Blog Posts by Mariam Mokhtar

  • An interview with Nurul Izzah Anwar

    Nurul Izzah Anwar may look coy but the lady under the tudung is anything but delicate. When she was 18-years old, family life was thrown into turmoil, when her father, Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's former finance and Deputy Prime minister, was arrested on charges of sodomy and corruption.

    When most teenagers battle raging hormones and the transition into the adult world; Nurul was catapulted into the world of politics. She campaigned for her father's release, both at home and overseas. In 2004, she graduated with a BSc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from University Tenaga Nasional and received a Masters in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University in the USA, in 2006.

    In 2008, she challenged Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in Lembah Pantai. Shahrizat had held the BN stronghold since 1995. Turnout was 73% and Nurul secured a majority of 2,895 votes.

    Today, life in the political fast lane is set to get more hectic for the 31-year old. The current Women Family and Community

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  • Overseas Malaysians question the vote denial

    Zaleha, a post-graduate research assistant in a UK teaching hospital was furious, "I have no choice but to work overseas. This place has the best research facilities in my field of study. I still pay tax for my properties in Kuala Lumpur and I remit money home to support my parents and siblings.

    "The EC does more harm to take away my vote. How about making it ineligible for those immigrants with questionable citizenship, to vote in Malaysia? "

    Zaleha was reacting to the statement by the chairman of the Election Commission (EC) Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof who said, "Do we want to take in Malaysians (as voters) who do not come back to Malaysia? Do we take these people as voters?"

    Last August, there were high expectations when the EC announced the possibility of allowing Malaysians abroad to vote in Malaysian elections. Support was boosted when the nine-man Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) led by Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili recommended that

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  • Only the lucky few were able to attend the much touted debate between Rafizi Ramli, PKR's Strategic Director and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar in London. The excitement building up to the event was unparalleled and few people left disappointed.

    The two men were engaged in a friendly face-off at the Projek Amanat Negara (PAN) event organised by the United Kingdom and Eire Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC) on 29 January. Their topic was "Public Policy: Vision 2020: Is Malaysia Moving Towards the Right Direction?"

    Both Khairy and Rafizi looked confident and self-assured, throughout the debate and managed to bounce key-points off each other, good naturedly. They interacted well with the crowd and the quality and pace of the debate meant that the 90 minutes of discussion was neither stilted nor sluggish.

    Unlike parliamentary exchanges in the Dewan Negara, where name-calling, insults and personal smears are common, the debate between Khairy and Rafizi showed Malaysians

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  • Are Malaysians a dissatisfied lot or are they becoming more confrontational? Protesting is arduous work, which few would undertake unless they feel they have been grievously wronged. One has to endure the hot sun, and the driving rain, plus there is always the chance that outsiders may provoke the group to incite trouble and there is the possibility of arrest.

    Protesting is not something most people would want to do, on any day. So do people protest because this is their way of crying for help?

    Few will have failed to notice the apparent rise in public protests on our streets and an increase in police reports lodged by aggrieved parties. Despite the ban on street protests, there has been no let-up in the shows of disapproval by various sections of society.

    Last November, the Internal Security Act (ISA) was repealed and the Peaceful Assembly Bill (PAB) replaced it. This was promptly followed by howls of protest, including one from the Bar Council. The PAB does not deter the rakyat from

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  • Whatever your beliefs, both Malay and English are important

    The three most widely spoken languages in the world are Chinese, Spanish and English. In multiracial Malaysia, both the national language, Malay and English are taught in schools although the proficiency of English varies in different communities and between East and Peninsular Malaysia.

    Since 2009, when the PPSMI (the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English) was to be phased out in stages, parents have demanded that the PPSMI be retained.

    Thus, the recent debacle with the erroneous translations on the English websites of various government departments could not have come at a worse time.

    In the PPSMI issue, parents, students and teachers, were told of a compromise in November 2011, when the Cabinet announced that the current batch of Year 1 students would have the option of continuing under PPSMI until they completed Form 5.

    Many parents, though are still dissatisfied. They are demanding that more is done to improve the level of English in our society, especially

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  • Is Mindef blunder a symptom of 'bad education'?

    Are inaccurate translations and depndency on machines a sign that the standard of English in Malaysia has deteriorated?

    By Mariam Mokhtar

    The English version of Mindef's official website came under attack for its series of embarrassing gaffes, and soon became a Twitter and Facebook sensation thus forcing the ministry to close down the site.

    The inaccurate translations, coming soon after the fiercely fought demands by pro-English lobby groups like Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) to champion the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and science in schools, have further tarnished the image of the Ministry of Education.

    Days after the translation debacle, Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, admitted that his ministry had used and relied on the free online services of Google Translate.

    "We have corrected the mistakes and translations are no longer done that way. It is now done manually. We did not intend for the English translations to turn out that way."

    The Mindef website had listed the appropriate dress attire for visits to its premises and had cited a literal

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  • The Ministry of Defence which has been embroiled in a series of allegedly corrupt scandals involving Scorpene submarines, offshore patrol boats, and security and defence deals, was hit by another bombshell in early January.

    The English version of Mindef's official website came under attack for its series of embarrassing gaffes, and soon became a Twitter and Facebook sensation thus forcing the ministry to close down the site.

    The inaccurate translations, coming soon after the fiercely fought demands by pro-English lobby groups like Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) to champion the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and science in schools, have further tarnished the image of the Ministry of Education.

    Days after the translation debacle, Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, admitted that his ministry had used and relied on the free online services of Google Translate.

    "We have corrected the mistakes and translations are no longer done that way. It is now done

    Read More »from Is Mindef blunder symptomatic of a decline in Malaysian education?
  • Malaysia after 901: The hard work begins

    In the highly charged atmosphere of the packed courtroom, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, his team of lawyers, family and friends, waited expectantly as High Court judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah faced the hushed crowd, before his eyes skimmed over the page in front of him and stopped when he reached the critical part.

    The time was 9.21 a.m. and it took all of 90 seconds for Zabidin to deliver the verdict. He told the crowd that doubt has been cast on the reliability of the DNA evidence and that the court cleared Anwar Ibrahim of the charge of sodomy.

    After three tortuous years, Anwar was finally acquitted.

    The stunned silence was in stark contrast to the scenes of euphoria which erupted once the verdict had registered in the minds of the people in the courtroom. Minutes later, a tearful Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail hugged her husband, Anwar.

    Zabidin said the court could not '100 percent accept the DNA evidence' and that it 'could not exclude the possibility of the samples being

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  • Child abuse is rising in Malaysia

    Very few people wish to talk about it, but facts speak for themselves. Incidents of child abuse appear to be on the rise in Malaysia. Last week, in the period over Christmas and New Year, seven cases of child abuse were reported in the papers.

    Figures based on previous years, compiled by UNICEF Malaysia with data from the Social Welfare Department, paint an alarming picture. In 2006, there were 1,999 child abuse cases. This increased to 2,279 cases in 2007 and 2,780 cases in 2008.

    Why are children abused? Why do many cases go unreported? What are the punishments for people who abuse children?

    Some people blame the increase of child abuse on misunderstandings, relationship problems and financial difficulties. Others claim that abusers don't intend to harm their children and that those who have been abuse victims know no other way of parenting. A few may also have to cope with mental health problems or have a substance abuse issue.

    What has been highlighted is a tip of the iceberg. These

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  • A lonely Christmas

    Christmas is a time for forgiveness and compassion. In this festive period, have we thought about giving of ourselves? Do we ever wonder what it is like to serve others?

    Like most other religious festivals in multi-racial Malaysia, Christmas has been over commercialised. As early as September, shops were already selling Christmas decorations and Christmas puddings. Most shops attempt to seduce us with decorations that grow more sophisticated each year. The competition to attract customers is stiff and we are bombarded with advertisements to spend money that most of us do not have.

    There are presents to buy and parties to go to. Even adults welcome the over-indulgence. In today's modern world, families are increasingly abandoning the Christmas get-together at home and opt for lunch at restaurants, clubs or private homes.

    Children pester their parents for expensive presents which by Boxing Day, have been discarded or broken. Despite the increased food prices, many of us feel that we must

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