On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

We need to tower in areas that matter

The expedition, estimated to cost close to RM200,000,
will be funded by the Selangor government, Youth and Sports Ministry,
Ex-Servicemen's Affairs Corporation and programme sponsors. In short, public
money will be involved.

It's another bid, which does not require much grey matter, to enter the
Malaysia Book of Records. Very much along the lines of making the longest satay
or buffet, which made many of us cringe in embarrassment.

It has been reported that team members, comprising trainers from the National
Service Training of Trainers Centre, will make the attempt to drape the 210m by
110m national flag and 57 other flags on the pyramid on May 18.

If many Malaysians are not amused by this hare-brained plan, the Egyptians are
fuming mad that we have the audacity to cover up their 4,600-year-old national

Last week, the chairman of the Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, the body
responsible for the Giza site, reportedly said that he would not allow the
pyramid to be draped.

Its chairman Zahi Hawass said he had rejected other requests to exploit the
Great Pyramid, so why he should allow the Malaysian expedition to carry out
their project.

The mission, according to the organisers, was in response to Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's call to the nation to produce "towering Malaysians" and
to raise the profile of the country.

The intention seems noble and even commendable but we can't help feeling that
the organisers appear to have missed the point. Surely the Prime Minister had
other things in mind when he spoke about "towering Malaysians"?

Abdullah, in fact, said Malays should stop wasting time and focus their efforts
on building themselves into "towering personalities" with developed high
intellect, a high-values system, a successful career, a good economic standing
and a well-respected culture and religion.

Making his speech at the Umno general assembly in February, he urged his
listeners to be constructive and to have an objective to better themselves,
adding that they should spend their time looking for great ideas.

Draping the Jalur Gemilang on the pyramid does not seem to cover, pardon the
pun, any of the qualities that fits the "towering Malaysians" which the Prime
Minister had wanted.

When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad first spoke about the Malaysia Boleh spirit, he
wanted to instil confidence and to motivate Malaysians to strive for bigger
things and purposes. The present leadership has used a new phrase, towering
Malaysians, to continue that push.

But over the last few years, we have seen how that spirit is reduced to aiming
for frivolous achievements such as tallest lantern or biggest ketupat. Granted
that not all Malaysians can be world-class achievers and that a little fun in
making it into the Malaysian Book of Records would not hurt, we still need to
set greater heights if we want to be noticed worldwide.

Some time in October 2004, I asked Tun how he felt that some Malaysians seemed
to have got the Malaysia Boleh spirit wrong. The former premier, however, was
more forgiving.

He said some Malaysians could not think of any remarkable feat to achieve, so
they had to settle for the frivolous records. But he commended those who had
faith in themselves, citing people like Azhar Mansur, who sailed solo around
the world, and Malik Mydin, who swam across the English Channel. He described
such courageous people as serious.

We do not know whether the organisers of the pyramid mission had sought the
permission before going ahead with the trip. 
Surely, that would be a basic requirement. If official permission has
been given, then they need to resolve the problem quick as the Egyptian
rejection has raised the Malaysian profile in a manner we surely can do without.

That aside, we need to be more cautious of proclaiming our achievements,
particularly when others do not view them in the manner that we do.  Recently, a university took a full-page
advertisement listing its many firsts.

While some of its achievements deserves our applause, we wonder whether
claiming credit to be the first university to confer an honorary doctorate on
Dr Mahathir and the late Datin Seri Paduka Endon Mahmood would help to elevate
the academic standing of the university. 
So is the claim to be the first university in Southeast Asia to sign a
memorandum of standing with the University de Bologna in Italy.

Malaysians, whether as individuals or organisations, need to be mindful of how
we blow our trumpets. The intentions may be genuinely good but we should not
end up being a laughing stock.

Neither does it make sense to take part in third-rate contests to win gold
medals where we make up the majority of participants while the rest of the
academic community cast doubts on it.

Let's do away with our sendiri syok mentality.

It is good to be confident but we should not be naive to assume that we are
tops in many things, especially when the world has become more competitive.

Let's make it our New Year resolution to be "towering Malaysians" by setting
our goals right in areas that matter and which will win us internationally
recognised accolades.