Monday, June 22, 2009

One-day compulsory rest for domestic maids

Will not solve their abuse

The recent spate of domestic maid abuse cases that led to the threat by the Indonesian government to temporarily halt sending their domestic helpers to Malaysia is a blow for our reputation as being friendly, kind and hospitable particularly to foreigners.

To demonstrate its grave concern for the welfare of these foreign workers, the government had introduced a number of new regulations for potential employers, the latest being the compulsory weekly one-day rest for all maids. Its motive for introducing the compulsory day off may be good and commendable but it is not the main contention in the issue of maid abuse as most would agree that adequate rest must be given to the maids. However indiscriminate enforcement of this rule may create unnecessary inconvenience and disadvantages to the majority of employers who are considerate and caring for their maids.

Maid abuse by employers is a serious offence that must not be condoned whatsoever but it must be remembered that the vast majority of Malaysian employers treat their maids reasonably well and take good care of their welfare. We know that there are many employers who treat them like members of their own families, being caring, kind, considerate and humane. These employers must be given some leeway to manage their maids in the way they see it as best for them. By implementing a blanket one-day rest rule for all maids the good employers may be unfairly punished whereas the errant ones may find their way out to escape the effects of the law.

It is very sad that many of our maids are lured into the country with false promises. Many are made to believe that they will be employed as factory workers and not as domestic maids. They react with anger and resentment when they realize the truth on landing on our shores. They just wait to escape at the slightest opportunity they get. Who will take the financial and legal responsibility if these maids run away?

It must also be remembered that the vast majority of our domestic maids come from very poor socio-economic background with low literacy rate. Many of them are ignorant on managing their meager income and I am afraid that by allowing them day off will result in overspending leaving with no savings when they leave the country on completion of their contract. Many employers go out of the way to act as financial advisors to help their maids to save as much as they can while they are with them.

Giving them a day off and allowing them full freedom to go will only be subjecting them to unnecessary risks like robbery, assault, rape and cheating. Some of them could easily be lured into immoral activities that expose them to all forms of diseases, drug abuse and crime which the employer can least afford to be involved. As an employer is directly responsible for the safety of his maid, it would be grave injustice if a good employer is dragged into such problems of his maid which is no fault of his. Wouldn’t it be better if the employer is allowed some freedom and discretion to provide what is best for her?

Education not compulsion is the key to overcome the problem of maid abuse. The maid and the employer must be educated on their rightful roles and duties. They must be educated to realize that they should be engaged for mutual benefit and the terms of their employment agreement must be adhered to strictly at all times. A rest day may be given if the maid chooses to have it but she must remain in the vicinity of the watchful eyes of the employer. However if she opts for monetary compensation then it should be granted if the employer needs her services on the rest day.

Human Resources Ministry must conduct an in depth study into the issue of compulsory one-day off rule before implementing it indiscriminately. It should get the feedback from the employers, maid agencies and other relevant bodies before coming to any conclusive decisions. Although there are advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule, there seems to be more negative repercussions than positive ones.
There are good and bad employers so are domestic maids. What is important is to ensure that the majority who are good should not be punished because of a few bad hats. The latter be it employers or maids must be sought out and punished in accordance with the laws.

Over sixty years ago Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Today it may be more apt to say that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its citizens treat their fellow humans regardless of race, creed and social status.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, June 15, 2009

Father's day 2009 : A tribute to Uncle Paul

The final journey

As I reached the crowded hospital ward, I saw Uncle Paul lying on his bed semi-comatose, gasping and on nasal oxygen. He looked so thin and emaciated that I could hardly recognize him. I held his hand firmly and called him but there was no response whatsoever from him. Then all of a sudden he took a deep breath which was his last. Uncle Paul died peacefully in front of me. It was as though he had patiently waited for me since his admission for a serious lung infection 3 days earlier. I cursed myself for not going to see him earlier.

Uncle Paul was an elderly gentleman whom I had the privilege of being befriends over the last 2 years or so, having met him on a number of occasions recently. Uncle Paul had journeyed through life for the past 87years until his demise on 15 May 2009.His vast experiences in his life added further to the many lessons I have learnt in my own. I hope a brief description of this wonderful person will enrich your own experiences in dealing with those around you.

I always believe that every human is a marvelous creation of God, who is a chest of knowledge and experience waiting to be tapped. Uncle Paul is undeniably such a marvelous creation of His.

In a world that is so materialistic, so competitive and so advanced in technology, when we are so busy toiling to make ends meet we have very little time for old people like Paul who have nothing valuable to contribute to our advancements. We fail to realize that every human, regardless of race and religion, young or old, rich or poor is a chest of treasure and knowledge for us in life to be tapped for our own benefit and the benefit of those around us.

In fact many of us today do not have the time even for our own aged parents, who have made us what we are now. We find so many excuses to send them away somewhere hoping they would be happier there than being with us. We pass the responsibility to others who may even be strangers, hoping that they can provide better care and comfort than us in our own homes. One such place is the old folk’s homes that are mushrooming all over the country due to the tremendous increase in demand. We may have no choice so do they as all old people will never opt for such a place if only they had a choice to be taken care in their own homes.

Uncle Paul stayed in one such home and he appeared happy to be in the company of fellow inmates. Fortunately he still received his monthly pension to pay for his maintenance at the home. His basic needs were taken care of reasonably well and he was regularly visited by his children, relatives and friends. Some visit him out of duty others out of courtesy but it was encouraging that there were a number of them who did so out of love for him as a fellow human, bringing him food and gifts he liked and missed most. Like all parents, he never blamed his children for sending him there, but we knew that deep inside he missed their continuous company. He missed his home, not just the building but the company of his loved ones.

He lost his wife 20 years ago when she died after a short illness and till his last days he missed her so dearly. At the twilight of life, as his physical and mental faculties began to fail him to fail him one by one; he had no permanent companion to cling on for support, solace and reassurance. That was the time he wished so badly that his wife was around to share the pains of old age. His eyes used to swell with tears each time he talked about the darling in his life. He used to repeatedly say, “if only my wife was around, I will not be here.”

I learnt a lot about the past from my meetings with him, about life at the time of the British and the Japanese occupation, his family and all his experiences over the past 86 years. As I myself grow older, and my children leaving home one by one, I seem to appreciate his experiences much more as they are becoming increasingly more relevant in my own life. I look around and see that many more leading such solitude lives without a shoulder to lean on for solace. Are we heading for such lonely lives in the years to come? Only time will tell but is frightening to think we may be so.


Among some of the things that struck me first on meeting Uncle Paul was his neatly groomed appearance and his punctuality. Every time I make an appointment to meet him he is ready waiting for me, neatly dressed in slacks, long sleeved shirt and polished shoes. According to his caretaker he used to wake up and get ready hours earlier and sit in the porch eagerly waiting for my arrival. He never failed to greet me as soon as he sees me. I could sense the warmth in his voice and the grip of his handshake.Depite his failing memory he would remember the details of children and never once failed to enquire about them each time we met.

His punctuality puts many of us to shame as we have very little regards for time and people these days. Punctuality is an indication of our eagerness to meet someone and it reflects the place we accord him in our hearts. I understand if we value somebody’s company then we would never be late to meet him as our minds will always be preoccupied with thoughts of that person. These days very few people value the true company of others unless they have something to gain and that may be the reasons why we are always late for appointments. We tend to value a person by his material possession not by the contents of his heart. We seem to have lost the human touch in our dealings with fellow men.

Living steadfast to his father’s advice

Another interesting thing I learnt from Uncle Paul was his attitude towards his late parents that was reflected in his advice to the youngsters of today. He remembered and cherished what his father had advised him when he was working in the government service as a young man.

He recalled his father’s strong stand against corruption. He remembered what his late father had told him, “If you are in dire need of money, you may borrow or even beg for it but never accept bribes however desperate you may be”.

He adhered to his father’s advised so strictly that he could not afford to own his own house and lived in government quarters all his life. At the twilight years of his life he did not have a place to call home and had to settle for an old folk’s home as his abode. It was the price he had to pay for being steadfast in submitting to his father’s stand against corruption.
Advice to the young

When asked for his advice to the youngsters of today, who have little respect for the elderly, he said, “They should honor their father and mother and everything else will be fine”. Reflecting on what he said and recalling the experiences with many, I realized how right he was. He may be old and senile but he pushed forward a point about a very important issue in our lives, honoring our parents, which I agree determines to a great extent whether we attain the happiness we all strive for. If we miss this important lesson then all our efforts to seek that happiness will all be in vain.

To honor our parents is not just providing food and shelter, but to show great respect for them especially for their pride, honesty and the principles for which they stood steadfast. Do the actions in our own lives reflect this honor that is due to them? We must always do things that uphold their pride and honor; otherwise we would be failing them.

We make many major decisions in our lives, like choosing our life partners; change of career, travelling to distant land, caring for our children, major illnesses and so on. Do we consult them, at least as a mark of respect, regarding these major changes in our lives? They may not be in a position to give us the physical or monetary help but I am sure they can give us something that all the money in the world cannot buy - advice based on personal experience. Unfortunately this invaluable commodity is the least we value these days.

Giving what they like

Often we give our elderly parents what we think they like, not realizing their true likes and dislikes. As children we believe that we are giving them the best by sending them to the old folk’s home where they have the company and are well catered for their needs. It is pertinent to ask ourselves whether they are really happy to be there. Do they need the company of others who are strangers and physically infirm? Is this what they need most at that advanced age?

They may say that they are happy there because they do not want to burden us further which is the typical sense of magnanimity of all elderly parents towards their children; however negligent or even cruel the children may be to them the parents will always have a soft spot for them in their hearts.

Loneliness, the greatest fear

Uncle Paul’s greatest fear, like all elderly people, was loneliness. This was particularly profound after the demise of his wife 20 years ago. He had the feeling that he was all alone in this cruel world. It was pathetic to realize that at the age of 86, staying in a home for the aged and surrounded by unfamiliar faces, he had very little to hope for during the final months of his life except waiting to be united with his wife which the Lord finally did.

Uncle Paul may not be around anymore but his memories and the lessons from his experiences live on in the hearts of those who know him. He and many others like him give us the opportunity to provide them a little hope and cheer in their lives, if not every day, but least during special days like Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries and so on. It is not money, gifts or food that they need most. All they yearn for is the love of fellow humans like you and I, in particular his children and grandchildren, to unselfishly share a little bit of our time to be with them during these special days in their lives.

As Christians we spend many hours in prayer and worship but ignore those around us not realizing that God actually dwells in these people. People like Paul should remind us that Jesus indeed lives in them not in the majestic churches we visitto pray in and the rituals we perform in our worship.We must recall what Jesus himself taught us "In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”(Mathew 25:34-40)

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pope: The absence of Christ causes total sadness

Yes the absence of Chris causes total sadness in the world especially in our own lives.His absence in our hearts is the cause of all our miseries.

Christ seems to be absent even in the church which professes to bring Him into the lives of men.The church is more obsessed with rituals and form than the real substance of Christ's teachings.

Christs asks us to find Him in those around us,especially our enemies,but we foolishly keep searching for Him all over except where He really dwells - in our neighbor.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Church land controversy - Bishop's office responds

Evictions: Penang Bishop’s office issues statement

Rev Michael Thoo has released a press state statement from the office of the Penang Bishop. Here is the statement in full:

In response to recent and current newspaper reports on the “eviction exercise” of’ 14 houses within the grounds of the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Penang Road, 10000 Georgetown, Penang the church wishes to clarify as follows :-

- There are 14 semi-concrete pre-war houses within the grounds of the Church of St. Francis, Penang Road, George Town, Penang. The houses are old and have no architectural value.

- Other buildings on the land are the St Joseph’s Home for orphans and children from broken homes, the Learning Centre for children with learning disabilities and the “Lighthouse” which provides free food for the needy and school buildings. These social welfare and charitable organisations are run and/or supported by the church.
- Twelve of the houses are occupied by monthly tenants paying nominal monthly rentals between RM
60 to RM 200. It is not true that all the tenants have not been paying the monthly rentals for the last
36 months as ieported in the issue of The Catholic Herald dated 31 May 2009 and The Star dated 2 June 2009;

- Two houses are presently empty.

- Unfortunately, one of the two tenants who vacated her house (No. 52-L, Penang Road, Penang) proceeded to remove the zinc and timber roof truss from the house thus creating a potential hazard’

When church’s workers started removing the plywood wall of the house to prevent the potential danger of the unstable wall from collapsing, the MPPP acted rightfully in requesting the church to stop work. The church regrets this inadvertent violation of the law. That house is infested by termites and is in danger of imminent collapse.

- The church has no record of the residents being there for four generations as reported. Some of the
residents had moved out in the past and new tenants had moved in.

- The church intends to use the said 14 houses after refurbishment for its religious, welfiare and charitable purposes as it is doing now.

- The refurbishment of the houses will be done in accordance with UnescoO and local council guidelines,
regulations and bye-laws.

- The church has no intention to sell the land to the Cititel Hotel group or to embark on a “property
development project” as reported. Consequently, all such reports are baseless and mischievous.

- The church is mindful of the economic plight of some of the residents. It is for this reason that the church has decided to give them ample notice of two years to deliver vacant possession of the houses occupied by them. In addition, the church has also decided to give them an “ex-gratia” payment of RMIO,OOO per household in order to assist them to relocate. No rentals will be collected from the residents during these two years from 1 June 2008 till 31 May 2O1O.

Dated the 5th day of June, 2OO9.


Rev Michael Thoo
from the office of the Rt Rev Antony Selvayanagam,
The Titular Roman Catholic Bishop of Penang

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Church land controversy

Are we God-fearing in what we do

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we do these things for you? And the Lord shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”(Mathew 25:34-40)

A recent report in the mainstream media highlighting the plight of the residents of a century-old kampong in the premises of the St.Francis Xavier Church in Penang was rather disturbing. It also questioned the controversial sale of the church land and the eviction of the residents, mainly elderly people, who have been there all these years. According to the report one of the houses was already demolished by a developer but fortunately further demolition was stopped by the local council.

This inconsiderate action has earned the wreath of the Pakatan Penang state government which has urged the bishop of Penang to publicly reveal the Catholic Church’s plans, if any, for the development of the church land that has been gazetted as a heritage site by Unesco.
In an encouraging move, Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang has strongly refuted the report in the press. He dismissed as ‘absolute nonsense’ the claims that the diocese is planning to sell a portion of its land to the Cititel Hotel for development. According to him the land on the grounds of the St Francis Xavier Church has been earmarked for religious, charitable and cultural purposes.

He did not elaborate what those religious, charitable and cultural purposes were. If only he did his credibility would be greatly enhanced. He must also reveal the truth regarding the forced eviction of the residents which is seen by the lay public as being high-handed and cruel that goes against the basic teachings of the Church.

Evicting residents for the purpose of development is not wrong but it must be done in an amicable manner based on the provisions of the law with regards to compensation and full with respect for the human rights of those affected by the eviction. Being the people of God there must be the element of love and forbearance for those being evicted as these form the basic teachings of Christ that must be upheld at all times and at all costs.

The bishop, I am sure, has his own valid reasons in wanting to evacuate the residents from the church premises. This must be respected but since the matter has been highlighted in the press it is only proper that he make the church’s plans known to the public by replying to the allegations in the press which may be unfounded and even mischievous. This would help to dispel the wrong perception of the church in the minds of all Malaysians, especially from other faiths.

While the bishop’s response in the Herald is encouraging, he must also provide clarification in the mainstream media that carried the report. That is the only way to correct the tarnished the charitable image of our church among members of the other faiths. This is particularly important at a time when we are in the midst of a legal suite against the government over the use of the name to address God.

This land fiasco has been highlighted not just by the press but taken up by our own bloggers like Anil Netto, Charles Hector and others who seem to insinuate that the church has handled the land issue in a high-handed and inconsiderate manner with little or no compassion which is unbecoming of a spiritual institution. It is disturbing that many readers have passed very unpleasant comments in their blog postings.

This is not the first controversial land deal involving the Catholic Church and the people are becoming increasingly more suspicious of the involvement of the church hierarchy in such commercial deals leaving little or no time for the pastoral care of their parishioners that is deplorable state in many parishes.

It is time to get to the truth of this land controversy to put things right and correct the wrong perception of our church among members of the public. In this era of sophisticated and enhanced telecommunications and internet the truth cannot be suppressed for long.Moreover there is no reason to fear the truth as Christ will always be on its side.

Dr.Chris Anthony