Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hyde Park Near Me

Not too long from now, I -- and other residents of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Sri Hartamas, Bukit Damansara as well as surrounding areas -- will get our very own Hyde Park.
I am not too sure if that is good.
I suppose we can only try to be optimistic and hopeful when we hear this sort of thing coming from those very powerful corridors -- that the Cabinet has agreed to the setting up of a recreational park like London's Hyde Park.
I have grown to be somewhat wary, suspicious and sceptical when "grand" descriptions are thrown in such as "Hyde Park" to give us the impression that the project will be, well, like Hyde Park.
You know, it does not matter if this recreational park is not like Hyde Park.
What matters is that the area -- all 188.93 hectares of it -- will not be defiled, will not have its hills cut or denuded.
The NST has the story here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (20)

Nenek Muda - June 26 2007
The long sofa by the wall seemed to be just the right place to sit. It offered a vantage point where nothing and no one could escape me and my watchful eyes. Besides, being heavily pregnant, I needed to remain in one place. The sofa was just right.

We -- my siblings and our spouses and children -- waited anxiously for the arrival of our dinner guests.
The table had been set for a party of six or more. Oh well, if too many came, it would be a buffet.

There are some things we all can remember and there are some that we cannot.
Like what was served for dinner. I know Bapak had prepared a feast. But I cannot remember what was served. I asked my sisters and they couldn't either. But I think for that occasion, Bapak prepared nasi beriyani, chicken kurma, acar, beef curry, prawn sambal and fried chicken.

I remember the house was lit up as though we were having a celebration or a festivity. But we were not quite dressed up for the occasion. We did not want to. Call it our statement of protest.

I was in my baggy t-shirt and trousers with my hair tied up, looking very plain. I figured that without make-up I would look harsh and unfriendly. Just the way I wanted to be.
Adel, then two years old, was colouring pictures with his father by his side.

Nina was not around. She told us that she was attending lectures but did not say whether she would be home for "the dinner". She had made sure that the living and dining rooms were cleaned and done up, and Mak's photographs were suitably displayed.

Then, they arrived.
I remained seated, waiting for the party to walk in.
My cousin the marriage broker arrived with the woman, the one Bapak was to wed. There were others in the party but I forget who they were.

"Why is she wearing a tudung? Is she wearing it sincerely or just for this occasion?" I wondered as I watched them slowly making their way in.

"Eda mana?", my cousin the marriage broker asked, rather nervously. I was sure she could feel the daggers thrown at her.

Of course she would be asking for only Kak Eda. Dear Kak Eda in whom "they" found an ally for "their scheme".
Kak Eda was naturally and predictably acceptable to Bapak's decision to remarry only because of her religious beliefs.


One day I found myself questioning Kak Eda about how she could, her tabligh beliefs aside, be so accepting to having someone else in Mak's place. Surely she would feel some sadness.

She replied: "Ena. I have to accept it. I have to. If only you know what is deep in my heart. I feel as much sadness as you do. But I cannot allow that to distract me. I have to accept it. We have to accept it, Ena."

I understood and I respected her stand. But it was hers, not mine.


Kak Eda emerged from the TV room and "salam" my cousin and the woman in tudung whose face I could not quite see but could tell, from where I was sitting, that she had chubby cheeks.

I watched the goings-on like a preying hawk.
I knew she felt uncomfortable as she sat on the sofa across me. I was looking at her with my right eyebrow raised and my lips pursed.

"Aah. Is that why you are wearing the tudung. You can't fool me. It is for Kak Eda's benefit," I whispered to myself. My eyebrow raised higher. I began to smirk.

She did not look at me. I did not take my eyes off her. Her eyes were on the floor, possibly checking out the oriental rug.
Then, Bapak appeared.

He gave the signal that he wanted to introduce everyone to her. So, everyone approached her to "salam".
Reluctantly I got up. I walked towards her, extended my right hand, and with just my fingers, brushed the fingers of her left hand, turned around and walked away.
Then, Adel came up to her and kissed her hand.
"Nenek muda," he said, mouthing the words his father had earlier tutored him to say when addressing her.
She smiled at Adel.

My cousin, the marriage broker was with Kak Eda in the TV room.
And then, Bapak announced that dinner was served.

Just when everyone was beginning to settle down for dinner, I heard Nina at the door. She looked like she was in a rush. She "salam" everyone, disappeared up the stairs, emerged moments later as she rushed down the stairs, carrying a pillow and a blanket.
She was not having dinner with us and she was not spending the night at home.

Nina, of late, had felt a crushing sense of desolateness and abandonment.
Although she was given a room at the International Islamic University hostel, she hardly ever stayed there, preferring instead to come home. Especially after Mak's passing, she felt the pressing need to be home with Bapak.
But since Bapak told her of his decision to remarry, Nina was given to bouts of wanting to be far away. On many occasions, she would come home very late or come home to just collect her pillow and blanket and then disappear into the night.
She would also drive all the way to visit Azah in Setiawangsa, Ampang, to just let her heart out.
Nina couldn't talk to Kak Ton or me because it would make her feel worse. Neither could she talk to Kak Eda who would tell her to accept it and that did not help.
So she turned to Azah who would listen to her without saying much. Nina found this comforting.
For instance, later on when invitation cards for Bapak's reception were to be given out to our neighbours, Nina couldn't bring herself to do it. It was Azah who volunteered to do it.

At dinner, you could feel the tension in the air. But it gradually eased.
I cannot remember what was spoken or if there was any conversation taking place at all.

I was as not nice as I could possibly be. But I could not go beyond that. I just could not. Neither could the rest of us.
I could plan all the terrible things I was going to do but, the truth is, I could not pretend to be mean.
I could not do it to Bapak, or to Mak's memory.
She did not raise me to be "kurang ajar". And what would this woman think of Mak's children if we behaved so badly to her.
Frankly, as the evening wore on, I had no heart to sustain that look of disdain that I thought I had so perfectly carved.
But that did not mean that I endorsed the whole charade.

We had finally met our soon-to-be stepmother. Her name was Habibah Hamid. My mum was Hamidah Hassan. Habibah was also Mak's mother's name.


The wedding was to take place soon.
The "akad nikah" would be held at the bride's parents' home in Lumut, Perak and a reception would be held later in Gombak where she used to be staying.
None of Bapak's daughters would be attending the "akad nikah". Abang Med, Kamal and my brothers-in-law, Abang Ani (Roslani) and Aziz would be accompanying Bapak to Lumut.
As for the reception, we were all reluctant to attend but we did not want Bapak to feel that we were abandoning him. We knew that Bapak had invited some of his (and Mak's) oldest, closest and dearest friends and their wives. We knew that they were put in a very difficult decision
because they were aware of our sentiments but could not boycott the reception on our account. And we did not want them to either. We understood and we did not hold that against them.


Bapak was leaving for Lumut.
He had earlier asked Kak Ton to help clean up his bedroom.
After Mak died, Bapak told us not to remove any of Mak's belongings, to leave them where they were.
For two years her belongings were intact-- in her cupboard. Her handbags were where she had left them.
But since there would be a new occupant, we decided to take out all Mak's belongings -- her books, bags, clothes, -- pack them in boxes and keep them in the store room.
Bapak also left clear and specific instructions for Mak's photographs not to be touched.


I had never found spring-cleaning to be such an emotional experience.
We felt so sad as we cleared the room of Mak's personal items. I found my eyes filled with tears. So did Kak Ton..
Her handbag still had the "minyak angin" scent and the contents intact from the day she left home for the hospital two years earlier.
Her diary was still on the desk with several dates circled -- birth dates of her children and grand children.
We opened her wardrobe and looked at her clothes -- her kebaya, baju kurung, selendang and kain batik lepas.
I took out two baju kurung which I recognised to be made of materials I had bought her.
"What are we going to do with her clothes?", I asked.
"Give some away to our aunts for remembrance. I am sure they'd like that. The rest we can keep. We can take some if we like," Kak Ton said tearfully.

We looked at the room, all nice and clean. It was now ready for Bapak and his new wife.


Nina had already left for London to be with Lalin who was preparing for her finals after which she would be returning home for good. Nina would be accompanying her "kakak" (Lalin is the only one she calls just "kakak") home. She was also to break the news of Bapak's remarriage to Lalin.
They would both be home in time for the reception.


The "akad nikah" went smoothly, we were duly informed.

I had conversations with myself.
Ok. So I had made my stand very clear to Bapak that I was not happy with his decision. So, I had gone out of my way to make life a little miserable for him. So enough was enough because that woman was now his lawfully-married wife.
I had to accept that Habibah was now my step-mother who would be living in my parents' home. My kids would know of no other grandmother (besides their father's mother) but her and as their "nenek muda' who is their Datuk's wife.


We were at home (at Bapak's) when the groom and bride arrived.
We prepared a little "makan" for Bapak and Mak Cik, as we called (and still do) her.

If she had expected me to misbehave, she was in for a disappointment.
At that dinner, she was not my step-mother yet. She was the woman my father intended to marry. She meant nothing to me. And, besides, I was the angry daughter.

But now, she came as my father's wife. She was something to him, and so she was, therefore, to us. No, it was not that I had suddenly grown fond of her.
She was my step-mother and I had to accord her due respect. For Bapak and for Mak.

As she accompanied Bapak into the living room, we took turns to kiss Bapak's hand, and then hers.


We were still reluctant to go for the reception in Gombak.
Kak Piah and Kak Ton were thinking of all sorts of excuses to stay away but there was simply none.
I had the perfect excuse - my hefty condition.

Just before the reception, Lalin and Nina came home from London.
Mak Cik was in the living room to welcome them home.

If you ask Lalin and Nina about this part of their life, they will tell you that they remember very little -- just scant details.
I think they have blocked the memory of this episode.


The day of the reception, Bapak went to Kak Ton's Media Strategy office in Damansara Heights.
Kak Ton was not in so Bapak left word with my cousin, Kak Che Nah (Julaina) who was working there for Kak Ton to please attend the reception.

That evening, my sisters arrived late for the reception. They sat at the far corner of the hall.
Sure, we had all accepted Bapak's marriage to Mak Cik, but we still had not come to terms with seeing Bapak as a groom with another woman by his side.

We thought Nina would not be there. But she arrived very late for the reception and was dressed in a plain ordinary cotton baju kurung, one of those she would be wearing for lectures, and she was in slippers .
Kak Piah, Kak Ton and her older siblings watched her as she made her way towards them. She greeted them and kissed their hands.

Then she caught sight of Uncle Swee (Lee Siew Yee) and Aunty Lin. Nina went to them and Aunty Lin who was a little tearful, hugged her.
"I'm sorry. But we had to come for your father," she whispered to Nina.

Nina nodded, tears in her eyes.

She got up, turned around and made a swift exit. And disappeared into the night.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Long Lost Mum To Come Home After 61 years

I cannot remember if there was any story like this one -- of 86 year-old Mariam Sahari who left Malaya for Korea 61 years ago without ever being able to contact her family and, is now finally returning home to her three children in Johor.
Circumstances prevented her from returning home.
Her children -- Ramlah, Jailani and Jamnah -- now in their 60s and 70s, thought that she had died in the war as there was no news from her.
They could hardly believe the news that their mother is still alive and is coming home.
Mariam never forgot her children those lonely years away from home. Neither did her children forget her.
Who would have thought that after all these years, mother and children would be reunited?

Their wish to be together has now come true.

Read the story here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Siti Mariana - Home, Safe & Unharmed

I am relieved. And it goes without saying that her parents and family must be too.
Siti Mariana, the 22 year-old final year Bio-Medical student of Kolej Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Shah Alam is home -- safe, sound and unharmed.
The Star has the story here.

Siti Mariana went missing late Friday evening after she went out to meet her boyfriend in Klang. She was driving her metallic grey Kancil (BHF 7472).
She had sent an sms to her boyfriend at about 6pm. Since that sms, there had not been a word from her ...until, of course, when she called her mother today to say that she was coming home.
During the time she went missing, her worried parents were frantic and sent sms to their friends. Ahirudin Attan (Rocky) received an sms from one of their friends and posted about her disappearance (here).
Her father, Capt Suhaimi Aziz lodged a police report on Saturday (yesterday, June 23).

According to the Star, Siti Mariana came back this (Sunday) afternoon unharmed.

Her father, a 47 year-old Malaysia Airlines pilot, said that his daughter was resting. He will talk to her later to ask her what happened.

I am sure she had a good reason for not informing her parents of her whereabouts.

Have You Seen Siti Mariana?

She is 22 years old and a Bio Medical undergraduate of Kolej Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Shah Alam.
She has been missing since Friday night after she went out in her metallic grey Kancil (BHF 7472) to meet her boyfriend in Klang between 7pm to 8pm.
Her last sms to her boyfriend was after 6pm to tell him that she was on her way to fetch him. She never made it. And she has neither been heard from nor seen since.
I pray she is safe and sound. I pray that as I am writing this, someone remembers seeing her or she is on her way home.
Her very worried father, Capt Suhaimi Aziz, 47, has not stopped searching for her since her disappearance..
The Malaysia Airlines pilot lodged a police report at 4.15 am (Saturday).
According to Ahirudin Attan (Rocky) who has spoken to the Captain (here), he has sent sms to all his friends asking for them to pass the message around and for people to look out for his daughter.
"I don't know what to do, except to pray and to keep looking," he told Rocky.
Siti Mariana is a final year bio medical student.

I have nieces her age. I have friends' daughters her age. My heart goes so weak everytime I hear of any child -- younger or older -- missing because I know what is out there.
Again, I hope and pray that Siti Mariana is safe and sound.
(I have asked Rocky to get a photo of her.)

Please help find her, if you can.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Banning Fast Food Ads on Children's TV Programmes

The Cabinet has decided to ban fast food commercials on children's television programmes, said Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Bernama has the rest of the story is here.
In fact, the ministry had been thinking about doing this earlier this year. Read about it here.
Just after the ministry made known its plan in February, McDonald's Malaysia said the way to good health was not through banning fast food advertisements.
McDonald's Malaysia managing director Azmir Jaafar said this had been proven in Sweden, which banned such advertisements 13 years ago.
He said McDonald's, together with the Nutritional Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Dieticians' Society, media and advertisers' associations, had agreed to collaborate with the Health Ministry on the issue.
A meeting was scheduled with Dr Chua on March 5.
Read it here.

I have no idea if the meeting took place. If it did, then it must have not gone so well because the government is going ahead with its plan to ban the ads.

Now, back to today's announcement.
On the outset, it does seem like a responsible thing to do. However, I am not sure whether this will help instil good eating habits among children, as is intended.
Could we be missing the target here?

Frankly, I think it is a very convenient and lazy way of dealing with children's health.
We're so good at banning things. If fast food is really the problem and the biggest impediment to our health, why don't we just ban fast food?
Teh tarik is bad, health wise. So why don't we just ban teh tarik in restaurants and mamak shops.

The fast foods that are advertised during children's programmes are not health food, I know. But they are not so bad or so unhealthy that they are anathema to us.
However, with any food or any thing in life, too much should, of course, not be encouraged.
Just like too much roti canai and too much teh tarik (loaded with condensed milk). Not good.
But I forget, nobody advertises teh tarik and roti canai on TV.

I think if we want to help Malaysian kids eat well, it is not by banning the ads.
If we are really serious, we should be more proactive and do more substantive things that will yield long-term results.

I call my youngers sisters and my nieces as well as nephews, the MacDonalds generation. I, myself grew up on KFC and A&W hotdogs.
I am sure there is a whole generation of Malaysians whom we could call the "fast food" generation. And among some of them are very obese people.
But fast food had not been all that we had. Surely not.

Perhaps, it may work this ban on fast food ads. Perhaps, if children do not see the ads, they will forget about fast food and banish it from their thoughts, from their minds.

Perhaps, their daily diet of rice or pasta no longer has to compete with fast food.
Perhaps too, while at school, kids can turn to their canteen for good and healthy food. Or can they?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (19)

When The Heart Knows Reason - June 19 2007

Bapak looked at us, grinning, as he bent over the dining table, going through the pile of Sunday papers. He wore an impish look.
He seemed so oblivious to the emotion-charged discussion that was held in the living room, just moments before he appeared.

My heart wanted to scream, weep.

"Aah...apa cerita?", he asked.

Funny thing about being angry with your father, accompanied by the millions of questions that are going through your head and the wave of emotions unsettling you. The moment he looks at you, and you at him, your jaw suddenly feels heavy. You just cannot open your mouth to say anything.

A sudden overwhelming sense of realisation sweeps over you. Your mind -- your brain - starts ticking, telling you instantly that "no, no, you can't pounce on him, he's your Bapak."

Five seconds passed. We weren't counting but for those long moments, everyone froze, speechless.

"Hehe...haha. tak ada apa" we all seemed to be mumbling, muttering, all at the same time, The silence was broken. Like a comic sketch, we turned to each other, and pretended as though nothing had happened.

Bapak grinned, turned his attention to the pile of newspapers for a few more moments, and returned to his study.
I thought I heard him humming a tune.

Then, we looked at each other, wondering the same thing -- why didn't we just ask him?


The issue of Bapak's impending marriage loomed larger as the days went by.
I was very unhappy. I was 36 and due to deliver my second and youngest child, and I could not accept my father's decision to remarry.
"Betrayal. It is betrayal. He is supposed to love Mak," I said, in clandestine discussions with Kak Piah and Kak Ton.

I wanted to confront Bapak, but at the same time, I did not want to hurt him. I did not know how to go about asking him without hurting his feelings.

Nina and Lalin were our main concern. Lalin was still in London but was completing her final exams soon. She would be returning home at the end of the year.
How and when should she be told about it? She would be coming home to Bapak and his new wife.
Nina was the stronger of the two. Since Mak died, she was the one who had been keeping Bapak company at home in between attending her lectures and tutorials at the university (International Islamic University), as the rest of us were already married and had our own homes.
Thankfully, the university was located nearby, hardly a five-minute drive.

It was needling me but neither Bapak nor any of us broached the subject for discussion.
But Bapak seemed to be dropping hints. We ignored them, playing dumb, hoping that it would all go away, that he was only joking. Yet, we knew he was serious and we wanted to know. But we did not want to seem eager about wanting to know about his marriage to the woman, whoever she was. At the same time we we wanted to know details about this woman and why in heaven's name that he needed to get married again. And why she wanted to Bapak as a husband.

There were times I did not want to think about it because it made me so sad thinking about another person taking over Mak's place. It made me sad thinking about my two younger sisters.


One day Nina told us that she had already known about Bapak's decision to remarry even before Kak Piah dropped the bombshell.
No wonder she said nary a word all the while. No wonder she did not break into fits when Kak Piah said the "M" word. That made me wonder but I never thought much about it as I was too preoccupied with the whole issue.

My poor little sister. To be keeping such a burden from her older sisters and brothers.

Nina said that one afternoon, Bapak was waiting for her in the living room. This was not unusual because, after Mak died, he would always be waiting for her to come home from college to have lunch together. Lunch he had prepared. Sometimes, Nina would catch him deep in reflection, with tears in his eyes. But she never ventured to probe.
But that afternoon, she had an uneasy feeling that he was going to tell her something she had suspected for quite a bit. She knew that this was coming.

Nina had been feeling that Bapak had been "up to something" lately, disappearing for long lunches, taking with him "tiffin" of food he had cooked and, accompanied by a close family friend, they would go to our cousin's place in Gombak. Looking pleased and happy. Very Odd, Nina had thought. And very suspicious, her mind had wondered.

All this after June 2, 1992, two years after Mak died. Could Bapak be ready to remarry, Nina had flirted with this thought. But she never intimated this to any of us at that point.

That afternoon when Bapak was waiting for her return from lectures, he wanted to talk to her. He called her to his study and broke the news to her. As he spoke to her, his eyes glistened.

"Don't think I don't love your mother," he said, calmly, but his voice quivering a little.
Nina turned away. She could not say what she wanted to say, that yes, she knew that he was lonely. So was she. Yes, he had lost a wife. And she had lost a mother and was missing her terribly.

But she had expected it. Perhaps, even quite accepted it because she felt, yes... he had to get married because he could not go on like that without a companion.
There had been too many occasions that Nina had to take Mak's place -- a wife's place - to accompany Bapak to events and functions. She did not mind it at all but over time, felt that Bapak could not go on like that forever.
Besides, she became a little concerned when she knew that there were a couple of young women who had shown interest in Bapak.
One came to mind, Nina said. A university (Universiti Malaya) undergraduate who kept visiting Bapak even after Bapak had finished his tenure as lecturer at the university.
Manija, the maid and Ida, my maid and a couple of grandchildren (including Adel) would be at Bapak's house, when this female undergraduate came a visiting. On several occasions, Nina would come home, to find the young lady, talking to Bapak in the living room.
"Too many times for comfort", Nina had thought.

"Aku rasa budak tu suka aku," Bapak told Nina one day. She felt Bapak was uncomfortable with the young lady's frequent visits. One day, Bapak was pleased to see Nina returning home and asked Nina to send the girl back to the UM campus. He politely told her that he had plans to go out with "his daughter" (Nina) for the afternoon.
Nina never told us about this young lady, knowing well how we would all react. Quite hysterically, perhaps.

There was another young lady who would drop by Kak Ton's office. Kak Ton had set up her media consultancy, "Media Strategy", after leaving journalism. Bapak was (and still is) chairman of the company which was located in Damansara Heights.

According to Kak Ton, this person would "just drop by and have a chat with Bapak in his office".
Bapak told Kak Ton that the young lady wanted "tips on writing, on writing a novel".
Who was she, Kak Ton had asked. Bapak said he never knew her before and that she had dropped by the office one day and introduced herself as so-and-so who wanted to learn to write a novel. And she kept coming by.

I suppose without Mak or the presence of a wife, Bapak was considered available or "a catch" for some women - young or old. Never mind that he was 67, not a wealthy man (as wealthy goes), a father of 10 and already a grandfather to as many. Could it be that he was a Tan Sri and had a "big" house which, to some people, was something of an attraction. Or, could it be his alluring, appealing and stimulating personality and towering intellect? Er, perhaps.

So, when Bapak told his daughters that so-and-so had shown interest in him, it was a way of telling us to help him out, perhaps "rescue" him because he himself was not able to tell the person that he was not interested.

That afternoon, Bapak told Nina that there were a "few candidates" for him to choose.
"Oh no, I hope they don't include that university student or that novelist wannabe," Nina thought to herself, almost freaking out.
He said, among them was a Datin and a rich janda.

Nina very calmly told Bapak that there was nothing she could do about his decision to remarry, it was, after all his decision but she understood it.
However, she wanted to impose several conditions. Rather, cutting a deal, if you know what I mean.
Nina told Bapak that the candidate must not be a "janda" or one with children because she did not want Bapak's wife to have been somebody else's and she did not want step-siblings either.
She must not be young (read: university student), either and she must neither be prettier nor smarter than Mak.

Bapak kept quiet.

Bapak also had a deal but it was one-sided, heavily in Nina's favour. He said Nina could go visit Lalin in London and accompany her home.
(Later, Bapak bought them each a car and an apartment as well as topped up their Amanah Saham investment. )

Despite having accepted Bapak's decision, Nina still felt hurt. There were times she would purposely come home late, or she would come home only to collect her pillow and blanket.
When Bapak asked where she was going, she would give a one-line reply, and disappear out the door, into the night.
"I was so bengang", she told us. We never knew.


And now it was in the open. It was odd because Bapak did not sit down to tell us. It was just out in the open because it was going to happen whether we liked it or not.
Now that it was out in the open, I could show my displeasure openly. I disliked the idea of Bapak remarrying. I think I shut my mind to everything else except the fact that he betrayed Mak.
On reflection, it was totally unfair, and cruel too.

Several people, including the top guns at NSTP, had come to know about Bapak's intention to remarry. I was horrified to know that they knew.
Bapak was still close to some of the NSTP people and I suppose, it must be the male-bonding thing. They had readily embraced Bapak's decision as though it was a natural and most logical decision for a man to take.
Conspiracy, I hooted. Men, I retorted.

One or two NST bosses must have regretted advising me to not be too hard on Bapak for wanting to remarry. Easy for them to say. It was not their father who was taking a new wife. It was not their life that was going to change. And it was not their mother's room that was going to be taken over by a stranger.


Looking back, Bapak must have been very very patient with his very very angry daughters.

One day, he said he was going to arrange a meeting between his would-be bride who by this time we were duly informed that she was an "anak dara" in her 40s (three months older than Kak Ton and heck, 18 months younger than Kak Piah), fair, a former Kemas teacher, and from Gombak.

I decided I did not like her.

So, Bapak thought it would be nice that a dinner be organised so that she could meet her future step children plus their spouses, and her step grandchildren -- all 27 of us.

I decided that I was not going to be nice.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Let me wish all fathers out there, a very happy father's day. And to our fathers who are no longer with us, let us offer Al-Fatihah. May they rest in peace and may God bless them. Amin.

It matters not that Time has shed
His thawless snow upon your head
For he maintains, with wondrous art.
Perpetual summer in your heart.
- WilliamHamilton Hayne.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

PM & DPM Want UM To Stay Put

Let's hope the good news remains good.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak do not want the Universiti Malaya campus to be relocated to make way for commercial development.
Abdullah, himself a graduate of UM, said that personally he would not want the university to be relocated.
He said the university was the country's first institution of higher learning and had produced many graduates who now served in the public and private sectors.
Najib said the government would never agree to the proposal to relocate the university if it went against the public interest.
He said so far, many had voiced opposition to the proposal to relocate the university to Sepang for the site to be developed into a RM10 billion commercial and residential hub.
Najib said UM is an iconic institution of higher learning in the country.
It has been reported that real estate company Guocoland (M) Berhad, controlled by millionaire Quek Leng Chan, has offered to relocate to university to Sepang and develop its present site.
Bernama has the story here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Sedition Act And Bloggers

Ok. I wasn't born yesterday.
The announcement that there will be a government task force "to study the need to regulate internet sites with pornographic and seditious content" has got me thinking that some people are really spooked and have got the entire government machinery to clamp down on blogs.
The New Straits Times, quoting sources, said that the websites to be monitored are those which contain pornographic material and those, including blogs, which carry seditious material.
These include blogs which post inflammatory content against other races or religions and not just blogs on politics or those which criticise the government.

It is a case of "killing two birds with one stone". I get the sneaking suspicion that, mainly, it is an excuse to get at those pesky irritating socio-political blogs that have been critical of the government.

Click here for the story.

Rocky has his take here.

Well, I'm always concerned when there are threats to invoke the Sedition Act on citizens.

No To Relocation of Universiti Malaya

UPDATE: Rocky says it's safe for now. He has it here. It's a non-denial denial on the part of Guocoland (M) Bhd of its reported bid to develop the UM site.

My earlier posting:

A newspaper report on Tuesday said that a company had submitted a bid to develop the Universiti Malaya site and to relocate the university to Sepang.
Rocky has the story here.
Ruhanie Ahmad has his take here.

The UM Alumni Association, in response, issued a statement yesterday (Thursday June 14), expressing their objection,

Bernama has the story:

The Universiti Malaya Alumni Association has objected to any plan to relocate the university to allow its present site to be redeveloped by a private company.
Its president, Datuk Noordin Abdul Razak, said the university sat on a strategic location and was complemented by the presence of public transport services like buses and LRT which had greatly benefited the students.
The university management was surprised with the newspaper report and said that it would not let the university to be relocated.

It is worrying that there is even such a proposal because it means that nothing is sacred.
You get thinking that every prime real estate is for the asking and/or the taking.
Just the idea that someone is thinking about taking over the UM site to have it re-developed sends shivers down my spine.
You get even more worried thinking that the proposal might just get accepted.
You have come to realize that this seems to be the time for people to be making loads of money whatever way they can. To make a killing. and getting away with it.
History, heritage and a sense of pride do not seem to have a place in this scheme of things.

I, for one, pray that the proposal remains simply that. I am sure I am not alone.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Amani Amani

It's tough being an artiste here. It's tougher when you're Muslim, female and young.
Take 21 year-old Sharifah Amani Syed Zainal Rashid, award-winning and an artiste who is very serious about her craft -- acting.
For her role in her latest film, "Muallaf", Nani decided to shave her head.
Nani has beautiful hair, like her mum - journalist/media consultant/veteran actress Fatimah Abu Bakar.
So brave and daring, I thought. Such seriousness in and commitment to her craft.
Not an easy decision to make, I am sure.
That's Nani for you. Full of idealism, vigour, zest, energy, vibrance.
She knows what she's doing.
Acting is her love, her passsion, her craft. There are not many like her in movieland here.
Either they are a dying breed or there are not enough young ones like her.
So, did she expect criticisms from two Muftis for her action?
I don't think so but I believe she is now not surprised.
But there are enough people out there who will give her moral support in face of yet another "controversy".
According to the NST, the Muftis felt that the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the Information Ministry should come up with guidelines on the dos and don’ts so that artistes, particularly female Muslims, did not go overboard in their dressing or actions.
So that they will toe the line.
But did you know that there are already guidelines in place for Muslim artistes?
Jakim director-general Mustapa Abdul Rahman said these guidelines are like the law.
And did you also know that one of the guidelines is that Muslim artistes cannot play the role of non-Muslims in films?
Mustapa is a realist because he says that the authorities cannot force artistes to to comply to the guidelines.
Wonder when these guidelines were in place?
Selangor Mufti Mohd Tamyis Abdul Majid was quoted to have said that in Islam, it is forbidden for women to go bald. (I am sure this does not apply to cancer-stricken women.)
Okay, in case you didn't know, he further said that is also sinful for men to act or behave like a woman and vice-versa.
He didn't say so as much, but the impression I got is that Mohd Tamyis thinks that going bald like Nani had done for the sake of popularity is degrading herself and the religion.
Perak Mufti Harussani Idris, on Nani's action, alluded to foreign influence on local artistes.
Muslims, he added, should not sacrifice the religion for the sake of wanting to be popular.
He said based on his observation, Malaysian artistes nowadays are "becoming too open and daring, either in their actions or attire."

In the Yasmin Ahmad's movie, Nani plays runaway youngster Rohani who is befriended by a schoolteacher named Brian (played by newcomer Brian Yap).
After she shaved her head on Tuesday (June 12), Nani said that she had no regrets and that her hair would grow back.

Aah, another controversy for Nani. And not unlike that episode last year over something she had said in her acceptance speech after receiving her award.
Controversies come with the territory, as it were, especially for a young Muslim female artiste like Nani. It is an occupational hazard and something Nani , I am sure, has learnt to take in her stride.
Well, Sharifah Amani Syed Zainal Abidin, go with the flow. There's nothing like a little bit of controversy for an artiste/performer.

(Photo taken in February 1991 in Nina's room. Nani is flanked by her elder sister, Sharifah Aleya (at right) and Khairena (Kak Olin's eldest daughter) at left.
They were earlier having fun at Adel's 1st birthday party but decided to have their own "girlie" thing in Nina's room.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (18)

Roses Are Always Red - June 12 2007
It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons when everyone would be sitting around the living room, reading newspapers.
It was my weekend off from work and I decided to pop over Bapak's place.
Just thinking about what Bapak had prepared for lunch worked up my appetite real good.

"Everyone" at Bapak's would mean Bapak and our youngest and still (then) unmarried sister - Nina.
Lalin was still studying law in London and Nina was a third year law undergraduate at the International Islamic University which was located a stone's throw away.
Although we would visit Bapak regularly, it Nina who was there keeping him company.
They took care of each other, although there was Manija, the maid who was around to help with the daily chores, if she was not away for the weekend.
Mak had passed away about two years ago.

It was also my maid's day off so I took Adel who was about two years old, and drove to Section 16.
Besides, Nina had called earlier to ask if I was coming over because sometimes I would only be able to pop over in the evening as I'd have lunch at my mother-in-law's.

On Sundays, usually "everyone" would mean, well, literally everyone.
It was the day to check on Bapak and Nina who loved our visits and looked forward to seeing her nephews and nieces.

I loved Sundays or any day, for that matter, at Bapak's. But Sunday, especially, because I got to see my nephews and nieces too.
Adel loved being at his Datuk's. He loved the huge expanse of play area in and outside the house, and the company of his cousins.
Besides, Bapak was your quintessential Datuk. He spoilt his grandchildren rotten.

I opened the door to see most everyone except our eldest Kak Piah and her family. She'd probably turn up in later with Abang Dzul and their son, Irwan.
Kak Eda and her family were also not around. But I was sure they would be later.

Something yummy was cooking in the kitchen.

"Hello sayang. Come here," squealed Nina when she saw Adel walking into the living room.
"Dah makan? Nak tengok cerita cartoon?' she asked as she hugged Adel and smothered him with kisses.

I told her Adel had his lunch. I had too but, being heavily pregnant and always having hunger pangs, I didn't mind another round of lunch. What had Bapak prepared?

"Mee siam," Nina replied.
"Yang pakai mee hoon kasar. Kak Ton had three helpings. And then frankfurters for the kids," she hastened to add.

Bapak loved having his children and grandchildren around. We'd have animated discussions over breakfast, over lunch, over dinner or whenever we were around.

Sometimes, he'd be in the library which had been turned into his study, typing away on his faithful typewriter.
But, the minute he learnt that any of us were around, he'd call us and we'd be spending our time with him there. Sometimes, I'd fall asleep in his study, in front of the TV.

The mee siam was really good.

I went over to the living room where everyone was sitting, a mug of coffee in my hand.
Kak Ton was having her coffee too. Kak Olin was discussing with Nina about practising law in a law firm or working as a legal officer in a corporation.
They were also talking about Lalin, completing her studies and returning home at the end of the year.

Bapak was talking to Kak Ton and Abang Med about some things he was working on.

"Apa cerita?", he asked, turning to me.

That was a multi-faceted question which could refer to my personal or/and professional life. Usually it referred to the office since Bapak was very familiar with the NST and anything related to the NST including the powers-that-be.

After some lazy Sunday discussion with a dose of gossip, Bapak said he was going to "solat" and resuming some work he had been doing.

As we were happily yakking away, Kak Piah arrived and walked into the living room, with a look of urgency and, conspiracy somewhat.

This was not good, I thought, because Kak Piah had a way of delivering bad news in a bad way.
And she came alone without husband and child, so it must be very urgent. It made me nervous.

As she seated herself, she looked around, wide-eyed, as though to make sure the coast was clear, that it was safe for her to impart this very serious piece of information. A matter of life or death.

"Eh, Bapak nak kahwin lagi," she said in a very hushed tone.

Kak Ton almost dropped her coffee mug. My jaw dropped. Everyone just stopped whatever they were doing.

Did we hear that right? Moments of silence. Very eerie.

"Tipu-lah," I said, suddenly, looking at Nina. Not in front of Nina, I wanted to say. But it was too late.

"It's true. I'm not joking. He has already said yes," Kak Piah said, unravelling this mystery which we knew nothing about. Said yes to whom? When did this happen?

Bapak had joked about some people trying to find him a wife. But he was only joking. So, we never pursued the issue. Perhaps, also we did not want to entertain the thought and Bapak realised that it was a sensitive issue.

So this piece of news came as a huge shock to all of us because it hit us that all that joke was not a joke after all. That there was going to be a new woman in Bapak's life, one who would take over the role of wife and mother.
That she would be sleeping in Mak's room, in Mak's bed.
And that Bapak wanted a new woman in his life. God, no!

Questions, questions. Who was she? How old was she? Where was she from? "Anak dara", widowed or divorced? Any kids?

Kak Piah managed to answer only three: Not so young anak dara from Gombak.

I was remembering a casual conversation I had with Kak Eda one day as we were just lazing around in the TV room as the kids were watching "Tom & Jerry" on the VCR.

"Hey, you think Bapak will remarry?", I asked.

"He should," Kak Eda replied. "If he is lonely." She smiled, as though knowing something I didn't.

I was so unhappy with her reply and I said so.

"If he loves Mak, he shouldn't. Why? What for? He doesn't need to," I remarked, so naively.

When Kak Piah broke the news of Bapak's impending marriage, we were all so upset.
Nina must have taken it the worst and I did not blame her. She remained silent all the while.
I could imagine what was going through her head.

Kak Piah said that one of my cousins was the culprit who had been playing cupid. And we weren't consulted? What right had she got to be doing this? How dare she?

"I will never forgive her," I said. "I will never forgive Bapak." At that point, very unthinkingly said.

"But why does she want to marry Bapak?", Kak Olin asked.

Then, in walked Bapak, looking for a newspaper to use as reference for whatever that he was working on.

"Aah... apa cerita?" he asked. Very innocently.

You tell us, Bapak.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Not You Too, Uncle Samy!

Blogger Zorro thinks our Works Minister Samy Vellu has plagiarized some lines of a poem and passed them as his own in a poem he penned for our Prime Minister on the occasion of the PM's wedding to Jeanne Abdullah.
Zorro has put up a posting "Samy Doing A Brendan Pereira" , and has reproduced the original poems from which Samy had copied for his ode to the PM.

Ok. I can see that there are similar lines (from the 2 poems) making appearances in Samy's. His poem seems to have picked the full verse of the first poem ("From This Day Forward", by author unknown) which he combined with the last three lines of the second ("Blessing for a Marriage", by James Dillet Freeman).

I wouldn't be too hard on Uncle Samy. I think he wanted to dedicate a poem to the PM but there was simply not enough time to get inspired and come up with one. So, my guess is that he got one of his aides to come up with one. And whoever did it never told him that it was not an original.

Samy never claimed to be a poet, a writer or an editor. He is not in the business of writing. So, I can accept that it was not his own poem. Not an original Samy's verse.
But could the "author unknown" be Samy Vellu? Ok. Ok. Just a thought.

I do sound like I am defending him. I am not.
I just think that the man might have been carried away in his intention to dedicate a poem to the PM but just didn't have time to write one in time.

If you ask me, I think Samy Vellu didn't know and was none the wiser.

Rocky has also posted on Samy's unoriginal ode to the PM here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bird Flu in Sungai Buloh - Another Update

UPDATE - Sunday June 10 2007: All 11 people hospitalised for flu-like symptoms have been certified free of bird flu, according to the Health Ministry.

That's the good news.
The bad news is that two people have been hospitalised for fever and coughing.
The two - a teenager in Terengganu and a 31-year-old man in Selangor were warded yesterday.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the 16-year-old youth was now being treated at the Kuala Terengganu Hospital after he had fever and coughing.

"The teenager is believed to have been exposed to the reared chickens and ducks which had died in Seberang Takir, Kuala Terengganu," he said in a statement issued in Kuala Lumpur today.

Read the Bernama story here.

Meanwhile, villagers of Kampung Paya Jaras Hilir believe that fighting cockerels were responsible for the spread of Avian Flu because the village is a transit point for the fowls.
Besides there are some 300 Indonesians and 200 Cambodians in the village, and more in Kampung Kubu Gajah, Kampung Paya Jaras Dalam, Kampung Paya Jaras Tengah and Kampung Paya Jaras Hulu.
Cock fighting competitions, apparently have been taking place in the villages.

But the authorities have not found conclusive evidence that these fowls are responsible but are not discounting this.
Investigations are ongoing. Read the story here.

Firstly, isn't cock fighting illegal? If it is, surely these fights are not an unknown occurrence in the area.

This is my earlier posting - Saturday June 9, 2007.

The deputy director-general of health (public health), Dr Ramlee Rahmat said today that so far, the bird flu situation in the country is under control.

He told Bernama that this is because of the 11 cases admitted to hospitals (in Sungai Buloh, Kedah and Malacca), only one (in Malacca) is awaiting confirmation.

Dr Ramlee said four out of the seven patients at Sungai Buloh were discharged after they were confirmed to be free from the bird flu virus while the rest were in a stable condition and would be discharged anytime soon.
Two fever patients in Kedah were confirmed to have negative bird flu results while a female patient in Malacca, who had developed a fever after visiting Paya Jeras on June 2, was also confirmed to be bird flu negative.
The results from a blood sample of a patient admitted into Malacca Hospital with similar fever symptoms will be known later today.

So, with no humans being infected so far, the situation is under control.
Dr Ramlee was speaking to reporters after opening the 2007 Prostar Colloquium and Convention at Universiti Putra Malaysia in Serdang (Selangor) today.

The rest of the story here.

Jeanne & Abdullah

UPDATE: Man and wife already.
According to Bernama, the akad nikah ceremony was solemnised by the Imam of the Putrajaya Mosque, Haji Abd Manaf Mat, at 2.50pm. It was witnessed by the prime minister's son, Kamaluddin, and son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin.
Bernama received the statement from the PM's family at 3.40pm.
"The prime minister and his wife would like to thank the people for their good wishes for a happy marriage," the statement added.

Read the rest of the story and see picture of the newly-wed "exchanging rings" after the ceremony here.

This was my earlier posting:

My Prime Minister is getting married today to 54* year-old Jeanne Abdullah. She is the former Jeanne Danker but has been Jeanne Abdullah for about 30 years now.

The Akad Nikah (marriage solemnisation ceremony) will be held at noon at Seri Perdana, the PM's official residence in Putra Jaya.
It will be a very modest affair as it should be.

My PM is getting married not because he has been an old bachelor and finally getting hitched but because he has been solo after he lost his wife, Endon Mahmood to breast cancer on Oct 20, 2005.
She had finally lost her long battle with the disease.
They have two (adult and married) children, Kamal and Nori.

Jeanne was married to Endon's brother but they separated some 15 year ago.

Everyone, including Jeanne's two children, Nadiah and Nadene, are pleased with the good news. So is 74 year-old Lim Swee Kim, a close friend of the PM's late wife, Endon Mahmood.
(Endon died on Oct 20, 2005 after a long battle with breast cancer.)

Bernama caught up with Swee Kim in London where she was participating in Malaysia Week 2007 at Covent Garden in London.

Read her story here.

And Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak has asked Jeanne to take good care of the PM.
We have no doubt that she will. No doubt at all.

Read what Najib said in Bernama here.

*Bernama stated her age as 53. I say she is 54 because her birthday is July (next month). She is as good as 54 already.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bird Flu in Sungai Buloh - An Update

Five villagers from Kampung Paya Jaras Hilir -- four men and a woman -- are now in the Sungai Buloh Hospital for observation after showing flu-like symptoms.
They were admitted yesterday (Thursday June 7 2007).
The youngest is an 11-month-old child and the eldest, a 35 year-old.
Bernama quoted Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek as saying that the patients are in stable condition.
Dr Chua said they were staying within the 300m radius of the area where chickens were tested positive for the A/H5 virus.
"They went to the hospital to get treatment and have been isolated because of the symptoms," he said in a statement today.

Here is the rest of the story:
"Dr Chua said until 6pm yesterday, checks had been conducted on 476 houses and 3,204 residents of Kampung Paya Jaras Hilir and Kampung Kubu Gajah in Sungai Buloh by the Selangor Health Department officials. "So far, there's still no case which meets the definition of the avian influenza infection among humans detected," he added. Dr Chua said a total of 187 officers were involved in various operations to prevent and monitor the disease, including 22 at the Sungai Buloh Hospital isolation ward and 55 from the Veterinary Services Department. He said health education programmes would continue to be conducted in the affected areas and an additional 530 health pamphlets and health alert cards would be distributed to the residents."

I don't want to panic. And I am not panicking. The thing is, we were declared free from bird flu in June last year, and now there are cases in Sungai Buloh. It is an understatement to say that this is bad news.

Lee Ah Fatt, the president of the Federation of Livestock Farmers Association says that the bird flu is confined to "backyard poultry" in Sungai Buloh and is therefore an isolated case.

What does it mean? It always starts as an isolated case.
He also thinks that the "outbreak" was likely to be related to the illegal imports of pet birds or fighting cocks.
I am supposed to be comforted by this "fact"?

Lee also urged the public not to boycott chicken, chicken products and eggs since those commercially produced are not affected by the H5N1 virus.

I'd really like to know how the disease got to Sungai Buloh. Was it brought by the movement of pet birds or fighting cocks in an illegal import syndicate, as claimed by Lee?
Let's hope that authorities are looking at every possibility.
Nothing is confirmed but it smacks of poor enforcement somewhere, some place.

For the record, I am comforted by reports that the relevant authorities are continuing relentlessly their operations to contain the disease in Sungai Buloh.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bird Flu in Sungai Buloh

I am not switching on the panic button. Just a little concerned.
This is about the Avian Influenza or Bird Flu cases in Sungai Buloh.
According to Bernama, bird flu has been detected in 3 villages in Paya Jaras, Sungai Buloh which is just over yonder from where I live in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
Following this, the Selangor Veterinary Services Department with the co-operation of the Health Ministry is monitoring a one-kilometre radius around the 3 villages.
Bird flu was detected after 6 fowls which were found dead last week, were confirmed to have the disease.
In an update today, Bernama reported that yesterday (Wednesday, June 5 2007), 1,359 chickens were culled.
So far, (at least, as of yesterday) there have been no cases of human bird flu.
Still, villagers have been advised to seek immediate treatment if they have flu-like symptoms.
Veterinary Department head of disease control, Dr Kamaruddin Isa was quoted to have said that quarantine has been imposed within a 10km radius of the outbreak.

Bernama has provided this info: Operation centres are now open at the Selangor Health Department, Petaling Health office, Sungai Buloh Hospital and the ministry's National Crisis (Health) Preparedness and Response Centre in Putrajaya which can be contacted at 03-8881 0600 or 03-8881 0700.

I am relieved that the relevant authorities are doing all they can to prevent a spread of the disease and are investigating the cause and source.
But I will continue to be concerned until we get the all-clear from the authorities.
There have been no human bird flu cases in the country so far.
Let's keep it that way.

Do read the Bernama story here.

And read about Avian Flu here and here.

Karen Armstrong in KL

Religious historian, author and one of the most provocative, original, and inclusive thinker on the role of religion in the modern world, Karen Armstrong is in Malaysian this week to promote peace and better understanding between Islam and the West.

At 10am on Saturday, June 16, 2007, Armstrong will be at the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur to give a public lecture on "The Role of Religion in the 21st Century".

This is an event that is surely not to be missed.

In today's world where the West is virulently hostile towards Islam and where Islam is feared, misunderstood and systematically demonized, Armstrong stands out as a friend.
She has authored many books on religion and the history of religion/s including on Islam.
Her books are well-respected as they are based on scholarly research.
In 1991, after a fatwa was issued against author Salman Rushdie, she wrote "Muhammad: Western Attempt to Understand Islam".
It was her response to the bigotry against Islam following that fatwa.

A former Roman Catholic nun and instructor at London's prestigious Leo Baeck College for the Training of Rabbis, she is one of the English-speaking world's foremost commentators on religion,.
She is also a broadcaster and columnist. Several of her books have been translated into over 40 languages.

She is the author of the international bestseller The History of God and played a key role in Bill Moyer's popular PBS series on religion. She is also the author of Jerusalem, The Gospel According to Woman, Holy War, Muhammad, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: A Short History.
Her book The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness was an immediate bestseller.

Certainly, she has her critics but she should be credited for having sincerely, honestly and effectively offered a "vital corrective" to the narrow world view that Islam is an extreme faith that promotes authoritarian government, female oppression, civil war, and terrorism.

Armstrong, in her writings, argues that Islam, which is the world's fastest-growing faith, is a much richer and more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest.

Since the 9/11 New York tragedy, she has been doing work on Islam, particularly in the United States.

While in the country, Armstrong will be at the Residence Hotel in Kajang from June 17 to 20 to speak at the Inter-Civilizational Youth Engagement Programme (IYEP), a dialogue that will be attended by 50 young people from all over the world.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

PM To Wed Jeanne

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is to wed Jeanne Abdullah on Saturday, June 9 2007 at Seri Perdana, the PM's official residence in Putra Jaya.

Jeanne (the former Jeanne Danker) is 53.

Well, now that we've got all the rumours out of our way, here's my wish to the couple:

Congratulations, Mr Prime Minister and the soon-to-be Mrs PM.
Tahniah dan Selamat Pengantin Baru.
All of Malaysia are happy for you and your bride. I know I am. Because it was not a rumour, after all.

Here is the Bernama story:

The wedding will take place at the prime minister's official residence, Seri Perdana, here and will be attended by close relatives, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Jeanne was born in Kuala Lumpur on July 29 1953 and is the eldest of four siblings.
She was educated at Sekolah Menengah Assunta and has wide experience in administration and hotel management and has worked as supervisor of the official residence of the deputy prime minister and manager of the Seri Perdana Complex.
Jeanne has two daughters, Nadiah and Nadene.
Abdullah's wife, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, died on Oct 20 2005 after a long battle with breast cancer.
Abdullah, 67, has two children, a son Kamaluddin and a daughter Nori, from his marriage of 40 years with Endon.

See the Bernama story with a photo of Jeanne here.

(Photo above, courtesy Malaysiakini.)

Malays Are Not a Race

Bergen is one of my favourite bloggers. He is witty, smart, funny, irreverent, sometimes self-effacing, and a lot more.
He sent me a very long comment from a commentator to his posting on "Freedom to Choose A Religion". The commentator by the name of Micheal Chick, says that there is no such thing as a/the Malay race. Of course, many of us would beg to differ.

I have sought Bergen's permission to reproduce his message (in bold) , followed by Micheal Chick's comment (in italics).

I reproduce here the comments posted by a Micheal Chick in my blog. Maybe it has nothing to do with your father's struggle, or maybe it has. I don't have the brain for this. You don't have to post it in the comments box if you don't want to.

"It's been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all "Malaysian" free for all. While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled "Contesting Malayness"? Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the "Malays" to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also "Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular")

Of course, we also have the Minangkabau's which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

So the million Dollar Question... Is there really a race called the "Malays"? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

Neither do the "Malays" who live on the West Coast of Johor. They'd rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as "Achenese"? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a "Malay" and see what response you get... you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

available for on-line viewing at:

An excerp is reproduced here below:

"The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. "

The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people's who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the "Lego-type" language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called "Indonesians" even though the majority of "Malays" have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called "Malay"…. Anyhow you may define it.

The writer failed to identify (probably didn't know), that the "Malay" definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the "Orang Asli" are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an "Orang Asli", they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

Getting interesting? Read on...

"Malay" should also include the Taiwanese singer "Ah Mei" who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the "Malays". And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

Try calling the Bugis a "Malay". Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

Ready for this?

The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Chinese and the Arabs. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

Let's not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous "Hang" family member... Hang Li Poh. And who was she? the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won't that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline "Baba" ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh?

Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but a decided that they were strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY?

The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this "coffee table book" by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

Of the 3 books listed, "Contesting Malayness" (about S$32 for soft cover) is "banned” in Malaysia; you will need to "smuggle" it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons.... :( or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

The other, "Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular" (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

While the "Sejarah Melayu" (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the "chaos" this seminar created...... :(

There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the "Archipelago Series" endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as "Proto-Malay" and "Deutero-Malay", to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the "Golden Hindu Era" of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

“PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

But you may say, "Sejarah Melayu" calls it "Melayu"? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name "Melayu"?(Google Earth will show this village).

By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that "Melayu" comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn't help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is "Karut" (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which "Malay" history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa", and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

I find this strange.

I also find, that it is strange that the "Chitti's" (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

Instead of "Malay", I believe that "Maphilindo" (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be "MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica". And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word "Malay" technically and accurately defines a race.

This is most unfortunate.

So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

You must understand now, why I was "tickled pink" when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was "Truly Asia". They are so correct... (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the "malays" are not even a race; not since day one."

“Truly Asia Boleh”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak (17)

Just Like Datuk - June 5 2007
When my son Adel was in standard five, he had to do a project -- write about a well-known Malaysian personality who had made contributions to the nation.
My first thought was Bapak because, well, he was a convenient candidate and yes, he had made contributions to the nation.
Now, it was very strange that my son refused to write about his datuk.
He actually did not believe me when I said that his datuk was an ideal subject for his project.
When I tried to convince him, he finally conceded and told me that he was "malu".
He was adamant not to write about his grandfather because he was "malu".
I could not understand him.

"Why are you malu? He is your grandfather and he had done much for the country, you know," I said.

"They won't believe me. They will think I'm making it all up," Adel replied.

"It is the truth. Your teacher will know this," I reasoned.

No, he did not write about his grandfather. He wrote instead about Usman Awang or his "Tok Tongkat". A brilliant subject, nonetheless.

I was not satisfied. Not about him not writing about his grandfather. But the reason for that.
After much "slow-talking" to him I found out that he did not want to make a big deal about his datuk, and did not want to appear "megah" about his datuk's contributions and achievement.
The easiest explanation he could give was that he was "malu".

He just did not want anyone to know who his datuk was.
Strange. But I could understand.
I was, in a way, relieved.

Today, he asks a lot about his datuk.
When I told him that Bapak completed high school at 16 and immediately started work as a reporter, Adel was in shock.

Adel is 17.
"At your age, datuk was already fighting the British," I told him.

"What do you write about in your essays?" I asked Adel.

"Oh.. stuff.," he replied.

Stuff? Hmm. A typical teenager. A lack of many abilities -- to speak, to describe, perhaps to write.
Should I tell him that at his age, his grandfather was writing anti-colonialist articles and short stories?

I am supposed to write something about Bapak for a daily (newspaper) in conjunction with the nation's 50th anniversary celebration.
So, I went over to Bapak's to have an interview with him.
I brought Adel along to listen to Bapak's narration of a part of his life.

That occasion could have changed Adel's life and his view of life.
He listened attentively, sometimes unashamedly in awe as his grandfather spoke about his youth and how Utusan Melayu fought for Merdeka with the support of the people.

Me: Why did you become a reporter?

Bapak: To fight for independence.

Me: At that age? You wanted to on your own?

Bapak: You know, a reporter's pay at that time was pittance Nobody in their right mind would want their kid to be a reporter. Hard work and very little pay. So you need your father's blessing to be a reporter.
My father was already writing anti-colonialist articles for a newspaper. He was a scholar, a teacher and a writer. He was already in the independence movement. He wanted me to be a reporter even though I was offered posts as a school inspector and a teacher.

Me: You were forced to be a reporter?

Bapak: I had no choice. But I was willing. It was something I had to do.

Me: Did you fear being arrested? Did you fear the British?

Bapak: No. We had the people behind us.

The interview was in Bapak's room. I had my laptop and worked on it as Bapak spoke.
Adel, wide-eyed, sat quietly beside me.
After the interview, he had his own set of questions. Man to man.
This time, I sat quietly and listened.

On our way home, Adel told me that he felt so humbled by his grandfather's experience.
I have never quite taken Adel aside to relate to him Bapak's life and experience.
I suppose I never quite thought about doing so.
Yes, he vaguely knows about his grandfather's detention. But not in detail.
I've always thought that my kids were too young to be told of the dark and sad past. The trials and tribulations. The drama. The excitement. The pain. The joy.
I forget that they have grown up and are able to understand, accept and appreciate their grandfather's past. And my past. The good and the bad.

"Mom...who are our colonialists now?", Adel asked, all of 17 years.
"You want to fight them?", I asked, smiling and quite amused by that hint of naivete.

"Maybe...", he replied.

(OLD PHOTOS: from bottom clockwise:1. Bapak (seated wearing spectacles next to Yaacob Mohamad who is standing at the mike). Bapak teamed up with Yaacob, member of Singapore Umno executive committee, at a public debate on the issue of Merdeka for Singapore. Representative of the anti-Merdeka group is on Bapak's left./ 2. (top left) Bapak addressing a session of the Congress Bahasa dan Persuratan Melayu at the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1956/ 3. (top right) Bapak accompanied the Merdeka Mission led by Tunku Abdul Rahman to London in 1953. He is seen here (standing at right) with the late Tun Abdul Razak (facing camera in spectacles). The man with his back to the camera is the late Tun Dr Ismail.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Altantuya Murder Trial.

UPDATE: The case has been postponed to June 18.
Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yassin fixed the date after allowing a postponement sought by deputy public prosecutor Abdul Majid Hamzah who had just taken over the case.
Abdul Majid told the court at the start of the trial that he was assigned the case by the Attorney-General's Chambers yesterday and needed time to look through the statements of more than 100 witnesses.
Bernama has the story here.
Also see Rocky's Bru here.

This high profile trial begins today at High Court 3 in Shah Alam.
Mongolian Altantuya Shaaribuu was killed and her body blown up with explosives in a secluded spot in a forest area in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam in October last year.
On trial for her murder are political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, 46, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30 and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35.

Undoubtedly this case has attracted so much attention for obvious reasons.

Blogger BigDog has a take on the trial and those out to exploit the case as a political agenda. Read it here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bad Karaoke

We don't take karaoke singing seriously. Thank God for that.
Karaoke is about amateurs and most times, about singing out of tune.
We excuse or forgive the man or woman in the karaoke lounge who kills your favourite song when he or she goes off key.
Sure, sometimes it is so bad that you just wanna, er, yeah, kill the clown. But, you don't because you sing as badly yourself.
And karaoke singing is all about having a lot of fun. A real good time.
Now, if you're planning a trip to the Philippines and have got karaoke-ing as part of your itinerary, I suggest you exercise extreme caution.
See, Philippines is a land of talented singers. Very talented singers. Like Indonesia. And Sabah.
It's in their genes, I tell you. So, when you are in the Philippines, don't go about belting out songs any which way you like, and killing them in the process.
Your "lagu cari makan" may really turn out to be your last.
I kid you not.
Take 29 year-old Romy Baligula. Someone just couldn't stand the way he was singing that he took out a revolver and shot Romy in the chest.
He was killed for singing out of tune. Just like that. Poor guy.
This happened in a Manila Karaoke bar on Tuesday (May 29) night.

According to AFP, Romy was halfway through his song in a bar in San Mateo town, east of Manila, when 43-year-old security guard Robilito Ortega yelled that he was out of tune.
Romy ignored his comments and continued singing. Robilito pulled out his revolver and shot him in the chest.

Now, if I have any grand plan to impress the Filipinos, I really need to take singing lessons.
Or die.
And did you know that the popular Frank Sinatra song "My Way" has been taken off many karaoke bars in Manila after it was found to be the cause of fights and even deaths when patrons sang out of tune? (The full story is here.)

And I've always thought that "My Way" is one of the easier songs to sing. That is why far too many people just love to go for this song in karaoke lounges in Malaysia.
For this reason alone, the song should be banned in our karaoke joints.