21st December 1997
On Thursday, Christians will thank God for Christmas, and with Puasa just around
the corner on Tuesday and New Year on Thursday, it is a good time to be thinking
about ourselves and others who are less fortunate than us, and praying for them.
Christians kneel as Muslims prostrate, Chinese burn joysticks, Hindus, Sikhs and
Buddhists chant and intone in a liturgy of confession, repentance, communion and
asking of blessings, or at least for His promixity.
The 52nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adjourned last week for the Christmas-New
Year holidays with many unfinished jobs. The controversial reform of the Security
Council was stalled yet into another new year. When the UNGA resumes after the vacation,
the debate will continue to be great fun because so many countries aspire - no matter
how unrealistic from all accounts - for permanent membership of the Security Council.
Germans, Japanese even South Koreans are flexing their financial muscles. Germany
and Japan are over anxious to join the five permanent members - United States, Russia,
Britain, China and France - the allies that beat them during the Second World War.
Now Italy, the then ally of Germany and Japan, is in the vanguard of nations opposing
the two big economies becoming new permanent members of the powerful Security Council.
Japan and South Korea want more of their nationals in the higher echelons of the
Germany apparently has asked for a legal opinion whether Security Council reform
requires a two-thirds majority of all UN members or simply two-thirds of members
present. Italy wants a two-thirds of all UN members because Security Council reforms
have "UN Charter implications."
The Palestinians failed in a general assembly vote to enhance its participation in
the UN system while retaining its observer status. They have asked to be conferred
similar rights and privileges of participation as those conferred to member states,
with the exception of voting and candidature, in the sessions and work of the General
Assembly and the international conferences convened by and under the UN.
The European Union strongly opposed the change and it had enough votes to stop the
The UN enters the New Year with some uncertainty. If the huge American arrears continue
to be its bane, then, perhaps, it would not be long before it collapses or crippled
There are millions of people all over the world who are being persecuted for various
reasons, and I am grateful for our government's concern over the fate of Bosnians,
Palestinians, Chenchens and many others. I sympathise with the coloured who continue
to be treated as "second class".
An American federal study reports that when blacks, Hispanics and whites of comparable
incomes seek mortgages, banks turn down the first two groups much more frequently.
According to the study, the worst offender is Citibank. It rejected blacks seeking
mortgages 27% of the time, while rejecting whites only 8% of the time.
Do visitors to the Big Apple or the Big Bagel know that the majority of people who
live and work in New York city are black and hispanic? What the study found out must
be very chilling for them!
It would be interesting to find out how many bumiputra loan applications, but, more
importantly, the total volume of such loans, Bank Bumiputra has approved compared
to what it lavished and lavishes to others. I have not raised this issue about other
banks because none was specifically established to help the disadvantaged group.
Bank Bumiputra was born out of the First Bumiputra Economic Congress in 1965. Then,
as now, it is charged to help create, nature, develop and expand Malay entrepreneurship.
Whether it is performing what it is supposed to do is a matter for the Prime Minister,
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Anuar Ibrahim,
who is also his deputy, and the Bumiputra to judge.
In New York, there are 45 or more museums and I live in what is called the Museum
Mile. My immediate neighbours are the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, the
Guggenheim and the Jewish Museums.