Followers

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID CRISIS: LIFTING PEOPLE

by Chandra Muzaffar                                 

At this time of crisis the people are most concerned about the just and effective implementation of the 250 billion ringgit  Prihatiin  Economic Stimulus Package. (PESP). They would like to see the PESP benefit directly those who are most needy in our society.

While Malaysia as a whole has done better than many other societies in Asia, Africa and Latin America in ensuring that development reaches the targeted groups, we have also had our share of deviations and distortions. If we had performed better than others especially in the first 19 years of Merdeka, it was partly because we had as our Deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister an extraordinary visionary-administrator who was totally committed to the effective implementation of people oriented policies and programmes. Tun Abdul Razak Hussein not only strengthened processes and procedures that delivered the goods to the people but also nurtured a generation of multi-ethnic civil servants imbued with knowledge and skills and a deep  sense of dedication to the public good. Unfortunately, over the decades the quality of the civil service core has declined and mediocrity reigns today.

This is why so soon after the launch of the PESP, allegations are emerging of wrongdoings. Aid recipients are being short changed, according to some sources. It is said that in some rural communities there is pilferage. Complaints about the wrong people benefitting from assistance programmes it is said are not being investigated by the authorities.

There are also videos showing rice bags with portraits of certain political leaders emblazoned on them being distributed to the poor in certain parts of the country. In some instances, the name of the leader’s political party is also highlighted. This is crude and vulgar if it is authentic. Aid for the people even if it is funded by a certain individual or party should not be exploited for cheap publicity. The identity of the person or the organisation should not be put on display. Civil servants may not be responsible for such misdeeds but they should try to discourage such practices among politicians.  

They should also advise political leaders, ministers included, not to don on personal protective equipment which are in short supply in any case just for the cameras at a time like this.  It is the sort of posturing that we can do without if we are serious about concentrating upon the people’s well-being.

To ensure that both politicians and civil servants display good behaviour as required by the Rukunegara, the panel that has been established to oversee the implementation of the PESP should be given the necessary powers to act. It should not only look into the various programmes under the PESP but also recommend action against errant implementers.  This means that the panel should not just comprise politicians and civil servants from the government.

At least 3 independent members should be appointed to sit on the panel. One could be a representative of a small and medium enterprise (SME) outfit who can speak with authority on behalf of his/her constituency; the second could be a representative of the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) since the current crisis has a strong health dimension; and the third could be the leader of some respected consumer body. Since the three proposed representatives will be in a panel overseeing implementation of the PSEP they can alert the government to problems at the outset itself.

More important, the panel should present a preliminary report on issues of implementation to parliament when it convenes on the 18th of May 2020. It should be a ‘no holds barred’ report revealing all the challenges faced by the government in two months of the PSEP’s implementation.  Both sides of the Dewan Rakyat should contribute towards finding solutions. It could well be the beginning of the process of the government and the opposition working together for the larger good of the nation in the midst of one of the most complex national emergencies we have had to face in our 62 year history.                    

 Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

Kuala Lumpur.

1st of April 2020.

MALAYSIA IN CRISIS : GETTING IT RIGHT

by Chandra Muzaffar

When a nation is in crisis, it is the duty of its citizens to increase their scrutiny of the deeds and words of those who wield authority and power. Such scrutiny is perhaps all the more urgent when the nation is confronted by a triple crisis--- a health crisis; an economic crisis; and a political crisis. Citizens should not only be alert and evaluative but also wise and reflective.

The need for such an approach becomes apparent when we examine three aspects of governance which have come to the fore in recent times.

One, the paramount importance of inclusiveness in addressing our multiple crises. There is no need to emphasise that our very demographic demands inclusiveness. Notwithstanding the current composition of the Federal Cabinet, a product in a sense of a bizarre political crisis, the Muhyuddin government has attempted to be inclusive in certain respects such as its allocation of critical tasks to senior Ministers from different parties in the Coalition. It has also established a degree of rapport with the Civil Service by projecting the Director-General of Health as the primary interlocutor with the public on matters pertaining to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.  The role of the Yang Di Pertuan Agong  in articulating the central message of the fight against the pandemic --- a role that is above party politics --- also underscores inclusiveness in governance. Inviting celebrities to reinforce that message  enhances inclusiveness.

Perhaps the time has come to give greater meaning to inclusiveness in dealing with the health crisis by bringing in Opposition political leaders to also play their role. They should be given space on our television networks to persuade a segment of the populace to comply with the Movement Control Order (MCO). Since party loyalties are a major cause of divisiveness in society, the sight of opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders on TV urging their followers to stay indoors or to observe “social distancing” could help curb the spread of Covid 19 and serve the public interest.

Two, the government has also increased the allocation for personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical frontliners and for other facilities needed in the battle against Covid 19. PPEs in particular should have been given priority from the outset. It is sad that in some instances our health care providers had to make “their own PPEs using plastic bags, dustbin liners and other paraphernalia…” 

It is not just getting priorities right. In the procurement of equipment and in ensuring the viability of the supply chain, there has to be absolute integrity. The middle-man as we had observed in an earlier analysis and the so-called ‘facilitator’ should be eliminated. Let the Covid 19 crisis set the stage for a meaningful transformation of our entire health-care system.

Three, the government has also sought to lessen the burden of the poorer segment of society through a variety of measures in its most recent economic stimulus package. This is commendable.  However, its proposal to enable EPF contributors to withdraw up to 500 ringgit monthly for 12 months to make ends meet in these difficult times has run into opposition from a number of groups including trade unions. EPF money is the workers’ money meant for their retirement. It is not right to use it as a source of income to alleviate transient hardship.  As PKR president, Anwar Ibrahim has pointed out it would be more sensible to draw from our national reserves to help the poor and disadvantaged at this time. It is not just EPF contributors who will benefit. Because the national reserves belong to the people as a whole, a lot of the marginalised, including fisher folk, smallholders and petty traders will also be entitled to the fund.

Ideas such as these about how best to tackle the people’s woes in the grim situation that confronts the nation should be accorded the attention they deserve by the government of the day. For the Muhyiddin government which while legal is still struggling with its moral legitimacy, an open and accommodative attitude towards ideas and individuals outside its circuit of power is one way of strengthening its credibility. Given the multiple crises it is facing, enhancing its credibility is a fundamental pre-requisite for its survival and success.

Chandra Muzaffar

Kuala Lumpur

25 March 2020.                                
      

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

TABLIGH - PRACTICE MODERATION, PLEASE

There are those who defend them blindly and those who condemn them outright. Both these extremes are not the right way.

The Tabligh movement has done good in their 80 years of work too. Looking within to change their inner self : seeking purity and doing charity.

Today, some of their followers have done wrong. One should not judge the whole. Some are overdoing it, hurling nasty curses, wishing they die and go to hell and so forth. This is wrong.  Very wrong.

Many of the Tabligh followers who are sick did not seek to hurt themselves, more so wanting to hurt others. Many are as innocent as any other who contracted COVID19. An elderly man dies and you curse him? Who is the wicked one here?

Yes, there are those within the Tabligh group today who are hiding and evade the authorities. They are lousy individuals within the Tabligh group. They do not represent the Tabligh philosophy.

Let us be moderate. 

Thanks, and Peace, 

Anas.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

COVID19 : LAWS ARE NOT ENOUGH TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOR.

Tomorrow is Israk and Mikraj and I hope our policymakers are prepared. 

While the army will be deployed by tomorrow morning at 12 01 am to help PDRM enforce the Restricted Movement Order (RMO), we need to find a solution which is more holistic that can target human behavior by helping them deal with their routines better. 

I would like to use this video about an elderly Indonesian who insisted that the mosque must be open for Friday prayers as a platform to explain my idea. The elderly man finds it hard to break his routine. The routine is likely one that he has been practicing for the last 70 years. We need to practice mercy and understanding and must not simply see him as someone who is foolish and unruly. There are more to the problem here than meets the eye. The elderly man is simply following his habit. 




A habit is an established, settled and regular tendency or practice,one that is especially hard to give up. Habits are choices we deliberately or unconsciously made in the past, but after a while stop thinking about but continue the practice. We act on them automatically – as our auto-responses or default settings. Habits follow the Cue-Routine-Reward loop. The elderly man is simply living out his habit.

Cue = Friday afternoon: Routine = Jumaat Prayer: Reward = at peace with God and Self

Until policymakers help with introducing another routine, like for example re-channeling the cravings through following prayers live over television, many like this elderly man will feel unfulfilled, cheated and angry. This will be repeated every Friday. Perhaps the Muftis may want to propose a temporary Fatwa allowing individuals to follow a Friday prayer from the home only limited to during this ‘keadaan darurat’ (emergency situation) and provide a special ‘Niat Solat Jumaat’ (declaration of Friday prayers) for the purpose. The Quran provides conceptual and specific examples for flexibility in prayers at Quran 4: 101-103.

We must take a more holistic approach and look at the bigger picture. To change people’s behavior, punishment and prohibition using law is a key component of action. But to help individuals and groups better, we need to give them another routine to deal with their cravings. 

This behavioral pattern is not the monopoly of the Muslims. In Sarawak, two of the COVID19 clusters are from two separate churches. In the USA, pro-Trump churches for example, are resisting to cancel their services.  Most organized religions set routines (rightly or wrongly) as routines provide stability and help the faithful anchor their hearts to a secure base. 

Tomorrow is a big religious day for Muslims – The Israk and Mikraj. Many may not follow the RMO as it is a yearly routine that has a strong cue and is perceived to provide them with a hefty reward. The Subuh period will see many thronging the mesjids as the Solat Sunat Israk and Mikraj is right after the Subuh prayer. Many will want to perform their prayers in a congregation especially in the mesjids, as the ‘reward’ is perceived as far greater in group prayers. What kind of strategy have the policymakers and religious leaders put in place to mitigate this? Can we have RTM and all of the other available media to provide another option to the Cue-Routine-Reward loop?

As I have suggested earlier, this is not the monopoly of the Muslims alone. April 4th is Cheng Beng (Ancestor’s Day or Tomb Sweeping Day). Are we ready for another mass exodus so soon after March 31st? Cheng Beng is a very important tradition among our Chinese brothers and sisters. Honoring one's deceased ancestors is a big Cue: Routine: Reward pattern that is hard to simply avoid. April 13th is Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year and April 14th the Puthandu the Tamil new year where the tradition is to visit homes of family and friends and the temples. Imagine is Thaipusam is just around the corner! I believe you get my point.

I have confidence in our police and army managing the situation but they need help to make their job easier and less hurtful. I hope our policymakers and religious leaders will spend more time strategizing on how to alter human behavior by providing alternatives to the accepted routines. Look for the cues first, like important festivals and rituals. Understand the routines and reward system and provide an alternative. Please work with behavioral scientists. Get their guidance on how to help deal with human behavior better. The exodus to ‘balik kampung’ after the RMO announcement could have been mitigated if we did a proper potential problem analysis about the behavior of Malaysians when they are given a chance to not work at the office (that is why at zubedy, my outfit, anyone going back to the hometown would be considered as taking annual leave and not working from home and as such is required to fill up the leave form).

Individual habits are hard to change. Customs (group habits), are even harder. But traditions, the apex of these behavioral patterns, are the hardest to deal with. Policymakers will need all the help and advice they need. It is not enough to listen to the usual. Please think out-of-the-box and listen to more experts. We need to work harder at this.

Peace.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

TAQWA KEPADA ALLAH, TAKUT KEPADA VIRUS COVID 19

Salam saudara-saudara dan saudari-saudari Islam. 

Orang Islam di suruh berTaqwa kepada Allah yang besar ertinya. 

Malangnya pada masa sekarang kebanyakan orang Islam menyamakan Taqwa dengan hanya perkataan ‘takut’ dan dengan itu membawa erti makna Taqwa kepada tahap yang sungguh cetek. 

Selepas kita merendahkan konsep besar ini kepada hanya konsep takut, maka senanglah kita melaga-lagakan Allah dengan perkara-perkara yang langsung tiada tandingnya dengan Allah seperti virus COVID19. Wujudlah ramai antara kita yang megah buat kenyataan mereka lebih takut kepada Allah, tetapi tak takut mati di tangan virus COVID19 dan bersungguh-sungguh nak ke perjumpaan Tablig yang tidak diwajibkan dalam AlQuran mahupun Sunnah. Selepas di Malaysia, kini di Indonesia pula.

Tak tahukah haji ke Mekah pun tidak diwajibkan kepada semua? Tak tahukah bahawa pada hakikatnya dalam sejarah Mekah sendiri pun sudah berpuluh kali ditutup akibat pelbagai sebab seperti peperangan, kebakaran dan wabak penyakit dan proses baik pulih? Bukankah Nabi kita sendiri pernah rela tunggu satu tahun untuk menunaikan haji dengan Perjanjian Hudaibiyah yakni orang Islam hanya dibenarkan memasuki Makkah pada tahun yang berikutnya? 

Kenapa kita pula tidak rela menunggu beberapa bulan untuk perjumpaan tahunan seperti perjumpaan tabliq, sembahyang Jumaat, ceramah-ceramah agama dan selainnya? Bukankah salah satu dari 5 perkara asas Maqasid Syariah adalah “memelihara nyawa (Hifzu al-Hayah)”?

Konsep Taqwa adalah konsep yang besar, mendalam dan menyeluruh. Malangnya, dalam terjemahan ke Bahasa Melayu kita guna perkataan takut.

Apakah yang Quran ertikan mengenai Taqwa? Siapakah yang dikatakan orang yang berTaqwa (Muttaqoon)? Disini saya akan memberi 2 ayat Al-Quran yang muhkamah (jelas) mengenai Taqwa. Diharapkan saudara-saudara dan saudari-saudari buat renungan dan muhasabah diri.

“ Bukanlah perkara kebajikan itu hanya kamu menghadapkan muka ke pihak timur dan barat, tetapi kebajikan itu ialah berimannya seseorang kepada Allah, dan hari akhirat, dan segala malaikat, dan segala Kitab, dan sekalian Nabi; dan mendermanya seseorang akan hartanya sedang ia menyayanginya, - kepada kaum kerabat, dan anak-anak yatim dan orang-orang miskin dan orang yang terlantar dalam perjalanan, dan kepada orang-orang yang meminta, dan untuk memerdekakan hamba-hamba abdi; dan mengerjanya seseorang akan sembahyang serta mengeluarkan zakat; dan perbuatan orang-orang yang menyempurnakan janjinya apabila mereka membuat perjanjian; dan ketabahan orang-orang yang sabar dalam masa kesempitan, dan dalam masa kesakitan, dan juga dalam masa bertempur dalam perjuangan perang Sabil. orang-orang yang demikian sifatnya), mereka itulah orang-orang yang benar (beriman dan mengerjakan kebajikan); DAN MEREKA ITULAH JUGA ORANG-ORANG YANG BERTAQWA.”

Quran 2:177

Wahai orang-orang yang beriman, hendaklah kamu semua sentiasa menjadi orang-orang yang menegakkan keadilan kerana Allah, lagi menerangkan kebenaran; dan jangan sekali-kali kebencian kamu terhadap sesuatu kaum itu mendorong kamu kepada tidak melakukan keadilan. HENDAKLAH KAMU BERLAKU ADIL (KEPADA SESIAPA JUA) KERANA SIKAP ADIL ITU LEBIH HAMPIR KEPADA TAQWA. Dan bertaqwalah kepada Allah, sesungguhnya Allah Maha Mengetahui dengan mendalam akan apa yang kamu lakukan.

Quran 5:8 

Adakah kita bersikap adil kalau perbuatan kita dapat mendatangkan mudarat kepada orang lain termasuk keluarga dan ibubapa kita sendiri? 

BERTAQWALAH KEPADA ALLAH, TAKUTLAH KEPADA VIRUS COVID 19. 

Kita harus rela menunggu sehingga masa yang selamat untuk membuat perjumpaan, sembahyang berjemaah di masjid dan pergi mendengar ceramah-ceramah.

Mari kita belajar dari Al Quran dan ikut contoh Nabi.

Salam,
Anas Zubedy

SALAH FAHAM MENGENAI PANDANGAN ISLAM DAN MASALAH COVID19.

MESEJ PENTING

Salam,

Ustaz2 dan penceramah2 beginilah akan menyebabkan ramai yg Islam dan bukan beragama Islam susah, sakit dan mungkin sampai hilang nyawa terutamanya warga emas dan mereka yang kurang sihat.

Pandangan mereka bercanggah dengan apa yang Allah telah wahyukan di Quran 13:11,

"SESUNGGUHNYA ALLAH TIDAK MENGUBAH APA YANG ADA PADA SATU KAUM SEHINGGA MEREKA MENGUBAH APA YANG ADA PADA DIRI MEREKA SENDIRI"

Jadi kalau kita tidak serious dan tekun berusaha menangani dan mengubah nasib kita sendiri dari COVID19, maka Allah tidak akan mengubah nasib kita dari menerima malapetaka dari penyakit tersebut.

Saya amat berharap DYMM YDP AGONG serta Duli-Duli YMM Sultan-Sultan dan Raja-Raja kita akan mengarah semua Mufti-Mufti untuk menegaskan bahawa mesej2 mereka ini harus tidak diterima.

Mereka juga mesti diharuskan menarik balik dan meminta maaf kepada rakyat atas kesilapan mereka.

Salam,

Anas Zubedy

Saturday, February 29, 2020

UNITY GOVERNMENT: VOTE THE PERSON AND NOT THE PARTY

Ever since my tertiary days back in the eighties, I have been proposing that we must give more weight on the candidate than his or her party. In other words, choose the best candidates no matter which political party they come from. In fact, choose an independent too if he or she is the better person. I have written, spoken and publish work on this subject. The link above was the NO FREE RIDES – choose the best, screw the rest campaign during GE13. Thus, when Tun Dr Mahathir proposed a similar idea with his Unity Government alternative, I went crazy with excitement. I decided to comment about politics actively again, although I have stayed silence for some time - as I believe that we should allow some slack for PH as they are new in the job. I would have given them 5 years, to proof and in fact another 5 years too, because that is the only way they can overcome the deep state. To win 2 general elections. That will send a strong signal to the public service departments that these new bosses, are here to stay. UNFORTUNATELY, many Malaysians ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO TUN, AND NOT THE IDEA. Tun did not call it Unity Government, somebody else did. Let me quote from The STAR( Nathaniel Tan), “ It should be noted however, that Dr Mahathir did not technically use the term ‘kerajaan perpaduan’ in his speech; the words he used were ‘pemerintahan yang tidak memihak kepada mana-mana parti’, which may make ‘non-partisan government’ a more accurate term. Nevertheless, the term ‘unity government’ appears to be the one currently dominating public discourse. To quote Dr Mahathir:“Politicians and political parties prioritise politics too much until they forget about the country, which is facing economic and health problems. I am of the opinion that whether it is right or not, politics and party politics have to be set aside for the time being. If I am allowed to, I will form a government that will not side with any party. Only the interest of the nation will be prioritised. If I am given permission, this is what I will try.” Albert Einstein said that we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Party politics have served us well the last many decades but have slowly but surely outliving its capacity. Tun has offered a new way. Unchartered. New ways have the tendency to level the playing field. This could be our game changer. But first, we must focus on the idea, and not the person. Peace, Anas Zubedy