Monday, December 31, 2007
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
A new beginning. Or a continuation of a good thing.
Whatever it is -- make the new year a better and blessed one.
Benazir's 19 year-old Son Takes Over....
The PPP also named Benazir Bhutto's widowed husband, Asif Zardari, as the executor of its day-to-day affairs.
This means that the elder Zardari is expected to run the party until his son completes his university studies at Oxford.
Bilawal, a history student at te British university, has two younger sisters.
"The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor," he said, in a light British-accented English.
"My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."
Benazir. a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated on Thursday as she was waving to the crowd during a rally in Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials say the country's parliamentary elections will most likely be delayed by several weeks.
A senior government official and an official from Pakistan's Election Commission said Monday there will most likely be a delay of at least four weeks following unrest that swept the country following Bhutto's assassination.
A final decision on the matter will be made during a meeting of the Election Commission Tuesday.Frankly, what can Bilawal's ascension to the throne do to make things better for the party and for Pakistan?
Well, I suppose that's the way the cookie crumbles in Pakistan.
Good luck, Pakistan.
And a Happy, Better and Peaceful New Year!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Benazir Bhutto 1953 -2007
May there be peace in Pakistan!
"The former Pakistani Prime Minister who was daughter of an executed president and prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide bombing attack Thursday in Rawalpindi.
The 54-year-old was a fixture in Pakistani politics and was twice elected prime minister, becoming the Muslim world's first female prime minister. She returned to Pakistan two months ago to run in the upcoming elections. She had lived in self-imposed exile since 1999 when she fled corruption charges."
I met (as in a fleeting greeting in 1989) Bhutto when she was Pakistani Prime Minister attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which KL hosted that year.
I was in the NST team. The conference was held at PWTC and security was very high. I was not the only journalist who managed to nod our heads when she past by en route to the hall. There were others but not many who were there "at the right time and right place" when she and her delegation made their entrance to the hall.
I think some of the journalists were quite awed by her "presence".
I am remembering a book I read years ago in Singapore. Hardcover "Benazir Bhutto: Daughter of the East".
When I was in Pakistan in 2005 for a working visit, I met many Pakistanis -- students and intellectuals, young and old.
They all had one hope -- a better, far better Pakistan.
To aMiR -- I'd like to assure you that nothing untoward happened.
It had been an exceptionally busy week, really. Work and play.
Thank you. And once again, my sincere apologies.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Ladies, Be Careful & Stay Alert...
When I was at the NST, the news editors would take turns to do late OC (officer-in-charge) duty. I don't know whether the shifts have changed. But when I was there, the late duty was 4pm to midnight. You did not usually get to go home at midnight, though. This, that and the other and you'd only be able to leave just before 1am. Sometimes later.
Of course, these days, it's not work that keeps me back late. Usually it's dinner or khenduri at Bapak's or any of my sibling's home that's to be blamed. Or some celebration with friends.
So, I am very used to being on the road in the wee small hours.
This morning was one of those times.
Yesterday, Dino Herrerra decided to invite a few friends to the Commonwealth Club at Damansara Heights for drinks to celebrate Rocky's birthday (which happened to fall on Hari Raya Aidil Adha).
He told us to be at the club by 8.30pm.
I managed to be be there about 9pm. Stephen and his wife, Anna and birthday boy Rocky were already there. Then, Bernard and Tony came.
They played pool and snooker. Had a bit of makan. Chat and chat. And it was already midnight.
By the time we got to leave it was almost 1am.
Bernard and Tony who always go for a good supper suggested we head for Penang Nasi Kandar in Taman Tun Dr Ismail for nasi lemak.
Now, if it was anywhere else, I'd take a rain check but it was in my neighbourhood. So, no problem.
I was the last to reach there. But something happened on my way to supper.
In all those early morning drives home, I had never experienced any trouble. I am always alert and very careful.
My antennas are up. I always check out any vehicle near me. Always exercise caution at traffic lights. Have got my cellphone ready, just in case. I know where the nearest police station is....
At about 1am, I was at the Pizza Hut traffic lights at the entrance of TTDI.
Mine was the only car there but I did notice a lone motorcyclist behind my car.
In fact, I noticed the motorcyclist when I passed the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery. But I did not suspect anything.
I turned into the road infront of Penang Nasi Kandar and drove not too slowly, keeping to the left and then turned on the left-turn signal light. Just before turning, I noticed the motorcyclist who was at first behind on the left and then on my right.
He overtook me, came close and kept giving a thumbs-up sign for which I had no idea what it was. He passed me but when I turned a sharp left into the lane to get to the restaurant, he U-turned from where he was and followed me.
I had no idea why.
I was alone, he must have thought.
What he did not know was that Rocky, Bernard, Tony, Stephen and Anna were waiting for me.
As I past them, I wound down my window and told them that the guy behind me was following me.
And as I turned into an available parking bay, the motorcyclist went past me and stopped his motorbike in front. By then, Rocky and Stephen were already making their way towards me, and him
I think the guy must have been shocked to see a 6-footer (Rocky) and a ....er er okay-lah macho-looking Stephen going straight to him.
I got out and asked him why he was following me. Anyway...he had to deal with Rocky and Stephen who asked him the same.
He said I was not driving properly.
That was impossible. I was driving okay. I was not speeding. I was not mabuk or anything like that. (Coke lights surely could not have dulled my senses). In fact, my senses were sharp.
Well.... he was wrong. Very wrong.
He told Rocky and Stephen it was not their business and his "problem" was with me because I was the one who was driving.
I said okay, talk to me but what was the problem. I was driving okay. I did not knock into him or his machine and he did not knock into my car.
So what was the problem.
Rocky told him that if there was nothing else, he should leave.
He was ranting away...So, Stephen broke into Tamil. The ranting continued.
It was pretty heated. In a bit, a younger man on motorcycle appeared.
Apparently, he was the other guy's son.
Stephen spoke to the younger man, also in Tamil. Rocky spoke ..in English and Malay.
Some heated 10 minutes later, the "son" apologised. So did he.
We all sat for supper. I had teh tarik kurang manis. Pinched a bit of Rocky's roti canai.
Tony and Bernard were tucking into nasi lemak and sop kambing. Tony had sotong and fried chicken to go with his nasi lemak. Bernard also had three "telor tiga-suku masak" . Stephen had a tiga-suku masak boiled egg. Anna was enjoying the sop kambing.
Back to the earlier episode with that motorcyclist.
I told the guys I was not at all afraid. Not because they were all there. But I was very prepared.
That guy was following me. He thought I was heading straight. As he was overtaking me, he did not see my left-hand signal. So he had to turn back when I turned into the lane.
If I had no supper plans and was heading home, would he have followed me?
Could it have been worse?
Well, I know that I'd speed off and head for the police station near my house.
Rocky said a relative of his was extorted by a group of men some time ago. A motorcyclist fell in front of her car as she was driving.
Although she did not knock him down, she stopped to ask how he was. Then, a few men appeared and suggested quite threateningly that she pay him.
She had her grandchildren in the car and feared for their safety as well.
She had no time to think about anything else. She had RM200 on her and gave it to the guy.
I don't want to impute motive but, could it have been worse for me if I had gone straight home?
I know one thing, I won't be taking chances.,
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
SALAM AIDIL ADHA!
It is also known as Hari Raya Qurban.
The Qurban is a ritual performed after the completion of the Haj.
This is to remember Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his elder son, Ismail when Allah commanded him to do so as a test of his commitment to his faith. At the last moment, Allah replaced a ram in place of Ismail.
Eid-ul-Adha is different from Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Hari Raya Puasa), which falls on the first of Syawal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar.
Aidilfitri marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
It is a day of victory for Muslims for having successfully completed the fast.
Here is wishing everyone a HAPPY AIDIL-ADHA!
PEACE, brothers and sisters!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
I know Bapak gets a little emotional whenever we tell him about our annual "balik kampung" to Singapore. It's especially so since he's been unable to travel down south to be with his surviving siblings and extended family.
I understand that very well. I get emotional too everytime I visit my uncles, aunts and elder cousins.
I see them getting older. And, for the past few years, I have never been sure if I'd see them again the next time I visit.
My father's only living siblings now are his younger brother, Kamaruddin (Cik Din) and his youngest sister, Salha (Cik Ah).
Bapak's older sisters Fatma, Kamlah and Aichon and his youngest brother Abdul Majid have passed away. These were the ones who survived infancy and adolescence during those early pre-war years in Singapore.
Nine other siblings died in infancy or childhood before Bapak was born.
Yes. It's been a while since he's "balik kampung". Not because he is persona non grata but because he is too frail to travel.
When Nina told him that it was that time of year again for our annual year-end visit to Singapore, Bapak was misty-eyed.
I know what he was thinking -- his brother Cik Din and his sister Cik Ah who is not well and also Cik Ah's husband, Cik Salleh who is suffering from Alzheimer's. And his nephews and nieces, some of whom are almost his age.
"Will they still be around when I next visit them?" or "Will I still be around when they.....?" -- these must be what he was thinking.
"Kirim Salam -lah", he said.
I'm not sure if Nina told him that we would not be staying at Cik Ah's apartment in Bedok Reservoir because she is not well.
There were 17 of us this time. We would usually stay at Cik Ah's on the third floor and Hanim's (her second daughter) just up the fourth floor.
We'd love to have stayed at Cik Ah's but we know that she would not be able to "layan" us and she'd be so beside herself if she could not "layan" us.
So, this time we decided to stay at a hotel -- York Hotel at Mount Elizabeth, a 10-minute walk from Orchard Road. Of course.
And Nina, as usual, had our programme ready for us.
I started realising that my aunts, uncles and elder cousins were getting really old about five years ago.
That was when Kak Oyah began to show some disabilities -- in her eyesight and movement,
You see Kak Oyah is one very feisty lady and I adore her. If we didn't visit her, she'd "kecik hati" and we would not hear the end of it.
And this "kecik hati" business is not confined to Kak Oyah. I'd say all my aunts, uncles and elder cousins are prone to it as far as their KL relatives are concerned.
That time we visited Kak Oyah, she said her eyesight was failing her. She had to be aided to walk around. I was so sad.
That was also when I realised how old her husband, Abang Bakar, had become.
Suddenly everyone was getting old.
From then and now, two elder cousins have passed away.
It was a kind of revelation and realisation for me. I felt so sad.
I had a good hard look at my own mortality.
I began to reminisce those years when I was young visiting my relatives in Singapore.
And they were all so much younger and full of life, zest ....
We'd usually visit Singapore during the Eid. This time around, it was not possible because most of our children were facing major examinations during Aidilfitri. Adel had his SPM, Shaira, her PMR and Haris, his UPSR.
So, we thought we'd all go to Singapore together after the Eid, and last weekend was most agreeable to us all.
The first time Bapak went to Singapore after so long, he was confronted with the country's no-nonsense anti-smoking regulation.
He travelled by car and it was going through customs, a Singapore customs officer stopped to ask him a question.
Being a smoker, he was naturally, holding a cigarette.
All I can say is that thankfully Bapak has mellowed over the years.
So when the customs officer asked how many cigarette packs he had with him, he was taken by surprise.
Nobody had warned him about the Singapore law that only allowed each person to bring in no more than a single opened pack of cigarettes into the island republic.
Bapak just looked up, grinned and muttered something to the guy.
Nothing untoward happened so I guess everything went well at the causeway.
I know that he would have loved to come with us last weekend.
He'd be just fine staying at Cik Ah's while we checked out Singapore's night safari.
He'd probably be having loads more fun there with all our relatives.
He could not care less for Orchard Road.
What he'd have craved for would be a drive along Jalan Eunos, a stop somewhere for murtabak or mee rebus or nasi rawan. Perhaps nasi jenganan thrown in.
He may even want to go to Geylang.
One thing he would not be able to do is to visit old friends.
They've all gone -- either passed on or migrated to other parts of the world.
For us, Singapore remains the place of our birth -- with or without our Kampung Melayu.
For our kids -- where they re-establish kinship and a damn wonderful end-of-year holiday destination and where they get duit Raya (in Sing$) during the Eid or otherwise.
I don't know what Singapore is to Bapak now though...
Monday, December 17, 2007
top: waiting for the tram (shaira, sara and liyana. Adel is
standing behind them)
bottom: after the safari....up close and personal with
Soraya on the slide. Her mom, Lalin standing, watching.
Liyana and Amalina on the bench.
Two year-old Singapore cousin, Naifa in the "car". Standing behind the car is Lalin's youngest Sonia.
Taken at our cousin, Haslinda's Teluk Kurau home.,
Lazing around at Linda's home.
Top: Orchard Road at night.
Below: Early Sunday morning at Orchard Road.
Bottom: Late morning at Orchard Road. There
some games for school chidlren and students.
Did I say I was going to blog about our Singapore visit?
Our programme was prepared by Nina.
We arrived Friday ( Dec 14) afternoon. A short rest adn we we headed for Singapore's popular Night Safari near the Singapore Zoo and Upper Seletar Reservoir -- quite a distance away.
Our guide was Florence -- efficient, a little no-nonsense. But nice.
The night safari is located in 40 hectares of lush tropical park. It has more than 1,000 animals and 100 species places in their natural habitat.
Visitors get on an open tram (four-to-a-row) that follows a trail.
There are lions, tigers, leopards, rhinos, hippos, water buffaloes, hyenas, jackals, giraffes, deer, tapir and other nocturnal animals.
We were not allowed to take pictures because the flash would frighten the animals.
It was really dark and I could not quite see some of the animals. I couldn't see the lions, nor the tigers even as the safari guide (not Florence) was describing them.
In fact, I don't think I heard any roar. I guess they were in deep slumber.
The animals were really well-behaved. We passed several deer and fawns. Man, I could almost touch them as we were passing along. And they did not, so much, as move a muscle.
After the tram-ride, we had dinner at Bongo Burgers while we enjoyed a tribal dance performance with some fire-eating displays.
The kids loved it.
Saturday was visit-our-relatives-day and makan-makan.
We managed a bit of sight-seeing and shopping at Orchard Road at night.
On Sunday, before our departure, we toured Orchard Road (again).
But before that, I got up early and hit the "road" for a morning run with my friend, Mia. Got back to the hotel, breakfast, then showered (haha..makan before mandi) and then some stolen shopping moments.
We took our Aeroline at the Harbourfront. Left for home at 3pm. Arrived at Bandar Utama stop at about 9pm.
A great weekend!
MY EARLIER POSTING:
Got back from Singapore last night.
Had a good time, visiting relatives. A little bit of shopping.
Went with big sister Kak Ton and little sisters Lalin and Nina and my good friend Mia. And all the kiddies (including teenagers Adel, Amalina, Liyana and Shaira).
Altogether, 17 of us!
Stayed at York Hotel at Mount Elizabeth. Was out on a safari Friday night (the day we arrived).
Such nice tame animals there.
Will blog about our trip in a while. Got pictures too.
I'm not promoting Aeroline (the bus). But, Aeroline is a great way to travel on road to Singapore. Been using it for our Singapore "pilgrimage" since three years ago.
Meanwhile...what's been happening while I was away?
Thursday, December 13, 2007
5 Hindraf Leaders Detained Under ISA
Five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders have been arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The five are P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabatirau and T. Vasanthakumar. They were picked up at various locations in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban.
It is learnt they were detained under Section 8 (1) of the ISA after Internal Security Minister Datuk Seri Abdulah Ahmad Badawi signed their detention order.Their detention is for two years.
Read the rest of the Star story here.
Oh Malaysia Ku
"The people are also angry at those who go overseas to seek support and cook up baseless allegations.
"Actually they don't love the country, they only hunger for power and don't care about what happens to the country," he told reporters after receiving a memorandum from the Damai Malaysia group opposing street demonstrations in the country.
Abdullah said that those who were obsessed with their views did not care about the consequences of their acts.
"We are the ones who have to face everything. We have to defend the peace and well-being of the people," he said.
Damai Malaysia, a group of caring Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), submitted the five-page memorandum from 395 NGOs which jointly rejected street demonstrations and called on the government to take stern action against the culprits. Abdullah said the country had become developed and successful based on the practice of democracy which respected and upheld the law and constitution.
Malaysia still gave the people the freedom to voice their opinions, including in the mass media, he said. "If this freedom is used in an irresponsible manner, the people will suffer," he added.
He said that as a result of the recent street demonstrations, various sectors, especially the tourism and business sectors, had suffered losses.
He had been informed that hotels in the Bukit Bintang area had received 10 per cent cancellations of room reservations because of these demonstrations.
"If already 10 per cent of the bookings are cancelled, it's a loss to the hotels. Besides, I believe that the tour agencies and tour bus operators have also received cancellations," he said.
The memorandum submitted by Damai Malaysia coordinating chairman Mohd Saiful Adil Mohd Daud contained a declaration condemning the organisation of any street demonstrations and rejecting discussions on sensitive issues like race and religion through this means.
The declaration also condemned certain parties which resort to fraud, defamation and sedition to get the support of foreign countries and powers to interfere in Malaysia's internal affairs.
Among the 395 NGOs in Damai Malaysia are the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS), Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs, Felda Youth Council Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia and the United Indian Welfare Organisation.
Speaking in KUANTAN later, upon his arrival for a one-day visit to Pahang, Abdullah labelled those who solicit support from outsiders as traitors and the action of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which claimed to fight for the rights of the Indian community in Malaysia, as an attempt to destroy the country and racial unity.
"This is a betrayal of our country. Was there ethnic cleansing? There was nothing about wiping out the Indians in the country," he said at a function to welcome him and his wife, Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base.
Abdullah said the Barisan Nasional-led government always listened to the views of the people which were conveyed through the proper channels like the elected representatives, associations, non-governmental organisations and certain committees.
"We carry out development according to the wishes and aspirations of the people and we practise a policy of helping all the races," he said.
True. Those who defame the country overseas surely do not love the country.
The same goes for those who defame the country and tell lies about the country at home, right here in this land.
But that's not to say that those who criticise the ills and wrongs in government do not love or are not loyal to, the country.
People express their opinions and may say things the government does not like to hear.
This does not mean they do not love the country. On the contrary.
This love for the country is not exclusive to the government or its supporters.
I hope we all can make a distinction between those criticising with malicious intent and those making honest criticisms, which may be what the governement does not want to hear.
Now. Street demonstrations. I don't know about you but I believe that PEACEFUL demonstrations are part and parcel of a healthy democratic process and system.
It is a way citizens of democratic countries show their support or express their protest.
The penguin walk in Putrajaya was peaceful. So was the Bersih 10-Eleven rally until the Masjid Jamek incident, which certainly marred the, otherwise peaceful event.
The Dec 9 Freedom (for Human Rights) Walk was peaceful.
No traffic disruption in Putrajaya. None when people walked for human rights.
There was some disruption when police set up road blocks during the Bersih rally.
Whatever disruption caused is no different when Malay Mail holds their annual Big Walk or during our annual Merdeka celebrations.
And the Hindraf rally? It was terribly unfortunate that it turned out and ended the way it did. But surely, that cannot be used against civil society.
I don't support street demonstrations per se. But I do believe that Malaysians should be allowed to assemble peacefully.
Now, I do recall a certain deputy chief of a (youth) political body making fiery speeches in a a not-so-peaceful rally.
I'm sure many of us can still remember that angry face and the loud, almost rowdy, cheers that he got.
And to Damai Malaysia. Bully for you for wanting peace. We all do.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
My very first major school examination was the Lower Certificate of Education or LCE.
Like everyone else, I was nervous.
So was Bapak although he never showed it.
I never showed it either so much so that Bapak thought I was too relaxed. Actually, being relaxed was the only way I knew to deal with my nerves.
Many times Bapak caught me reading my "Archie", "Princess Tina" or "June and Schoolfriends" comics.
Bapak was all for Kak Eda and I taking a break from studying but he caught me far too many times reading comics than reading my school books.
One day, during dinner, Bapak asked me:"Dah belajar? Dah prepared?"
"Dah", I replied.
Bapak, perhaps not entirely convinced, said: "You know if you fail your LCE, I'll marry you off to one of my relatives in Banting or Kuala Selangor."
I wasn't sure whether or not he was joking.
But if he was, it was not funny.
Bapak had never said that before.
"Alaah, Bapak," Kak Eda and I said almost in chorus.
What was that suppose to mean?
We decided not to pursue the matter. But, for the rest of dinner, there was silence in between changing subjects.
It was the most awkward situation for Kak Eda and I.
We really did not want to know whether or not he was serious.
What if he already had a candidate for each of us.
No, we were not going to push it.
Later, we asked Mak about Bapak's veiled threat.
Mak was probably in cahoots with Bapak but at the same time she did not really want to frighten us too much in case we'd go into a shock or something.
I think, (on reflection), she really did not like threatening her children with marriage to make them study and pass their exams.
I think she was afraid that it would be counter-productive or have a reverse effect.
But, she played along without giving the game away.
She, however, did not have to worry.
Kak Eda and I took the threat so seriously.
Bapak has always taught us to value family and kinship.
He would be most upset if we did not recognise his uncles, aunts and cousins living in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
We are from Singapore because both my paternal grandparents made Singapore their home (from Java).
One of my paternal grandmother's three aunts left Central Java and headed for Banting where she began a new life.
My great grandmother and her two sisters began their new life in Singapore.
In Kuala Selangor are my grandfather's kith and kin.
I don' quite remember when it was that I knew we had kith and kin in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
I think when I was about 8 or 9.
Where we lived at Jalan Lembah in Section 5, Petaling Jaya in the mid 60s, we had a Banting relative living up the road in one of the government house near Gasing Hill.
He was Othman Dahlan. He was my "nephew" because his (late) mum was my (second) cousin.
His children (then) were Norlin, Liza, Reha and Lina.
I think that was when I knew we had relatives here.
I remember visiting Banting and Kuala Selangor during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, weddings or "khenduri", when we were young.
I remember "pokok kopi" in abundance surrounding the compounds of my relatives' homes.
I remember a pond beside almost every house.
And best of all, I remember being served delicious but sinfully sweet pisang salai.
And we would have all sorts of fruits that were packed for us.
I remember my aunts and cousins.
I liked my cousins. But when I was 14, sitting for my LCE, I was sure I did not want to get married to any of them.
It was an awful thought. Marrying cousins?
Besides, Banting and Kuala Selangor seemed a world away.
So, to cut a long story short. Yes, you've guessed it, Kak Eda and I survived the threat.
Two years later when we sat for our form five exams (Malaysian Certificate of Examination), Bapak never repeated the threat again but we were not taking any chances.
There was a point some time this year when I found Shaira slacking in her preparation for her PMR.
I thought I'd try that number on her and told her that if she failed her exams I'd marry her off to my relatives in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
But I suppose it was just not on. As I said it, I could not stifle my laugh because the whole thing sounded so ridiculous.
And really, they don't make kids like they used to.
It would not have worked on Shaira. Besides, what if, feeling so rebellious, she might just take me on.
Much later, in our adulthood, we reminded Bapak of his little threat and told him it was terrible of him to have put the fear of marriage in us.
He cackled. He roared with laughter. But he never told us whether or not he was serious.
You see, with Bapak, you can never really tell.
Monday, December 10, 2007
International Human Rights Day
Today is International Human Rights Day but what a sad day it is for human rights in this country.
Early yesterday morning, a group of Malaysians marched peacefully to mark this day - from Sogo at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman to the Malaysian Bar Council building.
It was peaceful. No FRU personnel was present. Fewer than 100 people.
Some 500 policemen and women who were there to keep the peace.
In fact, these uniformed men and women of the law seemed to be accompanying the marchers, to be walking alongside them.
A minor incident and, wham! Several people were arrested.
At the end of the day, nine people, including four lawyers were arrested for holding an illegal march and another for allegedly obstructing Kuala Lumpur City Hall officials from performing their duties.
(I'm impressed that City Hall officials were working on a Sunday!)
The lawyers are R Sivarasa, Latheefa Koya, N Surendran and Amir Hamzah. Edmund Bon was arrested for refusing to allow city hall officials to take down posters at the bar council building.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in response to this, said that no one, including lawyers, is above the law and all involved in illegal activities will face consequences.
Let me say that Sunday's walk was as peaceful as could be. The marchers walked along the sidewalks. Besides, it was really a small group.
If the early morning traffic was disrupted, it was because of the police cars that were stationed at several locations.
Let me remind everyone that it was a walk to mark the United Nations-sanctioned and endorsed (under the Universal Declarationof Human Rights) Human Rights Day.
And I thought our freedom to assemble is enshrined in our most sacrosant federal constitution.
Why on earth would anyone want to stop people from celebrating Human Rights day? Even if it is deemed illegal, the authorities should have made that an exception. No need to give an official go-ahead, but let the marchers through.
If the police had acted on orders from "higher-up" to put a stop to the walk as the marchers were peacefully and orderly making their way, then, it is a real pity.
We have learnt that not everything is in black and white, that we can make certain considerations.
The authorities have proven that they can make exceptions to the rule.
But, obviously not on this one.
See Rocky's Bru and Eli's.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Sunday Human Rights Walk...
Yesterday I told Mia that I would not be joining her for our routine Sunday morning work-out because I was going to walk in the city. It'd be a nice day for that.
I'd probably meet some people there too.
And, wouldn't that co-incide with the planned walk in celebration of the International Human Rights Day?
But, wasn't that cancelled by the organisers, the Malaysian Bar Council?
Until today, I cannot understand why the bar council decided to cancel the walk which was really for a very very very good cause.
(Council president) Ambiga attributed it to the controversy blahblahblah.
I personally think that is balderdash. You are lawyers, for heavens' sake! You defend people's rights all the time.
I know you cannot get a police permit. That has been long established. No brainer.
So, why? Pressure, pressure, pressure, huh? Ok. I get it.
You know -- this was not a march against anyone. This was a walk for human rights, that everyone, including the government should support.
I don't care if only 100 people would be gathered there. I was gonna walk that mile. It would be peaceful.
And waddya know? There were fewer than 100 people all ready to walk. But guess what? There were more, far, far more policemen and women on duty all the way from Sogo to the Bar Council.
There were more police cars than I thought necessary for such a peaceful assembly of not that many people. And there was a helicopter fiercely hovering above.
Someone said there were 500 policemen/women.
And so many journalists and photographers.
In short -- police and media personnel far outnumbered marchers.
So, if I were a criminal or an opportunist, I'd go on a spree everytime there is a scheduled protest or rally.
I can be sure that all the police personnel will be at the rally "to keep the peace".
I have never ever felt so safe with so many policemen and women around.
It was a peaceful march. Some representatives of a political party carried banners, but that was to be expected. I'd be surprised if they did not.
The marhers were told to disperse at least three times at different points.
Why they were told, beats me. No one was shouting. People were walking along the pavement. Everything was peaceful.
There was not much traffic anyway.
It was for HUMAN RIGHTS.
But, obviously the walkers did not seem to heed the warnings and continued their peaceful walk. The police did not fire tear gas or chemical-laced water.
But when they stopped at Jalan Tun Perak, there was a little bit of chaos when one or two people (including a woman) started speaking. And then there were raised voices.
I could not quite hear but the female speaker was pretty fiery. It went on for about 10 minutes.
Then a plainclothes policeman (in collared brown/white box-motif t-shirt) said to his colleagues: "Hey, mari, kita tangkap itu perempuan."
And they did. That was not necessary.
Eight people (including Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Sivarasa, Latifah Koyah and a lady known only as Norazah) were taken away.
My friend, Michelle, told me that the police roughed up the lady as they were taking her away.
Kesian dia, I said.
But I suppose that's what police do (the world over) when they take "protesters" away.
I think it was such a peaceful and incident-free rally that "tidak berbaloi" (not justified) if no arrests were made, given the strength of police presence there.
At the same time, those arrested knew what they were in for, given the circumstances. Still the arrests were unnecessary.
Frankly, I did not think that there was a need for any fiery or antagonistic speeches. We should have just walked on, peacefully to the bar council building.
Overall, though, it was peaceful.
One guy standing at Jalan Tun Perak was giving a "blast of a speech". People walked past him. I think someone from Keadilan persuaded him to move away from there.
And then, much later, he re-appeared near the bar council building, doing the same number.
We were sure the police would take him away.
We had no idea what he was saying but he was shouting and shouting. He seemed angry.
Sure enough, the police took him away -- I hope for teh tarik because he was really harmless. Just a bit of nuisance, maybe.
It was a good walk, though too leisurely for my liking because I'd get more sweaty and a better work-out going up the hill.
Well, it sure looked like our police men, women and officers much prefer to attend peaceful rallies.
Why, they were walking together with us...
Here's a tribute to the International Human Rights Day although it is a really sad day for human rights!
May we never have to walk for our rights and freedom....
Please read Rocky's Bru, Jeff Ooi's, Tony Yew's, Stephen Francis' and Shar101's.
(At this point, there is no word about the fate of those arrested although lawyer and human rights activist Haris Ibrahim and several lawyers went to Bukit Aman to look into their case. Also Edmund Bon who is Rocky's lawyer has been arrested for allegedly preventing KL City Hall workers from taking down the banners at the bar council building.)
Saturday, December 08, 2007
"No" To Zaki..
In his posting Ampun Tuanku, Patik-patik Petisyen Lagi, lawyer and human rights activist Haris Ibrahim said the rakyat are very concerned that Tan Sri Zaki Azmi has been selected for appointment as President of the Court of Appeal.
The petition asked that His Majesty defer the appointment until the Royal Commission of Inquiry delivers its findings and recommendation (on the VK Lingam video scandal).
Six reasons have been listed as grounds for the rakyat's concern over the intended appointment of Zaki.
Malik Imtiaz who is also a lawyer and human rights activist has his take in his blog Disquiet.
He says: The radical step of nominating Tan Sri Zaki Azmi the President of the Court of Appeal conclusively shows that the Government is blind to the crisis that the Judiciary, and consequently the legal system, is in the throes of. It also shows that the Abdullah Badawi administration views the Judiciary in much the same way the Mahathir administration did; the Judiciary is there to serve the Government’s interests, and not those of the nation.
Another petition to His Majesty.
Will you be signing it?
Friday, December 07, 2007
"no one can take my freedom away.."
-- a line from "Una Paloma Blanca".
Well, my fellow Malaysians. This is the 21st century and we have a long way to go in the freedom department.
Read this, this. And this, this and this.
Standard Chartered's Prompt Action.....
I thought I'd better blog about two calls I received from StanChart following that contentious call demanding payment with regards to my Visa credit card account.
After I received the first call while I was having my shower, I decided to do a posting on the conversation I had with the StancChart guy.
Then I left for Kak Ton's for our weekly MRT (Mee Rebus on Tuesday).
It was around lunch time at her house that I received a call from another StanChart representative who was responding to my complaint.
I was quite surprised.
I told him I had not lodged a complaint to anyone at StanChart. I can only assume that the other guy must have reported to the relevant authority in his section.
So, he explained that the (first) guy called me because my payment last month was short of RM14 something.
That made me even more aghast.
"RM14 something and StanChart had to harass me ....I was going to make my monthly payment anyway and that would have well covered whatever...."
I told him that it was ok, I would be making a full payment anyway, and was cancelling my card. It was clear to me that having been a cardholder since 1988 did not matter to the bank.
I thanked him.
I thought that was that.
I still had not decided to cancel my StanChart Visa card. I still had reservation. If I cancelled my card with StanChart, what guarantee do I have that other banks do NOT do the same.
I was still undecided.
So, I made my monthly payment (of my Visa) at the ATM of the StanChart Damansara Utama branch early the following day (Wednesday, Dec 5).
I wanted to think further about cancelling my card. I was weighing the pros and cons. The fact was that StanChart had never bothered or harassed me before that incident. In fact, StanChart had always been helpful.
Later (the same day), at about 2.15pm while I was at Ikano Power Centre (on assignment to interview someone), I received a call from Rina Tan of StanChart's head office.
She called to offer StanChart's apology for the call which she admitted was really a mistake. In a nutshell, StanChart wanted to make amends because it did not want me to cancel my card as it was aware that I had been a loyal cardholder since 1988.
I could have dismissed her and just cut short our conversation.
I did not. I was really no longer all that angry. And I am not a rude person. Besides, she was really nice and sounded so sincere.
We spoke. We talked.
I told her that I was sure that that contentious call from StanChart would not be the last from the bank.
She assured me that it would be.
I am taking her word for it.
Rina was clearly doing her job. But she must be doing a damn good job because she persuaded me not to cancel my card.
It was not just what she said but how she said it.
I don't know Rina personally. That does not matter but she gave me a good reason to keep my card....besides getting this and that and some other "privileges" for me.
Hey, I am not bribeable. But I am a customer. A loyal one too!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
If mobile phones were invented when I was a teenager, life for me and a zillion other teenagers would have been dramatically different.
Would it have been more fun or less? More pain? Fewer problems?
Whatever. But would I have wanted it any other way? I doubt it. I think it was best that life was the way it was -- sans mobile phones et computers...
When Bapak re-entered journalism after more than 5 years "away", newspapers had moved on and newsrooms were no longer the way they were.
Newspaper technology had pretty much advanced. Computers were already being used in a big way.
I suppose, Bapak must have been overwhelmed by this progress in the newsroom. It was all so new to him.
And that is really an understatement.
Still, he was keen to go with the flow.
But, you know....sometimes the heart so desires but the mind.....
I think this is so true of (some) old people. Their mind stops at the thought of having to remember all the keypads, all the commands.
Bapak never told us about his little problem with computers.
I think as far as he was concerned, the computer was just too much to handle.
Not that he never owned one.
When he rejoined the NST as editorial advisor, he got a personal computer which he had installed in his library/study.
We thought that he had been using it. That the computer had served him well.
We, however, never realised that he had never touched it.
Everytime we were at Bapak's place, he would be fiercely tapping the keys of his faithful typewriter.
"Bapak tak pakai computer?", we had asked.
"Aah..mmm......," he mumbled, eyebrows raised as he momentarily looked up and then, just as quickly, looked back at the page he was typing on.
That meant, "I'm busy".
That meant, "don't ask".
That could also mean that "no, I have not used the **#@ computer".
Truth be told, Bapak has never used a computer in his life. Neither has he ever called anyone on a mobile phone. He does not care to know how to use one.
And I believe he is not the only senior citizen in this whole wide world to have a poor relationship with computers.
(Although I marvel at one 90 year-old Latin lady who blogs.)
If mobile phones were around back in the 70s, I think I would not have had a social life. Not that mine was fantastically exciting. But, what little fun that we had as a teenager would have been severely eroded by the very existence of mobile phones, I am sure.
I can imagine Bapak making sure we were where we told him we would be.
"Kat mana ni? Library? ....", Bapak would probably have asked us over the "mobile phone".
Now isn't that a strange thought when right now, I laud the invention of cell/mobile phones.
"This phone has saved lives," I remember telling that to someone one day. People stranded in God forsaken places have been known to have been rescued because they had mobile phones with them. Accident victims have been saved by prompt action with the hekp of mobile phones. A child who was hiding from burglars/robber in her home got help because she had her mobile phone. And, oh...countless other life-saving cases.
Someone (a very married man) once told me that the mobile phone had also been the cause of divorces/break-ups among married couples.
Actually, what he meant was that wives often got to know of their husbands' extra-marital exploits through the mobile phone due to their husbands' inept or overzealous use of the gadget.
It is usually quite by accident (over the phone) that the wives discover such hanky-panky. Oh you know....
And now, photos in mobile phones to catch erring spouses and their indiscretions...
Just the other evening, as I was sending Shaira and Amalina to the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Club for the "Live Loud" concert, I told them that I would fetch them at the spot where I would be dropping them off.
I told them to just call me on my cell phone when the concert was over. I told them I'd do the same if I didn't get their call after the scheduled time.
"Thank God, ada mobile phone...," I said.
"Ya-lah, Tante...how was it for you when you were young? How was life without mobile phones?" Amalina asked, a little horrified at the thought of "life without mobile phones".
How was life without mobile phones then?
Well, you do not miss things you never had. That's for sure.
But try telling that to the kids.
My children, nephews and nieces cannot imagine life without mobile phones.
I cannot imagine life without the internet.
As for Bapak....
"Blogging? Apa tu blogging?," I remember the first time that word was mentioned in our conversation.
He knows now.
Giving Up My Standard Chartered Visa Card....
Because a representative from Standard Chartered Bank (Visa Section) called me up as I was having my shower to ask me to make my credit card payment.
Here was how the conversation went (or something like this):
StanChart rep: Puan Nuraina Abdul Samad?
SCR: I am calling from Standard Chartered Visa. It is about your credit card XXXX (the last 4 digits). Are you making your payment today?
Me: (Startled because I can't remember the number...) er er ...aah.. mmmm.
er....I don't know whether that's the number... Why are you asking?
SCR: Are you making your payment today?
Me: er ....well..I always make my payment at the beginning of the month.
SCR: Where do you usually make your payment? Is it by cash or cheque or....
Me: I always pay at the Damansara Utama branch...by cheque through the ATM teller.
SCR: So, you will make the payment today?
Me: Today, tomorrow...Ok...ok.... wait... When was my last payment? Was it last month?
Me: So...why are you.....(got myself together...) Excuse me ...do you now make a practice of harassing your cardholders for payment at the beginning of the month??????****&^%%$ (no...I did not swear, only in my heart).
Honestly. I thought that was not nice of Standard Chartered to be calling me for payment. It's not like a month has lapsed since my last payment. I can understand if they called me because I had defaulted (in making payments).
The guy introduced himself as someone from Standard Chartered, and he had the last 4 digits of my card correct. So, I am assuming that it was a genuine call from Standard Chartered.
Well...it is their prerogative to harass their card holders.
And that is why I am going to make a full payment to the bank for my Visa bills. I am giving up my Visa card with Standard Chartered.
So sad since I have been their cardholder since 1988.
I guess I'll be applying to CIMB.
I have held a bank account with Bank Bumiputra since forever (20-plus years). BBMB became Bumiputra Commerce and now it is CIMB.
CIMB has come up with many plans and products for its account holders. CIMB saw it fit to make me a CIMB Club member. I didn't even know I was although I had been receiving pamphlets from CIMB on this. I never took the trouble to read them. So, I had no idea what it meant until I had a casual chat with one of the officers at the bank.
During the course of our conversation, she asked me if I was interested in applying for a Visa card, for which my application (as a CIMB club member) would be automatically approved.
I politely declined because I said I already had one (Standard Chartered) and I was very happy with it.
I told her one was enough-lah. And CIMB was not the only one I turned down, given the many promotions by so many banks with regards to credit cards.
That was a few months ago....
Today, I don't think I am happy with Standard Chartered.
So, tomorrow, I will be visiting the CIMB officer to apply for a Visa card.
Curious, I opened the link (http://escapefromindia.worpdress.com).
Here's the opening para:
I stand against any discrimination of any human being in any parts of the world. But when it comes to HINDRAF outrage in Malaysia there are some questions one should ask to Hindu Action Right Force officials. As an Indian, I believe ethnic Indians in Malaysia, still enjoy more rights than Indian citizens who is living in their own country. Since the living standards of Malaysia is far higher than India, I agree that Hindus in Malaysia need a better deal. As a community with migrant history, majority of Malaysian Indians are Hindus while it also include a minuscule Muslim, Christian and Sikh presence. The so called “Indian” heritage in Malaysia cannot be limited with Hindu minority in Malaysia.
Still interested? Click here for the rest of the story.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
We had a birthday gathering at Bapak's today -- a joint one for my nephews Haris and Heikal and my grandnephew (Kak Ton's grandson) at 4pm.
At 8.30pm, we gathered in the garden to light our candles.
We talked about lighting candles. We told the little ones that it was a way of remembering many things, of the good and bad.
People have been doing it for centuries.
But this evening, it was for love, hope and solidarity.
Lighting a candle for the human spirit.
See story and pictures at Kak Ton's Tok Mommy here.
My earlier posting:
Light a candle for humanity and human rights.
I'm starting my Saffron Sunday early (like 3am).
l'll light the candles as soon as my kids and their friends are back from the "Live and Loud" concert at Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Club which ended much later than scheduled.
Oh...let them party first, and then we'll light the candles, enjoy each other's company and talk about humanity and human rights.
We'll probably also talk about life, living, justice, civil liberty and about how we can better this great country of ours.
They need a little learning, these kids.
I need a little learning too.
Let that candle burn bright.
Please read Haris Ibrahim's Saffron Sunday and Rocky's Bru.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Citizens for NURIN Alert -- The Next Level
The Citizens For NURIN Alert Committee met with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) director-general Meme Zainal Rashid this afternoon to begin preliminary discussions on ways to incorporate NURIN (Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) Alert into the proposed Child Protection Policy.
Representing the CFNA committee were deputy chairman Jasni Abdul Jalil and members, Hanizah Hashim and Nuraina Samad.
Three others --Kamal Affandi (chairman), Nik Farez and Nur Azrina Samad were unable to attend the meeting.
Citizens for NURIN Alert has been pushing for the alert system - modelled on the highly successful AMBER Alert in the US -- to be introduced to help in the search and rescue of missing children.
The suggestion was made following the brutal murder of 8 year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin whose crumpled body was found stuffed in a sports bag on September 17, 28 days after she had gone missing.
There was public outrage and outcry following the discovery of her body.
Today's discussions which lasted over an hour was held at the JKM premises at Jalan Raja Laut. With Meme were advisor to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Dato' Shamsiah Ad. Rahman, Nor Amni Yusoff (Director of the Department's Children Division) and Abdullah Hanafi of the Department's Legal & Advocation Division.
Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had directed the department to meet CFNA for a briefing on NURIN Alert and how it could be incorporated into the policy.
Indeed, it was a fruitful meeting, after which it was agreed that a technical committee be set up to look further into the plan.
The Child Protection Policy is also being drafted following Nurin's brutal murder.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will submit the draft of the policy to the Cabinet for approval.
Shahrizat has shown keen interest in making NURIN Alert part of the Child Protection Policy.
AMBER Alert has been highly successful in the safe return of missing children in the shortest possible time.
(Here, I'd like to again thank Farina in Orange, California of Princessjournals who was the first to mention AMBER Alert in my posting about Nurin.)
So far, Citizens for NURIN Alert has gained incredible support from a cross section of Malaysians, including the corporate sector and a unit of the police force.
And by the way, Nurin's killer/killers are still at large.
According to Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum police are investigating and are following set procedures.
(I don't know what he means but if it were me uttering that, it would be my way of telling everyone to just butt out and let me do my job in my time and in the way I see fit.)
Well, it has been 100 days since Nurin was last seen alive, says Kak Ton.
Also read Jasni's NurinJazlin blog here and Tembam's here.
PHOTO: Standing from left - Dato Shamsiah, Nuraina, Jasni and Encik Abdullah.
Seated -- Meme and Nor Amni. (Pix by Hanizah)
Toilet Training In KL
Oh. I don't know. Overall, it is a good thing. It is never too late for something like this, I suppose. Not even a little too late.
But, the fact that such a campaign is being carried out in our mega-city of twin-towers and gleaming over-the-top malls et al, in this century, makes me bristle. Makes me quiver.
But, well. If it's good for the people, it is good for me.
You might have been handed pamphlets about the correct way to use toilets, about the standing protocol and so forth. But, ah... you may not need them because you are not City Hall's target.
I'll bet that you haven't even gone into one of those public toilets in the city.....
I must say that the condition of toilets in the city has improved over the years although there is a lot of room for improvement.
Why... I still remember those days when toilets in the cinema, the gas stations, restaurants were always in a deplorable condition.
That was why, it was standing protocol for us -- as children -- to hit the bathroom before leaving for our outings.
And, as they say... old habits never die, or are difficult to break..
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Post-Hindraf Rally. What Now?
If we still think that everything in this country is so peachy pink and rosy, then there is something really wrong with us.
On Sunday, I saw unhappiness, anger and desperation walk the streets. I am helpless, I am powerless.
But, let me be clear on one thing though-- I take exception to Uthayakumar's memorandum which, in my humble opinion, is laced with racial overtones and littered with distorted facts, and therefore smacks of blatant racism and bigotry.
His kind of politics will only set us all back, as that of keris-wielding chest thumping ultras in Umno has done.
We do not need another racist, another bigot.
His memorandum aside, I see and appreciate the real issue at hand -- the deep sense of being severely marginalised and disenfrachised felt by a sector of Malaysians of Indian origin.
I am so sad that it has come to this state of affairs.
If I were the chief executive of this country, I'd haul up the legitimate/official (etc etc) representative of the Indian community and make him responsible and accountable for the state of his community.
For as long as our political system and structure is race-based, we have no choice but to lay the blame squarely on the MIC.
I don't think I am wrong in saying this.
That said...I think, after all these years, I see the problem of marginalised Malaysian Indians to be no longer an MIC problem (although I still think that the party has not done enough), but a Malaysian problem.
The MIC has certainly failed the Indian community. To a large extent, so has the government of the day because, obviously the plight of the marginalised Malaysian Indians has been not been addressed effectively...if at all it has been (addressed).
We cannot ignore the thousands who were there on Sunday. We cannot ignore their message.
Why has nobody listened and why has no one helped?
Let's hope, as I am writing this, some real effort is being done to effect a solution. And I do not mean bandying the ISA threat about.
So, my brothers and sisters...we're in this together.
Please read : Rocky's Bru
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
Today, as usual, is our bloggers' Mee Rebus day at Kak Ton's. I thought I would have to miss it because of a farewell lunch I was to have attended for my very dear friend, Angie, otherwise known as Angeline Chivapathy.
The lunch was cancelled because Angie was not able to be there as she has so many things to do before leaving for Qatar to start her new job.
When I told Bapak about Angie, he asked: "Yang budak tinggi tu... the sportswoman?"
He remembered. I was delighted, although well, Angie is not a budak no more and she has not done the 200-metre sprint or jumped over hurdles in a long time.
Bapak will not be able to remember Angie of five years ago. Not Angie the accountant. But Angie, the athlete and SEAP Games silver medallist of more than 30 years ago.
Angie and I (and Kak Eda, Rohaya Ghani and Diane Lesley Cheah) were very close way back when (in Assunta primary and secondary school).
Well, we still are.
In school, we called ourselves "Vamps". Don't ask why but the name sounded good, and, er, cool.
Another very close friend, Hanim (Ku Nur Hanim Ku Bahadur) later joined the gang.
School days were fun because we made it fun. Never a dull moment.
We (with the exception of Hanim) were all in our school athletics club. Rohaya, Kak Eda, Diane and I were in our school's softball team. We all also played hockey.
And when the school decided to form a football team, we all went for it. Alas, the team lasted for just so long. Our coach was Douglas Gomez. I'm pretty sure he was quite relieved about that.
After MCE (that's the form five exams - like SPM today), we more or less went our separate ways, except for Kak Eda, Rohaya and I who joined UiTM. Kak Eda to do architecture, Rohaya (Chartered Secretary) and I (pre-university).
Angie and Diane left for England for further studies. I don't remember where Hanim went but she kept in constant touch because she also happened to live nearby in section 5 and later (until today), section 16.
Angie had been working with a multi-national company for the longest time until she was offered a job in Qatar.
We - Angie, Hanim, Rohaya, Diane and I - had dinner at Tony Roma's at the Cineleisure in Mutiara Damansara two weeks ago to celebrate Diane's birthday.
We had a ball. When the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" was on, we all sang along, to the amusement of the young waiters.
When Rohaya and another friend, Aminah, visited Bapak during Hari Raya Aidilfitri last month, we asked him whether he remembered Rohaya.
With a wide grin, he remarked:
"Hah....ni yang selalu datang sini bawa boyfriend-boyfriend.."
We all burst out laughing.
"Alamak, Pak Cik ingat," Rohaya said sheepishly.
We were remembering Radha, Abang Med's good friend. More like a brother, as far as I'm concerned.
Well. Mak used to refer to Radha as her "other son".
We were talking about old friends the other day.
"Bapak ingat tak Radha, kawan Abang Med?", we asked.
"Anak si-Nair tu? Aah....dia suka debate dengan aku pasal Islam.. Mana dia sekarang?" he asked, his eyes reflective.
That was something. We thought he would not recollect.
"He is in Australia, the last we heard." we told him.
Radha was like a son. he'd drop by anytime. If it was lunch, he'd join us. He'd watch TV, he'd read the books on the bookshelf.
Bapak would indulge in after-dinner discussions with him.
He'd ask Bapak a whole load of things -- religion, the country's social and political system, the NEP ... and, oh, the universe, I suspect.
I remember one question about Islam he asked Bapak.
"How come there are different imams and different schools of thought in Islam?"
"Do you remember Kar Beng?" we asked Bapak.
Francis Ooi Kar Beng formed the trio of Hamed, Radha and Kar Beng. Radha stuck around until he left for Australia. Even when Abang Med was in Australia for further studies, Radha still visited Bapak and us.
Kar Beng came over our Section 5 house almost everyday. But, he soon disappeared from the radar after we moved to Section 16, about the time Abang Med left for Australia.
I used to think Sunethra Rao was the most beautiful girl I had seen.
She was Kak Ton's best friend (besides Joyce Lam) in school.
Sunethra was also a dancer -- a member of Gopal Shetty dancers.
When she and her sister appeared on TV, we would all be glued to the set. Sunethra was one reason I had wanted to take up Indian classical dance.
I used to look forward to visits by Sunethra, Vijaya and Vino Narayanan. I was such a busybody that I would always want to join them in Kak Ton's room and be part of whatever they were up to.
I remember (it was in the 60s) -- every Hari Raya, they'd visit us wearing baju kurung.
I thought they looked smashing.
Kak Ton is just so moved thinking about her old buddies.
But....aah. Those were the days...
Now, I am looking forward to visiting Angie in Qatar. Bapak thinks its a cool idea to go to Qatar to visit my pal -- as Bapak said with a smile -- "Budak yang menang medal tu".
Monday, November 26, 2007
A new political party, the Malaysian Indian United Party (MIUP), was officially launched Sunday (Nov 25).
The party was set up by Datuk K.S. Nallakaruppan, a former vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), who is the new party's president.
Nallakaruppan, better known as Nalla in the Indian community, said MIUP would apply to join the Barisan Nasional (BN) as it strongly supported the policies of Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
"MIUP will always support the BN and not go against its policies as my team and I believe that we can achieve our aims by working with the BN," he said at the launch of the party, also known as Parti Bersatu India Malaysia, at a hotel, here. The event was attended by about 600 people.
Nallakaruppan had quit PKR in May and announced on Oct 6 the formation of MIUP which he claims has 25,000 members.
Nallakaruppan said one of MIUP's objectives was to elevate the status of and empower the Malaysian Indian community which, he said, continued to be a "lagging community" facing social problems.
To a question, he said the party had lined up several programmes including on education, youth and social development.
"This is a very young and new party. Our ideas will be fresh, our approach gentle but purposeful. (While) ... the present Indian-based party in the BN is doing whatever it can to help the community, I feel a fresh approach is needed urgently to make quick changes for the betterment of society.
Another race-based party.
How long will this one last?
Hmmmm....did Albert Einstein actually say this?
"Only two things remain infinite: The universe and human stupidity. And I am not so sure about the former."
Friday, November 23, 2007
NURIN Alert in TELL
The year-end issue of TELL Magazine has an article on why we should have NURIN Alert after we all, as a community, failed to save eight year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin who was brutalized and killed by person or persons still at large.
Nurin was missing for 28 days from Aug 20. Her body was found stuffed in a sports/gym bag at a shophouse on Sept 17.
The call to incorporate NURIN Alert as a standard operating procedure so that a system for the search and rescue for missing children can be activated, has been intensified by Citizens For NURIN Alert.
Jasni Abdul Jalil who is Nurin's uncle is on the committee set up to introduce NURIN Alert.
The committee has been invited to present a paper for NURIN Alert to be incorporated in the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry's Child Protection Policy proposal.
This proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet.
The committee was also invited, a few weeks ago, to speak on NURIN Alert on TV3's Tuesday morning programme, "Wanita Hari Ini".
TELL also hosted a roundtable which is a regular in the magazine.
This time, publisher (journalist and former Sunday Mail columnist) Wahti Mahidin invited Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as guest, in the discussion on "Nurin -- What Next".
The others at the roundtable were Jasni, journalist and former Malay Mail/Sunday Mail executive editor Ahirudin Attan (otherwise known as journo-blogger Rocky of Rocky's Bru), criminologist Kamal Effendi , Madeleine Yong (Director of Protect and Save the Children Association), Abang Ariffin (Advocate and Solicitor) and, not to be left behind, moi.
Wahti was moderator.
Well, you can read about it in this issue.
Also in this issue of TELL, writer Michelle Gunaselan spoke to several lawyers to understand why they did what they did in Putrajaya. Remember the penguin march or the Walk For Justice?
Of course, all this and more interesting articles and pictorials.
So, go get your copy. Fast.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Oh, The Shame of It All...
"Kak Ena, I cannot believe this. I am so malu......what were they thinking?", she blurted in exasperation....in disgust.
In a nutshell, our guys fighting our case in the Hague produced "evidence" from a one-month-old anonymous (and therefore, very dubious) blog to substantiate our claim.
Singapore (specifically its Deputy PM Prof S Jayakumar) pointed this out.
I've always thought we had a strong case here. So why this-lah? It's so comedic but I cannot laugh because it is no laughing matter.
Our integrity is at stake. Now, it is battered...
I don't know what to say. I am stumped. I am numbed. I am struck dumb.
You've got to read Jeff Ooi's Screenshots and Rocky's Bru.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
Just the other day, I took a drive to Petaling Jaya, and cruised around Jalan Sentosa in Kawasan Melayu and Jalan Lembah in Section 5.
We lived in Jalan Sentosa from 1959 when we arrived in Malaya from Singapore until around 1963/4 after which we moved to Jalan Lembah (until early 1969).
Then we moved to Section 16 where Bapak now lives with his wife, Habibah and my youngest sibling, Nina and her family -- hubby Mack and their kids Sara Hamidah, 10, Shufiyan Haikal, 7 and eight month-old Sharmaine Hana.
I do this a couple of times every year. I don't know why. Perhaps because I don't want to forget my old playground.
Every time I drive around the old neighbourhood, I'd watch in amazement the changing landscape, the new areas being developed. I'd see spanking new bungalows in place of old dilapidated ones. Or old bungalows given a new renovated look.
These are very old areas whose residents are either very very old, long-gone or very very young.
A few years ago, Section 5 was a haven for burglars who must have been very familiar with the demographics of the area -- that 80 per cent of the residents were senior citizens.
They'd burgle the homes in broad daylight while the occupants were asleep or sometimes, were blissfully unaware, until too late.
These days, I do see younger residents, most of whom are presumably successful businessmen or working professionals who prefer the quiet and charm of these old neighbourhoods.
Kawasan Melayu, a very old part of Petaling Jaya (hence, it is referred to by PJayrians as old PJ) was a very new area when we first moved there.
It was where Malays from outside Kuala Lumpur settled. However, just outside Kawasan Melayu were shops and a housing area, mostly occupied by the Chinese community.
Most of my Chinese schoolfriends were from the area.
I remember Bapak's friend, Dr Hooi, who had a clinic in one of the shophouses. I think he also lived there with his family.
His daughter, Wai May, was my classmate.
Kak Ton's best friend, Joyce Lam, also lived in the area. So did most of Abang Med's friends.
Actually, going around the shops was something I always looked forward to. Mak would stop by one of the shops that sold toys and invariably, she would end up buying me something.
In Kawasan Melayu, I remember many journalists, literary figures and a minister-turned-diplomat who lived there.
Several Malaysian glitteratis, socialites and pop artistes were bred in Kawasan Melayu.
Our next-door neighbour was a young minister named Ismail Yusoff who was later appointed Malaysian envoy to the United Nations.
I remember him because he later got married to a beautiful film star from Hong Kong.
Kak Piah and Kak Ton were bridesmaids.
I still remember the black-and-white wedding photo. I remember how beautiful the bride was in her lacey veil and stunning wedding dress.
I think weekends with Bapak were most defining in that part of my childhood in Jalan Sentosa.
I remember vividly the singing sesssions we had.
There were times when Pak Cik Tongkat (Usman Awang) would drop by with his wife Cik Senah and their children, Lina and Iskandar.
Bapak would play the guitar and sing some songs including his favourites -- "Bangawan Solo" and "Semalam di Malaya".
Then, us kids, would sing all the songs we learnt in school.
Those days, music lessons were part of the curicullum.
My all-time favourite -- I can't remember the title -- started with the line, "I love to go a -wandering, along the mountain top, and as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back..."
I think I must have been so cute because I remember Kak Ton always asking me to sing the pantun part of "Rasa Sayang".
That pantun was dedicated to Abang Kassim (Kassim Ahmad) and his (then) bride, Kak Fauziah.
They held their wedding at our house in Jalan Sentosa some time in the 60s.
Abang Med taught me the verse.
It goes : "Cik Kassim dengan Cik Fauziah
Sudah kahwin bersuka ria
Cik Kassim asyik ketawa
Cik Fauziah tersenyum pula"
I used to "serenade" them, singing this verse.
So, during our weekend singing sessions, Bapak would have this humongous Akai tape recorder where you needed to install two wheels of tape. I think the now generation of young people have probably never seen contraptions like this.
Bapak would record our singing and then, play back the tape.
I remember singing the verse so fast I sounded like a chipmunk.
When Lina visited, she would also sing. But she would sing ever so softly and gently that, next to her, I sounded like a neurotic.
Sometime during our stay in Jalan Sentosa, Encik Ismail left for his overseas posting so the house next-door was vacant.
One day, Mak told us that her relatives from Medan would be moving in.
We were thrilled.
Those were really wonderful years, growing up in Kawasan Melayu.
My mom's relative (now deceased) was called Mak Cik Mon and she (and her husband Pak Cik Majid) had seven children.
Their youngest daughter, Magda, was and still is very close to me, although we hardly see each other these days. Their other daughters are Lindawati and Suslita. Another daughter, Ristina passed away in Jakarta a few years ago.
Their sons are Amrin (Ucok), Imran (Agam) and Aldin.
Of all their kids, it was Agam who would faithfully join us. He was a good musician. He must have been 12 or 13 then, and he was already playing the guitar so well.
I think, some people may know him as Odie Agam who wrote "Antara Anyir dan Jakarta", made popular by Sheila Majid.
Agam was very close to us, and especially to Abang Med because of their passsion for music.
He took part in "Bintang RTM" in the 70s-- singing and playing the piano.
He performed in Malaysia for some time but then left for Jakarta to pursue his musical career.
Eventually, he settled in Jakarta.
I could well understand why. I think he found the music industry in Malaysia neither conducive nor inspiring.
I think he was so talented that, perhaps, Malaysia was not ready for him.
For a very long time after that, Agam would make a point of visiting Bapak during Hari Raya everytime he was back home.
He'd usually come late evening and would stay on for quite a bit.
I was just in our old Jalan Sentosa neighbourhood the other day, and passed by our old house. Ours was the middle of three linked units. There was no fence between the three units and we had a common compound.
Well, there is a fence now, between each unit, just like other houses.
As always. Everytime I see the house, it would look different, somehow. And it would often look smaller than the last time.
I know that one day, I'd be passing by and the house will no longer be there.
Until that happens, I'll continue to "drive down memory lane" along Jalan Sentosa and Jalan Lembah, although I am still wondering why I get a thrill doing it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Awang Goneng's Trengganu...
Zaharah Othman (Kak Teh of Choc-a-Blog) excitedly told me about Awang Goneng's book. I was as excited as she was.
Awang Goneng is a long-time Trengganu-born (Kecek-Kecek) blogger who happens to be Wan A Hulaimi. Who also happens to be Kak Teh's husband.
"Wait for the book when it goes to the bookstand, ok?", she said.
Of course, I told her. I'll be the first outside the store.
I have known Ah since forever. And Hulaimi, since way back in the mid 70s when I did my practical training at the NST.
He was a senior journalist and we ( Zaharah, Fatimah Abu Bakar and I) were greenhorns.
(Shhhh.....you didn't hear it from me but that was when the "bunga-bunga cinta" between Hulaimi and Zaharah "berputik"...read her blog for the juicy details.)
Hulaimi - journo trained in law -- has a great sense of humour. I just love the guy, his wit, his sense of humour and his writing style.
And I am not the only one, that's for sure.
If you love his Kecek-Kecek, as immensely as I do, then you'd be rushing right now to get his "Growing Up Ing Trengganu" at your nearest store.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, trust me...you will. You'd love the book.
Besides the stories, anecdotes and Hulaimisque wit and humour, I particularly love the fact that it is blog-inspired.
It is true.... Awang Goneng's stories were too good to remain in cyberspace.
Syabbas for coming out with a delightful book. A sure best-seller, I tell you.
And, thank you Hulaimi.... I'm getting re-acquainted with lotsa things Trengganu.
Thank you too.....reading the stories is like listening to you telling them.
Er....so Kak Teh, when are YOU coming out with your best seller?
Friday, November 16, 2007
The march, in which "berpuluh-ribu" people took part, was organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).
The statement issued six days after Saturday's march, was at a media conference in Kuala Lumpur, and by the Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja of Istana Negara, Datuk Wan Mohd Safiain Wan Hasan.
Read the Bernama story here.
Wan Mohd Safiain said that it was the first time that Istana Negara was summoning the media to publicise the content of the statement as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong viewed the matter seriously.
I've always believed in the neutrality of the Yang diPertuan Agong.
In fact, I agree that His Majesty should not be dragged into politics.
The march/rally was organised some two months ago but I don't think the organisers were warned by anyone or any representative of the palace to "forget about the whole thing".
And it was really nice of the palace to send a representative to accept the petition from Bersih.
Indeed, I don't see our Yang di-Pertuan Agong getting involved at all, or expressing support for the rally.
To me, the march/rally and presentation of the memorandum to the palace was purely symbolic.
(Note: Just to remind readers/commentors to not post remarks that insult the Yang di Pertuan Agong. I will have to reject such offensive comments.)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The MARCH For Merdeka!
More than 50 years ago, Malayans took that long march for Merdeka.
Yes we did that. We walked, we demonstrated. We -- I mean, our forefathers -- did it for Merdeka.
A lesson in history at Maria Samad's Tok Mommy. Go here.
Yeah, you'd better believe it..
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Tuesdays With Bapak
I know that I was always told that our neighbour Indonesia "bertumpah darah" to achieve their independence from their ruthless Dutch colonialists.
Malaya, on the other hand, had it quite easy. On a silver platter.
I can't remember who told this to me.
Now, that's how legends are made.
Not this one. Before long, the bubble burst for me.
"Siapa bilang?", roared Bapak when I asked him one day, a long time ago. I think I was doing a term paper on Malaysian politics in college.
His "siapa bilang?" did not mean that there was absolutely no truth in the Indonesian bloody struggle for independence.
I shan't go into details of Indonesian politics and the background except to say that it is true that their struggle was bloody. If they stand proud as a nation today, then they should because they fought tooth and nail for their independence.
Well, so did we. Though not as bloody as they did. But, we shed tears and blood too.
Historians would know better the story of Maria Hertogh or Natra, the Dutch girl at the centre of a custody battle (between her natural parents and adopted mother).
The fight to gain her custody sparked riots in Singapore (in the early 50s).
It was at the same time that Malaya was fighting for independence from the British.
Now, you can say that Natra's predicament had nothing to do with the independence struggle in Singapore.
Perhaps not. But it certainly coincided with what was going on in the island.
Bapak was in the thick of it all.
He took part in the protests, and the riots.
I think his role has been documented.
"I think I burnt a car belonging to a high-level British officer," he remarked, in a tone that has kept me guessing until today whether or not he actually did that.
I remember feeling shocked. I was aghast.
What? My father did all that?
You know....what's the blooming difference, right?
When I was in UiTM (then ITM), way back in 1973/74 for my pre-University studies, I took part in a protest. Rather a WALK. A MARCH.
Yes.... all the way to Parliament to demand for ITM to be given university status.
But..er..I wish it was that easy.
The truth is, we never got anywhere near Parliament. The FRU were waiting for the students outside campus and near the federal highway. Many were hit by batons and tear gas.
Many escaped into the bushes and secondary forest along the highway and into the kampungs.
Just remember that more than 30 years ago, the federal highway was nothing like what it is today.
I remember the night we were going for the march.
LISTEN UP IBRAHIM ALI AND ZAID IBRAHIM!!!!
(They were our student leaders. Yes, they were.)
The students were asked to gather at the square infront of the Hostel 2 dining hall after dinner (or was it "maghrib".)
Student leaders "dengan semangat berkobar2" spoke and gave a moral boost to the students.
Then, (ok...so this was a Malay-based institution), some students shouted "Allahuakbar".
The march was to begin. The students started singing this song : "Ini lah barisan kita, yang ........"
Whoa! The semangat was tangible.
It was going to be a peaceful march. Everyone went in a single file towards the exit gates.
By the time, we were about to leave campus, some students began turning back, saying "FRU FRU .... budak2 dah kena...".
Our thoughts were for our "fallen comrades" among whom were very important people in government now.
That night, the rest of us remained in campus. In darkness. Water and electricity supply was cut.
The next morning, we were told that the students "had taken over" the admin building. The "pak guards" were powerless.
The "gestapo" (from among our students) were manning the entrance and exit gates.
I saw no point in remaining so my room-mate and I decided to leave.
We must have convinced the "gestapo" on guard that morning to let us leave as I remember heading for the hilly path that led to the federal highway where we hitched a ride to Petaling Jaya.
On reaching PJ State (PJ new town), we took a taxi to my house.
The next evening, ITM director Arshad Ayub (who lived just a few hundred metres from our house) came over to visit Bapak.
He was there to discuss with Bapak the "ITM students" problem.
Did the protest and march change things for ITM?
You tell me...