Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rohingya Boat People : A Long Way To Go

On May 19, I wrote on my Facebook status this..

I said that Malaysia must allow the Rohingyas who were adrift at sea and had reached Langkawi on May 10 to land for refuge and shelter. It was not an option because pushing them away would mean that they would perish at sea.
So, okay.. I said a lot of things including that Malaysia had experience in handling refugees - the Vietnamese boat people who were here in transit camps before they were all resettled in third countries. We also had the Bosnians who were also later returned to their country after the conflict.

I also said that Malaysia and ASEAN must pressure the world to make Myanmar accountable and responsible for this humanitarian crisis that they have caused.
Myanmar is a disgrace. Their government must take back the Rohingyas. They must be compelled, be forced to take back the Rohingyas.
It is their burden to bear.
The next day, May 20, I was heartened to know that Malaysia was offering the Rohingyas temporary shelter.
Foreign  Minister Datuk Seri Anifah announced that this was the stand of Malaysia & Indonesia until resettlement & repatriation process was carried out within one year.
Meanwhile, the 2 countries will provide humanitarian assistance to the 7,000 migrants still at sea, he added.
He would be meeting Myanmar Foreign Minister soon to seek a solution to this in the spirit of ASEAN.
Anifah also said that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are urging the international community to share the responsibility and burden of this humanitarian crisis.

It must be said that there, according to the UNHCR, as at the end of April this year, there are some 152,830 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNCHR in Malaysia.
Here's according to UNCHR:
- 141,920 are from Myanmar, comprising some 49,600 Chins, 45,910 Rohingyas, 12,320 Myanmar Muslims, 7,280 Rakhines & Arakanese, and other ethnicities from Myanmar.

- There are some 10,910 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 3,890 Sri Lankans, 1,210 Pakistanis, 1,090 Somalis, 950 Syrians, 830 Iraqis, 540 Iranians, 430 Palestinians, and others from other countries.

Some 69% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, while 31% are women.

There are some 33,000 children below the age of 18.

There are some 7,000 Rohingyas  - declared non-citizens by both Myanmar and Bangadesh -  who have fled persecution and poverty in Myanmar in overcrowded boats. More than 3,000 have reached Malaysian and Indonesian waters.
So, you can imagine this herculean problem that Malaysia has by allowing them to land. 

Let me say that while allowing the Rohingyas to land on our shores is the human and compassionate thing to do, it is going to be a huge problem.. Adding to the already huge problem that we have.

From now after the documentation and necessary processes, Malaysia will have to decide how the refugees are going to remain in the country. Where, what and how?

I do not agree that they should be immediately assimilated into society or that that should be the objective for now.

We need to wait for Myamar's reaction to this.

For now, security, medical&health and legal teams have to be deployed. 

It is no mean task to handle thousands of undocumented people, among whom are women and children, who are not in the best of health -- physically and mentally. 

Anifah said that this would all be done within a year. The prospect of a longer period is problematic. We must expect health problems, even increase in number due to new births. 

This is the reality.

There are crucial decisions to be made as to the location to place them but the government should move away from any plans to place them in detention centres.

In fact, if the government has had minimal ties with the UNCHR and NGOs on helping  refugees and asylum-seekers in the country, it should start now for everyone's benefit.

Provide health and education facilities for them. If Myanmar does not want them, perhaps other countries will take in skilled and healthy people. 

On May 14, 2015, the UNHCR issued this statement:

We have made a global call for legal alternatives to access protection and safety. We believe that nobody should have to put their lives into the hands of ruthless smugglers.

In South-east Asia, several thousand people are believed to be stranded on smugglers' boats in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, likely abandoned by their crews amid government crackdowns against traffickers.

We urge governments to facilitate disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open to prevent a humanitarian crisis at sea.

Once the humanitarian needs are met, agencies like UNHCR can support States to interview the different groups and target solutions to their specific needs, as those being rescued are likely to be a mix of refugees, economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children among those being smuggled.

The current situation highlights the urgent need for regional cooperation to address the challenge of irregular maritime movements. Through the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, UNHCR has been advocating for coordinated regional responses to search and rescue, disembarkation, needs identification and solutions

Meanwhile, here's hoping that ASEAN and the international community will put pressure on Mynamar for this humanitarian crisis. And fast.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Santai With The IGP

I wrote this on Malaysia Online or The Mole about  a chat session with the IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at a restaurant in Shah Alam on Tuesday. 

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21, 2015 : You’d be silly to turn down an invitation to chat with the country’s top cop. Never mind if you’d been told that more than 40 people would also be there. You want to ask him things and you want to know his answers.

Dubbed  Santai Dengan IGP,  ( relaxing with the IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar met with  some 40 twitter users, most of whom are his online friends as well as journalists and bloggers at Pine 38 restaurant in Shah Alam on Tuesday, 

 Like many Malaysians, three issues deeply affect me - crime, education and health care - and not necessarily that order. But in the last few of years, crime has been a riveting issue  and one close to my heart. 

Crime involving children is closest to my heart. In 2007, I was part of a group of bloggers spearheading and pushing for the setting up of NURIN (Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) Alert,  following the rape and murder of eight year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin.

Nurin was abducted near her home in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur on Aug 20 that year and her brutalised body in a gym bag was found almost a month later on Sept 17 in Petaling Jaya. Her killer was never found and remains at large.

NURIN Alert is based on AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert , an early warning alert system on missing children set up following the abduction and murder of nine year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas in 1996.

It was approved by Cabinet in 2011 as  NUR Alert (National Urgent Response Alert) although I am no sure how it is being implemented.

Then, there came a period right here in the Klang Valley about five years ago when people were jolted out of their comfortable life with what seemed like an outbreak of crime - incidents of violent armed daylight robbery and house break-in. 

It had to happen that I became a robbery victim one night in my neighbourhood of Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur in April, 2013. The perpetrators were four men - one armed with a parang. This came after my youngest sister, Nina and her eldest daughter, Sara were robbed outside their home in Section 16, Petaling Jaya by four armed men on two motorcycles in December 2012. Nina and Sara were in their car. 

Folks around me and wherever I went seemed to know of someone close or other who had been robbed or had their homes broken into. 

It needs to be said here that confidence in the police to fight crime seemed to be on the low at that time. You can see the police-bashing on social media. So much so that people were reluctant to even report crime, convinced that it would be futile to do so.

So, that Tuesday the IGP arrived on time, looking cool and casual in a short-sleeved light blu

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Al Fatehah: Remembering Kak Eda

My older sister Noraida would have been 60 today.  But she is not here with us. She died on March 8, 2007 after battling breast cancer.

Kak Eda was only 15 months older than me. We were very close. In fact we were in the same class in primary school - standard 5 and 6 and in form one in secondary school.

In the beginning, people thought we were twins because we were in the same year throughout school. This was because I was in express class and jumped to standard two in the middle of my first year in primary school in 1963.

Kak Eda is survived by her husband, Aziz and their four chidden - Safiya, Umar, Hajar and Maryam.

I wrote this the day she died

My sister, Noraida Samad, passed away about 2.55pm today. I was with her. I held her hands. I saw her go.
Kak Eda had cancer. She was 51.
She leaves behind Aziz (her husband) and their four children - Safiyah 16, Umar, 14, Hajar, 13 and Mariam, 10.
Farewell, my sister.
May Allah SWT bless her soul.

We miss her very much. 
Not a day I do not think of her.
She is in my every prayer.

Al Fatehah

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Mendailing And Me: A Journey Of Rediscovery

This is a posting specially for today May 6 - a day Zaharah Othman of Kak Teh's Choc-a-Blog and Ailin Abdullah chose to have what they have called #blogreviveday. They were part of a group of women who were actively blogging more than 10 years ago but had in the last few years stopped blogging due to the more exciting lure of Facebook et al. I was not part of this "Mak Cik bloggers" but Zaharah - a dear old friend and classmate in college - has included me in it.

Horas horas horas. It's usually said more than once. I'm beginning to like the sound of it.

This is a language of my ancestors on my mother's side. It is a greeting like hello.
It is the language of the Mendailing people.
My mother is Mendailing of the Lubis clan.

And so it has been for me this past couple of weeks, being in a whatsapp group "Kombur Halak Hita" (loosely translated as Chit-chatting with/of Our People - although there are no prepositions) or in Malay "Sembang Orang Kita". The whatsapp group is run by fellow Mendailing Ramli Abdul Karim Hasibuan, also a journalist.

But this is not my first foray in rediscovering my Mendailing roots. I joined the Facebook group Mendailing Malaysia and Ramli's Halak Mendailing much earlier.

Even before that, I took the journey of rediscovering my mother's ancestry and heritage by delving deep into the documented literature of the Mendailing people.

There are many things that I remember about the Mendailing told to me by my late grandfather (Haji Hassan Idris Lubis) whom we called "Ompung" and my late mother that have remained etched deep in me.

Most people, because of my late father, know me as Javanese. I am proud of my Javanese heritage which is rooted in Banyu Mas in Central Java. My late father was not pure Javanese, well at least not on his father's side that was part Persian. His mother, though was of pure unadulterated Javanese stock and, we were told, was very proud of it.

My curiosity about my mother's ancestry piqued about 10 years ago although my fascination began way back as a child because I was very close to my Ompung.

There is a lot about my Javanese side that I know because of stories told not only by my late father but by my aunts.

All that know about the Mendailing when I was young, was from my mother who had 3 sisters and Ompung because all their close relatives are in Medan, Sumatera. My mother and her younger sister are survived by their 2 sisters who live in Kuala Lumpur.

My grandfather came to Singapore from Medan with my grandmother, Habibah who was of Burmese descent in the early 1920s. But they would go back to Medan occasionally during their early years in Singapore. Two of their 4 daughters were born in Medan.

So, my siblings - except for my (late) eldest sister who visited Medan years ago - had very little contact with our Medan relatives.

In the early 60s, we had a relative - my mother's uncle, Om Hakim who lived in Petaling Jaya. Some time in the 70s, an aunt, Tante Ida, visited us.

There was also a grand-aunt - Ompung's sister (of a different mother) who visited us some time before "Confrontation" from Medan, Sumatera. We called her Nek Biah. She came with her niece (my mother's cousin), Chairani Nasution. We call her Tante (which means aunty).

Nek Biah left for Medan in time before Confrontation erupted. Tante wanted to stay on a little longer and when Confrontation started, she was stranded in Malaysia -- and did not return to Medan until 30 years later. She lived with us until she got married (in 1968, if I remember). She settled in Petaling Jaya and has four children and several grandchildren.

It had been a ravenous and hungry journey for me. But I am so heartened to know that it has not been disappointing.

I remember of Ompung's travel to Chemor, Perak during his regular visits to our home in Petaling Jaya in the 70s.  After staying a few days at our home, he would tell my mother that he was taking a taxi or bus to Perak to visit his relatives. I remember that although it seemed so insignificant then..

So many mundane things that happened in our life when we were young would grow to be meaningful and significant as we get older. As we begin to appreciate who we are, it becomes a bursting fascination.

Later, it became clearer why Ompung traveled to Perak. There is a large population of Mendailing in the state as it was where they migrated to from Sumatera in the early 19th century. I also found out that there is a large Mendailing community in Selangor scattered around Klang, Hulu Langat and Gombak and also in Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur. I was told that names like Raja Bot and Raja Laut in Kuala Lumpur were those of Mendailing royalty - the early settlers of Kuala Lumpur.
And in my whatsapp group, many are from Perak.

I was also told that former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris was a Mendailing. Malaysia's R&B queen Sheila Majid is also a Mendailing.

I remember a television personality back in the 60s through the 70s,  Rubiah Lubis, who would catch my mother's attention every time she came on screen.

"Dia Lubis tu," Mak would squeal in delight.

It continues to be a journey of rediscovery.

My siblings and their children are sharing this exciting ride with me.

In our last gathering at our family home in Section 16, Petaling Jaya,  I told them about the whatsapp group and this "new' language I am learning. I must confess that I am a silent participant because I am still a little reticent to participate in conversations. But let me say that I am a passionate learner.

I gave them a heads-up -- telling them it may sound very very strange to them. Hardly any Malay-sounding words and one that is familiar to them - "mangan" which means eat and has a Javanese equivalent.

I showed them a print-out of the words I learnt -- their eyes almost popped out.

"Assalamualaikum koum sudena, biado hobarna? Madung minum manyogot hamu?" (Assalamualaikum, my brethren/kith&kin, how are you? Have you had your morning drink?"

koum sudena: saudara sekalian

biado hobar na : apa khabar

madung: sudahkah

minum : minum

manyogot : pagi

hamu: kalian

"It is a strange language," Ellysha, my niece remarked.

It is, I suppose, to the uninitiated. But it grows on you.

I told my daughter (who is studying in the US)  about this in our Skype last week. She, a language lover, was excited.

So, now every time before we end our conversation,  Shaira would say: "Salamat borngin, Inang. Au marsitundu, Au giot modom. Ancogot hita dope markombur."

(Good night, mother. I am sleepy. I want to sleep. Tomorrow we chat again.)

I tell her the words are correct but I am not certain of the sentence structure. I would need to refer to my whatsapp group teacher.

It is a good try. It will get better.
I know one thing -- there is more to learn in this journey of mine. Of ours.

(N.B : My first blog was named Sri Mendahiling - a tribute to my Mendailing roots. At that time (August 2006, I think)  I was not quite ready to blog - it was uncharted territory for me. It was daunting. I was intimidated by its sheer power. I posted a one-liner and stepped back, convinced myself that I'd return. After all, writing was my passion. I did return but when I wanted to resume posting on it, I forgot my password. Ergo 3540 Jalan Sudin was born.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Second Chance For Kiddie Porn Convict?

"Any individual who repents for a mistake should be given a second chance after being punished especially among gifted students who can become national assets,"

Are you kidding me?

Convicted by an English court for 13 offences of possessing more than 30,000 pornographic images and videos of children.

You want to give him a second chance? Are you mad or are you stupid?

The person in question is 23 year-old Imperial College student Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin who was a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) loan student. He was because when he was convicted Mara rescinded his loan.
But now, Mara has second thoughts and will be giving him a second chance to continue his studies in a eny Mara institution in Malaysia.
Mara council member Nazir Hussin Akhtar Hussin was quoted by mStar to have said that the offer was a second chance and a show of support for him.
"In unofficial discussions, council members and the Mara chairman have agreed to give him a second chance after he serves his sentence. 
"We will support him in any way possible to help him rebuild his character and one way is to give him a chance to study in any Mara institution," he added.
Oh dear oh dear. What are you thinking, Mara?
I suppose they're being compassionate seeing that he is a smart student.
By Nazir's own admission, "It is a pity to waste someone who can be an asset to the country.'
I just don't get these people.
And yesterday, a moronic statement from Ministry of Rural and Regional Development Mohd Shafie Apdal : His ministry will consider whether to appeal to the Southwark Crown court in London to reduce the sentence imposed on Nur Fitri.
 Nur Fitri was sentenced to five years in prison.
"We can appeal (to reduce the length of the sentence), the problem is we are subjected to the prevailing laws of the country. We have to respect the laws that other countries practise," he told reporters after attending the Mara programme with Rompin entrepreneurs in Kuala Rompin on Monday.
What kind of statement is that?
I think neither Mara nor Mohd Shafie knows  or realises the gravity of Nur Fitri's crime.
That is a tragedy,.

Lessons Learnt : MyVi speedsters Against The Rest of Malaysia

Like so many people I am enraged that people are still happily racing and speeding on our highways and expressways with, well, I will say it - with impunity.

Accidents happen on roads, we know it. They happen due to carelessness and recklessness. And of course, speeding. 
And people are killed.
All these are unacceptable . 

Last Saturday, speeding cars, allegedly involved in illegal racing, caused the deaths of 3 people - a young couple and their baby girl.

According to news reports businessman Fairuz Nizam, his wife Nova Safitri and their seven-month-old daughter Nur Firuza Annisa were killed when their Mitsubishi Pajero was hit by two Perodua Myvis on the DUKE Highway last Saturday morning.

The two Perodua Myvis were said to have been involved in a 6-car illegal racing.  The driver have all denied it and in fact blamed Fairuz for swerving into the lane of one of the cars.

Yeah . The gall, the cheek, the audacity of it.

Public outcry was swift -- fast and furious. People were unforgiving, venting their anger in social media.. 

For many people, it was not just another accident. The accident was caused by racing cars.
No matter what anyone says -- people are convinced that these Myvis were responsible.
The drivers have already been tried and judged.

What got to people was not only that Fairuz was killed on the spot but that his wife and baby were thrown out onto the road. They died on the way to hospital.

Simply, it is the illegal racing. That hit a nerve in everyone. Nobody likes illegal racing. Just like no one likes the antics of Mat Rempits on the road.

So many people were saddened by this tragedy. And the fact that the couple left behind two young daughters  - Nur Firuza Amira, 7 and Nur Firuza Akila, 3.

So now, the police say they are determined to stop illegal racing. And the Transport Ministry has ordered the Road Transport Department to step up enforcement against illegal racers.

Yesterday, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi was quoted to have said: “We do not want illegal racers to spill more innocent blood,” 
He said he would ensure that JPJ was firm in enforcing traffic laws and that it increased its operations against illegal racing, especially during weekends.
Well and good, I say. But really really really. That is often the case, isn't it?
It takes such a tragedy for the authorities to take notice and wisen up.
I'm not saying that it's a lot of bull .But I wish they had done all this as a matter of routine or part of their business to keep the roads and highways safe.
You know -- there were times when I am driving on Jalan Damansara  (that runs along Phileo Damansara) at night and four or five cars would be zooming at breakneck speed past me. Not always Myvis.
Why these drivers are even allowed to do so without any highway patrol catching them is perplexing.
That is exactly why this has been rampantly happening -- people know they can get away with it.
There has probably been action but it has not been deterrent enough.
Never mind racing - that is clearly illegal. The speeding and reckless driving. The weaving in and out of  cars and so many other traffic no-no's. The running and beating of red lights.
And the mat rempits and other motorcyclists who have no regard for traffic rules.
What about not wearing helmets.
I can go on and on.
I have said many times before, some Malaysian drivers deserve to die on the road because they speed, they are reckless and have no regard for safety - theirs or other people's.
But then, as in the DUKE Highway case, the tragedy is that the ones who should, don't (die).
We don't have a "road safety" culture in this country. There are just too many motorists who are selfish, reckless and who have no regard for road safety.
If we all do not change our mindset and attitude on the road, nothing will change.
Yes WE. You and I and the enforcement  agencies.
You cannot change overnight. So if the police and the RTD want to stop illegal racing - DO SO NOW.
Meanwhile, work on road safety. 
If things don't change because we don't want to -- then don't get all worked up when you keep seeing accident fatalities increasing.
On the DUKE Highway case : 
Police arrested the two drivers over the weekend - including a woman -  but released them on bail on Sunday evening. 
The  other drivers, in their police reports are said to have denied that they had caused the accident.

The police, already investigating the case under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act for reckless driving, have given an assurance that they will be thorough.

Meanwhile, The Star report:

The Malaysian Consumers Association has urged the Government to introduce a law making it compulsory for child seats to be installed in cars carrying infants and young children.
Well, I support this. I have always supported this.
See how terrible some Malaysians are -- the part on people driving with their children on their laps - well, I have seen it many times. And when I do, I will drive along the car and honk at the driver and then point to his child.