Thursday, August 13, 2015

Driving in the USA: Ikut Kiri, Ikut Kiri

This would be my second time driving a car in the US - in California to be precise.

Just like when I was in Canada for three visits. In Ontario, to be precise.

It is left-hand drive in both countries, in case you didn't know.

To be honest, it had been and is pleasant driving in both places - in Fullerton-Anaheim-Placentia (Orange County, Southern California) and in Toronto-Kitchener-Mississauga-Waterloo (Ontario) because basically motorists are not crazy, demented or/and mad. Particularly in Ontario.

In Mississauga back in 2010 when I first visited my son, Adel - I was honked at only once for blocking a lane I should not have been in. But ever so lightly honked.

In Anaheim in January this year, in an Asian neighbourhood - a motorist honked at me because I was driving a little too slow on a fast lane.
Yep, forgot the fast and slow lanes here are in reverse. But heck -- that happens in Asian neighbourhoods. Asians! Sheesh -- what do you expect?

And yesterday when returning back from Farina's place - at the traffic lights as I was making a turn. That was and is still puzzling. Was I driving too slowly? Perhaps.  Still -- just a single light honk. Not the rabid crazy Malaysian honk.

It is funny but I am quite nervous driving here and in Ontario because (generally) people are just so civil.

So used to the madness in KL? Perhaps...

Here, I worry - am I driving too fast? Am I turning too quickly into the next lane? Am I stopping too abruptly?

And the most recurring habit -- driving too far right in the lane. Something that spooks both Adel in Canada and Farina, here in Orange County, Southern California.
"Mummy, mummy ... you are too far right.. ", Adel used to say to me back when I was driving us around in Ontario. He was more nervous than me.  Then , I got nervous.

Here, hardly five minutes in the car and on the road, Farina said "ikut kiri ikut kiri, Kak Ena". I thought , at first, that she meant for me to keep to the left lane because i needed to make a left turn.

Then...aah. I was too far right.

I have until the end of the month to remember to "ikut kiri".

And if I forget, this will be the song with only two words that either Farina or Shaira will be singing to me as we cruise around the neighbourhoods of Fullerton and Anaheim or the Santa Ana freeway -

"Ikut kiri ikut kiri ikut kiri" ...

Remember, remember.

And Now It's 4...

Finally.... that moment came.  The Ringgit breached the RM4 mark against the USD, trading at RM4.02 yesterday.

I would usually react rather insipidly because firstly I'd be at home and spending in Ringgit and no reason to be needing to convert currencies and secondly, this came as no surprise.

This time, though, it is different because I am now in the US with my daughter who is studying here. I am concerned. Worried over what is to follow.

Early this year when my daughter came here to continue her American degree program at California State University, the exchange rate was hovering around RM3.81-82 to the USD.

Before I left on Aug 10, it was 3.86.

Sure, this will hit me as a parent with a daughter in the US.

But I have to say that I am a little fortunate because I actually was prepared for this.

Last year when preparing my daughter's departure to the US, I opened a foreign currency (USD) account back home so that any fluctuation in rates will not affect me. Yes, thank God, I did that.

Nevertheless, the concern is real.

But, we've been through this before. Thankfully, our prime minister then , Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad handled it brilliantly, confounding all and sundry by imposing capital control and we not only survived but overcame it all.

We could have gone the Indonesian way if we had submitted to the IMF.

Most Malaysians who experienced that will never forget those trying times.

I do feel for those who are supporting their children's studies in the US. It will hit them, if it has not already.

I remember years ago when the exchange rate between the Ringgit and Pound Sterling began to make a sharp increase, some parents were forced to end their children's studies in Britain. Their kids had to return home.

I can only pray that we will overcome - yet again another trial and tribulation. How, I don't know -- I am no economist. But I was not born yesterday. Isn't this a cycle? Malaysia is not alone. So whether global  forces will come together to bring stability back or for our prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to come up with  a brilliant plan -- time will tell. Let's hope it will be soon.

We will see ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sacking Muhyiddin as DPM - It's According to the Script

For many people, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's removal as DPM was not a surprise.

He had it coming, some party loyalists remarked.

Did he really?

Others, on the other side of the fence,  felt that Muhyiddin was just saying it as it is.

And  there were others who thought it was just a show because, for heaven's sake, Muhyiddin would never do Najib in.

Muhyiddin's remarks when officiating the Cheras Umno division meeting Sunday night had been met with shock, ire, despair, relief, excitement, encouragement from people - depending on where you stand in all this 1MDB- PM saga.

It created a raging buzz in and out of social media and cyberspace.
If you had been following all this -- and if you didn't, two things; either you are just so fed up or you are living in a cave - you'd know that it gets more murky and baffling and how much more,  remains to be seen

After Muhyiddin's remarks were made so public, people were all speculating that  he'd be sacked.

Because 1) it showed that he is not with the PM on all this and was only making things worse for the PM and 2) man, has he got balls to say all those things.

Of course, going by convention, decency and all that - Muhyiddin should not have said all that - according to some party loyalists.

They say that Muhydidin, of all people,  the number 2, should not feign ignorance, a confused mind, lack of understanding. It was bad enough that former PM and party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad led the chorus of fierce attacks against Najib and now his own deputy.
That is the job of the opposition.

Read Dr MiM's HERE

But really,  if you followed what he said, he did not say anything damning. If he was not able to to understand the 1MDB controversy, well, that is really his problem.

He mentioned Deputy Finance Minister 2 Datuk Husni Hanadzlah and Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan having explained the issue to their colleagues but had still left him in the dark. Which is odd because Rahman, it seems, did a good job of explaining it.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Gani Patail has had his services terminated on health grounds effective yesterday. He is replaced by federal court judge Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Asked to confirm this, Gani said he did not resign but "they terminated" his services.
Gani is leading the task force investigating allegations against 1MDB. It looks like he no longer is.

Others in the team are Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed.

Now, this is all going to be an explosive subject for speculation.

Gani has about 2 months more before retirement, I believe. So the questions people are asking -- why -- does Gani know something and about to do something? Is he really not well? And, of course, the task force is now under scrutiny.

Gani, it seems, needs dialysis treatment but is not a diabetic.

Meanwhile PM Najib explains the reason for dropping Muhyiddin which he said was a tough decision for him but he needed the Cabinet to be united.

I can accept difference of opinion but as a cabinet member one cannot do it in a public forum as it can create public misconception. This also affect the concept of collective responsibility,” he said when announcing the new Cabinet line-up here on Tuesday. 
Najib added that the reshuffle was also to strengthen the lineup before the 14th general election.
He said the decision to go ahead with the reshuffle took into account the political scenario and was in the best interest of the administration.
“This ensures that my administration remains committed and focused on development as promised by the Barisan Nasional government in the last general election,” he said in his speech.
He added that the Cabinet should act as a team under all circumstances. - The Star

Umno vice-president and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi replaces Muhyiddin as DPM. Muhyiddin who also lost his Education portfolio is replaced by Datuk Seri Mahadhir Khalid.

Muhyiddin, in an immediate response to his sacking, said he accepted the PM's decision to drop him from the Cabinet and thanked him for the opportunity to serve the government. He also said he will remain loyal to Umno.

"Kecuali dalam isu 1MDB, saya mempunyai prinsip dan pendirian saya sendiri dalam mempertahankan hak rakyat, namai baik parti dan kepentingan negara. Jika kerana pendirian saya dalam isu ini menyebabkan saya digugurkan daripada kabinet maka saya redha.

Saya akan sentiasa setia kepada perjuangan UMNO. Sebagai Timbalan Presiden UMNO, saya akan terus melaksanakan amanah yang telah dipertanggungjawabkan kepada saya dan mencurahkan khidmat bakti saya demi memperkukuhkan parti serta mengembalikan keyakinan orang Melayu dan rakyat kepada UMNO.
Kepada Allah saya berserah."

From now, my friends, it's Que Sera Sera. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Salam Aidilfitri

Let me wish everyone a blessed Hari Raya. Hope for a lot of positivity this Aidilfitri. A silver lining, perhaps.

For those heading back to kampung, have a safe journey. Berjaga-jaga di jalan raya. Malang tak berbau, you know.

And those here in the Klang Valley -- stay safe.

Above all -- have a glorious celebration.

The significant of Eid

A Confession - Lester Melanyi's

Here's the first part of the video of Lester Melanyi - former editor of Sarawak Report - confessing to the bad things SR had been doing.

This has got to do with forged documents about 1MDB and PM Najib Razak.

Check it HERE at Rockys Bru.

I don't want to go into details except that I find SR rather jahat. When your objective is to bring down a government by spreading a lot of lies, you mut be ..well ..what can I say without being rude.

YOU don't have to believe him, that 's your right.

I would keep an open mind.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

1MDB Money In Najib's Bank Account - True? Not True?

And that is the question I can safely say everyone wants to know. At least that is a lot fairer than already condemning the Prime Minister of stealing money and dumping it into his personal account.

It is a also a question former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had already admitted to being the man behind the crisis (in response to Datuk Seri Najib Razak's finger-pointing him) wants the prime minister to just say it.

Tun told the BBC in an interview published on its website that Najib should just reveal his bank accounts to disprove the allegations.

Yes. As easy as that. Show us all your accounts, Mr prime minister.

But you and I know that Najib is not about to do that. But does his reluctance mean that he's got something to hide. Or that he has this "why should I?" feeling because his bank accounts are after all, confidential.

Do the current circumstances change that?

I have no idea.

Should he reveal his bank accounts just because people want to know because The Wall Street Journal has published some flow chart of  funds going into the bank account of one Mohd Najib Adb Razak?

There is a lot of debate going on about this. But for sure, in the court of public opinion, the prime minister is already guilty.

This is the first time in the history of our country that a prime minister has been accused by a newspaper to have .. well to put it plainly -- stolen public funds.

The prime minister is facing the worst time of his premiership. The party he leads is surely divided.
When Umno is troubled, it has a splinter effect on everything else.

Whatever the outcome of this,  it cannot be good. It already is so ugly and to can only get uglier and more unpleasant.

The task force investigating this comprise Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Aziz, Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Tan Sr Abu Kassim Mohamed have already closed 6 accounts of banks linked to the case.

There are just so many speculations about the 1MDB funds allegedly deposited into Najib's personal bank account. And nothing is clear. So nebulous. Yet, the deeper we go into it, the more frightening the picture gets.

How this is going to be played out remains to be seen. But one thing for sure, it will not have happy ending. Because it has come to this.

 Do read  Rocky's Bru HERE on the veracity of The Wall Street Journal's documented evidence.

And JebatMustDie who thinks Najib's lawyers sent a pathetic letter to WSJ HERE

So whether there exists that personal bank account with that amount of money or not -- that is not the question. Because whether there is or not, the implications are severe and serious.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Mara Controversial Melbourne Property Deal : 2 senior Mara Inc officials Suspended

In the wake of investigations into the controversial property deal by the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) in Melbourne, Australia,  the Mara council suspended two Mara Inc Sdn Bhd senior officials from duty with immediate effect.

They are its chairman Datuk Mohammad Lan Allani, 59 and its CEO Datuk Abdul Halim Rahim, 54.
Announcing this yesterday, Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa said this was to facilitate investigations and for it to be done in a transparent manner.

He pointed out that this did not mean that Mara had found wrongdoings by the two.

Mara has appointed audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a thorough audit.

Wouldn't you think that this is the right move and a good one?

Apparently not,  according to some people. Why only them? Why not the entire board? After all, didn't the purchase of the Melbourne property go through the necessary procedure and process?

I suppose there is no pleasing everyone.

This is a serious matter and may open up a very old can of worms. Maybe not.

So, let the investigations carry on because we all want to know the truth. Mara, for many Malays and bumiputera is an institution close to their hearts because it has helped legions of young Malays and bumiputera in academic, vocational and skilled education and others in the community opportunities in businesses. Through Mara's help, thousands have come a long way - many from rural and remote areas.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Keeping Cool on Hot Ramadan Days

Fifteen days now. And it has been a real hot and dry Ramadan. So hot that people needed to have their cooling machines on all day and night,  overloading power supply in my neighbourhood, causing power failure in some homes earlier this week.

Lucky those who can remain in cool indoors.

I drive past the MRT construction site almost everyday and watch the workers toiling under the scorching sun and wish that I can magically turn the hot day into a lovely fall afternoon.

It's been so hot and probably on quite the plus side that I don't need to turn my water heater on because the water is warmed but the heat of the day.

Mornings are so hot that we make sure we hang out our laundry to dry and before noon, we can be sure it's all done.

I am sure there are so many like me who love this month of the year. I know we are supposed to do good but we are after all mere mortals and are always bound to get careless. But during Ramadan, we consciously try to not curse, swear, lie, gossip and all those things humans indulge in in their everyday life.

Which actually is not hard to do because we are just too tired to be talking or get distracted.

This listlessness is also good for feuding politicians and to an extent their supporters although you do get to read the subtle "attacks" in the form of quotes of some historical or iconic personalities.

Sometimes, resistance ain't that easy.

Still, you can say it that on the feud of local politics, the temperature has been turned down. So much so that the quirks and madness of one Azwan Ali and a local steak restauranteur make for interesting cyberspace read. 

That's for another entry.

So, on such hot Ramadan days, not a bad go at keeping cool.

Salam Ramadan, everyone.

Cuba Wins WHO certification for success in elimination mother-to-child HIV & Syphilis Transmission

Read this in the NYT. We used to hear a lot of terrible things about Cuba, courtesy of the evil US, of course. And then the internet came and we get to see and hear the other Cuba. And then Cuba opened its doors to the citizens of the world and other governments. 
A Malaysian team of medical researchers were there a few years ago and spoke of how well it provided health care for Cubans and how advanced its research in tropical diseases was. 
So, yeah. Go, Cuba!
Here's the NYT article.
Cuba became the world’s first country on Tuesday to win World Health Organization certification that it had eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both H.I.V. and syphilis. Despite its poverty, Cuba provides basic health care to all citizens. Since the 1980s it has successfully suppressed its H.I.V. epidemic, initially through forced quarantine and, since 1993, by widespread testing and treatment.
It was congratulated on Tuesday by the heads of the W.H.O. and Unaids, the United Nations AIDS-fighting agency.
However, the W.H.O. allows countries that achieve only 95 percent of elimination targets to be certified; in 2013, five Cuban babies were born with H.I.V. or syphilis. Cuba was the first country to request the certification, according to a spokeswoman for the Pan American Health Organization, the W.H.O.’s Western Hemisphere branch.
More than 20 others have since asked, she added, and those next in line are Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Thailand.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rohingya Boat People : A Long Way To Go

On May 19, I wrote on my Facebook status this..

I said that Malaysia must allow the Rohingyas who were adrift at sea and had reached Langkawi on May 10 to land for refuge and shelter. It was not an option because pushing them away would mean that they would perish at sea.
So, okay.. I said a lot of things including that Malaysia had experience in handling refugees - the Vietnamese boat people who were here in transit camps before they were all resettled in third countries. We also had the Bosnians who were also later returned to their country after the conflict.

I also said that Malaysia and ASEAN must pressure the world to make Myanmar accountable and responsible for this humanitarian crisis that they have caused.
Myanmar is a disgrace. Their government must take back the Rohingyas. They must be compelled, be forced to take back the Rohingyas.
It is their burden to bear.
The next day, May 20, I was heartened to know that Malaysia was offering the Rohingyas temporary shelter.
Foreign  Minister Datuk Seri Anifah announced that this was the stand of Malaysia & Indonesia until resettlement & repatriation process was carried out within one year.
Meanwhile, the 2 countries will provide humanitarian assistance to the 7,000 migrants still at sea, he added.
He would be meeting Myanmar Foreign Minister soon to seek a solution to this in the spirit of ASEAN.
Anifah also said that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are urging the international community to share the responsibility and burden of this humanitarian crisis.

It must be said that there, according to the UNHCR, as at the end of April this year, there are some 152,830 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNCHR in Malaysia.
Here's according to UNCHR:
- 141,920 are from Myanmar, comprising some 49,600 Chins, 45,910 Rohingyas, 12,320 Myanmar Muslims, 7,280 Rakhines & Arakanese, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

- There are some 10,910 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 3,890 Sri Lankans, 1,210 Pakistanis, 1,090 Somalis, 950 Syrians, 830 Iraqis, 540 Iranians, 430 Palestinians, and others from other countries.

Some 69% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, while 31% are women.

There are some 33,000 children below the age of 18.

There are some 7,000 Rohingyas  - declared non-citizens by both Myanmar and Bangadesh -  who have fled persecution and poverty in Myanmar in overcrowded boats. More than 3,000 have reached Malaysian and Indonesian waters.
So, you can imagine this herculean problem that Malaysia has by allowing them to land. 

Let me say that while allowing the Rohingyas to land on our shores is the human and compassionate thing to do, it is going to be a huge problem.. Adding to the already huge problem that we have.

From now after the documentation and necessary processes, Malaysia will have to decide how the refugees are going to remain in the country. Where, what and how?

I do not agree that they should be immediately assimilated into society or that that should be the objective for now.

We need to wait for Myamar's reaction to this.

For now, security, medical&health and legal teams have to be deployed. 

It is no mean task to handle thousands of undocumented people, among whom are women and children, who are not in the best of health -- physically and mentally. 

Anifah said that this would all be done within a year. The prospect of a longer period is problematic. We must expect health problems, even increase in number due to new births. 

This is the reality.

There are crucial decisions to be made as to the location to place them but the government should move away from any plans to place them in detention centres.

In fact, if the government has had minimal ties with the UNCHR and NGOs on helping  refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, it should start now for everyone's benefit.

Provide health and education facilities for them. If Myanmar does not want them, perhaps other countries will take in skilled and healthy people. 

On May 14, 2015, the UNHCR issued this statement:

We have made a global call for legal alternatives to access protection and safety. We believe that nobody should have to put their lives into the hands of ruthless smugglers.

In South-east Asia, several thousand people are believed to be stranded on smugglers' boats in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, likely abandoned by their crews amid government crackdowns against traffickers.

We urge governments to facilitate disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open to prevent a humanitarian crisis at sea.

Once the humanitarian needs are met, agencies like UNHCR can support States to interview the different groups and target solutions to their specific needs, as those being rescued are likely to be a mix of refugees, economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children among those being smuggled.

The current situation highlights the urgent need for regional cooperation to address the challenge of irregular maritime movements. Through the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, UNHCR has been advocating for coordinated regional responses to search and rescue, disembarkation, needs identification and solutions

Meanwhile, here's hoping that ASEAN and the international community will put pressure on Mynamar for this humanitarian crisis. And fast.