Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Bapak, Oh Bapak -- October 30 2007

So many odd things flashed through my mind as I stepped on the gas along the Damansara highway enroute to Bapak's last Thursday evening.
Adel and Shaira sat quietly in the car. I could see that they were visibly shaken.

I was on the road some time after Maghrib.
Ya Allah! Is this an auspicious time and day for someone to leave us?

What an Eid we would all be celebrating this year. And what a year this will be, I thought as I traversed the traffic.
Didn't we just lose Kak Eda in March?

It was the call I received from Nina earlier in the evening.
If the turn of events or the entire situation had been different, this would have been a very sad posting.

"Kak Ena, Bapak has not stopped going to the toilet...I am so worried. I am at work and I will be going home after I have put the phone down," Nina said, in an unusually low voice.

This frequent-visit-to-the-toilet affecting the elderly during a certain time in their twilight years worries me.
At least three elderly people -- our relatives -- peacefully died after their more-than-three times visits to the loo.

I'm not a doctor, and that is probably why I got worried. Little or no knowledge about bodily functions prior to death, but having your mind littered with unconfirmed medical "knowledge" based on limited witnessing of events, often leads to assumed knowledge.

Er..you know what I'm getting at?

Ok. We all thought this was bad news. That Bapak was going to, you know, "go" that night.

I can write about it so blithefully now, But that Thursday "malam Jumaat", my mind was racing with thoughts that Bapak was very very unwell.

My dear niece, Sara Hamidah (Nina's eldest child) was the one who called up her mummy.
So worried she was about her Datuk's frequent bathroom visits all in one afternoon.

"Mummy, already 10 times. And now he's is going again," the 10 year-old said over the telephone.

Sara has amazingly taken the welfare and wellbeing of her Datuk to be her responsibility while her mother is out.
In fact, that of all the occupants of the house.

Adel and Shaira wasted no time in getting dressed when I called them from my office to say that I'd quickly buy some packed nasi goreng from Rasta (a food court in Taman Tun Dr Ismail) and then fetch them to go to Datuk's because Datuk "may not be well".

"What do you mean, mummy," Adel responded, alluding to a need for elaboration and clarification.

I did not want to set the alarm simply because, in all honesty, I didn't know the "prognosis", as it were.

Bapak could well be having just a tummy upset/stomachache.
Then again, was his system signalling the end?

"Datuk sakit perut. We'll just see him and make sure he's ok. He's very old, you know".

However, deep in my heart, I knew that Bapak would be okay. I mean, I am no saint. But I didn't think that Allah SWT will be taking Bapak away, with us all being prepared for it.
I think we have to earn that kind of "sign" from God Almighty. He was not going to let us have it easy.

Still, the doubts and concern were there.

"Nina, should we tell everyone?"

Nina said she'd call the doctor, Dr Baljit Singh, (a very very handsome doctor, WE ALL might add), have him come over and check Bapak and see what he had to say.
THEN, we will call the others.

But, it was not to be. Worried that Bapak could indeed be unwell, everyone was informed and everyone went to Bapak's.

The handsome doctor must have rushed to see Bapak after he got a call from Nina because when I arrived, "the doctor had just left".

Which means -- not that we have missed the handsome doctor, no - but that Bapak was okay, after all. At least that was what I figured.

"So, how Bapak?" I hollered to Kak Olin who was at the gate with hubby, Azmi and her children, Khairil, Khairena and Marissa.
They all did NOT look sad or woeful.

"Sakit perut. Constipation. Too much lying down, lack of fluid, lack of movement......"

"Thank God!", I said. What a relief.

Kak Olin and her family were already about to leave.

Apparently, I was late. Everyone else came and went. Nina was smiling. My step-mom was shaking her head, and smiling.

Oooh. I just love good news.

I went to see Bapak in his room. He was smiling. Now, let me correct that. He was grinning.

"Bapak....what happened to you?", I asked.

"Tak ada apa....." He grinned, ever so widely now.

Nina pulled me aside.
"He is wondering aloud what the fuss was all about! But I told him he went to the toilet, at the last count, 25 times..
And you know....he was such a good boy in the presence of Dr Baljit. He even swallowed the ubat that was given to him, in front of the doctor.
The doctor said, Tan Sri, you must do this and must not do that, and so on. Bapak smiled and nodded his head.
The minute the doctor left, he said to Mak Cik -- aku tak nak makan ubat ni. Back to being the stubborn old man," Nina said, heaving a sigh.

I looked at Bapak and smiled. Bapak had never liked to visit the doctor. He hated hospitals.
"It's the smell," he used to say.

Like I said. I love happy ending. I said that to Kak Ton too.

I had earlier told Kak Ton: "Kak Ton, you just started blogging. Let's hope and pray that your second posting is not about Bapak....."

Yes... we all like happy endings.
I'm off to Kak Ton's for our Mee Rebus on Tuesday.

It's still the Eid and here's a warm Salam Aidilfitri.

One People, One Nation

This Saturday, Nov 3, the Bangsa Malaysia movement goes to Penang, continuing the journey in realising that WE are One People, One Nation.
Be at Malam Bangsa Malaysia at Dewan Sri Pinang (Room A) from 8pm.

The One People, One Nation forum which starts at 5pm, can only accomodate 200 people and attendance is by invitation.

Read The People's Parliament - the blog of the irreverent (lawyer and social activiist) Haris Ibrahim, for details.
Haris is the man behind the Bangsa Malaysia initiative.

Haris says that the ‘One People, One Nation’ forum is open to all who are registered to attend the get-together later that night.
Registration will start at 4.30pm.

From The People's Parliament:

Speakers for the forum are : Dato Seri Lim Chong Keat, Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan, independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, HAKAM president and human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Haris himself.

During the get-together after the forum, the award winning documentary ‘Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka‘ by Fahmi Reza will be screened. Fahmi will also be with us to share with us his motivation for the documentary.

To get yourself an invitation, please send your name and ic number to bangsamalaysiapenang@gmail.com.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Al Fatihah For Sheikh Mustafa Shukor

Sheikh Mustafa Shukor, 32, was Angkasawan Dr Sheikh Muszaphar's younger brother.
The 32-year-old project planner, fell unconscious after knocking into a pillar outside a restaurant last Friday (Oct 26) in Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur. He died at 6pm on Saturday without regaining consciousness.
He leaves a wife, Haryati, 28 and two children, aged 3 and 2..

Sheikh Muszaphar arrived home from Moscow yesterday evening.
From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he headed straight to the state mosque where his father, Sheikh Mustapha Abdul Shukor, was waiting.
Then he was taken to the Tuan Haji Said cemetery where his younger brother was buried just hours earlier.

Fate intervened earlier when bad weather held up his flight in Moscow which caused him to miss his connecting flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, thus preventing him from seeing his brother for the last time before his burial.
Our angkasawan was reported to be calm although the scene at the cemetery was, expectedly emotional when Sheikh Muszaphar rushed to the arms of his mother Zuraida Sheikh Ahmad and consoled his brother’s wife, Haryati Mohd Redza.

Sheikh Muszaphar said his brother’s passing was a test from Allah.

“I have to be strong for my family’s sake, especially my mother,” he remarked.

He calls his brother "Ajil" and dedicated his space mission to him.

Ajil, he said was his fanatic fan who was “a catalyst for his spirit and backbone of his success".

Some 250 family members, relatives and friends attended the funeral.

Sheikh Muszaphar, 35,will be home for a few days to attend the official homecoming reception before returning to Moscow for an inauguration ceremony scheduled for Nov 9.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's Recka's Story?


From the Star online (as at 3.30pm)

Penang:Ten-year-old Recka almost had the whole country fooled as she made up a story about being abducted from a VCD shop in Market Street by a woman last week.
Georgetown OCPD Asst Comm Azam Abd Hamid said the girl had approached a woman and told her that she was afraid to go home as her mother would beat her for playing in the rain.
"The woman, whom she befriended a few weeks earlier at the shop, pitied her and gave her shelter at her Bandar Baru Air Itam home on Monday.
"She stayed with the woman for three days. She then felt guilty and decided to return home when she saw her mother crying and appealing to her 'abductors' for her safe return in the media.
"She took a bus to Chulia Street where she was spotted by a man who subsequently handed her over to the police at about 10pm on Thursday," he said on Monday.
ACP Azam said the police are concerned about the girl's "state of mind," adding that she would soon be sent for psychiatric evaluation at the Penang Hospital.
"Her claims of being abused by her mother were also not true as the medical check-up showed no signs of any injuries. She is a bright and healthy kid with an over-active imagination.
"We have already interviewed the woman, who took her home, and the man who found her. Statements were also taken from the parents.
"Our investigations papers have already been handed over to the deputy public prosecutor's office for further action," he said when met at his office.
Recka's stepfather Ahmad Omar, 49, said he and his wife would be handing over the little girl to the Welfare Department as they found it hard to control her.

My earlier posting:

First, the spelling of her name, according to the Star is Recka Ahmad not Rekha Ahamad.

Further on the 10 year-old after she was returned safely home to her mother Salmah Sellamah Abdullah, 41 and her step-father, Ahmad Omar, 49.
We were not the only ones who found holes in Recka's story of abduction and captivity.
The police are not entirely convinced with her tale.

Here's the Star story:

PENANG: Police are investigating the plausibility of 10-year-old Recka's story that she was abducted and kept locked in an apartment in Bandar Baru Air Itam by a woman who wanted to raise her.
It is learnt that the police found many holes in her story.
State CID chief Senior Asst Comm II Datuk Abdul Samah Mat said investigations were still being carried out to determine if the girl was telling the truth.
According to sources, Recka was believed to have run away from her home in Kampung Kolam on Monday night after she was barred from going out to loiter.
When contacted, Recka's stepfather Ahmad Omar, 49, said Recka was still being treated at the children's ward of the Penang Hospital.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rekha Found Safe and Sound

Rekha Ahamad, 10, who went missing after venturing out to the night market near her squatter house in Kampung Kolam last Sunday, has been returned safely to her family last night.
She was found earlier by a couple at the Kapital Keling Mosque in Penang. They sent her home to her parents.

Read the Bernama story here, but be prepared to be so curious for more details. Even a little confused. We'll just have to wait for the newspapers to do a follow-up.

Whatever it is, I am happy that she has been found safe and sound and is now back with her family.

But will she be allowed out on her own again? Even if she is not allowed, will she still attempt to sneak out? She seems so used to bersiar-siar. Rekha seems to be not afraid of crowds. Nor the city after dark.
After her experience, is she still?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kak Ton, the Blogger!

Okay...my (now) eldest sibling and sister, Maria Samad AKA Kak Ton has finally started blogging.
Indeed, she finally found blogging irresistible.
The pull is so strong.

Yay! Quick, go to her blog which is simply named Tok Mommy.
She is Tok Mommy - grandma - to her three grandchildren - 8 year-old Adam, 2 year-old Ayra Qistina and one year-old Ayna Larissa.

Welcome to blogosphere and the blogging community!

Kak Ton was a journalist way back when...with the national news agency Bernama and was, among the positions she held, its Johor bureau chief.
She then joined the Star as assistant news editor/political writer.
Kak Ton later joined the NST as special correspondent (politics).

She took very early retirement from journalism and set up her media consultancy - Media Strategy - in 1989.
Last year (March, 2006), she decided to play grandma full-time and to retire as a media consultant. She handed the company to me (soon after I quit the NST.)

So, Kak Ton, the world is your oyster (hahaha...).
Blog on, sister!

Missing: 10 year-old Rekha

Another child goes missing.
Rekha Ahamad, 10, left her home in Georgetown, Penang, since Sunday* (or Monday)* night and never returned.

If you see a child matching her description, please inform the police station near you. Or

contact the Rakan COP hotline(04-2691 999).

Rekha was last seen leaving her squatter house in Kampung Kolam near Acheen Street, wearing a white T-shirt with an "Ultraman" character printed on it, and a pair of shorts.
I believe she has short dark hair.
Rekha had wanted to buy a VCD at the nearby pasar malam. She never returned home.
A police report has been lodged.

Read the story here and here.

Rekha, sixth of seven siblings, went out alone that night. It was not the first time that she had gone out of her house alone after dark, according to her stepfather, second hand goods trader Ahamad Omar, 49.
But she always returned home by 8pm or 9pm.
Her mother, Salmah Sellamah Abdullah, 41, was at work at a factory in Bayan Lepas when Rekha went missing.

I know, I know. You must be aghast that the little girl had been allowed to wonder out alone.
But, I wouldn't mercilessly blame the parents. Her mum was out at work. and her step-dad, well, I really don't know the details.
Yeah, it is so easy for us to judge, huh? So let's not.
But listen. That's a tough life they are leading. Rekha must be a tough little girl.
Under the circumstances of her life, she must have been left to her own devices all this while. And she has five older siblings who are probably also left to their own devices, caring for their younger ones or helping daddy at the store.
I don't know. What I do know is that, again, life must be tough for the family.
Well...welcome to the real world which is not always rosy and nice as we all want it to be.

My point is -- yes, we have to start educating families on the importance of protecting their children because imbibing values and a change in mindset will not be overnight.
Perhaps, that's our contribution. But what can we do, right now, to ease the burden of people like Norazian (Nurin's mum) or Salmah?
Not very much.
So why don't we do what we can?

The hard truth is that there are scores of families, like Ahamad's or Jazimin's who lead a pretty hard life eking out a living.
So, chide these "negligent" parents all you want.
Meanwhile, children, like Rekha, living in the type of neighbourhood she lives in, will go missing. And for many reasons. Because this is not a perfect world we live in.

The police have said that they are taking a very serious view of the case. I hope they are going about it in the most effective way to ensure that she can be safely returned to her family in the soonest possible time, before she is harmed, or (Heaven forbids!) killed.

Let's also hope that the broadcast and print media do their part in publicising her disappearance.

I pray that Rekha is safe somewhere, and that she is not now held captive by some sex maniac/s, intent on assaulting and murdering her or, by evil and sinister people who want to traffick or smuggle her (out) for the flesh trade.

Yesterday, it was Nurin.
Yes, we can pray that Rekha will not be another Nurin.
We prayed for Nurin, remember?
Sometimes, prayers are not enough.
Because, when we have it in our power to do something, we should be doing that.

Now, do you not think that we need a Nurin Alert?

*NST says went missing since Monday while the Star says, since Sunday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Bapak never got to clear his name. Nor did he ever set out to seek justice. And I don't remember any hint of an apology from those responsible for his nearly five years of incarceration.

When he was arrested in 1976 and then detained under the Internal Security Act until 1981, we knew it was political.
The charges framed against him were incredible. That he was a communist mastermind and a subversive element who was using the newspaper to further the communist agenda and was therefore, a threat to national security.
Which means he had cadres doing his bidding for the Malayan Communist Party?

Can you imagine anyone being charged with that now? That is so laughable.
Back then, it was different. No laughing matter.
I remember how horrifying the C-word was then.
Anyone who was labelled a communist might as well have been slapped with the death sentence.

We knew the government had inflicted a great injustice on Bapak, and on us . We knew his detention was part of a grander Umno scheme and political intrigue.
We knew the charges were lies and that his detention without trial was not right, unfair and unjust. We knew that.
We also knew that he was put through intense and severe interrogation that led to his confession that, yes, he was a communist and an agent of the MCP.

But what we did not know was that it was possible for us to have done something -- like seek redress in a court of law -- for the physical and mental torture he was subjected to and/or the illegality of the detention.

I suppose in those days, it was unimaginable to sue the government over ISA detention.
After all, Bapak's arrest and detention was provided for under the law.
We did not even imagine that that could be challenged.
ISA was a frightening and most feared piece of draconian legislation so much so that people did not come close to thinking that taking the government to court was possible.

Obviously, we were not alone. No lawyer came forth with such a notion or suggestion. So, it was never an option.

But if we had known then what we know now, I believe we would have sought legal counsel to do whatever it would take to have my father released and to have his name cleared.

The first time I thought that it was possible was when someone (an ISA detainee or his representative) filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus some time in the early 80s. I can't remember details of the case, though.
But the case came about much later after Bapak was released.
I remember thinking : "Couldn't we have done that?"

In this regard, I feel deeply for Samani Mohd Amin who was arrested and detained at the same time as Bapak.
Samani or Uncle Samani, as we call him, was, I believe, a news editor with Berita Harian.
The charges framed against him were clearly trumped-up and false.
He had to be detained to prove that "hey...yep. That's part of Samad's communist network in the newspaper".
How sad for Uncle Samani and what a cruel blow to his young family.
The government had destroyed an innocent man.
Uncle Samani emerged from detention, after his release, a broken and bitter man.

I am writing this after reading of the RM2.5million award granted to ex-ISA detainee Abdul Malik Hussin by the High Court last week.

To me, it is so heartening. I am deeply happy for Abdul Malik and his family.

I am glad that he had taken his case to court.
I remember reading about his detention and how he was tortured.
It was disgusting.

Never for a moment did I doubt his recollection of what he had gone through.

I am hopeful that the outcome of Abdul Malik's case will signal positive changes in how ISA detainees are treated, and more importantly, in how the government invoke or use the ISA, or any other piece of legislation, against the citizens of this country.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This must be the wettest Eid I have ever experienced!
Since the first of Syawal, it has been wet, wet, wet. Not a day passes without rain. And the rain has been torrential, no less.

So, how has your Raya been?

We've had some good and bad news, haven't we? Rather, Eid began on a tragic note with news of a ferry, Seagull Express 2, that caught fire and sank when cruising from Mersing to Tioman Island with 106 holidaymakers on on Oct 13.

To date, the official death toll stands at seven. So many passengers were injured.
I am glad that 14 passengers of the ill-fated ferry have decided to sue the ferry operator and other relevant parties for the tragedy.

We all know how tidak-apa most ferry or boat operators are. They don't take safety concerns seriously.
How can we condone such cavalier attitude?
Let's hope that enforcement will be stepped up following this.

Then, on Oct 20, another horrific news greeted us.
Actually, it greeted Nina who cried, shrieked, screamed before dropping the newspaper as though it was a disgusting object.
We were at Azah's house en route to the USJ cemetery to visit Kak Eda's grave. We could not visit Kak Eda's grave on the first of Syawal.

"Oh no! Oh God! Ya Allah!Why, why?", Nina cried.
We were all taken aback. Dropped whatever we were doing and shifted our attention to her.
Nina looked so disturbed.

Kak Ton picked up the paper and saw the headline: "Newborn Flung From..."
. Kak Ton was equally shocked. And there was a photo - a long shot - that showed what we had made out to be the baby's legs sticking out from under the covers.
The story was of a newborn who was found dead after it was flung from a high-rise building in Air Itam, Penang. The baby was stuffed in a plastic bag.
A post-mortem revealed that all the bones in the baby boy’s body were broken.
Police also found a piece of nylon cloth around the neck.

What can you say to that kind of news?

Ok...the good news. At least, I think that it's good. I'm glad for Abdul Malek Hussin who was awarded RM2.5m in damages by the High Court for having been unlawfully arrested, detained and beaten up while in police custody in 1998.
This is indeed an unprecedented move.
High Court Judge Hishamudin Mohd Yunus granted the award after ruling that Abdul Malek had succeeded in suing former Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor, a police officer and the Government for the misdeeds done to him during his detention under the Internal Security Act.

“The behaviour of the defendants is inhumane, cruel and despicable, as the plaintiff was not just arrested and detained unlawfully for 57 days but was also subjected to a vile assault, unspeakable humiliation, prolonged physical and mental ill-treatment,” the judge said in his judgment on Thursday, Oct 18.

Hishamudin said that the arrest and detention were unlawful because Abdul Malek was not told of what he had done or intended to do that would pose a threat to national security.

Now, I wish I had known then in 1976 what I know now -- that it is possible to sue the government and the police for detention that is deemed unlawful.

We never tried to take the government to court because we never knew we could or that that was even an option.

Well....another piece of good news -- Malaysia's first astronaut Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor landed safely back in Kazakhstan yesterday (Sunday) with two Russian cosmonauts after spending 11 days in space.
I know that there have been criticisms about Dr Sheikh's space travel but I'm sure we are all so glad that he is safely back on earth.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Citizens For Nurin Alert

Early this morning, my sister Nina sent me an SMS, saying that my name was mentioned on page 14 of the Star in a story quoting Nurin Jazlin's uncle, Jasni AJ who spoke about plans to introduce Nurin Alert.

That's good, I thought. Good that Nurin Alert is featured in the Star.

For those not yet in the know, this blog has been promoting and advocating the introduction of Nurin Alert , inspired by the successful American programme, AMBER Alert, an emergency response plan that brings the authorities and the community together in search for abducted children in the shortest possible time after they go missing.

It has helped saved the lives of hundreds of young children since it was put in place in the US 11 years ago.
Other countries in Europe as well as Britain and Australia have already developed and introduced a similar plan and system.

Read the Star story quoting Jasni here.

Also read Rocky's Bru on the Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network Alert.

Jasni started nurinjazlin.blogspot.com after his niece went missing. Over a short period of time, he linked with like-minded bloggers who felt the need for "something" to be done to save the next Nurin.
We fear that the next child who goes missing may not be saved.

I posted about AMBER Alert after another blogger, Farina of Princessjournals, posted a comment in my blog (about Nurin Jazlin), suggesting that we should have a similar system in place.
Farina is married and lives in Orange, California.

I took it from there because I really felt that it was unacceptable that Nurin remained missing for 28 days before her brutalized body was found stuffed in a sports bag.
How could we have failed her?
Clearly, there was something wrong with the system or that the system we have now is flawed.
What will happen to the next missing child, I shivered, just wondering about it.
Yes, undoubtedly, we have all failed Nurin -- you and I, as a community. And the police.
I'm sorry, I cannot let go of the fact that the police did very little during the crucial time to search for Nurin.
Why was there no sense of urgency until it was way too late?
Was it because Nurin was a taxidriver's child?
I'd hate to think so. I'd hate to think that there is some selective process in routine police work and assistance.
Perhaps, it's better for all of us to just put it down to police ineptitude. And also, the notoriously pervasive Malaysian tidak-apa attitude.

If there was anyone to be blamed -- then it is all of us.

All this blogging about Nurin Alert did not come to nothing. Fellow blogger, Tembam who happens to be a former colleague of mine at the NST, caught on and she went so fast and furious in her blog about Nurin Alert.
I recommend that you read Tembam. Everything you need to know about AMBER Alert and missing children and so forth is there.

Another blogger Nik Farez got into the picture and got connected with Tembam, Jasni and I.
Jasni suggested we meet, and we did two weeks ago and we formed Citizens For Nurin Alert.

The following day, at a roundtable hosted by Tell Magazine, to discuss Nurin and measures to address the issue of missing children, Women, Family and Community Development Minister and Jasni were among five invited guests.
Jasni raised the issue of Nurin Alert and in no uncertain terms, explained why we need it.
His brother, Jazimin, faced obstacles just to get help to look for his child.
Shahrizat was moved.

Shahrizat's ministry is coming out with the Child Protection Policy. A proposal for Nurin Alert to be introduced will be incorporated.

Meanwhile, Citizens For Nurin Alert is gaining incredible support from a cross section of society. From Malaysians.

Indeed, if Nurin had undergone unimaginably excruciating pain at the hands of her tormentors and perpetrators before her life was snuffed out of her....she did not die in vain.
She did not.
Dearest Nurin, we know you are resting well now. Your memory lives in us all...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Celebrating Syawal - October 16 2007

As we get older, every Aidilfitri seems to hold a different meaning for us.
When I was a child, it was all about new dresses and shoes, fire crackers and 'duit raya'.
A little older, it was still about new clothes and shoes, fire crackers and "duit raya".
Later in life, new clothes still held some importance only because it was an excuse to splurge on "baju kurung" and "kebaya". The shoes were negotiable and I was no longer at the receiving end of duit raya.
A few years later, Eid became a spiritual victory at the end of a spiritual journey. Something like that.
I remember remarking with a sigh: "Aah....Aidilfitri is really for the children".
No more fire crackers? But what is Raya without fireworks? The ka-boom and sparkling "bunga api" have faithfully remained when other things have slowly dissipated.

Then came the time I joined Mak in resuming fasting on the second day of every Eid for the "puasa enam".
We would have our own celebration on the seventh day. It was fulfilling.
When I became a mother, Aidilfitri took on an entirely new perpective and dimension.
It was no longer about me.
When I lost my mother, it was to be the first time during Aidilfitri that I had to visit a grave -- hers.
I had never felt such a deep sense of loss, an aching loss, as I am sure, did my siblings.
But, I was comforted by the fact that Bapak was there for us all. I was thankful too that we (my siblings) had each other.
Then, we lost our eldest sister, Kak Piah. We were all devastated. Yes, life was really really short and we had to come to terms with that reality.
Two graves to visit every Eid.
This year, Kak Eda left us. Aidilfitri without her. Never imagined that could ever be.

Why had Ramadhan been so fleeting that I had not felt the tingling anticipation, the mental sensation, that usually preceded Aidilfitri?
I was surprised by my own nonchalance which threw me into a dizzying swirl of last minute chores, including shopping for my children's clothes and stuff.
"What is wrong with me that I could have lost track of time?", I had asked myself countless times.
Why was it all so fleeting?

The passing of time, I think, have rendered me somewhat oblivious to the overt celebration of Eid.
What had held signifcance before has ceased to do so now. I think other things have come into play.

For one, I see Bapak -- and this is a cliche - getting older. He is old. But he is getting older.
You know what I mean.

It has been a few years now that Bapak no longer performs prayers on the first of Syawal at the nearby Malik Al-Faisal Mosque. His physical condition has disallowed him to do so. He is less mobile now than he used to be.
This Aidilfitri, Bapak spends his time in his room, resting. Last year, he was able to join his visitors at the dining table. He'd have the customary 'lontong' with them. Then he'd go back to his room to rest. Another set of visitors, and he'd slowly make his way again to the dining or living room.
But not this year.

I can't help wondering...those years when we were young. How Bapak must have felt seeing us growing older every Aidilfitri?
Isn't it during Aidilfitri that we get hit with how fast our kids have grown?

Like it certainly did for me this Aidilfitri.
Take my daughter, Shaira. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was that little girl, wanting and needing her mummy to buy her her favourite Disney video tape or her Spice Girls cassette tape?
And I was able to cradle her.
Wasn't it just yesterday that we'd go shopping for her Baju Raya at the children's section of Metro Jaya?
Wasn't it yesterday that she told me that she would always be with her mummy and would take care of her forever and ever?
Yeah....that was yesterday.

Shaira turns 15 today. Sure, she does still need her mummy for many things.
But, I can't help thinking how grown-up she is now and soon, she will no longer need her mummy to do things for her.
Will I feel irrelevant and useless then?

I'll not think about that yet. Let me enjoy the moment.
So, yeah, Aidilfitri holds something different for me this year. As it had the past years...

Happy Birthday, Shaira. And Salam Aidilfitri to everyone...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Here's wishing everyone a happy and blessed Eid.

Mohon ampun maaf zahir dan batin!

P.S - If you're on the road to "balik kampung", have a safe journey,
And please please take care of your kids!

And oh... Nurin Jazlin's killer has not been caught! He's still out there somewhere.....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Yesterday When We Were Young - October 9 2007

What is it about nearing the end of Ramadhan that it often takes me back decades?
This happens every year. Well, every year after I turned 40, to be exact.

It often takes me back to Jalan Lembah in Section 5, Petaling Jaya where we lived from 1960/1 to 1968. It was our second home since coming over to Malaya from Singapore.

I remember joyful Ramadhans. Not that they are never anymore. They still are as we celebrate and observe the holy month with our own families.
I have pinned it down to age -- ageing.
I suppose as we grow older, with a parent and two siblings gone forever, you get a little misty and reflective.

I'd like to say that those were the good old days but that would mean that days now are no longer so and that is not true because they are.
Well then...those were innocent carefree blissful days because we were young with nary a care. Even having to pass exams fitted nicely into our scheme of things. I don't remember my parents breathing down our necks for us to get straight As. But, aah.... times are different now. Competition is tough.
My poor kids.

I remember that I began "berpuasa" (fasting), I think, when I was 10 or 11. Even then, I "ponteng" a few days. But, it was never an issue.
Which was why when I began to notice how kids these days started fasting at such a young age, I was surprised, to say the least.

My parents never forced us to fast when we were children. I think it must have been the same for many families then. Perhaps today too.
Because of my own experience, I never forced my own children to fast when they were little.
And like most children, these days, they need not have to be forced to begin fasting. They just do, sooner or later. And like I said, it is usually sooner.

However, I know of some people who literally force their kids, as young as four or five, to fast. I say "force" because that's what it is. "Paksa".
I think that's wrong. I used to tell them so but these days I just shut my mouth. But, if looks were telling, then, they know.

I think encouraging children to understand and appreciate fasting and what it is all about is good. I, personally, would want them to do so at their own pace and their own time. Of course, there is a limit to the grace period, and if they still do not understand and want to do it at 13, then, I think I'd be a little tough on them. For their own good, you know.

When my siblings and I were little, our parents never told us to fast because, when the time came, we did.
We just saw how the grown-ups did it. And we found how even a simple meal tasted devilishly good after a day of fasting.
A glass of water tasted like milk....or sweet grape juice by the time we "buka puasa".

I've told this story before about how my son, Adel, began fasting. I shall tell it again.

He was about six years old.
One day during Ramadhan he told me he wanted to fast.
I asked him why.
"Nak sama-sama Mummy," he said.
I said he would still "sama-sama Mummy" whether or not he was fasting.
Besides, he was too young and he didn't have to. Allah will understand, I said.
"Allah nanti marah, ke kalau Adel puasa?" he asked.
Of course not, I said.
"Allah sayang Adel, ke, kalau Adel puasa?"
Of course, He does, I said, a little worried about where the line of questioning was leading to in case I did not have the right answer.
I said Allah understands if little children cannot and do not fast.
"But I want to. Like you and Bapak and Mama and kakak Ana and kakak Ani, Datuk and (oh, just about everyone)......."
I actually discouraged him at first but then, why should I? Why don't I just let him have a go.
Waking him up for sahur was hard. For me not for him.
He was sleepy but acted macho, as though he'd done it before. Like it was nothing to him.
When he began his day of fasting, I never quite left him in peace to carry out his ibadah, as it were.
I kept asking him whether he was okay, whether he was thirsty or hungry.
At one point, I asked him whether he wanted to break his fast.

His six year-old eyes glared at me. I think he was irritated and had had about enough of his smothering mother.

"Tak nak. Adel tak nak buka. Adel nak puasa. Adel tak lapar. Adel tak haus."

So there, mummy!
With a heavy heart, I left him to complete his fast but not without quietly checking on him, every now and again. Of course, much to his ire and consternation.
I knew he was a little hungry, perhaps. And thirsty.
But he had a mission to complete.
And "Adel dah besar, mummy!" Ok. Ok, sayang.

Well, they don't make kids like they used to. That's a fact.
While there are children who are not ready to fast, but are forced to by their parents, there are those as young as four or five who have already begun fasting, and not at their parents' insistence.
They do it so willingly and steadfastly, I feel really humbled by that.

I never fasted when I was six. Well, not actually. I often intended to like the adults in the family but invariably I'd succumb to the wafting aroma of sambal tumis or ikan goreng.

Neither Bapak nor Mak ever insisted, pestered or hounded us to fast when we were young.
They didn't have to. In time, we just did because it was a wonderful experience. Unsurpassed.

When we were little, Kak Eda and I would tell Mak confidently that we were fasting on that particular day.
"Aah... puasa yang yok, eh?", she'd teased.

"Uh-uh... pagi-pagi buka periok," we'd happily holler back.

Oh...yes. Those wonderful Ramadhan days when I -- when we were young.

(Missing Mak, Kak Piah and Kak Eda this blessed Ramadhan!
By the way, did you get the feeling that last night was special? Aaah.... just a feeling.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ladies, Don't Be Stupid

Like being taken in by strangers and helping to carry their bags.
And why shouldn't you? Because you maybe be helping them traffick illegal drugs.

We know of at least two cases of women who were caught and arrested in foreign countries for having in their possession illegal drugs.
One was in Australia a couple of years ago, and just recently a Mass Communication student now serving time in a Japanese prison.
Both claimed to have been duped by Iranian men.
The woman in Australia was later released. The Malay Mail (under Rocky) did an extensive coverage of the case.

Anyway, here's a Bernama story quoting Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar cautioning women travelling alone to not trust strange men they befriend.

KOTA TINGGI, Oct 7 (Bernama) -- Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar advised Malaysians, especially women, who wish to travel abroad to be more careful and not to help carry bags or packages belonging to other people they do not know.

He gave the advice because many Malaysian women had been arrested and jailed overseas for carrying bags or packages containing drugs.

"When travelling, take extra care. Don't simply help people who ask for help. Don't simply carry their bags when we don't know what's in them," he told reporters after hosting a breaking of fast at his residence here yesterday.

He said that if one had been found guilty by a court overseas, it would be difficult for his ministry to get them released.

He was commenting on Raja Munira Raja Iskandar Shah, 22, who was sentenced to seven years and four months' jail by a Japanese court for attempting to smuggle several packets of syabu at the Narita International Airport in Tokyo on Dec 20 last year.

Raja Munira, a mass communication student of a private college in Kuala Lumpur, alleged that she had been duped by an Iranian man she had just known.

Syed Hamid said he had ordered the Malaysian Embassy in Japan to visit the woman and gather information pertaining to the case.

So, ladies (and gents too) -- you cannot be that trusting or naive or stupid.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Blood Bank Needs Blood

Tomorrow (Monday Oct 8), a blood donation campaign will be held on the grounds of Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur from 7.30pm..
ANSARA is organising the campaign for the National Blood Bank in anticipation of Hari Raya Puasa. Supply at the bank is at a critical level.
Last month, ANSARA co-organised a similar campaign with Utusan Malaysia.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Let's Save the Children

Yesterday (Friday, Oct 5), Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil announced that a Child Protection Policy will be tabled in the Cabinet after Hari Raya Aidlifitri.
The policy is aimed at creating a safe environment for children and to increase alertness on the children's well-being.
Shahrizat, according to Bernama, caters for children-related organisations such as non-governmental organisations, government institutions, schools, kindergartens and hospitals.
She said this when chairing a meeting on violence against women and children at her ministry,
Shahrizat also spoke about getting the Education Ministry to draw up educational and awareness programmes for children on ways to avoid dangerous situations.

Read the story here.

This is good and I am all for the policy and everything that has been said at the meeting. But I believe that we should be going forward and directly address the issue of abducted children in the aftermath of the brutal murder of 8 year-old Nurin Jazlin last month.

Yes, we can minimise the incidents of children being abducted if certain measures are being taken.
Getting the education ministry to play its part is good because teaching children early about protecting their own safety goes a long way in preventing them from being abducted.
Speaking of which, let me tell you that only a few days ago, at about 3pm as I was driving past Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Taman Tun Dr Ismail 2, I saw two children - boy and a girl - outside the school gate.
The school faces a stretch of road and the Taman Lembah Kiara and at 3pm, it can be pretty quiet and lonely.
I stopped my car, got out and approached the children.
The school seemed quiet but the gate was open and there were a couple of cars parked, indicating the presence (inside) of a couple of teachers.
I asked the children why they were still around after school hours. The older child (the boy, maybe 8 year-old) said that their van would be late.
They live in Sungai Penchala, he said.
Perhaps, I could send them home -- something I have done several times in my life time.
But I decided that that would not be a good idea because, well, the next time , they might just accept a ride from anyone.
Besides, that will unnecessarily cause undue worry to the van driver.
So, I took them into the school compound, at the guard house which was empty. I did not see the security guard around.
I waited with them for a while until I saw some teachers. I did what any adult would do -- remind the children not to wait outside the school when their van is late.
Maybe I was paranoid. Maybe there were teachers keeping a watch on them from upstairs.
Still, the idea of the kids waiting outside the school gate represented an incident that was waiting to happen.
Now, what if the kids, or one of them were/was abducted?
Will we go back to pointing fingers or act swiftly to get the child back safely?

This is what we should be addressing following the tragedy that befell little Nurin -- to act swiftly to get back children safely in the event of an abduction.
Surely we have realised that there has been one case (of missing children) too many.
Surely we should be working to devise an alert/warning system to save abducted children, to prepare us for that tragic eventuality when another Nurin happens.
Because it will happen. That is something we have to face up with.
No matter how perfect we want our world to be, it will not be. You and I know that.

Yes. Keep on reminding parents to be vigilant. Keep on reminding them that they are responsible for the safety of their kids. Keep doing all that because we can never remind ourselves enough.
But, we have to go beyond that.

Prevention is better than cure, they say. But in cases of child abduction, it is way past prevention because a child has been abducted.

Have we not learnt anything from Nurin's abduction and brutal murder? It is about preventing a child who has been abducted from being brutalised and murdered by putting pressure on the perpetrators to release him/her.

We cannot be going backwards. We have to deal with the problem at hand. I hate to throw a cliche here, but we have to think out of the box. The thing is we don't really have to try hard because we have seen how successful other countries have been in saving the lives of abducted children.

On one hand, we acknowledge the serious problem of child trafficking in this region and across the continents, yet we are not helping to arrest it.

What the ministry should be recommending is a devise akin to AMBER ALERT.
I cannot see why no one who is in position to help introduce this is not doing so.

It sure looks like it will be Citizens For Nurin Alert because those who should be listening and acting are not doing so. Or are they going in a roundabout way of dealing with the problem?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Shahrizat And Child Protection Plan

I am optimistic. I don't know what Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has in mind but it looks encouraging from where I'm standing.

She said yesterday that her ministry would be meeting with the Inspector-General of Police, the Attorney-General, and officials from Rukun Tetangga and Rela to discuss ways to ensure the safety of children.

The meeting will be held on Friday.

She said she would be calling all the stakeholders to come up with a system to guarantee their safety.

“We will be working on a child safety protection policy. The incidence of missing children is very distressing.

“Our society must play its role in minimising the abuse of women and children,” she was quoted by the NST as saying.

Shahrizat said this at the IJN in Kuala Lumpur where she presented RM15,000 and gifts to 150 patients in the Mawar, Dahlia and Melor wards.

I don't know whether we're thinking about the same thing, i.e. Amber/Nurin Alert
but if it's about protecting our children's safety, then I'm listening.
Let's hope the meeting will bear fruit. Let's hope Shahrizat is proposing Amber Alert or something akin to it.
At least, it is a constructive start towards establishing a long-term measure on child safety protection.
By the way, I have sent an email to Kak Ijat. I will follow-up with a printed version to be sent to her soonest.

Also read Tembam's and Jasni's (Arwah Nurin's uncle) blogs.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Remembering Kampung Melayu - October 2 2007

After Bapak was detained under ISA in 1976, the Singapore Government declared him persona non grata or an unwelcome person, for an indefinite period.
I think that was the first time I actually ever used the words.

To us, his status, in the eyes of the Singapore Government, did not quite matter because he could not have entered Singapore anyway while he was being incarcerated.
But we know that it represented a statement by Lee Kuan Yew.

After his release in 1981, he remained persona non grata for the next 10 years.
In 1990 (or 1991), he was recipient of the Asean Communication Award for Journalism.
However, he was unable to attend the award ceremony because of his "unwelcome status".
I believe the hosts were informed about this.

The following year, the Singapore Government withdrew his status. Perhaps, they were embarrassed. Perhaps not.
Coincidentally, around that time, Bapak was invited to attend a Writers' Week at the National University of Singapore.
He accepted the invitation.

Finally, after 16 years, he was allowed to set foot in Singapore.

He was now persona grata.
Naturally, news of his imminent visit to his land of birth drew excitement and joy.
His sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, grandnieces grandnephews -- heck...maybe the entire Singapore Malay/Javanese community, possibly -- were abuzz.

Plans were being drawn up to welcome him at the airport, at Cik Ah's. There was going to be a grand reunion of family and old friends (and foes).

The prospect of going to Singapore and visiting his family and old friends was a personal celebration for Bapak.

While everyone was excited about this, we had to gently remind him that his siblings, close relatives and childhood and old friends were no longer living in Kampung Melayu but were scattered in the Bedok and neighbouring areas.
Kampung Melayu where his family home stood and where he grew up, was no more.

"Ya-kah?", was his response.

I cannot remember whether we ever discussed with Bapak the relocation of our relatives from Kampung Melayu to the new housing areas.
Perhaps Mak did when Cik Ah, Bapak's younger sister, informed her some time in the late 70s about the relocation of residents and the compensation for the land by the Singapore Government.
Kampung Melayu was de-gazetted for urban renewal to make way for the construction of the Pan-Island expressway.
But there was no expressway where Jalan Yahya, Jalan Abdullah, Jalan Embok Solok and Jalan Sudin stood. What I saw there years later were high-end apartment blocks.

Cik Ah and her family built their home on Mak's piece of land at Jalan Abdullah in Kampung Melayu.
Her house was a short distance from nenek's (Bapak's mother) house which was the family home at Jalan Yahya.

Nenek's house was a typical traditional "family" home where extended families lived under one large, really large roof.

I remember Nenek's house. It would be the first stop whenever we visited.
It seemed huge to me. My uncles and aunts ( except for Bapak's two older sisters Wak Mah and Wak Lah) all lived there, until more children came and there was just not enough room.

Wak Aichon, Cik Din, Cik Jid and Cik Ah and their families lived there. Cik Jid moved out first, I think, to the house next door which was linked to Nenek's house via a passage near the kitchen.
And then Cik Ah moved out to the Jalan Abdullah house which Cik Din helped build.

Cik Ah's house had a huge compound-cum-badminton court beside it.
Aaah.... there was also that huge mango tree from which many spooky stories emanated.
That badminton court was necessary because Cik Salleh (Cik Ah's husband) and the children were terror badminton players. They might even have played for Singapore at some level.

If Nenek's house could talk, it would regale us with stories -- happy, sad and yes, gripping ones too.

I never always stayed at Jalan Yahya, preferring instead, to be with Ompong, my grandfather (Mak's dad) at Jalan Sudin.
This, I think, quite saddened Nenek. Of course, as a child I never understood why.
Kak Olin who was Wak Aichon's favourite, would be at Jalan Yahya because our cousin, Ana (Cik Ah's eldest daughter) was her best pal and playmate whenever we visited.
Mak would be at Nenek's and then later, at Ompong's.
But Kak Eda and I would always want to be at Jalan Sudin because we always had fun and could do almost anything we liked with our cousins, Yati and Ana and the neighbourhood kids.
Somehow, it was a little more formal at Nenek's. Perhaps, because Nenek exuded that aura of a no-nonsense matriarch.
Oh, she loved us a lot (and we loved her too) and she doted on us but I think, we felt we had to be on our best behaviour for her.

Later, when Cik Ah moved to Jalan Abdullah and after Ompong passed away, it would be at her house that we stayed during our visits.

Kampung Melayu was a Malay settlement and it was the Malay heartland of Singapore.
*A 240 hectare land area, it was off Jalan Eunos right from Geylang Serai and down to Kaki Bukit.
According to records, up until 1965, there were 1,300 houses there.

Kampung Melayu was Bapak's playground, his turf, his territory. He walked the paths and roads there, as a young boy and in adulthood.

Many Malay nationalists and literary figures lived there.
Budding actors and actresses from Malaya visited our Jalan Yahya home. And yes.... those British intelligence officers too. Later the Japanese army officers, and Lee Kuan Yew who was like a brother to Bapak in those days fighting the British.

In the 50s and early 60s, during the golden era of Jalan Ampas Studio, Kaki Bukit was a favourite film location because of its landscape -- hilly, rocky -- a very harsh appearance so perfect for "purba" movies.
I remember several showing familiar sights of Kaki Bukit. One had the late Nordin Ahmad in a silat duel scene.

Bapak never visited the site where Kampung Melayu once stood. He never asked to.
I think it would have been an emotional journey for him, as it was for me.

I know I silently wept when I saw what was once Kampung Melayu.
During one of our visits, Cik Jid took me for a drive to Jalan Eunos, years after Kampung Melayu was torn down. It had remained undeveloped for quite sometime after all the houses were demolished.

I sat in the car, and for some reason, I felt so acutely desolate. A throbbing ache in my heart. Tears streamed down my face.
I saw a part of my childhood completely wiped out.

There in front of me, was a huge vastness of land filled with nothing but lallang as far as the eyes could see,
I could not make out where Jalan Yahya was....

I couldn't stay there for much longer. As the car moved away, I turned around, imagining the houses, the neighbourhood shops, the road signs...

Bapak last visited Singapore in 2005 . He went there by car driven by Nina's husband, Mazlen. Mak Cik and Nina were also with him.
As always, he stayed at Cik Ah's place in Bedok Reservoir.

And that's where we all congregate whenever we're in Singapore which is usually a week or two after the Eid.

And Kampung Melayu? We'll always remember Kampung Melayu as anyone would their kampung halaman.

*For a little history, click here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Nurin's Killer(s) Still At Large

This is what it is now that the police have released the four suspects who were detained on Friday to assist in investigations in the Nurin Jazlin murder probe.

Bernama has the story:

PETALING JAYA, Oct 1 -- Four suspects who were detained by police on Friday to assist in the Nurin Jazlin Jazimin murder probe were released on police bail today.
A police spokesman said they were released at 4.56pm as police did not have strong evidence to charge them.
In fact the DNA test carried out on them did not match the foreign material found on Nurin's body, he told reporters at the Petaling Jaya Police Headquarters, here today.
The four men, aged between 27 and 33, were detained during a raid at a shophouse in Section 7, Shah Alam in connection with the murder of Nurin Jazlin.
A woman who was also detained together with them had been released after her statement was recorded.
An Indonesian woman was also detained at a Ramadan Bazaar in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan at midnight on Friday to assist in the police investigation.
Nurin Jazlin, a Year Two pupil of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Desa Setapak, was reported missing on Aug 20 after going out alone to the night market near her house.
On Sept 17, her body was found in a sports bag left at a shop in Petaling Jaya.

Well. Let's hope the police are not disheartened and will intensify their hunt for Nurin's killer(s)/