Here's a note to kickstart the week from a good friend who calls herself "the official complainer".
I managed to catch up with her at KLCC recently and we both shared our grievances about the state of the service industry in Malaysia.
Here's her view which was published in theSun:
Value all honest work
THE government must consider steps to rectify excessive disparity of wages and educate all workers on the necessity, respectability and value of each job and position.
This is becoming particularly important as the economic crisis shows no signs of relenting and an increasing number of workers are laid off. The government will not be able to go on paying benefits and subsidies, and so the best solution is to find new employment for retrenched workers as soon as possible. When all honest jobs are valued, respected, and appropriately rewarded, it becomes almost impossible for anyone to be out of work.
On a recent visit to KLCC, I could not help noticing that many workers in restaurants, shops, and outlets are foreigners. These workers do not look Malaysian, do not speak the local language, are untidy and lack grooming.
I wonder how shop owners at the premier shopping centre expect to see their business booming when they employ staff who are unqualified, untrained, and unwelcoming to potential customers.
Why aren’t locals doing this kind of work? What is wrong with being a waiter, a sales assistant, a cashier, or even a toilet cleaner? All these jobs need to be done and they make our life better, cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable. Why then look down upon them and pay them so little?
If KLCC and other leading shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur are meant for tourists, then wouldn’t tourists appreciate a window to the local people, the local language, the local culture, and the local service? How is Malaysia to preserve her identity if foreign workers are employed in positions that have the most direct contact with the public?
The government must adopt policies that make all kinds of honest work attractive, appreciated and properly rewarded. No type of honest work should be deemed as too lowly. After all, every worker who does his or her job in a way that meets the highest possible standard is a professional.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Nothing like a new year, that literally arrived with a 'bang', to jolt me into write a new post and to make a timely 'make-over'.
To welcome 1430H and to mark the continuing bombardment of Gaza, I took the liberty of lifting a piece of art by Gaza artists that "reflect on 60 years of human rights" from www.menassat.com to replace the image of "the wall" for 2008.
Any one of us with a shred of conscience and who cherish our inalienable rights as citizens of a sovereign nation would be able to empathize with the plight of the Palestinians who are denied of "human rights in living, personal safety, work, health, education, decision making, not to mention freedom of speech, of opinion, of travel, the right to dignity, citizenship, nationality and control over one's own fate."
I pray that these continued attacks on innocent civilians will cease and that this humanitarian catastrophe will finally rally the Arab and Muslim nations to fight for the Palestinians' rights to sovereignty, dignity, stability and self-sufficiency, if not prosperity yet.
On the home front, high on my new year's wish list is to see less foreign workers who can't even communicate in English, let alone the national language, to serve as security guards, cashiers at gas stations and servers at other "altars" of American cultural, economic and political imperialism such as McDonald's, Bubba Gump, and what-have-you.
I heard over BERNAMA Radio 93.9FM that the Ministry of Human Resource was 'considering' to reduce the work permits given to foreign workers, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think now is not the time for 'considering' any more but for enforcing a national policy of 'Hire Malaysians First' in light of growing unemployment and global economic recession, among other calamities.
Lastly, here's an article by Deena Guzder, retrieved from http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2008/12/31/gaza-and-the-us-corporate-media/, that repudiates the myth of American Jewish support as monolithic.
Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
Lights Out in Gaza, News Blackout in US
by Deena Guzder
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have decried Israel’s continued aerial bombing campaign as unlawful and denounced the killing of more than 300 Palestinians since 27 December, including scores of unarmed civilians not taking part in the hostilities. Israel’s attacks on the densely populated Gaza Strip also elicited condemnation from numerous world politicians and sparked protests in global cities.
Despite international outcry over escalating violence, the U.S. mainstream media continues to privilege a prepackaged narrative in which Israel’s actions are never disproportionate, never counterproductive and certainly never gratuitous. According to the mainstream media, the U.S. must continue uncompromisingly supporting Israel because the allegedly beleaguered democracy is held hostage by monomaniacal Islamofascists who are inherently evil. Promoting a paradigm in which Israel is always David up against Goliath, the U.S. media presents suffering Palestinians as expendable for the greater cause of Israel winning its epic struggle. To justify U.S.’s carte blanche to Israel, the mainstream media restricts American readers to an echo chamber in which the following claims are repeated ad nausem until they are mistaken for fact:
1. Israel has a legal and moral right to bomb Gaza out of defense Security concerns are not and never have been a tolerable justification for pre-emptive attacks. Israel’s decision to bomb Gaza represents a major assault on the international rule of law. The law of occupation is one of the oldest and most developed branches of international humanitarian law. An occupying power is obliged to follow the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects the civilian population. The United Nations Security Council held in 1979 that the Fourth Convention did apply in the territories seized by Israel in 1967. Article 48 of the additional protocol is clear that Israel, as an occupying power, has obligations: “The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objective.” The latest Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza’s beleaguered Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life. “International law is not observed with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to reinforce an occupation whose every element violates international humanitarian law, and particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention,” notes Jeff Halper, an Israeli-American Anthropologist, author, lecturer, political activist, and co-founder and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
2. Israeli citizens live in constant fear of Hamas rockets Since 2005 Hamas has fired some 6,300 rockets from Gaza at Israel, killing 10 people. In just the last four days, Israel has reduced the Gaza Strip to rubble and killed over 300 Palestinians. During the ongoing four-decade-long brutal occupation of historic Palestine and the recent grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza, Palestinian deaths have far outnumbered Israeli deaths. Since September 29, 2000, approximately 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians whereas 1,050 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis. Since September 29, 2000, a total of 1,062 Israelis and no fewer than 4,876 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.
3. Hamas refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist and has never made any concessions As Seth Ackerman of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) notes, there is no need to euphemize Hamas’ history of brutal tactics or its bellicose ideology, but Hamas has signaled its potential willingness to accept a two-state settlement and make other concessions to broker peace. Hamas has also made tentative offers of a long-term “hudna,” or truce, albeit with less gusto than Israel demands.
4. Israel is only targeting Hamas headquarters Gaza, one of the most densely populated tracts of land in the world, is home to about 1.3m Palestinians, about 33% of whom live in United Nations-funded refugee camps. Avoiding civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip during aerial raids is comparable to trying to avoid such casualties in Washington DC, New York City or Los Angeles. “Because Gaza is so densely populated, there is no such thing as precision strike - you have glass, brick, shrapnel flying into people’s homes,” notes Ewa Jasiewicz, a volunteer with the Free Gaza Movement.
5. Attacking Hamas will help Israel achieve security There is no doubt that the recent attacks will only embolden and multiply Israel’s detractors. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. For a second day in Jordan, several thousand protesters gathered in Amman and burned Israeli and American flags. There were similar rallies in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq with many calling for a firm response from their leaders. Hamas’ military is barely dented by the Israeli attacks and, according to a poll by Israel’s Channel 10 television station, only 6% of Israelis believe its governments aerial bombings will end Hamas’ rocket attacks. 
6. The Bush administration has the implicit support of the international community in blaming Hamas “thugs” and applauding Israel’s show of defense With the exception of the U.S. and her staunchest allies, the international community has largely condemned Israel’s attacks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Israel to “urgently halt” its military campaign. Japan’s Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said, “Japan calls on Israel to exercise its utmost self-restraint.” China’s Vice-Premier Li Kequiang joined the voices urging a halt to violence and said, “The Chinese side is shocked and seriously concerned over the current military operations in Gaza that have caused a large number of death and injuries.” Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi similarly stated, “Malaysia deplores the disproportionate use of military power by Israel against the people of Gaza.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the European Union presidency, told the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas of his serious concerns about the escalating violence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the 15-member Security Council’s call for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the poverty-stricken territory. Humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reiterate their call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks against densely populated residential areas.
7. The attacks on Gaza are supported by the entire Jewish community Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. The organization calls for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli. In the face of mounting deaths, several Israeli and American Jewish peace groups are protesting the recent air raids by demonstrating in the streets, petitioning their elected officials and directly reaching out to Palestinian civilians. Groups that are encouraging peace between Palestinians and Israelis include Rabbis for Human Rights, B’Tselem, Bat Shalom, Ta’ayush, Yesh-Gvul, Peace Gush Shalom Tikkun, and many others. While there is no consensus in the Jewish community on the recent Gaza air raids, the underreported efforts of the Jewish “left” is far from negligible; Jewish Voices of Peace claims more than 10,000 members and has been instrumental in drawing attention to the lopsided media coverage through their “Lights out in Gaza, News Blackout in U.S.” campaign. Many of these Jewish peace activists are deeply religious and draw on the Torah to support their stand against Israel’s attack on Gaza. The media has extensively covered the Israeli settlers who cheer on Israel’s more hawkish actions, but little has been written on dissident Israeli Jews and their American Jewish sympathizers who are advocating a more peaceful, non-violent course.
The mainstream media is culpable for American’s ongoing ignorance and knee-jerk loyalty to Israel. Instead of elucidating motives and contextualizing actions, reporters’ biased diction obscures facts and editors’ cursory commentary muddles logic. By de-historicizing the conflict, the media reduces Palestinians to stock-characters who reject generous olive branches offered by Israel in favor of advocating for the dissolution of the Jewish state. A column by Israeli Gideon Levy in Haaretz, entitled “The neighborhood bully strikes again,” could never appear in a paper in the U.S nor could a single paragraph be uttered by any American politician, in either party, of any national prominence without damning consequences.
While visiting Israel in July, President-elect Barack Obama said, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” The question remains, what would Obama do if his daughters were deprived of food, electricity, medical care, and human dignity? What would Obama do if his daughters were humiliated when they traveled, maimed when they walked away from bomb shelters and robbed of their childhoods? If Obama fails to answer these questions with humanity, we can expect 4 to 8 more years of President Bush’s failed Middle East strategy.
 Wall Street Journal (Asia Edition), Editorial, December 30, 2008 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051140769338457.html)
 If Americans Only Knew http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.org/
 Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2974
 BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_israel_palestinians/maps/html/population_settlements.stm
 Evening Standard (London) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23608798-details/Defiant+Palestinians+fire+rockets+deep+into+Israel/article.do
 BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7803569.stm
 TIME Magazine http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1868929,00.html
 AFP News, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iWdYoZ5ATqNC6YY2jiHKiBQ0D5FA
 AFP News, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iWdYoZ5ATqNC6YY2jiHKiBQ0D5FA
 Salon.com http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/12/28/peretz/
Guzder works for TIME Asia magazine in Hong Kong and is a dual-degree graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism and School of International and Public Affairs. Please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org