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The difference between sensitivity and intolerance: A rebuttal on the Kelantan’s facts

The difference between sensitivity and intolerance: A rebuttal on the Kelantan’s facts (Part 1)

It is always a noble intention to kick-start a new year resolution that include sensitivity, respect and manners, important ingredients in building a great nation. Certainly 2017 will not be sorely missed. Prejudice, bilateral extremism, racial rhetoric and partisan divide are distancing Malaysians even further, propagated by godless manipulation of mass media.

Never ending polemic surrounding economic performance and integrity of the nation's leadership is indeed, very nauseating and extremely frustrating. Hence, it is a shame when another supposedly essential resolution towards reconciliation is going down the drain.

Manners and respect go a long way. To make real changes in this world, bridges must be built instead of burnt. Discourse via healthy dialogue and constructive criticism is instrumental in eradicating intolerance and generating sensitivity. Thus, it serves as irony to preach on sensitivity, but to claim, ‘there is nothing Islamic about Kelantan’.

This is hasty generalization at its best, jumping to a conclusion without considering all the variables, reeks of ignorance and arrogance. As Kelantan continues to struggle to visualize its vision and live up to the expectations of Islamic governance and way of life, to absolutely deny the effort and commitment, is the antithesis to sensitivity and a concrete proof of intolerance.

To make it worse, the evidence presented were outdated and the inferences made were all over the place. The author’s lack of grasp of a conceptual framework in discussing his hypothesis is amateurish by academia standard.

Following the 'absence' of Islam in Kelantan, the author quoted a newspaper article citing that Kelantan has the lowest household income in the country, only a third of KL. Well, the author is very much invited to stay for a few days in Kelantan to enjoy ‘nasi berlauk air dingin’ and to seek out the 'absence of Islam’ in its land. Only then, the only-third-of-household-income-in-KL will be put into perspective.

The enigma of household income survey is that it is subjected to different sources of income, measurement errors and varying reporting units among others. The people of Kelantan are inherent entrepreneurs, to explain why there is no shortage of nasi kerabu in every corner of Malaysia. While there is no large-scale industrial area or top notch business hub filled with foreign investors, it is the microeconomic activities that keep on fuelling the ecosystem.

Not to mention how the Kelantanese contribute significantly to the civil servants’ workforce, causing massive influx of ‘invisible’ household income and traffic jams during Raya. In 2016, the Department of Statistics reported the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth for Kelantan is 4.8%, which is equal to Selangor, ranked third place in Malaysia, excluding the Federal Territories. Kelantan also made it to the list of eight states whose GDP exceeded that of the nation's 4.2% for the year 2016. Furthermore, Jabatan Audit Negara will testify to Kelantan’s 99% Index of Accountability in Financial Management 2016. But, ‘nothing Islamic', as the author proposed.

Not sure where this one came from, the author also mentioned that Kelantan has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. A brief check with any public health official will reveal that Kelantan’s infant mortality rate for 2016 is 7.75%, third place after Putrajaya (8%) and Labuan (8.2%). At fourth place, both Johor and Pahang reported infant mortality rate of 7.4%.

There are several factors that need to be considered when discussing infant mortality rates; fertility rates being one of them. Kelantan has the highest fertility rate in Malaysia, 3.2 births for every woman of child bearing age compared to Putrajaya 2.5, Labuan and nationwide 1.9. Kelantan is indeed blessed with two major tertiary hospital with a renowned research institution. Prospective studies should be done to identify interventions to improve infant mortality rates.

Bodies of literature have shown that the major cause of infant mortalities are neonatal encephalopathy (problem with brain function after birth), infections, and complications of prematurity. How can a state government be blamed solely as this ultimately falls under the purview of the national health services?

The author went on and as a result made a glaring mistake by stating that a newborn child in Kelantan is twice as likely to die before the age of five compared to newborns in Kuala Lumpur. In 2016, the number of under five mortality cases in Kelantan is 367 and Kuala Lumpur had 191 cases. This translates into a rate of 9.5 and 7.4 deaths over 1000 live births respectively, which does not in any way, support the author’s allegation. Thus, the one question that will come to mind is, what standard of journalism the Malay Mail editor is upholding nowadays.

In an act of rampant attack on Kelantan, the author quoted the prevalence of HIV in Kelantan from way back in 2010 whereas the Ministry of Health has been releasing annual health indicator indices. Based on 2015 statistics, the number of HIV cases in Kelantan is 169, ranked 7th place after Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang. As for the incidence rate, Kelantan is ranked even lower in 10th place, 9.84 cases in 100,000 population. The national incidence rate is 10.92.

Undeniably, HIV, drug abuse and sexual delinquency are real issues with significant psychosocial consequences. The effects are far reaching and devastating, not only in Kelantan but nationwide. Few days back, the News Straits Times reported a research by the Bukit Aman Integrity and Compliance office that disclosed as many as 25% of the police workforce were drug abusers.

Thus, to continue trading insults and exchanging blame is a form of addiction that will provide short term gratification but will be counter productive in every tangible outcome. Evidently, this act of bashing Kelantan, ‘Islamism’ and conservatism will get articles published in every mainstream media today. Nevertheless, to continue feeding and painting negative perceptions on the walls will hinder progress in understanding, tolerance and harmony. Not the 2018 that Malaysian hoped for.

Soon, Part 2: Manners, moving forward.

In response to The Malay Mail article entitled “The difference between sensitivity and intolerance” published on 27th December 2017.

Dr Faris Marwan,
Jabatan Profesional Muda,
Dewan Pemuda PAS Malaysia.


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