lines.

The question is: Did she feel victimised and was therefore seeking help? And was it necessary for her to make the police report?

As a Chinese Muslim convert, Choi should have been accustomed to treating the elderly with a little of deserving respect if she was raised up in typical Chinese fashion. The Chinese customary is as such that elders are often revered in the family, within society spectrum and most of all are given a listening ear. Even if the elderly people are gravely wrong with their statements and opinions, there would have been a proper dialogue or amicable consultation process to address the following concern. Sadly, those well-meaning virtues are not well heeded in today’s generation.

The choice of dressing, whether Muslim or not, should not have been an issue in the first place. Headscarves are, but, a personal choice, culturally ingrained and for some, a religious obligatory.

We can only assume that Choi might have been facing the constant harassment and ridicule to the point where she could no longer escape and filed an official police report. But still, this is no reason to act rashly or contemptuously against Phang and the school.

What entails in her police report is no longer a private issue between the two parties. Despite being transferred out from the school and receiving a major apology, the police report has yet to be withdrawn and pending investigations are still ongoing. UMNO Youth has called for the full brunt of the law to be brought against Phang and the school for his insensitive remark and intend to make ‘as a lesson to all’.

The chain of events has sparked further uneasiness among the fundamentalists, fueling at every opportunity to accuse the non-Malays of challenging the Muslims. This madness needs to stop somewhere.

Tolerance and unity is not just a sole initiative and is a joint effort undertaken by all, and we, living through the years of harmonious peace side by side, should ensure that there is no room or space for extremism. Choi should withdraw the police report and put the lid on any political perpetrators for the sake of national harmony. This matter should not have been blown out of proportion in the first place.

* This is the writer’s personal opinion.

Speaking out for the people is a Wakil Rakyat’s job

Bukit Relau receives due ‘medical attention’ after ‘Botak Protest’ by Teh Yee Cheu. Pressure by the Tanjong Bunga State Assemblyman resulted in new consultants being engaged by the land owner to restore the illegally cleared hill land.

Pakatan Rakyat Penang is exemplary in its execution of democracy in that elected representatives of the people can speak out without fear or favour with regards to the State Government’s actions or inaction. In all aspect, this professionalism to separate party issues and governance is highly beneficial to all. A yes-man would no sooner prove to be detrimental to both the coalition and the public.

Teh Yee Cheu recently shaved his head bald as a protest against the developers of Bukit Relau to restore the barren hill to its previous condition. Six months earlier, General Accomplishment Sdn. Bhd. was fined RM30,000 under Section 70A (1) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act for carrying out illegal earthworks at the site. Even Karpal Singh, the National Chairman of DAP had sounded out his displeasure over the inappropriate clearing of trees.

It was reported today through Chow Kon Yeow, the State Local Government Committee Chairman that General Accomplishment Sdn. Bhd will engage another consultant to help mitigate the illegal land clearing on the hill.

Widely known as the environmentally friendly State Assemblyman who cycles to work, Teh has always stood his ground to question the government on issues relating to public interest. He represents the Tanjong Bunga constituency.

Batu Uban State Assemblyman supportive of Teh’s actions

Dr. Jayabalan, the State Assemblyman for Batu Uban, where Bukit Relau is located, supported Teh’s protest as a ‘symbolic gesture towards the violation of a pristine environment and the manner in which the destruction has been condoned’.

“Despite promises, the mitigation and restoration process has not yet been carried out.

“I wish to reiterate that I support Teh in his actions and that there will be other measures taken to protest the destruction of the hill,” he said in a text message.

In this particular case, the State Government together with the Department of Environment should have taken the matter further to ensure that the landowners keep their promise to rehabilitate the hill. About six acres of land have been cleared and civil society groups have been vocal towards the paltry sum for such a huge area of deforestation.

Speaking out for the people is a Wakil Rakyat’s job (© Carolyn Khor)

Enviromental impact

“Massive erosions are found and siltation has formed in the river nearby”, claimed Teh Yee Cheu.
“With only 9 per cent of forest reserves left, more should be done to conserve the hill and to promote sustainable development,” he added.

When asked why he chose the 1st of January to shave his head, Teh answered that he hoped to start the New Year with a strong message that ‘green living’ should be a priority for all and that in the public’s interest, the State and Federal agencies should step up their efforts to protect the environment.

“I am the people’s representative and I am just doing my job,” he said.

Teh also mentioned that he had raised the issue during the State Assembly seating in June and December 2013, prior to staging the public protest.

Cleaner Greener Penang

Penang’s famous tagline ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’ is evident that the Penang State Government is serious about protecting the environment. Many Penangites share the same sentiment towards hill degradation and environment lovers are hopeful that the irresponsible parties are given sufficient pressure to replant the trees.

As Bukit Relau is 250 metres above sea level, it should also be rezoned as hill land and unsuitable for development.
State Environment Committee Chairman, Phee Boon Poh was reported in The Sun Daily today as ‘not wanting to comment further’ as the forestry reports had been released in May last year and that he ‘did not want to run down his DAP comrade’.

Phee Boon Poh is right and courteous about promoting a united front. However, it cannot be denied that Teh’s action had prompted the landowners to take immediate remedial steps to rectify the situation of the bald hill. Overall, the Penang State Government should be applauded for putting the people’s interest first. As any good government should know – it was the People’s Power who put them there in the first place.