Personal – Anas Alam Faizli Magna Est Veritas Prae Velabit - The Truth is Mighty and will always Prevail! Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:59:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Oil and Gas Adventure – Resource Magazine Thu, 31 Mar 2016 17:30:26 +0000 RESOURCE Magazine April 2016-page-098RESOURCE Magazine April 2016-page-099RESOURCE Magazine April 2016-page-100
My Oil and Gas Adventure

Hard work and skills are crucial to a career from the first interview through to senior management. But a passion for people at work and in our society puts magic into one’s life.

By Anas Alam Faizli

I still remember getting the shock of my life when I arrived at Asia’s southernmost tip, or as some will argue, second southernmost tip. The place looked barren and when I saw a bauxite site, it struck me that this was exactly what I learnt back in geography class – there’s plenty of bauxite in Teluk Ramunia but it is still nothing compared to what we are seeing now in Kuantan!

I had no idea what I was going into. A quick Altavista (there was no Google back then) search had given me just the information that the company is in the business of jacket fabrication. Jacket fabrication? I was pretty sure the company wasn’t doing a clothing line.

At the time, I was in my final semester at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia for my Bachelor’s degree. At the beginning of that semester, I had started looking for a job. I started early because I was worried I would be unemployed after graduation. During semester breaks and sometimes even when uni was in session, I worked part time with various employers hoping to lessen the burden on my parents. Being the eldest of 10 children, that would be the least I could do.

The interview went well and I got the job as a management trainee with Sime Sembcorp Engineering, a leading fabricator of offshore platforms.

Taking the job shocked many of my friends considering I did my internship with IBM and everybody thought I was going to be a computer whiz. At 19, I participated in an open source exhibition and hung out with IT savvy professionals. No one expected me to be in Oil and Gas. I guess I didn’t want to end up servicing computers and wanted to be in a more niche industry.

So after my final exam, I started my first job in the Oil and Gas industry. I spent two long years on an extremely steep learning curve in various disciplines from engineering, planning, safety, heavy lifting, construction and most importantly, project management.

I would say that one of the most challenging tasks of the job was supervising colleagues who had more than 15 years of experience in the field. I was fresh out of college and it was probably the first time I saw the worth of a degree. Suffice to say, I was not the most popular bloke in Teluk Rumania.

There were monthly expeditions to Batam, Indonesia to expedite delivery of plates and tubular; and a trip to Germany, Amsterdam and France to expedite structural steel and electrical cables for a project we were tasked with.

I was also fortunate to be entrusted by my colleagues as a tuition teacher to their little ones – teaching Maths, Science and English in the small village of Teluk Ramunia after office hours.

Time flies. On 10 August 2004, I saw the biggest pair of dark brown eyes looking back at me. I smiled as I recited the Azan in my daughter’s ears. An hour later, Petronas Carigali called me for an interview.

I was met with a killer question during the interview: “You don’t have six years of experience and you’re not an engineer. You don’t qualify. Did you falsify your resume?”

I was about to walk out. Apparently the manpower agency included all my experience even after SPM when I was writing a weekly column for the Malay Mail and doing the website for Hijau Inovasi. They even listed out all my part-time jobs in university.

Nonetheless, I wanted to prove my worth and assail all doubts. I got the job as a Senior Project Controller through contractual employment. Immediately after singing Leaving On A Jet Plane on my HSE day, I was hitting the road again. Thank you, Sime Sembcorp. PETRONAS here I come!

The rest is history. I now belong in oil and gas.

I spent two years with Carigali doing Conceptual and Front End Engineering Design including Fabrication for the Abu Cluster project before joining Talisman Malaysia. Talisman made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. An overseas assignment – a whole new world of experience.

I picked up Vietnamese, learnt real people management skills and did my best for two years in Vung Tau, Vietnam. The Vietnamese are different – they have strong character and don’t easily admit their weaknesses.

After completing my stint in Vietnam, I spent another two years working offshore for Installation, Hook-Up and Commissioning in Malaysia-Vietnam borders.

The years offshore were tough – I worked hard in the day and studied at night for my Master’s degree in project management.

Back to shore, I was sent to Kemaman as Talisman’s sole company representative to oversee three fabrication yards, one in KSB, one in Teluk Kemang and the third, a yard belonging to EPIC. Here, I strengthened my management and supervision skills. I believe in building a strong relationship with the team. Team building is crucial in executing any plan.

By New Year’s Eve in 2011, I was finally called back to the KL office for project development coordination work.

Now, it is interaction between the sub-surface, drilling and the operations and intensive meets with the senior management and also the Calgary office. I have now completed my upstream oil and gas cycle, covering all its phases.

Four years in opportunity evaluation, project planning and development activities while completing my doctorate part-time. A doctorate in business administration would be crucial to enter the corporate world. I needed a formal education to force myself to learn business and economy.

The years as a tuition teacher providing free education in Teluk Ramunia led me to lead an education volunteer organisation called Teach For The Needs (TFTN) in 2013. At its peak, there were 1,500 volunteers serving 20 orphanages. My corporate experience was fully utilised to help structure the organisation and its day to day operations. The leadership baton has been handed to younger leaders and it is now a well-known name in the civil society organisations.

Together with other concerned citizens, I had also co-founded an economic think tank called BLINDSPOT. One can say the term signifies the many things we missed in the quest for economic success. We raised issues of Inequality and how we can improve to reduce the gap for a better Malaysia.

Despite my punishing work schedule, I had wanted to write my thoughts on Malaysia and this I did through my book Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians published by Gerakbudaya in 2014.

I spent 10 good years – mostly under the blazing sun, and then some, with Talisman.

Now, I’m with Eversendai in a senior management role in charge of Business Development and Special Projects including an Oil and Gas setup. Eversendai is a true Malaysian success story. The founder is a living inspiration.

Here, a new world awaits, where the organisation is a world leading heavy steel specialist and is in the construction of high-rise buildings, infrastructure and power plants. The PETRONAS Twin Towers and the Burj Khalifa are among its list of accomplishments.

It feels like a long, tumultuous and fruitful journey. I am fortunate to have made it this far and I hope to carve out more illustrious years ahead. Yet, despite all the “achievements”, I strongly believe that you have to give back to society and that one can contribute in many ways.

Recently, the Malaysian Government through the Ministry of Human Resource appointed me as an Oil and Gas Industry Expert. I hope to contribute so much more to, and through, the industry.



Anas Alam Faizli, 35, is a General Manager at Eversendai Corporation Berhad. When he’s not working, he spends his time with his adorable and beautiful daughter.



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Speech of Graduate Representative at OUM 17th Convocation Sat, 12 Sep 2015 02:48:43 +0000 Speech of Graduate Representative
Anas Alam Faizli
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
Dewan Merdeka, PWTC, Kuala Lumpur
12 September 2015 (Saturday) at 8.30 am


Honourable Pro Chancellor Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Azman Hashim
President/Vice-Chancellor Yang Berbahagia Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Anuwar Ali and wife, Yang Berbahagia Puan Sri Eveline Anuwar
Members of the University Board of Directors and Senate
Esteemed Dignitaries
Members of the OUM Community, Beloved Academics
Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen
Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabakaratuh.

Good morning, and the highest salutations and congratulations to fellow graduates.

1. I would like to begin my speech by thanking Allah SWT as it is through His grace and mercy that we are present here today. Thank you to the OUM family for making this convocation possible.

2. Today marks my second time graduating in the first batch of a postgraduate programme at OUM. The first was the Master of Project Management and the second is the Doctor of Business Administration. Being a part of two different pioneering batches, I have had first-hand experience of how OUM develops and executes programmes tailored to the needs of professionals, academics and the industry. So rewarding was my experience the first time that upon deciding to pursue my doctorate, the choice of institution was obvious. I stand here today, alongside all of you, as testimony to the academic excellence of OUM.

3. When I began my doctorate here, I had very basic and limited exposure to business and economics. I was hungry for business-related knowledge and experience. Over the years, I have grown with the University and have been blessed with many interesting opportunities. I have authored a book, spoken at talks and seminars held by various universities and forums, and even set up an economic think tank.

4. I would say that it is my academic experience which fuelled my desire to pay it forward. It led me to volunteer with Teach for the Needs, a group which provides free tuition for the underprivileged. Looking back, I feel it has been a transformative and fulfilling journey.

5. I believe education is the single most important solution to many of the world’s current economic and social woes. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said that seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim. I am sure such wisdom is shared by people of other faiths as well.

6. Higher education is an impetus for establishing a civic-minded society. As a nation, we are currently at a crossroads. Our tertiary education penetration levels are still lacking compared to that of developed nations. Moving forward, the only way to achieve developed nation status is by becoming a knowledge-based society and economy. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of this condition.

7. Prof Dr Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, also known as HAMKA, repeatedly wrote in his literary works that life is a struggle. Life is a fight. We cannot choose the challenges and obstacles that we will face in life. However, we can choose what to equip ourselves with, to help us in facing life’s challenges and struggles. Fellow graduates here, including me, have chosen to equip ourselves with an education from OUM and we are proud of our choice.

8. OUM as a university plays a very critical role in promoting continuous learning. Now, everyone can learn regardless of their background and socio-economic status. Its concept of open education is a significant breakthrough in education and must be supported by each one of us who has tasted its success.

9. On the personal side, I am blessed to have the support of my family, and my daughter – my one true inspiration. Allow me to share with you the three guiding principles that my grandfather left me with before he passed away. Firstly, seeking knowledge through education is paramount; secondly, evade hostility with one another and; thirdly, be beneficial to those around you. I believe these three principles inspire you too.

Fellow Graduates,

10. We have now earned ourselves a scroll, a piece of paper which will amount to nothing if the experiences garnered along the way are not used for the benefit of society. Embrace and own our achievements. Every one of us here is an intellectual and an agent of change. We are duty bound to provide light and guidance to others where possible. Every one of us needs to rise to the occasion and shoulder this responsibility.

11. If there was one message I would like you to take away from today’s speech, it is – Be the candles that light the way for society. Be a leader for your family, your community, in the workplace and outside. Make your voice heard.

12. Before I end my speech, I wish to thank the University’s Management and particularly, Prof Dr Wardah Mohamad, the Dean of OUM Business School. Special thanks to Yang Berbahagia Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Anuwar, who in my first semester personally penned an appeal note to the Ministry of Higher Education and assisted me in securing my Industrial PhD scholarship. We are fortunate to have such a caring Vice- Chancellor. I thank you, Sir.

13. Finally, on behalf of my fellow graduates, I would like to thank OUM from the bottom of our hearts.
Wabillahhi taufik walhidayah, wassalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.


*Speech was delivered as a graduate representative representing 7,506 graduates at the 17th OUM Convocation

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The Edge: High Income Nation, but Low Income Rakyat Tue, 22 Oct 2013 14:16:16 +0000 20131019_103939

Malaysia’s current socio economic structure can be summed up in four words, “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians.” Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources with petroleum being the most precious. Add the land, other commodity resources, large youthful population and the country has all the essential ingredients to flourish. How then did this small nation of 30 million manage to end up with the unsolicited title of among the region’s most unequal nation between the rich and poor. What happened?

NEP: The Noble Intention, Initially

The NEP that was introduced in 1970 was the grand plan that were two things; our proactive action to begin developing the newly independent nation, and our reaction to the British Divide-and-Conquer system.

Textbooks tell us that the NEP strategy was two-pronged; eradication of poverty, and the restructuring of society. But what popular culture and the masses cannot help but to associate the NEP with is the deeply entrenched Bumiputera agenda at its core which target Bumiputeras to own 30 percent equity share in the Malaysian economy.

But “share of the economy” here apparently has broader connotations and implications. It expands from assets and equity ownership, right down to contract procurement, education quotas, and employment policies. Bumiputeras were the poorest of all ethnic groups. Thus the idea was to positively discriminate Bumiputeras, get them on their tracks, and realize a more equitable ownership of the economy. And thus we began traversing down this path of affirmative action.

As time went by and various development plans under the Malaysia Plan or Rancangan Malaysia were undertaken, tremendous improvements were made. Bumiputeras and Malaysians, in general, now own more assets than their parents. A middle class population burgeoned. Poverty rate, measured on an absolute basis, has gone from as high as 49.1 percent to 1.7 percent as reported in the latest Household Income Survey for 2012 published recently.

The Trickle-Down Disaster

Unfortunately, in the 1990s the equity target was still far off the target. Time was running out and Malaysia took a short cut with the ill-planned “trickledown” effect. Malaysia throttled down the road of enriching and empowering a few Bumiputeras who would go on to be successful entrepreneurs and asset owners and the subsequent multiplier effect will trickle down onto and propel the rest of the Bumiputera community. The philosophy was for this “trickledown” effect that surely, it was believed, would be inevitable.

The trickledown effect did not and does not work. Even the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Abd Razak himself acknowledged this in a recent interview with Martin Soong of CNBC. In fact, it perpetuated high inequality amongst Malaysians. It became something we so desperately clung on as an economic doctrine and still believed as true.

So even before we got there, we are now taking on a new “Malaysian Dream”. Surely, it is only natural that the next course of action is aiming for a bigger middle class. Or are we really achieving it?

Yet Another Missing Target?

We say High Income Nation is the way to go and have set a new target to achieve a per capita income of US$15,000 by year 2020. It means the Gross National Income (GNI) – a measure of the country’s production adjusted with net incomes from overseas – divided by the country’s population must equal US$15,000. That target, we are told, is achievable by 2017-2018. Currently, our per capital income is $US9,970.

Never mind that many of the relatively lower income-earners find themselves in pretty much the same position on a relative basis. Never mind that Bumiputera households are still the poorest on average in the bottom 40 percent rung of Malaysian households. Never mind that even if most of this nation’s income in year 2020 accrued to say, only 100 of the richest people in the country, we can achieve that $15,000 per capita target because it is grossly divided by the whole population.

Measuring income in US dollar term is already problematic. Many in the research community and the public have expressed concern about this as the US dollar is not the currency that most Malaysians earn and transact in. So when the Ringgit was stronger than US Dollars last year, we have every reason to question whether GNI per capita measured in dollar terms, represented the true magnitude of growth per capita, and whether this target is truly achievable.

But even if we put this currency issue aside, the $US15,000 per capita income target cannot be that headline “dream” we can congratulate ourselves on when achieved.

Here are some reasons why:

Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians

Firstly, for majority Malaysian households, about 90 percent of their incomes are attributed to wage and salary, including self-employment. Even for those who can afford to own some assets, this is still true. What more those who do not even own assets, and thus do not have incomes from owning assets.

Note that Malaysian GDP (measured using the income method) will indicate the following breakdown: 28 percent wages and salaries, 67 percent business profits (including mixed income), and 5 percent taxes and subsidies. What does this mean? It means that out of total GDP, only 28 percent is attributable to the working Malaysian population.

For the past 15 years, the contribution of wages and salaries to Malaysian GDP has fluctuated between 26 to 32 percent and the only reason it hiked up to 32 was because of the recession in 2008 when corporate profits declined. In Singapore, this number is already as high as 42 percent in 1997.

In other developed countries such as Korea, Canada, the UK and Japan, the corresponding number is 46 percent, 51 percent, 55 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Malaysians are not getting the bulk of the country’s production into their pockets! This is set to worsen; the ETP’s document (A Roadmap for Malaysia: Chapter 2) itself indicated that forecasted wages over GDP for the NKEAs will drop to as low as 21 percent in 2020! What are we smoking and what are our priorities, really?

In fact, for the past 15 years as well, the salaries of Malaysian workers have been lagging behind our productivity. Productivity growth rates were in line with rates of growth of salary circa 1998, but it has been slowly lagging thereon. As of last year, the productivity in the manufacturing sector is 45 percent above salaries. This roughly translates into the fact that our workers are under-paid by at least 45 percent. All this illustrates how GNI per capita will not represent well the incomes that majority Malaysians will enjoy as wages and salaries.

Secondly, more than 90% of the wage-earning workforce does not even earn much. Only 11.05 percent of government income is generated from personal income tax and only 1.7 million of the 12.4 million workforce is eligible to pay tax. EPF reported that 78.6% of its contributors database earn RM3,000 monthly or less. This is another illustration of how low the majority of the Malaysian people’s incomes are at the individual level. So what is this High Income Nation we are about to achieve in a few years? A High Income Nation with a low earning population?

Thirdly, there is the grave issue of purchasing power. High income alone does not necessarily translate into better economic well-being and quality of life if that high income cannot purchase much. A simple analysis would show how a fresh graduate in 1980 could purchase more compared to today’s graduate. With an estimated pay of RM1,000 a graduate could afford an Opel Gemini costing RM12,400 or about 12 months of his salary and purchase a decent house, perhaps even in Taman Tun, costing at RM62,000 or 56 months of his salary.

Today, a graduate can have a basic pay of RM2,500 which is only 2.5 times higher than a graduate in 1980. But a comparable Mazda 6 now costs RM178,000 or about 71 months of his salary and a decent house far outside Kuala Lumpur, say in Nilai, would cost RM350,000 or 140 months of his salary. The cost of living has spiraled viciously upwards and the purchasing power of the average salary man has slumped.

Fourthly is the issue of inequality, and this is by far the most compelling argument against a headline US$15,000 High Income Nation target. There is a reason that many academics, civil society groups and the people at large have recently been blowing the inequality trumpet; Malaysia has among the highest income disparities in the region. On August 3, 2013 the Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni has also acknowledged this.

Income growth measured from 1970 have shown that the Top 20 percent households far overtake that of the Middle 40 percent and the Bottom 40 percent households, while the income gap between them on average is widening. The GINI coefficient, which measures the degree of disparity between the highest income and the lowest income, remained rather stubbornly high without any improvement around 0.43 to 0.44 across the span of the past 20 years for Malaysia.

Earning RM10,000 a month on a household basis will already put you as the top 4 percent of Malaysian households, and essentially in the same group as even tycoons like Ananda Krishnan. 73 percent of households earn less than RM5,000, with an average of 2 income earners or workers per household. This alone shows how much disparity there is. Furthermore, it renders our $15,000 High Income Nation target achievable in form, yet void in spirit and substance.

How did this high and persisting inequality happen? The failure of that very “trickledown effect” that we hoped for is a major contributor. The continuous enrichment of the select few continuously fosters this gap in a long and perpetual cycle. The inequality in our education system also contributed to the large 77 percent of Malaysian workers being only SPM qualified and below thereby commanding low salary levels.

For the sake of profits, businesses are unwilling to invest in productivity and training of locals. We appease the business community by giving way to large influx of foreign workers, especially in factories, in place of relatively more expensive locals. The myth that locals are choosy and unwilling to work in factories is then proliferated, despite locals being able to work in factories if compensated adequately. This is proven in the oil and gas industry; hard laboring welders and fitters are all local Malaysians, despite having to work under scorching heat, as the compensation is rewarding.

So What is Really the Malaysian Dream?

We do not have one! But if we plan to have one, we cannot leave the average salary man behind, the man that forms more than 80% of the Malaysian population. We need a dream that is inclusive and holistic and addresses quality livelihood for Malaysians at large, and not just a select few.

Income inequality is a very serious impediment to our hopes for a truly developed nation. It would be a great irony if the majority of Malaysians do not truly experience that high-income status, once we reach that $US15,000 mark.

How are we to declare ourselves high income when the effects of inequality such as crime, unemployment, health and social problems as well depleting social goods will be so apparent? Even if we do make that high-income bar, problems that emerge out of inequality raise serious questions about the sustainability of that high-income status.

For as long as we do not come together, commit to say no to inequality in resolute, and help alleviate the bottom 60 percent potential economic producers, this problem will not solve itself and will come back to haunt us.

Moving forward our policies should be designed and constructed based on this understanding. We would have not proposed a regressive GST to increase our source of revenue if we understood this fact.

We would have instead tried to increase revenue from other sources that will not hurt the majority of our people like the inheritance tax, progressive taxation and capital gains tax.

But that argument, is for another day.

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Higher royalty versus state ownership of Petronas Sat, 27 Apr 2013 01:15:54 +0000 20130427_104506

The oil royalty debacle is perhaps one of the popular components for both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as the nation approaches polling day on 5th May. In Kelantan, the “R” for “royalty” movement has in fact been proliferating, especially amongst PR supporters. For years, we have seen the fight for royalty highlighted by the four producing states, namely Terengganu, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak. While Kelantan continues with its ongoing battle for legitimacy of its claims under the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Sabah and Sarawak local dailies have been putting forth their plight for a bigger than 5% share over oil and gas incomes.

In an unprecedented move, PR in its Buku Jingga launched in December 2010 proposed an increase of oil royalty contributions from Petronas to state governments from 5% to 20%. This is again reiterated in its election manifesto. Upping the ante, BN too in its recently-launched manifesto has promised the same, albeit under a different name.  Whoever wins the next election, the four states will see increased revenue, if this promise is kept. But how will this change affect Petronas?

The Truth behind the 20 Percent Royalty

First, we must know that royalties or cash payout as per PDA 1974 is cost charged to revenues, rather than a share of operating outcomes. Whatever income Petronas or oil operators get from selling oil and gas, royalties are entitled to the first cut. To illustrate, a barrel of oil sold for USD 100 will see USD 5 or USD 20 (depending on the percentage) immediately taken away as royalties. Only what is left after that and taxes, will be left for Petronas to recover its tremendous capital and operating costs, and to reimburse other oil operators and producers.

Imagine what it means in times of lower crude oil prices! This puts tremendous pressure on Petronas’ profitability, which will ultimately affect revenues dispersed to the federal government as dividends. (Note that the federal government receives revenues from Petronas via multiple avenues; including royalties and taxes as the government, and dividends as Petronas shareholder).

Second, based on the above, a 20% oil royalty payment will potentially render many in-place existing Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) unattractive. Without going too much into the intricacies of a PSC, oil operators like Shell and ExxonMobil having operations in Malaysia, under the PSC, owe royalties and taxes to Malaysia but is then promised some form of “cost oil” and “profit oil”.

The PSC essentially ensures Malaysia is compensated as much as possible for oil coming out of its territories, while these operators still makes some attractive margins for their productive efforts. Unless Petronas takes the entire hit from losing a further 15 percentage-points worth of revenues by promising the same profitability to oil operators, the attractiveness of PSCs will be unavoidably severed.

Third, it may be argued an incentive system by way of oil royalty leaves the states with no interest over the profitability of Petronas. This is only natural, as getting a first cut over oil incomes makes it too convenient to worry about the processes thereafter. Thus, states may not be too concerned if foreign operators are no longer incentivized to operate on Malaysian wells and use their valuable expertise on Malaysian oil wells, or if Petronas’ long term productivity and sustainability is at stake.

Petronas Inclusive Ownership: Give Shares to the States

The three points above highlight the few potential challenges in applying a 20% royalty contribution from Petronas to the state governments. After all, Petronas is one of Malaysia’s few true success stories contributing to a large part of Malaysia’s growth. Its sustainability without question is in the interest of all states and Malaysians alike.

It is important to note that Petronas could indeed credit its success to effective management of hydrocarbon resources out of the producing states. Although revenue contributions attributable to domestic petroleum resources has now reduced to 60% of revenues, Petronas would have not arguably been where it is today; if not for the petroleum “capital” contributed by these states to the corporation, by virtue of the PDA 1974, and other enactments entrusting custody of oil fields over to Petronas. Although today, incomes from domestic oil and gas blocks are not the single largest component of Petronas’ incomes, other incomes would have never been there in the first place without the petroleum from these producing states.

A whole slew of Petronas subsidiaries, including downstream industries such as Petronas’ Gas, LNG, petro-chemicals, and retailing businesses, as well as the inception of local contractors such as Sapura Kencana, MMHE and many others have created a plethora of job opportunities, and positive spillover economic impacts onto Malaysia which would have not happen without oil and gas from the four producing states.

It is proposed here that ownership of Petronas is made more inclusive. Currently, the federal government owns 100% of Petronas. Let’s maintain the 5% royalty rate but give oil producing states some profit participating stake in Petronas via non-voting equity shares without participation at the board as to evade a corporate governance nightmare. With this, decision-making and executive matters are still left to the hands of professionals who have done a fantastic job at running the country’s only Fortune 100 company.

 A 2% ownership each to the four producing states for example, would mean RM600 million out of the fixed annual RM30 billion dividends would go to each shareholding state, while the remaining is still paid to the federal government as the major shareholder. However, how much equity each state will get is for another discussion.

Being shareholder, oil producing states will want to see Petronas as a company grow and maintain profitability as to enjoy dividend incomes from the company. Meanwhile, the dynamics and attractiveness of current and future PSCs and RSCs will not be tampered with.  In the case of oil royalty, the states have no interest with Petronas’ profitability as they take directly from revenue.

 The bottom line is, a higher royalty and equity stake will increase revenue for the four producing states which is among the poorest in Malaysia, which is the ultimate blanket intention. The equity route, however, maintains maintains the status quo for Petronas and PSC Contractors and still rewards the states, especially the poorer ones that deserve the oil royalty income they badly need.

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Schools stifling our intellect Sun, 21 Apr 2013 00:52:03 +0000 IMG-20130423-WA0010

While learning has its plus points, there are some who think that the modern school system does not extol the benefits of education.

MODERN, public, free and compulsory schooling was first introduced by the King of Prussia in 1760.

He introduced schooling to shape the minds of the people into being docile and obedient to his rule. Shortly after, this concept mushroomed throughout the globe to be adopted by the French, the Americans, and eventually the whole world. Napoleon Bonaparte also embraced this concept 50 years later. In his very own words, “I want to create an educational body that will steer the way the French people think!

Even at the core of its early foundation, indoctrination and brainwashing became the main objective of the formation of the school. Apart from the basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills, schools were to ensure the despot rulers stayed in power.

The schools today with timetables and syllabus and division of classes by age, are very much like the Prussian schools.

The early intention of the formation of school is thus a betrayal to the word “education” itself. Its goals were to deplete the human mind, imprison them and train them to be workers in the Industrial Revolution. It was to mould people into becoming submissive servants; and it still does so, albeit in arguably subtler ways.

Schools today see children being told to memorise answers and solutions to problems, and subscribe to the idea of success that is defined by winning over others, paper qualifications and dollars and cents.

Did you know that 98% of children aged five are geniuses? This finding was concluded by scientist and speaker George Land, who also found that this number dropped to a whopping 30% when a group of 10-year olds were tested.

Only 12% of 15-year-olds are considered geniuses, and out of tested adults, only 2% are geniuses. So what could probably be wrong?

Let’s roughly consider what happens between the ages of five and adulthood. We grow up, we experience new things, we meet more people and most importantly, we go to school.

Now, blaming school for the decadence in human intellect is of course a grossly simplified hypothesis, given that so many other variables also come into play.

But, have we ever considered why the school system has been made so synonymous to education in the first place? We know education is important, but why is school so important?

The human brain is apparently elastic and can be very flexible.

Neuroscientists describe the brain’s capability to biologically adapt to changes and new knowledge as “plasticity”.

Plasticity allows humans to learn new things, new characters and also adjust to prevailing situations wherever necessary.

Thus, any normal and healthy individual should be clever, as long as they are allowed access to the new knowledge or experience.

The question is, with the imposition of school on humans, did we do justice to plasticity or did we rather inhibit any progress to their intellectual development thereby limiting their true potential?

Children are said to live in the moment and without worries. They are endowed with brains that are ready and eager to learn like an absorbent sponge. Self-learning in human is innate.

A child’s first three years is where growth is steepest. The child grows and is capable of communicating in one or two languages, decipher simple problems, formulate questions and possess the drive to do things on his own. What happened to the rate of the human growth in later years up to adulthood? Why are only 2% of adults, geniuses?

Nature versus Nurture

In Latin, tabula rasa means blank slate. It is the epistemological theory that individuals are born with an “empty” brain and all their knowledge comes from experience, perception and learning.

In essence, proponents of tabula rasa favour nurture over nature, as coined by polymath Francis Galton.

It is in contrast to opposing theories which hold that human intellect can be genetic. On top of the nature vs nature view, one should not discount that, divine intervention is also a major part of learning and intellectual attainment.

From an education perspective, tabula rasa proposes that children build personalities, establish behaviours and become intelligent, as a result of nurturing. In essence, it is implying that intelligence and desirable personalities are neither fated nor incidental.

Education bodies worldwide have continued to remain committed to early twentieth century educational philosophy.

They have not been able to significantly challenge this tradition. Words that suitably describe this current philosophy include “conveying”, “imparting” and “telling” of information and facts, instead of “discovering”, “encouraging”, “provoking” and “nurturing”. It has always been about teaching pedagogy and not about learning.

Learning involves failure and making mistakes, things that the education systems these days no longer seem to tolerate.

Similarly, there is a litany of words used to describe teaching such as “pedagogy” and “andragogy”, but synonyms for learning exist not in the same abundance. We have always been trying to produce skilled teachers, but what about skilled learners?

Brazillian critical educationist Paulo Freire suggested a solution; a two-way relationship has to be introduced to learning from both teacher and student.

He promoted the teacher-student concept, where the teacher is the mentor who learns, and the student is a learner who teaches.

Teaching versus learning is best concluded by renowned scientist Albert Einsten when he said, “I never teach my pupils, I only provide conditions in which they learn.”

Foucault, Kant and Freire viewed that education should not act as information transferring to the masses. If this were the case, children would then be considered as educated or intelligent through how much information they could absorb.

The products would be children who are good at answering quizzes, not adult citizens with problem-solving skills, innovation and human compassion.

Here’s the conundrum: can we arrive to the conclusion that our existing modern schools can largely be considered obsolete and outdated?

Its main shortfall is the focus on teaching, rather than learning, freedom of choice and the inculcating love and human linkages within a body of individual and collective development process.

The call to rethink education is now vital to ensure that plasticity of the brain is fully capitalised and translated into greater outcomes from the school-going child.

Children must no longer be taught based on resulting education materials, rather be made involved in the process of reaching those conclusions and attaining those materials.

Educators and governing authorities responsible for the schooling system must call for a shift of focus for the school.

Now is the time to move towards equipping children with tools of freedom through critical thinking, selfinduced intellect, self-reliance, cooperation and compassion for others.

A major enabler for this goal is having the school incentives systems slowly revamped; from chasing after cold, hard academic targets, to softer, nurturing and encourag ing key performance indexes.

This is to allow children to discover their own answers, instead of imposing answers onto them.

Education should be fun and exciting.

Imagine schools that encourage children to be curious, discovering, reading outside of textbook requirements, asking difficult questions, creating new things and most importantly, schools must start to “humanise humans” again.

The result of such an education or nurturing system, onto society will be game-changing for sure.

As Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire said: Studying doesn’t consist of devouring ideas but of creating and re-creating them.

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The Edge: The oil royalty rumble Sat, 06 Apr 2013 01:53:41 +0000 The Edge

One of the issues that are bound to crop up in the 13th general election campaigns is the oil royalty. In the past, many reasons have been presented by political parties from both sides of the divide on who is entitled to what. Perhaps this article will help shed some light on the issue.

When rulers and representatives of the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States and the Non-Federated Malay States signed the Federation of Malaya on the 31st January 1948, nobody imagined the significant petroleum money conflicts that would ensue for the years to come. One component made all the difference; jurisdiction over all areas beyond three nautical miles of the state shores is handed over to the federal government. Section 4 of the Emergency Ordinance 1969 also defines territorial waters as three nautical miles, subject to some exceptions, including the newer states of Sabah and Sarawak.

This is the case against petroleum-related royalty payments from the federal government to some state governments today. For oil found beyond three nautical miles (beyond state territories), no royalty monies are due because they belong within federal government territories.

If we hold that the story ends here, we will conclude that no royalty is due to currently petroleum-producing state of Kelantan, or rightfully, even Terengganu and Pahang. But, the story does certainly did not end here.

Petroleum Development Act 1974

In 1973, the world witnessed an Oil Shock caused by a six-month embargo on oil supplies by the Arab members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Crude oil prices climbed four-fold overnight causing severe disruptions to many industries. Most developing economies that produce oil, including Malaysia, then began to realize the strategic and economic importance of having national control over this Black Gold.

Malaysia responded by setting up Petroliam Nasional Bhd or Petronas on August 17th 1974, our home-grown oil giant which we have slowly grown dependent upon, up to 40% of federal government budget. It was oil money that financed the RM6 billion Petronas Twin Towers and the RM22 billion Putrajaya. In fact, oil-generated income, thanks to soaring crude oil prices in the past decade, was the only way we could have afforded the whopping RM135 billion increase in government operating expenditure in 2012 compared to 2000.

The incorporation of Petronas paved the way for another defining milestone in the history of Malaysia’s petroleum industry, namely the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA). The PDA is the “antagonist” to the federal constitution, used by proponents of royalty payments to states when it comes to oil exploration beyond three nautical miles of state shores. By section 2 of the PDA 1974, Petronas is vested with the “entire ownership in petroleum lying onshore or offshore Malaysia”, as well as exclusive rights, power, liberty and privilege of exploring, exploiting, winning and obtaining them. The generic term “offshore Malaysia” is thus the main contention, since neither specific length from state shores were explicitly stated, nor were references to the Federal constitution “three nautical miles” component, made.

The PDA was a powerful manifestation of Malaysia’s control and sovereignty as it essentially made uniform all previously separately standing agreements between the international oil operators and state governments, with regards to Malaysia’s hydrocarbon resources. It entailed three major developments; one, that all finding will be under Petronas custodianship; second, that existing concession agreements will be replaced with Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) where the government via Petronas effectively undertakes expenditure; and third, that there would be an additional five percent royalty payment to the federal government (from Petronas) on top of five percent royalty payment to state governments (also from Petronas). There were monies paid to state governments under the previous concession models but the specific magnitude is not known.

Supplementing the PDA 1974 were 13 identical Assignment Deeds and Vesting Grants, which were also separately signed between each of 13 states and the federal government between 1975 and 1976. All of them vested the rights to “petroleum whether lying onshore or offshore of Malaysia” to Petronas, in return for cash payments in the form of a yearly sum equivalent to 5% of the value of petroleum produced. Again, no length from state shores was specified with the generic term “offshore”. Thus, these new deeds only exacerbated the controversy.

Sarawak and Sabah

Until 2010, Sabah had received a total of RM7.2 billion in oil royalties. Meanwhile, Sarawak is estimated to be receiving about RM600 million per annum currently. Having a federal share of the Sabah and Sarawak petroleum industry was actually the more overbearing intention behind the PDA, compared to the 1973 Oil Shock. By then, the Borneo states Petroleum industry was close to its centennial, with Shell and Esso having fully entrenched production in place in Sarawak (80,000 bpd) and Sabah (5,000 bpd) respectively. However, these operations were under legacy British-granted concession agreements with the state governments, generously skewed in favour of the oil operators. Naturally, the latter were then unhappy to fork out extra petroleum royalties to this new federal government.

The first chairman and chief executive of Petronas, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, or fondly known by Malaysians as Ku Li, took to himself the arduous task of convincing Sabah and Sarawak to agree to the PDA.  His job then seemed like a tall order, since the pre-conditions were extremely delicate. First, there were contracts in place between the oil majors and the East Malaysia states, whose sanctity needed to be honoured. Secondly, Malaysia was a federation of previously sovereign states in their own rights, which entailed dues. Recollections of the process spanning 2 years include one where Ku Li was apparently barred from entry into Sabah at the airport!

Today, even though Petronas and its contractors are operating and producing out of more than three nautical miles beyond the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak, both states still receive royalty monies by way of constitution. In addition to royalties, unlike the peninsular states, both states are constitutionally entitled to export duties on “mineral oils”, which petroleum qualifies for. Both royalty and duties total 10 percent.


Terengganu found petroleum off its shores in 1973. From 1978 to 2000, it received a sum of RM7.13 billion in royalties. Not only does the state enjoy tremendous growth from federal government allocations and royalties, it also reaped economic benefits from the formation of petroleum townships. Rantau Petronas in Kerteh is one of the most advanced full-fledged petroleum centers housing a little economy of its own.

However, royalty payments were stopped in 2000 during PAS government’s one term tenure in the state. Under the constitutional clause allowing for discretionary payments from federal to state, a fraction of the due royalties known as the “Wang Ehsan” (goodwill token) was paid instead through government agencies. Royalty payments were only continued in 2009 when Terengganu is back under the Barisan government, even though productions were from areas sitting beyond three nautical miles from the state. This makes the task of concluding whether or not Terengganu should receive royalties a confusing one, considering the payment was not fulfilled the moment it was a different ruling state government.


Petroleum was only found off of the shores of Kelantan in the 1990’s when Kelantan was under the rule of PAS, so the PDA, Vesting Grant and Assignment Deed stood unquestioned until then.  As it happens, findings were either 150km (about 81 nautical miles) from Kota Bharu, or within free economic zones where the federal government has joint development agreements with Thailand and Vietnam.

For production coming off these areas, namely from blocks PM2, PM301, Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Agreement (MTJDA) and PM3 CAA Malaysia-Vietnam, the federal government has received its share of 5 percent in royalties, totaling RM4.59 billion. While the same number is theoretically due to Kelantan state as well, the latter has received no sum, in royalties. Worse still, Kelantan enjoys absolutely no spill over economic developments in the form of a supply base, processing or transportation activities. Gas extracted off of Kelantan’s shores through MTJDA bypasses Kelantan and is directly funneled to Thailand, despite it being less economical to do so.

The federal government maintains that the Federal Constitution dictates for Kelantan to not receive royalties for rights over areas it did not own in the first place. On the other hand, Kelantan bases its claims on the sanctity of the PDA, the Assignment Deed, and the Vesting Grant 1975/1976, claiming that they should not be deprived of royalties since these documents used the generic term “onshore and offshore Malaysia” in the case of petroleum, instead of three nautical miles in the general case of territorial provisions. Experts have clarified that the constitution supersedes any other laws in place, being the supreme law of the land.

In August 2010, the Kelantan state government filed a lawsuit against Petronas for failing to pay the state royalties. The government responded to this with a special study panel, which has yet to come up with a conclusion.

Substance over Form

We should be able to conclude by now that this is a complicated battle of legal interpretation. Aside from the litany of agreements and documents signed, one cannot help to discard the stark reality that both Kelantan and Terengganu were denied royalty payments during PAS’ rule. It is hard to not label the issue as a politicized one. As members of the public, the continuous debacle leaves us with some pertinent questions.

First, the three nautical miles component in the Federal Constitution articulated the maritime border of states, but what about ownership of petroleum assets specifically? Surely when the relevant preceding documents were enacted, the intention was to designate petroleum and gas as a specially-treated issue given its economic and political importance. Thus, can it be seen lumped together with other maritime border issues under the constitution? If the signing of these documents were intended to cajole previously sovereign and independent states into handing over custody rights of oil blocks to Petronas, is not depriving them of royalties now a blatant dishonouring of past promises?

Second, why is the application of the “three nautical miles” component inconsistent across all peninsular states? Experts go as far as to label the Assignment Deed 1975 unconstitutional and containing serious defects because it failed to specify that Kelantan can only assign to Petronas areas that belonged to it. Even so, why does it apply to Terengganu and now, Pahang who is without question promised the five percent oil royalty for the recent Bertam PM307 discovery 160km (86.3 nautical miles) offshore Kuantan? Terengganu and Pahang too then should rightfully have no claim over portions of gross oil revenues from areas beyond state borders. This is against Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that calls for equal treatment of all and non-discrimination.

Third, what was the initial intention of promising cash payments to the state government? If it was to appease the sovereign states into agreeing to share revenues from their natural resources with the rest of the country, is it fair to dishonour them after making them believe their interests were protected prior to the signing? As it is, annual allocations to state governments are only 8.6 percent of the federal government’s annual budget.

At the end of the day, we conclude that there are two parties using two contending documents; the PDA and the Federal constitution. But what point is there for the claims to be tossed between legal documents, while the reality is the four producing states are amongst the poorest states in Malaysia? Kelantan sees the lowest household income averaging RM2,536 below national average of RM4,025, while Sabah’s incidence of poverty of 19.2% is a stark level above national level of 3.8%.

Have we ever wondered then, if the states would be as willing to sign the PDA 1974 and various petroleum-related agreements vesting rights to Petronas, if not misled into believing that they would be able to enjoy at least some of their natural endowments?

As Plato said, “We deny that laws are true laws unless they are enacted in the interest of the common wealth of the whole state.”

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The Star: All for a good cause Sun, 24 Mar 2013 10:46:46 +0000 The Star 24 Mar 2013 All for a good causeVolunteers who teach under-performing students in their quest to learn, move on and have a better life, need to be saluted for their commitment and determination.

AS THE standard of living of Malaysians improves towards the upper end of the developing status, we start to find cause for volunteerism. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), renowned philosopher in the field of ethics, approached ethical volunteerism in many of his works.

Kant and many others of his time, the defining pillar behind ethical volunteerism is will. Quoting Ali Shariati in his work ideology, Zul Fikri Zamir, co-founder of Teach for The Needs (TFTN) asserts that even if there were 1,000 Aristotles and Platos in Ancient Greece, their social lives can never be improved with no one to act.

Willingness can only come about with undisputed belief in a cause. When one believes in a cause, chances are the resulting efforts and activisms become more sustained.

It is these kinds of will and spirit that TFTN aims to cultivate, enable and leverage upon.

Made up of a group of benevolent young qualified teachers and volunteers, the organisation works on a nimble model of providing free after-school tuition to primary school pupils from underprivileged households.

What TFTN brands as “education activists”, these “teacher-ambassadors” and young volunteers start their own initiatives in their own localities, whether it be staying back after school hours to teach tuition, or to adopt a local orphanage under their care and programme.

A first of its kind, TFTN joins others within the education non-governmental organisations, currently inhabited by the likes of Teach for Malaysia and EduNation.

Addressing different segments via various modus operandi, they have one thing in common; putting on the “concerned citizen” hat in addressing pockets of deficiencies within the Malaysian education system.

Why education?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) is a good starting point to substantiate the works of the likes of TFTN.

Pisa is a recognised tri-annual testing system conducted on 15-year-olds of the 70 over countries that contribute 90% to the global economy. The idea is to assess the efficacy of the respective education systems, in promoting critical and problem-solving skills instead of memorisation amongst their pupils in the reading, Mathematics and Science subjects. Malaysia ranked 55 out of 74 countries, putting it in the bottom 33rd percentile.

In his speech, at TFTN’s inaugural Education Convention held at Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Education Faculty on Dec 8, 2012, Zul Fikri extracted the lessons learnt from the Finnish education system, which emerged top in the survey.

Despite ranking 70th in the preceding surveys, Finland was found to have topped the rank in 2009 after having revamped its schooling systems drastically; by providing total autonomy to schools and doing away with rigid examination systems.

Zul Fikri had at the event addressed the issue of Malaysian school-going children being spoon-fed with the aim of scoring straight As. However they had lost sight of the purpose of learning and going to school, and this resulted in their poor performance in Pisa.

During its sessions with teacher ambassadors and volunteers, TFTN discovered some interesting revelations.

While one teacher picked up the Iban dialect because his students could not converse in Malay, another had to travel three hours to a rural Sarawakian village by boat not to mention an encounter with crocodiles along the way!

One teacher in Banting found herself starting with the letters of the alphabet on a UPSR student! She had to come up with creative techniques with plasticine to ensure that her 12-year-old illiterate student managed to grasp as much as possible.

As educational opportunities correlate significantly with household economic status, strata, and exposure to infrastructure and amenities, sections of the school-going pupils within the system have been identified as “deprived”.

To assist teachers dealing with these children identified as deserving of the “TFTN-experience”, the organisation’s volunteers were then exposed to structured pedagogical approaches to special needs education via esteemed speakers during the convention.

Prof Dr Saedah Siraj was one of them; a known personality in the field of academia, her inputs focused on provision of education for special needs children.

Having experienced major parts of their growth and development within less-conducive households, the former dean of the UM’s Education Faculty stressed that the learning process for special needs children must be designed strategically.

These strategies typically include direct teaching, structuring content to suit the child’s current emotional and morale state, varying activities using the five senses, continuous and interconnected revision exercises, spelling and dictation and, a special focus on behaviours and manners.

Education activism also aims to address the quality issue behind the quantities that form the teaching faculties of Malaysia’s education system.

At the convention, an excellent forum titled Pendidikan Negara brought forth very pertinent trends with regards to the teaching profession.

The quality and efficacy of the teaching faculty for the first time was discussed in a forum of a public nature, not only involving teachers from the government system, but also of observers and Malaysian individuals passionately driving for change to the education system.

The forum efficiently revisited the “choice” issue amongst cohorts of teachers streamed into the government teaching profession; where very many teachers especially of the newer generations did not choose to become teachers in the first place, rather out of lack of choice given limited qualifications.

Edmond Yap, co-founder of EduNation which provides free online education materials, argued that Malaysia cannot afford to gamble its future generation on substandard policies governing the teaching profession.

Dzameer Dzulkifli, co-founder of Teach For Malaysia, eloquently supplemented that the absence of an “exit clause” is especially worrying, in that teachers risk almost no chance of being removed from the classroom due to non-performance.

He added that no other high-performing organisation would keep individuals or teams that didn’t add value but he remains hopeful as the new Malaysia Education Blueprint addresses this.

In the same forum, Zul Fikri shared that TFTN too was founded to share some of this responsibility.

Rather than continuous lamenting, Malaysians should instead take their own effort to fill in whatever gaps that they separately identified to be in need of improvement.

The way forward

Education activism à-la TFTN is premised upon two major components.

One is the levelling of opportunities for underprivileged and troubled pupils. The second is to enable ambassadors, under a supportive ecosystem that supports their initiatives and provides professional input for career-development.

Instead of cascading directives from a central committee in an “outward” fashion, the organisation encourages an “inward” incoming of ideas and initiatives from volunteers themselves. Apart from provision of core tutorial hours with measurable outcomes like academic performance and test scores, this “enabler” role involves providing a platform to teacher-ambassadors in dispersed locations for networking, a symbiosis of idea-sharing and ultimately a sense of belonging.

Alongside Prof Saedah, the convention brought forward Ustazah Khadijah and her proprietary module: Teknik Mendorong Pelajar Corot Gaya Rasulluah which utilises educating-by-example techniques which the holy Prophet Muhammad practised in encouraging troubled pupils.

A major take-away from her workshop was implicit provocation. Rather than outright assertion or scolding, she propagates the use of differentiated reward systems and treatment, which will result in the relatively troubled child questioning these practices.

This has a higher chance of the pupil giving attention when explained to. With professional inputs like this, TFTN hopes to put an extra plus point in the teacher-ambassadors’ resumes, and ultimately enhance their pedagogic experience.

With more and more professionals with no teaching backgrounds coming on board, organisations like TFTN and Teach For Malaysia can also leverage and celebrate their respective specialisation and skills.

In fact, there is a niche yet significant need for professionals to play their roles in bringing up nascent movements like TFTN to its feet.

This is by incorporating their established commercial and corporate-setting methodologies and experiences into things like structuring an organisation chart, establishing a treasury and secretarial function, and designing a performance management system that promotes some extent of accountability and results-driven environment.

Conventions like the TFTN Education Convention 2012 serves as a great platform to collate ideas, conduct annual reviews, and chart goal-driven trajectories.

With teachers and volunteers from vastly different locations and settings coming together, chances are the exercise becomes more realistic and all-encompassing.

Passionately behind the foundation of TFTN, despite being a non-educator, I shared with my fellow volunteers at the convention of the organisation’s achievements for the year 2012 and how TFTN had found a very meaningful place within my heart.

Being a strong proponent of balanced and levelled educational opportunities and equality, I echo TFTN in our stance that specially addressing under-performing pupils typically labelled as “naughty” and “lost cause” by society may just turn out to be the most critical fundamental step in uplifting the economic status of many neglected pockets of the society. I have always believed that education forms the backbone of any society.

The importance of education can never be overemphasised and the lack of it causes instability, rise in poverty and ignorance.

Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.

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The Star: Reaching out to kids Sun, 17 Mar 2013 00:46:49 +0000 TFTN The Star

Uplifting the educational and emotional needs of underprivileged schoolchildren in national schools has become the primary objective of a group of young people in the country.

ABOUT a year ago, a group of young volunteers established Teach for the Needs (TFTN), and as its name well suggests, its raison d’être.

The World Education Forum was held in Dakar, Senegal and 2,000 people subscribed to a goal that by 2015 “all children particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to free and compulsory primary education of good quality”.

While access to basic primary education is not so much a problem in Malaysia, a growing cultural focused on extra tuition classes and costly supplementary books have created a tremendous performance gap between pupils from less fortunate backgrounds and their privileged classmates.

TFTN’s noble purpose is hence to provide an opportunity for primary school pupils, mostly those from less privileged households and orphanages, who are unable to afford commercial tuition like their peers.

The tuition classes, covering subjects ranging from Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics and Science, are provided voluntarily by the young teachers to their pupils at their respective schools.

The classes take place in a small class of up to six pupils for about three hours in a week, after school hours. This eliminates the need to look for transport, classrooms and other logistical arrangements.

Volunteers can be both teachers and non-teachers alike. The teacher-ambassadors contribute by providing free tuition classes at their respective schools, while our non-teacher volunteers assist in providing strategic and administrative support to the organisation.

One might wonder why we chose to use “Needs” in our name instead of Teach For the “Needy” or just “Need”.

The organisation’s aspirations encompass three major premises, which explains the “s” in Teach for the Needs.

The first pillar is premised on the belief that there is a need to provide an opportunity for less fortunate pupils to get an educational experience, at least partially similar to that of their more fortunate peers from privileged households.

There are two major elements that the group has identified to help achieve the said “educational experience”. The first is cognitive or IQ (intelligence quotient) development through extra tuition classes. The second is EQ (emotional quotient) development via interactions and relationship-building with the pupils.

Often households facing financial and familial issues fail to provide these two relevant aspects in a child’s scholastic experience.

The second premise is looking at TFTN as a training ground and opportunity for the young teacher volunteers under the organisation banner to develop their pedagogic skills and confidence as well as to instil the benevolent spirit to help those in need, without expecting material returns.

This stems from our belief that one of the reasons for education inequality in Malaysia is the over-commercialisation of education.

Not only does this enlarge the growing lack of “emotional” input in the teaching profession as a social profession, it also essentially leaves behind pupils who cannot afford to pay for them.

Thirdly, the longer term and qualitative premise that the organisation aims to address is to challenge the stereotype amongst those in Malaysian society, which fail to see that children from less fortunate households too have potential.

These children are often labelled as trouble-makers, lazy and unworthy of attention.

However, TFTN believes these children may have actually been the product of oversight on the part of teachers and society, losing “hope” that they will make it.

Most of them are often left behind and lacking in terms of emotion, affection and basic physical needs, thereby impeding a wholesome educational experience. By getting the focus back to such pupils, those in authority and others will realise that these children too have the potential to be trained.

With this objective in mind, the group aims to provide flexible platform, geared by drivers of change, who would like to renew hopes for such children and the Malaysian education system. TFTN believes that there are many Malaysians who want to help contribute towards education empowerment, so let us be the platform!

A fitting quote by American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In a short period of five months, TFTN has attracted 74 volunteers who are helping the organisation achieve its objectives.

Of that number, 22 have strategic and administrative roles while another 20 are teacher-ambassadors on the field who volunteer at their respective schools.

Non-teacher volunteers are welcomed to participate through facilitating group exercises and extra-classroom teaching at these orphanages.

The group has also adopted two orphanages in Gopeng and Kuantan under our Expansion Programmes with 32 volunteers. The total number of students under TFTN’s care at the moment stands at 150 pupils.

Empirical studies have proven that successful volunteering emerges when the objectives provide opportunities for personal achievement and enable the volunteers to form social bonds.

Volunteers are also driven by incentives such as the feeling of achievement, recognition, the aspiration to give back to the society, and the urge to bring about social change.

Most importantly, TFTN aims to provide a platform for these young volunteers to participate in what we coin as “education activism”, where a common educational goal is strived for, while providing a sense of belonging in a structured, organisational setup.

When TFTN was announced to be “open for business”, these young teachers took to the challenge without hesitation and eagerly offered their free tuition service.

This undoubtedly exhibits the zeal and demand for a platform like TFTN amongst the new breed of educators.

These young volunteers, often speak with passion, of their respective experiences with the less fortunate pupils that they have encountered at least once in their teaching years.

The growing number in the teaching workforce in Malaysia has also helped this overwhelming response.

There are 250,000 primary and 300,000 secondary school teachers serving the educational needs of almost 5.4 million students from government schools. From these numbers, is it not surprising that TFTN has been able to attract its current pool of volunteers in just five months?

As a ready platform for education activism, the organisation aims to expand its volunteer base of teachers, with value propositions focusing on three focus groups. They are pupils, teacher-ambassadors and volunteers.

The first value proposition is to provide tuition, EQ support and organise continuous monitoring for the academic development of its focus group of pupils.

Our second value proposition is the complementary training curriculum for our teacher-ambassadors to supplement and enhance their teaching experiences.

This is not only to strengthen their peda-gogic skills, but also to guide them to professionally tailor their approaches to the organisation’s targeted group of children.

It is hoped that these young teachers would also be education reformers addressing existing problems in the education system throughout their long career.

The third value proposition is the availability of a stable funding base from philanthropic sources, as well as public fund raising for the organisation’s additional welfare programmes.

These are expected to be channelled to volunteers, who will primarily engage in the adoption of welfare houses, orphanages, and relevant initiatives.

Not only will this involve monetary and material donations, these volunteers are also expected to be able to ride on the TFTN platform to provide educational and motivational inputs to less fortunate children and orphans.

From the latest national poverty line study, 3.8% of households are designated as living with household incomes beneath the poverty line. This means that more than 100,000 primary school pupils are eligible for the programme, out of the three million pupils in Malaysia.

Therefore, there is vast opportunity still for a platform like TFTN to serve this group of pupils. As a mid-term target, the organisation aims to cater to 1,500 students, with a force of 300 ambassador-teachers, and five orphanages, by the end of 2017.

“Education is a companion which no future can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, and no nepotism can enslave.”— Ropo Oguntimehin

> The writer is the executive director of Teach For The Needs (TFTN). The above article is the first of a two-part series on the organisation.

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The Star: Raving about Reading Sun, 10 Mar 2013 01:58:50 +0000 The Star 10 Mar 2013 Raving about Reading

The writer stresses the importance of inculcating the reading habit if Malaysia wants to move towards becoming a First World nation.

TO DESTROY an entire community and its idealism, the Nazis had in April 1933 conducted a Biblioclasm, or book burning, to “cleanse” Germany against “the un-German Spirit’. Similarly, in 213 BC, and again when the communist movement found its grounds in what is now the People’s Republic of China, all books on confucianism and writings were burnt.

It is no surprise why books were burnt instead of buildings, houses, mills, orchards and food sources.

Literary purging was arguably one of the primary steps in silencing aspects of culture, ideology, and knowledge, given its ability to encourage deep thought in politics, philosophy and socio-economic changes which may be in opposition to the prevalent regime.

Books can be so powerful that Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “I fear four hostile editors than a thousand bayonets.”

Alongside the obliteration of Baitul Hikmah (the great library and research centre in Baghdad, Iran) by the Mongols almost 800 years ago, these incidents were strong manifestations of the magnanimous role of books in the proliferation of knowledge and human civilisation.

The Quran itself, advocates that one needs to read and write. It is obvious that reading, largely contributed and influenced the thinking of many great scholars of both the ancient and the modern world, and western and eastern civilisations.

Being literate is indeed a remarkable gift and the ability to record history is one of its many consequences. It is simply disheartening that not many details have been recorded by our ancestors. Keeping records

There is still so much that we don’t know about Parameswara and the Malacca Sultanate, its economic governance, the warfare strategy used by Tun Perak, and the validity of Hikayat Hang Tuah, amongst others.

In contrast, China has documented its existence in detail from as far back as 4,000 years ago.

The National Literacy Surveys carried out in 1996 and 2005 by the National Library both concluded that Malaysians on average read only two books per year, as opposed to the Japanese and French, who each read 10 books a year. Leading the pack were the Americans and the Canadians, who each read an average of 17 books a year.

It is unfortunate that Malay-sians are not keen readers.

Intertwined with hedonism, audio-visual and digital-based entertainment, youth and adults alike no longer find pleasure in reading as a pastime or source of entertainment.

One apparent result is that arguments and discourse amongst the adult Malaysian population is now based on unsubstantiated opinions, plagiarised from coffee chats and Facebook status of similar quality.

They lack deep study of contexts and historical records of the subject at hand.

We must firstly understand and accept that a necessary condition for societal advancement and ultimately the improvement of an individual or household’s economic condition is education. Education level correlates with wealth, and at the core of education is reading.

Empirical studies have proven that the quality of life correlates with the number of books read. The top percentile is represented with people who read an average of one book a week or 50 books a year.

The bottom percentile is however represented by people who read less; some still do read but only read tabloid magazines or purely the news. Reading brings significant benefits through virtual experience, knowledge attainment, brain exercise and emotional development.

Jeanne Chall, a Harvard University expert in literacy research argued that there is a mutual exclusive correlation between reading and education.

The more people read, the more educated the person will be and vice-versa.

Reading is the door to experiencing things that one has no access to otherwise. Reading teaches us about the world around us, as we may or may have not seen.

Through reading, one learns about people, places and events outside their own experience.

One is exposed to ways of life, ideas and beliefs about the world, which may be different from one that he or she is surrounded with.

Reading is also the fastest way to attain knowledge, facts and linguistic mastery. With the knowledge acquired, those who read tend to converse and process information better.

It also builds character, sharpens our thinking and widens our awareness in social, economic, political, historical and other issues.

Reading exercises our brains too. Reading is a much more complex task for the human brain than watching television.

For example, reading strengthens brain connections and actually builds new connections.

These result in improvement in concentration for both children and adults alike, as they may be victims of short attention spans. As we read more and more, we get better at it.

There are also psychological and cognitive advantages to reading.

Though too easily stereotyped exclusively as an avenue for IQ (intelligence quotient) development, reading can also be an avenue for EQ (emotional quotient) development.

When we read, our brains translate the descriptions we read of people, places and things into visuals. When we’re engaged in a story, we’re also imagining how the characters are feeling. We use our own experiences to imagine how we would feel in the same situation which would also help us develop empathy.

I recognise the challenges inherent in establishing a reading Malaysian society.

With escalating cost of living especially within a developing nation, Malaysians are pressed to dedicate their time in the pursuit of economic and material wealth. As a result, “there is no time for a book”.

The exorbitant prices of mainstream prints and published books have landed its weight on the problem. Imported titles on paperback can cost a lot.

For the 80% of Malaysian households (total family income) earning less than RM5,000 on average monthly, such prices are prohibitively expensive. It may help if residents establish local community book clubs in their respective neighbourhood.

This way, the burden of high costs of quality reading materials can be shared and it will promote consistency in reading. As American journalist Walter Cronkite said: “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

There is also a worrying trend where there seems to be a lack of love for knowledge. Many Malaysian communities have drowned in the waves of hedonism and individualism, almost “secularising” between reading for the purpose of passing exams, and reading for the sheer thirst and quest for knowledge.

It is true that knowledge these days is only a click away. However, reading establishes an argument and expansive elaboration followed by a proposal or conclusion by an author who is equipped with a background of the subject matter.

This makes reading a superior option to the fragmented bits and pieces of knowledge gained from the Internet and other audio-visual media.

There are some ways to inculcate the reading habit among Malaysians. It can either be through a mind-set change or by encouraging them to start reading from young. Parents have a big role to play in inculcating the reading culture among children so they can grow up into readers and knowledgeable, informed individuals who can easily engage in any intellectual discussion.

A generation improvement will ensure that future generations will continue to read much more.

Do scout for opportunities to acquire books and reading materials at bargains. Book fairs are excellent opportunities to stock up your family’s reading needs for the year.

Used book stores, and specialty book-lending services too will proliferate, once we start creating demand for them. E-books and pdf format files available online are also plausible options to consider.

Set some time everyday for reading; at least 10 minutes. Always carry a book everywhere you go so you can read whenever you have time. Make a list of reading items or themes that you would like to discover or revisit.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychotherapist argued that a society’s culture and mind-set is coded and inherited through the DNA. We can and we will change that.

Changing habits

Datuk Fadilah Kamsah, a local motivator coined the concept of 40 habits where repeating something for 40 times will turn it into a habit.

Habits can change and should be changed! It has been stated in the Quran that the condition of a people can only be changed when they are ready to do so.

The history of First World nations (developed countries) have time and time again shown us how powerful the power of reading and knowledge is in founding civilisations and uplifting societies’ quality of life.

As a developing nation, Malaysia is approaching the last but toughest hurdle in achieving wealth and prosperity; that is a knowledge-based society, driven by intellectuals and thinkers.

This aim requires both the individual and collective effort of all Malaysians. Reading can and will change the fate of our nation.

Let’s inculcate the reading culture among Malaysians, promote a love for knowledge, uplift our socio-economic status and strive for a better Malaysia. Let’s improve our generation and the next.

A popular saying from Confucius states that “no matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance”.

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The Star: The need to fund higher education Sun, 17 Feb 2013 07:05:50 +0000 17 Feb

The government should fund tertiary education to reach out to more citizens and ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the workforce. This will in turn uplift the lot of its people.

EDUCATION was institutionalised to formalise the process of knowledge acquisition and research in man’s quest for understanding.

Some of the earliest universities in the history of mankind namely Al-Azhar (Egypt), Bologna and Naples (Italy), Palencia (Spain), Cambridge and Oxford (United Kingdom), all have one thing in common; they were built by notable early world civilisations as institutions of research, discourse, learning, proliferation of knowledge and documentation.

This contrasts largely from the role of universities today as institutions of human capital accreditation, qualification, and most unfortunately, business and profits.

A system that discriminates based on household economic ability, can and will cause an unhealthy imbalance in the quality of the resulting labour force and society. These form the basis of our argument.

In America, an individual has to get his own funds to pursue higher education, while many European countries have public-funded institutions of higher learning. The latter is the best for Malaysia.

Our societal and economic progression (or digression) does not depend on any one factor, but on the interaction of economic, social and political factors over a long period of time.

Let’s first look at some realities that we need to contend with to understand why the Malaysian government should fund higher education.

● Society benefits from education

We can never truly measure the immense positive externalities derived from an educated society. Outcomes of university education and research continuously found the progress of mankind. In developing Malaysia, higher education is an impetus for establishing a civic-minded society, highly-skilled manpower and competitive value proposition for capital and production. There may be a cost involved as the government’s funding of tertiary eduction will inevitably be included in our taxes, but the consequences for failing to do so can be devastating.

● Income trap

In Malaysia, wage growth caught up with productivity growth up to the late 1990’s. Since 1996, we have been living in the “middle income trap”, stunted at the World Bank’s definition of upper middle income; neither high nor low income. In fact, for the past 10 years real wage growth has been negative. We have a largely unskilled labour force and this means they cannot move up the value chain and command higher salaries.

● Education is fundamental to a competitive value proposition

Another case for education is competitiveness for both foreign direct investment (FDI) and outputs. On the FDI side, our factors of production, in this case labour, needs to be attractive enough. On the output side, our goal to move away from producing lower-value manufacturing and primary goods into the higher-value services sector, have been held back by limited talent and capabilities. Lack of advanced education is one major factor causing this lack of competitiveness.

● Efficiency-driven economy versus Innovation-driven economy

A study released by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) categorises Malaysia as an efficiency-driven economy, behind innovation-driven economies. We focus on improving existing processes, but we are not out there inventing new things where the big money is.

Focusing on the latter is extremely important now for Malaysia, because we can no longer offer very cheap labour, land and factories to produce mass generic products competitively. The number of researchers in Malaysia for one million people is only 365, behind Japan’s 5,416 and South Korea’s 4,231. We are in dire need of more trained professionals and innovators.

● Education is an investment

Like parents investing in their children’s future, the state must invest in its population for the future of the nation. An educated society will inevitably have a higher standard of living because of higher income, production of high value goods and services, longer life expectancy, subscription to civic and moral values, political stability, existence of civil liberties and openness to change and development. While highly developed nations like Denmark and the Netherlands invest 11.2% and 10.8% respectively of GDP in education, we invested only 4.8% last year.

Currently, about 80% of the bottom 40% income households are only-SPM qualified and below, while only 5% received higher education. The rest never made it to school at all.

The reason is crystal clear; it is education that can lift households into higher income thus significantly reducing poverty and its consequences. If this group were to receive higher education, it is the state that ultimately benefits as social capital is returned from the household to the state in increased production and tax income. Social justice is served; while nobody is left discriminated or neglected from being given an opportunity to develop his or her own merits.

● A positive net return-on-investment

Entertain this simple simulation: Consider a fresh graduate entering the workforce with a salary of RM2,500, working for 30 years with a modest increment of 5% a year. Upon retiring at the age of 55 years, he would have paid back at least RM290,000 to the government only in income taxes. Even after discounting, payback in taxes is significantly beyond the investment cost providing education.

● Education correlates with wealth and income

Tertiary-educated individuals have an average of RM182,000 in wealth to their name, while SPM holders have only an average RM82,000 in net worth. Degree holders have at least 2.2 times the wealth of SPM leavers. But the tertiary education penetration rate for Malaysia stands at only 36.5%. This is only measured at point of enrolment (not completion)! Not only we are significantly behind “very high human development” nations’ average of 75%, we are also behind “high human development” nations’ average of 50%. Education will reduce income inequality

Malaysia ranks as the third most unequal nation in Asia, based on a GINI coefficient of 0.4621 (World Bank). Using only GINI, a simple measure of dispersion between the richest and poorest in an economy, we can already see that there are structural problems with the kind of growth that we have been enjoying. A household that earns RM10,000 monthly and above is already considered the top 4% Malaysian households! 60% of the highest-earning income households have at least one member that received tertiary-level education. But 60% of the lowest-earning households have only SPM-holders as their most qualified household member. Not coincidentally, only the top 20% income households in Malaysia have experienced substantial income growth. For the remaining 80% it has been moderate. The gap between the rich and poor has been consistently growing from year 1970 until today. Only non-discriminatory access to education for the bottom 40% will arrest the growth of this gap.

We expect free access to education to allow inter-generational mobility and narrow this inequality gap. If we let economic disability become a prohibitive factor for education, relatively poorer households will never be lifted out of the low-income bracket.

● One graduate for every Malaysian family

We need an education system that is inclusive, does not neglect academically-struggling yet vocationally-advantaged pupils, matches industry requirements, yet streams students into disciplines where they will excel most. Most importantly, the system must not allow students to find themselves at the point of entering the industry, handicapped with a student loan on their shoulders, only to realise that they are not employable.

Malaysia has progressed in many aspects by making primary and secondary education free. 100% of Malaysians finish at least Year Six and 68% finish Form Five. The current socio and economic condition in Malaysia now calls to make finishing Form Five legally compulsory, and providing free and accessible tertiary education for all.

I urge the government, non-governmental bodies, policy-makers, and lobby groups to move towards providing free tuition fees for higher education at all our public universities. Where public universities are unable to cater for all qualified students, perhaps the same quantum of funds should be provided to private universities in a staggered manner, so as to ensure that education is accessible to all.

I also propose that there should be at lest one graduate in each of the 6.4 million Malaysian households to ensure inter-generational mobility; that is for at least one child of a fisherman or low-salaried factory worker so as to uplift the entire family which will enable them to move on to the higher income bracket. A graduate in each family will be the change-agent who will ensure that his generation improves the lot of the family. Education is far too important for us to risk any mismanagement, oversight and underfunding. The generations that go through a robustly managed quality education system, will ultimately decide Malaysia’s direction and the society that we will live in. Only then can we fundamentally assure that all layers of society can enjoy a high income — not just the top 1%. Let us reflect what Nelson Mandela said for a better Malaysia! “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

The writer is a professional who works in the oil and gas sector. He is pursuing a post-graduate doctorate and is the executive director of Teach For The Needs (TFTN). Data and figures in this article were derived from EPU, DOSM, HIS 2009, HDR 2011, World databank and BNM. For details, please refer to BLINDSPOT (

]]> Biografi Mohd Zain bin Abu (1923-2009) Fri, 01 Feb 2013 03:29:58 +0000 Atok dan Nenek



MOHD. ZAIN BIN ABU (1923-2009)


Haji Mohd. Zain Abu menjalani kehidupan yang cukup ringkas. Dari seorang kanak-kanak kampung biasa, beliau telah mempertingkatkan dan memperbaiki kehidupan beliau serta keluarga kepada sebuah keluarga berpendapatan kelas pertengahan. Kepercayaan kukuh beliau terhadap pentingnya pendidikan telah menjadi pemangkin utama dalam hal ini. Hingga ke detik-detik akhir kehidupannya, beliau masih gigih menguasai bahasa Arab dan mendalami kitab suci Al-Quran.

Biografi ringkas beliau ini, yang sebenarnya sebanyak sedikit boleh dianggap kisah Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) sendiri, merupakan suatu percubaan untuk mengimbau kenangan dan sejarah kehidupan beliau. Beliau dikenali sebagai ‘Orang Berita’ walaupun beliau menghabiskan sebahagian besar masanya di balik meja editorial dan bukannya di hadapan mikrofon.

Nama Haji Mohd. Zain Abu akan sentiasa terpahat di dalam memori mereka yang mengenalinya sebagai seorang yang berkarisma, peramah, rendah diri, bersikap positif, ringan tulang dan mudah bergaul dengan sesiapa sahaja tanpa mengira status.  Sehingga akhir usianya beliau sering melawat ke rumah anak-anak dan cucu-cucunya untuk mengambil tahu mengenai perkembangan ahli keluarganya dengan penuh minat. Beliau akan menanyakan khabar dan pasti akan menawarkan bantuan jika terdapat sebarang masalah yang dihadapi ahli keluarganya. Di antara pesanan terakhir beliau adalah i) pendidikan adalah perkara paling penting dan wajib diutamakan ii) elakkan permusuhan dengan sesiapa pun dan iii) jadilah manusia yang bermanfaat.

Di samping itu Zain Abu yang dikenali sebagai ‘Orang Berita’ yang melaporkan hal-hal antarabangsa dan tempatan, isteri beliau pula menjadi gedung maklumat perihal keluarga. Hajah Siti Hajar rajin menelefon semua ahli keluarga untuk bertukar khabar dan maklumat. Tanpa sengaja, beliau menjadi pusat pertukaran maklumat keluarga. Anak-anak hanya perlu menelefon Hajah Hajar dan maklumat pasti akan disampaikan kepada semua ahli keluarga yang besar ini. Beliau adalah seorang yang penyayang dan sukakan haiwan peliharaan; pernah suatu ketika terdapat lebih dari 20 ekor kucing di rumahnya! Sungguhpun begitu, Zain adalah seorang suami yang sangat penyayang dan tidak pernah kenal erti lelah dalam membahagiakan isterinya walaupun ia bermaksud memastikan minat serta hobi isterinya diteruskan. Jika tidak kelihatan dari pertuturannya pasti kelihatan dari sikap dan pengorbanannya.

Semoga Allah S.W.T. mencucuri RahmatNya ke atas beliau suami-isteri dan meletakkan mereka bersama para-para salihin di Jannatul Firdaus.


Haji Mohd. Zain Abu, atau Zain Abu kepada rakan-rakannya, dilahirkan sebagai Talip bin Abu pada 16 September, 1923 di Telok Panglima Garang, Selangor. Beliau merupakan anak ketiga kepada Abu bin Jaamat (1895-1956) dan Tijah bte Jalal (1900-1982). Ibu bapanya merupakan orang kampung yang biasa. Sungguhpun begitu, mereka mempunyai impian dan cita-cita besar untuk anak-anak mereka. Telok Panglima Garang, atau lebih dikenali sebagai Telok oleh penduduk tempatan, merupakan sebuah pekan kecil yang terpencil, didiami oleh kebanyakannya orang Melayu berketurunan Bugis. Datuknya Jaamat, telah merantau ke Tanah Melayu di mana bapanya Abu dilahirkan.

Anak-anak beliau menggelar beliau Babah. Bagi anak-anak saudaranya dari sebelah keluarga beliau, beliau ialah Pak Alang. Manakala di sebelah keluarga isterinya pula, beliau digelar Pak Bibik. Isterinya, yang selesa berbahasa Inggeris pula, dengan penuh segan silunya menggelar beliau ‘Daddy’.

Beliau mempunyai enam orang adik-beradik lelaki dan dua orang adik-beradik perempuan. Mereka adalah Mohd. Diah, Mohd. Wahi, Mohd. Shahar,

Hendon, Maitom, Jamaluddin Jamlus, Ariffin, dan Mohd. Said. Adiknya, sama ada Mohd. Shahar atau Ariffin, sangat mirip dan hampir tidak dapat dibezakan paras rupa dengan beliau.  Untuk membezakan mereka, telinga kanan Zain Abu bertindik kecil yang hanya kelihatan oleh mereka yang benar-benar meneliti. Mohd. Shahar meninggal pada umur lewat 40’an,  manakala Ariffin meninggal dunia pada usia muda.

Pendidikan telah memainkan peranan yang sangat penting dalam kehidupan Zain Abu. Beliau pernah menceritakan bagaimana beliau dan dua orang abangnya, Mohd. Diah dan Mohd. Wahi, akan tetap pergi ke sekolah walaupun terpaksa berkaki ayam. Sebagai adik ketiga, dialah yang ditugaskan menjunjung dulang bungkusan makanan tengahari mereka di atas kepalanya.


Titik tolak kejayaan Zain Abu adalah ketika beliau dihantar ke Sekolah Rendah Batu Road di Kuala Lumpur. Zain Abu berjaya mendapat tempat terbaik di dalam kelas dan ditawarkan biasiswa secara peribadi oleh pegawai Resident British untuk menyambung persekolahan ke peringkat menengahnya di Victoria Institution (VI). Ketika itu, VI terletak di High Street, Kuala Lumpur, sebelum dipindahkan ke Jalan Shaw. Beliau juga mewakili VI dengan kebolehannya bermain bola sepak, suatu bakat yang malangnya tidak diwarisi oleh anak-anak lelaki beliau. Dua orang daripada anak-anak lelakinya, Abdullah Faiz dan Ahmad Faizal, telah mengikuti jejak langkah beliau apabila turut bersekolah di VI. Beliau adalah ahli seumur hidup Persatuan Murid Tua VI (Life member VI Old Boys Association).

Beliau telah lulus Sijil ‘Senior Cambridge’ dengan cemerlang dan ditawarkan berkhidmat di Akhbar Harian Majlis, sebuah akhbar tempatan. Di sinilah tempat bermulanya beliau berkenalan dengan bakal bapa mentuanya, Haji Othman bin Haji Abdullah, yang memainkan peranan penting dalam mencorakkan masa hadapan Zain Abu.

Haji Othman (1905 – 1968) merupakan cucu peniaga terkenal Melayu di Kuala Lumpur, Haji Muhammad Taib bin Haji Abdul Samad (1858 – 1925), yang berasal dari Batu Sangkar di kawasan Minangkabau, Sumatera Barat. Haji Mohd. Taib ialah seorang peniaga kelahiran Sumatera yang berpengaruh. Beliau juga merupakan salah seorang ahli jawatankuasa Masjid Jamek, salah satu masjid paling bersejarah yang terletak di kuala Sungai Klang dan Gombak. Sebagai pengiktirafan sumbangan beliau kepada pembangunan Kuala Lumpur, sebuah jalan di Kuala Lumpur telah dinamakan sempena nama beliau. Haji Othman gagal dimasukkan ke VI oleh kerana usianya yang lanjut. Lanjutan itu, bapanya, Haji Abdullah (1886 – 1945), telah menghantar beliau ke Mekah untuk meneruskan pengajian dalam jurusan agama.  Beliau kemudian berhijrah ke Kaherah, Paris, dan London dalam tahun 20-an di mana beliau berkesempatan bersua dengan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Syed Sheh Barakbah, dan juga tokoh tersohor kelahiran Indonesia, Drs. Mohd. Hatta. Hal ini menjadikan beliau seorang yang fasih berbahasa Inggeris, Perancis, dan Arab, selain daripada bahasa ibundanya.

Haji Othman telah melibatkan diri dalam pentadbiran dan pengurusan, serta dengan sendirinya membiayai akhbar ‘Seruan Azhar’ di pertengahan 20-an. Sekembalinya beliau ke Malaya, beliau melibatkan diri dalam kegiatan politik dan penerbitan. Beliau aktif dalam Persatuan Melayu Selangor dan Kesatuan Melayu Muda. Pihak pentadbiran Jepun ketika itu juga telah memberikan kebenaran kepada beliau untuk terus menguruskan Majlis, iaitu akhbar yang lazimnya dianggap sebagai pro-British. Beliau turut dibenarkan untuk menerbitkan ‘Perubahan Baru’ pada tahun 1942 setelah penerbitan ‘Majlis’ dihentikan.

Namun begitu, hanya setelah berlalunya Perang Dunia Kedua, dalam tempoh lewat 40-an inilah, bakal menantu beliau, Zain Abu, diberi peluang untuk mendalami jurusan kewartawanan di London, England selama sembilan bulan. Zain Abu telah dibiayai oleh Akhbar Harian Majlis untuk mengikuti kursus   bidang kewartawanan di School of Publishing, Foreign Language Department, London Polytechnic di Fleet Street. Sehingga kini, Fleet Street merupakan nadi media dan percetakan akhbar sedunia. Biasiswanya bernilai Pound Sterling 26, dan beberapa Shilling sahaja, ketika itu.

Zain Abu tiba di United Kingdom pada 15 September, 1949, satu hari sebelum hari jadinya yang ke-26. Beliau mendapat latihan kewartawan sewaktu Britain menghadapi pilihan raya umum pada bulan Februari 1950. Pada bulan March 1950, Wong Peng Soon dari Malaya telah mengalahkan Poul Holm dari Denmark di Earl’s Court, London dalam pertandingan akhir keseorangan All England Badminton Open Championships. Sebuah mesyuarat telah diadakan menyambut Maulud Nabi Islamic Cultural Society  di London pada 30 Disember, 1949. Beliau juga telah merekodkan mesyuarat umum Kesatuan Melayu Great Britain (Malay Students’ Organisation of Great Britain) apabila Tun Abdul Razak Hussein dilantik presiden pada keesokan hari pada 31 Disember, 1949. 16 June, 1950 merupakan tarikh akhir pengajian beliau di School of Printing, Fleet Street, London. Semua perkara ini dicatat secara terperinci dalam diarinya.

Dalam tempoh itu, disamping berhubung dengan Haji Othman Abdullah yang kemungkinan besar merupakan mentornya, Zain Abu kerap juga berutus surat dengan bakal isterinya, Siti Hajar bte Othman. Mengikut catatan diarinya, Siti Hajar mengirim surat satu atau dua minggu sekali. Beliau kemudian berkahwin dengan Siti Hajar pada 29 September, 1951. Lazimnya, kumbang menyunting bunga melalui ibunya, tetapi Zain Abu telah melakukannya dengan cara mendampingi bapa mentuanya!

Hajah Siti Hajar yang dilahirkan pada 11 Disember, 1929, telah dibesarkan di tengah-tengah kota Kuala Lumpur. Siti Hajar merupakan puteri golongan aristokrat yang suka dimanjakan oleh nindanya. Beliau sering meriwayatkan kisah-kisah perit zaman kanak-kanaknya di mana bom-bom yang dilepaskan oleh pihak Jepun dari langit ketika itu seperti ‘buah cermai.’ Selepas Perang Dunia Kedua berakhir, beliau meneruskan persekolahan peringkat menengah di Sekolah Perempuan Bukit Bintang (Bukit Bintang Girls’ School) di Kuala Lumpur, yang ketika itu terletak berhampiran dengan rumahnya di Jalan Kemuning, Daerah Pudu. Sebagai seorang yang berpendidikan, penguasaan bahasa Inggerisnya sering mengagumkan ramai pihak.


Zain Abu memulakan kehidupan berkeluarganya di Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Siti Hajar berasal dari keluarga yang besar; sanak saudaranya ramai yang ketika itu menetap di kawasan Pudu dan daerah Petaling di Selangor. Cahaya mata sulung mereka, Muhammad, dilahirkan pada tahun 1952 tetapi telah pulang ke pangkuan penciptanya sejurus kemudian. Alhamdulillah, mereka kemudiannya dikurniakan dengan enam orang anak iaitu Faizah (1953), Abdullah Faiz (1955), Ahmad Faizal (1956), Alam Faizli (1958), Azam Fairuz (1962), dan Azad Faizlin (1963). Kesemuanya telah dilahirkan di Kuala Lumpur dan Petaling Jaya, Selangor, kecuali Alam Faizli yang telah dilahirkan di Dungun, Terengganu ketika Zain Abu diarahkan bertugas di Bukit Besi oleh majikannya, Eastern Mining and Metal Company.

Walaupun tugas dan tanggungjawab membawanya dari Kuala Lumpur ke Kuantan, Bukit Ibam, Bukit Besi dan Kota Bharu, Zain Abu telah memastikan ketiga-tiga anaknya yang masih melalui alam persekolahan menetap dan bersekolah di Petaling Jaya. Beliau sekeluarga akhirnya berpindah ke Jalan Sentosa, Petaling Jaya pada tahun 1962/63.  Zain Abu sekeluarga kemudiannya berpindah ke Bukit Petaling, Kuala Lumpur sehingga tahun 1978 dan akhirnya mendiami rumah beliau sendiri di Taman Tun Dr Ismail.


Zain Abu telah menyumbangkan khidmatnya kepada Eastern Mining and Metal Company (EMMCO) dari lewat 50-an sehinggalah ke pertengahan 60-an, di beberapa lokasi termasuklah Bukit Besi, Bukit Ibam dan Rompin. Menariknya, beliau telah meninggalkan kerjayanya di EMMCO di saat produktiviti EMMCO ketika itu sedang memuncak. Hal ini bertitik tolak dari naluri beliau yang semakin cenderung ke arah bidang kewartawanan, di mana bakat beliau telah terlatih dan minat beliau semakin menggunung. EMMCO telah memberhentikan operasinya pada bulan Oktober, 1970.

Kerjaya Zain Abu dalam penyiaran radio sebagai penyunting berita dengan Radio Malaya bermula di Kuantan, Pahang. Di Kuantan, isterinya turut sempat bertugas sebagai juruhebah radio buat seketika. Pada sekitar tahun 1963, beliau dipindahkan ke ibu pejabat Radio Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur yang ketika itu ditempatkan di Federal House. Antara kenalan rapat beliau ialah Zainal Alam dan Datuk S.M. Salim. Kebetulan pula, Datuk S. M. Salim adalah jiran semasa di Petaling Jaya.

Zain Abu sentiasa mengikuti dan terbabit dalam acara-acara kebangsaan mahupun antarabangsa. Pada tahun 1955, sebelum berkhidmat dengan Radio Malaya lagi, beliau telah berada di lokasi di Baling, Kedah untuk melaporkan peristiwa Tunku Abdul Rahman menyeru kepada Chin Peng untuk menyerah kalah. Apabila beliau ingin menemubual Chin Peng, mikrofon di tangan beliau dirampas kasar oleh konco Chin Peng. Pada pertengahan tahun 2000, ketika beliau ditanya berkenaan isu kepulangan Chin Peng ke Malaysia, Zain Abu dengan ringkas, jelas dan tanpa ragu-ragu menyatakan, “Chin Peng harus ditembak mati.”

Selain itu, beliau telah turut menemuramah tokoh sejarah Sarawak, Abang Haji Openg, semasa pembentukan Persekutuan Malaysia serta meliputi peristiwa 13 Mei, 1969 secara meluas. Antara portfolio kewartawanannya di peringkat antarabangsa termasuklah Sidang Kemuncak (Islamic Summit Conference) Pertubuhan Negara-negara Islam (Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC)) di Lahore, Pakistan pada tahun 1974 dan Mekah dan Ta’if, Saudi Arabia pada tahun 1981.

Lawatan rasmi Tun Hussein Onn, Perdana Menteri Malaysia ke-tiga, ke Turki pada tahun 1980 juga telah diliputi oleh Zain Abu. Secara kebetulan pula, sebelum itu, Zain Abu telah sempat bersua dengan bapa Tun Hussein Onn, Dato’ Sir Onn bin Jaafar yang juga seorang wartawan, semasa beliau giat bercampur dengan Haji Othman di kalangan rakan-rakan politik.

Walaupun beliau lebih dikenali sebagai penyunting berita, Zain Abu sempat ditugaskan untuk menyampaikan rancangan “Arena Sukan” buat seketika setiap petang Sabtu, iaitu sekitar tahun 1959, sebelum tugasnya diambil alih oleh Datuk Rahim Razali, salah seorang pengacara berita sukan tersohor di Malaysia.

Zain Abu pernah menyebut bahawa beliau terbabit dalam penulisan lirik untuk “Polis Sedia Berkhidmat,” iaitu lagu rasmi angkatan Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) (Melainkan ada pihak yang dapat mempertikai kesahihan kenyataan beliau ini, kenyataan ini akan dianggap sahih dan beliau merupakan penulis rasmi lagu terbabit kerana ketiadaan sebarang catatan rasmi yang mendakwa sebaliknya). Kreativiti dan bakat penulisan lirik beliau tidak terhenti di situ. Beliau juga telah menulis lirik “Perkumpulan Perempuan” untuk lagu rasmi Institut Wanita (Women’s Institute), Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.


Zain Abu merupakan seorang yang celik secara teknikalnya. Beliau berjiwa kreatif dalam bidang fotografi dan sinematografi. Beliau telah merakam keluarganya menggunakan kamera filem 8mm dan akan menghimpun ahli keluargnya untuk tayangan khas yang sentiasa menyeronokkan.

Asal-usul beliau sebagai ‘anak kampung’ turut menjurus minat beliau dalam kegiatan hortikultur dan bercucuk tanam, suatu minat yang malang sekali tidak menurun kepada anak-anak beliau. Beliau cukup gemar  bereksperimentasi dengan pelbagai jenis spesis buah-buahan yang baru, dengan dorongan dan perkongsian minat di kalangan teman-teman beliau di Kolej Pertanian Malaya di Serdang, Selangor.

Zain Abu pernah cuba berkecimpung dalam perusahaan telur dan ayam ternak pada tahun 60-an. Sebaik sahaja projek beliau itu mula membuahkan bibit-bibit hasil, beliau terpaksa meninggalkan projek itu kerana tanah Haji Othman di daerah Petaling yang digunakan untuk penternakan ketika itu terpaksa dijual. Beliau juga mencuba menternak ikan tetapi perusahaan perikanannya juga terpaksa dihentikan. Jelas sekali beliau tidak akan melepaskan apa sahaja peluang yang berkaitan dengan tanah.


Sebagai seorang wartawan, Zain Abu merupakan individu yang cukup mementingkan kesempurnaan yang luar biasa. Beliau cukup teliti dan peka dalam penggunaan bahasa, yakni bahasa Melayu mahupun Inggeris. Tidak sekalipun beliau duduk beramai-ramai bersama ahli keluarga menonton televisyen di ruang tamu, tanpa menyuarakan ketidak puasan hatinya terhadap kepincangan penggunaan tatabahasa oleh penyampai berita,  berita sukan, dan pelakon drama. Beliau sering mengambil peluang membetulkan kesilapan-kesilapan itu sambil menjelaskan penggunaan yang betul kepada mereka di sekelilingnya.

Ketika Malaysia beralih kepada penggunaan Bahasa Baku, beliau berpendapat bahawa negara ini telah tidak menggunakannya dengan betul. Ejaan baru hanyalah baik sebagai langkah memudahkan bahasa. Itu tidak bermakna sebutan Bahasa Melayu perlu ditukarkan meniru Bahasa Indonesia. Menurut beliau lagi, maksud sebenar Bahasa Baku itu bukanlah terletak pada cara sebutan, tetapi pada penekanan terhadap penggunaan bahasa, tatabahasa dan ejaan yang betul.

Beliau pernah menegur kaedah penggunaan huruf ‘RM’ di kalangan rakyat Malaysia untuk menggambarkan unit mata wang bagi Ringgit Malaysia. Hujahnya, Amerika tidak pernah menyebut ‘USD’ di hadapan 1,000 untuk menyatakan seribu Dollar, sepertimana Indonesia tidak menyebut ‘Rp’ sebelum 10,000 untuk menggambarkan mata wang Indonesia 10,000 Rupiah. Menurut beliau, abjad RM sekadar simbol untuk membezakan Ringgit Malaysia dengan matawang lain. Beliau menyarankan, sebagai contoh, sebutan betul adalah ‘1,000 Ringgit’ dan bukannya ‘1,000 RM’.

Begitu juga dengan penamaan bandar yang baru dibangunkan di daerah Kajang, Selangor, yang berdekatan dengan Bangi atau Bangi Lama. Bandar itu sepatutnya di namakan Bandar Bangi Baru dan bukan Bandar Baru Bangi. Hujahnya mudah sahaja; kalau ada bandar Bangi Lama, maka sepatutnya adalah bandar Bangi Baru, dan bukan Bandar Baru Bangi.

Beliau pernah menulis surat kepada Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) pada tahun 1985 berkaitan dengan penyalahgunaan istilah oleh DBP. DBP mengaku  penggunaan istilah ‘kereta roda’ dan ‘penyusunan teknik’ untuk ‘wheelchair’ dan ‘technical depreciation’ masing-masing adalah kesilapan teknik. DBP berjanji akan memperbaiki penggunaan istilah ‘kerusi roda’ dan ‘penyusutan teknik’ dalam senarai baru apabila dibukukan. Beliau juga mempertikaikan penggunaan istilah ‘kabinet’ untuk ‘jemaah menteri’, ‘detektif’ untuk ‘mata-mata gelap’ antara lain. Begitulah telitinya, penyunting berita ini.

Zain Abu cukup gemar dengan peristiwa-peristiwa bersejarah dunia. Pada 20 Julai, 1969, beliau membawa anak-anaknya ke Bangunan AIA di Jalan Ampang, untuk menonton liputan secara langsung pendaratan Neil Armstrong di bulan. Ketika bertugas untuk liputan rancangan “Arena Sukan” di TV Malaysia, anak-anaknya akan turut dibawa bersama, menonton acara golf, lumba kereta di Litar Batu Tiga berhampiran Shah Alam dan tidak ketinggalan, Piala Merdeka di Stadium Merdeka.

Beliau juga peminat radio bergelombang pendek (shortwave), menala stesen-stesen radio asing pada waktu malam, seperti BBC dan VOA. Kesungguhan minat beliau terhadap radio, berita dan media pengetahuan amat memberi kesan dalam pendidikan dan perawakan anak-anak beliau. Rumah mereka langsung tidak pernah kekurangan bahan-bahan bacaan, sama ada dalam bentuk surat khabar, majalah, ensiklopedia, mahupun buku-buku.


Zain Abu bersara pada tahun 1978 sebagai penyunting berita kanan, tetapi diminta terus bekerja secara kontrak dengan Radio Televisyen Malaysia sehingga usianya mencecah 70 tahun. Hal ini membuka peluang untuk beliau menyambung kembali hobi hortikultur beliau dengan lebih serius. Dua bidang tanah di Telok dan Pulau Indah tinggalan kedua orang tuanya gigih diusahakan; dengan kelapa sawit, nenas, dan pokok gaharu. Jelas sekali perwatakan beliau yang lazimnya disebut oleh orang Melayu sebagai tidak boleh duduk diam.

Sepulangnya dari mengerjakan ibadah haji di Tanah Suci bersama isterinya pada tahun 1992, Haji Zain, atau lebih mesra dikenali sebagai Abang Zain oleh sahabat-sahabat qariahnya, menjadi semakin cenderung dan rapat dengan Masjid Al-Taqwa di Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Kuala Lumpur. Masjid yang pada sejarah awalnya merupakan masjid yang ringkas dan sederhana pada tahun 70-an, kini merupakan salah sebuah masjid yang sangat terkenal dan aktif di kawasan terbabit. Zain Abu merupakan salah seorang pengikut utama halaqah-halaqah pengajian ‘tafsir’, komentar Al-Quran serta pembelajaran bahasa Arab. ‘Usrah’ beliau bermula sejurus usai solat Subuh dan berakhir dengan sesi teh tarik beserta roti canai di gerai-gerai mamak berdekatan. Waktu malam beliau turut dihabiskan di masjid.

Beliau meninggalkan kehidupan duniawi yang sementara ini untuk bertemu Yang Maha Esa pada 1 DzulQaedah, 1430 Hijrah (bersamaan 20 Oktober, 2009) dalam usia 86 tahun. Pemergian beliau pada jam 10.00 pagi selepas hampir 4-6 bulan berjuang menempuhi penyakit telah disaksikan oleh isteri beliau, Hajah Siti Hajar, di rumah anak perempuannya, Faizah, di Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. Pemergian tersebut cukup sukar untuk Hajah Siti Hajar yang terpaksa melepaskan pergi, suami tercinta dan pasangan hidupnya. Tiga tahun kemudian pada 1 Rabiul Awal, 1434 Hijrah (bersamaan 13 Januari, 2013) beliau menghembuskan nafas terakhirnya menuruti Allahyarham suaminya, pada usia 83 tahun, di rumahnya di Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Allahyarham Haji Mohd. Zain Abu dan Allahyarham Hajah Siti Hajar telah disemadikan di Tanah Perkuburan Islam Bukit Kiara. Mereka meninggalkan enam orang cahaya mata, 33 orang cucu, dan 9 orang cicit.  Mereka berdua telah menjalani kehidupan rumah tangga yang bersederhana tetapi cukup bahagia, selama 61 tahun. Semoga Allah memberkati roh mereka dan meletakkan mereka di kalangan orang-orang yang bertaqwa di Syurga-Nya, al-JannatunNaim. Al-Fatihah. Amiin.

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Talisman Newsletter: Oct 2012: Education Volunteerism via TFTN Mon, 01 Oct 2012 08:39:14 +0000 Talisman Newsletter Issue 02 2012

On March 1, a group of young volunteers established Teach for the Needs (TFTN), an online community to provide an opportunity for the less fortunate pupils to experience better education, at least partially similar to that of their more fortunate peers from privileged households. Currently 3.8% of the 3 million students in schools fall below the poverty line and the TFTN programme caters to this group.

The aim is to increase cognitive or IQ development via extra tuition classes.

The second is EQ development via emotional interactions and relationship building with the pupils. Often households facing financial and familial issues fail to provide these two relevant aspects in a child’s scholastic experience, to supplement formal education from attending schools.

En. Anas Alam Faizli, Projects department, Project Coordinator at Talisman Malaysia sits on the board of 5 members who facilitate TFTN. He was involved in the formal incorporation and structuring for the startup organisation of 120 volunteers. This involved charting of organisational strategy, policies, operating procedures and matters relating to partnerships with related bodies, promotional activities and fund-raising.

He helped design and maintain structured evaluation tools to monitor the students’ test results and structured a database of non-teacher volunteers. Comparative research and analysis of education system and tools is also under the purview of this department.

“We have 74 volunteers and 20 are teacher-ambassadors who teach for free. By getting society’s focus back to these pupils, people will realise these children too have got potentials to be developed,” said En. Anas.

“Volunteers are constantly sought and financial support is also key in helping the programme reach out to more children. Currently, we have 150 children under our programme.”

As a target, TFTN aims to cater to 1,500 students, with a force of 300 ambassador-teachers and work with 5 orphanages by the end of 2017. So, to our colleagues at Talisman, En. Anas is part of a noble cause.

Your support whether through volunteerism or donations could aid the mission. Let’s see how we can help out.

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Interview with Talisman Newsletter Fri, 14 Sep 2012 05:47:33 +0000 Questions for Mr Anas Alam Faizli

 1.     State which department you work in (Talisman) and job title

Projects department, Project Coordinator

2.     What’s your involvement in Teach For The Needs (TFTN)?

I am one of the five of the organization’s board of trustees and I’m in charge of policy and research. As non-teacher volunteer, I pioneered the formal incorporation and structuring for the startup organization of 120 volunteers. This involves charting of organizational strategy, policies, operating procedures and matters relating to partnerships with related bodies, promotional activities and fund-raising. Specifically, I design and maintain structured evaluation tools to monitor our students’ test results and manage a database of non-teacher volunteers.

3.     On average, how much time do you spend in offering your service to the community?

I define serving the community as a perpetual consciousness over community issues and one’s surroundings, as well as a continuous commitment to causes that you have chosen to pursue. Thus, I don’t consider myself serving a specific number of hours to serve the community, rather as and when there is need and opportunity for me to conduct meetings, discuss, pitch or write on TFTN. These are usually conducted in the evenings or during the weekends.

4.     What inspired you to be part of TFTN?

I have always been personally concerned with two overbearing issues which are; (1) Equal opportunities and Inclusiveness for all and (2) Efficient use of Malaysia’s vast resources (mainly petroleum). I believe Malaysia can be more efficient at managing and ensuring the distribution of its wealth, which can only stem from a fair distribution of opportunities for the population. This is impossible to achieve, if gaps in opportunities exist even at the primary education level. TFTN aims to directly address the issue by providing out-of-school tuition, which is now a “must” for Malaysian school children to succeed in public examinations, to less-fortunate students. Roughly 3.0 percent of the 3.0 million primary school-going pupils in Malaysia fall under this category; with household incomes below the poverty line. Made of a team of benevolent, young, qualified teachers who commit to these tuition classes without monetary compensation, I was inspired to support them administratively and strategically. TFTN is a very nimble modeI, providing a platform for teacher-volunteers across the nation to ride on, and independently contribute in their own local schools and communities. I believe TFTN’S flexibility can be successfully implemented nationwide on a larger basis, once we get funding and direction sorted.

5.     Will you encourage your colleagues to be part of TFTN? How can they contribute if they are interested?

I would encourage fellow colleagues to be part of any cause such as TFTN. Every individual’s involvement or commitment, whether time, monetary or effort, is important in creating further awareness amongst the Malaysian professional circles. If interested, TFTN really welcome contributions to our funds, which mainly finances educational materials for tuition classes, as well as training and development programs as TFTN’s value add for our teacher volunteers. It is also a focus of TFTN now to recruit more qualified public school teachers to volunteer with our cause. Colleagues with family members, relatives or acquaintances, who are teachers, are encouraged to recommend and promote TFTN’s cause.

6.     People rarely do community service on their own and it’s usually with the initiative of an organization or a company that employees get involve. If an individual is keen on doing something for the community, how do they start?

Here are my suggestions: Step one is to consider the cause that you are most interested in and are very concerned with. Interest and suitability of the cause to your personal views and principles, is important in ensuring continued interest and commitment on your part. Step two is to either start, or commit to an existing organization. Working in concert is always better than working alone; they drive you and expand your network indirectly. Step three is to identify close friends, your spouse, or your close relatives to share your cause to allow continuous discussions and consciousness. Lastly, have a Facebook account, if you don’t already have one. Conversations, sharing, information dissemination and event organizing is made much simpler with social networking; it will give you a sense of community-living and part of a meaningful venture.

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NSTP: Deadlines and decision-making Sun, 15 Jul 2012 00:28:55 +0000 OUM MPM Advert2 NST

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Career Forum in Oil & Gas and Future Prospect of Petrochemical Industries Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:36:23 +0000 Panelists:

  1. Mr Mohd Arif Mokhsein, Technical HSSE Engineer, SHELL
  2. Anas Alam Faizli, Project Coordinator, TML

Below are some excerpt from the forum;


Moderator: Let’s discuss on current issue in hiring ‘recent graduates’ in oil & gas industries. Basically, in your opinion, how many of these graduates will score a job, as compared to experienced people.

Anas: I wouldn’t really know how many will be employed per se, but what I can share with you is what I think the traits of graduates that I would hire to be in my team:

1)      Firstly, there are a few advantages that graduates have above experienced hire in the Oil & Gas industry. I work in projects (development) so many of the valuable things we find I a team player are project management related characteristics ie team player, motivated, intelligent, independent and passionate, etc. This is where I think a fresh young graduate can value add because of their passion. Of course, experienced people would have the advantage above fresh graduates because they have done it longer, but I think this applies to all industries, not just in Oil & Gas. One thing for sure is that you young graduates are probably cheaper *joking*.

2)      Secondly, I’d like to invite you to think about the circumstances/ situation within the industry. Investigate first the nature of the job you are applying for. If a management trainee, have an idea as to where you might be placed by doing research, and asking questions. Then list 3 attitudes that you want to portray in an interview, given what you know about the “industry specs”, so to speak.

3)      Thirdly, I suggest you recognize the companies (usually bigger GLCs or MNCs) that have more capacity to take graduates, i.e. ones that give you more space and opportunity to learn. Not to say they will go easy on you, just that (1) it just gives you a boost of confidence to get hired first and get your “foot in through the door” since they are more likely to take graduates like you, but also (2) they are more willing to entertain your requests to change your scope, .ie. they are bigger and so have many more teams that you can ask to be staffed in if you feel like you want a broad scope or a macro view of all aspects of the operations before you decide on specializing.

4)      Fourth, I really, really urge you to leverage on your internship; MAINLY on the opportunity to network, and to understand the function of where you interned in the bigger picture/ the whole organization. By network I mean, know different people from different departments, know engineers, managers, team leaders, project managers, the finance guy, the HR guy, the IT guy, everyone! I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you the benefits of building your network, what I stress here is the importance of starting early, even at your internship stage. Automatically, indirectly, you will also get a better understanding of the team/ function of the job you are given during the internship, within the bigger organization or company. This is extremely important when you want to translate your experience into words in your next interview.

5)      Finally, be BOLD, we all know the law of numbers. If you send many, chances of you hitting/ getting hired by one increase. Send out your CV to EVERYONE, design houses, operators, consultancies, contractors, fabricators…

BUT! Word of caution- nothing turns off a recruiter more than a cover letter addressed to a different company. Double and TRIPLE check all your CVs and cover letters. Sending out many doesn’t mean you should compromise on QUALITY of each CV you send out. Spend time understanding each company’s hiring policies on their career websites, especially the big owner/ operator MNCs.

Moderater: We always hear that if you have two candidates (overseas and local grads) for a certain job post, and you can choose only one, often the overseas grad will score the job. To what extent is this statement valid? (Based on your experience)

Anas: Before I actually answer as to whether I think this statement is valid, let me first invite you to try and understand what is it about an overseas that graduate that often make them supposedly more “employable”. I think upon identifying this, it is not only very easy for us to come to terms with why (if this is even true), it will also help us mitigate our situation and circumstances that we are in and not just lament/ complaint about companies being biased towards overseas graduates.

OK, first, start with THROWING THE IDEA that they have BETTER DEGREES and an “foreign” university name on their CV. Why? Employment is NOT given based on the degree, but rather if you actually have the degree and whether you did well in it. In your free time, can research Spence’s (1974) proposition: Spence says that education is just a signal (interesting theory). It signals that this candidate has what it takes to go through a somewhat technical course, can do some numbers, have the will to finish something i.e. a 3-4 year course and have what it takes to study pass exams- which eventually is expected to translate into some kind of right attitude, mindset, evidence of willpower for you to be a valuable employee to a company. That’s it! It’s NOT the degree itself. How do I know this, my degree was in computer science, and spent my entire 10-year career in O&G. It didn’t put an IR in front of my name but it definitely did not mean I was seen by the industry as technically less competent in my job.

Then, you want to move on to investigate, why these overseas graduates have better employability, and that is because of exposure. This is of course the general case. There are many cases where students went and came back a more introvert person, caught up in their own study cubicles. The good news is, having no “abroad” exposure is not an issue, because we can emulate that here in Malaysia, in fact even more successfully. Interning here introduces us to the right people, helps us understand the industry structure in Malaysia, how contracts are awarded, who to go to for certain services, how things are done in the country, how things are done vis-à-vis Petronas, what are the regulations prevailing etc. In fact, local graduates are even more at an advantage then the overseas graduates as they have the opportunity to research, intern and go for interview exactly where we are going to be hired, instead of just coming back with a degree trying to start afresh. Of course, this is only TRUE when you actually go out there and be proactive.

On a side note/ comment, I also think that it is a possibility that the degree from abroad, especially UK, US tend to be TRADITIONAL, core technical competencies type of degrees as opposed to more specialized/ industrialized degrees. By traditional I mean mathematics, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, statistics, as opposed to oil & gas engineering, process engineering, applied statistics, engineering mathematics, IT with marketing and management etc. MNCs and employers generally, may tend to prefer these for the core technical competencies and the broad scope they offer as opposed to the “modern” more “applied” type of degrees which tend to narrow scope and breadth of studies. So choosing your degree well in the first place is important- pick ones that can give you a solid background and train your technical/ analytical exercise. There is of course no hard and fast rule, that only core technical degrees will get you a job. When it comes to jobs, a lot of things are on a case to case basis.

Moderator: Based from your observation, how do you see local intern at your company? What do you think is lack/good in the attitudes shown? What can be improvised? and – if any; can you compare the difference between local and overseas interns?

Anas: Honestly, I sincerely believe UiTM interns did a fantastic job in my office.  Just to share with you, mistakes that interns tend to make include:

1)      Oversight over the task at hand: interns most usually are given smaller tasks, do it RIGHT and do it with pride, in a short time. Don’t think your task is small, it is less important and exciting, you do it sambil lewa so you can ask the supervisor for more jobs and look good and proactive. Do the little that you are given perfectly, and you will come a long way.

2)      Saying that, secondly, interns tend to get too caught up in their small task as part of the small team they are put under, that they forget to look at the bigger picture. As I mentioned previously, it is very important for you to complete the small tasks perfectly, but take time to REALLY understand where your team sits in the bigger picture, the greater scheme of things. What is the role of your team, your sub division, your department and your organization within the industry? Know it and make sure you can explain it to an interviewer very well. This will a) show employers you really made effort to understand industry structure, and b) it most importantly helps you form an opinion as to whether you like where you are being put and why. IT’S PERFECTLY FINE if you don’t find your internship experience that rewarding, just make sure you know exactly WHY, and EXPLAIN it well, and seriously you might even end up being recruited/ offered a different position or a different team by the very same company! J

3)      Thirdly, is asking the same question repeatedly, showing non-comprehension of the previous explanation, despite having mengangguk and pretending to understand. Or someone who still does a mistake repeatedly after asking. This looks very bad with your seniors and supervisors/ evaluators. ASK to know, don’t ASK to show off, and never leave the question or conversation until your question is answered. Ask questions, because if you have asked and still repeat the same mistake, it will not come off to well.

What the ideal intern who maximizes his experience does

1)      Network: A good intern is a networker but at the same time doesn’t try too hard. Meet with different people, set up meetings with managers, team leaders in different departments find out what they do. You will learn very much about their job, the company, the industry, and if you do it well, you might actually get a specialized interview session and a recommendation for recruitment!

2)      Someone who always flags to his/ her supervisor his progress even though not asked. Someone who asks questions, give suggestions to better your task above how it has always been done. Someone who asks the supervisor how he/ she is doing periodically from time to time, not just waiting for appraisal time, and someone who asks supervisor “do you think I fit in this role/ team/ dept” . Don’t take it personally if you don’t because it only means you have a better role in another team/ dept and they might recognize that.

Moderator: Based on your past experience, for more than 10 years in Oil and Gas with big company, ie Sime Darby, Petronas and Talisman, can you share us some tips for working interview?

Anas: I don’t think I have to start by listing down what to say, what not to say in the interview. What to wear, not to be late, when asked about your weakenesses, answer the “positive weaknesses” like “perfectionist. You all know that, or at best you can all google that.

If I may share some tips:

a)      Firstly, you would want to ask yourself, what do I have that would benefit the company, this is very cliché I know, and come up high in most lists when you google interview “tips” but if you first structure your mindset going into the interview with this in mind, it will help you form your thoughts and describe yourself the “effective” and “employable” way. Not how everyone else/ all other candidates would.

b)      Secondly as important is to ask yourself, what YOU want from the company. This is the 2nd element of the primary thought process that graduates (especially Malaysian/ Asian) graduates fail to ask themselves. They always too easily subscribe to the idea that “I need a job so much, and this job pays very well, so whatever it takes, whatever company it is, whatever their culture is, how they treat employees, what kind of career progression does it ensure ME, doesn’t matter”. Not only will such thought complicate things in the long run when you’re actually employed and realized this is not the kind of organization that you want to work with, but also the lack of this thought will ALWAYS tend to make you sound like you are overselling yourself in the interview.

Moderator:  Technically, in resume and CVs, what are the strong points that need to be emphasized for it can outstand/outshine from other applicants? How important is CGPA?

Anas: Firstly, meeting the CGPA minimal requirement is only as important as segregating your CV from thousands of others. It goes as far as a “penapisan” exercise and nothing more.

For the question of CV, it is very important to not LAUNDRY LIST. Recruiters get really bored with candidates listing their positions and experience as head of chess, secretary of batu seremban club, member of debate team etc. What we want to know is WHAT YOU DID within those roles that made you learn something from doing that activity, that you never had before you had those roles. Take out clubs and societies you were in which only convene AGM once a semester and you’re only treasurer because you menang tanpa bertanding. Pick out the major ones that you actually conducted a major event, led a successful team to win a competition, etc.

Use the STAR technique (to those who have heard/ used it before, bear with me). This is a very important tool in an interview, but can also be applied in writing your CV.  STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

  1. STATE the situation you were in (your role as president of club X).
  2. STATE your task. Go more specific for example conducting an annual club event, or increasing the funds for the club that has been underfunded for years, rather than general overseeing roles.
  3. EXPLAIN the action you took to achieve that task (1), (2), (3)…
  4. EXPLAIN the result of your action. Don’t just say it was a success, give tangible numbers, for example: We managed to gather a crowd of 1000 people, we collected 50,000 RM in funds etc.

As there was no recording made to the forum – this is the best that was captured.


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