Islam and Polygamy by Zaitun Kasim, Sisters in Islam on 20 October 2000
A Comparative Study Between the Quranic Verses and a Traditional Text Book on Women in Islam Referred to by Sekolah Pondok by Dr Saodah Abdul Rahman, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) on 22 September 2000
SIS Showcase: Divorce Iranian Style by Ziba Mir Hosseini on 12 August 2000
Anti Women Hadiths by Nik Noriani Nik Badli Shah, Sisters in Islam on 28 July 2000
Dress and Modesty in Islam II by Sisters in Islam on 26 May 2000
Dress and Modesty in Islam I by Sisters in Islam on 21 April 2000
Islam and Equality II by Sisters in Islam on 24 March 2000
Islam and Equality I by Sisters in Islam on 17 February 2000
Projecting the preferred image - The Star - Musings
Deliberately causing problems to solve a problem is an entirely ingenious idea, like blocking the Penang Bridge just to show how inconvenient a demonstration can be.
SINCE the subject has come up so often recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about our country’s image.
In the first place, why do we even think anyone else spends much time thinking about us? And secondly, when they do, why do we even care?
Obviously we do care since we seem obsessed with it.
And the main reason seems to be that if we did not have a good image in the eyes of foreigners, they won’t invest in us or visit us and therefore we’ll become poor.
Our standard of living, therefore, depends on what people think of us.
It rather reminds me of those days, when some people said we should not have any public campaigns on HIV/AIDS in case foreigners think we DO have the epidemic here and therefore won’t come.
We never thought that maybe foreigners might think better of us if we admitted we might have a problem but we are doing something about it, rather than be yet another country which prefers to sweep things under the carpet.
When it comes to the image of a country, it really depends on who you talk to.
Of course, we should be proud that we are almost a developed country with almost first-world facilities: great airport, great roads, good shopping malls.
We also have fantastic food and fairly hospitable people, especially to foreigners with money.
We may not be very nice to those without money, such as migrant workers and refugees, but we don’t care about them.
Unless, of course, their governments decide to stop sending domestic workers and we face the grim prospect of having to clean our own toilets.
On the other hand, we seem pretty unconcerned when our image gets a battering all round the globe for attempting to whip women for drinking in public, actually whipping them for having babies out of wedlock, forming clubs for obedient wives and sexually harassing women for allegedly breaking immigration laws. Or declaring poco-poco haram in one state out of 13.
I guess we don’t mind people laughing at us, as long as they still spend their money here.
So image, just like justice in this country, is a moving target.
It’s whatever we make it out to be.
While we complain about men who ride their motorbikes dangerously on the streets when nothing is happening, when we need them we simply put red T-shirts on them and call them patriots.
We should really send them to international conventions overseas as patriotic examples of Malaysian citizens. They must surely do wonders for our image.
We should also send those fine people who blocked the Penang Bridge the other day just to show how inconvenient a demonstration is, to conferences on innovative ways to solve problems.
Surely, deliberately causing problems to solve a problem is an entirely ingenious idea!
Yes, Malaysia’s people, especially its leaders, really do wonders for our image overseas.
Apparently as a moderate Muslim country, we have absolutely no qualms about behaving just like the less-than-moderate ones, the ones who are quite happy to turn thugs and tanks onto their own people.
We jeer at Western hypocrisy that supports tyrants and dictators when it suits them, but we don’t seem to be much different ourselves.
Our image of ourselves must sometimes mirror the image of those we want to attract.
We want to attract the deep-pocketed tourists from the Middle East and China, governments who also don’t look kindly on demonstrations.
Therefore, not tolerating demonstrations here is just part of our marketing strategy, just like providing airport announcements in their languages, encouraging little Arab villages in the middle of the city and other amenities to make them feel at home.
Perhaps we should mention it in our travel ads: “Come and shop in Malaysia.
“We shall ensure nothing will block your route to the malls”.
Our leaders are such intellectual giants that the concept of freedom and human rights has been distorted and diminished to only mean freedom and the right to shop and make money.
I love it when certain leaders defend their right to shop in places they have not stepped into for decades.
The sudden concern for the petty traders, mostly foreigners, who have not benefited from their wallets all this time, is so touching.
So it depends whose image we want to emulate.
In developed countries, millions can march peacefully and nothing happens to the economy.
In fact, their economies have been devastated more by smart-suited bankers than any street demo against the ensuing austerity drives.
Perhaps, in defining patriots and traitors, we should look at suits rather than T-shirts.
Sisters in Islam views with concern the prosecution for incest of a 17-year-old girl, by the Kelantan Syariah Court. There is an assumption here that the daughter, considered a minor under civil law, is a willing partner in committing the crime of incest.
The daughter initially pleaded not guilty and had defended herself. However, the next day, after a discussion with her mother via telephone during a break in the trial, she thereafter pleaded guilty to the charge of incest. The court bound her over to be of good behaviour for one year with her mother standing surety. Since her mother has failed to post the bond of $1,000, the girl was sentenced by the court and committed to a rehabilitation home for one year.
While we welcome the Court's use of its discretionary powers in not allowing the publication of the girl's name and its decision not to imprison the girl, Sisters in Islam would like to raise some issues of concern, socially and legally, in the handling of this case. Important issues which need to be considered:-
* Is the girl a victim or a willing partner in the commission of the crime of incest? What was the evidence that led to the assumption of guilt against the girl and the decision of the Syariah Court to prosecute her? Even if it was felt that the girl was a willing partner, due to her young age and the perpetrator was a figure of authority and control, questions should arise as to the voluntary nature of her act. She could have been a victim of child abuse, or she could have committed the act under duress or coercion by the father.
* What are the safeguards that exist to ensure that her guilty plea was indeed genuine? The fact that the girl had at first pleaded not guilty and then changed her plea after speaking to her mother by telephone, the fact that the girl was in tears after this conversation, that her mother was not in court to give her support, should raise some concern and questions about the circumstances of her guilty plea.
* Given the nature of the crime and the relationship involved, should the Court exercise its discretionary power and request for further information to ascertain if a charge should in the first place be made against the girl? Could the Court take the parties into chambers to discuss the matter and advise the prosecution to withdraw the charge or order that the girl be discharged after due advice?
* Conflict between two parallel legal systems: The girl is a minor under civil law (under 18 years of age). However, under syariah law she is considered a "baligh" (one who has attained the age of puberty) and therefore a "mukallaf", one who is of right mind and therefore able to distinguish between what is good and bad and therefore take responsibility for her actions. Under syariah law, once a girl begins menstruation, she is considered an adult and therefore liable to a prosecution for illicit sex. Today, a girl may reach puberty at nine years of age, but does that mean she is mature enough to be held responsible for her actions? Under civil law and in society's eyes, she is a mere child. What provisions exist under syariah law to protect the interest of children and young persons against crimes perpetrated by adults in positions of authority and control over their well-being?
* We welcome the court's willingness to apply its discretionary powers and consider the provisions provided in the civil law, more specifically the Juvenile Courts Act, 1947 (“JCA”) in respect of the non-publication of the girl’s name/identification (s. 5A of the JCA) and in binding her over to be in good behaviour for one year. We wished, however, that the court could also have used its discretionary powers in considering the girl a juvenile instead of an adult and accord her the procedures provided for under the JCA.
* In what way was the girl's interest protected in the handling of this case? Under the JCA (s. 10), such a case would be referred to a Probation Officer who would provide the Court with information as to the girl's general conduct, home surroundings, school record, medical history so as to enable the Court to deal with the case in the best interests of the juvenile. The Juvenile Court will also not hold a hearing without the report of the Probation Officer. Moreover, the court is assisted by two advisers, one of whom is a woman, whose duty it is to inform and advise the court with respect to any consideration affecting the punishment or other treatment of any child or young person brought before it (s. 4(2).
* Should the confession of a father to the crime of incest be used as a mitigating factor to prosecute the victim, a minor under the protection and control of an authority figure who is also the pepetrator of the crime? Even if there was overwhelming evidence against both the father and the daughter and the fact that the father admitted to the charges, the Syariah Court must give due consideration to the fact that the victim is the daughter and a minor.
* Given the reality of present day society where girls begin menstruation at a much younger age, shouldn't the religious authorities review the definition of “baligh” and the assumption of “mukallaf” to determine whether a young person can be held responsible for her actions. Even if the daughter in this case did consent to such an act incest, society would question the circumstances of her family life and relationship that could enable such an act to happen. These must be regarded as mitigating factors.
1. Kelantan Enakmen Keterangan Mahkamah Syariah 1991 (Kelantan Evidence Enactment of the Syariah Court, 1991)
2. Enakmen Kanun Jenayah Syariah, tahun 1985, Negeri Kelantan
(Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code Enactment 1985)
3. Enakmen Acara Jenayah Syariah No. 9/83, Negeri Kelantan
Sisters in Islam (SIS) menyokong Bersih 2.0 dan sahutannya untuk perubahan system piliharaya. Sebagai sebahagian daripada kumpulan masyarakat madani Malaysia yang mendukung prinsip-prinsip keadilan, kesaksamaan dan demokrasi, kami berdiri teguh menyokong lapan tuntutan segera Bersih 2.0 sebagaimana yang tertera di dalam manifesto gabungan itu, antaranya akses bebas and adil kepada media dan pengakhiran kepada politik kotor.
Kami terkejut dengan penahanan yang dilakukan pada hari minggu yang lepas dan pengunaan laporan polis oleh elemen-elemen tertentu dalam parti politik dan kumpulan pendesak untuk menganggu dan mengintimidasi Bersih 2.0. Pengunaan bangsa dan agama untuk memusnahkan Bersih 2.0 semakin meningkat hingga membawa kepada ugutan bunuh ke atas Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan dan ahli-ahli jawatankuasa kemudi. Kami mengutuk pengunaan keganasan dan ugutan keganasan, sebaliknya satu dialog sivil perlu dikendalikan bagi menyelesaikan isu perbezaan pandangan
Rakyat Malaysia dari segala pelusuk fahaman politik yang berbeza faham bahawa pilihanraya yang bebas dan adil adalah tunjak kepada demokrasi yang berjaya. Bagaimanakah konsep demokrasi ini boleh dimanipulasikan kepada sebaliknya adalah sangat mengejutkan malah adalah sesuatu yang membahayakan. Samada seseorang itu menyokong atau menolak posisi Bersih 2.0 memohon pembaharuan sistem pilihanraya, hak untuk berkumpul adalah satu keperluan penting di dalam sebuah masyarakat negara demokrasi
Rakyat yang ditindas, samada kerana kesempitan fikiran atau rejim politik yang korup, harus bangkit untuk membetulkan apa-apa kesalahan yang berlaku di dalam negara mereka. Inilah yang hendak dilakukan oleh Bersih 2.0 dan penyokong-penyokongnya pada 9 Julai nanti, iaitu satu ekspresi terhadap keinganan asasi manusia bagi mengecapi dunia yang adil.
Kami ingin mengingatkan mereka yang memohon penangkapan atau serangan ganas terhadap Bersih 2.0 bahawa hak kebebasan berhimpun dan hak kebebasan bersuara adalah dijamin dibawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan Deklarasi Hak Asasi Sejagat. Perjanjian-perjanjian hak asasi manusia yang ditandatangani oleh kerajaan Malaysia, termasuk Konvensi Mengenai Penghapusan Segala Bentuk Diskriminasi Terhadap Wanita (CEDAW), juga menekankan obligasi kerajaan Malaysia untuk menghormati, melindungi dan mempromosi hak asasi manusia sejagat. SUHAKAM juga dalam laporan-laporannya telah seringkali memohon kepada kerajaan untuk menghormati dan mendukung hak rakyat untuk berhimpun.
Ratna Osman Pemangku Pengarah Eksekutif Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum Malaysia)
Sisters in Islam (SIS) supports Bersih 2.0 and its call for electoral reforms. As part of Malaysian civil society working towards justice, equality and the upholding of democratic principles, we stand by Bersih 2.0’s eight immediate demands as outlined in its manifesto, including free and fair access to media and a stop to dirty politics.
We are appalled by the arrests over the weekend and the use of police reports by elements within political parties and pressure groups to harass and intimidate Bersih 2.0. The use of race and religion to demonise Bersih 2.0 has escalated in the past few days and this has resulted in death threats against Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan and other members of the steering committee. We condemn the use of violence and threat of violence – instead, civil dialogue must prevail as a way to address differences of opinions.
Malaysians across different political beliefs and affiliations know that free and fair elections are fundamental to a working democracy. How this has been manipulated to suggest the opposite is mind-boggling and dangerous. Regardless of whether one supports or rejects Bersih 2.0’s position on electoral reforms, the right to assemble is an integral part of a living, functional democratic nation-state.
It behooves witnesses of injustice – be it due to bigotry or a corrupt political regime – to stand up as citizens to right what has gone wrong in their country. What Bersih 2.0 and its supporters are doing on 9th July is no more and no less than this: an expression of humanity’s fundamental desire for a just world.
We wish to remind those calling for arrests or violent attacks against Bersih 2.0 that the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights treaties ratified by the Malaysian government, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), further entrench Malaysia’s obligation to respect, protect and promote universal human rights. Furthermore, SUHAKAM has also called on the government in many of its reports to respect and uphold the citizens’ right to freedom of assembly.
Ratna Osman Acting Executive Director Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum Malaysia)
Struggling with ambiguity Musings By MARINA MAHATHIR
Not everybody assumes the best in other people. Some people say that if you let people demonstrate their wish for clean and fair elections, they will surely riot.
I HAD always assumed that as I become older, things would become much clearer. The whys and wherefores of life’s big questions become obvious, I will have more “Aha!” than “What?!” moments, and I will stop struggling with ambiguity and confusion.
Unfortunately, thanks to a short, fat little man with permed hair and straightened teeth, this is not happening.
I grew up thinking that fairness was a good value to have. Not fair skin, but being fair to one and all. Children have a natural sense of justice; they know when they are being unfairly treated. It’s only when they see people benefiting from injustice that their natural values start to adapt. Civic-conscious citizens: It’s amazing that one million and more fiery hot-blooded Egyptians could turn up in Tahrir Square to protest against their government peacefully, even in the face of government tanks. Then after they succeeded in ousting their President, they turned up the next day to clean up the square. — EPA
Maybe something happened to that little man in his childhood. Did something happen somewhere in his murky history where he had to resort to underhanded means to get something?
Because it puzzles me enormously why anyone should be opposed to fair and clean elections. Has the world changed so much that dirty and unfair elections are more prized?
Say, if my child wanted to stand for election at school, should I tell her that she should do everything she can to win, including undermining her opponent? Is this the lesson I should be teaching her?
This year, I told her she could have a nice holiday if she did well in school. Lo and behold, she did. So, now, I have to fulfil my promise. This is fair, as my old values tell me. But under these new-fangled values vaunted by some loud people, I should not do this. I should instead find some excuse to not uphold my side of the deal.
Although upholding my promise will be expensive for me, I still win because it confirmed my faith in my daughter, that she can do well in school with a little push. I can’t imagine assuming that she would fail no matter what.
But not everybody assumes the best in other people.
Another thing that befuddles me is how some people say that if you let people demonstrate their wish for clean and fair elections, they will surely riot.
In the first place, I would have assumed that those who want dirty elections are more likely to go crazy in public places. Mostly because the rest of us won’t be able to help laughing at their banners that say “Dirty is good!” or “Who wants to fight fair?”
On the other hand, who would show anything but respect for people who may be shouting “Let us restore our dignity: keep our elections clean”. After all, dirty elections are more associated with very much less-developed countries, which, surely, we are not.
It’s such a Boy Scout thing, wanting fair elections. Have you ever known Boy Scouts to riot? Only thugs who have never sworn to do their best do that.
It is a bit disingenuous to suggest that those simply wanting something good like clean elections are likely to be doing things like throwing stones, overturning cars and maybe looting shops.
There is nothing that drives good things away more than fear-mongering, is there?
So, therefore, to stop this, the forces of, I don’t know, Anti-Clean want to go down there and ensure security. Sounds like the George Bush School of Pre-Emptive Strikes to me. Let’s bomb them before they bomb us.
Equally disingenuous is to say that wanting clean elections is playing politics. But, isn’t everyone playing politics these days? And is politics confined only to politicians?
So, if I wanted to have a big demo to say that “No child should go hungry”, is that or is that not a political act? And therefore, will there be a counter-demo that says “Who cares if some children are undernourished”, just because my demo might cause traffic jams? That’s how crazy the thinking has become.
I find it amazing that in mild-mannered conflict-avoiding Malaysia, we assume that any gathering of more than five people will naturally turn into a riot.
Yet one million and more fiery hot-blooded Egyptians could turn up in Tahrir Square to protest against their government peacefully, even in the face of government tanks. Then after they succeeded in ousting their President, they turned up the next day to clean up the square!
So why not just make a deal with Bersih 2.0 to bersihkan the street the next day?
The confusion these days arises from the fact that thugs are given lots of leeway while perfectly normal people are made to feel like criminals, even before they do anything.
If that’s the norm these days, can someone make it official that justice and fairness are no longer values we uphold?
Then I’ll know what to teach my child.
Note: No reproduction of this article is allowed without the author's consent.
The Malaysian NGO Sisters in Islam wins the Casa Asia Award 2011
The Casa Asia Award 2011, in its eighth edition, has been awarded to the Malaysian NGO Sisters in Islam for its solid committment in promoting women's rights in the Muslim world from Malaysia. Sisters in Islam is a Non-Government Organization of Muslim women that searches to articulate women's rights in Islam, highlighting the need to interpret Koran in its own historical and cultural context. This group, made up of several Malaysian women, who are lawyers, activists, academics and journalists, advocates for the right of women to hold public positions, and directs its efforts towards the promotion of rights, in global, of Muslim women, on the basis of principles such as equality, justice and freedom imposed by the Koran.
La ONG malasia Sisters in Islam, ganadora del Premio Casa Asia 2011 - IMG 1
Throughout its 21 years of life, Sisters in Islam (SIS) has opened a public space for debate in Malaysia and given voice to Malaysian women regarding their rights under the Islamic law or sharia. Through its forums and educational programmes, SIS has proved that there is space for women in Islam. The main contributions of the NGO focus on the areas of research, law, the legal reform and publications. The founder of Sisters in Islam is Zainah Anwar, who has also been member of the Commission of Human Rights in Malaysia.
The jury of the Casa Asia Award 2011, brought together at Casa Asia Headquarters in Barcelona, is made up of Luis Felipe Fernández de la Pena, General Director of North America, Asia and the Pacific of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Senén Florensa, General Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Catalonian Autonomous Government (Generalitat); Ignasi Cardelús, Delegate of Presidency and Institutional Relations of the Barcelona City Council; Fernando Delage, Director of International Relations of the Madrid City Council; Xavier Torras, Director of We are Water Foundation; Inma Riera, MP of the Parliamentary Group of CiU; Manuel Ollé, teacher at the University Pompeu Fabra; Ángel Sala, Director of the Fantasy Film Festival of Sitges and Anne-Hélène Suárez, teacher of the University Autonomous of Barcelona. The General Director of Casa Asia, Jesús Sanz, acted as president of the jury.
The Casa Asia Award is annually granted to those people, institutions and entities that stand out in the promotion of dialogue, understanding and knowledge among the societies of Spain and the region of Asia and the Pacific. The prize consists of a cash award of 6000 Euros and of a commemorative trophy. In precedent editions, the Casa Asia Award was granted to professor Raimon Pannikar and the Department of Spanish Language at the University of Beijingand to CEIBS of Shanghai (2004); to the Pakistani Mukhtar Mai, to the journalist Rosa María Calaf and David Álvarez, of the group of NGOs (2005); to the collection “Suma” of Spanish art of the Nagasaki Art Prefectural Museum and to the Marugame Museum Hirai of Japan (2006); to the Spanish Jesuit Kike Figaredo and to the Publishing House of the People's Chinese Literature (2007); and to Chingari Trust, Non-Government Organization (ONG) and to the Pakistani writer and journalist Ahmed Rashid (2008); to the Efe Agency and the Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe(2009); and to the International project of Dunhuang (China) and to the Philippine Senator Eduardo J. Angara (2010). One year later the award presentation will be held.
Ex-Husband neglected to pay child maintenance for five years
I divorced five years ago. After a year, I filed a claim for maintenance in the Syariah Court. My husband promised me RM250 a month for our two children and that he would pay a weekly visit to the children. In the beginning, he complied with the Court Order. After a while, he neither saw nor paid child maintenance. It has been five years since he last paid child maintenance.
It has been very difficult for me to raise the children, especially since I no longer work. My children are still in school; one is in standard one while the other is still in kindergarten. My mother and older brother are currently supporting my children and I.
I have gone to Pulau Pinangâ€™s Legal Aid Bureau for help and have been instructed to institute a new proceeding against my ex-husband. How long am I supposed to wait and do I have to initiate a new proceeding against him every time he does not pay up? I have reported this matter to the Bureau since a year ago but the response has always been that they are in the midst of sending letters. What am I supposed to do now?
Maznah Laili, Pulau Pinang.
Your husbandâ€™s action of not paying for child maintenance even though there is a Court Order is against the law. It is a serious offence under the Malaysian Syariah law as well as that of Hukum Syaraâ€™.
Pursuant to Malaysian Islamic laws, it is clear that it is the responsibility of the father to support the children. Section 72 (1) of the Pulau Pinang Family Law Enactment 1985 states that â€œUnless there has been an agreement or if there is an Order of Court that provides otherwise, then it is the responsibility of a man to provide for his childrenâ€™s maintenance whether the children are in his care or under the care of someone else, by providing for them shelter, clothing, food, medicine, and education as is reasonable depending on his abilities and standard of living or by providing for the expenses of shelter, clothing, food, medicine and education.â€
Based on this, the Court has given the Order for payment of your childrenâ€™s maintenance. However, your husbandâ€™s act of disobeying the said Court Order means he has committed contempt of Court. Section 132 of the same Enactment provides that if a person who was given an Order of Court deliberately neglects to comply with the Court Order, the Court that made the Order can have him fined or imprisoned. For this purpose, you have to file an application in the same Court that had made the Order for maintenance.
Aside from that, you can also apply from the Court for an Order to enforce the Order for payment of maintenance. This Enforcement Order is to ensure that the Maintenance Order that was made by the Court is complied with by your husband.
In order to obtain this Enforcement Order, we can refer to the Pulau Pinang Syariah Civil Procedure Enactment 1999. Pursuant to Order 159 of the said Enactment, it is stated that judicial enforcement and the types of enforcement can be made via one or more of the following methods:-
1. Seizure and Sale Order Whereby the Court can order for the movable properties of the judgment debtor (your husband) to be seized and sold and the proceeds to be passed to your children as maintenance.
2. Garnishment proceeding Whereby the Court will hold the movable properties of the judgment debtor (your husband) which is under the ownership or control of a third party, or any debt owed by any third party to the judgment debtor (your husband), and the proceeds from the sale of the movable properties or the payment of said debts to be given to your children as maintenance.
3. Committal Order Whereby the Court will seize and pass to the judgment creditor (you) any property of the judgment debtor (your husband) as ordered by said Court to be used as maintenance for your children.
4. Order to withhold payment of salary Whereby the Court may order the employer of the judgment debtor (your husband) to withhold the payment of his salary until an amount is deducted therefrom to pay for your childrenâ€™s maintenance.
Therefore, you have several choices in applying for a Court Order that best suits you and is most effective against your husband. The types of enforcement as listed above are some of the actions that the Court can take in order to ensure compliance on the part of your husband of the Maintenance Order.
For your information, pursuant to Order 147 of the Pulau Pinang Syariah Civil Procedure Enactment 1999, it is compulsory for your ex-husband to comply with any judgments made by the Court.
The above proceedings can help you and is very effective if you know his salary, financial situation as well as properties owned by your husband. You should discuss with the lawyer from the Legal Aid Bureau appointed to represent you in this case. Ask the said lawyer for the latest development in your case. If the lawyer informs you that he or she has already sent letters, ask him or her for the details of the letter; to whom the letter was addressed; the contents of the letter; when was the letter delivered, and what were the follow-up actions your lawyer had taken in regards to the said letter.
It is very important for you to obtain the above information so that you can decide on what to do next. Always communicate with your lawyer as he or she is the one responsible to ensure that your rights and interests are taken care of.
Panel lawyers, Sisters In Islam.
(You are welcome to post your queries to Sisters In Islam at No. 7, Jalan 6/10, 46000 Petaling Jaya Selangor or call our TeleNisa line 03-7784 3733 every Monday, Thursday and Friday or e-mail us at email@example.com)
Signing off for the niceties Musings By Marina Mahathir
Civil servants, when writing to others, sign off with the phrase declaring themselves as servants of the people, their real masters in theory.
THE penny dropped for me the other night. It suddenly dawned on me that the ubiquitous sign-off “Saya yang menurut perintah” on government letters was in fact a translation of that quaint colonial bit of politesse, “Your obedient servant”.
While the latter may not have been meant at all sincerely (Humphrey the smarmy Chief Secretary in Yes Prime Minister comes to mind), still I find it fascinating that while we have studiously imitated all the administrative niceties of our former colonial masters, we have managed to go our own way on this little courtesy.
You see, “Saya yang menurut perintah” literally means, “I who obey orders”. This is not quite the same as “Your obedient servant” that should be translated as “Pembantu setia anda” or perhaps, more accurately, given the way we treat our helpers these days, “Hamba abdi setia anda”.
Not only are the words lost in translation, so is the sentiment behind them.
The English version, used by civil servants when writing to others, is meant to convey that they are servants of the people.
As I said, this may not be meant sincerely at all but, as the Brits would have it, correct form is everything.
Our version however begs the question: whose orders are you obedient to? Ostensibly, these should be orders by the government of the day and by extension, the people who voted them in.
We also pay the taxes that make the salaries of civil servants possible. And at over one million of them, that’s a lot of taxes.
But we all know that obeying their real masters, that is, us, is not really our civil service’s calling. So whose orders are they obeying?
It’s a valid question when you see so many cases where the people’s concerns seem to be dismissed in favour of, well, who knows?
For example, why are the residents of Gebeng’s worries about the Lynas rare earth plant hardly entertained? How is it, when we are supposed to become ever more developed, we are expected to hold ourselves to lower safety standards than Australians?
When civil servants make life difficult for the people, what is that obedience for?
I read a sad story about someone who, finally, after years of trying, gave up staying in this country, where he was born and bred, because the family could not get their utilities fixed.
It might seem small but these are public amenities our taxes pay for, and we should not have to beg for them to be fixed. Why don’t we simply call ourselves a Third World country so that our expectations are not too high?
The other day I met someone who was so tired of trying to jump through the bureaucratic hoops trying to get his proposal approved that he went overseas to try and sell it. And did so with far less aggravation.
I can’t say whether his project has any merit, but I can understand his agitation at not being able to discuss facts and figures, merits and demerits without being passed from one clueless person to another.
So perhaps our bureaucracy ought to have a far more honest sign-off from now on. How about “Saya yang akan melambatkan (I who will slow things down)”?
Talking about obedience, every paper’s been abuzz about this obedient wives’ club this week. Talk about anachronistic; nobody has pushed this type of archaic concept since at least the 50s.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry to read of women degrading themselves like this, blaming everything on their own sex’s supposed inability to keep their men.
Life’s miseries are attributed to women smelling less than fragrant! Wow, who would have thought of that!
Not long ago, a male politician said the best Muslim wife is the one who would drop everything, undoubtedly even feeding the baby, every time hubby wants some nooky. He should be the patron saint of the OWC.
It does strike me as interesting that the guys who like to say these things are rarely the sort women would generally drop everything for. Do you think George Clooney ever has to even think about this?
I actually propose another club we women should join. It’s the Good Husband and Father Fan Club. Like any fan club, members will extol the virtues of the good husbands and fathers they know.
Hubbies who help at home and who do homework with their kids, for example, would qualify. If they are clean and smell nice, they would get lots of bonus points.
Each month there could be a Hubby and Father of the Month, and they would all compete for Hubby and Father of the Year.
And yes, their prowess in bed would also be a consideration.