Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

No Bite and The Bark Was Better -- July 31 2007

When I was a little girl, I remember Bapak to be strict. A disciplinarian. Firm but fair.
You know the saying -- his bark was worse than his bite.
The fact is, though, I don't remember him barking much. And there was never any bite.
How was he strict and firm, then?
Frankly, I don't know. I find it hard to remember how. I suppose he was just the way all fathers are and should be.
That larger-than-life figure of authority.
All I remember is that there were little rules set, and we had to abide by them.
I suppose he was Bapak and we did not want to displease him.
But we did not fear him. We did not shiver and quiver at the mere sound of him coming our way.

For all his strictness and firmness, I can say now that Bapak was really a softie.
I have come to the conclusion that it was all a show.
Really, Bapak was the one who'd be comforting us after Mak had given us a good scolding. He was the one who'd pat our heads when we'd done something good.
He was the one who'd have chocolates and comics ready for us when he came home from work.
And once a month, he'd take us to the book store to buy us books.
And yes, when he could, he'd take us to the movies.
He was the one who got Abang Med a guitar and would have us gather around the humongous Akai tape recorder almost every weekend for our sing-along.
It was Bapak who encouraged Abang Med to do little tricks with his (then box) camera and got him a book to explore all those neat tricks.
And oh yes. Bapak was the one who enrolled us in art classes, got us a Mandarin teacher and agreed to let me take ballet lessons.

The art and Mandarin classes were his idea. Taking ballet lessons was mine.
I had come home from school one day and told him and Mak that I wanted to take ballet lessons with a teacher who had visited our school looking for ballet students.
I must have been eight or nine years old.
That young teacher who came to our school was Tan Lee Lan (now Lee Lee Lan of the Federal Academy of Ballet) who was then, I think, a fresh undergraduate who wanted to teach ballet for the love of the art as well as to help her through university.
Bapak, almost immediately, warmed up to the idea of my taking ballet lessons.
He was cool about it. So was Mak. Very encouraging.
I remember he said Azah should also take the lessons with me, remarking that it was a good way for us to occupy our Saturday afternoons, seeing that we would more often than not, end up quarrelling with each other over silly little things.
That was how Azah and I started our ballet.

Weekends were a lot of fun. They usually were. But there was one thing that would spoil our weekends.
It was when Bapak would find one of his books missing or misplaced.
That was a damper because he would make us stop whatever it was we were doing to look for whatever book that he found missing from its place on the shelf or on his desk.
We would be searching high and low for that missing or misplaced book.
Ah..now I remember. That would be the one occasion he would be barking.
Of course, we would always find the book and it would always be that he was the one who misplaced the book.
I think Bapak would always assume that Mak was the one who had misplaced it because he knew Mak was averse somewhat to untidiness and would always re-arrange things in the living room.
But Mak was very careful not to disturb Bapak's things, including his books.
She knew Bapak did not take too kindly to anyone messing his things. We all knew that from a very young age. And Bapak knew that we knew that.
Bapak was (and still is) in many ways, eccentric and had little idiosyncracies.

So, when one of his books went missing (always misplaced, actually), Bapak would assume Mak had put it somewhere she shouldn't have.
He could not tell Mak off. Gosh! He would not dare even to allude to what he perceived to be Mak's overzealous tendency for neatness. No way. That was really asking for trouble.
Mak could retaliate ever so silently but oh-so-potently. I never got to learn that from her.
So, the only other way to demonstrate his displeasure was by making his very irate children go look for that book.
This would happen now and again because Bapak was prone to misplacing his books.
He was always wrong. Mak never misplaced his books. Nobody did.
But, from the time he found his book missing and until he realised it was him who misplaced it, we would be searching for the book all over the house.
We were never amused but, well, how could we protest?
The good thing was that it usually would not take long for us to find that missing book .
I know Mak also resented this whole rigmarole but she never protested. Instead, she would join us in the search.
"Kesian anak-anak Mak," she'd say.
By the time the missing/misplaced book was found, you could see that hint of remorse mixed with regret on Bapak's face.
He would not say sorry for putting us through all that but he would always make up for all that ado.
He would do something nice later -- take us to Taman Selera or the Pines, perhaps -- and we would all so easily forget it ever happened.

There was one time when I was very young that Bapak was quite angry over, I think, some missing encyclopedia.
I remember he said he was going to cane us. In fact, there was a cane at home although I don't remember him ever putting it to good use except for that one occasion.
Well, threatening to use the cane seemed pretty much like putting it to good use.
I don't remember whether the books/encyclopedia were ever found. I think they were, eventually.
Bapak lined us all up, anyway, and waved the cane.
Like a firing squad.
I'm not sure if Kak Ton was with us. But I remember Abang Med, Kak Olin, Kak Eda and I were there. Perhaps, little Azah too. Not too sure about Kamal. I think he was just a baby.
I don't remember being scared because Bapak, despite looking angry and waving the cane, was not scary.
I remember Abang Med telling us that he had quickly put on another pair of shorts under the ones he was wearing, to cushion the blow of the rotan.
I thought he was so clever.
So, the time came for Bapak to cane us.
He started from the eldest and worked his way down to the youngest.
If Abang Med thought he was going to be whacked and had so prepared for it, then what came must have been a disapppointment, for it did not put the cushion to good use.
It was not a whack. Not a rap. It was a, ummm, a tap on the backside.
I could hardly feel it. So, Abang Med's anxious moments must have come to nought.
I think the girls giggled because it got to be quite funny.
I think Bapak tried to put on fierce facade. It didn't work because, we, the little ones, could spot the pretence.
Bapak then dismissed us, with a warning to not be irresponsible with books.
"Jangan campak-campak buku merata-rata," he warned.

That was the only time he ever held a cane to threaten us.
The fact is, he never laid a finger on any of us.
And he did not take too kindly to reports of Mak pinching or smacking us.
I think mothers get away with a bit of pinching and smacking because they are the ones who'd be cuddling us at night.
They pinch you but just as quickly hug you and soothe you.

I was the one to report to Bapak everytime Mak smacked or pinched me, or any of my siblings.
If you had kids like us, I think you would go crazy and be driven up the wall.
We drove Kak Ton up the wall.
The age gap between Kak Olin, Kak Eda, Azah and I was quite close.
So, Mak had these like-minded kids messing up the house, quarrelling and God-knows-what.
We were always up to mischief.
Kak Olin, being the eldest of the four of us, would get the brunt of it whenever we got out of control.

It was at our very first house in Petaling Jaya -- at Jalan Sentosa, in Kawasan Melayu (Old PJ).
We were all playing in the house and in the garden. Playing hide-and-seek and climbing trees.
Then, Kak Eda fell from a tree which was really a small tree, so she did not quite fall from a great height. She was fine, just a few scratches.
Kak Olin was only nine but she was the eldest of the four of us. So she had to take the rap. Poor Kak Olin.
Anyway, when Mak was told about the little mishap, she pinched Kak Olin's thighs.
Looking back, I could understand how panicked she must have been to be told that her child had fallen from a tree.

Kak Olin was fair-skinned so Mak's pinches resulted in blue-black marks on her thighs.
This momentary episode was quickly forgotten when, in no time, we were back to playing tag, running around, climbing trees. Laughing and squealing.

Everything was forgotten until later that evening when Bapak came home from work.
He called for us --"mana anak-anak Bapak ni?". On hearing his voice, we scrambled downstairs to greet him.
Then he noticed the blue black marks on Kak Olin's thighs.
He asked Kak Olin about it. Before anyone could say anything, I said "Mak cubit Kak Olin".
We could see Bapak's thick eyebrows raised. He turned to Mak.
Mak quickly explained what happened.
Bapak clearly did not think that her action was justified but he did not chide Mak.
He just looked down at the blue black marks, shook his head and muttered under his breath, but loud enough for us to hear -- " mak sendiri ni, bukan mak tiri..."

So, in all honesty. I remember Bapak to be strict, firm. And, well, a softie sometimes.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Friend In Need

For a time, I thought they don't make lawyers like they used to. For a time, I had little faith in lawyers, save for the Karpal Singhs. But really, how many Karpal Singhs are there?
My guess is that there are a few, not many.
Then, I met Malik Imtiaz and Haris Ibrahim.
And my faith in the legal profession is restored.

With this, even more:
The Malaysian Bar Council's Interventions Strike Force Initiative

In light of the potential threat to freedom of expression by the use of the repressive Internal Security Act and Sedition Act, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee has decided to initiate a drive to gather a pool of volunteer lawyers to be on standby to assist bloggers.

This will be part of the Interventions Strike Force led by Deputy Chair Amer Hamzah Arshad.

This is in line with the Bar’s aim to provide legal representation to all those in need, particularly in cases where State action is being taken against freedom of expression.

Naturally, this does not in any way amount to the Bar condoning any statements made on any blog which do in fact amount to a legitimate offence.

If you are a LAWYER who is able to help, please email to:

The Human Rights Research Officer, Mr Rajen Devaraj

Email: rajen@malaysianbar.org.my

Fax at 03-20342825/20261313

Give your Name, Firm and full contact details (including email address and handphone number) so he can liaise with you.

Thank you, Zorro, for highlighting this.

The 4Ms for the General Election

Don't you get the feeling that the 12th general election is nigh?
The air is really hot.
They're not telling you when. In fact, they've been telling you that the elections won't be held anytime soon.
But, oh, you don't have to believe them, you know.

Our Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was in his consitutency of Pekan over the weekend and had a thing or two to tell Barisan Nasional component parties.
He said that no, there will not be a general election soon, but yes, be prepared for one.
And make preparations from NOW.
Najib who is Umno deputy president outlined 4 important points he called the 4Ms to be used as a guideline for all BN component parties.
They are Merapatkan barisan, Meramaikan pengundi, Mesra rakyat and Menyelesaikan masaalah.
(Strengthening the coalition, increasing the number of voters, being close to the people of people-friendly and solving problems.)

It's been more than 3 years since the last general election. Let's see --- well, one M out of 4 aint bad. Aint it?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Monkeys In Cyberspace

I think the smear campaign against bloggers is in high gear.
The latest is likening bloggers to monkeys.
I'd like to say that you heard it here first. But no. I heard, rather read it, in Bernama. Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin was referring to bloggers as.... monkeys.
Okay-lah. To be accurate, the boy was referring to bloggers who lie and slander others.
They're the monkeys!

Khairy issued the warning yesterday, in Kimanis (Sabah). He said that Umno wants these, er, monkeys to be brought to book.

Here's the rest of the story:

Khairy said these bloggers did not think about the sensitivities of others and the repercussions their writings can cause.
"There are no laws in the cyberworld except for the law of the jungle. As such, action must be taken so that the "monkeys" behave," he told reporters after opening the Papar, Kimanis and Sipitang Umno Youth annual delegates conference here today.
Khairy said there were some bloggers who thought they were above the law.
He said this when asked about Malaysia-Today webmaster Raja Petra Kamaruddin being called by the police for alleged seditious comments posted on it.

Khairy added that he too had been slandered on websites but had yet to take legal action because the case might take a long time to be settled.

I agree. Indeed, we have to make "monkeys" in cyberspace or anywhere else behave. Small monkeys, bigger ones, bloggers, politicians, civil servants...
No one is above the law. No one.

So, okay. Let's have the monkeys' names!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I remember Marina Chin..

Everybody remembers Marina Chin, the awesome sportswoman of the 70s. Don't you?
Well if you were in secondary school in the early 70s, you would.
Back then, she was an inspiration to so many girls in sports.
Marina, who will be 52 in October, shone during an era when sportsmen, sportswomen and footballers were the nation's pride.
And they were deserving of the accolades they got.

So apt and fitting that Marina was dubbed Malaysia's "track queen". She was Malaysia's fastest woman sprinter and hurdler and one-time Southeast Asia's fastest. Also, she was really a beauty queen (Railway Beauty Queen in 1975).
As a student of Convent Sentul School in 1971, she represented her school in the Selangor Schools' North Zone Athletic Championships in KL and won in th Class 2 100m and 200m sprints.
The same year, she also ran her first international game in the 4X400m -- the 1971 SEAP Games at Merdeka Stadium, KL.
No surprises that she was named Selangor Sportsgirl of 1972.
In March the following year, she broke the 200m record with a time of 26.6, beating the old mark by 0.2 second in the Selangor Amateur Athletics Association Allcomers Meet at Stadium Merdeka.
In 1975, as a teacher trainee at the Seri Kota Teachers Training College, she won a silver medal in the 400m hurdles, Asian Athletics Championship in Seoul, Korea.
In September the same year, she won the 100m hurdles with a new national record of 15.2 and the 400m hurdles in 64.9 seconds at the Singapore Open Athletic Championships in Singapore.
In 1976, she won a gold medal in the 100m hurdles clocking 15.3 seconds at the Philippines Invitational Athletic Championships in Manila.
At the Malaysian Open Athletics Championships in Alor Star, Kedah in August 1976, she set a national record with 28.4s seconds in the 200m hurdles.
In 1977, she was named Sportswoman for the Year 1976 and also Selangor Sportswoman of 1976.
There were several achievements for Marina in 1977 that the following year she was again named Sportswoman for the Year 1977.
In 1979, Marina, Saik Oik Cum, V Angamah and Zaiton Othman scored Malaysia's silver medal in the woman's 4X400m team at the Tokyo International Asian Track & Field Championships.
She was unstoppable. She won gold medals in the 100m hurdles and the women's 4X400, relay team at the 10th SEA Games in Jakarta the same year.
Marina would have continued to blaze the trail but she had to leave for further studies to the US in 1980.

Now, she'll be training our young athletes to be champions. Marina has been made principal of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).

Click here for the story.

(Picture above of Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein congratulating Marina on her appointment yesterday.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

50 Posts To Independence #5

Michelle tagged me. Actually, that was a surprise. Nonetheless, I'd like to thank Michelle. So that makes me the fifth (counting backwards) to dedicate a post to our nation’s 50th Merdeka as part of Poetic Justice -- 50 Posts to Independence project that Nizam Bashir had initiated.

For a very long time I was proud of the fact that I was from Singapore, not that I was a Singaporean. Just that I was from Singapore.
After all, for a long time, Malaya and Singapore were two different locations, not two different countries.
Then, they took different paths and became two different countries.
That's when I realised that as Singapore-born my identity card was red not blue.
I was Singaporean, not Malaysian.
When I was in form three and was sitting for my LCE (lower certificate of education) at Assunta Secondary School in Petaling Jaya, I remember looking at everyone else's identity card on their desk. They were blue. Mine was red.
I felt different from them but not alien.
My heart would flutter everytime the invigilator made a double head turn to look at my red IC on my desk.
I don't know why I felt so.

I remember though that whenever I "balik kampung" to Singapore, I felt very proud that I was visiting from Kuala Lumpur.
My relatives would excitedly call out to everyone that "orang KL dah sampai" whenever we arrived for our visit.
They never said "orang Malaysia" or "orang PJ".
I know my aunts, uncles and cousins thought well of their "KL" relatives.
I got the sense that they were very proud of us.

One day after my LCE, my father took us to a government department in Petaling Jaya. We had our photographs taken and had to fill up some forms. I can't quite remember what else we had to do.
A week or two later, we went to the same department to collect what looked like an identity card. Only that it was not. It was a citizenship card.
In 1971, I became a Malaysian and I got my blue IC.

My sense of belonging to this country steadily took root.
How could it have been any other way?
The attachment grew stronger and stronger and Singapore gradually became a distant memory.
Singapore was my tanah tumpah darah but one that, as a nation, was drastically changing as surely as I was beginning to love this land where I grew up, schooled, learnt about friendship and about life.
I felt more and more detached from the land of my birth.

My father's arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act in 1976 turned me into an angry and bitter Malaysian. A disillusioned Malaysian.
I could not understand why the government would want to incarcerate my father.
What had he done to be detained without trial?
Faith and conviction helped me and my family deal with his incarceration.
Nevertheless, the sense of being betrayed remained for quite sometime so much so that accepting offers to migrate seemed logical.

After my father's release, we were, of course, elated.
There were teaching offers for him in Australia, the US and Canada.
My father's good friend, Leslie Hoffman asked him to leave Malaysia and stay in Australia.
Did we want to leave? Migrate, even?
The thought was tempting because we were uncertain of our future in Malaysia.
Would Malaysia turn against us again, we wondered?

But one must have rekindled and reinforced faith and conviction to search and then hold on to the beliefs and ideals which had dissipated the night my father was taken away.

My father threw out any notion of taking his family out of this country for Malaysia was our home, warts and all.
Malaysia is our home.
The warts are the clowns and jokers who have set us decades back and the nimcompoops who are shaming the country no end.
Nevertheless, you have to admit that we have come a long way - as a country and as a people.
I want to believe that we matter, not those wreckers.
I won't let anybody blow out the candle.
You and I make up this country. And the rest of the country comprise ordinary Malaysians like you and me.
And among them, I see heroes who have shown that we can triumph in face of adversity and great odds.
They are the ones who give me hope that all is not lost.

For a long time, I have been proud of being a Malaysian.
And can I remain so for a long time more?
I sincerely hope so.

So, Happy 50th Merdeka, Malaysia!
Here are the rest of the entries:
50, 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 44, 43, 42, 41, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32,31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 , 6, and me at 5.
I am tagging Mat Salo of Borneo Blues. He'd give you a gem of a perspective. So, brother, you are number 4.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flaming Arrogance

I find Nazri Aziz's warning, or threat (here and here) to bloggers arrogant.
Not his warning against belittling Islam or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for we all know that it is seditious to belittle Islam and the King. Indeed no one is above the law. So, yes, punish anyone who insults Islam and the King.
How arrogant is he for warning bloggers that the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act will be used against them. Of course, throw in Section 121b of the Penal Code for good measure.
The ISA is in existence under immense pressure for it to be abolished.
However, there are people who feel that it is a necessary evil to fight evil in this country such as drug trafficking and illegal possession of fire arms.
It is on this ground that the government for this long has been resisting pressure to abolish this piece of draconian legislation.
But Nazri's blatantly cavalier threat that the government will invoke the ISA only serves to convince us, thus confirming our worst fears, that it is a piece of very evil legislation that is so conveniently abused by those in power.
How can anyone now believe that the ISA is a necessary evil?

Putting the fear of the ISA and the Sedition Act in bloggers is the latest of a series of scare tactics used against bloggers and netizens.
Nathaniel Tan who founded Berita Keadilan (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and Raja Petra Kamaruddin who operates Malaysia Today, come to mind.
Nat was detained four four days under the Official Secrets Act earlier this month, while RPK was called by the police for questioning yesterday after Umno information chief senator Muhammad Muhd Taib lodged a report against MT for publishing allegedly seditious comments.

But really, how many bloggers out there have insulted Islam and the Agong, if there are any at all?

You know what I think? The heat is on bloggers because some bloggers have been critical of the government. And they're doing a darn good job of it.
Indeed, because of this some people are trying their damnest to have bloggers portrayed in a negative light and be seen as a threat to national security.

Nazri said that the use of the ISA and the Sedition Act against bloggers is not to destroy freedom of speech in the blogosphere but to stop the freedom to lie, to abuse and slander people.
Oh dear. Do you need to use such powerful and oppressive legislation to just deal with lying bloggers who slander people?

RPK : His Eight Hours at Dang Wangi

Here is Raja Petra Kamaruddin's account in Malaysia Today of his arrest and "interview" with the police yesterday at the Dang Wangi police station:

Yes, guilty as charged. I have stolen this line from Shakespeare. But I can’t help it. What better way to describe the eight hours I spent under interrogation at the Dang Wangi Police Station yesterday other than it was a comedy of errors? By the way, before I go on, I have received more than a thousand phone calls, SMSes and e-mails from well-wishers and supporters. I have not found the time to reply to each and everyone yet so I hope you will forgive me for my rudeness. I am certainly touched by the concern and the messages of support posted in Malaysia Today’s blogs. From the bottom of my heart, and with sincere humility, I thank you all and promise you that the fight for more freedom in Malaysia shall continue come hell or high water.

I received a call from the police at 8.00am yesterday that they want to record my statement on the police report lodged by an ex-Selangor Menteri Besar with two Muhamads in his name. I saw the phone call coming and was not only expecting it but was hoping that they would summon me for interrogation so that I can expose this entire episode for the farce that it really is. In short, I pushed their hand with the ‘See you in hell Muhamad son of Muhamad’ article so that they would be forced to make their move on me.

They wanted me in at 10 but I told them I can only make it at 11. I wanted to update the website first in case my visit to Dang Wangi ends up a two-week stay.

There's more than just the face-off with his "interrogators". For the rest of the story, click here.

Are You a Crocs Fan?

You must know at least someone who owns a pair. Wait a minute, let me ask you this question -- do you own a pair yourself?
When I first laid eyes on these colourful shoes/sandals I thought they were the ugliest footwear ever to be invented, I mean designed.
I still do though a little less so now because I think their appearance grows on you. But I must admit, they do look very comfortable.
Many times I was tempted to buy a pair but always good sense, I mean style, prevailed.

They are known simply as Crocs. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours --to fit man, woman and child. And yes, even for anyone in between.
Of course, with every hotly popular invention, I mean, design, there will be the copycats, or, as we know them -- fakes.
Never you mind. Some people say, they are just as good as the original.
I don't know. I own neither original nor fake.
I suppose I am so behind, so not cool.
Everywhere I go, I see people wearing them - at Starbucks, Austin Chase, Coffee Bean, MacDonalds, supermarkets, 2-star hotels, 5-star hotels, shopping centres, even offices. And yes, even at the National Press Club. And that's because Ahirudin Attan (Rocky's Bru) owns a black pair.
At least he did not get a purple or orange pair.
He loves his Crocs. And I reckon they love him too because they do look great on him, I mean his feet.
He swears by them and has made a promise to himself to get another pair.
He'll soon be converting the non-believers, I'm sure. That would include me. But I am a woman of strong faith and not easily influenced.

And, oh, by the way, they (the original) are not cheap.

So. let me invite you to read this article in Slate on "The Croc Epidemic". Click here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making Bloggers Pay

Raja Petra Kamaruddin was at the Dang Wangi police station for some 8 hours for questioning today following a police report lodged by Umno information chief Senator Muhammad Muhd Taib against Malaysia Today, a web portal he operates.
He stepped out of the police building at about 7.15pm.
His wife, Marina, had been waiting at the canteen of the police station throughout. She was in the company of friends and supporters of RPK.

Muhammad, on behalf of Umno, lodged the police report yesterday alleging that Malaysia Today had published sensitive comments on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam, and of a racial nature.
Muhammad said that the public comments carried on the portal on July 11 violated the law and insulted the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
"Such publication is deemed as likely to spark crime and incite racial and religious violence," he had said.

Well, I, do not, for a moment, believe that the contentious comments will incite racial and religious violence.
I think it was terribly wrong for Umno to resort to lodging the report because this is not the way to deal with irresponsible blogs. If that is what it aims to do.
Intimidation is not the way. (But then, it is the easiest way, no doubt.)
I do not consider MT to be an irresponsible web portal.
RPK did not write seditious remarks against the King and Islam as those were comments posted to MT.
Indeed, this is so worrying as it comes on the heels of the arrest and detention of blogger Nathaniel Tan of Parti Keadilan Rakyat under the Officials Secrets Act earlier this month.

Must be the blazing exposes of excesses and abuse in the administration that MT has been unremittingly publishing.
MT, and therefore, RPK are obviously a pain in some people's butt.
I suppose they can't get RPK on those little exposes, so they looked for something with which they could easily get him and wham, those little comments fit so nicely under the Sedition Act.
And they got Umno and Mike Tyson to do that dirty job.
It's a damn cliche but it makes me think that some people must really be afraid of their own shadows.
I think it is not irresponsible blogs and bloggers they are after but very responsible blogs and bloggers.

Malaysian bloggers who expose the excesses and abuse in government administration are not the enemies of the people nor of the State. They are the enemies of the corrupt and corrupted.

Your take on RPK would depend on which side of the fence you are sitting. But whatever take you have, you cannot deny that this guy has guts, gall and gumption.
More than I can say for some elected officials of the country.

So, what else and who's next? Certainly, not any of those real bad bloggers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Late Tuesday With Bapak

My apologies to everyone for not posting "Tuesdays With Bapak". I was not well -- fever plus medication -- and was unable to write. I was knocked out, slept through the entire time that I should have been writing an instalment of TWB.
I hardly get sick so when I do fall ill, I'm really out.
So, here's a little something. I hope it is not too late.

Que Sera Sera - July 24 2007

If Bapak had his way, he would want a doctor, an engineer, an architect and a lawyer, or two or three of each, among his children.
Not because of the prestige or whatever. But I think perhaps he thought it'd be good to have a doctor in the house to take care of the family's health, a lawyer to take care of any legal problems, an engineer.....
Bapak never counted journalists among them. He reckoned none of us would want to endear ourselves to long and irregular hours. And for that kind of pay.
He was quite wrong.
Two of his children -- Kak Ton and I -- chose to be journalists. Bapak had nothing to do with our decision.
For Kak Ton however, journalism was not the first path she took. Fresh out of university and newly-married in 1971, she followed her husband, Roslani to Kuala Kubu Bharu. Roslani had assumed the position of Magistrate in this small town.
Being a teacher seemed to be her only option.
So when Roslani returned to Petaling Jaya not long after, for another judicial position, she happily applied to be a journalist with Bernama.
Bapak who was then managing editor of the New Straits Times, told her not to apply to the newspaper.
As for me, my first choice was to join the NST in 1978. Bapak was in detention then.
In fact, I underwent practical training with the NST twice to fulfil my academic requirement before I applied for the job. This was also during Bapak's incarceration.

I remember being interviewed by (managing editor) the late Dr Noordin Sopiee who was on the three-member panel. I think the other two were either (news editor) Philip Mathews or (chief news editor) the late Dahari Ali , and Anselm Rozario (editorial training).
It was purely formality but he had to ask the routine questions.

In my application form I had stated that if I were given options (besides KL), Penang or Johor Baru would be where I'd like to work.
Noordin asked why. I said because Penang reminded me of Singapore where I was born and Johor Baru was next door to Singapore.
I didn't think they were clever answers but I was being honest.
Throughout my working life in NST, I was never transferred out.
I used to wonder about that.
I'll tell you one thing, I quite envied my colleagues who were posted to the states.
To me, being a state correspondent offered a wealth of experience which was so valuable to a journalist.

When I was a little girl, I had an autograph book. In those days it was de rigeur for schoolchildren to have autograph books for their friends and schoolmates to sign at the end of the year for remembrance.
I remember such sweet things: "meeting is a pleasure, parting is a pain, keep this as a treasure, till we meet again" or "F R A N C E -- Friendship Remains And Never Can End" or yet another gem "I T A L Y -- I Trust And Love You".
One day, Roslani or Abang Ani as I called him (and still do), was at our old house in Section 5, Petaling Jaya.
It was at the end of the year and school had ended.
I asked him to sign my autograph book.
He asked me what I wanted to be and I unhesitantly said "ballerina" or "scientist".
I loved ballet and was a ballet student and I loved "science" which was to me anything to do with Earth, the galaxy, the milky way...oh... outer space. And in the 60s, it was outer space. I would devour books on these subjects and the "Tell Me Why" range.
So Abang Ani wrote: "To my ballerina-scientist, study hard and may your dreams come true".

So what happened to my dream of becoming a ballerina or a scientist?
Oh... things happened. I suppose what I wanted to be when I was nine was not what I wanted to be when I got to be 17.

By the time I was in secondary school I knew I wanted to write, not necessarily for a newspaper.
Bapak recognised the fact that I was very playful. I was not your regular studious type.
It was ok in the first four years of secondary school. But came my fifth form, he felt I was not doing enough studying and needed "encouragement" .
So, nearing my MCE (Malaysian Certificate of Education, equivalent to the present SPM), Bapak decided that I needed to be serious.
So for a week I spent the day in a room at the NST, studying, with only lunch and tea breaks.
I'm not too sure whether that was effective. But I know one thing, I so liked the environment there.
The people seemed to be "on the move". They seemed to be doing something all the time. There seemed to be activity all day long.
It was so exciting. That did not escape me. I was gone.

During my pre-university (sixth form), I had already decided that I wanted to be a journalist.
My forced week-long studying stint at the NST was not the only time I got familiar with the newspaper world.
I had met many reporters and had been to the NST (during times we sent Bapak to or fetched him from work).
So many factors helped form my perspective of what working in the newspaper was about.

So when I had to decide what I wanted to take up after my sixth form, I chose Mass Communications (journalism). Imagine, my second choice was Law. And my third? Advertising.

I did not seek Bapak's approval when I enrolled at UiTM. But he did not object.

There is no doctor in the house. No architect nor engineer.
But, oh, just a couple of lawyers, journalists, a bio-chemist .............

Monday, July 23, 2007

World's Fattest Man

Meet Mexican Manuel Uribe who tips the scales at 560 kilograms (1,234 pounds) and is possibly the world's fattest man.
The picture above is of him at home in Monterrey, Mexico, taken in 2006.
He will be listed as the world's fattest man by the Guinness Book of Records but he has lost 200 kilos (440 pounds) and that may make him the man who lost the most weight.
Here's the AFP story:
"I'm glad to be in the Guinness Book as the fattest man. I am also happy to have lost 200 kilos," the 41 year-old said.
Uribe was able to leave his home in Monterrey, northern Mexico in March aboard a trailer to celebrate his weight loss.
Guinness has recognized his weighty achievement with a glass plaque. "They gave it to me, I have it in my hands," said Uribe, who founded an organization to help overweight people.
Uribe's photograph appears in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records alongside a description of the treatment he has had and offers of surgery he has received.
Uribe said the editor of the book had promised to visit him next year, and held out the possibility of appearing in the 2009 edition as the man who had lost the most weight.
Uribe appeared on television in 2006 seeking help for his excess weight, which has plagued him for more than 20 years, most of which he has spent in bed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rejal Arbee and His (False) Email

This happened to former Bernama editor-in-chief Rejal Arbee. People could do that? Wonder who did it and why? A prank?
Here's the story.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 (Bernama) -- A former editor-in-chief of Bernama, Datuk Ahmad Rejal Arbee, today expressed regret that an e-mail using his account had been sent to certain individuals or institutions asking for financial assistance.
Following the incident, he said he had terminated the account with a popular search engine.
"I fear my name will be tarnished as though I'm seeking assistance and so on whereas I had never done so and it is a lie. Today, I tried to open my e-mail account but it was in vain as the operator said my account was invalid," he told Bernama, here.
As such, Ahmad Rejal asked anyone who had received such an appeal or request from the e-mail to ignore them, adding that his account had been closed immediately.
When contacted at his home in Shah Alam, he said the request was an absolute lie, including the one on winning a lottery, the death of a close relative, which was due to a spam.
He was commenting on an e-mail using his name which was sent to Bernama which, among others, stated that he was facing difficulty after being stranded, and had financial problems as he had lost his baggage in a taxi while attending a seminar on Aids and Poverty in Nigeria.
In the false e-mail, he had purportedly asked for financial assistance to pay for his hotel bills and that he was almost starving as he had not eaten for almost one whole day.

Hope it doesn't happen to me!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just a Poem


Then said Almitra, 'Speak to us of Love.'
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them.
And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you,
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning,

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself,
He threshes you to make you naked,
He sifts you to free you from your husks,
He grinds you to whiteness,
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
That you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh,
but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, 'God is in my heart,'
but rather, I am in the heart of God.'

And think not you can direct the course of love,
if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart,
and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.


Maybe not just a poem. Ya?

(Oil painting of Kahlil Gibran by Yusef Hoyiek)

10 Anak Gemilang Malaysia

I did not participate in this sms contest and I know I never will in any similar ones. I think smsing to rank these (deceased) personalities is in bad taste.
It is an insult to the memory of these great Malaysians who, in their lifetime, had contributed immensely in their known fields, to make this nation of ours what it is today.
I should have been quick enough to get Usman Awang's family to get the poet laureate off the list (here). Not because he is in bad company (far from it) but because he is being ranked that way.
Anyway, 10 have been shortlisted and Usman Awang is not one of them. Read here.
My friend, Halimah Mohd Said has an issue with Astro because her late father Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Said bin Mohamed was on the list and "was being ranked/not ranked by people who don't even know him or of him".
She said Astro didnt even bother to get his name right or his picture in.
She called to complain. Astro said they'd call her back but never did.
Her father, a medical doctor died in July 1996. He was the first elected Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan from 1959 to 1969.
"Can't bear the thought he is being ranked/not ranked by people who don't even know him or of him. Leave him alone, I say. Those who loved him and respected him remember," she told me in her sms.
Frankly, I can't understand why Astro or whoever else was prepaparing list, had left some faces blank.
If they were serious enough, they should have at least tried to obtain photographs of the late Khoo Eng Tong, Tan Sri Dr Syed Mohamed Alwy Alhady, Tan Sri Ir Raja Zainal Raja Sulaiman and A. V Bapat.
In Dr Mohamed Said's case, his daughter had contacted Astro so they could have asked her for his photograph and made sure that his name was spelt correctly.
Halimah was disturbed by the sms-ranking exercise and wrote a letter, dated July 13, to the NST.
It was not published. But let me reproduce her letter. I believe the issue has not quite ended. And it wouldn't hurt anyone if her letter was published.

Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2007 17:42:43 +0800

Dear Editor
The current competition on Astro Prima and some newspapers to rank the 50 nominees of Anak Gemilang Malaysia is unfair and done in very poor taste.
While the distinguished panel must have applied the most stringent criteria to compile a list of 50 (deceased) outstanding Malaysians in different fields such as politics, government, professions, literary, sports, music etc, the promoters of the competition have trivialised their contributions by lumping them together to be ranked via SMS or newspaper voting.
As of 11 July, Sudirman (a music nominee) is in 3rd position ahead of people who were outstanding in more serious fields. Datin Seri Endon Mahmood is in 1st position ahead of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 2nd position.
While the objective of recognising these "towering" Malaysians and honouring their memory on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Merdeka is commendable indeed, to subject them to a ranking procedure which is full of loopholes, takes away the dignity of not only these great men and women and their contributions, but also of the Anak Gemilang Malaysia concept itself.
I would like to suggest that to be as fair and equal as possible, the list of names should be organised alphabetically, with honorary titles in brackets and the related fields in capital letters as in the following:
Abdul Razak bin Hussein (Tun - POLITICS)
The list of 50 nominees should be final and not be subject to any form of artificial ranking by people who may be biased, who may not really know the contributions of these past leaders and who may therefore apply varying criteria.
To exploit the public by encouraging them to waste 50 sen each time they send an SMS vote is a travesty in itself.
Besides, how does one compare the contributions of Sudirman Arshad with that of Onn Jaafar?

Yours sincerely

Halimah Mohd Said
7 Jalan Damansara Permai
Damansara Heights
50490 Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Muslims and Entertainment

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 (Bernama) -- There is no provision in the Syariah enactment enforced in the states which penalises Muslims for visiting entertainment centres, the Dewan Negara was told Thursday.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin said this was because the Malaysian Islamic Development Department's (Jakim) power to act against Muslims who patronised the premises was restricted.
"The main problem faced by Jakim in enforcing (the law on) the offence rested on the power to codify and enforce the Syariah law which comes under the jurisdiction of the states," he said.
He was replying to Senator Sharifah Azizah Syed Zin who asked Jakim to spell out its power in enforcing Islamic laws against Muslims who visited entertainment outlets.
In reply to Senator Datuk Ismail Kassim, Dr Abdullah said Jakim was monitoring the enforcement of the enactment in the states and Federal Territories.
Dr Abdullah said besides enforcing the law, Jakim preferred to tackle the problem by instilling self-awareness among Muslims on Islamic teachings.
"We know there are states which strictly enforced the enactment, (but) if they are not followed up with education on Islamic teachings it won't be effective.-- BERNAMA

Nat's Story

I got this from Elizabeth Wong's.
Here is Nathaniel Tan's account of his four days in police detention under the OSA.

I was arrested on Friday, the 13th of July at approximately 4.30pm in the carpark basement (B3) of Phileo Damansara I by about four to five policemen.

While originally being taken in for questioning, the police arrested me when I conveyed to them my lawyers advice that I should not accompany the police to their office unaccompanied by legal counsel.

From Phileo Damansara, I was taken to my house where the police confiscated my computer, some CD’s and some documents.

From the moment I was arrested until about 11 pm, I was not allowed to speak to anyone I knew, or inform anybody of my whereabouts.

I later learnt that this caused an immense and completely avoidable amount of stress and anxiety amongst my loved ones.

I was eventually made to understand that I was arrested in connection to accusations made on the internet regarding Datuk Johari Baharum.

The connection to me was based on a comment made on my blog that was made by an anonymous commentor on the 10th of Februrary, 2007.

It was preposterous of the police to suspect me of publishing these accusations based on documents protected by the Official Secrets Act that were supposedly in my possessesion. There is absolutely nothing even remotely resembling proof to substantiate such claims.

Throughout my detention, the police employed various questioning strategies in what struck me strongly as a concerted attempt to make me admit to things that I had not done.

Click here for the rest of Nat's account.

Just A Thought

"They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience." - Joseph Conrad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Rocking Chair - July 17 2007

The place : Our house at 2 Jalan Lembah (5/2), Petaling Jaya, sometime in 1964.
Ompong (my maternal grandfather) and I were "lepaking" at the terrace that was facing the huge garden.
Ompong was reading a book. I was just lounging, enjoying the scenery.
It was a warm afternoon. There were butterflies in the garden.
We could see that the rambutans (on the tree at the edge of the garden) had turned really red.
Yammy (my "pet" hen) was leading her brood across the yard.
Then, I looked up at my Ompong.

Me: Ompong, nanti bila Ena dah besar, Ena jaga Ompong, ok?

Ompong: Ok. (smiling)

Me : Ena belikan Ompong rocking chair, ok?

Ompong: Ok.

Then, a gentle voice shot out from the dining room which was separated from the terrace by a row of louvered glass windows.

Bapak: Bapak nya? Ena belikan Bapak rocking chair?

I remember looking up to see Bapak peering through the window. I remember he was smiling. But, really, on reflection, it was his trademark cheeky grin, which he still wears to this day when he knows he has ribbed you or got you "there".

A little surprised, and somewhat embarrassed, I nervously smiled. Whoops, have I hurt Bapak, my little mind was asking.
Unhesitantly, I replied : Beli. Untuk Bapak pun....

Bapak looking somewhat satisfied with my quick response then walked away, still wearing that grin, and disappeared into the kitchen.

I was exceptionally close to Ompong whom I loved so dearly. Undoubtedly I was his very favourite grandaughter.
I'd go with him everywhere, sometimes, back to Singapore (by train or by taxi) for a short holiday.
Sumatra-born Ompong (Hassan Idris Lubis) collapsed while performing ablution for Subuh prayers and died at his Jalan Sudin home in Singapore sometime in 1975. He was 80.
I never got to buy him a rocking chair.

I still have not got Bapak a rocking chair.
I don't think he needs one.
But I will ask him, nonetheless, the next time I see him.

Nat in Remand

Update: Tuesday July 17

Nathaniel Tan who was arrested and detained by police for alleged offences under the Official Secrets Act since Sunday July 15, was released this evening.
Nat was nabbed by police on Friday, July 13. It was on Sunday that the police obtained an order from the Magistrate's Court in Jalan Duta to remand him for 4 days.

Read here for more.

My earlier posting:

How's Nat doing?
So far, Nathaniel Tan has been treated well by his interrogators.
That should be good news.
Was at the candle light vigil for him outside the Dang Wangi police station on Sunday (July 15).
A small crowd of Nat's family, friends and supporters was there.
Short speeches (including by Rocky and Bernard Khoo) were made and songs were sung.
Elizabeth Wong asked if I wanted to say something.
I had to decline not because I had nothing to say.
"Ayoh, nervous-lah. So shy", I told her. That was the truth.
"Don't worry-lah. Just friend-friend here....", she responded.
Yeah, I should have said something but....
I told Rocky later that I was sure I'd say the wrong thing if I spoke.
Rocky seemed to agree, his wicked smile not withstanding.

There was supposed to have been another candle light vigil last night (Monday July 16) -- same place same time -- but it was cancelled.
Bernard Khoo (Zorro) and Tony Yew (Alliedmarster) went but no one was around.
They were told why. But you have to ask them about it.

Today is Nat's last day of remand.
He should be released tomorrow. Unless they have other plans for him. Let's pray not.
Read Polytikus' update on Nat and for details here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today OSA. Tomorrow?

Here's why we should be worried:
July 14, 2007 17:43 PM
JITRA, July 14 (Bernama) -- Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom who himself was slandered on the Internet that he had taken bribes, wants the Police to initiate investigations to trace writers spreading lies through websites.

He said that he had instructed the Police's Commercial Crimes Investigation Department (CCID) to undertake the investigations and bring the culprits to book.

"Now all kinds of slander about the nation's leaders are being spread through the Internet. The Police must act to prevent them from tarnishing the image of the country," he told reporters after the opening of the delegates meetings of the Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings of Kubang Pasu Umno here today. Umno Information Chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib graced the function.
On Wednesday, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail ordered the Anti-Corruption Agency to close investigations into the bribery allegations against Johari as there was no evidence to link him to accusations that he had received RM5 million to release several suspected criminals who had been held under the Emergency Ordinance 1969.
The investigations were initiated after the allegations against him were posted on an anonymous website.
Johari, who is also the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu and the head of its Umno division, said he thanked God that the truth had prevailed and was relieved the episode was over.
He said now he could fully concentrate on his government duties and also prepare for the upcoming general election.
"I also received many SMSes (on the short-messaging-service) from Kubang Pasu Umno members voicing their support for me. It gave me added strength to weather the challenging period (corruption allegations) in my life," he added.

Not because Johari was cleared of allegations of corruption.
But that he was the one who instructed the police (commercial crimes investigation department) to nab Nathaniel Tan.
As you already know, they threw the OSA book at Nathaniel.
What next?
Indeed, this is worrying. I'd go so far as to say that it is alarming.

Also, read this bru. Rocky wants bloggers to stand their ground and he has his take on the OSA here.
And lawyer/human rights activist Malik Imtiaz tells you why the government must take immediate steps to ensure that Nat is immediately released.
Read it in his blog Disquiet.

50 Anak Gemilang Malaysia

Someone who goes by the nick, OFF, sent a comment in my previous posting on Usman Awang, criticising Astro and some newspapers for having "taken over ownership of what is supposed to be a list of 50 Malaysians, highly regarded in their own fields because of their contributions, and turned it into a ranking exercise of unequals. All for profit!"
Here is what she had to say on what would have, otherwise, been an apt exercise to remember some of Malaysia's great sons and daughters who are no longer with us in celebration of our nation's 50th anniversary.

"Do you know that Usman Awang is among the 50 nominees of Anak Gemilang Malaysia (all deceased). Well-deserved nominations indeed by a distinguished panel!

What you should look into and invite your blogger colleagues to comment on is the way Astro Prima and some newspapers have taken over ownership of what is supposed to be a list of 50 Malaysians, highly regarded in their own fields because of their contributions, and turned it into a ranking exercise of unequals. All for profit!

In simple language Astro Prima charges 50 sen for every SMS vote and the final ranking depends on who gets the most public votes.

You and I know Nuraina that SMS voting is the activity of the young, most of whom have no idea who Usman Awang or Zain Azrai are. Yes they know Sudirman who came out 3rd yesterday after Tun Razak (2nd) and Datin Seri Endon (1st).

My point is and I hope you agree Nuraina - do we need to rank these outstanding Malaysians whose contributions in their various fields are unique and special.

The organisers should reorganise the list. Enter the nominees' names alphabetically with honorary titles within brackets (Tun, Tan Sri...) - field (politics, profession...)



To know more about Astro's Anak Gemilang Malaysia, read this and this.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nat To Be Detained Until Tuesday

Nathaniel Tan (Nat Tan of http://jelas.info) is being investigated for an offence under Section 8 of the Officials Secrets Act (changed from last night’s Section 420 of the Penal Code) , i.e. possession of ’secret’ documents published on the internet, which alleged that deputy Minister for Internal Security, Johari Bahrum, was involved in the ‘fee-for freedom’ scandal. - This is the latest posted by ELizabeth Wong's.

Today, the police obtained from the Magistrate's Court at Jalan Duta an order for Nat to be remanded for 4 days - from today until Tuesday.
Eli said that they had wanted to ask for the maximum 14 days but got 4 days instead.

Eli posted this:

This is what Sivarasa Rasiah, the lead counsel for Nat, said outside the courts after the remand hearing:-

“We are revisiting 1998 - this is a political detention.

“The remand serves no purpose except to put him (Nat) under duress.

“He has given his full cooperation; they have taken documents, CD-Roms and computers from his office, home and car.

“If the remand is for investigation, why continue to detain him when he has given everything? This is a ‘fishing’ expedition. There is clearly another agenda behind this.

“This is purely an act of oppression. I want to go on record that his detention is political motivated.”

When I was first informed of Nat's arrest and detention yesterday (Friday, July 13), I was shocked. As most people must have been too.
'The Special Branch got him under the ISA?", was my first response.
(Obviously not, as we were to find out later.)
Details were sketchy then. Just that three guys who claimed to be from Bukit Aman had taken him away to Bukit Aman "to talk with him about the internet".
They took his laptop as well.
Then there were speculations that he might have been abducted because Elizabeth Wong was told by the officers at Bukit Aman that there was no Nathaniel Tan in custody at Bukit Aman.
For about six hours, Nat was "missing" because there was no confirmation of his detention in Bukit Aman.
Now, I don't know whether it was a relief to have finally confirmed that Nat was indeed in Bukit Aman.
I suppose it is better than him being held by unknown people in an unknown location.

I had feared the worst. Must be his blogging and his activism in an opposition party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, I thought.
Looks like I am not wrong.

Fifty years of nationhood. We have to be proud of that.

Nabbing Nat the way they did?
That's how we still deal with opposition party members. Or whoever else?

Today Nat.

Also read Rocky's Bru.
Get updates from Politikus, http://jelas.info and http://bangkit.net.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

In Memory : Usman Awang (July 12 1929 - Nov 29 2001)

Early this morning, as I was struggling up the Kiara Hill with my friend, Mia, I received an SMS from Lina (Haslina), the eldest child of (the late) poet laureate Usman Awang.
That got me worried for a while. Lina is close to me and my siblings - just like our sister - so I thought it must be something urgent.
Perhaps she was trying to contact me but could not.
Then I read the message: "Hari ini tarikh lahir Usman Awang, Al-Fatihah".
I responded immediately with "Al-Fatihah", composed myself because I was suddenly remembering our dear Pak CikTongkat, and then continued my climb, intending to call her later.
Oh... it seemed just yesterday that we got the news that Pak Cik Tongkat had died.
He had not been well. Still, news of death will always be shocking, no matter how prepared we are for the worst.
We rushed to the hospital after receiving the news.
Bapak, who was like a brother to Pak Cik Tongkat, was too distraught that he just could not make it to the hospital.

Usman Awang or known by his popular nom de guerre Tongkat Warrant was born on July 12 1929 in Kampung Tanjung Lembu, Kuala Sedili in Kota Tinggi, Johor.

Syed Husin Ali, one of Pak Cik Tongkat's closest friends wrote this:

Usman is popularly considered, and most justifiably too, as perhaps the best poet in the Malay language. Most important, he is accepted without question as a people’s poet. Writing since 1955, Usman did not produce a very large corpus of poetry, only about 200 of them. But the man, his personality, his poetry and his ideas have a much deeper and wider influence than that number would suggest. Much of his poems are simple, clear, oftentimes romantic, and just beautiful. He is a master at weaving words into striking phrases, sentences and verses that are of exceptional classical beauty and sometimes appear to be nostalgic and even escapist.

Usman Awang died at Pantai Hospital, Kuala Lumpur on Nov 29, 2001 of complications related to diabetes.
He is buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery in Petaling Jaya, near the grave of his wife, Hasnah Din who died two years earlier.

Pak Cik Tongkat was like a father to us.
Cik Senah, as we called his late wife, was like a mother to us.
So it is natural that we are very close to their children -- Lina, Iskandar, Yamin and Maya.

"Ayah would be 78 today," a wistful Lina told me when I telephoned her.
I thanked her for reminding me about Pak Cik Tongkat.

Lina said that she was in the midst of compiling her father's collection of "cerpen" or short stories that touched on Merdeka, in celebration of the nation's 50 years of nationhood.

Among the 18 stories are unpublished works, she told me.
Lina had gone searching for her father's short stories, including at the National Archives.
She hopes to complete everything by next month,

"I will keep you posted, Kak Ena," she said.

I am looking forward to read Pak Cik Tongkat's collection of cerpen.


Read about Usman Awang here, here and here
I talked a bit about Pak Cik Tongkat and Cik Senah here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Of P Ramlee And Music - July 10, 2007

I remember the day P. Ramlee died, sometime in May 1973. I was in my first year of Pre-university studies at ITM (now UiTM) in Shah Alam.
If 1973 had been today, I think we all would have got the news of his death fast and furious.
But there were no mobile phones then. No computers. And Shah Alam was in the boondocks. Really, it was.
I am not even sure whether the morning papers were delivered regularly to campus, or to whom they were delivered.
I cannot remember where I was able to get hold of newspapers to read -- at our hostel, our school or the library?
Not many of us had transistors in our rooms. I know I didn't. As for televsion, I believe there was one set for one hostel area. At that time there were 4 hostel areas and each area, I think, had three to four hostel blocks.
I do not remember ever watching TV anywhere in campus back then.
So, if we did not venture out of our little campus, read the papers, listen to the radio, watch television or make that occasional phone call home, we were, to a large extent, cut off from the world outside.
What helped a great deal were conversations with our lecturers. They were our main source of information about the latest happenings in the country.

I remember making my way to my classroom for morning lectures on the seventh floor of the multi-storey ITM building when several of my sixth form classmates were abuzz with talk that P. Ramlee had passed away.
It was more like a rumour, not a statement of fact because it was something someone heard and passed on.
The "news" spread like wild fire.
Finally, one of our lecturers confirmed that P Ramlee had died.

I was 17. I had watched a lot of P Ramlee movies. I knew all his songs.
But, really, I don't think that at that time I was a diehard fan although I thoroughly enjoyed his movies and loved his songs immensely.
I was very aware that P Ramlee was hugely talented as a film maker and song writer but I think, at that time, I (and I am sure many others too) had taken his talent for granted, never for a moment stopping to appreciate his genius, his brilliance.

I knew that the day P Ramlee died was a sad day for many people. But what I did not know was how the news of his death had affected Bapak.

A few years later, (by which time I and the rest of Malaysia, had truly appreciated P Ramlee's gift and greatness) I read an article (in a Malay magazine or a book) about P Ramlee. It had quotes from P Ramlee's friends and people who knew him. One of them was Bapak.
Now I cannot remember if the writer of the article interviewed Bapak or he interviewed someone who was privy to this conversation Bapak had with P Ramlee.
Bapak had told P Ramlee that if the time came for P Ramlee to meet his maker, Bapak would weep, for his passing would be a great loss.

I asked Bapak about it. Did he really say that to P Ramlee?
I knew that Bapak loved his songs and would play his records at home.
P Ramlee, keroncong and Asli (Malay and Indonesian) music made up the lot of our music collection.

Bapak encouraged us to listen to music -- rock, pop, blues, jazz or whatever was our fancy.
But, he believed that we had to be exposed to the classics first. Just like books. Read the classics first.
He did not force us to listen to P Ramlee, R Azmi, Affandi, Bach, Chopin or Tchaikovsky.
He just played them at home.

When Abang Med began writing songs for artistes in the late 70s, Bapak reminded him to go back to listening to P Ramlee for inspiration.
Abang Med needn't have to because P Ramlee had been a part of his musical staple.

I cannot remember when or where I asked Bapak that question.
But I remember his reply.
Yes, he did say that to P Ramlee.
What was P Ramlee's response?
He was naturally touched by Bapak's remarks. I suppose it was a huge recognition by an old friend.
Bapak knew P Ramlee in the early days when the legend arrived in Singapore from Penang to try his luck in filmdom.
Every young hopeful would go to Singapore because in the 50s, it was the centre of everything, including culture and the film world.
The Jalan Ampas studio was where they headed for.

Eleven Jalan Yahya was my grandfather's house in Kampung Melayu, off Jalan Eunos in Singapore.
Bapak was at that time with Utusan Melayu. His friends were not only politicians but young struggling artistes counted among them.
Young people trying to make it as actors would arrive in Singapore with nowhere to stay. Through friends of friends, they would get to know Bapak. Some would put up at Datuk's house before finding a place of their own.
P Ramlee was among them.
In fact, that was how Usman Awang (Tongkat Warrant) first got to know Bapak.
He had come to Singapore to either be an actor or a reporter.
He had gone for a screen test and also applied to be a reporter.
Pak Cik Tongkat got the call from the newspaper first so he accepted the job.
It turned out that he had also "passed" the screen test. But that came a little too late. Otherwise, who knows, Usman Awang would have been as great an actor as P Ramlee.

I did not know that some of the well-known names in Malay movieland were known to Bapak until I was in form five (in 1972) when I went to fetch Noorkumalasari from her house.
We were from different schools but were involved in a cultural show.
Her parents, S Roomai Noor and Umi Kalsom were there. So, she introduced me to her (now late) father.
Although it was not my first time at her house, it was my first time meeting her parents.

"Anak Samad. Anak Comel? Uncle kenal your father. Uncle kenal your grandmother. Masa dulu, Uncle pernah duduk rumah your grandmother.
"How is your father?
"Kirim salam ayah, ya. Cakap nama Uncle, sure dia kenal," he said. I was momentarily speechless.

At home later that day, I sent the actor's salam and asked Bapak about what he had related.
"Yaa... ramai dulu datang rumah nenek.. Bapak kalau tak kahwin dengan Mak awak, Bapak dah kahwin dengan seniwati-seniwati dulu," he replied, his face grinning so devilishly I did not ask him further for fear of unwelcomed details.
All I said was : "Teruk lah Bapak ni. Bilang Mak nanti."
His reply was : "Mak awak dah tahu." Followed by his cackle and guffaw.

Bapak knew P Ramlee well but there was little contact between them in later years because, I suppose, they led separate lives. One a very famous "seniman", the other, a very busy newspaper editor.
But it seemed when their paths did meet, during functions and events to which Bapak was invited, they would pick up where they left off and talked as though they'd never been apart. They'd be rib-tickling each other and laughing away.

I was told about a musical/cultural performance at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in which P Ramlee performed sometime in the 60s.
Bapak was there with Mak.
During the performance, P Ramlee announced that he was going to sing a song dedicated to his old friend, Samad.
The song was "Merak Kayangan" which P Ramlee knew to have been a favourite of Bapak's during their Singapore days.

So, yes. Bapak did weep the day P Ramlee died.