Category Archives: Opinion

The little girl from Menglembu

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Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

 

The little girl from MenglembuNews emerged on 16 August, that a defenceless five-year-old was in critical condition and fighting for her life in intensive care at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital. The girl, who is suspected to have special needs, was allegedly a victim of child abuse.

Neighbours of the girl’s family declined to talk but one alleged that the victim was often caned severely by her mother. Another unsubstantiated source alleged that the victim was a quiet girl but she would often hurt herself by banging her head against the wall.

Three days after she was admitted, the head of the paediatric department Dr Amar Singh said that the child remained unconscious and had not shown any visible movement. When she was first rushed to hospital, she had to be resuscitated.

The girl’s father said that his daughter had been taken ill with high fever but doctors who examined her subsequently found bruising, cane marks and other scars on her head and body. The obvious signs of abuse prompted them to lodge a police report. Although the medical staff were unable to confirm how the wounds had been inflicted, they knew that the injuries were unlikely to be self-inflicted, because of their severity.

Although the doctors suspected possible internal injuries, they said that scans could only be performed once the victim’s condition had improved.

The day after the report was made, the girl’s parents were arrested at their home in Menglembu, and subsequently remanded in custody for five days. The Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Sum Chang Keong said that the 39-year-old father and his 30-year-old wife were being investigated under Section 325 of the Penal Code for causing grievous hurt.

The Perak Women Development, Family, Community Welfare and National Integration committee chairman Rusnah Kassim said that the victim’s siblings, who were two and seven-years-old, had no signs of abuse and were being cared for by the Welfare Department.

Rusnah urged parents of special needs children to seek help with medical treatment, and support from groups and welfare homes. She warned parents that abuse of the child was not a form of discipline. She also stressed that neighbours could be more pro-active and alert the authorities if they were to notice or hear signs of child abuse.

In early August, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim claimed that in 2012, there were 3831 cases of child abuse, a rise of 12 per cent over the previous year. She said that in the first three months of this year, 1023 child abuse cases had been reported and that 669 of the victims were girls.

Rohani said that her ministry had various preventive measures to address the issue of abuse. Short-term measures would involve taking the child into a welfare home or the home of a guardian appointed by the court. Long-term measures would involve the various government agencies like the police, health and education ministries, and the social welfare department working in concert with the community.

Citing problems such as financial worries or work problems as the root cause of abuse, Rohani warned parents not to take out their frustrations on their children but to seek professional help instead.

No sentence that is passed down to the perpetrators of the abuse will undo the damage that has been inflicted on the children, who will have to bear the mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.

Whenever a case of child abuse is highlighted in the papers, we hope that the particular case will be the last and that lessons will be learnt from the investigations that were conducted, but there are always more cases.

A child is more likely to be abused by a trusted adult, like a parent or a close family member, rather than by a stranger.

Children who are abused usually show unusual behaviour traits. They are highly distressed. Some may show signs of starvation, emaciation and may scavenge for food in bins. Other signs of abuse in the child, are neglect, manifested in an unkempt or dirty appearance. Sometimes, children are forced to lie to those who enquire about their bruising, with the claim that they sustained the injuries in a fall.

Many children are afraid of telling others about their abuse. Some are ashamed. They may be bullied or bribed into keeping the abuse secret. They are afraid that if they were to tell someone of their abuse, they would be responsible for the family unit being split up. Children may harbour fears of being separated from their parent, despite the parent being an abuser.

Some years ago, the Information Minister suggested more programmes to highlight child abuse. Was any feedback received about the success or failure of these programmes?

It was reported that in 2009, the Welfare Department established 139 centres at state and district levels throughout Malaysia, in which high-risk families and their children could receive counselling and child care services. Are these units successfully providing the necessary psychological and motivational support to the needy?

Many Malaysians wrongly believe that child protection is the job of the government or the NGOs. It is not. The protection of the child is mainly the parents responsibility, and to a certain extent, also the community’s responsibility.

Whilst education and community-based programmes on the prevention of child abuse may have helped create some awareness, many individuals are still reluctant to interfere when they suspect that a child is being abused. Most people are reluctant to be called busybodies.

Perhaps, if neighbours or close family members had intervened, their actions may have helped prevent the tragedy that befell the little girl from Menglembu.

Sadly, as Ipoh Echo goes to print, news came that the little girl has succumbed to her injuries. The case has now become one of murder.

 

Sara Amelia Bernard

Beauty, Brains and Courage

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Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Sara Amelia BernardSara Amelia BernardIpoh is famous for its limestone hills, pomelos, groundnuts and beauties like Amber Chia, Anna Lim and Michelle Yeoh.

When Ipoh-born Sara Amelia Bernard entered the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest, she hoped to win the coveted Miss Malaysia World 2013 title and represent Malaysia in the Miss World finals, in Bali.

In the sixteen years that have passed since this writer first met her, the pretty four-year old, with doe eyes and porcelain skin, has blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

 Melia, as we used to call her, has had her dreams shattered. Following a controversial intervention by the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi), she and three other Muslim girls were threatened with a fine and possible jail sentence.

 Their crime? They were deemed to be insulting Muslims by entering the beauty contest and to have committed a sin. The hysteria against these four girls grew, and even after their disqualification, they were barred from attending the final of the Miss Malaysia World contest as invited guests.

 Melia went to primary and secondary schools in Ipoh until she enrolled at Taylor’s College in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur. She comes from a competitive family which has produced victors. Her father Bernard Radin, is a martial arts champion and has represented Malaysia in Muay Thai, Wushu and Tae Kwon-do. Melia wanted to prove that a girl from Ipoh could be successful like Michelle Yeoh, who gained worldwide success as an actress. She wanted to put Ipoh on the map and in an interview with a Malaysian daily, said that joining a beauty contest was one way to expose true Malaysian beauty to the world.

 “A beauty queen is not merely a pretty face but is intelligent, cultured, well-spoken, kind hearted, warm and friendly. She uses her title to help others and participates in various charities worldwide.

 “In school, I had friends of every race and had the opportunity to learn about their customs and beliefs. I also love the variety of food in Malaysia, my favourites being popiah, banana leaf (rice) and ayam masak merah!

 It was during the audition that Melia met the pageant organiser, Anna Lim who presented her with a copy of her autobiography. On reading it, Melia found that Anna was also from Ipoh and was involved in charitable works. She was impressed that after she retired from competition, Anna had gone to London to study, became a stockbroker and later opened her own interior design company.

 “I dreamed of following in her footsteps… (Anna is a) true example of beauty with brains!”

 Melia said that she was motivated to work with underprivileged children and the less fortunate.

 “I saw it as an opportunity to promote intellectual women as well as participate in various charities worldwide and help the underprivileged.”

Melia knew that as a Muslim, she would not be wearing a bikini in the swimsuit round but said that current competition rules dictate that entrants would have to dress modestly, anyway.

 Ever since this controversy broke, Melia has had to cancel her Facebook account because “trolls” posed messages containing expletives and nasty comments.

 “It really opened your eyes to the number of extremists out there,” she said.

 Melia claimed that both she and 19 year-old Wafa Johanna De Korte, had been ridiculed and criticised as they were the most vocal of the four Muslim participants.

 When asked for her views, Yasmin Yusuff, who represented Malaysia at the 1978 Miss Universe pageant in Acapulco and who successfully launched her career as an actress, singer, radio presenter, event host and businesswoman, said “The pageant could be called ‘Miss Malaysia Non-Malays’”.

 The Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said said that the four Muslim girls shouldn’t have joined the beauty race in the first place because “…it is a sensitive environment right now especially during the fasting month”.

 Perhaps, Azalina should be reminded that even before the fasting month, Malaysians have been subjected to an extraordinarily sensitive environment, where both non-Malays and Malays must tread on egg-shells for fear of incurring the wrath of the authorities.

  Most people are not aware that a fatwa is just an opinion or guide to how one should lead one’s life as a good Muslim. Only under Shia rule can a fatwa become a law, without first being enacted by parliament.

 Melia is a beauty with brains. She and the other participants were not going to bare their bodies. They were prepared to dress modestly. They were going to compete on an intellectual footing with poise and an inner beauty, with the best that Malaysia and the world has to offer.

 This spat is not about religious values. The girls did not insult Islam or other Muslims. The girls stood up for their individual liberties, and for that we should commend them.

Idolising a Scottish Planter?

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

Are we not idolizing a Scot, whose only contribution to the country was being a rubber planter who left behind his unfulfilled dream to live like a White Rajah? Even Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz appeared to have admitted it when launching the new features at the Kellie’s Castle near Batu Gajah recently.

”Kellie’s Castle deserves to be appreciated not only for its design but to remember its former owner, Scottish planter William Kellie Smith, for his ambition to become a lord in this part of the Earth,” he said.

Kellie's Castle

Thanks to branding and successful promotion, this abandoned and yet to be completed monument to posterity, the so-called ‘castle’ has become a popular tourist attraction in Perak. But, having immortalized Kellie by promoting the site, is that not enough of an effort? Do we actually need to go to the extent of spending more taxpayers’ funds to furnish a lounge and bar areas of the building with replica of old English furniture, antique items complete with curtains, carpets and paintings to reflect how they might have looked during William Kellie Smith’s time?

Well, does anyone really care how William Kellie would have lived if he was alive and had completed the construction of his castle? No doubt, William Kellie could have given some indications of his choice. This is not necessarily how he would live and furnish the building.

Thus, those responsible for assembling them could only say that they are “60 to 70 per cent” similar to what Smith would have conceived them to be. Furthermore, what significance would these new features have on our Malaysian culture?

We do not have to imitate other well-known sites abroad. Like the exhibits in the Windsor Castle, the 14th century Kellie Castle in Scotland, and various mansions in the United Kingdom. Those old and exquisite collections once belonged to royalty and lords who had actually lived in the buildings and as such they could take the visitors through a memorable trip of the country’s past.

I was also horrified by the suggestion, of some tourism officials, to resume construction of the building and to complete it to its intended grandeur. Fortunately the suggestions were shot down, otherwise more taxpayers’ funds would be spent.

Kellie’s Castle is attracting tourists now largely because of the story of William Kellie’s failed dream to have a lifestyle of a maharajah of India and the ghost stories being spawned around it. And also because it is ideally located along the Simpang  Pulai-Batu Gajah Road.

These latest features in Kellie’s Castle were developed out of a RM5 million allocation from the Federal Government. I feel that any expenditure, in the case of Kellie’s Castle, should be confined to providing sufficient facilities, beautifying the surroundings and ensuring the safety of visitors.

If there is any need to reflect the lifestyle of anyone, it should be that of our own prominent personalities in Perak – that is to show the custom and tradition of Malaysian history.

It saddens me to see the federal and state authorities paying so much attention to Kellie’s Castle at the expense of other tourism sites in Perak, which are badly in need of funds for development and promotion.

One such important site which needs our immediate attention is the last of the tin dredges at Tanjung Tualang – a heritage from the glorious past of the tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley. Save the dredge before it disappears completely.

The state has great potential as a tourist destination in the country as it is endowed with various assets, such as natural attractions, heritage and archaeological sites as well as seaside resorts.

 

Crime in Ipoh – the perception and the reality

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Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Crime in IpohAt the last monthly parade held at the police headquarters in Ipoh, the Chief Police Officer (CPO), Mohd Shukri Dahlan claimed that criminals were getting younger (Ipoh Echo July 1) and that 53.1 per cent, or 1681 of the 3166 cases reported between January and May 2013, had been solved.

This writer asked various Ipohites for their views on the remarks made by the Perak CPO. The contributors declined to be named, but one common theme emerged; people are worried about their safety, with their fears being heightened by the reports of criminal activities which appear in the national newspapers, on a daily basis.

Recently, we have been alarmed by news of crimes perpetrated by secret-societies, shootings, abductions, attacks on old people and the theft of drain covers which compromises people’s safety.

We are also disappointed that making a police report is just as stressful as the crime itself.

Mohd Shukri said that the snatch-thieves and drug traffickers were getting younger and were mostly teenagers or young adults. He urged both parents and members of the community to play their role in preventing these sorts of crimes.

What was the study that was conducted and what was the average age of the criminals then? What is the average age of the perpetrators now? Why are they getting younger?

The CPO described the various strategies adopted by the police to reduce the crime rate and said that they were designed to enable the rakyat to live safely. He mentioned programmes such as the Police Omnipresence Programme (POP) which included “High Profile Policing” (HPP), “Walk, Stop and Talk” (WST) and “Feet on the Street” (FOS).

Although the CPO was right to engage the help of parents and the community to help reduce crime, he is probably aware of the limitations placed on the public. He claimed that 53.1 per cent of cases had been solved, but this writer would like to know how this percentage, or crime index, was calculated. A more thorough breakdown of the statistics is needed.

Of the 3166 cases reported, what percentage could be categorised as violent or serious crime? Of the 1681 crimes which were solved, how many were from this category of ‘violent crime’? How many of the solved crimes were minor offences like littering or parking issues?

How many out of the 3,166 cases involved firearms, machetes or parangs? How many cases were classified as murder, rape, assault, sexual crimes or violence against women, children or the elderly? How many were domestic violence crimes? How many involved anti-social behaviour? How many were drug offences?

Did this total figure include cases such as littering, pick-pocketing or shoplifting? How many cases were of fraud or cheating? Did it include minor traffic offenses like double parking, going through a red light, driving without a seat belt, obstruction, overtaking on a double white line, failure to pay parking fines, driving a vehicle which is unroadworthy, or driving without a licence or insurance? How many of these cases were break-ins and of these, how many were on commercial premises or residential homes? Was anyone injured or killed?

It would be interesting for Ipohites to know the percentage of crimes which were solved with the help of the public. How successful was the public in assisting the police? Did they phone the confidential phone lines or was there enough media publicity for witnesses to come forward willingly?

Mohd Shukri may have mentioned the POP strategy, but many people are clueless as to what terms like HPP, WST and FOS actually mean. In which areas are these programmes available and how could they contribute to a reduction in crime? If there is no publicity about these plans, perhaps the police could do more to highlight them. Does POP involve routine checks on drivers to check for valid driving licences, or stop-searches on young men for weapons such as parangs?

Could the CPO say if CCTV played any role in the fight against crime and how much of the footage from CCTV was effective in solving crime?

Of the crimes committed, how many were done by repeat offenders? Is there a plan to rehabilitate former criminals and drug users, to integrate into society and are these successful? Are there seasonal trends for specific crimes? Is there racial profiling for certain crimes? With the economic downturn, has crime increased and if so, by how much?

There is a rise of gang culture in our schools and many teachers and parents are keen for the police and the various government departments to reach out to our youth. Are there adequate sporting facilities in schools and housing estates?

The reality of crime which the public has experienced differs from what the authorities would like us to believe. If public confidence is to be restored, there has to be more transparency and increased cooperation between the police, the community leaders and the public.

The Malaysian public is sometimes its own worst enemy. They want major improvements with minimal effort. If the police are to do their job properly and efficiently, the rakyat must engage with the police. The police have the manpower and the resources, but they and the criminal justice agencies, need to listen to the voice of the rakyat.

Not everyone can afford to live in a gated community and pay security guards to do the job of the police to protect their property and families. Moreover, if the police do not enforce the laws, people may form vigilante groups and this may soon lead to anarchy.

Mat Rempit Menace in Ipoh

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thinking allowed pic 1Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokthar

Illegal street racing….dare-devil stunts on the highway….bikers harassing other road users and bikers without valid driving licences, insurance or road-tax.

The report by an online newspaper FreeMalaysiaToday, that a man had been critically injured confirms our worst fears about the Mat Rempit menace.

The injured man, 28-year-old technician, Pathmaraj Balakrishnan, works at Finishar Corporation, and was in a Perodua Myvi with two other friends Yogan Kasinathan and Selva Raju Subbiah at 3am on June 9. They were in a traffic jam caused by 200 Mat Rempits and were waiting at the traffic lights opposite the Pantai Hospital, along Jalan Raja Dihilir, when the attack occurred.

Around 30 bikers had broken off from the main group and climbed on top of the Perodua, before jumping on the roof, demanding that the occupants step out of the car.

Yogan said, “When we refused, they started to smash the windscreen and pulled us out. We tried to flee on foot to save ourselves, however, Pathmaraj was unfortunate as he was caught and they beat him up.”

One of Pathmaraj’s family members who requested anonymity said, “Police told us that the Mat Rempits are sometimes on drugs and it is difficult to nab the culprits.”

The Mat Rempit menace is a growing problem, but an end to their illegal racing and intimidation of other road users, does not seem to be near. Many are also alleged to be addicted to drugs.

In 2008, the Kedah Government had proposed the building of a special circuit for the Rempits, to reduce road accidents and also to provide job opportunities for the many unemployed Mat Rempits.

In April 2009, the then Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan accused the Mat Rempit of becoming violent and brazen instead of just being a public nuisance. He said, “We have to come down hard on the Mat Rempit who have started to become involved in robberies, snatch thefts and are even attacking innocent road users and we also need to use harsh tactics to catch the Mat Rempit that try to run away from roadblocks.”

In June 2009, the Terengganu state government offered to sponsor Mat Rempits for international motorcycle grand prix events. The then Mentri Besar said, “We are willing to render other assistance to those who are interested in becoming professional racers besides sponsoring them for the grand prix circuit.”

At the same time, the Malacca state government also announced that it would offer RM6000 loans to those Mat Rempit who were interested in obtaining their micro-light aircraft pilot licence. The then Chief Minister said, “I hope the Mat Rempit will take up the offer and learn how to fly an aircraft instead of racing illegally on the roads and getting themselves killed.”

At a “Ride-It-Right” campaign at Bukit Aman in 2010, the then Inspector-General of Police, Ismail Omar announced that he would work with other agencies to harness the skills of Mat Rempits so that they could be used lawfully. He said that it was an opportunity to scout for riding talent and to educate the Mat Rempits so that they could contribute to the community. He wondered if they could represent the country in professional motorcycle racing and suggested the possibility of setting up a riding academy for Mat Rempits.

The previous month, Ismail had demanded a more serious approach in dealing with Mat Rempits, whom he said were getting more aggressive and bolder: “I have directed all police contingents to give serious attention to tackling the matter. Now, policemen are confronted with violence by a group of people who do not respect the law.”

At the 55th Merdeka Day celebration in August last year, the then Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Mat Rempits could be used to help fight crime. He said, “Just because rempit has a negative connotation does not mean that we have to neglect them. It will continue to have negative connotation if we do not engage them.”

He declined to give the methods for enlisting the cooperation of Mat Rempits in fighting crime but said, “But with us guiding them, I believe it can become a reality.”

Hishammuddin denied that crime is rising and said, “The issue on the crime index has reached a stage where there are people who don’t want to listen to rationale, so, whatever we say will be twisted and rejected.”

Some Mat Rempits, who have been caught, were found to be only 15 years old. Children need to have boundaries as well as firmness and discipline, both at home and in school. Parents must provide adequate guidance and attention. Some parents do not even know the whereabouts of their children, who stay out until the early hours of the morning.

If the community needs to provide recreational places such as sporting facilities for young adults, then perhaps the new Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin could engage his counterpart in the Housing and Local Government Ministry to provide suitable premises in the community housing areas of cities, towns and villages. Khairy once remarked that Mat Rempits could be rebranded Mat Cemerlang (Mat SuperHero).

The ministers and the police force should talk to the victims and families of the people who were killed or injured in Mat Rempit attacks and accidents, before making flippant remarks or proposing daft ideas to reform the Mat Rempits.

More time, energy and resources from the national and state budgets should be dedicated to tackle the Mat Rempit menace, because none of the measures proposed have appeared to succeed.

We don’t need new laws or creative ways to reform the Mat Rempits. The current laws just need to be enforced, consistently, and not sporadically.

Retention Pond in Merdeka Garden – a Failed Design

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A. JeyarajiSpeak

By A. Jeyaraj

When I first saw clean filtered water flowing through the holes in the retaining wall into the new retention pond in Merdeka Garden, I thought it was an ingenious design. However, a few days later when I visited the site after rain, I noticed that the water from the drain was overflowing the retaining wall and garbage flowed into the retention pond. The pond was littered with floating garbage. When I visited the place during the dry season recently, the water level in the drain was low and hardly flowing. The entrance to the filters was clogged with garbage. Since the site is fenced I was not able to take a closer look. The system seems to be a failure.

Water overflowing retaining wall

The Drainage & Irrigation Department (DID) has to look into the design because this is a mechanical system and needs frequent maintenance.

Silting is already taking place and weeds are growing at the far end of the pond which serves as a nesting ground for birds.

The grass inside the fenced area has been cut, but the garbage sticking to the sides of the pond has not been removed. Empty plastic bottles are lying around and the guardhouse is closed. In case of flooding must the residents call the guard?

Front of filter clogged with garbage

The contractor has not cleared the site. Interestingly, a creeper is growing on top of one of the lamp posts. (A bird must have dropped a seed and it has taken root.) The workers’ shed has not been dismantled and plenty of rubbish is lying around. There is a pond with stagnant water which is a good place for mosquitoes to breed.

Many healthy trees which were nesting places for birds were cut for this project. The trees should be replanted so that birds and reptiles can return to their habitat.

Constructing the retention pond to prevent flooding during the rainy season is good, but it must be maintained; if not it would become an eyesore.

The Consequences of Sexual Harassment at Work

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By Mariam Mokhtar

mariam moktharColumnists and journalists receive a lot of correspondence from readers who would like to highlight a problem, share their fears, or get help. Many have no reservations about extending their trust and confidence to us.

When some friends related their stories about sexual harassment at work, their concerns were aired in a short article in the Ipoh Echo on March 1. Subsequently, more women from Ipoh have been in touch, some anonymously, to share their experiences of sexual harassment at work.

The stories are harrowing. Anyone with a wife, mother, daughter, niece or aunt, would be horrified to find that such blatant sexual abuse is being perpetrated on a daily basis. Sexual harassment is not confined to women; men are also affected.

One young girl, a foreign worker found that she could not escape the clutches of her boss, who would show her lewd pornographic videos in a back room and force her to perform similar acts on him. She contracted venereal disease from him. His wife subsequently left him but the worker was trapped as her boss had confiscated her passport.

Another woman alleged that male colleagues would touch her and ignore her protests or laugh them off.

These women felt helpless. They did not know what to do. They feared retribution. In family run businesses, the perpetrator could be a family member. They feared being disbelieved. They were unaware of company policy and procedures, or disciplinary action, which would deal with the sexual harassment. They were ashamed to approach the personnel managers or supervisors, who were mostly male.

Most of all, the women feared being sacked and did not want their ordeal to be discussed openly. Many women tolerate the advances of male colleagues or bosses, because they need the job. With families to support and ageing parents to care for, many women, in Ipoh, and throughout Malaysia, suffer in silence.

Not everyone feels confident about going to the police. Previously, Ipoh Echo highlighted the laborious process of making a police report. Will victims receive sympathy or will they be turned away like the victims of domestic violence?

The University of Malaya (UM) conducted a study, involving 657 women employees, into the extent of sexual harassment in the Malaysian workplace. This research was published in the Asian Academy of Management Journal, July 2007. Previously conducted local studies showed that the degree of sexual harassment of women ranged from 35% to 53%. The problem is more widespread than is reported.

Physically attractive women are more inclined to be sexually harassed and receive undue sexual attention. A person with low moral values would not consider harassment as immoral.

Open workplaces and companies with proper grievance and reporting procedures showed lower incidents of sexual harassment. Companies which punished sexual offenders deterred potential harassers.

Sexual harassment dominates in organisations where sexist attitudes prevail, as women are more likely to be treated as sex objects and inferior to males. Organisations which are unprofessional, where swearing, public reprimands, disrespectful behaviour and employee participation in nonwork related activities, also record higher levels of sexual harassment. The same is seen in companies with an unbalanced ratio of males to females.

How many incidents of sexual harassment in Perak companies go unreported? How many women report their colleagues or bosses for sexual harassment? Women in low status jobs often find themselves threatened if they refuse to cooperate. In some cases, they are promised rewards for their silence and continued “co-operation”.

Sexual harassment affects both the company and the victim. The workplace will suffer from low productivity.

Women workers have low self esteem and low job satisfaction. Many will stay away from work. Depression and falling sick easily will take a toll on their health, They will also suffer from mental health issues and the stress will affect their quality of work and their relationships, at home.

Companies which do not have a clear policy on sexual harassment will have a high turnover of staff, are not as efficient as they could be and will have low productivity levels. They will also record high levels of absenteeism and workers will be difficult to motivate.

If sexual harassment goes unchecked, some companies may find that workers could take them to court, for ignoring complaints about sexual harassment. The overall cost to the company is great; payments for damages, court costs and they may have difficulty in attracting suitable staff in the future. They will also receive negative publicity.

People who are sexually harassed at work can do the following. Keep a record of when they were harassed. Note the time, day and type of harassment – harassment can take many forms; verbal (offensive remarks), nonverbal (leering), physical (touching), visual (showing pornographic material) or psychological (sexual invitations). Keep mobile texts as evidence or enlist the help of a colleague as witness. Tell a union representative, if there is one.

With this information, seek an appointment with your supervisor, boss or personnel manager and tell him about your problems. Prepare a written complaint, with a log of the incidents, to be handed to him, at the end of your meeting. To be fair, you must also state a suitable time frame, for him to conduct his own investigation, for instance a two week period from the date you lodged the official complaint.

You must stress that sexual harassment is a serious matter and that if he is not prepared to deal with it, you will see the boss of the company and take the matter up with the Labour Department.

If you find that you are threatened, either by the perpetrator, the supervisors or the boss of the company, it shows that someone is scared and is trying to bully you into silence, or to make you leave. If this happens, do not feel intimidated. Simply, lodge a complaint with the Labour Department, and call an NGO which deals with women’s rights to give you support, if you wish. You could also make a police report if you feel that your safety is threatened.

Many victims have found that having the support of the NGO will speed up the investigation by the Labour Department. Moreover, the NGO is versed in your rights in the workplace. They have legal consultants and experts who can give you emotional support.

Sexual harassment is a serious problem in Malaysian workplaces and much of it is undetected. If the majority of Malaysian men were forced to endure sexual harassment at work, then it is highly probable that many male MPs would have tabled an act in parliament to criminalise sexual harassment.

Perhaps, Rohani Karim, the new Minister for Women, Community Affairs and Family Development should make the problem and solutions of sexual harassment, her top priority. After all, women make up half of Malaysia’s population and dominate the workforce. Every woman is entitled to do her job, without fear or favour.

Palong Tin Museum in State of Neglect

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A. JeyarajiSpeak

The Palong Tin Museum in Kinta River Walk was opened about a year ago. It is one of the initiatives of the Morubina Group as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project. However, many residents in Ipoh are not aware of its existence.

The notice board on the door of the building states that the museum is open daily from 6pm to 11pm, entrance fee is RM2 for adults and show times are at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. When I went there at 8pm, the only person around was the Nepali security guard who said there is no entrance fee and there are no shows. They were supposed to show a video on ‘Operational Palong’. There were a few other visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are only a few exhibits inside the building, a tin ingot, samples of tin ore and other items. The main attraction is the large size aerial photograph of Old Town. There is a detailed write-up of the tin industry from the early 1800s to the present. During the official opening it was stated that there will be a guide to brief visitors on the history of tin mining, but there was no guide.

There is a spiral staircase to the basement and there are a couple of exhibits and a TV with three benches in front. The exit doors are closed and in case of emergency one cannot get out.

There are more exhibits outside the building; a half-century old palong is on display. Various other equipment and machinery used in the mining industry are on display. There are also huts with thatched roofs with machinery inside. The huts are not maintained and weeds and creepers are growing. There is no write-up about the exhibits and visitors do not know the function of the equipment.

A visit to the museum is supposed to be an educational outing, where visitors can learn about tin mining history in Kinta Valley. With no explanation or guide it does not serve its purpose. Lighting is not adequate and the place is dark at night when the museum is officially open.

Kong Cheok Loon, Admin Manager who is in charge of the museum agreed that the museum is not well known and attempts are being made to procure more exhibits. He said publicity is needed to promote the museum to local residents and outstation tourists.

The museum is supposed to be a tourist attraction; however opening hours may not be attractive for tour operators to bring tourists. During late evenings, tour operators would be taking tourists to night markets and food courts.

Morubina put up the museum with good intention, but they may not have the expertise to operate it. They must team up with the right people to run it. More exhibits and publicity is needed. Videos about the mining industry can be screened. The opening hours must be reviewed.

A. Jeyaraj

Just Fancy That – A Floating Market in the City

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

It amuses me each time the Mayor or some VIPs propose certain tourism projects along the narrow Kinta River in Ipoh. Among them are a floating market, river cruise, boat race and other water-related activities. I wonder whether they have really given some serious consideration to the viability of their proposals.

Why do we have to emulate others who had successfully implemented such activities? Their rivers are wider and deeper. The 1.5km stretch of the Kinta River, from the bridge at Jalan Raja Musa Aziz (Anderson Road) to the Kinta Riverfront Park (formerly known as the People’s Park), is hardly 15m wide and 1m deep.

Just Fancy That _ A Floating Market in the City

Although a rubber dam has been built by State Drainage and Irrigation Department, which could create the depth of water suitable for small boats, it would not be ideal for a floating market or river cruise.

Introducing such activities along this stretch of the riverbank is therefore bound to be a failure.

We have seen so much failures and therefore should not venture into another without thoroughly studying how our own floating market could woo tourists. And knowing the city council, even if such a floating market materialised, it would not last for long.

What are the unique items we could offer at our floating market? Just because Thailand has been successful in promoting their floating markets, it doesn’t mean that we can be too.

Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, had after a visit to South Thailand recently, proposed the floating market. He foresaw that a floating market would be a new tourist attraction in the city.

If there is any chance of such water-related activities being successful, they should be introduced along the Perak River, preferably in the Royal town of Kuala Kangsar.

The Kuala Kangsar District has much to offer in terms of tourist attractions, products from cottage industries that are unique and also has abundant local fruits and other agricultural produce. These could be the catalyst for a sustainable floating market. What is there for Ipoh to offer?

However, instead of a floating market, the city council could consider having a Weekend Bazaar along the riverbanks by relocating the Sunday street market along Jalan Horley. Such a move would induce and inspire the creation of a viable tourism project in the city. One side of the riverbank is for traders and the other for eateries as the beautifully designed pedestrian bridges provide easy access to both sides.

And, if we are still keen on water-related activities, why not revive them in the artificial lake of Taman D.R. Seenivasagam. After all the lake is just beside the “River Walk”.

While efforts to beautify the riverbanks are commendable, the enthusiasm that started a few years ago seems to progress rather slowly. Some sections have been abandoned and neglected.

During the day, the site appears to be dull, but at night it is like a fairyland and is attracting the city folks. The coloured-lighted trees installed along both sides of the riverbanks would reflect on the river concealing the polluted water and rubbish floating by.

I had hoped that a more concrete effort would be carried out to beautify this stretch of the Sungai Kinta, which bisects the city into the Old Town and New Town sectors, not in an “ad hoc” manner.

It must be remembered that rivers have been the focal point of many cities around the world. Sungai Kinta can be one of them.

Is Our City ‘Pedestrian Friendly’?

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry  Francis

Nearly 600 pedestrians were killed in road accidents annually for the last three years in the country, most of them children and senior citizens. According to the federal police, this figure accounts for 10 per cent of the traffic accident fatalities.

Over 70 per cent of these pedestrian casualties happened because people did not use the facilities provided or crossed roads at wrong places. Pedestrians are therefore advised by the police to always use pedestrian bridges, pathways and crossings.

But, what have the police done towards ensuring there are sufficient pedestrian pathways and crossings in the towns and cities in the country. The police can make a difference as they sit on most of the traffic advisory committees in the local authorities.

Let us examine our city, Ipoh, which has a high population of senior citizens. Is it ‘pedestrian friendly’? Personally, I do not think so.

Of course, there are pedestrian bridges and crossings in the city centre. The pedestrian bridges are too steep for senior citizens and people with disabilities to climb up and down, while the pavements at the crossings and along the streets are without ramps to facilitate elderly and wheelchair-bound persons to get onto the pavements. While in many places, there are no pathways and pavements.

And, despite the existence of by-laws in the city forbidding obstructions along pavements and five-foot ways, they are rampant. Often pedestrians need to get down from the pavements and five-foot ways onto the roads in busy streets because they are obstructed by some structure or goods, thus risking  life and limb.

Pavements are also poorly maintained. There are gaping holes caused by loose and missing interlocking bricks that can cause pedestrians to trip over and injure themselves.

Making matters worse, there are even damaged manhole covers on the pavements. A few of these corroded metal covers are located along the busy Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar.

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It will be only a matter of time before a pedestrian steps on one of them and falls into the manhole (see picture). Please, city council, look into these hazards to pedestrians immediately.

Much as I dislike criticizing the authorities, I also dislike seeing negligence on the part of the authorities. Is the city council not liable should a pedestrian get hurt due to its negligence?

The Mayor and city councilors, should in one of their ‘turun padang’, take a walk around the city centre and see for themselves whether our city can be considered ‘pedestrian friendly’.

If I may suggest, since the Kinta River bisects the commercial sectors of the Old Town and New Town of the city, the city council could perhaps consider constructing covered pedestrian walkways at the bridges along Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah for protection from rain and sun. It will encourage more people to walk between the two sectors.