Thursday, May 31, 2007
I am remembering
I am remembering
Won't she know
Though she is here no more
Won't she weep
Though she is gone
You can't fool her
You can't fool her memory
So soon after she's left us
Isn't it too soon
just too soon
Their pain has not left them
Their hearts are weeping
They are still grieving
Is this for you
Or for them
Isn't it just too soon
To take another
We just have to know which one.
Sometimes, that one thing is staring us in the face.
If I were a member of the Malaysian Cabinet, I'd know what I'd do in this age of ICT. I certainly would not want my country to be left dinosaur years behind.
Sometimes it is so okay to be a copycat.
For instance, Singapore's education ministry is going all out to make its people very tech-savvy from a young age. Really tech-savvy.
They are preparing their kids to be netizens so that when they grow up and join the real world of corporate and government, they'd know what to do and what is expected of them.
They'd be more than ready to take on the world.
(As though they aren't already!)
Blogging. Yeah. That's one of things they will be doing. Blogging is being made part of English lessons in Singapore. Check that out.
Five schools have been chosen for the integration of infocomm technology into their curriculum across all levels, for a period of four years.
The schools are Jurong Secondary, Hwa Chong Institution, Canberra Primary and Crescent Girls' and the new Beacon Primary School.
It is an ambitious programe and by 2015, the ministry hopes to have up to 15 schools to be similarly shaped through the FutureSchools@Singapore initiative.
That's Singapore for you.
You can read the story here.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Of Beef Steak and Bamiah - May 29 2007
I remember gorgeous picnics on gorgeous Sundays in the backyard of our Section 5 house in Petaling Jaya.
The fare would usually be Bapak's beef steak and a whole lotta fun. Sometimes, we'd have Mak's nasi lemak as well.
If we were not outside and having a whole lotta fun, we were in the dining room inside, having the nasi lemak or beef steak or both and a lotta fun.
I remember gorgeous sunny Sunday mornings. I don't remember it ever being scorching hot.
I'm not sure I'd want to try picnics on Sunday mornings here and now. I'd have to wait for after-the-rain fresh and crisp mornings to get that perfect weather.
They just don't make Sunday mornings like they used to.
When I was a kid, I looked forward to Sundays because it would be a riot. It was so much fun because everybody would be at one place -- the garden or the dining room, doing things together.
Today, I can't imagine having a cook-out and a picnic with a brood of 8 children, making a ruckus -- in or outside the house. I think I'd be stressed out and need to be sedated.
We called his signature dish -- beef steak. Not just steak, but beef steak.
I remember calling it bistik, until it must have so exasperated Abang Med that he, a stickler for pronounciation, patiently helped me get it right.
As we grew older and moved to Section 16, the picnics were no more. They were replaced by Sunday brunches with Bapak's beef steak as the enduring main item on the menu.
When he was "away" those five years, the Sunday brunches and Bapak's beef steak were something we sorely missed.
Bapak's culinary expertise then was only confined to his ability to whip up his "famous" beef steak which was perfected over the years.
A few days after he was released from detention in 1981, I found Bapak in the wet kitchen of our house.
As usual, he was in his singlet and kain pelekat but he had Mak's apron on and was attempting to light the stove.
It had been so long not seeing Bapak in the kitchen that I was caught by surprise.
I did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
Mak was with him, giving him instructions on lighting the stove.
"Bapak awak nak masak hari ni", Mak remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone.
Now, it's not that we were surprised by Bapak's absolute enthusiasm to take over the kitchen because he had given us hints during our Tuesday visits that he had developed a pretty keen culinary skill and interest.
It's not that we were not paying attention to this revelation.
It was not something he had spoken about at great length. So casual were the conversations on the subject that it never quite hit us that it was becoming a serious preoccupation.
Yet, in a way we were amazed that he enjoyed whipping up dishes. At times we thought that it was a way of passing his time in detention.
All this happened, perhaps, during the last two years of his detention.
Bapak would broach the subject of a certain dish that he enjoyed and would ask Mak for the recipe.
When he first asked for a recipe, we were curious.
"Ada orang yang nak masakkan untuk Bapak?", one of us asked.
"Tak ada-lah, Aku yang nak masak," was Bapak's reply. That took us by surprise.
They let you cook? Who buys the stuff for you? Who helps you in the kitchen? Why are they letting you cook? Are you their servant? Have you got to wash the dishes? Is this a form of torture? How many people do you have to cook for?
There was really no way of knowing the truth then.
But what was clear was that he was genuinely earnest in wanting to know some recipes.
He asked Mak the recipes for soto ayam, bamiah, laksa johor, sambal goreng and lodeh -- all his favourites.
We thought he'd be, you know, just having some fun trying out.
Perhaps too, it was his way of telling us not to worry about him, that he was allowed some freedom to indulge in a new-found passion.
The next time we visited, he'd tell us that the soto ayam he made was too thin and pale.
Mak would tell him to apply estimation and approximation. Add a bit of this and that.
We didn't know whether to be amused.
However, these conversations were not relentless nor were they that frequent that we ever really had an inkling that he would be so at ease in the kitchen.
That day I found him in the kitchen, I tried to look cool.
It took a few moments for Mak's remarks to sink in.
Perhaps he was going fry eggs> Then, I remembered his yummy beef steak.
"Masak apa, Bapak?", I asked, coolly.
"Tak ada apa2. Daging masak merah, korma ayam, acar sayur dengan nasi minyak," he replied casually, and flashed that wicked grin because he knew I would be so utterly surprised.
I did something really stupid. I ran out of the kitchen to the dining room and shouted : "Bapak nak masak, bapak nak masak."
Kak Olin, who was already back home from England after finishing her law studies, rushed downstairs. Everybody rushed downstairs.
There was a flurry of activities in the kitchen. Everybody wanted to give a helping hand.
Mak must have been so amused by this unexpected spectacle that she just watched Bapak and us messing up her kitchen.
Even in our younger days, it was Bapak who would be going to the market, accompanied by Mak. It was simply a question of practicality.
The menu of the day revolved around Bapak's prefences so it only made sense that he decided
on the foodstuff that were needed.
So when Bapak was back home after his long "absence", Mak was delighted to have him accompany her to the market and allowing him to decide on what to buy.
Mak told us how Bapak caused a near commotion in the section 14 market one morning when he turned up with Mak.
The fish mongers and the traders remembered him and everyone greeted him in the way people greeted celebrities. Not only that, several people who knew him gathered around him to say hello. And then some.
Later, we found out that since then, Bapak who never haggled about prices, would get discounted prices for almost everything that he bought at the market.
Bapak told us that he embarked on a culinary journey during the later part of his detention.
By then, he had struck up a closeness with his "minders" who would entertain his requests for ingredients and the many recipes in newspapers or magazines.
They were his guinea pigs in his culinary experiments. Sometimes they would persuade Bapak to try out some recipes of dishes they liked. He was always game.
By the time he was released and back with us, his culinary repertoire was quite broad.
When Bapak decided to be cook for the day, we would see no fewer than five dishes for lunch or dinner.
If Mak had any complaint at all, it would be the clean-up after Bapak's foray in the kitchen.
Oh yes. How messy the kitchen was after Bapak had been doing his cooking.
Poor Mak. Sometimes her kitchen looked as though it had just been struck by a typhoon.
But under the circumstances, this was so inconsequential.
When more grandchildren made their debut in Bapak's life, he began treating them to Sunday brunches of his famous beef steak.
When he rejoined the New Straits Times as editorial advisor, he carved quite a reputation as a cook and appeared in newspapers, magazines and TV programmes -- usually whipping up a mean dish of "Bamiah" (a dish he learnt from Mak) which is akin to "Goulash" and eaten with slices of french loaf.
There were times he'd invite my colleagues who were all known to him, for chicken rice or soto ayam.
After Mak died, Bapak never missed preparing several dishes to go with "lontong" or "ketupat" for Hari Raya Aidilitri and Bamiah on Hari Raya Adil Adha.
Hari Raya had always been an open invitation to his friends, colleagues and fellow journalists to come on the first day, only because that was when Lontong and all the best dishes would be served.
The first day of Hari Raya would be a very busy day. Year in and year out, people would be already at our doorstep as early as 10am. By noon, the NST journalists who later became my colleagues, would be over in full force.
When Mak was around, they'd come for her lontong, lodeh, sambal goreng and her spicy fried chicken.
After she died, it was no different. They still came. But the chef had changed.
Those were the days.
These days, my nephews, Kak Piah's only child Irwan Hakim (now a 30 year-old married father of a toddler) and Kak Olin's eldest, 26 year-old Khairil Ahmad get misty-eyed thinking of Bapak's beef steak.
Lalin and Nina crave for his Bamiah because after Mak died, it was Bapak who would be preparing the dish.
Now they turn to Kak Olin who, after Bapak was indisposed and unable to cook up a storm in the kitchen, has got the dish near-perfect.
I miss Bapak's nasi minyak.
It has been so long since he stepped into the kitchen to whip up his favourite dishes, or any of our favourites.
It has been so long since he has been able to do many things that he had enjoyed doing.
There are many things Bapak has been unable to indulge in.
But, his days are still gorgeous. His house is filled with squeals, glee and the playful laughter of Sarah, Heikal and Sonia who come to his room and keep him company as THEY all watch THEIR cartoon network programmes.
They bring him fruits and chocolates.
Even baby Sharmaine makes frequent appearances in her Datuk's chamber.
Oh... have the school holidays already started? Do I hear Adam, Haris, Sofia and Soraya laughing and playing in the TV room?
And do I hear a very exasperated Lalin telling Sonia, her youngest: "Stop jumping up and down on Datuk's bed", as a very amused Bapak, in the very same bed, looks on.
(Photos: Searching through my collection of photographs. I was sure I took a shot of Bapak in apron. Couldn't find it. But here are three photos taken at his birthday celebration last year.
Khairil can be seen seated near the door in the picture with M. Nasir and behind Bapak in the picture with Sharifah Aini. )
Monday, May 28, 2007
The next time the price of sugar goes up, I am going to boycott sugar. Same goes with chicken. I will boycott chicken. And if the price of cooking oil goes up, I'll just boil my food.
I want to make a statement, a real tough one that I cannot be bullied by the likes of food suppliers.
I am serious about what I will do in such circumstances.
I, however, have no illusion that I can be as serious as a militant bra-burning feminist of a bygone era, and I am virtually alone in this consumer crusade.
Will you join me? Yeah, thought so. See, I am all alone. So, I might as well forget fighting price increases.
A hike in petrol prices? Boycott petrol? Not a good idea.
I tried boycotting certain tolled roads and was quite successful until one day I was in a desperate hurry and didn't think, and ended up using a tolled road whose rates had been increased.
So what brought about this topic of boycott and price increase?
Well, it was a question (or two) that BigDog (the blogger) posed to me a few hours ago.
"Why are Malaysian consumers so weak and allow themselves to be bullied by food suppliers?"
"Why do they accept price increases without a fight and expect the government to help control prices?"
BigDog thinks that there are just too many goods that come under "essential items" and "controlled prices" categories.
He thinks that Malaysians accept price increases without a fight so much so that suppliers can so easily bully them by increasing prices at will.
"Why don't we boycott the goods or foodstuff? Just don't buy them and scare the suppliers", he remarked.
I'm with you on this one, brother.
BigDog says in Britain, food suppliers dare not increase the prices for fear of consumer boycott.
You don't see that happening here, he laments.
He's right. People here must have their coffee with sugar, their fried chicken and, oh, all those essential items. So, the government must help control the prices.
So. Yes, I am alone in this.
Read BigDog's take on the lot of Malaysian consumers here.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
The Malay language version of Ooi Kee Beng's "The Reluctant Politician - Tun Dr Ismail and His Time" is already on sale. It was out last month.
In paperback and 296-paged, it is priced at RM40 on the rack.
I got mine at The Times in Bangsar Shopping Centre, at a discount.
"Bukan Kerana Pangkat - Tun Dr Ismail dan Masanya" , is the translated version by Singaporean Bashir Basalamah, and published by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore (ISEAS) in collaboration with the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Malaysia.
The translation, according to Tawfik Ismail (TDI's eldest son), was as close as possible to the original (The Reluctant Politician) although there were some parts that could not be literally translated, as is often the case with language translation.
If you have not read "The Reluctant Politician", you should start. Never mind your political predilection. The biography pieces together TDI's documents and letters which were long kept by Tawfik.
TDI was Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister under the Cabinet of Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia's second Prime Minister.
In the book are priceless narrations of closed-door events that had direct impact on our nation's political struggle towards Merdeka. You will come across familiar names of powerful players in those days.
I was also drawn to some very personal anecdotes about his life as a medical student in Australia -- the nature of which I had never found in similar writings of Malaysian leaders. I doubt even the living or surviving relatives of these leaders would want such intimate details to be disclosed.
So, it must have taken some, if not, a lot of courage for TDI's children to allow these details to be included.
"They are the truth. Why pretend they never happened", replied Tawfik when I asked him about it in March after the launching of the book in Danga Bay, Johor Bahru.
To me, there is no hypocrisy, no pretensions about how a Malay and a Muslim led a life as a student in a foreign land - some booze, merry-making and, well, some romantic entanglements, naturally.
I know many Malay political leaders would pretend that part of their life never happened.
There is something missing in the biography. Dr Mahathir was not interviewed. I had expected him to be, given that TDI was the one against re-admitting him into Umno after his attack on Tengku Abdul Rahman.
According to Ooi, TDM's office was not able to accomodate his requests to interview TDM due to TDM's busy schedule. By the time TDM was able to, it was already past the book's deadline.
A pity, really because I was made to understand that Dr Mahathir was an ardent admirer of TDI.
When I got the book, I wanted to ask many questions from people who knew him.
The closest person I could think of was my father, A Samad Ismail (Pak Samad).
I had never met the late TDI, He died in 1973 when I was in sixth form.
However, I did see him at "close range" in 1971 when he and his wife, Norashikin, were guests-of-honour at the wedding of my elder sister, Mariah (with Roslani Hashim), at our Section 16 residence in Petaling Jaya.
TDI was the Deputy Prime Minister then.
I thought he did look a little like my father -- must be the combination of his spectacles and moustache on the face.
I remember something Bapak said when he received news that TDI had died. He had said: "There goes the last few of my friends."
I believe he meant "political" friends.
Some people found TDI arrogant. Was he?
Pak Samad:"No. But he could be if he wanted to. "
Was he an ultra Malay as some had described him?
Pak Samad: "It does not mean that if you defend the Malays that you are an ultra. "
Was he a highly-principled man?
Pak Samad: "No....but... he was a man of principles. Incorruptible."
What did TDI think of Harry (Lee Kuan Yew)?
Pak Samad: "He didn't take Harry seriously. He (TDI) himself was in the position to retaliate against Harry. Harry knew what Tun was made of. Also, Tun was a man not easily taken in by flattery."
How well did you know TDI?
Pak Samad:" I was leading a very influential and powerful newspaper. He knew and was very well aware of my background. He was an Umno leader and an influential member of the government. He needed my feedback. I needed to know the goings-on. We'd call each other regularly. He'd ask my my views and opinion. He knew that I could be brutally frank."
About the man:
Pak Samad: "If someone like him could get along with someone like me, well...it says something about the man."
It certainly does.
Friday, May 25, 2007
It is going to be a real tough job registering millions of bloggers. What with unremitting protests from the mammoth community of internet users, it's better to encourage your countrymen and women to register, than to force them to do so.
Here's the Bernama story (I know the news is a little stale):
BEIJING, May 23 (Bernama) -- Following opposition from the industry and netizens, China is likely to discard long-harboured plans requiring the country's 20 million bloggers to register themselves, state media said.
A draft published by the Internet Society of China (ISC) encouraged bloggers to register their names with service providers instead of making it compulsory, China Daily reported.
Government departments have been promoting a real-name system for years, arguing it will force Internet users to watch their words and actions, and refrain from slander, pornography and dissemination of other harmful information, the newspaper said.
But the proposal drew protests from Internet users and the industry, it added.
According to the ISC draft, those who voluntarily register themselves may still use pseudonyms and service providers must ensure the confidentiality of bloggers.
The draft was prepared by a group of blog providers and industry experts set up last October to discuss the development and regulations of the industry. China has 144 million Internet users as of March this year.
The China Internet Survey Report 2007 released in January showed the number of bloggers in the country had grown to 20.8 million with 3.15 million active writers.
I think the Government ought to take this matter seriously. A trainee may have a heart condition that he may not even be aware of until after he has undergone a medical check-up.
I would suggest trainees who are asthmatic produce medical certificates to the National Service headquarters.
Noraini was responding to Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek's statement on the issue yesterday (Thursday, May 24 2007).
Bernama has the story. Click here.
The Star has Chua here.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Rembering Mak - May 22 2007
Something stirred inside me the other day. I didn't realize it then but it was Mother's Day. I'd like to talk about it today. I know the day is over. But didn't someone say that Mother's Day is everyday?
I am bad with dates of "days" - you know Father's Day, Press Freedom Day, Teachers' Day.
The only celebrated day I never forget is Labour (May) Day.
I was meaning to visit Mak's grave at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery last weekend.
I was meaning to but I did not. Never got around to doing it. And since the cemetery is a place that I pass by almost everyday to go to Bangsar or Section 16 from my home in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, I really have no excuse.
Yes, something stirred inside me on Mother's Day.
I know I have talked about Mak, but I don't think I have ever really gone into detail about her.
Like all daughters (or sons, for that matter), I looked to my mother for comfort, strength and fortitude.
Mak was Hamidah Hassan. The selfless matriarch, loving wife, devoted mother and doting Andung (grandma). She died on June 2, 1990 of a heart attack, triggered by complications due to long-term diabetes. Although she was diabetic, modern medication gave a her a new lease of life. It enabled her to lead a normal life for as long as she could.
The treatment of diabetes has undergone tremendous progress. Even during Mak's time, it was considered advanced.
Mak needed daily injections to keep her sugar level in check. She trusted two other people, besides herself to admininster the injection -- Abang Med and I.
Abang Med had no issue with needles. I did and still do. I have an aversion and a fear of needles.
But when Mak asked me the first time whether I could help her with the insulin injection, I did not hesitate in saying "yes".
The first time I had to poke the tiny, miniscule needle into her flesh, I almost fainted. How I managed not to still baffles me till today.
I did not realise it was Mother's Day until I received the first smses in my cellphone. I was already opening some old albums.
I was thinking about Mak. I counted the years from the year she died. Mak would have been 81 if she was still with us.
She died at 63.
It was as though her prayers were answered because she had often enough said that if she died, she hoped it would be at 63 years old, "just like the Prophet".
(Prophet Muhammad SAW "wafat" or died at 63.)
When she died, my whole world must have crumbled. Although I was prepared for her death as she was admitted into Pantai Hospital and remained there for four days before she died, I still was not able to accept her passing.
I don't think any of my siblings could, either.
We grieved for a very long time.
And for a very long time too, Bapak would spend long hours at the nearby Al-Malik Faisal mosque after maghrib prayers, reciting the yassin, right through Isya'.
When Mak passed away, Bapak had already retired from the NSTP as editorial advisor. He was guest lecturer at Universiti Malaya then, and was still writing his column, "Bila Sauh Di Labuh", for Berita Minggu.
A few days before she died, she had gone to Johor Baru to stay at one of my older cousin's house where she was getting together with my aunts who were coming from Singapore.
Bapak was still "persona non grata" in Singapore, so Johor Baru was the regular rendezvous.
Mak enjoyed these get-togethers and was always looking forward to them, as though she was going for a tryst, of some sort.
The last time she went, Kak Olin's eldest daughter, Khairena who was then about 6 years old, accompanied her Andung to JB.
Khairena was very close to Mak. In fact, whenever she was at Mak's, she would not leave her Andung's side.
That night, they took the "Senandung Malam" train at the (old) Railway Station in KL.
I remember how excited Mak was before she left for the railway station.
I was cradling Adel who was then 4 months old, in her room, as she was getting ready to leave.
She looked at me and bade goodbye. She bent over and planted a kiss on my forehead. I kissed her hand.
"Alah, Kesian anak Mak ni. Siapa nak tolong jaga Adel. Kesian cucu Andung ni. Tak lama. Hari Minggu Andung balik, ya", she said.
I told her to "kirim salam" everyone in JB and told her to have a good time.
"But please, jaga makan," I remarked, as I watched her traipsing out the door. She seemed happy.
Mak had chest pains when she returned home from JB on Sunday.
I remember she asked my maid to "urut" her. She thought it was just exhaustion. We all thought so too.
She did not tell us until later that she had a feast in JB -- lots of sweet stuff and durians too. the surge in her sugar level precipitated a chain of reaction in her body.
None of us imagined then that it was her heart that was giving way.
Mak was admitted into Pantai Hospital the next day. We thought she would be okay, that she would recover.
We took turns to care for her but Kak Eda and Nina were the ones by her side most of the time.
Nina was an amazing young lady. Still a law undergraduate at the International Islamic Universtiy then, Nina was Bapak's and Mak's personal assistant/advisor/chauffeur all rolled into one.
She was (is) our youngest and she could put us all to shame when it comes to household management.
I think one of the most heart-wrenching moments I had ever experienced was when Lalin returned home from England after Mak had taken a turn for the worse.
At one point, we thought that Mak would be ok except for some complications with her kidneys.
I remember Bapak, Abang Med, Kak Piah, Kak Ton as well as my brothers-in-law Abang Dzul and Abang Ani, discussing the need to turn the library downstairs into Mak's (and of course, Bapak's) room as she might need dialysis treatment.
I felt there was hope.
Lalin could not get a flight home because there were no available tickets. Her good friend whose father was with an airlines helped and she was able to get the next flight home.
Lalin was extremely close to Mak.
Mak was everything to her. Mak was her world.
Lalin was restless throughout her flight home. She knew something was not right.
When she arrived at Subang International Airport, what she saw confirmed her worst fears. At least, that was what she had thought.
Kak Olin, who was at the hospital earlier, was waiting for Lalin at the arrival hall of the airport.
The minute she saw Kak Olin, her heart missed a beat.
Kak Olin was clad in a baju kurung and wearing a tudung, as though she was from a funeral.
"Oh No! Mak...." Lalin cried inside.
Kak Olin comforted her.
"Let's go to the hospital. Mak is waiting for you at the hospital..."
I saw Lalin approaching the corridor near Mak's room. Everybody fell silent, fearing the next gripping moment when Lalin would see her beloved Mak lying motionless, unconscious, helpless on the hospital bed.
When she reached the door, she looked at Mak, her face turned so pale. She just slumped at the door.
I think that was when, for the very first time, I let my defences down.
I felt so much for Lalin. For all of us.
Mak died in the wee hours of Saturday, June 2, 1990. She never regained consciousness after going into a coma the day before.
She was our pillar of strength , our salve, those years of Bapak's incarceration. She made sure none of us would be forced to quit school or college.
How Lalin remembered Mak tap-tap-tapping away on her faithful typwriter late into the night, trying to meet the deadline for her articles in Berita Harian.
Or those times, she was opening and reading letters from troubled souls (mostly women), and helping them find themselves or find answers to their problems because she was agony aunt "Cik Sri Siantan".
But could anyone help solve her problem? Ease her pain?
Lalin would be staying up with Mak those nights.
When Bapak was released, Mak was overjoyed. She was smiling like a blushing bride.
The day Mak died, Bapak was very calm and composed but there were moments when he would stutter and stammer. The only time we saw him break down was when Pak Cik Melan (the late Melan Abdullah) arrived for the funeral and hugged him.
Pak Cik Melan was the older brother Bapak never had and he loved Mak like his own sister.
How we all remember Mak's words, during our dinner table talk about life in general: "Ibu seorang boleh menjaga 2, 3 atau 10 orang anak, tapi 10 orang anak sukar untuk menjaga ibu yang seorang."
Mak. I hope we had proven to you that, for once, you were wrong. We love you and miss you dearly. You are in our prayers, always.
(Photos: 1. top left: Mak in 1985 at Kak Eda's place. 2. Mak at home (during Bapak's detention). On her lap is Jehan (Kak Ton's youngest). Wearing glasses is Lalin. At left is Jasmine (Kak Ton's eldest) and making faces in the foreground is Nina. 3. Portrait of Mak and Bapak.)
Monday, May 21, 2007
A year ago, on this day, Ahirudin Attan, former executive editor of the Malay Mail/Sunday Mail and former Business Times editor, created his blog, "Rocky's Bru".
The rest, (ooh, I hate cliches), as they say, is history,
So, here's to more years of the good stuff, bro!
In Malaysia, we're still trying to understand blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere. One day, I am sure, we will be able to accept and recognise bloggers as part of the growing new media.
In the United States, bloggers are a force to be reckoned with. They are the new media.
More often than not, they have upstaged the old media.
Now, it is no longer the question of acceptance. It is now about synergy, co-existence and making the best of being in bed together.
I extract a few paragraphs from a Los Angeles Times article about the battle between book reviewers and literary bloggers:
"The accusations flew back and forth. But now there is a growing sense that enough is enough — and that the friction between old and new book media obscures the fact that the two are in bed together now, for better or worse. Often the same people who churn out literary blogs are reviewing books for mainstream reviews. (Champion, for example, has a review appearing in this week's Los Angeles Times Book Review.)
Many believe there's a healthy synergy between the two. Maud Newton, who runs one of the more respected literary blogs (maudnewton.com), was puzzled by the idea that the two are somehow competing. "When bloggers disagree with or agree with an article about books in the mainstream press, it drives traffic to the newspaper," she said. The cutbacks at newspaper book reviews are unfortunate, but hardly the fault of bloggers.
"This was truly a false dichotomy," Mark Savas, who runs the L.A.-based blog the Elegant Variation, said by phone. "The two sides needn't be in opposition, certainly not at this time. There is a vast ecosystem of information about books out there, and all of it needs our support."
Read the full article here.
Would you borrow money from an Ah Long?
Before you answer that, cast aside all prejudices, any moral judgement and holier-than-thou-ness.
That's not to say that those who borrow money from Ah Longs are all bad people. Some certainly aren't. But I know all are desperate.
No, we would not borrow money from Ah Longs. And that's because we don't have to and because we are not desperate.
We wonder why some people, knowing full well the terrible cut-throat conditions laid down for such loans, still borrow money from these loan sharks.
Well, these are desperate people.
I used to feel so sorry for victims of Ah Longs whenever I read about them in the Malay Mail (the original MM, that is).
But the more stories I read about these victims the more I was inclined to believe that they really had themselves to blame for getting into the mess.
I thought, quite recklessly, "serves them bloody right!"
Of course, it was so easy for me to say that.
And it made my blood boil everytime I read about people being made to suffer at the vicious hands of Ah Longs because a parent, a child or a sibling had failed to repay a loan or loans.
While we can get so angry at Ah Longs, I feel that they do have the right to demand for their repayment but NOT to employ the rough & tough tactics they are notorious for, in order to get back their money.
I see it this way, Ah Longs will continue to exist because there are enough people out there who need to borrow money but are not able to get bank loans because they do not qualify i.e. they do not have any form of collateral.
I am talking about small-time businessmen, traders, as well as people who desperately need some money to repay loans or send their kids to universities.
And then, of course, you have the gambling men and women who pathologically need to borrow money to feed their habit.
As far as I am concerned they need serious treatment to quit their habit. Or a good whipping, because most often, it is their families who have to suffer.
But why is it so difficult to act against Ah Longs who use violence and threats on the innocent ones -- the families of their errant borrowers?
What recourse is there for these people if their reports to the police are not acted on?
I am writing about Ah Longs for many reasons, one of which is the story in the Star. Read here.
I know the problem is more complexed than we all care to admit. So, until and unless we identify and understand the root of the problem and work seriously to provide long-term solutions, the Ah Long problem is here to stay for a mighty long time more.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I got to meet student blogger Daphne Ling. Finally. And what a delight it was.
Daphne is the young lady who has been untiringly helping Siti Aisyah, the 3 year-old who needs surgery to correct her glued eyelids.
If only there were more Daphne's out there, ours would be a grand world to live in.
We talked a bit and she asked me whether she could call me "aunty".
I told her she certainly could because I have nieces older than her.
So, it's Aunty Nuraina from now, eh, Daphne?
The entire evening I sat beside another student blogger, June Tan whom I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year when she was doing research (on bloggers) for her Masters thesis.
Last evening, she was informally introduced as the one whose research findings on bloggers many people are quoting.
I also managed to catch up with another young lady - journo-blogger Le Tsin .
She is on the organising committee of BUM 2007 gathering. The others are Desiderata, Howsy, Lucia, Nathaniel and Mob1900.
Was looking forward to chatting with another committee member, Jed Yoong (the erstwhile Freelunch2020), but she was not around.
The gathering was at Lake View Club, Subang Jaya last evening, Saturday, May 19.
Also caught up with Marina Mahathir who was really looking good. I asked her if it was her climb up Mount Kinabalu last month that got her looking so nice.
Very shy she was. Wouldn't admit it at first but finally, yep -- it was the climb that got her looking fit and good.
Le Tsin and June got her talking about her Kinabalu climb.
MarinaM was among the panel of speakers for the evening. The others were Jeff Ooi, Rocky, The Sun journalist Nadeswaran (citizen Nades) and Sonia of the Independent Centre for Journalism (ICJ).
Malaysia Today's Raja Petra Kamaruddin and lawyer Haris Ibrahim were invited to give an impromptu speech.
At our table were BigDog, Salahuddin, Raja Petra and wife (Marina) and A.M Ubaidah. Later, Sharon Bakar of Bibliobibuli joined us.
Also there were Pokku, Pak Idrus, Bernard Khoo (Zorro), Stephen Francis (Shangaifish) and Shar101.
I met What a Lulu who had come with a former colleague of mine, former Malay Mail entertainment writer Chow Ee Tan. What a pleasant surprise!
It was a great occasion to meet so many bloggers, and as MarinaM said - be able to put faces to the nicks.
Rocky who spoke about the National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs) has his take on BUM here.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Bung Mokhtar Radin (Kinabatangan) and Mohd Said Yusof (Jasin) made the public apology yesterday (Friday, May 18 2007) after a 40-minute meeting with Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil at her office in Kuala Lumpur.
The apology came a good nine days after they made the notoriously insulting insinuation to the menstrual "leak" of Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah) after opposition MPs tried to raise a motion on the leaking ceiling near the media centre which, incidentally, is a serious problem and not a petty issue.
Shahrizat said that with their apology, the issue was now closed.
"As they have tendered their public apology to the women of Malaysia through this ministy, we must have the grace to accept it with a serious reminder that this kind of episode must never recur."
Easier said than done, sister.
This was how Bung Mokhtar, after a brief statement, apologised as quoted by the NST: "We are apologising to all women. OK. Thank you, I have to catch a flight."
I was told that the two appeared to be in a hurry to get it over and done with.
Mohd Said was reading from a prepared text.
Read the Bernama story here.
And the Star story here.
I find it amusing that the two have accused the opposition of blowing the issue of of proportion.
The opposition as the bogeyman again.
Not this time, boys.
You see, we heard the words uttered. I think everyone in the august House heard too.
Sorry. Perhaps, they don't make women like they used to.
You both were not about to get away with it.
It's true, the target of your insult was a member of the Opposition. But that MP happens to be a woman.
Sorry, boys, you insult her, you insult me and my sisters.
I'm sure the women BN MPs wished they could give you a tongue-lashing, but I suppose they're wearing the same badge so didn't want to step out of line.
Now, did you actually think that the rest of the women in the country would do the same - take the matter lying or sitting down?
You didn't think we'd be offended, insulted and enraged?
You mean you just wanted the publicity? At whatever cost?
Sure looked like you were whipped into saying sorry.
The Cabinet had to direct Shahrizat to have a little chat with you. Perhaps, a little whack here and there. Perhaps, none at all.
Okay. Yeah. It's over. But, when are you boys going to apologise to Ms Fong?
Friday, May 18, 2007
Yesterday, Thursday May 17, 2007 was Kak Eda's birthday.
Kak Eda would have turned 52 but she is no longer with us. She died peacefully at home on March 8, while on treatment for secondary cancer. (She had breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 2004. But last year, she had a relapse.)
I wanted to post an entry about her birthday yesterday but was too sad to even be reminded of it. But, my daughter, Shaira insisted I make a posting about Kak Eda's birthday. She knew that I was very close to her Tante Eda.
I called her children. Only the youngest Mariam was at home. Her older siblings -- Safiyah and Hajar were at school while Umar was having games at the padang.
Mariam said she "cried a bit", as she misses her Ummi very much.
I spoke to her Abah (father), Aziz, who told me that he reminded them of their Ummi's birthday.
"They were, of course, sad, but they're alright. I told them to always remember their Ummi in their prayers."
I remember the last time we celebrated her birthday. Hers had always been a low-key affair. Just Aziz, her kids, siblings and nephews and nieces. Those days when Bapak was a little more hale and hearty, he would be at her house as well to join in the simple celebration.
The last time we celebrated, Kak Eda prepared Macaroni Soup for the kids, chicken drumsticks and potato salad. Kak Ton brought spaghetti bolognese (for pasta variety) and Kak Olin brought her signature mee hoon goreng basah. Lalin baked a special birthday cake and I brought chocolates and fruits. There was a time, Kak Eda refused to blow candles. But in the last few years, she did not seem to mind. Go with the flow, I reckon. But I really think she just didn't have the stamina to fight about it with us.
We really miss you, Kak Eda. You are always in our hearts and our prayers.
(Photos: Azah (left) and Kak Eda taken in 1962 or 63.)
Attractive and elegant, Ms Williams, in fact, is a lot like the many Australians I have met here and abroad - warm. open and friendly.
And as Australia's top diplomat, she is informal.
"Oh, don't stand on ceremony..."
I have been lucky to not have met the Ugly Australian, here, there or Downunder.
The 43 year-old Tasmanian-born diplomat was with members of the media at her Jalan U Thant residence on May 16.
I met my former colleagues and compatriots from the NST, Star and the Sun. Also there were members of the National Press Club and representatives the National Alliance of Bloggers or All-Blogs, including (NPC president) Mokhtar Hussain and (NPC advisor) Ahirudin Attan otherwise known as Rocky (who is All-Blogs president).
NST group editor Syed Nadzri Syed Haron, businessman/political blogger Ruhanie "Kuda Kepang" Ahmad and Dino Herrera Pasqual of the Commonwealth Society of Malaysia as well as NST journalists Farrah Naz Karim and Anna Maria Shamsuddin, Jane Ritikos (the Star) and writer/media consultant Anthea De Lima were also there.
Ms Williams mingled and mingled during the entire evening of Australian wine, barbecued lamb, chicken and beef, as well as salads, a little pasta and oh-so-sinful Pavlova (an incredibly sedap Aussie dessert).
I told Ms Williams ("oh, just call me Penny") that I only came for the Pavlova, as I had always, year-in-year-out at the Aussie High Comm media night.
"Hahaa,", she laughed.
We spoke a little about almost everything - about the rain, her children, Malaysian food, the diplomatic service ("only five women diplomats out of 105 here!"), her country, my country, and Arabic which we both agreed is a very difficult language to master.
And yes, she loves it here.
I believe her.
And no, I did not call her Penny. Nor "Your Excellency".
*Ms Wiliams takes over from James Wise. Prior to her appointment here early this month, she was First Assistant Secretary, Corpos Malaysiarate Management Division (2005-2007). Overseas, she served as Counsellor, Santiago (1997-2000) and First Secretary, Damascus (1992-94).
In Canberra, Ms Williams has held a range of positions including First Assistant Secretary, Diplomatic Security Information Management and Services Division (2004-05); Assistant Secretary, Staffing Branch (2003-04) and Director, Staffing Operations Section (2001-02).
Ms Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies (Hons).
She is married to Hamish McCormick, the deputy CEO of the Australian Trade Commission and they have four children, aged four, 10, 14 and 17.
She speaks, Arabic, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesia.
(Picture of Ms Williams flanked by fellow Aussie Nicki and me.)
Thursday, May 17, 2007
"In a world where being negative about political and social issues means being clever or seem to be clever, I would rather appear naive and believe that there is still a lot of good in a lot of people, whether in this country which I truly love, or in other countries." -- Raja Zarith Sofiah Idris of Johor* in her keynote address at the opening of the Language, and Nationhood Discourses Across Cultures and Disciplines at the Sheraton Subang Hotels & Towers, on Tuesday, May 15, 2007.
Raja Zarith Sofiah, the consort of the Tunku Mahkota of Johor, spoke about the use of language in political speeches, the power of language in influencing or winning the hearts and minds of the people and the reality that only political leaders can effect changes in society, including improving the lives of their people.
In her paper, "Hearts and Minds : language in Political Speeches", she chose to examine some of the speeches of South Africa's illustrious son, Nelson Mandela and the charismatic pro-democracy leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi to prove that political speeches must not only be delivered well but must have the right content so that they can attract and sustain the attention of the audience to whom it is spoken.
"I am aware that my choice of these two political figures may appear unoriginal since it has become quite 'trendy' to admit to admiring both of them."
She said she had, for a long time, admired both of them because they epitomize and are the symbols of the "sincere leader", an idea that is scoffed at because "there aren't many such sincere people".
Raja Zarith Sofiah said she chose to speak about language in political speeches because, like everyone else, she cared about what was happening around the world.
"We live in a world where information is so readily available, and yet, despite having so much information at our fingertips, what remains a reality for many millions of people around the world is having to live in fear and in poverty, or to live as refugees, away from their own countries.
"It is this awareness - that there are people who do not enjoy freer lives or who have lived in areas of armed conflict for many years - that I decide to present this paper, because in the end, it is political leaders who decide and who are responsible for the well-being or the despair of their people.
"And as part of a global community of caring, there is that tiny hope that we may somehow be able to persuade our leaders to improve the lives of those we see on our television screens or in our newspapers."
Raja Zarith Sofiah also presented statistics on world poverty, level of health services and related areas.
"I refer to these statistics because it is quite obvious that we need politicians who will address such issues as poverty, armed conflicts, refugees as well as social problems such as child prostitution, child workers and any other problems that are faced by so many people.
"It takes both politicians from rich countries as well as those in poorer ones o make such issues their priorities. In other words, we need more Mandelas and more Aung San Suu Kyis."
Raja Zarith said she would still like to believe that there is among the younger people around the world who have the capacity and the opportunity to be great leaders in the future.
"For them to inherit the legacy of winning hearts and minds., they must look at the lessons that past leaders can teach them."
(More than 100 language experts and university lecturers, from here and abroad, presented papers at the 3-day conference was organised by the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.)
PICTURE taken on the second day of the conference. It was after lunch at the Selangor Room: Raja Zarith Sofiah with Bill Ashcroft of University of Hong Kong, Dr Ruzy Suliza Hashim (the Chair, UKM's School of Language Studies and Linguistics), Vijay K. Bhatia of City University of Hong Kong and Aishah Ali.
* Raja Zarith Sofiah holds a Masters of Arts (MA) from Oxford University in England.
This matter surfaced at the NSTP annual general meeting held at the company's Jalan Riong premises this morning.
As a minority shareholder, I attended. It was my very first time.
Syed Faisal, replying to a question by shareholder A Kadir Jasin who was former NSTP GEIC, said that the company was footing the bill for the four plaintiffs (including Brendan who is no longer in its employment) because "they are all associated with the NSTP".
And he said to date RM70,000 has been paid to their lawyers.
(Syed Faisal is the fourth plaintiff in the case NSTP and 4 others vs Ahirudin Attan.)
The other blogger being sued by NSTP and 3 others is Jeff Ooi.
I have been made to understand that a defamation suit is a "private action". The suit dies with the plaintiff. Which means it is between one individual and another, and has nothing to do with a third party.
Of course, I am not a lawyer.
Regardless (of what a defamation suit is), I'd like to ask: should the NSTP be paying the legal fees of the four individuals?
I think not.
They should be paying from their own pocket. Shouldn't they?
For more on the AGM, ready Rocky's Bru here.
(Note: Absent at the AGM were the deputy chairman and GEIC. According to the chairman, they were both recuperating from recent surgery, at Pantai Hospital.)
I meant to, but somehow, I never did, although it was a hot topic of discussion at the dinner table at home and with friends (males, included).
Perhaps, it was because we had been discussing it at length (not in this blog) that I felt that I had already touched on it.
My apologies, nevertheless.
Let me tell you that there is still hope as these two clowns do not represent the lot of Malaysian men. But we have to worry for the future of the nation as they happen to be members of the nation's august house and legislative body.
Their worse-than-sexist and very unacceptable remarks were also a point of discussion after tea/coffee following the opening of the "Language and Nationhood: Discourses Across Cultures and Disciplines" by Johor princess (and consort of the Tunku Mahkota of Johor) Raja Zarith Sofiah Idris at the Sheraton Subang Hotel & towers on May 15.
The 3-day international conference was organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's School of Language Studies and Linguistics. (I will make a posting on Raja Zarith's speech later.)
Present at our informal little discussion were UKM vice-chancellor Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin, writer/columnist/farmer/former Utusan Melayu group editor Johan Jaafar, journalist/media consultant/former Sunday Mail editor Aishah Ali, writer/former lecturer Halimah Mohd Said and Imam Faisal Abdul-Raouf of the Al-Farah Mosque in New York/CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
Now, imagine that! How shameful are we as a nation to have these 2 making such remarks in the House.
Could they be that stupid? Insensitive?
My conclusion is that the two just wanted to be quoted in the Press. They didn't care two hoots if they sounded moronic.
And more appalling is that no woman MP (except opposition MP Fong po Kuan) protested their remarks. Not even a whimper.
Politically incorrect to do that. eh?
I'd like to believe that our BN women MPs had, at least, already given the 2 clowns a good dressing down behind closed doors later.
Perhaps, in the spirit of twisted BN camaraderie, they did not want to make public their protest.
Just to refresh: the 2 made the offensive and insulting (now known as the "leaking") remarks to Fong when opposition MPs tried to raise a motion on the leaking ceiling near the media centre.
They were quoted as retorting: “Mana bocor? Batu Gajah pun bocor setiap bulan.” (Where is the leak? Batu Gajah (MP Fong) also leaks every month.)
I am now posting a letter, emailed to me by Halimah Mohd Said who sent the same letter to NST and the Star.
There is really no end to one's arrogance and moron-ism.
Our sis, Eli Wong has her take on it here.
I'd also like you to read Bernard Khoo's (Zorro's) here.
By the way, it is good to know that Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil will meet the 2 MPs tomorrow (Friday, May 18).
Ok-lah. Better late than never.
The Star has the story here.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Growing Pains - May 15 2007
Now that I have two teenagers who are growing very fast, I am remembering what a tough time my parents had with Kak Olin, Kak Eda and I.
Actually, Kak Olin was not too bad. Kak Eda and I, I think, must have given Mak a lot of problem. Oh Mak! Bless her! How she tried to hide our misbehaviour from Bapak.
Mak never reported to Bapak those naughty little things that we did. You know, this party and that party that we attended WITHOUT getting his permission.
In our day, that was considered very very naughty. There was no punishment for such transgression because we were not supposed to be doing that. So, the issue of getting caught and getting punished never quite arose because we were not supposed to attend parties without Bapak's permission. As simple as that!
Most times, we would get his permission. But sometimes, we got invited at very short notice and it would be really impossible to get his permission at the last minute.
No compromises! The rule was that Bapak must be informed of any party or outing a week before.
But, oh.... rules were (and are) meant to be broken. Right? Especially when those St John's boys would be there.
Ok. Here's the thing. Our guy friends are from BBBS and La Salle. So, you know, very incestuous to be dating them. We were and still are good friends until today.
When Kak Eda died (on March 8), a bunch of them were at her "tahlill". We were happy to see them, but as always, it would be at a sad occasion that we would be meeting up.
If someone's kid was getting married, that would be the happy occasion when we would be getting together.
So far, though, we have not got together on any of the guys' second marriage.
Let me tell you how permission was sought from Bapak.
You see, we have a library/study where, we would be doing our studying (usually, trying to) or having Maths (tuition) classes with Danny Thaddeus (dear dear wonderful Danny).
Or reading comics.
There was a notice board in the library.
Bapak would leave for work very very early. He worked all seven days.
Except on Saturday and Sunday, he'd be working from 7.30am to 8pm or much much later.
Most times, it'd be very late. If he came back for dinner, he'd usually go back to the office.
I don't know if there were mobile phones and PCs then, he'd want to use them to his full advantage. I think he'd still want to go to the office. He is a very hands-on sort of person.
Now, the notice board was put up for the simple purpose of -- communication between Bapak and his rebellious (hahaha) teenaged children, namely Kak Eda and Nuraina.
Direct communication was not quite possible given Bapak's busy schedule everyday (except Sunday) so any messages, "application to party" et al, had to be pinned on the board.
It suited us just fine. Under the circumstances, we could not have asked for a better mode of communication.
Imagine having to ask Bapak face-to-face:
Us: "Bapak, can we go to Roy's (Rahimah's, Sharifah's etc) party?"
Bapak: " Bila? Di mana? Ada budak2 jantan?"
So it was so much easier to just write this:
2 Jalan 3/5 (or something)
Saturday, June 24 1971
7pm to 11pm.
signed : Eda & Ena (sometimes Olin)
There! And then Bapak would sign on it, if he consented. And he'd usually change the time to 7pm to 9pm.
And he'd send and fetch us to and from the party. And he'd make sure that he was seen doing that by all and sundry at the party.
This went on through our teen years (after form 3) when we were allowed to accept invitations to parties.
It's a wonder there were boys who were STILL interested in us!
We thought how lucky other girls were that their parents allowed them to party and party. No need to ask for written permission.
I realised much later when I began my practical training with the NST (during Bapak's incarceration), that pinning up signed notes, messages, assignments and so forth, was actually how reporters work.
Before the advent of sophisticated and hi-tech IT, it was paper and pen.
At the NST's office then, there was a huge partition behind where I was sitting, which was actually a board where editors and reporters would pin up messages and the like.
Reporters would check the board for their assignments or messages.
Now, I am not sure this will work with my two kids --Adel and Shaira. They'd really think I am a dinosaur. And so not cool!
(PHOTO, taken in 1959 in front of our house at Jalan Sentosa, Petaling Jaya. We had just arrived in Petlaing Jaya from Singapore, following Bapak's acceptance of a job from the Straits Times to start Berita Harian.
Bapak is carrying me, Mak is cradling Azah. Standing are Kak Olin and Kak Eda.)
Here is Rocky's report on Dr M's progress. Rocky posted the latest after midnight (very early this morning.) This is not a rumour.
Update, after midnight
Marina Mahathir is now at the hospital, with mum. She said her father is "stable but not
A reporter told me some of the journalists covering the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia were in Langkawi to check out the former PM's condition. Mukhriz Mahathir spoke to them about 11 pm. He said Tun Mahathir may be flown to KL.
I heard a little while ago that the former PM was warded for observation about 4pm after complaining of breathing difficulties.
Tun's aide Sufi has confirmed that his boss is in Langkawi Hospital. His condition is said to be stable.
I am on the move again so please watch out for updates elsewhere. Thank God for Blackberry and experienced aides.
Bernama, the government news agency, has the story here.
Here's a story in the Star (May 15).
I think the Umno Info chief and Shaziman should really know what they're talking about before issuing such threats. They sound so frivolous.
We have laws, but they exist not to be abused. Or perhaps, they are?
KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib said people shouldn't base their beliefs solely on articles written in weblogs or blogs.
He claimed there were some bloggers who wrote with a slant that tended to side with Opposition views.
Muhammad said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appeared fine despite what had been reported in the Internet on Sunday.
"He joked and met the press. However, what was reported in blogs was different.
"The Internet reports are mischievious with the intention to cause panic in Umno and Barisan Nasional, and it can create a negative situation in the country.
"The people should check their facts first and not believe everything they read on the Internet," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Monday.
He was commenting on Internet reports which claimed that the Prime Minister had fainted while attending a function in Lumut on Sunday.
Muhammad said action should be taken against bloggers who knowingly spread false rumours.
Energy,Water & Communications Ministry Deputy Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor said the ministry would cooperate with the Internal Security Ministry if it received a request to investigate the source of the online rumour.
He added that Section 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act stated that action could be taken on offensive Internet content or improper use of network facilities, which provided a fine of RM50,000, a year's jail or both.
The Act's Bill of Guarantee ensured that Internet content should not be censored, he said when asked whether the Government would regulate Internet content.
"I've not read the blog itself, but action can be taken under the Penal Code by the Internal Security Ministry," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.
Please read Jeff Ooi's Screenshots for his take on Mat Taib's and Shaziman's remarks.
Monday, May 14, 2007
YANGON, Myanmar : Women in Myanmar (Burma) not only have to watch out for pickpockets when they're commuting, shopping or walking down the street, but also hair thieves, a weekly journal reported Sunday.
Long-haired women in crowded areas have fallen victim to surreptitious hair snippers who steal their hair to sell, the Burmese-language 24/7 news journal reported.
"My long hair was cut while I was on my way back from the office. I found out only when I got back home," an unidentified female bus commuter was quoted as saying.
The woman said her friend's tresses were cut while she was walking down the street and she only noticed when some remaining strands fell. Another woman's hair was cut while she was shopping at a roadside store, the journal said.
Many women in Myanmar have waist- or knee-length hair which they wear in a ponytail, making it easy for thieves to snip off the hair and sell it as extensions.
Women are also approached by hair traders who ask to buy their long hair, the journal quoted the bus commuter as saying.
The report said the price of hair has increased as demand for hair as an export or raw material rises. A viss (1.6 kilograms; 3.5 pounds) of hair is worth between 400,000 kyats ($320) and 500,000 kyats ($400), it said.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
He did not have details -- only that he was told that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had collapsed while presenting keys to residents in Lumut.
Rocky said he would be updating us on the report but told us to keep a look-out for the news in Bernama.
Later, much much later, Bernama flashed this (at 8.38pm):
LUMUT, May 13 (Bernama ) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied rumours spread in the internet that he collapsed while attending a people feast and officating Dataran Hadhari at Teluk Batik, Lumut at noon.
Then at 9.43pm, Bernama had this:
LUMUT, May 13 (Bernama) -- "I am well. Don't worry," said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, refuting a claim spread through the Internet that he had fainted while attending a people's feast at the launching of the Hadhari Square in Teluk Batik here Sunday afternoon.
"I will continue with the programmes that been arranged for me," he told reporters here Sunday night.
"The doctor had conducted several tests on me including ECG, blood and blood pressure and these were found to be normal," added Abdullah who was examined by his personal physician Dr Sanjiv Joshi.
Earlier when presenting the keys to nine recipients of houses built under the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) community service programme, at the people's feast, Abdullah appeared to be losing balance and almost collapsed but was held by Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and BNBBC acting chairman Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar.
Abdullah who arrived in Perak this morning to close the BNBBC community programme, had earlier joined the BNBBC members in building homes for three families in Kampung Tanjung Burung in Ujung Pasir, Pantai Remis.
The Prime Minister continued with the gotong-royong by planting trees at Kampung Batu 4, Segari, near here, before moving on to Teluk Batik to close the community programme and join the people's feast.
Abdullah said his condition could be due to the heat as the weather was very hot and his lack of sleep last night.
"I'm relieved now (after the doctor's examination). At first I was worried too. I thank the Almighty that I'm alright," he added.
He recalled that after giving his speech, he sat on stage and when handing over the house-keys to the recipients, he felt terribly tired.
Meanwhile, Dr Sanjiv said Abdullah's condition was due to heat exhaustion.
"From the medical examination, his health condition is found to be good and there's nothing to worry about," he added.
Dr Sanjiv said the heat exhaustion could hit anybody as the temperature was reported to be at 44 degrees Celcius.
"The Menteri Besar noticed that I appeared unwell. So I sat down and when I felt better I continued handing over the keys to the recipients," Abdullah said, adding that he was then examined by his personal doctor.
Asked by reporters whether he felt he was going to faint, he said he did not.
And on how he was feeling now, he said: "I'm alright. Don't worry, I take care of my health. I will continue with tonight's programme."
Raja Ahmad Zainuddin said he was at the function and the claim that the Prime Minister had fainted was not true.
Anyway, from tomorrow (Monday May 14), Pak lah will begin a two-day informal meeting with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in Langkawi.
Interesting to note that firstly, Bernama flashed the one-para report hours later and only to deny the "rumours" (of Pak Lah collapsing) in the internet. And the following (full) story had in its intro a denial of the "rumours".
Demonising the blogs/bloggers? You know -- the internet (read:blogs) had the "rumours" not the real story. So don't go trusting the blogs no more, y'hear!
Oh, please. Give us all a break. What's with the denial? Bloggers didn't "claim" that the PM collapsed.
I don't know what the PM was told. But there was no rumour, no claim that the PM had collapsed. Just an unconfirmed report. Rocky never said it as a fact. He was given this info, presumably by someone who was there at the function. He told us to wait for Bernama, the government news agency.
News is spread real time, for goodness sake.
The fact is the PM was feeling under the weather and by his own admission, and his doctor's.
People saw him almost losing his balance and almost collapsing but was held by the Perak MB. Well, thank God for the MB being very near the PM!
And listen, that wasn't a private function.
Whatever it is, we are thankful our Prime Minister is ok.
"If I had a flower for each time I thought of My Mother, I could walk in my garden forever. "
Here is wishing all mothers (including myself) a Happy Mother's Day. Khas untuk ibu-ibu semua.
Perhaps, you'd like to read something interesting by MarinaM here, a touching entry by Eliza here, and also by Wanshana here.
Here's his message, rather, his directive to RTM officers.
KANGAR: Use the short message service (SMS), blogs and websites to keep abreast of new information technology.
That's the directive Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin has for RTM officers.
“Many officers are still using outdated methods in disseminating information and are not maximising advertising space to the fullest.
“Sometimes, their thinking may have prevented them from taking a more radical stand in effecting changes,” he told a press conference after chairing the National Information Council (NIC) meeting at Putra Palace Hotel here yesterday (Saturday, May 12).
He said that before blogs or websites were up, RTM and newspapers were among the popular sources of information for society.
Of late, he added, more would resort to getting news from blogs and websites. However, only the intellectual society was able to gauge the reliability of information derived from such sites, he said.
Zainuddin said he met the president of the French Printed Media Association in France who voiced out the growing threat faced by the printed media from blogs.
“I’m not disputing blogs as the latest means of disseminating information through the Web but there is this fear that information posted on these sites are baseless and not obtained through reliable sources.
“Not everybody who reads them can differentiate the truth from the rumours,” he added.
He also said there was a proposal for RTM to put up information in the form of “wall newspapers” at bus stands like in China for easy accessibility to information from the Government.- Sunday Star
Saturday, May 12, 2007
It's been more than two months since Kak Eda passed away.
Last week, Kak Eda's (and my) very good friend, Roy (Rohaya Ghani), called because she wanted to make another visit to Kak Eda's grave but she did not quite remember the way to the cemetery.
Roy lives with her husband, John Smurthwaite and their youngest (of four) child, Iskandar, in Dalaman Duta in Kuala Lumpur. USJ is not a very familiar area to her.
It isn't to me, either, but I made sure I memorised the route the last time we went.
Roy had also gathered our old friends (from school) -- Aminah Hussein, Diane Lesley Cheah, Angeline Chivapathy, Ku Nur Hanim Ku Bahador and Wan Julia Hood -- for the visit.
The last time we visited her grave was a week after she died. It was Azah who brought us -- Roy, Angeline, Diane, Hanim and I -- there because we did not know the way.
But this time, only Aminah was able to make it. Angeline was in Port Dickson while the rest had other engagements and could only leave their homes after 12 noon.
The plan was to meet at Roy's place at 10am and we'd all go (in my car) to the cemetery. Roy would prepare lunch for us. (Aminah had to leave by 1.30pm to fetch her son in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan).
We could not wait for the rest, so it was Roy, Aminah and I.
Off we went on the NKVE towards Subang Jaya.
The last time we went, it was raining.This morning, it was hot and sunny.
We brought pieces of newspaper, some flowers, a bottle of water, two umbrellas and surat yassin.
When we got together the first time to visit Kak Eda's grave, it also gave us a wonderful opportunity to meet up and really really catch up with each other.
We have known Roy and Aminah since Form One (Assunta Secondary School), Wan Julia since Form Three (same school) while Angeline, Hanim and Diane -- since primary school (Assunta Primary School).
Kak Eda, Roy, Angeline, Diane, Hanim and I were especially close throughout our school years.
We were in sports and athletics together, in our softball team. In and outside school.
We had a fabulous time growing up.
Roy, Aminah, Wan Julia, Kak Eda and I continued our friendship at UiTM. We still kept in touch with Angeline and Diane.
We never lost touch. None of us ever did.
The last time, after visiting Kak Eda's grave, we drove around State (PJ new town) to the spots where we used to hang out. Of course, so much had changed. So little was familiar.The cinema and bus stop were no more.
We finally decided to lunch at Lotus (the former site of State cinema).
It was a delightful occasion as we reminisced the past, Kak Eda, our teachers, the prefects, boys and, well, life in general back then.
This time, lunch at Roy's, we touched on more or less of the same topics.
Wan Julia, Hanim and Diane joined us later. Still on the same topics.
We plan to visit Kak Eda's grave every month on Saturday that falls closest to the 8th (Kak Eda died on March 8).
What did they say about old friends?
"Make new friends,
Don't forget the old,
For friendship is precious
Like silver and gold".
I wrote this in my friends' autograph books in primary school, and my friends wrote the same thing in mine.
(from bottom - 1: Roy & Aminah at Kak Eda's resting place, 2: Aminah, me, Roy and Wan Ju, 3:
clockwise - Roy, Hanim, Diane and Wan Ju.)
The National Alliance of Blogggers met with Anwar Ibrahim at 3.30pm on Friday (May 11) at his Section 16 office in Petaling Jaya.
The former Deputy Prime Minister was asked on his relations with Dr Mahathir, his views on Pak Lah and Najib Razak, on Umno, Parti Keadilan Rakyat's defeat in Ijok, the party's preparedness to face the general election, Article 11 and the economy - among the wide-ranging issues.
The informal meeting was about an hour. Tea, coffee and kuih-muih were served.
Among the bloggers were Ahirudin Attan, Jeff Ooi, Nuraina Samad, Tony Yew, Bernard Khoo, Li Tsin, Jed Yoong, R. Rajahram, Stephen Francis, A Voice, BigDog and Ancient Mariner.
Also read Rocky's Bru , Tony Yew's and BigDog's take on the meeting.
(Photo: Stephen (at left) and Ahirudin listen as Anwar gives his views.)
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Azah's Story - May 8 2007
Azah is my younger sister. We look very very different. She is taller, a little duskier, wavy hair and she takes a lot from Bapak's Parsi side of the family.
I look a lot like Mak who was Mendahiling/Burmese and Bapak's Javanese (maternal) grandmother.
Azah is also a lot friendlier than I am. She is the sort to whom you'd want to tell your whole life story.
Azah would, in fact, make a good reporter because she has a way with people. But, writing is not her passion.
Although we were and still are different in many ways, we are quite alike in some. I suppose that's the way with sisters.
When we were children, I used to be protective of her. There were times I would also bully her.
When we were older, I used to be protective of her. There were times I would also bully her.
That was the way things were. I suppose that was the way things were supposed to be.
We played dolls and house together. When we played school, I was teacher and she and Kamal were my pupils.
I would scold them the way Mrs Wong would scold the class.
They enjoyed it at first but when I became maniacally immersed in my role, they would invariably cop out.
They just cried. No more fun.
When I joined Tan (now Lee) Lee Lan's ballet classes in 1965, I asked Bapak to also allow Azah to join.
Bapak thought it was a good idea as it was a creative way of spending our free time.
"Instead of fighting," he had remarked.
I suppose we did cause a din at home whenever we fought. Azah was prone to hysterical outbursts that could be quite unbearable.
I was quite a sadist at times. I would purposely make her cry.
But I would be the first to protect her against any bully. Later in life, from neighbourhood Romeos. And there were many.
In ballet, I got straight into the grade one class while Azah was put in the primary grade with the younger children.
Ballet, dancing and music were our common interests. We were passionate about them.
There is a three-year age gap between us. Although Azah has five older sisters, I was THE big sister to her, as I was the closest in age.
When she was old enough to stand her ground, to protest my bullying, we would fight. Sometimes I would pull her hair. When she grew to be taller than me, she pulled my hair back. So, I stopped pulling her hair.
The neighbourhood roti man called Azah "anak Bhai", sometimes "anak Hindustan". I used to think they both meant one and the same thing.
"Kasi saya-lah. Macam anak Bhai," he would tell Mak, in jest, everytime he delivered our packed loaf of bread. He would always give Azah some goodies. We would always take some of the goodies from her. Azah had always been a generous kid.
It was the same at the neighbourhood store, "Aladdin". The shopkeepers were North Indians and they adored Azah.
Perhaps Azah reminded them of their daughters or sisters they had to leave behind in search of a better life in Malaya.
I remember always insisting on following Mak to the store whenever she brought Azah along. Mak didn't mind at all because I could mind Azah while she could attend to her shopping.
Sometimes, they would give Mak huge discounts. Everytime, Azah would get free "Mars" chocolates. That was my favourite chocolate.
The Malays would call it -- "tumpang se kaki".
Azah grew to be tall and very model-like. In her late teens, she had that much sought-after look, and height -- for commercials and the catwalk.
Azah was in Form 5 when Bapak was detained. On the day of Bapak's arrest, she did not go to school.
When she did the following day, her school headmistress Sister Enda made an announcement about Bapak's detention and called for a prayer.
Bapak's detention affected Azah, though in a different way. She was in a way, lucky. She was somewhat protected by her older sisters and Abang Med.
Kak Olin, Kak Eda and I went to college in 1973 when Azah was still in Form 2. Until we graduated, she was the only older sister to Kamal, Lalin and Nina, who was at home during the week. Kak Piah and Kak Ton lived with their families but would visit Mak in the evenings. They would sometimes drop by for lunch.
Azah would wait for the weekend to tell us about her week -- the good and the bad.
Ever since she was a little girl, Azah loved to go into the kitchen. I remember her as a 5 year-old helping Mak and our maid, Kak Saemah, in the kitchen.
Mak couldn't get her out of the kitchen. She would just be there, doing something.
By the time she was 10, Azah was already able to cook dishes -- assam pedas, sambal tumis, pindang serani, singgang, sop sayur ketola and kari ikan.
I quite envied her culinary skill only because cooking seemed to me, as a young girl, so complicated. I preferred helping Mak with the laundry instead, whenever Kak Saemah went back home to her village in Klang.
It was natural that Azah was the one Mak turned to, in later years, to help her when the older girls were not around.
And it was to her we turned, after Mak died, for our favourite dishes that our dear mother used to cook for us.
To this day, Kamal, Lalin and Nina (and everyone else tumpang se-kaki), would go over her place in USJ to just have the simple but oh-so-special dishes which Mak used to cook for us.
Azah somehow has the touch. I know I don't.
After her sixth form, Azah took a secretarial course. But she was not interested in becoming a secretary. She was more interested in the beauty line.
After her sixth form, while waiting for results, Mak thought it would be a good idea to enrol Azah in a modelling school so that she could learn to walk elegantly.
She thought Azah, being so tall, was "not walking properly". Perhaps, people trained in ballet aren't supposed to be tall. Tall ballerinas surely have an odd way of walking.
The modelling school Azah enrolled in was "Nefertiti" run by one of the top models then, Stella Prasad. After completing the three-month course, Azah registered at the Hawkins Academy where she submitted her portfolio to gain stints in commercials, on the catwalk, become house models and so forth.
Azah was also photogenic, so aside from the catwalk experience, she was also offered roles in commercials -- Snap chocolates, Mamee instant noodles, Lancer (automobile) in which hers were among the 500 pairs of eyes, Dream soap, the first launch of Joy (drink) and National (electrical brand) calendar, to name a few.
So, were we okay with her involvement in this line? Yes and no.
Yes, because she never got out of line and she would religiously inform us of the people she was working with and the location of her assignments.
We were not judgemental. But modelling and shooting for advertisments presented us with a worrying set of circumstances -- late nights, irregular hours and all sorts of follow-up telephone calls by strangers. People can be very resourceful you know.
And was Bapak okay with Azah's part-time modelling career?
Well, for as long as it was part-time and Azah took care to take care of herself. And we had to make sure that our younger sister did not go over and beyond the limit like modelling in skimpy and sexy clothes, appearing in sexy ads. Oh, you know.
Bapak also drew the line when it came to the location of her modelling assignments. Azah had to turn down trips to the Philippines and Indonesia.
Azah who was doing a secretarial course, had also wanted to earn extra pocket money.
Writing was not her forte. So, she decided to do something she felt she was good at.
Now we know why some girls would give up other things to become models. And this was in the 70s.
It was good money but Azah had to have her feet firmly on the ground.
Modelling, we told her, cannot be her permanent vocation.
Besides, models have a shelf-life.
"Don't you want to make a graceful exit?"
"There's more to (working) life than just modelling."
Sometime in 1979 when I had already started work at the NST, Azah told me that she was selected to take part in a contest -- Malaysian Model of the Year.
"Do you have to wear a bikini?", I asked, worried that it was just another name for a cattle show.
It seemed a decent enough contest. So the family said okay.
We did not tell Bapak because we assumed that since he was okay with Azah's modelling, he'd be okay with this very decent contest.
Then, she was shortlisted among the 10 finalists.
The story was in the newspapers, including the Malay Mail.
Come Tuesday, we were ready to visit Bapak.
By 1979, I believe, our rendezvous had been moved to the Petaling Jaya police station, which made us think that Bapak must have also been moved to an area in Petaling Jaya.
Tuesday, sometime in 1979 @ the Petaling Jaya Police Station, Petaling Jaya.
Bapak was already seated. His "bodyguards" standing behind him. By this time, they appeared to be very protective of him. In fact, we could detect a certain closeness, gentle exchanges like between father and sons.
We sat around him after the usual greeting. And before we could ask him anything ...
Bapak: "Aku tak nak Azah masuk model contest tu."
We all looked at one another. "He knows?".
Azah was not with us as she had classes.
Mak looked a little perplexed but remained calm. Kak Piah and Kak Ton possibly did not know what to say.
Abang Med who was working with Pacific Chemicals, was away in the US attending a course.
He would have been our ideal representative in this case. As the man of the house in Bapak's absence, we would have gladly elected him to answer all Bapak's questions such as:
"Why did you allow Azah to enter the contest?"
No Abang Med. Kak Piah and Kak Ton, I could tell, gave me that "we don't know anything" look.
Nuraina: "It's a decent contest. No bikini, swimsuit or short skirts."
Bapak: "That's what they say. She can model. As a hobby, as her pastime, that's ok. But not for competition. Not to compete. What for? Tell her to pull out.."
Pull out, ya? The contest was just a few days away. Easier said than done, Bapak, I said to myself.
Bapak explained that he saw nothing wrong in Azah modelling and appearing in advertisements. In case we didn't know, he had seen some of the ads Azah was in.
He did not object to Azah enrolling in a modelling school in the first place because, any form of learning, any form of discipline was good.
Learning was enriching. An added advantage.
So, Azah doing modelling part-time and earning some honest money along the way was fine with Bapak.
Competing to be the Malaysian Model of Year was not.
Especially that her father was in detention.
As expected, Azah was quite upset. Maybe very upset, because she cried. The contest must be important to her. But, she knew that she could not defy Bapak. She accepted Bapak's reasoning.Well, ok. She had no choice.
She had already bought shoes for the contest -- two pairs , one in black and the other, white.
I was the one who took her shopping for the shoes.
"What do I say? What do I tell the organisers? I don't think they'd allow. I must have a good reason."
Oh, Azah. Kak Ena was not born yesterday. Of course, they'd have to allow.
"Takut organisers ke takut Bapak? I have to answer to Bapak, you know", I said.
Now, guess who had to tell the organisers that Azah was unable to take part in the finals.
One day (maybe on a Friday), at the office, (then) Sunday Mail editor, Joachim Ng asked if Azah was my sister.
"We're using the story of the contest on our centrespread".
He showed me the "advanced" Sunday Mail centrespread with Azah's photo in it.
"I hear she is a favourite," he said.
Hmmm. Really? I didn't know.
I think the story was to come out on the day of the contest.
I told him Azah was pulling out of the contest. I am not sure now what else I told him.
Just before the contest took place, a news article stated that one of the contestants -- your guess is as good as mine -- had to pull out.
"She is down with German measles," or something like that, according to the report.
And, well, the Sunday Mail had to make changes to its centrespread.
NOTE: Azah has long stopped modelling. After Bapak was released he enrolled her in the Aesthetic Beauty Academy in Petaling Jaya. Azah is a trained aesthetician, having worked in a German cosmetic company and Nutrimetrics.
Azah should have been a nurse. We all took turns to care for Kak Eda but it was Azah who spent the longest time with arwah, helping to bathe her, wash her.
So, we make sure Azah stays healthy, healthier than us all, so that she can take care of us later. Haha...kidding, Azah, kidding.
Azah has two children, Muhammad Jazzril, 19 and Muhammad Jazzlan, 14.
She is married to Englishman Terry Hughes AKA Yahya Abdullah, a rabid West Ham supporter.
Photos of Azah: (from bottom) 1. Azah, maybe 2 years old, eating an apple. Pix was taken at our Jalan Sentosa house in Kawasan Melayu, Petaling Jaya. 2. Azah, a big girl already. 3. Pix of little Kamal, Tante (Chairani Nasution -my mum's cousin from Medan) and Azah, "melaram" in sunglasses belonging, I think, to kak Ton.