Friday, November 30, 2007

Citizens for NURIN Alert -- The Next Level

The Citizens For NURIN Alert Committee met with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) director-general Meme Zainal Rashid this afternoon to begin preliminary discussions on ways to incorporate NURIN (Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) Alert into the proposed Child Protection Policy.
Representing the CFNA committee were deputy chairman Jasni Abdul Jalil and members, Hanizah Hashim and Nuraina Samad.
Three others --Kamal Affandi (chairman), Nik Farez and Nur Azrina Samad were unable to attend the meeting.

Citizens for NURIN Alert has been pushing for the alert system - modelled on the highly successful AMBER Alert in the US -- to be introduced to help in the search and rescue of missing children.
The suggestion was made following the brutal murder of 8 year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin whose crumpled body was found stuffed in a sports bag on September 17, 28 days after she had gone missing.
There was public outrage and outcry following the discovery of her body.
Today's discussions which lasted over an hour was held at the JKM premises at Jalan Raja Laut. With Meme were advisor to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Dato' Shamsiah Ad. Rahman, Nor Amni Yusoff (Director of the Department's Children Division) and Abdullah Hanafi of the Department's Legal & Advocation Division.
Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had directed the department to meet CFNA for a briefing on NURIN Alert and how it could be incorporated into the policy.
Indeed, it was a fruitful meeting, after which it was agreed that a technical committee be set up to look further into the plan.
The Child Protection Policy is also being drafted following Nurin's brutal murder.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will submit the draft of the policy to the Cabinet for approval.
Shahrizat has shown keen interest in making NURIN Alert part of the Child Protection Policy.

AMBER Alert has been highly successful in the safe return of missing children in the shortest possible time.
(Here, I'd like to again thank Farina in Orange, California of Princessjournals who was the first to mention AMBER Alert in my posting about Nurin.)

So far, Citizens for NURIN Alert has gained incredible support from a cross section of Malaysians, including the corporate sector and a unit of the police force.

And by the way, Nurin's killer/killers are still at large.
According to Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum police are investigating and are following set procedures.

(I don't know what he means but if it were me uttering that, it would be my way of telling everyone to just butt out and let me do my job in my time and in the way I see fit.)

Well, it has been 100 days since Nurin was last seen alive, says Kak Ton.
Read here.
Also read Jasni's NurinJazlin blog here and Tembam's here.

PHOTO: Standing from left - Dato Shamsiah, Nuraina, Jasni and Encik Abdullah.
Seated -- Meme and Nor Amni. (Pix by Hanizah)

Toilet Training In KL

Well, it's actually the month-long Clean Toilets campaign by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
Oh. I don't know. Overall, it is a good thing. It is never too late for something like this, I suppose. Not even a little too late.
But, the fact that such a campaign is being carried out in our mega-city of twin-towers and gleaming over-the-top malls et al, in this century, makes me bristle. Makes me quiver.

But, well. If it's good for the people, it is good for me.

You might have been handed pamphlets about the correct way to use toilets, about the standing protocol and so forth. But, ah... you may not need them because you are not City Hall's target.
I'll bet that you haven't even gone into one of those public toilets in the city.....

I must say that the condition of toilets in the city has improved over the years although there is a lot of room for improvement.

Why... I still remember those days when toilets in the cinema, the gas stations, restaurants were always in a deplorable condition.
That was why, it was standing protocol for us -- as children -- to hit the bathroom before leaving for our outings.
And, as they say... old habits never die, or are difficult to break..

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Post-Hindraf Rally. What Now?

All said and done, we can now talk about what needs to be done -- post-Hindraf rally.
If we still think that everything in this country is so peachy pink and rosy, then there is something really wrong with us.

On Sunday, I saw unhappiness, anger and desperation walk the streets. I am helpless, I am powerless.

But, let me be clear on one thing though-- I take exception to Uthayakumar's memorandum which, in my humble opinion, is laced with racial overtones and littered with distorted facts, and therefore smacks of blatant racism and bigotry.
His kind of politics will only set us all back, as that of keris-wielding chest thumping ultras in Umno has done.
We do not need another racist, another bigot.

His memorandum aside, I see and appreciate the real issue at hand -- the deep sense of being severely marginalised and disenfrachised felt by a sector of Malaysians of Indian origin.
I am so sad that it has come to this state of affairs.

If I were the chief executive of this country, I'd haul up the legitimate/official (etc etc) representative of the Indian community and make him responsible and accountable for the state of his community.
For as long as our political system and structure is race-based, we have no choice but to lay the blame squarely on the MIC.
I don't think I am wrong in saying this.

That said...I think, after all these years, I see the problem of marginalised Malaysian Indians to be no longer an MIC problem (although I still think that the party has not done enough), but a Malaysian problem.

The MIC has certainly failed the Indian community. To a large extent, so has the government of the day because, obviously the plight of the marginalised Malaysian Indians has been not been addressed effectively...if at all it has been (addressed).
We cannot ignore the thousands who were there on Sunday. We cannot ignore their message.

Why has nobody listened and why has no one helped?
Let's hope, as I am writing this, some real effort is being done to effect a solution. And I do not mean bandying the ISA threat about.

So, my brothers and sisters...we're in this together.

Please read : Rocky's Bru
Farish Noor
Michelle Gunaselan
Subashini Nair

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Multi-Colour -- November 27 2007

Today, as usual, is our bloggers' Mee Rebus day at Kak Ton's. I thought I would have to miss it because of a farewell lunch I was to have attended for my very dear friend, Angie, otherwise known as Angeline Chivapathy.

The lunch was cancelled because Angie was not able to be there as she has so many things to do before leaving for Qatar to start her new job.

When I told Bapak about Angie, he asked: "Yang budak tinggi tu... the sportswoman?"
He remembered. I was delighted, although well, Angie is not a budak no more and she has not done the 200-metre sprint or jumped over hurdles in a long time.

Bapak will not be able to remember Angie of five years ago. Not Angie the accountant. But Angie, the athlete and SEAP Games silver medallist of more than 30 years ago.

Angie and I (and Kak Eda, Rohaya Ghani and Diane Lesley Cheah) were very close way back when (in Assunta primary and secondary school).
Well, we still are.
In school, we called ourselves "Vamps". Don't ask why but the name sounded good, and, er, cool.
Yeah. Cool.
Another very close friend, Hanim (Ku Nur Hanim Ku Bahadur) later joined the gang.
School days were fun because we made it fun. Never a dull moment.

We (with the exception of Hanim) were all in our school athletics club. Rohaya, Kak Eda, Diane and I were in our school's softball team. We all also played hockey.
And when the school decided to form a football team, we all went for it. Alas, the team lasted for just so long. Our coach was Douglas Gomez. I'm pretty sure he was quite relieved about that.

After MCE (that's the form five exams - like SPM today), we more or less went our separate ways, except for Kak Eda, Rohaya and I who joined UiTM. Kak Eda to do architecture, Rohaya (Chartered Secretary) and I (pre-university).
Angie and Diane left for England for further studies. I don't remember where Hanim went but she kept in constant touch because she also happened to live nearby in section 5 and later (until today), section 16.

Angie had been working with a multi-national company for the longest time until she was offered a job in Qatar.
We - Angie, Hanim, Rohaya, Diane and I - had dinner at Tony Roma's at the Cineleisure in Mutiara Damansara two weeks ago to celebrate Diane's birthday.
We had a ball. When the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" was on, we all sang along, to the amusement of the young waiters.

When Rohaya and another friend, Aminah, visited Bapak during Hari Raya Aidilfitri last month, we asked him whether he remembered Rohaya.
With a wide grin, he remarked:
" yang selalu datang sini bawa boyfriend-boyfriend.."
We all burst out laughing.

"Alamak, Pak Cik ingat," Rohaya said sheepishly.

We were remembering Radha, Abang Med's good friend. More like a brother, as far as I'm concerned.
Well. Mak used to refer to Radha as her "other son".

We were talking about old friends the other day.

"Bapak ingat tak Radha, kawan Abang Med?", we asked.

"Anak si-Nair tu? Aah....dia suka debate dengan aku pasal Islam.. Mana dia sekarang?" he asked, his eyes reflective.
That was something. We thought he would not recollect.

"He is in Australia, the last we heard." we told him.

Radha was like a son. he'd drop by anytime. If it was lunch, he'd join us. He'd watch TV, he'd read the books on the bookshelf.
Bapak would indulge in after-dinner discussions with him.
He'd ask Bapak a whole load of things -- religion, the country's social and political system, the NEP ... and, oh, the universe, I suspect.

I remember one question about Islam he asked Bapak.
"How come there are different imams and different schools of thought in Islam?"

"Do you remember Kar Beng?" we asked Bapak.

Francis Ooi Kar Beng formed the trio of Hamed, Radha and Kar Beng. Radha stuck around until he left for Australia. Even when Abang Med was in Australia for further studies, Radha still visited Bapak and us.
Kar Beng came over our Section 5 house almost everyday. But, he soon disappeared from the radar after we moved to Section 16, about the time Abang Med left for Australia.

I used to think Sunethra Rao was the most beautiful girl I had seen.
She was Kak Ton's best friend (besides Joyce Lam) in school.
Sunethra was also a dancer -- a member of Gopal Shetty dancers.
When she and her sister appeared on TV, we would all be glued to the set. Sunethra was one reason I had wanted to take up Indian classical dance.

I used to look forward to visits by Sunethra, Vijaya and Vino Narayanan. I was such a busybody that I would always want to join them in Kak Ton's room and be part of whatever they were up to.

I remember (it was in the 60s) -- every Hari Raya, they'd visit us wearing baju kurung.
I thought they looked smashing.

Kak Ton is just so moved thinking about her old buddies.

But....aah. Those were the days...

Now, I am looking forward to visiting Angie in Qatar. Bapak thinks its a cool idea to go to Qatar to visit my pal -- as Bapak said with a smile -- "Budak yang menang medal tu".
Oh Bapak.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nalla's Party

Here's a report from Bernama

A new political party, the Malaysian Indian United Party (MIUP), was officially launched Sunday (Nov 25).
The party was set up by Datuk K.S. Nallakaruppan, a former vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), who is the new party's president.
Nallakaruppan, better known as Nalla in the Indian community, said MIUP would apply to join the Barisan Nasional (BN) as it strongly supported the policies of Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
"MIUP will always support the BN and not go against its policies as my team and I believe that we can achieve our aims by working with the BN," he said at the launch of the party, also known as Parti Bersatu India Malaysia, at a hotel, here. The event was attended by about 600 people.
Nallakaruppan had quit PKR in May and announced on Oct 6 the formation of MIUP which he claims has 25,000 members.
Nallakaruppan said one of MIUP's objectives was to elevate the status of and empower the Malaysian Indian community which, he said, continued to be a "lagging community" facing social problems.
To a question, he said the party had lined up several programmes including on education, youth and social development.
"This is a very young and new party. Our ideas will be fresh, our approach gentle but purposeful. (While) ... the present Indian-based party in the BN is doing whatever it can to help the community, I feel a fresh approach is needed urgently to make quick changes for the betterment of society.

Another race-based party.
How long will this one last?

Einstein's World...

Hmmmm....did Albert Einstein actually say this?

"Only two things remain infinite: The universe and human stupidity. And I am not so sure about the former."

Friday, November 23, 2007


The year-end issue of TELL Magazine has an article on why we should have NURIN Alert after we all, as a community, failed to save eight year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin who was brutalized and killed by person or persons still at large.
Nurin was missing for 28 days from Aug 20. Her body was found stuffed in a sports/gym bag at a shophouse on Sept 17.

The call to incorporate NURIN Alert as a standard operating procedure so that a system for the search and rescue for missing children can be activated, has been intensified by Citizens For NURIN Alert.
Jasni Abdul Jalil who is Nurin's uncle is on the committee set up to introduce NURIN Alert.
The committee has been invited to present a paper for NURIN Alert to be incorporated in the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry's Child Protection Policy proposal.
This proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet.
The committee was also invited, a few weeks ago, to speak on NURIN Alert on TV3's Tuesday morning programme, "Wanita Hari Ini".

TELL also hosted a roundtable which is a regular in the magazine.
This time, publisher (journalist and former Sunday Mail columnist) Wahti Mahidin invited Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as guest, in the discussion on "Nurin -- What Next".
The others at the roundtable were Jasni, journalist and former Malay Mail/Sunday Mail executive editor Ahirudin Attan (otherwise known as journo-blogger Rocky of Rocky's Bru), criminologist Kamal Effendi , Madeleine Yong (Director of Protect and Save the Children Association), Abang Ariffin (Advocate and Solicitor) and, not to be left behind, moi.
Wahti was moderator.

Well, you can read about it in this issue.

Also in this issue of TELL, writer Michelle Gunaselan spoke to several lawyers to understand why they did what they did in Putrajaya. Remember the penguin march or the Walk For Justice?

Of course, all this and more interesting articles and pictorials.

So, go get your copy. Fast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, The Shame of It All...

After reading Michelle's "maluness" in her blog over Malaysia's unbelievable faux pas (and this is describing it mildly) in the Pulau Batu Putih case in the Court of International Justice in Den Hague (against Singapore), I think I feel the same. So malu. Therefore, like Michelle, I want to also just die.

"Kak Ena, I cannot believe this. I am so malu......what were they thinking?", she blurted in disgust.

In a nutshell, our guys fighting our case in the Hague produced "evidence" from a one-month-old anonymous (and therefore, very dubious) blog to substantiate our claim.
Singapore (specifically its Deputy PM Prof S Jayakumar) pointed this out.

I've always thought we had a strong case here. So why this-lah? It's so comedic but I cannot laugh because it is no laughing matter.
Our integrity is at stake. Now, it is battered...

I don't know what to say. I am stumped. I am numbed. I am struck dumb.

You've got to read Jeff Ooi's Screenshots and Rocky's Bru.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

The Old Playground - November 20, 2007

Just the other day, I took a drive to Petaling Jaya, and cruised around Jalan Sentosa in Kawasan Melayu and Jalan Lembah in Section 5.
We lived in Jalan Sentosa from 1959 when we arrived in Malaya from Singapore until around 1963/4 after which we moved to Jalan Lembah (until early 1969).
Then we moved to Section 16 where Bapak now lives with his wife, Habibah and my youngest sibling, Nina and her family -- hubby Mack and their kids Sara Hamidah, 10, Shufiyan Haikal, 7 and eight month-old Sharmaine Hana.

I do this a couple of times every year. I don't know why. Perhaps because I don't want to forget my old playground.

Every time I drive around the old neighbourhood, I'd watch in amazement the changing landscape, the new areas being developed. I'd see spanking new bungalows in place of old dilapidated ones. Or old bungalows given a new renovated look.

These are very old areas whose residents are either very very old, long-gone or very very young.

A few years ago, Section 5 was a haven for burglars who must have been very familiar with the demographics of the area -- that 80 per cent of the residents were senior citizens.
They'd burgle the homes in broad daylight while the occupants were asleep or sometimes, were blissfully unaware, until too late.

These days, I do see younger residents, most of whom are presumably successful businessmen or working professionals who prefer the quiet and charm of these old neighbourhoods.

Kawasan Melayu, a very old part of Petaling Jaya (hence, it is referred to by PJayrians as old PJ) was a very new area when we first moved there.

It was where Malays from outside Kuala Lumpur settled. However, just outside Kawasan Melayu were shops and a housing area, mostly occupied by the Chinese community.

Most of my Chinese schoolfriends were from the area.
I remember Bapak's friend, Dr Hooi, who had a clinic in one of the shophouses. I think he also lived there with his family.
His daughter, Wai May, was my classmate.

Kak Ton's best friend, Joyce Lam, also lived in the area. So did most of Abang Med's friends.

Actually, going around the shops was something I always looked forward to. Mak would stop by one of the shops that sold toys and invariably, she would end up buying me something.

In Kawasan Melayu, I remember many journalists, literary figures and a minister-turned-diplomat who lived there.

Several Malaysian glitteratis, socialites and pop artistes were bred in Kawasan Melayu.

Our next-door neighbour was a young minister named Ismail Yusoff who was later appointed Malaysian envoy to the United Nations.

I remember him because he later got married to a beautiful film star from Hong Kong.
Kak Piah and Kak Ton were bridesmaids.

I still remember the black-and-white wedding photo. I remember how beautiful the bride was in her lacey veil and stunning wedding dress.

I think weekends with Bapak were most defining in that part of my childhood in Jalan Sentosa.
I remember vividly the singing sesssions we had.

There were times when Pak Cik Tongkat (Usman Awang) would drop by with his wife Cik Senah and their children, Lina and Iskandar.

Bapak would play the guitar and sing some songs including his favourites -- "Bangawan Solo" and "Semalam di Malaya".

Then, us kids, would sing all the songs we learnt in school.
Those days, music lessons were part of the curicullum.
My all-time favourite -- I can't remember the title -- started with the line, "I love to go a -wandering, along the mountain top, and as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back..."
I think I must have been so cute because I remember Kak Ton always asking me to sing the pantun part of "Rasa Sayang".
That pantun was dedicated to Abang Kassim (Kassim Ahmad) and his (then) bride, Kak Fauziah.
They held their wedding at our house in Jalan Sentosa some time in the 60s.
Abang Med taught me the verse.
It goes : "Cik Kassim dengan Cik Fauziah
Sudah kahwin bersuka ria
Cik Kassim asyik ketawa
Cik Fauziah tersenyum pula"

I used to "serenade" them, singing this verse.

So, during our weekend singing sessions, Bapak would have this humongous Akai tape recorder where you needed to install two wheels of tape. I think the now generation of young people have probably never seen contraptions like this.
Bapak would record our singing and then, play back the tape.

I remember singing the verse so fast I sounded like a chipmunk.
When Lina visited, she would also sing. But she would sing ever so softly and gently that, next to her, I sounded like a neurotic.

Sometime during our stay in Jalan Sentosa, Encik Ismail left for his overseas posting so the house next-door was vacant.

One day, Mak told us that her relatives from Medan would be moving in.
We were thrilled.
Those were really wonderful years, growing up in Kawasan Melayu.

My mom's relative (now deceased) was called Mak Cik Mon and she (and her husband Pak Cik Majid) had seven children.
Their youngest daughter, Magda, was and still is very close to me, although we hardly see each other these days. Their other daughters are Lindawati and Suslita. Another daughter, Ristina passed away in Jakarta a few years ago.
Their sons are Amrin (Ucok), Imran (Agam) and Aldin.

Of all their kids, it was Agam who would faithfully join us. He was a good musician. He must have been 12 or 13 then, and he was already playing the guitar so well.

I think, some people may know him as Odie Agam who wrote "Antara Anyir dan Jakarta", made popular by Sheila Majid.

Agam was very close to us, and especially to Abang Med because of their passsion for music.
He took part in "Bintang RTM" in the 70s-- singing and playing the piano.
He performed in Malaysia for some time but then left for Jakarta to pursue his musical career.
Eventually, he settled in Jakarta.
I could well understand why. I think he found the music industry in Malaysia neither conducive nor inspiring.
I think he was so talented that, perhaps, Malaysia was not ready for him.

For a very long time after that, Agam would make a point of visiting Bapak during Hari Raya everytime he was back home.
He'd usually come late evening and would stay on for quite a bit.

I was just in our old Jalan Sentosa neighbourhood the other day, and passed by our old house. Ours was the middle of three linked units. There was no fence between the three units and we had a common compound.

Well, there is a fence now, between each unit, just like other houses.

As always. Everytime I see the house, it would look different, somehow. And it would often look smaller than the last time.

I know that one day, I'd be passing by and the house will no longer be there.
Until that happens, I'll continue to "drive down memory lane" along Jalan Sentosa and Jalan Lembah, although I am still wondering why I get a thrill doing it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Awang Goneng's Trengganu...

Zaharah Othman (Kak Teh of Choc-a-Blog) excitedly told me about Awang Goneng's book. I was as excited as she was.
Awang Goneng is a long-time Trengganu-born (Kecek-Kecek) blogger who happens to be Wan A Hulaimi. Who also happens to be Kak Teh's husband.
"Wait for the book when it goes to the bookstand, ok?", she said.
Of course, I told her. I'll be the first outside the store.
I have known Ah since forever. And Hulaimi, since way back in the mid 70s when I did my practical training at the NST.
He was a senior journalist and we ( Zaharah, Fatimah Abu Bakar and I) were greenhorns.
( didn't hear it from me but that was when the "bunga-bunga cinta" between Hulaimi and Zaharah "berputik" her blog for the juicy details.)

Hulaimi - journo trained in law -- has a great sense of humour. I just love the guy, his wit, his sense of humour and his writing style.
And I am not the only one, that's for sure.
If you love his Kecek-Kecek, as immensely as I do, then you'd be rushing right now to get his "Growing Up Ing Trengganu" at your nearest store.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, trust will. You'd love the book.

Besides the stories, anecdotes and Hulaimisque wit and humour, I particularly love the fact that it is blog-inspired.
It is true.... Awang Goneng's stories were too good to remain in cyberspace.

Syabbas for coming out with a delightful book. A sure best-seller, I tell you.
And, thank you Hulaimi.... I'm getting re-acquainted with lotsa things Trengganu.

Thank you too.....reading the stories is like listening to you telling them. Kak Teh, when are YOU coming out with your best seller?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Titah Tuanku

The Yang di Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin said that neither he nor Istana Negara had at anytime approved or given support, directly or indirectly, to any quarters that organised or was involved in the 10-Eleven march to the palace or any other activities that contravened the law.

The march, in which "berpuluh-ribu" people took part, was organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).

The statement issued six days after Saturday's march, was at a media conference in Kuala Lumpur, and by the Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja of Istana Negara, Datuk Wan Mohd Safiain Wan Hasan.

Read the Bernama story here.

Wan Mohd Safiain said that it was the first time that Istana Negara was summoning the media to publicise the content of the statement as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong viewed the matter seriously.

I've always believed in the neutrality of the Yang diPertuan Agong.
In fact, I agree that His Majesty should not be dragged into politics.

The march/rally was organised some two months ago but I don't think the organisers were warned by anyone or any representative of the palace to "forget about the whole thing".
And it was really nice of the palace to send a representative to accept the petition from Bersih.

Indeed, I don't see our Yang di-Pertuan Agong getting involved at all, or expressing support for the rally.

To me, the march/rally and presentation of the memorandum to the palace was purely symbolic.

(Note: Just to remind readers/commentors to not post remarks that insult the Yang di Pertuan Agong. I will have to reject such offensive comments.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The MARCH For Merdeka!

More than 50 years ago, Malayans took that long march for Merdeka.
Yes we did that. We walked, we demonstrated. We -- I mean, our forefathers -- did it for Merdeka.
A lesson in history at Maria Samad's Tok Mommy. Go here.

Yeah, you'd better believe it..

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Voices For Freedom and Change -- November 13 2007

I know that I was always told that our neighbour Indonesia "bertumpah darah" to achieve their independence from their ruthless Dutch colonialists.
Malaya, on the other hand, had it quite easy. On a silver platter.
I can't remember who told this to me.
Now, that's how legends are made.
Not this one. Before long, the bubble burst for me.

"Siapa bilang?", roared Bapak when I asked him one day, a long time ago. I think I was doing a term paper on Malaysian politics in college.

His "siapa bilang?" did not mean that there was absolutely no truth in the Indonesian bloody struggle for independence.
I shan't go into details of Indonesian politics and the background except to say that it is true that their struggle was bloody. If they stand proud as a nation today, then they should because they fought tooth and nail for their independence.

Well, so did we. Though not as bloody as they did. But, we shed tears and blood too.

Historians would know better the story of Maria Hertogh or Natra, the Dutch girl at the centre of a custody battle (between her natural parents and adopted mother).
The fight to gain her custody sparked riots in Singapore (in the early 50s).

It was at the same time that Malaya was fighting for independence from the British.

Now, you can say that Natra's predicament had nothing to do with the independence struggle in Singapore.
Perhaps not. But it certainly coincided with what was going on in the island.

Bapak was in the thick of it all.
He took part in the protests, and the riots.
I think his role has been documented.

"I think I burnt a car belonging to a high-level British officer," he remarked, in a tone that has kept me guessing until today whether or not he actually did that.

I remember feeling shocked. I was aghast.
What? My father did all that?

You know....what's the blooming difference, right?

When I was in UiTM (then ITM), way back in 1973/74 for my pre-University studies, I took part in a protest. Rather a WALK. A MARCH.
Yes.... all the way to Parliament to demand for ITM to be given university status. wish it was that easy.
The truth is, we never got anywhere near Parliament. The FRU were waiting for the students outside campus and near the federal highway. Many were hit by batons and tear gas.
Many escaped into the bushes and secondary forest along the highway and into the kampungs.
Just remember that more than 30 years ago, the federal highway was nothing like what it is today.

I remember the night we were going for the march.
(They were our student leaders. Yes, they were.)

The students were asked to gather at the square infront of the Hostel 2 dining hall after dinner (or was it "maghrib".)
Student leaders "dengan semangat berkobar2" spoke and gave a moral boost to the students.
Then, ( this was a Malay-based institution), some students shouted "Allahuakbar".
The march was to begin. The students started singing this song : "Ini lah barisan kita, yang ........"
Whoa! The semangat was tangible.

It was going to be a peaceful march. Everyone went in a single file towards the exit gates.

By the time, we were about to leave campus, some students began turning back, saying "FRU FRU .... budak2 dah kena...".

Our thoughts were for our "fallen comrades" among whom were very important people in government now.

That night, the rest of us remained in campus. In darkness. Water and electricity supply was cut.

The next morning, we were told that the students "had taken over" the admin building. The "pak guards" were powerless.
The "gestapo" (from among our students) were manning the entrance and exit gates.

I saw no point in remaining so my room-mate and I decided to leave.

We must have convinced the "gestapo" on guard that morning to let us leave as I remember heading for the hilly path that led to the federal highway where we hitched a ride to Petaling Jaya.

On reaching PJ State (PJ new town), we took a taxi to my house.

The next evening, ITM director Arshad Ayub (who lived just a few hundred metres from our house) came over to visit Bapak.
He was there to discuss with Bapak the "ITM students" problem.

Did the protest and march change things for ITM?
You tell me...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Our Men in Blue....

Just hit me that there were so many of them on Saturday to "keep the peace" when the 10-Eleven rally was on.
In fact, the day before (Friday), they were already out manning road blocks...
They were doing their job, to make sure these "marchers" or protesters behave.

So, here's a little something:

men in blue, men in blue
so many of you
out on Saturday
but when little Nurin was brutalised,
where were you?

men in blue, men in blue
on saturday
but wait...
isn't Nurin's killer still
out there?

The Message of 10-Eleven...

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is predictably irked by Saturday's rally/march to the palace by thousands of Malaysians.
The 10-Eleven Yellow march was for electoral reforms, for clean and fair elections.
Opposition leaders from the DAP, Pas and Keadilan were there. Together they -- Lim Kit Siang, Hadi Awang and Anwar Ibrhaim - handed the memorandum to Istana Negara officials.

The Prime Minister says that this is an attempt to drag the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into politics and to force the Monarch to take sides.

Read the NST story here.

To me it's quite simple, really.
I think we are all aware about the position of the Yang diPertuan Agong in our parliamentary democracy.
I learnt about this way back in form 6 history (principal) paper (British/Malaysian constitution) and again in college (law paper).

The message is simple, and to me, very clear.
Those thousands of people walked all the way to Istana Negara to accompany the opposition leaders to submit a petition to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who is not the chief executive of the country.
Not everyone of these "protesters" are Opposition supporters but they supported the memorandum. Many probably signed the petition.

Whatever the figure -- 10,000 (according to the police) or 40,000.

I'm not sure if all of them are voters.

But I can bet you, most of them are.

That rally means nothing only if you think that NOT every vote counts.

Good Luck in Your SPM!

Today, thousands of fifth-formers throughout the country begin their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Their first paper, I believe is Bahasa Malaysia (or is it, Bahasa Melayu).

My son, Adel Hakim is one of the SPM candidates.

I wish him and his friends -- Irfan, Nazrin, Harith, Syafiq, Aqil, Dhanraj, Kevin, Melvin, Bainin, Shahirah, Li Sha, Nashua and others whose names I cannot remember -- and all SPM candidates the best of luck. Stay cool and calm!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Come Hell or High Water .....

Yes. Indeed. Like never before.
All thousands (some say 40,000) of them marched, emerging from wherever they could, braving the heavy afternoon downpour, the FRU's water cannons and tear gas.
There were already FRUs at strategic points in several parts of the city in the morning. And at Dataran Merdeka, the FRUs formed a barricade, preventing anyone from entering.
Dataran Merdeka was to be the starting point (at 3pm) for the Yellow March -- the peaceful march for electoral reforms, for fair and clean elections.

Smses hit me as early as 10am, informing me that there were police road blocks at the federal highway, Jalan Klang Lama and Jalan Damansara, to name few.
At the Petaling Jaya part of the federal highway, police were making 100 per cent checks of cars.

At Masjid Jamek LRT station, the police warned the crowd to disperse.

It was a Saturday afternoon in KL many will never forget.

"The dawn of a new day", whispered a very tired but gratified Haris Ibrahim (human rights laywer, social activist, blog-owner of People's Parliament and chief initiator of the Bangsa Malaysia movement) when we met for drinks later in the evening at BSC's Chilli's. He was among friends -- Rocky, Stephen F, Shar, Tony Yew, Eric Woon, Wahti Maidin, Michelle G, Sharmila and a few others.


And yes, come hell or high water, they marched.

The BERSIH memorandum was submitted to the Istana about 4pm to the loud cheers of the accompanying crowd.

Read also (and for more photos) Rocky's Bru, Jeff's Screenshots, Kickdefella and Shanghaifish.

And of course, don't miss Haris Ibrahim's take on 10-Eleven.

And the Al-Jazeera's article on the Yellow March is here.

And if you have not seen the Al-Jazeera news coverage on this, go to Marina Mahathir's, here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Do You Know What You're Saying, Noraini?

This is the second consecutive year that I am not at the Umno General Assembly.
Well, obviously, since I quit NST last year.
I'd been covering the assembly since 1978 when I first joined the newspaper and then took a break when I was in Boston, USA to further my studies and another time after the birth of my first child.

In the last 10 years or so, I'd usually take turns with Syed Nadzri to head the NST team in the coverage of the assembly.

Did I miss covering it? Yes and no. But, as they say, that's another story for another day.

Right now I'd like to say that I am appalled, to say the least, by the remarks by Puteri Umno chief Noraini Ahmad in her policy speech at the Puteri Umno assembly on Tuesday.

I don't know. Could it be that the printed/published version in the Sun was a drastically compact and condensed article of her very long speech?
Was it an oversimplification of her long speech?
I have not seen the text of her speech.
(ok ok.... this is one of the things that I miss about covering the assembly. We get many things way before the event. oh..embargo embargo embargo everything. I digress, sorry)

But...based on what appeared in the Sun and I think the Sun must have picked the salient (otherwise, current or newsworthy) points she raised, I'd like to give the lady a piece of advice.
Before that, let me quote from the Sun:

Negarakuku composer Namewee whose YouTube antics caused an uproar, came under fire from Puteri Umno chief Datuk Noraini Ahmad.
In her policy speech at the Puteri Umno assembly yesterday (Nov 6), Noraini said the wing would not accept his apology as he had gone overboard.
She also said the wing was shocked by a youth who burned the national flag in Kuala Tterengganu on Sept 8.
"We see this provocative act as the action of a traitor of the nation".
On the brain drain experienced by Malaysia, Noraini said if students fail to come back and serve the country once they completed their studies, they should be penalised with higher interest on her loans.
"To avoid brain drain, local universities must be strengthened to be on par with international standards."
On the increase of paedophilia cases, Noraini said parents should be responsible for taking care of their children.
She said other than meting out heavy punishment on criminals, parents should also be punished under the Child Act 2001, if they were found to be responsible for the harm that befell their children.
Noraini also commented on the abuse of information and communication technology by bloggers who insulted the King and Islam.
She said the Sedition Act, Internal Security Act, Officials Secrets Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act must be enforced to the fullest as irresponsible acts by bloggers caused tension among people of different races and religions.
She said as the majority race, the bumiputra's effort to defend their fate is a national mission and should not be seen as racist or an effort to benefit just one race.

I can hardly believe I am reading all this.
Here is the head of a political body of young people - young vibrant dynamic minds -- making a policy speech.
The content smacks of mediocrity and the tone is unnecessarily harsh.
I suppose mediocre leaders often try to make up their lack of intellect with a lot of loud noise. Shameful.

Ok. So she has the right to her opinion about what should be done to Namewee, to parents whose missing kids are brutalised and/or killed and to bloggers who insult the King and Islam.

I am aware that she was probably speaking to the gallery. Bad mistake because the gallery goes beyond the halls and walls of the PWTC.

I'd like to offer my views to counter hers on Namewee and on criminalising "negligent" parents, but that would be tiring. Enough said on these two issues. Perhaps at another apt time.

Here, I would like to touch on her call to invoke the ISA and the Sedition Act against bloggers who "cause tension among people of different races and religion".

Lady, ma'am, STOP threatening Malaysians with all these evil laws -- ISA and Sedition Act. Cease and desist.
The ISA is something YOU do NOT want to invoke, or use on any Malaysian unless he or she is a THREAT to the security of the country.
Unless you have proof that anyone, including bloggers, is/are a threat to the security of this beloved country of ours, you should be careful about any suggestion to invoke the ISA against anyone.

If I could, I'd make it unlawful for politicians and political leaders (or anyone) to threaten the citizens of this country with the Internal Security Act.
In fact, if I could, I'd sue any politician or political leader who liberally threatens to invoke the ISA on the citizenry.
Ok. What I'm saying is -- don't mess with the ISA. It's not a convenient weapon of fear to be used against any Malaysian.

Why are YOU going backwards?

What was it I was told when I was a kid --- if you have nothing clever to say, do shut up, darling.
But, I was not and never a politician.

Happy Deepavali!

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Deepavali. May there always be light!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Balik Kampung - November 6 2007

It's that time of the year again when my siblings and I plan for our annual trip down south to the land of our birth.
However this "tanah tumpah darah" applies to all of us except Kamal, Lalin and Nina who were born in Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya.
This time, however, we will not be in "kampung" for Eid during Syawal because most of our kids are still having their year-end exams.
My son, Adel will be sitting for his SPM soon (some time this month).
So, the consensus was that we'll "turun" Singapore next month (December).

We used to drive down in a convoy of three to four cars. Then, we decided to have the rail/train experience -- we would book three to four KTM Senandong Malam first class coaches.
The kids loved it.
What we did not like was the stop at the first Singapore check point where we had to take out all our luggage and after that, get back into the train.
It's as though we were running away from something towards something else. Like herds of cattle.
That was always the downside.

In 2005, we discovered Aeroline.
Actually, my (former NST colleague) friend Zainul Arifin told me about it and encouraged me to try out the bus trip.
Now, I'm suspicious. Was he moonlighting for Aeroline because he sure did a brilliant job of selling the "bus experience down south" to me. I was sold.
He told me about the "airplane feel" in Aeroline.
(And no no. I am NOT moonlighting for Aeroline!)

On Aeroline, we stop at the second causeway but it is not as chaotic as getting off the train at the first causeway.

So, yesterday, Nina and I finalised the travelling group for our Aeroline trip.
There will be 17 of us -- 10 adults and 7 children.

We have included night safari in our itinerary. The kids are so looking forward to this.

I remember our annual road trips to Singapore when I was a kid.

It would be a long car journey along the trunk road that passed by padi fields and many kampungs.
I particularly loved the kampung houses in Malacca.

I remember Bapak taking us in his Opel for these trips. In those days, European cars ruled.

There were no rest areas such as the Plus stops.
I wonder, do people stop by resthouses these days?

I think the old world charm of resthouses was something I can never forget. I still go wistful when I think of the those brief visits to these places.

We all used to really look forward to these stop-overs, usually around lunch-time.

Oh....for an experience of the sirloin steak (resthouse-style) and the mee hailam!

The drive down to Singapore was a real long journey. We would stop somewhere in Johor for the ferry ride across a river -- cars and all.
(I am looking for a photograph of Mak carrying me as we stood on the ferry.)

Now, if you ask me to go on that ferry today, I think I would unhesistantly refuse.
Those days, it was one of the highlights of our trips.

One thing we did which I can never forget was that we would be singing songs -- nursery rhymes, old Malay songs as well as Malay and English pop songs. Oh...all sorts of songs we could think of.

We would start with zest and enthusiasm and would end with all of us dozing off.
And Bapak's contribution to this animated sing-along session in the car was his rendition of "Bangawan Solo".
Oh...I love this song. As much as I do "Semalam di Malaya".

But one song we would sing -- full of life and energy -- "Maju lah Singapura".

Yeah... can you believe that?
"Maju lah Singapura"!

Aaah.....those were the days when kids sang on road trips.
These days, they have the I-Pod, thank you very much!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Missing & Dead!

My heart missed a beat yesterday when I was told that 12 year-old Chin Kha Man who had been missing since Thursday (Nov 1) was found dead in Kampar River in Gopeng.
Her half-naked body was found by two river guides at noon on Saturday.
I had not started to blog about her disappearance and I was about to when I was informed of the tragic news.
Kha Man was last seen on Thursday visiting a school friend at about 2pm but when her family checked with the friend at around 5pm, she was not there.
Police later found Kha Man's bicycle in Gopeng town.
She was a Year Six pupil of SJK (C) Man Ming in Gopeng, some 25km from Ipoh.
Kampar OCPD Supt Nordin Manan said the case had been classified as sudden death pending a post-mortem report.

And then today, I turned the pages of a newspaper and read a report about 9 year-old
Preeshena Varshiny who was believed to have been raped, sodomised and flung over the balcony of one of the units at the Casa Mila Tower Condominium in Jalan Bukit Idaman 3/1, Selayang, on Thursday.
According to the NST, her body was found sprawled on the ground by a security guard about 4pm on Thursday. She was clad in a blue T-shirt and shorts and the keys to her condominium were found next to her body.

Read the story here.

Police are appealing to anyone who has information to assist them.

My deepest heartfelt condolences to Kha Man's and Presheena's families. I am so so sorry that they have to go through this.

Nurin Jazlin's brutal murder just over a month ago is still fresh in our minds. Her killer has not been caught.
And now these two poor girls.

It's almost madness.

And to think that this month -- November 20 -- we are celebrating the Universal Children's Day.
November 20 marks the day on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

This month we celebrate children and children's rights.

Will we see Nurin's killer caught soon? Kha Man's and Presheena's?

In a related matter, I would like to say Syabas to Women, Family and Community Minister Shahrizat Jalil for speaking about Nurin Alert.
It was reported by Berita Harian. Here's the story.

Blogger Tembam says Shahrizat has brought the Nurin Alert cause to the next level.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Religion, Tolerance and Malaysia.

The Prime Minister, in all sincerity, I am sure, has "advised" Malaysians "to understand each other’s religion so that the level of tolerance could be enhanced".
Religious tolerance comes from understanding what is happening and taking the best actions and approaches to controlling any situation.
“We should look at having discussions and exchanges of ideas to better understand what happens around us.

The PM said this at the closing of the meeting of national-level Umno Religious Bureau chairmen on Wednesday (Oct 31).

Now, I am not going to start a debate on religion and multi faiths here. I'd just like to say that for a long time I have been uncomfortable when people tell me to be more tolerant of other people's religions.

I am tolerant. I am way past tolerant.

But, I suppose, Malaysians are still trying to tolerate each other and each other's religion. How sad.

I remember in December, 2000, (while political editor with NST) I wrote an article, examining, whether Bahasa Malaysia/Melayu, as the common language of the people, had helped unite us all.
Also several incidents at some campuses that indicated latent racial polarisation and the Chinese educationists' opposition to and rejection of the setting up of Vision schools brought into play other related issues.

Of course, the picture was not rosy, judging from the views of several people I interviewed.
One of them was Prof Khoo Khay Kim who said, among other things that Malaysia would need "somebody with power to take the lead and change things."
"We need to change the mindset of the people...otherwise Malaysians will continue to be merely tolerating each other."

Thank you, Prof.
Well, it's 2007. I have had my mindset changed eons ago.
I don't do tolerate anymore.

What about you?

Jom Ke Sekolah

This NST report (Wednesday Oct 31) headlined "144 truants rounded up" caught my eye.

Now that's a huge number playing truant. But the report did not say whether all 144 students - in the Pudu and Keramat areas - were caught in one day or over a period of time under the ministry's "Jom Ke Sekolah" operation to curb truancy.
The operation, with the co-operation of the police, was "planned" since August. I suppose it was only carried out on Wednesday. So, I assume on that one day, 144 students were caught.

Twenty-two in Pudu and 120 in Keramat!
Tell me that's not worrying.

If the ministry does not conduct investigations, then I think the whole lot of them should move over, move out or be removed. Starting from the top. Ok, I am so harsh this morning. But I am just wondering what the hell is going on.

And I am so tempted to start talking about "when I was in school, back then....." But, I suppose that's for another time, another day.
Meanwhile, here's the NST story.

What hit me was the reason given by the students -- "that lessons were not conducted so there is really nothing to do."
So, the kids can't go home for fear that their parents will go ballistic. So the only other option is to lepak at the malls.

144 students not in school.
Teachers not teaching.

I know this is not an isolated case. And I think you all know that too. maybe the kids were lying to the police. Doesn't the ministry want to get to the bottom of this?
You caught the students. They told you their reason. Go investigate. Go to the schools. It is a serious problem.

I know of other (reputable) schools where the teachers are not in class, teaching, so the students feel so uninspired, so demoralised, so BORED. So they either stroll into school way after the clock-in time or they, simply skip school.
I know that for a fact.

Now don't get me started on teachers holding tuition classes. Hey, I have no problem if teachers want to make that extra cash to help with their household expenditure, what with rising living costs and all that.
But if you think teaching is a lowly-paid job without any upward careeer prospects or mobility, then it is not for you. Go be a full-time tuition teacher. There's a lot of money there, I'm sure.
Don't make teaching in school your part-time vocation.

The students are the ones to suffer.

And yes, in some schools, teachers are not conducting lessons.

Tell me if that's ok.